23 December 2011

Five Years Gluten Free

Brown Rice Pasta with Bolognese Sauce
Five years ago I jumped off a cliff and went gluten-free.  I was desperate.  I was headed to Detroit for six weeks with my parents (who both smoked) and I was in a panic that my migraines would be non-stop because of the second-hand smoke.  I was reacting to all sorts of things: perfume, smoke, all kinds of foods.  I had facial pain, neck pain, migraine, bloating, gas, constipation, iron-deficiency anemia and other slight problems with vitamin absorption.  I went to a naturapath, who tested me for food allergies (IgG and IgE combined).  The test results were not even back when I happened upon an issue of Living Without Magazine with an article on the cover on how gluten could affect the brain.  Leafing through the magazine, I found an ad suggesting that iron-deficiancy anemia and tooth enamel problems could be signs of celiac and it hit me that the naturapath might be right.  She thought it likely I was at least gluten intolerant, if not celiac.  I also found out what gluten really was and I understood why my attempts to eliminate wheat and dairy from my diet to stop the gas were not effective.  I went gluten-free the next day.  That was December 22, 2006.

Four months later I was tested for celiac, but the test was negative.  I had been gluten-free for four months.  I had a stool test done and that found enough gluten antibodies to suggest that I had a sensitivity to gluten.  I avoided gluten and about 30 other food items for two years.  Gradually, I brought back all but the gluten.  Now I mostly avoid milk too, but not all dairy.  I took a test for cow's milk allergy and it said I had a moderate allergy to it.  I seem to be ok with yogurt, cheese and butter, but not milk in large quantities and not whey protein powder at all.

Well, not all my problems were related to gluten, but I have remained gluten-free with only a few cheats over the years.  Since I do not know if I have celiac, once a year, I try a little gluten to see what happens.  The first few years, I got reactions within two hours.  Then it was 3-4 hours.  Then I tried some bread in France a year ago and got no reaction.  I am not sure what my level of sensitivity is, but since my iron levels came up slightly after a few years gluten free and my osteopenia was unchanged, I decided to stick with it.  I am no longer as sensitive to perfumes and smoke, although I prefer not to be around them (and what's up with all these people who douse themselves with perfume anyway? Don't they know it isn't PC anymore? That people have real issues with it?)   I have to admit that I never lost my anger and sorrow over the loss of regular bread and pastries and the frustration that I live with on almost a daily basis living in a gluten-laden world.  I am particularly angry with Starbucks (although I still go there all the time) for not providing good quality gluten free pastries and sandwiches.  These days, it is so easy to do that I get miffed with companies that can't be bothered.  Tully's, on the other hand,  I love  for providing WOW cookies right up at the cash registers.  Very classy, Tully's.

Last month I had double jaw surgery and had to endure a liquid diet for 10 days and then only semi-liquid since.  I only started chewing a week ago and it's not much, yet.  My experience as a cook and a gluten-free cook saved me.  I made 4 or 5 pots of soups and froze individual servings of them.  Then I taught my husband to make gluten-free high-protein smoothies for me and I survived it.  Thanksgiving was hell, but Christmas is going to make up for it.  I am making my usual Thanksgiving meal for Christmas, using Udi's Gluten-free bread in my stuffing and making my gravy from scratch with potato starch instead of flour (or using Jules' Gluten Free All Purpose Flour).  I am not sure I will be able to chew the turkey much, but the rest of the meal will be fit for a king...or queen.

Here's hoping you all enjoy your holidays...gluten-free.

Karen, herself