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Posts from the ‘Gluten Free’ Category

Not Guten for My Gut.

Skipping gluten was once classified as a preference, but the last few weeks have shown me – beyond a shadow of a doubt – that gluten is not “guten” for my gut.  It feels good, figuring out what was causing so much chaos, and I feel more human, and much healthier.

So all that “oooh, so healthy!!” stuff aside, going gluten-free while traveling is a pain in the ass.

Choosing gluten-free options isn’t unfamiliar territory for me, as we did skipped gluten entirely for Birdy for the first 15 months of her life.  I’m accustomed to carefully reading food labels while shopping, and I’m no stranger to reshaping recipes to fit nutritional needs.  But on the road, it’s hard to tell what foods contain what.

Last week, my family and I were in Vienna, Austria and it was my first experience with “needing” to be gluten-free and being away from home at the same time.  At home, I can read labels.  In Vienna, I couldn’t even read the menu unless it had English subtitles.  The language barrier, plus the dessert constants, made this trip a challenge.

“Let’s stop at that cafe and get strudel!”

“How about some chocolate cake?”

“The schnitzel looks delicious!!”

Everything in Vienna looked delicious, and covered in a layer of gluten.

Being gluten-free is a double-edged sword, but one “for good,” as my daughter would say, because rethinking carb consumption is (sigh) good for my blood sugars.  Avoiding the cream-filled desserts and opting for coffee instead gave me some really steady post-prandial blood sugars.  Not piling on the carbs made for awesome Dexcom graphs, but it was frustrating to have yet another food rule in place.

“I’m pissed off because it’s not a matter of choice.  I like choosing healthier foods, but I really don’t like being forced to because of all this gluten crap,” I said to Chris over yet another boiled-chicken-over-greens lunch.

“I know,” he said, diving compassionately headfirst into a plate of schnitzel.

And sometimes things just got all screwy.  Like on the plane ride home to Boston, where I avoided the roll of bread and opted for the chicken-and-rice meal choice, only to find out from the flight attendant that the sauce on the chicken contained flour (the presence of which was confirmed by my belly about 45 minutes later).  Or when I ate a bag of plane pretzels, forgetting that I needed to care about gluten.  My brain isn’t rewired yet and I need to constantly remind myself (see also:  grabbing a bite of Birdy’s breakfast cereal, only to remember that it contains gluten, and then spitting it into the garbage).

Because it’s not all in my head.  Removing the fog and bloating from my body’s repertoire is such a relief, and I have no desire to go back to the way I’ve been feeling over the last year.  The few times I made the mistake of eating something with gluten in it, I regretted it.  The return of bloating, headaches, abdominal discomfort, and exhaustion were a reminder that my body does not respond well to gluten.  Even if the tests for celiac and gluten sensitivity came back negative, there are clear and present markers that I feel better going gluten-free.

This is an adjustment, but in time, I’ll have a plan.  I’ll have this figured out.  My health is worth the investment.  Besides, Riesling is gluten-free, so I’ll be just fine.

Belly Ache.

My celiac tests came back negative.  So did my IgA or IgG AGAs (these could be exactly the same as a celiac test but I do not know all the lingo and thus, I remain clueless).  The basic gist is that my body seems to have no trouble at all with gluten.

Except that it totally does.

I don’t know exactly when it started, but I’d say about eight months ago.  That’s when the first nondescript symptoms came into play.  My weight went up a little bit, despite the same amount of exercise and generally eating the same mostly-healthy foods.  My stomach wasn’t upset so much as a little uneasy, and my abdomen felt slightly tender after some meals … and other times without any known catalyst at all.

But I’m not good at keeping track of when things “start to change.”  The only way I knew that my weight was changing was because my clothes fit a little bit differently.  My blood sugars were fine, and my overall health seemed fine.  The decline into “not so fine” wasn’t fast, but really slow and subtle until all of a sudden, I was like, “WAIT.  Just a frigging second.  Why do I feel sick all the time?”

In the last three months, I’ve been acutely aware of not feeling well, and the list of noticeable symptoms grew week by week.  I was exhausted – falling asleep on the couch and having trouble maintaining my normal vampire hours.  I was moody and grouchy, especially later in the day.  (And I’ll just offer this up because I know you’re thinking it:  I’m not pregnant.)  My hands, on some mornings, were tingly and pins-and-needlesish.  And my stomach was angry, but in a really passive-aggressive way.  I had sharp pains in my stomach, but not all the time.  I had wicked bloating, but not intensely all the time.  I just had a permanent belly ache, and it was becoming the norm.

And I was permanently belly aching about it.  The only thing that alleviated symptoms was to cut out gluten, but I didn’t do it consistently enough or in a dedicated enough fashion to really assess if going gluten-free helped.  (Sadly lazy, but true.)  On the whole, our family is about 80% gluten-free, but apparently the 20% was enough to leave a trail of blargh.

Thankfully, my endocrinologist is thorough, so when I saw her a few weeks ago, she ran all the appropriate tests to rule out different this’s and that’s and to help establish certain baselines and other fancy doctor/patient discussion things.  My thyroid function is fine.  My A1C is fine.  My blood pressure is fine.   Nothing came back flagged as an issue.  (Except the whole diabetes thing.)  Which made me feel weird, because the absence of a concrete YES YOU HAVE A GLUTEN SENSITIVITY made me feel a little powerless, like I was just grasping at straws.

In efforts to take some definitive steps towards actually doing something, I talked with Sara(aah) about this issue, and she and I compared symptoms until I felt confident that, even if the tests didn’t flag an issue, there still could be some kind of correlation.  Whether gluten is the root cause or just a trigger, its absence makes me feel much better.  I can’t dispute that fast-becoming-a-fact.

So for the last week, I’ve been running my own gluten-free tests.  And fortunately for my body, it seems to help.  (Unfortunately for my preferences, though, because I love Italian bread and all that jazz.)  It’s been almost a full week now without a whisper of a symptom.  It’s been months since I’ve gone more than a few hours without a sore belly, so this is a step in the right direction.

My plan is to continue to go with my gut and do what makes my body feel better.  If I go against the grain, I’ll feel better.  It’s a diet omnivorous about sticking to, but I know it’s best in the long run. 

… more gluten-free puns once I cook them up.  For now, you’ll have to wheat.

 

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