Sunday, February 15, 2015

Observations on Life without Gluten

Exhibit A
I seem to have developed a gluten allergy. It came on quite suddenly last fall, after I consumed a large quantity of delicious home-made cinnamon buns. There followed mourning (see exhibit A to the left), denial (this is only temporary...right?), and a long (and on-going) period of adjusment as I resigned myself to a future without wheat, barley or rye.

(1) When food is sickening: To my surprise, the initial adjustment wasn't that difficult...for me. Much as I like lasagna (!) and fresh bread, it becomes less attractive when a bite or two makes you ill for days. The bigger challenge, by far, has been the radical change in menu suddenly imposed upon the Miller family cook. Top marks to the cook: Home-made gluten-free bread is still a work in process, but we now enjoy tasty gluten-free waffles, gluten-free buckwheat pancakes, gluten-free muffins and cookies, and we've had decent success with gluten-free pizza dough and pie crust.

(2) Gluten allergy and addiction: Once I'm off gluten, my digestion seems to return to normal, and it is easy to imagine I'm better. Surely one home-made bun will be okay? The difference, I suppose, is that I am seldom tempted to go on eating because the symptoms appear quickly.

(3) The sociology of eating: What you can and cannot eat affects where you eat--most restaurants are out--and who you eat with. It is one thing to know this on a theoretical level, another to experience it in practice. Thanks to my gluten-free diet, I now have a new appreciation for the social implications of eating kosher. Inasmuch as eating together enacts community, it is also odd to have to walk past the shared communion loaf in church to get to the small plate of gluten-free crackers. (I'm grateful that we attend a church where consideration is made for celiacs and co.)

(4) Ancient grains: It felt like we turned a corner mentally when we started learning about other flour options, and began to think of them not as wheat-wannabe's, as sorry wheat substitutes, but as ancient grains that are in many cases more healthy than wheat (if you believe the hype), and for whose distinct flavours we could acquire a taste. According to Gluten-free Goddess, "It takes about two weeks or so to adjust your wheat craving taste buds to the alternative charms of gluten-free grains." (Emphasis on the "or so.")

(5) Stages of grief: A couple weeks ago, I squished the home-made gluten-free bread I was trying to use in a sandwich into a ball, out of frustration that it crumbled to pieces on my plate. That didn't go over well, despite my attempt to explain that I was mourning the loss of "real" bread, not upset at the cook. Enter store-bought gluten-free bread (at $6 / loaf).

(6) Am I a celiac? My first reaction was, "obviously not!" But then I noticed that a piece of communion bread or the barley malt in a Rice Krispie treat was enough to cause a reaction, and I began to wonder. Unfortunately, the conventional test requires people to go back on a gluten-rich diet for 4-6 weeks before getting a blood test. If the blood test comes back positive, they will do a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis, which involves snaking a scope down your throat through your stomach, and into your small intestine. If you go through all that, you get a tax break (in Canada) to help with the expenses of such things as $6 bread. The problem, as one website noted, is that most people who go off gluten do so because it makes them sick. Apparently, a new more accurate blood test is in the works.

 (7) Causes and symptoms: By all accounts, gluten intolerance of one sort or another is on the rise, and nobody seems to know why. There are all sorts of symptoms; mine are of the digestive variety. Triggers include stress

1 comment:

Edith said...

Will need to read this again...considering your brother is gluten free and I have digestive issues...But I'm interested in the "ancient grains" anyway so that's good. Love you.