It has been a huge part of my identity for the past six years.
It has also been a huge fear for the past six years of my life as well– I thought that a mere crumb would give me the reaction I was terrified of– brain fog, anxiety, digestive paraphernalia.
However, over the past months, in overcoming many of my food fears and disordered eating patterns, the thought occurred to me: it’s such a fear… what if I could just know what would happen to me when I ate gluten? It might take some of the mystique and horrow out perhaps.
It took me weeks of self encouragement to work up the courage to eat some. I’m serious when I say this was a gargantuan fear for me. Last Friday, hands practically trembling, I pulled a piece of sourdough bread out of my dad and sisters stash. Topped it with veggies and mustard. A bit of it had peanut butter.
First thoughts: Wow, what texture! How could I get gluten-free to be like this?
Second thoughts: Ok, that soury taste is odd. And it’s a bit stale. Oh my sh!t I’m eating wheat. What were you thinking?
Half hour later….
I feel great. Where is this reaction?
An hour later….
um… still feeling great. What the hell is up?!
Nothing happened. Say for a slight headache (Which I am prone to anyways) that went away after eating some almonds later. What was going on? That night, I had a long discussion with my parents about the possibility of me not being gluten-intolerant. I’ll spare you most of the details, but I’ll explain my food history a bit more in depth and give your the boiled down reasoning:
As a child I suffered a lot of guilt over my actions. I would cry myself asleep many nights, crushed with guilt about the things I had done wrong that day. I also suffered severe digestive issues– cramps and stomach troubles, in addition to chronic headaches. When I was nine years old, I went gluten-free after my mom found out she was intolerant. At her insistence, I did a home test to see if gluten affected me (one week eating it, another week not, stuff like that). I can’t remember many details, but my mom says I reported a big mood boost, and alleviation of the anxiety, and a slight improvement in my stomach troubles.
I still have many digestive problems and headaches and cramps and I can’t remember what else, but I DID report a change in mindset.
Two years later, I went vegan (my own choice this time). Within months, most of my frequent headaches alleviated. I didn’t get the cramps that doubled me over, making it agony to walk to my next class at school (I attended middle school at the time). I felt better that I had in… forever! A while later, I cut out sugar. I felt even better!
Unfortunately, a host nasty things followed– intense desires to lose weight, disordered eating, and the angry, anxiety ridden girl that I so associated with gluten took over for nearly two years. At times, I felt the same out of control mindset that I thought gluten caused.
Fast forwarding to several months ago– when I sought out therapy, and a natropath. As I began to heal, slowly but surely, my disordered patterns alleviated (though wisps of them still remain). I began to have times of happiness, and my attitude towards food became more daring. It all, in my mind, led up to that faithful slice of bread last Friday.
So here’s my hunch: When I cut out dairy (and meat and eggs), most of my physical ailments lifted. And you have to understand, previous to this yogurt, cheese, milk, ice cream, and all that were my favorite foods. Perhaps all along it was dairy that caused most of my digestive troubles– in addition to sugar (including fruit, as I recently discovered), which wonks my stomach and gut out when I eat it. I do have slight proof of the dairy hypothesis; frpm an experience a year ago, when dairy was accidentally put in my mocha, and I suffered terrible cramps and stabs in my abdomen throughout the day. I didn’t make the connection at the time (as I was familiar with the feeling of bloating and cramps caused by food).
Where the brain ailments come into this I don’t know— but perhaps they lifted because I was unable to eat majority of junk food (which has many artificial allergens) after going GF? I found an illuminating article this week, that talks about “brain allergies” and describes my mother’s symptoms perfectly. It is rather long, but I gleamed some useful information from it.
All in all, the best way to determine if I am senstiive to gluten now is to test it using a foolproof method: myself. Only I can determine amounts, possible reactions, and other factors. It also helps that I am pretty in tune with my body’s functions ;).
Emboldened by my first slice of bread, I bought blueberry bagels– the gluten-y food I had been lusting for ever since being gluten-free. They didn’t disappoint– they were the same white flour, artificial crap laden deliciousness I remembered!
After eating the above bagel, I did begin to experience a headache– although that could be attributed this to the white four and preservatives in them. And the fact that two days after this I got very sick, after being exposed to a family with a sick kid probably that day. I decided I better stick to the purest ingredients and whole wheat only, for the sake of not putting an extra variable in my tests.
I haven’t pictured everything gluten I’ve tried here– there was also carob chips (made with malt), a whole wheat hemp/seed bread from the freezer section, and last night I ate wheat pasta at a family friends house.
So am I intolerant to gluten or not? Only time will tell. I have to continue with my tests– but so far it’s looking pretty hopeful!
It sure is the most delicious studying I’ve ever done 😉