Thursday, June 30, 2011

Why I Strive For Gluten Free

I've had a lot of conversations lately about living gluten free.  I'm not sure why, for me, June seemed to be all about gluten free living month.  But it was.  And actually, it was a great reminder of why I strive to keep those pesky glutens out of my diet.

I have had stomach issues for as long as I can remember.  Truly.  It goes back to my very early elementary (pronounced: el-ah-men-tary) school days.  I had test after test done to me as a kid.  GI's out the wazu!  And in the end, the conclusion was that I had psychological issues and ulcers due to my tumultuous childhood.  Read: an over sensitive tummy due to stress.  Which is probably a decent assumption. 

However, now that I am older and dare I say, a smidge wiser, I can reflect on the bigger picture.  And while I do believe that my cruddy circumstances played a major roll in things, I also strongly believe that I have always been gluten intolerant.  I think the combination made for a perpetually unhappy belly.  But you know, when you grow up with your strongest instincts being to ignore and cover up, the whole belly ache business gets pushed to the side.

Until one of my Butler Besties was diagnosed with celiac some six or more years ago, I'd never heard of such a thing.  But I was curious.  What was my food loving friend going to eat for the rest of her life without the option of a sandwich or pasta or pizza?  I read a lot about the subject.  Like way more than a normal person without the disease would ever admit to reading.  I read cookbooks and cooking blogs that catered to the gluten free and casein free peeps.  But back then, I was just reading out of curiosity.  I mean, I read cookbooks the way normal people read novels.  Cover to cover, over and over again.  So I thought I was just curious about food.

Fast forward about five years when I started to suspect that perhaps my issues might have an actual physical connection to food.  It certainly wasn't a singular, light bulb moment.  More so over time, I began to put the pieces together.  And that's when my journey slowly began.

You should note that I do not test positive for celiac disease.  I am considered gluten intolerant.  Whatever.  I am 1.) not convinced the testing is all that reliable and 2.) completely uninterested in titles.  I know that I feel considerably better when I consistently avoid gluten.  Period.



I am also not perfect.  (Y'all must be shocked!)  I have had whole weeks of slips.  And ooops nibbles of yummy treats.  Several slices of pizza were happily consumed over the last few months.  And then there is my stance on pie.  I've made gluten free pie crust and it's pretty good.  But apple pie- a two crust pie- is sacred in the casa de crocodile.  Seeing as how I make this heavenly treat so infrequently, that is my one self-approved gluten full food.  Until I can re-create an identical GF pie crust, my two crust pies (which is really only ever apple) will remain gluten full.  Oh and why not one crust pies (such as pumpkin or custard)?  For whatever reason a bottom crust being GF bothers me not. 

There are also hidden glutens everywhere.  The minute I forget to read a label, those pesky buggers appear.  I recently bought a pack of Twizzlers to eat on a plan ride.  But never needed them.  So I tore open that pack the other day while reading emails.  And about four candies in, I finally thought to read the back ingredient label.  Guess what contains gluten?  Sad sad day for me. 

I try not to sweat the small stuff though.  When I make a mistake, I just learn from it and move forward.  I am very blessed that I am not allergic to gluten.  So no constant clutching to an epipen and fear of anaphylactic shock my end.  Thankfully!  I have the luxury to make mistakes or take an occasional quick taste and not have major, immediate side effects.

But it's worth it.  The more steadfast I remain on a gluten free diet, the less my belly aches.  The less I itch and twitch.  And the more I feel like myself. 

But I also get asked quite frequently if a gluten free diet is good for weight loss.  And honestly, that is just sort of silly.  One can eat just as many calories and grams of fat on a gluten free, dairy free or meat free diet as they can on an eat everything without major restrictions diet.  So no, it's not a weight loss plan.  At all.  When I use the word diet, I do not mean anything akin to a temporary food limitation plan such as Atkins, Dukan or South Beach.  It's a permanent lifestyle in an effort to not feel super sick all the time.

It is however sort of a pain at times.  Take for example an experience I recently had with several girlfriends at a cute bistro.  The waiter had no idea what gluten was, bless his sweet heart.  And the chef spoke very little English.  They told us a particular dish was GF but when it arrived, it was clear that it was not.  It took days to order.  At one point the waiter asked us if ice cream contained gluten.  This was at the end of a very long meal.  I am pretty certain he still has no idea what we were talking about.  He was cute though and really trying very hard to help my little gaggle of high maintenance girls.

Next up ... I will list some gluten free favorites.  The pre-packaged products are actually getting much better and becoming more accessible.  While I don't eat many of them, I do have several that I swear are nearly as good as their gluten full counterparts.

2 comments:

Cara said...

We have been GF free for several months. It has been a big change and had it challenges but we see the differences in Roman. We discovered about a week ago that he has allergies to not only gluten but all dairy, peanut, hazelnut, soy, beef, bananas, coconut, & eggs. So we are free of those too now. Don't even bother eating out with the family, not worth the stress. I feel your pain but the world is really coming around to gluten free products. Looking forward to your recipes. :)

Pink Maple said...

Thanks for sharing this. I tried Gluten free for a while because I was noticing more tummy troubles on days when I eat alot of bread and pasta--but I decided it was more "too much of anything is never good" rather than specifically the fact that the foods were gluten-heavy. It was definitely worth trying though because like you I agree that it doesn't necessarily matter what test says it matters how you feel.

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