Thursday, February 3, 2011

I am Gluten Intolerant

Most of my friends and families know that I am gluten intolerant because they know how much of a PITA I am at large gatherings involving food, but others don't know, and most don't know what it really means to be gluten intolerant.  It's your lucky day, I'm here to tell you my spin on this not-so-fabulous issue.

Most people with gluten intolerance have something called Celiac's disease.  Do I have this? Well it's a tricky question.  Unfortunately the first doctor I went to to discuss this issue knew nothing about Celiac's disease, and neither did I.  So.... instead of testing me for Celiac's disease, she told me to not eat gluten for 2 weeks and after 2 weeks I "would know".  I had an appointment to come back about 35ish days later.  It was a lot more difficult than thought, EVERYTHING has gluten in it it turns out.  After 2 weeks I felt a thousand percent better.  I was so excited to finally know what it was that was making me feel so terrible all the time.  I didn't eat gluten for those 35 days.  I returned to the doctor for my follow up and relayed my terrific news to the doctor.  Here's the catch..... you can't be tested for Celiac's disease if it's not in your system.  So, in order to be tested, I would need to eat gluten again for a period of time before I could undergo testing, and there is no "cure" so to speak for Celiac's disease other than eating a gluten free diet.  Therefore, I decided that I did not want to undergo the extreme agony of eating gluten to find out for sure that I had something that I am fairly confident I already have when there is no cure for it other than to eat gluten freely which I am already doing.  Make sense? Okay, good.

What is Celiac's disease? Well I am quoting this from the Mayo Clinic's website which defines Cleiac's disease as follows: "Celiac (SEE-lee-ak) disease is a digestive condition triggered by consumption of the protein gluten, which is primarily found in bread, pasta, cookies, pizza crust and many other foods containing wheat, barley or rye. People with celiac disease who eat foods containing gluten experience an immune reaction in their small intestines, causing damage to the inner surface of the small intestine and an inability to absorb certain nutrients. Celiac disease can cause abdominal pain and diarrhea. Eventually, the decreased absorption of nutrients (malabsorption) that occurs with celiac disease can cause vitamin deficiencies that deprive your brain, peripheral nervous system, bones, liver and other organs of vital nourishment. No treatment can cure celiac disease. However, you can effectively manage celiac disease by changing your diet."  For more info from the Mayo Clinic you can go to this link:

You would never guess how many everyday products contain gluten (a protein in wheat, rye or barley).  Obvious items from pasta and bread to things you wouldn't think about such as salad dressing, meat seasonings, toothpaste, lipstick/gloss and beer, yes, beer.  This has been a complete lifestyle change for me.  I have been eating gluten free since June 2009. I used to joke (pre June 2009) that I was on the all beige diet. Anything that was a carb, was my favorite.  Figures doesn't it?

We now eat corn, rice or quinoa pasta at our house.  Obscure salad dressing brands.  Cookies that taste like cardboard.  You get the idea.  My husband has been such a trooper and is so supportive.  He eats all gluten free meals with me (but does have his own bread stash for sandwiches). 

Going out to eat is always fun (sarcasm).  There are very few restaurants that actually can honestly say they offer gluten free options.  A gluten free option in my humble opinion should be a complete dish.  Something anyone would want to eat.  Ordering the steak, with no sauce or seasoning, the steamed vegetables with no seasoning or lemony butter sauce and the spinach and artichoke dip with no chips, is not a "gluten free option" to me.  What do I eat the dip with, a spoon?  So I appreciate the restaurants that DO offer complete gluten free options for people like me - Outback Steakhouse, PF Changs, BJ's Brewery just to name a few.  I reward (haha that sounds funny) these restaurants with my loyalty by being a regular customer.  More restaurants should take notice of this growing need in our community and begin offering even one option.  Some have - Olive Garden and Old Spaghetti Factory do both offer one gluten free pasta dish.  Hey it's a start. 

Haven't ever heard of Celiac's disease or gluten intolerance and you're thinking "ya right, why should restaurants have to cater to you?".  It's more common than you think - according to, Celiac's disease affects at least 1 in 133 Americans.  It is common.  I'm sure restaurants get more than 133 customers a day, there should be a bigger push for restaurants to take action.  I just don't understand why there is not. 

Grocery shopping has become a whole ordeal in and of itself.  If I am at a regular grocery store I now spend a minimum of an hour there and up to two and half hours depending on the length of my list.  There are health stores, such as Henry's (which I love), that do label their shelves with lovely signs so you don't have to read each and every label.  At stores like Stater Brother's though, I am required to read the labels of 20 cans of  alfredo sauce before I find the one that works for me.  I have started to cook a lot more from scratch so that I can be certain something is gluten free, which is great, but let's be honest, I am gone 12 hours a day, when I get home, sometimes I just want to open a can of alfredo sauce and not have to spend the extra time making it myself. 

My friends and family have been SO supportive.  I am in a game night group that meets once a month.  The majority of the time my friends have been so gracious to cook something that is completely gluten free and in some cases make me something special on the side if the main dish isn't.  This is totally not expected but oh-so-sweet of my friends and I truly do appreciate it.  My parents have always been supportive of me since finding out and they too will eat gluten free when we are together and while I was living at home prior to getting married. 

I do want to say that more name brand products are coming out with gluten free products which is VERY exciting such as Betty Crocker's FABULOUS dessert line and even the GF Bisquick! Every single recipe I have tried with those products has been superb and I hope other big name brands follow suit soon. 

I should add that on occasion I do accidentally ingest something that contains gluten.  Following such an episode I am completely miserable.  It affects my mood - making my immediately irritable, gives me a headache, makes me feel like there is a troll in my belly trying to push his way out (bloating of the abdomen), and yep, you guessed it, gas.  Lucky Tim. 

Occasionally you will see me posting product reviews or recipes that I just love that are gluten free.  Don't be afraid of these gluten free products or recipes.  Many of the new products are delicious and I would never post about something that I wouldn't have thought was delicious prior to June 2009.  When I do find or make something delicious I get so excited I just have to tell the world, so bear with me.

Celiac's disease is prevalent and I hope that it begins to get the attention it deserves so that people who have it can stop feeling like "that guy" at a restaurant or store.


Diana Simental said...

This is very interesting! We just covered Celiac's disease in one of my classes and I wanted to ask you about how your diet has changed since I knew you had it. What I really found interesting about this is that it is becoming more & more prevalent because we are more aware of it and testing for it more. I'm glad to hear that you have adjusted to your new lifestyle and that you are feeling so much better because of it!

Amy Musser said...

Thanks for all of the info and the insight into your life. Although I was aware of Gluten free, it has only been through children with Autism and changing their diet for mood related issues. I had no idea the "allergy" (as I have heard it) is related to a disease!

I shop at a store called "Sprouts" in San Diego and it is a lot like Henry's...they label and all! I think they used to be owned by the same family. If you are ever in the SD area look it up if you need some food or a quick snack =)