Monday, March 3, 2014

My Month of Gluten-Free Living

I've talked before about my illness and the annoying ways in which it affects my life.  Tired of queasy nights spent in front of the toilet, sick of passing out after a hot shower, ending up cold and shamed, lying naked on the floor (shout out to Natalie Imbruglia, hey oh!!!), I went to my regular doctor.  The dizzy episodes had increased in frequency, and the days I spent sick came on more often than the days I spent healthy, so I wondered if there could be something more going on.  "Well, we will do some blood tests to rule out something with your thyroid, and then, if they turn out to be normal, I want to try you on a gluten-free diet," she said, scribbling down some notes and being totally unaware of the huge deuce she had just dropped on me (in a manner of speaking).

"Gluten-free? bread?"  I was pissed.  Bread is my life.  Cinnamon toast is what I go to when I am sad instead of ice cream, and glazed doughnuts are Jared's apology of choice (so much more preferable than flowers).  Pizza crust is bread - I fucking love pizza!  What am I supposed to do without Pizza Hut stuffed crust, doctor?  And my usual order of a delightful Sierra Turkey sandwich and a cheese danish at Panera freaking Bread?

"Yes, nothing involving wheat.  But they do make some great gluten-free options of the things you'd normally eat:  bread, pizza, cookies, stuff like that."

Right.  Like anything could equal the amazingness that is a package full of mint Oreos.  " think this is what's causing my symptoms?  Or just exacerbating them?"  (I don't know why I like to use big words when interacting with doctors.)  Prior to this doctor visit, I thought going gluten-free was just a trendy fad, other than for people with celiac.  I pictured a snobby, manicured woman turning her nose up at a restaurant menu and requesting more options to accommodate her "gluten-free lifestyle."  I didn't want to be like that!  And god dammit, I had just bought a jar of Trader Joe's cookie butter!

"Well, either one, really.  You'd be surprised at the kinds of symptoms gluten intolerance can create.  I had a neurological condition, and then I went gluten-free about a year ago, and it disappeared!"  Hmm.  Well.  I couldn't argue with that.

And then she handed me a handy chart of what not to eat and gave me a book recommendation or two, and I was sent on my way.

"That is not what I have," I huffed as I met up with Jared and made my copay at the front desk.


"Gluten intolerance.  That is not what this is, and this diet is not going to help."  I was, in all honesty, being a huge bitch.  That's what the thought of eliminating all things tasty and junk-food-y from my diet did to me.

" should at least try it.  Just for two weeks or something, so you can see if it helps at all," Jared suggested, typing something into his phone.  "Look, here, it says some of the symptoms of gluten intolerance are fatigue, depression, nausea, dizziness, and migraines.  That sounds just like you!  You need to try it."

Ugh.  Fine.  "But it's not going to do anything."

That weekend was Super Bowl Sunday, so I gorged myself on cupcakes and chicken wings.  "It's like my last supper," I explained to Jared, like I usually do the day before I start a "diet."

I started the gluten-free diet the next day, and I've stuck with it since.  I'm not going to lie to you, it does sort of suck.  The gluten-free cupcakes are always the first ones to sell out at cupcake shops, and Cookies Etc doesn't offer any options for me (son of a bitch).  Gluten-free bread is freaking awful, all dry and crumbly, and the one (frozen) pizza I have tried was the same.  My Valentine's Day dinner with my husband took place at Doughy Joey's, simply because they had a gluten-free menu and most other places did not.  I miss my Campbell's soups and my Twizzlers, and I am still not letting myself think about the fact that I really can't have anything besides a salad at Panera Bread.  (Sob.  I thought about it.)

But.  Here's the thing.  It's working.

I slipped up and ate gluten when my mom said it was safe to eat a Kit Kat (no.  No it wasn't, Mom.), and the next day I had shooting pains in my fingers and hands (like I had the previous summer when my other doctor was convinced I had rheumatoid arthritis), like four canker sores in my mouth OUT OF NOWHERE, and two dizzy/fainting episodes.  I also had a good amount of gluten when I drank some cough syrup (didn't even think about that), which resulted in vomit.  I had no other episodes, no migraines (which I usually get at least twice a week), and my mood was so much better.

You guys, I can't just shrug these things off as coincidences.  I have felt better this whole month (knock on wood!) than I have for maybe the entire year.  So I suppose I am just going to have to bid adieu to PopTarts and Pizza Hut's glorious stuffed crust.  (Which, let's face it, were not being so kind to my waistline.)  I'm pretty amazed at the way the month turned out, because I was super skeptical at first.  Jared has also considered going gluten-free, but the siren song of his WonderBread and his Apple Jacks is just too irresistible at the moment.

Though many gluten-free options aren't as good, most of them are.  These are some foods that have been my savior this month.

These sort of tear up the roof of your mouth like Cap'N Crunch tends to...but oh they are good.  Like a toned-down version of Reese's Puffs.  

Gorton's Grilled Tilapia (and other fish selections)
Jared hates when I pop these in the microwave because they make the entire house smell like a fish market.  But they taste amazing.  I am partial to the lemon pepper kind.  (I should note here, most meat that isn't the lunch meat variety is gluten-free.  Thank god.  There are also some good breaded chicken strips out there that don't have gluten.)

Thank God for Pillsbury!  They make at least 3 varieties of gluten-free dough.  I love this chocolate chip cookie dough, and, though it says 'Please do not eat raw dough' on the tub, I just can't help myself.  They also make pizza dough, and Jared made me some homemade pizza with it the other night that was surprisingly awesome.

I have also loved the many gluten-free noodles there are, and rice and corn-based mixes have been very handy to have.  I am still searching, though, for a decent-tasting bread without gluten in it.  Let me know if you find any :)



  1. Ahahahaha yes. This sounds like me. I also thought of that bitchy manicured woman turning up her nose to bread. And like you, I love Oreos...and doughnuts...and cookies...sigh. But it hasn't been as difficult as expected. I still have work to do but now my new favorite cereal is gluten free. Hey, baby steps, right?!

  2. I can SO relate to this. After years of bad headaches, mysterious GI symptoms that caused my belly to swell from (relatively) flat to looking like I was 8 months pregnant in the span of 2 hours, and numerous tests that resulted in doctors telling me they had no idea what was wrong with me, at the suggestion of a friend I went totally gluten-free 3 years ago. I figured I had nothing to lose. Holy crap, am I glad I did. After a literal detox that lasted about a week (with its own set of crazy symptoms), I felt like a completely different person. No more GI episodes, no headaches. And like you, I cheated (twice - once to see what would happen, second time to test the first time), and within an hour I had crushing headaches and my ill-gotten food was already rushing through me like a freight train. So no more cheating! Totally not worth it. And I lucked out on the gluten-free bread... there's a bakery here in Phoenix that makes the best-tasting bread ever! (Never could find anything decent in the supermarket). I won't lie and say I don't miss some of the classics (Oreos for sure), but it's just not worth it to feel so lousy. Thanks for the great post! :-)