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Getting Glutened

Eating is often a social occasion.

Eating is most often a social occasion. When you can't eat what everyone else eats, its a very lonely feeling.

A few weeks ago, I got glutened. It was my own fault, I wasn’t the advocate that I should have been when my boyfriend and I went out to a chain restaurant for a quick breakfast before we went camping. Once we were there, I mentioned to the waitress that I was gluten intolerant and asked that there be no bread on the plate. I ordered what I thought was a safe meal: two eggs over easy, bacon and hash browns. I was hungry, and ate it all. This restaurant specializes in pancakes and advertises that they use pancake batter in their omelets, so I made sure to not order an omelette.) I now think that I was a victim of cross contamination and that they cooked something (most likely the hash browns) on a part of the griddle that they did the pancakes or omelettes on (like I said, my own fault for not specifying a clean grill area). We then drove to the camp ground and set up our tent city (Large tent and a large pop up which acts as our kitchen). Set up takes about 3 hours, which is why we tend to go for longer trips (this one was 6 days).

The next day I woke up to mild stomach cramping. The entire day was spent running into the restroom and trying to convince myself that this was an abberation and that I hadn’t been glutened. By Friday, the stomach cramps were so bad that I had to admit it to myself. I was angry, but mostly at myself. I know that chain restaurants are absolutely the worst for cross contamination, and I still went.

Everyone’s symptoms are different, both in type, intensity and duration. While my worst symptoms appear 12-48 hours after a glutening and are gone in a few days, other symptoms linger for weeks or longer. A week after my glutening, my stomach issues are resolved, but I still suffer from other, more insidious symptoms. Loss of stamina and lethargy. I’m tired, doing anything physical is a chore, going up and down the stairs in my townhouse causes me to breath heavily and need to rest. I also suffer from Fuzzy brain, thinking and concentrating are really hard.. Since I’m a computer programmer during my day job, my brain is my most important tool, and to not have full function in my thoughts is deeply disturbing. Problem solving is what I do, but hard (sometimes impossible) to do when my brain is fuzzy. The latest symptom developed a week into the glutening episode, painful joints. My knees hurt, no position helped. Taking ibuprofen helps mask the joint pain, but nothing masks the depression which comes with these symptoms.

I’m not diagnosed as either a celiac or with gluten intolerance. I tried eating gluten for a month for testing purposes. Although my tests all came back negative, I knew I couldn’t eat gluten anymore. I was miserable for that month. Both Gluten Intolerance and celiac are under diagnosed. Sometimes people struggle through years without getting a diagnosis and are miserable through that time. I refuse to continue eating something that makes me feel so bad. I was lucky, I had been eating low carb for 10 years, and so when I did start getting sick (when I couldn’t control my food), I was able to pin point the cause fairly quickly.

For most people, who eat wheat products on a regular basis, its harder to figure out. After all, who would think that symptoms like arthritis, infertility, lactose intolerance, hypoglycemia, autism and ADD could all be linked to a gluten intolerance?  There are many more symptoms, and some like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) are simply thrown out there when a doctor can’t think of anything else. The symptoms are so far apart from each other that most people would never think that gluten can cause their symptom.  It truly is a hidden disease.

I don’t know if I actually have celiac disease instead of just being gluten-intolerant.  I think I call myself gluten intolerant because its just a lot less frightening than labeling myself celiac, which is an auto immune disease.  If I do have celiac disease and I don’t take care of myself by avoiding gluten, then I run the possibility of  contracting a whole host of disorders including: Diabetes, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome to name a few.  One out of every 133 people in the United States are estimated to have Celiac Disease.  Thats a lot of people and whats actually the most frightening aspect of that is that most of them don’t know.

My boyfriend’s mother was diagnosed with Celiac towards the end of her life.  I keep asking my boyfriend to get tested, but being the grumpy curmudgeon that he is, he hasn’t done it yet (even after seeing what it does to me). After all, he doesn’t get most of the symptoms of food poisoning when he eats bread.  But many people don’t have obvious symptoms.  Instead, they might have dental enamel problems, depression, migraines or a slew of other symptoms which they don’t connect with their eating habits. Most doctors are also not very aware of the problem (there isn’t a lot of education on it since there aren’t drugs that can help so drug companies don’t push it) and it won’t come up in a consultation unless you push it.

In the coming weeks and months I’ll be posting articles on how to help yourself should you decide to go off gluten. There are aspects of it that I am comfortable with (eating at home) and aspects that while I know what I should do, I’m still having issues with, (being more aggressive at restaurants). I’m hoping that while I help you, that you can also help me.  Lets support each other.

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