To the Point of Tears

“Wastin’ away again in Margaritaville…”  That song has been popping into my head off and on for days now. It’s not a broken heart problem, and I can’t have a Margarita, but I’ve got the “wastin’ away” part down pretty good.

Last night I was watching Survivor and noticed how skinny the contestants are lately. I’ve been dropping weight for months. First, I lost a few pounds before having to go gluten-free, then lost more afterwards, and I’ve lost one more in the past couple of weeks after having to make some other temporary dietary changes in an effort to deal with a temporary situation. When I saw the contestants’ bones sticking out, I thought that at least I’m not that skinny.

Later in the evening I checked my back with a mirror. Uh, oh. My spine and my shoulder blades are becoming prominent. So are muscles, not because I’m so strong, but because there is no fat to go between the muscles and the skin and the bones. I decided I look like the Survivor contestants looked last week. It’s kind of scary to see that and think of how my blood pressure has also dropped. I need to look up normal blood pressure for a 12-year-old. That’s probably what mine is right now.

Last week is when this really started to bother me. I was in the grocery store in the produce section, of course, piling veggies into my buggy. I felt like someone was staring at me. I glanced over in the direction of an elderly lady who appeared to be concerned. I imagined that she was thinking, “Why is that woman so skinny? It’s not nice to stare. Is that all she eats? I shouldn’t be staring. What is wrong with her? OK…quit looking at her.”  I’ve never had anyone do that and it really made me feel self-conscious.

I’ve already gone out and bought smaller jeans and slacks. My others were about to slide off. I thought I’d be Grandma with her pants on the ground on the  grocery store parking lot if I didn’t do something. So, I went one size smaller. That was about a month ago and now those jeans are too big.

The day I bought the jeans I also tried on a pair of slacks. I told my friend if I gain one pound these pants won’t fit, so I didn’t get them. I’ve lost a few pounds since that day, so I went back to the store and the pants were still there. I got them. They are a bit loose on me now, but I got them. A friend told me that her mom, who is gluten-intolerant, went from a size 6 to a 0, then up to a size 2. If I come in at a 2 when the dust settles here, I’ll be happy. The pants I just bought may not fit any more, but that will be fine with me.

This morning I was telling my husband my observations about how I stack up against the Survivor contestants’ skin and bones and I started crying a bit. He was surprised by that. It’s not something that I do very often. I don’t think he’ll tell me I look like a starving person in a third-world country any more. He did ask why I’m losing weight and he’s not and he eats pretty much the same things I do. I told him, “Beer and pretzels.” Plus, other things he can eat that I can’t like bread and cheese, but I had to pick at him a little bit.

I have to say, because I’m trying really hard to be thankful always, that we are both glad I feel good. I have lots of energy and it lasts all the way through the day and on into the evening. It’s so nice not to be dragging a protesting body through life any more. I reckon I’ll get used to being skinny. When I was 12, I was this size and my friends called me “Twiggy.” I guess I’ll be thankful and start thinking groovy thoughts and all will be well.

ADDENDUM, April 27, 2012: If you are considering going gluten-free as a weight loss plan, I wouldn’t recommend it. My weight loss started before I came off gluten. My nurse practitioner said what is happening with my body getting skinny is a result of the changes to the body caused from intolerance. I eat like a Hobbit. (That means I stop often to eat a small meal no matter what I’m doing.) It’s not caused from my diet.

When a person quits eating gluten, it’s not a matter of just buying processed gluten-free products to take the place of processed foods that have gluten in them. After all, Coco Puffs are gluten-free. Fresh and frozen foods are the best bet to get the most nutrition from what you eat. Getting proper nutrition can help with weight loss. So, as they say, shop the perimeter of the store and go to the middle for dried beans and grains.


Gluten, Gluten, Where’s the Gluten?

Oh, good! The store brand of loratadine I got from HEB is gluten-free! I had just called Kroger and asked about their store brand of acetaminophen, (it has starch and cellulose with no indication of where it comes from), and talked with one of the nicest sounding ladies on the planet, who told me that she would have to have the bar code off the box so she could tell me who manufactured it. Then I could call and ask them. I almost didn’t bother to call HEB. Their loratadine has a starch that comes from corn, but I didn’t know where it came from until I asked. I’m glad I did. My face hurts and allergy med will help.

This is a common experience with medicines. Generic drugs, whether over the counter or prescription, are obtained from different companies at different times. The company that manufactures the medicine would have to be contacted. I guess they use some kind of number off the bottle  to check the batch to see what is in it. From what I’m reading on this website I’ll stick with the brand name for acetaminophen, but I can use HEB’s loratadine.

While I’m here… In my last post, I said I thought an antibiotic might have messed me up. I still don’t know for sure. The name brand would have been fine, but I took the generic. I didn’t think to ask the pharmacist to call the company. I’ve read that it helps if a medical professional makes that call; they tend to be able to get better attention to their call.

A couple of other things could have been the problem though. One is if I ate out at a place that used the same knife to put the mustard or whatever on my gluten-free sandwich that was used on regular bread. Or, even if they dip the knife in the same jar of mustard or whatever. Maybe they use a squeeze bottle? Or, if the bread or corn tortilla or something else that I might have eaten, was laid on the same surface that was used for foods that have gluten. Surfaces have to be cleaned in between or the gluten-free food will be contaminated. I’ve read that if there are people living in the same house, and some have gluten issues and others don’t, that they need separate toasters and have to be careful not to cross-contaminate food.

Another thing that could have happened is envelopes. I’ve licked the glue on several envelopes recently. Wheat is used in that glue. It’s also on stamps. Yea, for self-sticking stamps! Otherwise, I would have been exposed to even more gluten.

So, if you have come off gluten to see if it changes your energy level, your sense of optimism, your digestive issues, or whatever, make sure to check all sources, including meds and glue on envelopes and stamps. Now, I need to go call that lip balm company.

Conversations About Gluten Intolerance

I’ve tried a few times to write this. There is just so much information it’s been hard to get it all organized. Plus, since I personally have the problem and I’m still learning to cook gluten-free, it’s sort of emotional for me and that makes it difficult, too. (Life doesn’t stop and give a person time to figure all this out; it keeps going and one has to eat and I don’t have a personal chef.) The reason I’ve persisted in trying to write this is that I hope reading it will help someone. So, here is another attempt with a new format. I’ve had several conversations with friends and family members who have asked good questions. Here are some of the questions and answers:

You can’t eat gluten? What is gluten anyway? Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, barley and rye. The produce section of the store is where I feel the safest. When I go to other parts of the store, I have to read labels. I really appreciate the companies that take the trouble to put the words “Gluten Free” on their products. Otherwise, I have to plod through ingredient lists looking for things like hydrolyzed and modified starches and proteins and such. Also, extracts from wheat and barley and brewer’s yeast. Oat extracts also have to be avoided since there is no way of knowing if the oats have been contaminated by wheat by being processed on the same machinery.

Does that mean you can’t eat oatmeal? I’ve been avoiding oatmeal for now since some folks who are sensitive to gluten also can’t eat oatmeal no matter how it’s processed. That’s pretty rare though, but still I’m giving my body a chance to settle down from the gluten. When I go back to oatmeal, I’ll get some that is gluten-free.

Is there a list of gluten-free food? HEB and Kroger both have lists on their websites of gluten-free foods that they carry in their stores. When I want to know about a specific food, like when I first started doing this and had things like, say, a can of chili in my cabinet, I just go to the company’s website and see if it’s gluten-free. Most of them have an 800 number, so you can call, but so far I’ve been able to find out what I need to know by looking them up online.

What about dairy?  Dr. Shari Lieberman said in “The Gluten Connection” that sometimes a person’s body is going to react to dairy for a while when it’s having a problem with wheat. It can either mistake the protein in dairy, which is casein, for gluten protein, or it can be a problem with lactose, because the intestines are damaged and can’t produce the lactase needed for digestion of lactose. Sometimes after a bit of time a person can add dairy back into their diet.

I thought all this gluten-free stuff was a fad. So did I. That’s what I told my doctor when he suggested I try eliminating gluten from my diet to see if it would help my stomach. One of my relatives thought it was a fad, too, when I told her what my doctor told me to do. Then a couple of months later, she saw me and told me what she thought, and how amazed she was at how much better I looked.

What was the problem with your stomach? Acid reflux was so bad that sleeping propped up didn’t help at all. I was on a wedge with two pillows, with the head of the bed also raised on bricks. This started a few years ago and had been getting worse and worse. By late summer of last year, it was just getting ridiculous. Even if I ate five or six hours before bedtime, I still had reflux. That’s just some of the problem I had, but you can see it was causing some misery.

Some people, though, don’t have any digestive symptoms at all. About 1/3 of those who are diagnosed with Celiac disease have a digestive system that seems to be their friend. Their problem is discovered when they have other symptoms or diseases.

So, do you have Celiac? I don’t know. I haven’t been tested, but from the changes I’ve made to my diet, it’s obvious that I have a problem with gluten. Besides Celiac disease, there is also gluten sensitivity, and it could be either one. It’s intolerance in either case. And the remedy is the same, too. Don’t eat the stuff.

So, you figured out that your problem was caused from gluten just by not eating gluten? Pretty much. I was already keeping a food diary when I went to the doctor. I was doing that so maybe I could figure out what was going on. My doctor suggested I try digestive enzymes before eliminating any foods. I took them with meals. But one day I ate the most beautiful Bavarian Cream donut I’ve ever seen in my life. It could have been in a food ad, it was so big and gorgeous. An hour later, that donut was sitting in my stomach like a rock. I took enzymes and within 15 minutes I could tell the difference. Antacids didn’t have the same effect. In fact, they didn’t help at all.

So how do you know it wasn’t just the dairy in the donut and not the wheat? Because gluten sits in my stomach like a rock. I’ve also eaten dairy and not wheat and had reflux, so I’m better off leaving both things alone for a while.

So, why not just eat a donut if you want one and take some digestive enzymes? Oh, boy. There have been times I’ve wanted to run down to the donut place and do just that! Or, to the Mexican bakery, or the pizza restaurant or some other place that is a mine field for me. But that wouldn’t be wise. I keep enzymes on hand for accidents, but not for every day. If a person is sensitive to gluten, their body sees it as an invader, and it will react to it in any amount. Gluten is toxic and causes inflammation and affects body organs, too, if a person has Celiac.

How does gluten affect body organs? Well, Celiac is mostly what has been studied, so I don’t know about simple (it’s not simple if you’ve got it) sensitivity, but a person who has Celiac is more likely to have bone density problems, pancreas/blood sugar problems, thyroid disease, autoimmune diseases, neurological disorders, IBS, anemia…lots of problems. There are such high rates of Celiac among folks who have some of these conditions, that some researchers recommend they be tested for Celiac. And sometimes if they do have it, and there was a problem with low bone density or diabetes, for example, it will clear up when the person comes off gluten. I know that sounds surprising, but also, one out of 133 people in the US have Celiac, and then there are more who are sensitive to gluten.

What sets this off? Have you always had it, or does it just pop up out of the blue? It can be over-exposure from so much of it in our food supply. It can also be from stress, surgery, childbirth, certain medications. Lots of things seem to be a cause for different folks. I don’t know how long I’ve had a problem with gluten, but my bone density has been low since I was at least in my early 40’s. Gluten intolerance could possibly be the reason for that.

Can’t you just go “low gluten”? Nope. The body reacts to any amount from any source if it’s intolerant of gluten.

Wow, how come so many people have this problem? Is this new? It’s not exactly new, but it is more prevalent than it used to be. There are writings that go way back, like a Greek doctor who wrote about it in A.D. 100. The rate of Celiac disease has been increasing over the past 50 years. I kept reading that this was discovered by testing blood samples. I wondered, who keeps blood for 50 years? Then I read some place that it was from the military. When people join and the military takes blood to test their health, they keep the blood and it’s used in research. So, that’s how they learned it’s increasing; they tested blood that was collected over time and saw the increase.

So, that answers the part about it being new, but why is it increasing? Partly because we are consuming more grains that have gluten in them than we used to. In 1967, the average was 115 pounds of gluten-containing grains per person; in 2003, it was up to 139 pounds per person. The other part is the engineering and harvesting methods. Engineering, being how grains like wheat have been bred to have more gluten. Gluten is the thing that makes our bread hold together. Bread with a small amount of gluten is pretty dense. Wheat is also harvested and milled before it has a chance to sprout. When it sprouts some of the gluten is eliminated. In the Olden Days it sprouted before it was milled. And bread was more dense, too.

Isn’t it hard to not eat gluten? Well, in some ways yes, and in some ways, no. At first it was simple. I felt so much better there was no way I even wanted to think about eating food that made me feel so bad. But lately, psychologically it has not been easy. I told my doctor that seeing the commercials for things I’ll never eat again, like a certain awesome hot dog from a certain fast food place, is like being in high school and seeing an ex-boyfriend walking down the hall with someone new. There are certain aisles in the grocery store that I’d rather not even see. The other night, I dreamed someone was cooking black-eyed peas and they looked so good. Then they mixed them with macaroni noodles and I couldn’t eat them. I also dreamed about eating a chocolate pie with that very flaky crust that I’ll never eat again. I sometimes avoid magazine articles with recipes that I would have to redo to fit my diet, although Asian recipes are pretty good and are usually gluten-free. I try to remember that  there really are a lot of foods that don’t have gluten in them. I suspect that eventually, I won’t feel this way any more. My doctor said it will pass.

So, do you feel better physically? Yep. (Well, that is, until last month when I had to take an antibiotic; that caused some problems that I’m working on.) Otherwise, I no longer feel like I’m dragging a protesting body through life. I have more energy and my brain works better. My clothes fit better, too. Several people have told me that I look like I feel good now.

How long did it take to feel better? A few weeks. It can take a few months though, so if you are new to this don’t give up too soon. Because of the antibiotic causing some bloating that doesn’t seem to want to go away, I’m doing a detox diet. For me that means anything that my body could confuse for gluten is OUT. That would be dairy, soy, oats, nightshades, peanuts. Just to let my system get a bit of a rest, I’m also not eating eggs, animal protein at all, or caffeine. And I’m taking a supplement to help my liver do it’s detox job. Remember, gluten is a toxin for the person who is intolerant.

Where have you learned all this? Most of this info is from “The Gluten Connection,” by Dr. Shari Lieberman. Some came from websites on Celiac and gluten sensitivity. Here is a short list of websites that I hope will be helpful if you need more info:

Be sure and see this page on Gluten Free Works if you need more convincing about the seriousness of gluten intolerance:

I hope this is helpful; it can be overwhelming, especially if you know you need to eat differently, and you need to do it ‘right now’ and don’t feel like you have time to figure it out first. There are three meals a day that have to be fixed, after all. Hang out mostly in the produce section of the store. Get produce from different areas – green leafy, cruciferous, root veggies, etc. and fruit. Then go check out gluten-free grains such as rice and quinoa and, also, beans. There are gluten-free pastas that are good, as well as rice noodles in the Oriental section. Sometimes the pasta packages have recipes on them if you need ideas. Then add a few nuts and dried fruits, nut butters and rice cakes and you’ll be fine.

Making Cookies for Christmas

The other night I baked cookies. I followed the recipe on the Nestle’s Semi-Sweet Morsel bag. You know, the one that says “Toll House” on the front. It was the first time I’ve made cookies in forever; I’ve been without a regular oven (have been using a toaster oven) for a few years now. I just got my oven fixed in October – at the same time I was figuring out that my doctor’s suggestion that I not eat gluten might actually fix me. Since I followed the recipe, I didn’t use gluten-free flour and I did use butter. (I’ve also gone pretty much non-dairy, for now at least, but I am eating chocolate morsels. It’s Christmas and they don’t seem to bother me.)

While I was making the cookies, my husband and son were out fishing. When they came in after fishing, the house smelled good and my husband was so happy to see cookies. He picked one up and took a bite and started this “Mmmm! Mmmm!” stuff. I said, “I don’t want to hear any ‘Mmmm! Mmmm!’ noises! Just tell me if they came out OK.”

Can you imagine being told something like that? He looked shocked and confused! He asked, “Why?” and I told him, “Because I can’t have any, that’s why!” I felt like I was clinging to a branch on a cliff the whole time I was baking those things. And they smelled so good… Don’t let go! Don’t eat any cookies! You can make some for yourself tomorrow!

And the next day I did make some for myself. I used the Toll House Cookie recipe, but I used Better Batter Flour in the same amount of regular flour called for in the recipe. I also used coconut oil (again in the same amount)  instead of butter. And they are so good! Mmmm! Mmmm!

My First Gluten-Free Thanksgiving

This is not the greatest time in the United States to start a new way of eating, no matter what it is. Unless, maybe it’s going to be an all-you-want-of-everything-you-want-that-is-loaded-with-sugar-and-fat diet. So, what to do for Thanksgiving?

I’m lurching along here, learning as I go how to avoid gluten and dairy, too. Today I learned that Bit-O-Honey candy is gluten-free. After I already had a piece of it in my mouth, it dawned on me that I hadn’t looked at the ingredient list. I saw “natural flavor,” and not knowing what that was, I went to a website that has a whole bunch of candy info. It’s gluten-free but, guess what? My Hershey’s Special Dark can’t be MY Hershey’s Special Dark any more. It is NOT gluten-free. I also just noticed that Bit-O-Honey has milk in it. Ugh. OK…I just threw all that in for free; we’re here to talk about Thanksgiving.

I told my husband that I’m doing good to be learning one meal at a time. I have to deal with three of them every day, and don’t want to eat the same three things every day, so I have to branch out. (Breakfast has been the biggest challenge, but I’ve also run into things like having to change to gluten-free soy sauce.) I told him that to have Thanksgiving come at a time when I haven’t found my footing yet, is a bit overwhelming. He suggested we go to a cafeteria. Smart man!! I told him that was a fantastic idea!

So. I called to make sure they will have food besides the traditional Thanksgiving food, and the lady said they will. (I am trying so hard to be careful. Dr. Leiberman said in “The Gluten Connection,” that our bodies react to gluten in any form and in any amount if we are sensitive to it.) I’ll be very careful and ask if flour or wheat is used in anything that I’m not sure of. But, I’ll probably take my digestive enzymes just in case.

Yesterday I bought the ingredients for a special thing we call The Pink Stuff – you know, the mixture of canned fruits and jello and cottage cheese and Cool Whip and marshmallows? Hmm. Dairy. I may be having cross-reactivity problems, or maybe part of my problems have been caused by dairy foods, and I’m just now finding that out. Whatever. I’ll set some aside for myself before I add the cottage cheese. I guess I could get some silken tofu, crumble it a bit and mix it in mine, but it’s not so important that I need to brave the very crowded grocery store. Maybe I’ll try that next year.

I also want to try a pie. I decided to do a pumpkin pie. Yesterday, I found an easy gluten-free pie crust recipe. It calls for rice flour and I have that. This is getting better. Then this morning, I looked at the recipe on a can of pumpkin that I have in my cabinet. Uh, oh. Evaporated milk is one of the ingredients. I thought my pie was not going to work. That is thick stuff, and how would a substitute be anywhere near good enough to pull this off?

Have you ever done a search using the words “gluten-free pumpkin pie”? I know. I wanted “diary-free” since I had the pie crust part settled, but I was up til 3am taking notes from the library book that I mentioned above to make sure I got all the info out of it that I needed since it was due today. I’m doing good to be sitting up right now. Anyway, you might want to give that a try. There are tons of recipes! Guess what I found? This one has  instructions for making your own evaporated rice milk. I have rice milk. See how it gets better as we go along and slowly acquire the needed ingredients and actually have things on hand? I love it! AND, I bought some coconut oil last week that I can use as a butter substitute. I bet this will be one good pie!

So, there you have the ups and downs of My First Gluten-Free Thanksgiving. By next year, I’ll be an old hand at this. Well, I won’t know as much as all these ladies whose websites I’ve been reading, but I’ll be doing better. And, better is good.

ADDENDUM: Looked at the Cool Whip label after writing this and saw that it has milk in it. Lovely. Maybe next year I won’t have to avoid dairy and I’ll have some Pink Stuff. This year, I’ll just eat my pie and think about how much better I feel these days.

Still Trying to Figure This Out

I think I’m frustrated by the whole learning how to cook differently thing. I got the Better Batter flour mix and wanted to make bread yesterday, and when I went to the website to read about it and find a recipe, I found one and it said to mix the dough with a mixer for 7-10 minutes. I figured my arm will fall off – I’d have to eat the bread with one hand. I was willing to do that. Then as I read comments, I saw that I would have to use a mixer on a stand. Naomi, the lady behind the great flour, told a reader that the thick dough will burn up a hand mixer. SO…now I need a mixer on a stand! The last slice of I bread I ate was when I was at my son’s house and he cooked sausages and I put mine on a slice of bread. That was October 18th. I’d love some French Toast about now. (OK…back to those questions I ask myself…What do I live for? Aren’t I glad I don’t have to take medicine?)

Another frustration is so many recipes that I find and want to try, call for ingredients that I don’t just have around here because this is all new to me. And it looks like I need to avoid dairy, at least for a while. My esophagus feels sore off and on and it seems to coincide with eating dairy.

The great cornbread recipe (see this post for the link) that I have calls for dairy. At least I can make pumpkin muffins without dairy, but I need to get some non-dairy margarine/butter type thing to do it. (And these muffins are totally worth it! DE-licious!) I wonder if the day after Thanksgiving I should just go on some kind of heal-the-digestive-system diet for a few weeks, where I lay off all beans and soy and dairy and gluten and nuts….anything that can be hard to digest?

Oh, I quit taking the enzymes. My doctor told me to try them for a couple of weeks and if I wasn’t fixed to try no dairy, and then if after a couple more weeks I still wasn’t fixed, to try no gluten. I was feeling better while taking the enzymes, but everything was not fixed. I tried going gluten-free first because I noticed that when I ate gluten, like the time I ate the huge beautiful Bavarian Cream donut that sat in my stomach like a rock, if I took an enzyme afterwards, within 15 minutes my stomach felt better.

“The Gluten Connection,” by Dr. Shari Leiberman,  has a chapter on supplements, and enzymes are only recommended for “gluten slips.” I stopped for that reason, and because my doctor didn’t say to keep taking them if that wasn’t the whole problem, and because they are WAY too expensive for me and I could lose my house and have to live under a freeway bridge so I could have my enzymes (Ok…that’s catastrophizing…), and because I couldn’t be sure of everything I should avoid if I kept taking them and they did what my body couldn’t do.

Well, I just took this banana bread out of the oven. Better Batter can be substituted cup for cup in place of regular flour so that is what I used. It didn’t rise like banana bread normally does, which is to be expected. It smells good though.

ADDENDUM: The bread was good. It was thick and not cake-like, which is what the cook wanted who came up with the recipe. I expect to be making this again.

ADDENDUM II: Thought I ought to say this: The esophagus thing is not from dairy. It’s a muscle spasm. It feels better when I eat and it is worse in the evening than in the morning. If I make faces that Gene Simmons would be proud of, it releases the spasm a bit. Seems to be stress-related. Big sigh.

Learning to Live Gluten-Free

What? Acid in my throat again? This is the second night in a row. I just got out of bed after lying there for an hour wondering why? What did I eat? Was it three days of spicy food? Maybe the first day when I ate at the Mexican restaurant that has the great HOT sauce to dip chips in wasn’t too much, but that followed by two days of chili was too much? Maybe it wasn’t the spice, but it was too much dairy? Could dairy be a problem, too? I had a lot of cheese at the restaurant and ice cream last night, but not much dairy the day in between. It could be that since it was really cold night before last and I was sliding down off the wedge that I sleep on so I could get way under the cover, that I was lying too flat and that is why I had acid that night, and then last night it was a different problem. Like…too much chocolate? I have been eating a little bit of a Hershey bar sometimes and that hasn’t bothered me, but last night I had birthday cake and it was chocolate. It was gluten-free and gluten is what started this whole investigation. (Only I didn’t know at first that gluten was a problem. I thought the whole gluten-free thing was a fad. Unless, of course, one has Celiac Disease.) And the corn chips that I had with my chili were two different brands, but the first one is processed on machinery that also processes wheat. The second brand has been tested below a certain level of gluten, but not totally gluten-free. Can I really be that sensitive? Gee, I hope not. Could it be tomatoes? I hope not, but it has to be something. Maybe only if they are cooked tomatoes because the pico de gallo and the HOT – wonderfully HOT! – sauce didn’t bother me.  How many possibilities have I come up with so far? Too many. See how complicated this can be? I’ll have to play detective with my food diary to figure this out.

I know one thing. I sure have enjoyed the nights of sleep without acid and whatever caused this will have to go. “Without acid” started after I stopped eating gluten. Until now, anyway. And it may be that if tomatoes are bothering me now, they won’t after my system has had more time to recuperate from exposure to gluten. I’ve also enjoyed not being bloated and feeling much better in general. People are even telling me that I look like I feel better.

Up until now, my life has been defined as the Days BC and the Days AC – Before Christ and After Christ. Now, I may be adding the Days BG and AG – Before and After Gluten. Well, there’s no “may” to it. I don’t want to feel like I used to feel.

I quit eating gluten at my doctor’s suggestion. In September when I saw him my whole digestive system felt like it had been to a rock concert. You know how when you go to a concert and the music is loud and you’re right up front at the stage and then when it’s over your whole brain feels like it’s pulsating from sound waves that are still reverberating around in there? A few years ago, I had two sons in bands together and I spent quite a bit of time having fun with loud music. Lots of reverberating afterwards. The head gets over it pretty soon. My digestive system was miserable. My doctor suggested that I try a really good probiotic with lots of different bacteria in one capsule and digestive enzymes. He said if that didn’t work after a couple of weeks to try cutting out dairy. If two weeks of not eating dairy foods didn’t help, then cut out gluten. The only time I could tell that the enzymes helped was when I ate something like pancakes or a big ol’ donut. So, I started with eliminating gluten. I’m still taking the enzymes and probiotic until I get everything figured out. Then I’ll see about cutting back on some of that.

So, what do I think of all this gluten-free eating? And what does my husband think? I’ll start with him; he’s pretty cool. He has liked the pasta and the pancakes and the cornbread. He liked the cake, too. He told my parents that everything I’ve fixed that has been gluten-free has been “delicious.” This morning he told me that it’s probably a good idea for everyone to avoid gluten since it can cause so many problems for so many people. Well, I think it’s great and wonderful that he’s so easy to work with here, although I wouldn’t go so far as to say everyone should avoid it. He might decide he’ll avoid it, except for beer. He likes beer. It’s a good thing I’ve never liked beer; that is about the only thing I haven’t been able to find a substitute for.

So, how has this changed my grocery shopping so far? To tell you that, I’ll tell you how I was shopping to begin with. I have a list to take to the store. It’s a master list. I’ve listed vegetables broken down into categories of green leafy, root, cruciferous and others. On my list, I also have fruit, nuts and seeds, grains and beans. I start in the produce department, checking what is in season and on sale, where it came from and what goes well with what and put meals together as I shop. I was only buying a few packaged foods like oatmeal, pancake mix, lunch meat (icky, I know – my husband eats it), bread, nut butters, canned soup, tofu. Most of what we eat is fresh produce and dried beans and grains. We eat pasta every few weeks. Rarely, I buy boudain or tamales. More rarely than those things, any other meat. It’s hard for me to say “never.” About the only dairy I was eating before I started having so much acid at night, was a little bit of milk in my coffee and butter in oatmeal or on pancakes. I did increase dairy though when I stopped eating cooked food for supper and started eating fresh fruit with some cheese, nuts, or peanut or almond butter. I was trying to get through a night without waking up with my throat burning. Nothing was helping with the bloating or the general sluggishness that my system was having. I’m not drinking coffee or tea, except herbal tea, more than once a week now.

Canned soup had to go. No biggie. Oatmeal in the US isn’t safe from wheat contamination. I miss oatmeal and plan to try it in a few months after my system has had time rest. (Europe and Canada are way ahead of us on this. I plan to write about some of that later.) Our couscous and pancake mix had to go. I had gone from being able to eat a stack of four small pancakes in May to only two pancakes by September and they sat in my stomach like a rock until I started taking digestive enzymes. The enzymes helped, but they weren’t fixing the problem.

The only time I’ve really felt lost is at breakfast. No barley cereal, no oatmeal, no French toast, no rye toast with almond butter and sliced apple or banana. We’re better off not eating a lot of eggs, because of my husband’s cholesterol. I’d like to have toast sometimes. I’m thankful for gluten-free pancake options. I’ve ordered Better Batter flour so I can make bread and do a bit of holiday baking. I picked up a small magazine, “Gluten-Free Recipes”, at the grocery store the other day because it has two recipes for flour blends that can be made up in bulk, one for breads and the other is all-purpose. So, I have some exploring to do. In the meantime, I’ve found some good websites with recipes. I LOVE the cornbread recipe that Nicole has on “Gluten-Free on a Shoestring”! Like a lot of folks, I live on a shoestring and once my Better Batter flour gets here I’ll be able to make pancakes with it and it won’t cost as much as the mix. I was desperate when I bought the mix. Oh, and pizza. I’d like to have pizza sometimes.

That reminds me of something else that I was thinking about when I woke up with acid in my throat. I’ve thought of this often over the years. It is just a question that I ask myself about different aspects of life. In this situation, I’m asking, “Do I live to eat, or do I eat to live? Am I a servant of food, or is food my servant?” I really enjoy food. I was cooking eggs and boudain for breakfast the other day and I thought, “I can have boudain and chocolate! What else do I need?” But, really. Am I remembering that this life and its goodies are temporary and what I have to look forward to is going to be better? Do I hold onto things here lightly? Really? Even favorite foods?

ADDENDUM (January 2, 2012): I kept seeing things about gluten-free beer here and there, so I thought for those of you who are interested, here’s a link to a website with reviews of gluten-free beers: Switch2GlutenFree This site is written by a man named Mike. The “About Mike” page is pretty interesting; this looks like a good place for a guy, especially, to do a little reading. Ladies aren’t the only ones writing about living gluten-free and I imagine a few guys might like to read another fellow’s writing.