Three years ago in May, I gave up dairy and gluten at the same time. I knew I had lactose-intolerance to a certain degree that was getting worse as I aged. I suspected I also had a reaction to gluten, but I didn’t want to/didn’t have the energy to get it tested. Instead, I cut out gluten and never looked back. A year or so later, I mentioned to my new doctor that I would like to be tested for gluten intolerance. She said that I’d have to start eating gluten again. Which, I mean, yes, that makes sense, but my immediate reaction was to flinch at the thought of poisoning myself. Yes, that’s how I viewed it. Why would I intentionally put something into my body that I knew was bad for me? For the reassurance that it was, indeed, bad for me? No, thank you. I might as well just keep on keeping on with my gluten-free life.
There has been a lot of ink wasted about people who claim to be gluten-intolerant but aren’t. There is a lot of discussion about gluten sensitivity vs wheat allergy vs FODMAP issues, ad nauseam. I know I don’t have Celiac’s and I would never claim to have it. I also have done the Low FODMAP diet/test, and I found out a few things that are triggers. But, in general, I was comfortable with saying I was GF/DF and getting on with my life. Sure, it’s annoying to read/hear people (including actual doctors) pooh-poohing my actual life experience, but you know, it is what it is.
Why am I rambling about this? First, because I can. But more importantly because of something that happened last night. I decided to make shakshuka (poached eggs in spicy sauce/stew) the lazy way (pre-made shakshuka sauce) over macaroni. This has been my thing of making an easy shakshuka and pairing it with different carb sources. Anyway, It was delicious. Then, my stomach started cramping hard, and I had to race to the bathroom in a reaction I was much too intimate and familiar with. I hadn’t had one in almost a year, but I knew it when it happened. I spent the next half hour on the toilet, and then I was going to the bathroom once every hour or two for the next six hours. Up to half an hour at a time. My stomach was bloated and sore, and let’s just say my innards were enflamed. Not just my innards, if you know what I’m saying. I had so much diarrhea, it was ridiculous. But, also, constipation. It’s fun to have both, let me tell you.
Six hours. Six fucking hours. I had the symptoms upon waking up (and another unpleasant trip to the bathroom), and sixteen hours later, there are some lingering side effects.
I started thinking about why this happened. I assumed it was the shakshuka sauce because it has onion and garlic in it, and I have mild sensitivities to both of those (stronger to garlic). However, I had used it before and didn’t have this reaction. On a hunch, I checked the macaroni box. It was the regular one which meant gluten. Lots of gluten. So much gluten. All the gluten. I didn’t notice when I used it last night, and this made way more fucking sense. I am doing food delivery currently, and I ordered the wrong one. I didn’t look at the box closely before using it. It’s my complete bad, and I’m paying for it.
I had gotten lax and complacent as I’ve been doing this for over three years. I’m usually meticulous about making sure I’m getting the right thing, but it’s become so routine, I let my attention slip. It happened with meat-free substitutes. I knew from before that boca ‘burgers’ had wheat in them, but I erroneously assumed that ones touting themselves as plant-based wouldn’t be an issue. Foolish of me, really, as wheat is a plant of sorts. For whatever reason, I didn’t think of it but when I kept having issues while eating these plant-based meat subs, I noticed that most of them had some kind of wheat in them.
I’m wiped out today. My innards are so unhappy with me. I was up until 6 in the morning running to the bathroom. To be more explicit so skip this paragraph if you’re not into graphic descriptions of internal distress, my stomach is bloated and cramping. Not bad cramps now, but last night they were not fun at all. When I first ran to the toilet, I barely made it in time. The diarrhea exploded from me for what seemed like forever. I was weakened when I was done, and my stomach felt like shit. I staggered back to the couch and then had to race back to the toilet ten minutes or so later. This happened for the next six hours. I cannot stress that enough. Six hours.
At some point, I had both constipation and diarrhea alternating back and forth. I’d be constipated for a few minutes, which is terrible in and of itself, and strain to push it out. Then, it’d come out in explosive bursts. Explosive, smelly bursts. Not only did this make my asshole fiery and sore (sorry!), it left me weak and dehydrated. I actually sat on the toilet for several minutes beacuse I was too weak to move back to the couch.
I woke up once in the middle of the night and had to run to the bathroom. First thing when I woke up, run to the bathroom. It wasn’t as bad or intense, but it was still uncomfortable. My stomach is still bloated and tender to the touch. My innards are most emphatically not happy with me.
I will, say, though, that I’m glad to have confirmation of my theory that I have an issue with gluten/wheat/something related. Since I was not trying to test myself, there was no confirmation bias in either direction. I had no preconceived notions going in because I wasn’t expecting anything other than eating a meal before relaxing and then going to bed. Oh, and writing. I still had some writing to do, and I managed to eke it out. It wasn’t great, but it got done.
I shouldn’t need it, but with all the scorn heaped upon gluten intolerances, it was validation. Look. I’m a science gal. I believe science. I adore science. Science works, bitches. But. Science is not static and science is not all-knowing. Fifty years ago, cigarettes were considered a health benefit. Two hundred years ago, leeches were all the rage! More personally, eggs. At one point, they were considered BAD BAD BAD for you and stay away!!! Then it was, no, they’re good for you. Eat! It’s more nuanced than that, obviously, and part of science is new information.
I’ve mentioned before watching a video with two doctors sneering at food sensitivities (one was a specialist is food allergies. Sigh) that immediately made me stop watching Doctor Mike (the actual channel). They were both sniggering, saying, everyone had a leaky gut now and then or regretted some kind of binge or whatnot. It was really offensive, but unfortunately, not uncommon in the medical field. When all you see use is a hammer, everything is a nail. The allergist doctor was very dismissive about sensitivities because they don’t kill you. Well, yes, but they’re not any fucking fun, either. I tend to use sensitivity because I don’t want to elevate whatever I have, but I’m done with that.
Here’s the thing. I know it’s annoying to be around people who blather about being gluten sensitive and then scarf down a whole plate of cookies. I understand that there are a lot of people who jumped on that band wagon to be trendy or whatever. However, from my research, there’s a consistent–by the way, the studies that I’m seeing and that are being talked about are very tiny. One had 32 people, one had roughly ten times that amount. I would think that less than a thousand people in a study is…problematic if one wants to make generalizations to the broader population (country or world). Anyway, I’m finding that it’s roughly 7% to 8% of people in these studies have Celiac’s (1%), wheat allergy (no percentage), gluten sensitivity/intolerance (6% or so).
That’s not nothing. In addition, the conclusion of the latter study was that there were no major health implications for the vast majority of the participants. What does that mean? I would bet that my reaction wouldn’t count as long-term damage or that terrible to my health. In fact, that’s one of the things that pissed me off about the aforementioned doctors’ sneering about sensitivities. I know they deal with life-and-death situations so what I’m going through would not even register a lifted eyebrow from either of them. I get it. It’s not an emergency. It’s not life-threatening. But it’s agony to go through.
By the way, I have joked about having a day where I break all the rules and eat all the gluten and dairy. If I did, however, it would not have included macaroni. I mean, I love it, don’t get me wrong, but it’s basic and not something I would actively choose. I am not doing that, by the way, because it’s not worth it. At all.
I don’t give a fuck if it’s gluten intolerance, gluten sensitivity, wheat allergy (which I’m pretty sure it’s not), or whatever. It’s one thing Americans are obsessed with–if you don’t have an exact name for something, then it’s not real. It was the same thing with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome decades ago. The tangent about science–it’s imprecise. We are doing the best with what we have at the time, but we do not know everything there is to know. What I do know is that I feel 100% better when I don’t eat wheat/gluten. Period. Now I have confirmation that this is an actual thing. I don’t give a shit if it’s *real* or whatever. I’m going to keep on doing what’s best for me, whether the science backs me up or not. Which means no gluten for me.