21 November 2011
I confess: At times over the years, particularly when it came to certain trigger foods, I was a bad celiac. That changed in 2009 when I saw this video. I mention my failings because I’m not the only one out there.
Truth is, I knew I was celiac for at least three years before I was diagnosed, I just didn’t want to know it. At that time, in the era before good web searches and tireless wikipedia editors, I didn’t know how bad celiac disease really was. Then again, I’m not really sure anyone did.
When I was a kid, people thought celiac disease was something you had as a kid and “got over.” I kind of adapted in weird ways: I ate my sandwiches on white bread (less protein and thus less gluten, but also I respond to the bleached protein differently) open-faced (one piece of bread instead of two). I ate lots of pasta sauce with very little noodles. When I made lasagne, I used half the noodles and twice as much other stuff. I preferred corn muffins and oatmeal cookies (but with chocolate chips). I’d use corn tortillas for my tacos. In other words, there were ways I was unaware of that I tried to reduce my gluten consumption. My dad was constantly nagging me to eat more grains, but now he admits he was wrong on that point.
And then there was the time I went vegetarian. I think I lasted a week or two, probably mostly because the wheat germ made me so very ill. It still makes me shudder.
There wasn’t a history of celiac disease in my family. My father carries some of the genes; my mother doesn’t. My stepmother noticed that I sometimes came back from visits to my mom with stomach cramps. I was sent to a shrink as it was believed to be psychological. It wasn’t, it was dietary. (I don’t actually remember the symptoms, I just remember the outrage of being sent to a shrink over it.) I was eleven at the time, so I know I was symptomatic then, but I don’t know when the symptoms actually started, only when they were noticeable by other people.
Even after I was diagnosed (at the age of 37), I would have moments of weakness. Some celiacs vomit up gluten. Lucky them, as it does less damage that way. Some get cramps within an hour. Lucky them.
And then there’s me. My symptoms take two to three days after gluten ingestion, so you can see that would be difficult to correlate food with symptom. Who remembers what they had to eat in detail 2-3 days ago on a regular basis?
There are certain foods I miss a lot.
At the end of the first week I was gluten-free, I missed two things: pizza and chocolate chip cookies. I made a passable pizza from scratch (my first), but the cookies were awful. I didn’t know the difference between potato starch and potato flour and made the grittiest, most awful cookies such that a house full of college students wouldn’t touch the damn things.
I miss croissants and chocolate cake in particular. Sure, you can make a passable chocolate cake without gluten, and Miglet’s bakery does a great job, but it’s not really the same thing. Sadly, croissants are simply beyond what non-gluten flours can do. Actually, I did hear a rumor that someone in either Australia or New Zealand made a passable croissant without gluten, but I remain unconvinced until I try one.
So, for years, we’d go out for lingonberry pancakes every once in a while. I’d have my birthday croissant. I’d occasionally eat something else sinful, and it was touch and go whether I’d hit the bread basket in a restaurant if I was really, really hungry. Now I have the strength to push it away from me (they always put it in front of me, it’s like being the person in a room who doesn’t like cats).
I’m not talking a lot. I’m talking about a slip on average once a month. Later on, it was more like once every two or three months, but it was a significant slip: an entire non-compliant meal in the case of the lingonberries.
Lest I sound like a complete idiot for the above admission — I know of more than one celiac who, when he or she gave up gluten entirely, developed a life-threatening gluten allergy as a side effect. Thus, I thought, maybe it is better to have low occasional doses of gluten.
When I saw Dr. Murphy’s video, though, it stopped me cold. I’m still not perfect, but I feel better for the more strident and continued effort. Unfortunately, it meant food felt more like a war zone than it had before.
On my last trip to Hilo, it was really difficult. Everything’s got soy sauce or teriyaki (which is derived from soy sauce) or some other form of gluten. This time, I picked more carefully and was able to avoid the land mines, but I nearly had an oops when I saw that McDonald’s was serving banana pies. I love hot bananas, and I love pie. One dollar and you can have both. Grrr!
I was thinking about this earlier: I probably need to make a list of foods I associate with gluten that I really, truly love — then figure out a way to work them into my food plan in some gluten-free version. I think I’ll just bronze a croissant, though, that’s a lost cause.
I also remain unhappy with all my lasagne options thus far.
With that exercise, I’ll probably discover that there’s some aspect of foods that I like where there’s some common thing I haven’t thought of.
For example, Rick and I were talking about some foods I didn’t really like. I’ll eat zucchini, pick at it more like, but I’ve never been a fan. I love the smell of cucumbers, but not the taste. The common aspect to both of those is simply that I don’t like the sharp tang they have to me. I don’t like bitter tastes for the most part. So, weirdly, I don’t like cucumbers and I don’t like vinegar, but I do like the occasional dill pickle, because the taste is more than either cucumber or vinegar or the combination of the two.
I’ve never really heard anyone else talk about having trouble staying compliant. Maybe they’re more like me than they’d like to admit, but it sure seems that most people have much more immediate gluten reactions; I’m not that fortunate. For me, these days, it’s more the emotional reaction: it’s not fair, and it’ll never feel fair. But we forge along anyway.