Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The new gluten-free me

I guess it’s time for me to finally post about this monumental change in my life. It started a month or so ago when my doctor discovered that I was anemic. He sent me to a gastroenterologist to make sure I didn’t have Something Nasty. The Gastro Doc, with the rather charming but disorienting name Dimple, ordered a colonoscopy and an endoscopy. She looked at my iron levels and said, “You must feel like you want to hit someone.” I’m telling you that so you can give me credit for not, in fact, hitting anyone.

I’ll spare the details of these procedures, except to say that magnesium citrate is a baffling concoction that is fizzy, salty and sour all at the same time. I felt like I was drinking a weird Asian beverage. I also never want to see Gatorade or Jell-o again. On the positive side, I love the little cocktail they gave me to put me under. It has the beauty of a narcotic without the hurling afterwards.

My colonoscopy was fine, but the endoscopy revealed some things I wasn’t aware of. Like having acute gastritis, for one. I hadn’t really noticed until they told me. I also had blunted villi, and since Dear Husband has had his own problems, I knew what that likely meant, and indeed the blood tests confirmed that I do in fact have celiac.

I’ll break here for a public service announcement: Celiac is an autoimmune disease that damages the villi of the small intestine and interferes with the absorption of nutrients. It is estimated that 1 out of 133 people have it, and less than 3% of those are actually diagnosed. If you have any digestive issues that have been written off as IBS (like Dear Husband’s were), or if you have any autoimmune disease (my GI said she automatically tests anyone with a thyroid condition), I encourage you to beat some sense into your doctor and get the Celiac Blood Panel.

Strangely, I didn’t have any serious digestive complaints. At least nothing I didn’t brush off as simple indigestion, or a bug, or my period. Dear Husband says that I was always having problems, but they were not the bent-over-in-misery-never-leaving-the-house-again variety. I feel supremely lucky, because I’ve read stories of people who were miserable for 10 even 20 years before they were diagnosed. On the other hand, having no powerful symptoms imbues the experience with a haze of unreality.

The treatment is simple - never eat wheat, rye or barley again, or any product derived from them (such as malt). I’m used to looking for this stuff because of Dear Husband. And I’m lucky that I don’t have multiple food allergies. There are people who can’t eat corn, or milk, or potatoes on top of having to avoid gluten.

But, you know what, most gluten free baked goods totally blow, and they are very, very expensive. I’m going to have to figure out baking my own stuff (which involves strange flour mixes and something called xanthum gum that costs $11 for a bag the size of an oatmeal packet). In practice I approach all gluten free goodies with distrust and suspicion. For God’s sake, people are baking with bean flour! Bean flour! In cookies! In bread! That’s just what a I want, a lovely garbanzo bean cookie. Make that a vegan, nut free, rice free, corn free, soy free, agave syrup sweetened garbanzo bean cookie. And then there’s the gritty, mouthful of beach sand experience of eating anything baked with rice flour. I just tried using the new gluten free Bisquick to make biscuits, which I’ve actually heard some poor demented folk praise, and I wondered if this was, in truth, food or Evil masquerading as a comestible.

At the moment I’m tired of thinking about food, what to stock, what’s safe, whether I should risk purchasing this $7 loaf of gluten free bread, what the hell I’m going to pack in my lunch, and I’m wondering if I could just live off Corn Chex for a while. Thankfully, ice cream (many kinds, anyway) and jellybeans are gluten free.


  1. I've gone gluten free lately and it is a challenge. I feel much better though for having done it. I do miss bread. I haven't ventured into making gluten free breads yet but am hoping to.

  2. Amy's Frozen Dinners, altho rather pricey, aren't toooo bad, and they're gluten-free, and lots-of-other-things-free as well! The tricky part of this is reading labels on EVERYTHING, as flour can be hiding in all kinds of stuff that isn't bread or cookies or cake. Good luck, and let us hear when you make a good discovery of something GOOD to eat!!

  3. Hope, I'm hoping to find a mix to try that doesn't require me to have a standing mixer. I'm not that high tech!

    Carter, Yes, my husband has been eating Amy's for a while, and I tried one recently that I found tasty. So true about reading labels. There are some products that used to be gluten free that are suddenly processing stuff on the same lines as wheat. Frustrating. All I know is I'm glad Tootsie Rolls are gluten free.

  4. Hey!
    Gluten-free! Gluten-free! Yay. Of course you know I've been gluten-free for years now. Six. I can't begin to describe the difference in my gut. I love my gut now. Yeah, bakery products that are sold as "gluten-free" suck. But you'll never believe what I found in Munich on Saturday. Gluten-free frozen pizza. I cried on Saturday evening as I was eating my first pizza in six years. It was really good. And the one I had Monday was also really good. And the one I'm going to have tonight is going to be really good.

    I'm going to gain 30 pounds. Watch me.

  5. The whole thing sounds wretched, truly. I've tried a gluten-free cookie once, and it did taste good. My review isn't reliable, though,because I ate said cookie with tea to try to sober up after a leetle too much tequila...