I am not gluten-free because I am not a Celiac. Yes, it’s an actual disease, with a test to properly diagnose. True Celiacs usually are quite ill before diagnosis. It’s not a “lifestyle choice,” (e.g. See Kellie Martin’s character in Hallmark’s So You Said Yes movie). Therefore, eliminating gluten from my diet isn’t going to help me. In fact, eating certain “gluten-free” food makes me sick.
With the prevalence of gluten-free food, people assume I’m gluten-free because I have a limited diet. This is very irritating. Especially when gluten-free food is foisted upon me in restaurants and at special events as a catch-all meal solution, only to face irritation, confusion, and frustration when I politely decline it.
There are a ton of reasons why a person might have a limited diet. Just a few examples include colitis, Crohn’s disease, allergies, and medication interaction. While I don’t have any of these, I do have food sensitivities—a lot of them.
My avoidance list:
Legumes (i.e. peanuts, beans, lentils, peas, etc.)
All grains (i.e. wheat, rye, barley, corn*)
Tree nuts (i.e. pecan, coconut, almond, etc.)
Nightshades (tomato, eggplant, potatoes, peppers**)
Cantaloupe (actually a weed, not fruit, thus the problem for me)
Green beans, beets
Yep, it makes for some tricky eatin’. And, if you’ve ever read a gluten-free label, now you understand why these foods aren’t an option for me—sure, they’re gluten-free, but the most common “substitute” ingredients (corn, potato, almond, coconut) do make me sick.
Food sensitivities are insidious because they’re hard to pin down. Symptoms (flushing, sweating, nausea, headache, cramping, diarrhea, burning sensation on the tongue/lips and/or in the digestive tract, fatigue, brain fog, itchiness, irritability, jitteriness, sleepiness, bloating, gas, burping, congestion, puffiness, and more) are associated with many other disorders. Any symptom or collection of symptoms can start immediately after ingesting a problematic food, or any time up to 48 hours later. And, people typically eat a range of foods (often without knowing exact ingredients) in a meal or snack. Thus, it can be tricky to associate a certain reaction with a particular food.
Currently, there are a few food sensitivity diagnosis methods—blood test, avoidance & food journaling, and N.E.A.T. (Natural Elimination of Allergy Treatment), the latter being a non-invasive muscle test. It’s taken years, several rounds of testing (I’ve done all three methods), and a lot of out-of-pocket expense to successfully identify what doesn’t agree with my body.
But the time and expense was worth it. I know it sounds crazy, I didn’t understand until just a few years ago (following a really definitive N.E.A.T. testing batch) that you are supposed to eat and then go on with your day, symptom free. When you spend a lifetime with food sensitivities, you just don’t know any different. Up until then, my stomach would be cramping before I even left the table every meal, among many, many other issues.
Food isn’t supposed to make you sick. If you suspect that your body isn’t dealing with food well in general, a terrific starting place is to find a licensed naturopath (some states cover these visits via insurance) and get tested for the most common of food sensitivities. Or, start a food log. Record everything you eat (exact ingredients and time of meal) as well as all symptoms. If you have food sensitivities, you will start to see patterns among certain foods and the onset of certain symptoms.
*Corn syrup is ubiquitous in today’s prepared food world. But that’s a whole ‘nother post.
**“Peppers” includes paprika and cayenne, two common ingredients used at restaurants, and often ones that are not included on an allergen list.
Next week: What I Can Eat