gluten-ated: how to survive contamination

a lot of people have asked me what it feels like when i get gluten-ated (contaminated with gluten). here it is in a nut shell: 2-3 days of extremely painful stomach aches, followed by a minimum of 1-2 days with extremely sharp stabbing intestinal pain. so, when people ask me if i ever “cheat” and eat gluten, i always look at them like they are 1. slightly crazy or 2. misinformed. given how trendy it is to be “gluten-free,” i’ve been confronted multiple times in the last few months with skeptical comments about why i am gluten-free from people who haven’t known me more than a year or two. C’s response when this happens is to look at them and say “you have no idea what it was like before the diagnosis. no idea.” (thank you C for sticking with me all these years.)

today is tuesday and i’m trying to determine what i ate in the last 5 days that trigged 4 days of brutal stomach aches and 1 very long day of intense intestinal pain. after 5 years of this, i know it’s gluten because everything else that i struggle with (diary, soy, beans, etc) usually just ends with a stomach ache and throwing up (to put it bluntly), not days and days laying in bed with a heating pad pressed into my torso, waiting for it to end.

the second question i get a lot is: how do i deal with it when it happens?
in order:
1. spend 2 days going over everything that’s gone into my body, trying to isolate the source
2. lay in bed with a heat pad on high
3. drink lots of detox tea
4. eat very little (eating some times makes it worse for me.)
5. up my probiotic intake and chinese herbals
6. get acupuncture
7. repeat 2-3 over and over and over and over

herbs

i’ve been meaning to write some posts on acupuncture and chinese herbals for a while now because i was never a believer until i started using both in my life every week. i’m astonished how much i depend on them now. my intestinal pain was so intense yesterday, i was having a hard time functioning. i had acupuncture at 8 last night and this morning: no more pain. the skeptics would just argue that it finally ran it’s course, but i’m not so sure…

batter

one of the things that’s an absolute when i’m gluten-ated is eating right. i pretty much have to go into lock-down mode to keep things from getting worse, which is hard because i often feel both hungry and sick at the same time. sticking to warm, soft, easy to digest food is a must. avoiding coffee and alcohol for a few days after it’s over is also a must. nothing that causes inflammation.

pumpkinmuffin

this time around i stuck with a kale, fennel, quinoa dish and pumpkin muffins like these ones, made with honey, almond milk and almond flour (minus the walnuts). they are soft and taste like pumpkin pie but aren’t too sweet. (kale, fennel and honey are great aids for digestive tracks, as well as anti-inflammatory. pumpkin is easy to digest.) the trick is to eat warm, digestible foods without eating things that cause bloating (beans and too many veggies all at once) but also get enough protein to keep yourself going (hence, the quinoa).

detox

i’m happy to say that i’m on day 6 and on the mend.
i’ll admit that every time this happens, i cease wanting to ever eat out again or even eat at people’s houses out of fear. that part is hard. but i know it could be much worse. many people with gluten allergies have to be hospitalized when they are gluten-ated. i’m one of the lucky ones who can push through it with a few bad days and a lot of detox tea.
also, it helps to talk to someone with the same issues. my younger sister has the same digestive drama i do, so when i’m suffering and annoyed and grumpy about it, i call her and she reminds me that it won’t last forever.

i’m curious what everyone else does when they are gluten-ated. feel free to share your own ideas!


21 days of breaking habits

Yesterday was the 21st day of my breaking/making new habits with sugar challenge. I would like to be able to say that I went a complete 21 days without refined sugar, but I’d be lying: I had a piece of chocolate cake at a family party on day 13. And I had a glass of wine on day 19. So, I almost went 21 days without refined sugar or wine.

Here’s what I learned about myself and my habit loops:

#1. If I can’t see it, I won’t eat it. As long as there is no sugar in my house, I’m golden. In fact, after 8-9 days without sugar, I forgot to keep track of my post-its. Half of them are still stuck to my computer screen:

postits

I’ve been so busy with school over the last few weeks that it hasn’t even occurred to me to find sugar to eat. There’s no time. Given how little I can eat out, there’s little temptation to have sugar because so many sweets contain gluten, dairy and/or soy. However, I’ve realized if I can eat it, I will. If C buys chocolate I can eat, I want to eat it. All of it. I want to eat the entire bar in one night. If I make myself chocolate, I want to eat it. Every meal. Including breakfast. If there’s wine in the house, I want a glass or two every night.

Interestingly enough, this is also true with non-sugary foods: I have a hard time not eating an entire container of hummus and bag of carrots over the course of one day. Or lemon Larabars: if I buy an entire box, it’s likely that during a busy day, I’ll eat 3 of them and call that breakfast, lunch, and snack. I realize that’s not ideal, which is why I have stopped buying boxes of Larabars and large containers of hummus. It is also why I haven’t made chocolate in a month. This is the current state of the side door pocket in my car: there’s about 5 Larabar wrappers in there from eating on the go for the last 2 weeks.

larabar

#2. The most common cue for my habitual consumption of sugar and wine is social: I want to eat sugar and drink wine the most when I’m with people. I’m happy to have realized this about myself. I ate chocolate cake on day 13 for many social reasons: it was specially made and ordered so my sister and I could eat it; we were at a family gathering and celebrating a special family event; we were drinking coffee; it looked amazing. I don’t regret eating it. However, when I got a stomach ache later, I did regret eating 2 pieces and the frosting off the side of the cake plate. This made me realize how little control I force myself to have when sugar is in front of me. Clearly, more work needs to be done in the control-yourself arena.

Avoiding refined sugar was much easier than avoiding wine. We live in the city and are very social people. I’ve been to 3 birthday bashes in the last 10 days and out with friends a few times. I enjoy drinking wine when I’m with my friends. It was a bit hard to not indulge, but I found that I slept much better nights I only had a little bit of whiskey instead of a glass or two of wine and better yet when I had nothing but water and herbal teas. My body was really happy about this.

My second most common cue was my emotions: When I ate the cake, I felt like I didn’t really care that I was trying to avoid sugar. I justified it by thinking: Well, I’m not going to have this again for a long time, so whatever. I’ll eat a lot of it. Even though while I was eating it, I was thinking about how I might get a stomach ache, I just convinced myself I wouldn’t regret it later. But then I did. You would think I would learn from these stomach ache lessons…

I’ve decided to continue to avoid refined sugar and wine. My body feels better with out it. I think the last 21 days have made me realize that the less I’m around it, the less I think about it and the less I crave it. I haven’t felt like eating sugar at all lately, which is a new feeling. And I think that the less I consume it on a regular basis, the more I’ll enjoy the few times I actually do eat sugar.

I do miss wine, but not having it in the house has made it easier to avoid and not letting myself order it when out has gotten easier. I think that if I continued to limit wine to dinner with friends, I’ll have more consistent sleep patterns. I think the challenge with wine will be when spring finally comes and we are outside more because I love rosé, which is loaded with sugar. My next challenge will be attempting moderation.