Gluten was one of the first things to be eliminated from my diet when I started working with my Nutritional Therapy Practitioner. I have a nephew with Celiac, so I was not foreign to the concept; but, that does not make it less difficult either. In fact, I gave up gluten, soy, dairy, corn and beef. What does that leave me to eat? That was the same question I had! It turned out that I had plenty of edible choices. It’s just that none of those included anything that came in a box, carton or package. And it definitely meant that my shopping had to expand beyond the Neighborhood Walmart store. The change was a challenge, but the results were apparent as well. I took an 80/20- Better-Than attitude (eating clean and sticking to the restrictions at least 80% of the time and choosing options that were “better than” other options). I plowed forward with my new lifestyle dragging my family with me. I had the idea that I could still have gluten or corn or dairy sometimes as long as I didn’t eat it too often.
Eventually, I came to understand that gluten had a bigger impact on my body than I first thought. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis was showing up in my bloodwork and gluten is believed to trigger the autoimmune response similar to Celiac Disease, but the body attacks the thyroid gland vs. the digestive system. So, I doubled down and began to really focus on removing all gluten from my diet. I didn’t realize how critical this was until I caved in a moment of hurry and hunger and the overwhelming desire for a hamburger. A few hours later my heart was racing, my anxiety spiked, and I was more irritable than a swarm of wasps knocked from their nest. It took me three days to recover. It was at that moment I truly understood food allergies and the severity. I began to ask waiters about gluten in meals and having them double check with the chef. I became that annoying person with the food sensitivity that we laugh at in YouTube videos (which I find more humorous now than ever before). My mistake now was trusting the servers.
Even when the server says that a meal is “gluten free” or “gluten sensitive”, when the menu has those cute little “gf” indicators next to the items, it is still not a guarantee that it is not contaminated with gluten. There are a couple of places that I have learned to trust in my experience: El Chico and Spring Creek BBQ–minus the hot bread ;-(. But, eating the same thing every time we go out can be pretty boring, so occasionally we will try out a new place. So far, I’m batting 1000 at new places claiming gf options and finding out the hard way that their claims were false. Last week I had the worst reaction so far. We tried a new Mexican restaurant and both the server and the manager assured me that I could eat the enchiladas espinaca. At 2am they were proved wrong. I didn’t sleep for the next 36 hours. When I finally did sleep for four hours I woke up unable to move, my limbs feeling like they were filled with cement. My sweet Angela became my nurse and gave me the supplements I needed to support my body through the reaction. What started as a wonderful date on Thursday evening, would lead to the next 5 days in bed.
I am not happy about it. Eating out and getting the break from planning and cooking a meal is a huge treat form me. At the same time, playing Russian Roulette with my body is just not worth the risk. So, I face another change of attitude. It is a new reality that when I travel I will have to prepare my own food in advance for the length of my trip. I will probably be packing my griddle and Instant Pot to cook in the hotel room. And family gatherings will not mean a day of munchies and treats that I didn’t have to prepare. It will mean extra preparation and planning to make sure that I have food to eat that is safe for me. But, I’m no different than anyone else with special needs. It is part of the reality and the struggle. I’m puttin’ on my big girl pants and taking this challenge head on. Last night we had our first date night since the incident. I planned the meal, my kids cooked it and served my husband and I in our bedroom. We ate at a card table with a candle. The kids kept popping in out of newfound curiosity. It was such a great learning opportunity for them. It is important for kids to see their parents in love and on dates. It was an opportunity for us to receive their service of love as well. After dinner, we snuck out the back door and went for a swim undetected by the kids. It was refreshing and relaxing and the first swim in years where kids weren’t on top of me in the pool. I guess that is exactly what it means to make lemonade out of lemons. And I’m happy to do just that. After all, lemons are naturally gluten free.