After years of abdominal pain with no clear-cut diagnosis, I decided it was time to find out if it could be caused by ingesting gluten. Going gluten-free has been very beneficial for me.
Even though I continue to be surprised by the overwhelming abundance of gluten in our food, there are plenty of options out there for us gluten-free folks. It requires diligence and the willingness to read labels and ask questions.
Just a partial list of symptoms for celiac disease, gluten allergy or intolerance include:
- Stomach pain
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Mouth sores
- Tingling and/or numbness in hands and feet
- Feeling foggy and memory issues
I was struggling with all of those symptoms, so I decided to cut out gluten for a few weeks to see if it would make a difference. I knew wheat was out, but barley and rye were off the menu as well. I also stayed clear of malt because it is made from barley, as well as vegetable protein because it may contain wheat.
My saddest discovery was that beer contains wheat. There are a number of gluten-free brands, but you have to be careful. Some are “brewed to remove gluten.” That could be serious for someone with celiac disease or a gluten allergy, because gluten might be left after the brewing process. As such, taste can be in an issue if you are a beer connoisseur. Thankfully, the list of beer options is growing.
Wine, for the most part, is gluten-free, and so are some other types of alcohol. Many vodkas are made with wheat, but gluten-free options exist. Whiskey is another example of being “brewed to remove gluten.” Rum is an option in most cases, however, the flavored rums can contain gluten. There are plenty of websites that list gluten-free alcohol brands and types. Make sure to read the labels.
Eating at parties and office potlucks just got tougher. Whether you are going to your in-laws or noshing at the office, beware of getting gluten. Bring your own dish if you can. When I told my mother-in-law about my food limitations, we decided that I would bring my own dish to a family dinner. That way I wouldn’t feel awkward sitting at the table watching everyone eat. It was sheer torture watching everyone else eat her world-famous lasagna, but I knew I would feel much better later for not indulging.
Going out to eat can be quite an experience. Restaurants are beginning to offer gluten-free options. However, be aware not all of them can guarantee that your food will not come in contact with gluten. For example, not all french fries are gluten-free. They may be fried in non-dedicated fryers, which means that they are fried in the same deep fryer as other breaded items that contain gluten. Check the restaurant’s website or call to see if they have gluten-free options before you go.
I was floored when I went grocery shopping and really started to read the labels on my food. Gluten is in almost everything! Soups, soy sauce, gravy, ice cream, candy and more. My head was spinning. I didn’t know if I could do this. Going gluten-free wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought. Gluten-free items also can be much more expensive than regularly made items, such as gluten-free bread.
I went two weeks without gluten and I began to feel better within a few days. I felt much clearer than I had in a long time. No more fog. My headaches went away. The swelling in my hands and ankles went down. I had more energy. No more unexplained sores in my mouth.
I ended up cheating a week into my gluten-free experiment. Just one beer. What could it hurt, right? Oh, it hurt alright! Within 15 minutes my stomach blew up like a beach ball. Within an hour I had sores in my mouth and a killer headache. All from one beer.
That was enough for me. No more gluten. When I saw my doctor a week later, she informed me that in order to test for gluten issues, you must have gluten in your system. (Be sure to keep that in mind if you are planning to be tested for celiac disease.)
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