An Unwanted Food Journey

Update since originally posted: After a wonderful honeymoon in Italy, where I ate whatever I wanted (and loved it), I have eliminated all gluten from my diet. I feel tremendously better and can immediately tell when I have accidentally consumed wheat. It took a lot to get to this place and now almost a year later, I’ve finally come to terms with it and am much happier with food than I have been in some time.

 

I’ve been mulling over this post for several weeks now, tasting the words and determining how best to string them together. If you’ve met me or have read anything on this site, it should be obvious that food is important to me. When traveling, restaurants top my sightseeing lists. I want to eat where the locals eat and embrace the flavors that make up each location.

But smack in the middle of all this I’m getting older, and as healthy as I maintain my normal routine, I’m seeing those signs of age that are hard to shake. I’ve been battling with “what is going on?” as I’ve experienced bloating, discomfort, weight gain swings by as much as five to ten pounds in a matter of days, and an itchy, unsightly skin rash that makes random appearances.

Earlier this year I wrote about my diagnosis as celiac, an autoimmune disease that can lead to a slew of other issues but is generally remedied by avoiding gluten. As in ALL gluten. I set about life as 100% gluten-free. You have no idea how many places gluten pops up that you wouldn’t expect it – salad dressing, sauces and more. I saw immediate results. I felt better, my bloat resided and the itchy rash disappeared.

Fast forward six weeks later and I was in a state worse than before removing gluten. I visited a gastroenterologist who recommended an endoscopy and biopsy to test for celiac disease. I knew the celiac screen (blood test) I had prior was not necessarily 100 percent accurate, but I had felt better and that was enough at the time.

Now my GI was saying the scope/biopsy should tell me more, though he consistently reminded me that even if results showed no signs of celiac, that I may still have a strong sensitivity to gluten. Results came back as normal – as in no celiac and no other answers. His recommendation was trial and error with food to see what I was sensitive to and that perhaps I had IBS.

I had already tried a crazy elimination diet without coffee, wine, butter, cheese, red meat and more. I was supposed to do the elimination thing two weeks – I lasted one. For another route, I scheduled an appointment with an allergist (a fully-licensed doctor) for one final opinion, as well as an allergy test on select food items.

The allergist listened to my story and what I had gone through over the last year and a half, reviewed all my various test results, and with conviction, told me she thinks I have celiac disease. Her response was that the blood screen came back positive, that a scope is often incorrect and my genetics are ripe for it. Perfect, we’re still clear as mud.

Her advice was that if I feel fine eating gluten, then go for it; but if not, avoid it. She also indicated, as I have heard and read many times, that new issues with gluten can also result as temporary issues with dairy, but that most people can return to eating dairy after a while.

The nurse performed a skin allergy test on certain foods I chose, just to check, with no clear allergies accept for a reaction to cashews. So after that, I’m done with my search. After eliminating dairy and gluten/wheat here and there, and some self-monitoring of symptoms, I believe I have the answers I need for now. Bear with me; this is going to get a little confusing…

Generally speaking, I avoid gluten, or rather high amounts of wheat, what you may call a low-gluten diet. Think bread, pizza, pasta, beer, fried foods and cake. For now, I am also avoiding dairy, save for goat cheese (which is lactose-free). Gone are the days when I was first diagnosed as celiac of worrying about sauces, dressings or French fries that have shared a fryer with gluten-laden food. It was too much for me and props to those who do so, as I have lived through your pain!

However, I have this one life to live. And live it I do, in a big way through travel and food. When visiting Sissy’s recently, I savored every bite of her perfectly fried chicken. On a recent trip to San Francisco, I imbibed in a draft Anchor Steam and enjoyed fresh sourdough bread at more than one establishment. And on the night I say I do, you better believe I’m eating some cake.

I have learned that cheating leads to sensitivity with other foods, such as cruciferous veggies (broccoli, asparagus…), therefore meaning I need to choose wisely on what else I eat when I do cheat.

In summary, my diet is about 95% dairy and wheat free. Perhaps I’ll get to a point where dairy can be consumed more frequently without paying a price. And I know you’re curious, what is that price? Discomfort, major bloating (several pounds and an inability to button my jeans, at the worst), a skin rash and blemishes like I’ve just hit puberty. Suffice it to say, that the occasional cheat may be worth it, but it’s not a coveted lifestyle.

So this blog will continue to be what it is – a lifestyle blog heavily focused on balance with all things. You’ll see me indulge here and there, but I’ll always be eating well!

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