Your diagnosis was kind of before the gluten-free bonanza of the past few years. Was it harder to find gluten-free foods then, or were people’s reactions different?
I’d already been shopping at food co-ops and Whole Foods by then, so it wasn’t a big hunt for GF foods for me. I think I told everyone I met that they should get tested for food sensitivities, especially when someone would mention a cold that wouldn’t go away or bad allergies. I was actually kind of mad about it. I mean, it never occurred to my gastroenterologist (or any other doctor) that my stomach problems might be, y’know, related to food?
Now that gluten-free eating is ‘trendy’, I’m a little bit embarrassed asking about options at restaurants. I always want to tell the server, “I’m not being picky! I’m not doing this to lose weight! I have a medical condition!” I don’t buy GF bread at home, since most of it is awful, so when I go out, I get really tempted.
When is sticking to a gluten-free diet most challenging?
So many restaurants now have gluten-free dishes, on purpose or by accident, I get a little ticked when a restaurant has to serve everything breaded or with pasta. Since I can handle eating bread a few days a week, I cheat a lot. Salads don’t fill me up, so if the menu has spinach salad versus a cheesy artichoke panini, I’m going for the panini. But I’m really annoying about it—”Oh, I totally shouldn’t be eating this! I have nooo willpower!”—so now most of the chefs at my favorite deli ask, “Should you been eating that?” when I order (vegan) pancakes, or automatically give me chips with my soup instead of bread.
So you can have some gluten and still feel okay?
Yeah, like I said, I can actually eat a few servings of bread per week without side effects. But any more than that and I risk waking up with a migraine or being nauseous for a few days. Finding gluten-free bakery at stores isn’t hard, but finding gluten-free, egg-free bakery is impossible. I actually bought a loaf of fresh GF bread at the farmer’s market yesterday, but it wasn’t egg-free, so after eating half of it yesterday, I woke up with a nagging headache.
What are the most surprising foods that contain gluten?
I don’t eat it, but I looked at a licorice label the other day and the second ingredient was wheat. Soy sauce—though it’s pretty easy to find wheat-free soy sauce (called tamari). I know there are a lot of additives made from wheat that people with Celiac’s have to avoid, but I don’t really pay attention to those, since that little amount won’t affect me.
What do you think of the gluten-free food fad, or the increasing number of people who think they’re gluten intolerant?
Even though it was an integrated medicine doctor that figured it out, having a piece of paper with the test results made me feel like it was “real.” So many people are gluten-free now, it’s like, “Really? Come on!,” but I think that’s just because I want to be special.
Photo: Lazy Acres Market