Monday, February 16, 2009

Top Five things I did wrong as a newbie Celiac

I ran across a post at Gluten Free Mommy's website that detailed her top 10 silly mistakes she has made on the GF diet. Of course, it got me to thinking about my own Top 10. Except right now I think it is more of a Top 5, partly because I'm intimidated by coming up with 10 somewhat useful experiences to share. So here goes. (Note- this may be subject to future editing)

1. Distillation- I already mentioned distillation and how it is not my friend. I remember doing distillation in chem lab more than a few times. Gluten should not survive the process. However- I was led to believe that any distilled product (i.e. alcohol or vinegar) is ok.

Not so, says the small intestine!
Was that vodka really triple-distilled? Does Frank of Frank's Red Hot want to explain to me how the addition of hot sauce to my meal caused a severe gluten reaction? BBQ sauce is a whole 'nother topic.

2. Cross-contamination- basically, me thinking that cross-contamination is less of a risk than it really is. I remember reading my first bits of GF info online. I thought most of these people were nuts (apologies... I now see the error of my judgmental ways).

How could it be possible for something in such small amounts that you can't even see to poison a person and cause weeks of distress?! Come on, lighten up! WRONG. Example: Chipotle. Nuff said.

3. GF Definitions- "gluten free" on a label does not always mean gluten free. In fact, the FDA does not yet have an official definition of how many parts per million of gluten are acceptable in a product labeled GF. Personally, it is my opinion that because different people have different thresholds for the amount of gluten they can tolerate, GF SHOULD MEAN ABSOLUTELY GF!!

Of course, I am a tad biased because I know I am very sensitive. But seriously- how can anyone ever be sure about what a product's gluten status is if there is a ppm allowance? (label it as totally, absolutely, without a doubt, 100% GF?)

4. Coffee at church, coffee at my parents' house, anywhere but home- I would never have expected this one. I Love coffee. Yes, that is a capital L. I would not have made it through school without it.

The weird part was when I started noticing that almost any coffee except what I made at home went right through my system, if you catch my drift. I also started feeling glutened every time I would go visit my fam for the weekend. They have one of those sweet Gevalia coffee makers that they give you free if you sign up to get coffee delivered. Unfortunately, it took literally until a couple months ago for me to realize that Gevalia's flavored coffees are considered to contain gluten. Ugh. Contamination right there. No wonder I always felt awesome after I made French press coffee, not the drip stuff.

Same thing goes for church. God bless the people who serve in the coffee ministry! I'll be sticking to tea...

5. Underestimating the mental/emotional impact of being GF- There is a distinct feeling of relief that comes with a Celiac diagnosis. There is something physically wrong! I'm not crazy! There is an easy fix! (Or so I thought at first).

Our culture revolves around food. Many cultures do. How many times do you go out with friends for anything besides a meal and/or drinks? Our family gatherings are always situated around a meal.

We didn't eat out much before the diagnosis just because we didn't have the money. We still don't have the money, but it's hard to completely avoid going out to eat. I don't unless it is one of the restaurants where I know I can eat safely (and I can count them on one hand).

Try going on vacation and not getting glutened.

As wonderful as it is to know what caused my symptoms and how to fix it, I don't think I give myself enough credit for the emotional toll that it takes. I'm grateful that I can be healthy now. I genuinely laugh at jokes about my eating habits. I try to make light of the situation, but it sometimes really weighs on me. I feel like I talk about it too much, but maybe that's what I need to do to deal with being different and inconvenienced. And sometimes- I just REALLY don't feel like cooking.

That being said, this whole experience of going GF has taught me a alot about myself and the people I'm around. I'm indebted to those who have taken the time to send me an email with a gluten-free recipe they came across, or my coworker who made a flourless chocolate cake for my birthday, or my boss who brought me a bag of GF chocolate chip cookies when she knew everyone else was getting free pizza for lunch.

Long story not-so-short, I need to cut myself a break every once in awhile and admit that being GF is not always easy and that sometimes it really gets old. Then I need to regroup, be grateful for the awesome people in my life who try to make it better, and realize yet again that this is my chance for the first time in my 20-some-odd-year lifetime to be truly healthy.

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