At a recent physical, I mentioned that my migraines have increased in severity and frequency over the last few years. I attributed them to stress, but my doctor ordered some bloodwork just in case.
At the follow-up appointment, she said, "It probably doesn't surprise you, but these came back positive for a gluten allergy."
"Um," I replied, "actually it does surprise me." Sure, my siblings, aunt, and cousins have Celiac Disease, but I was tested years ago, and I'm negative. "No way, doc," I said. "I love bread and bread loves me."
She asked if I'd go gluten-free for a while, to see if the headaches went away. It's been two weeks, and not only have they nearly disappeared, the ever-present fatigue, soreness, and gastrointestinal distress that I'd attributed to laziness, aging, and food poisoning are gone. For the first time in my life, 7 hours of sleep is enough. I get up in the morning and my back doesn't hurt. I feel awake, and downright sprightly.
I should feel relieved. I should be grateful that I don't have a brain tumor, and that all I have to do to feel better is stop eating gluten. Instead, I'm bouncing like a pinball through the seven stages of grief:Shock: This is not possible. What will I eat? I cannot survive on Lärabars and fruit alone. Oh my god, I'm going to starve. Denial: To hell with migraines, I am going to stuff my face with this giant cinnamon roll. Bargaining: I could just keep eating muffins and taking lots of Advil... Guilt: Am I being punished for this post? Anger: Stupid body and your STUPID allergies! Why can't you just work right? Depression: No more steamed dumplings? No more Dogfish Head beer? No more FALAFEL?!? A life without gluten isn't worth living... Acceptance and Hope: Without bagels, beer, and cookies, I'm going to get totally skinny.
People ask me if giving up meat, eggs, and dairy was difficult. I tell them it was the easiest thing in the world, because I never liked those foods to begin with. I rarely eat faux meat, soy cheese, or tofu omlettes, because I don't miss the real thing at all.
I already miss gluten terribly. Without wheat and barley, there is a gaping hole in my diet. I have to toss out everything I know about baking and start over. But why bother? Gluten-free approximations will never taste and feel like my old favorites. I'll give up cookies, bread, and pie crust entirely before I'll eat hard, gluey imitations. Isa's Gluten Freedom Cupcakes aren't bad, but they won't get me through the rest of my life.
I had vegan grocery shopping down to a science. I knew which foods I could and couldn't eat. Now, I'm reading labels again and questioning ingredients. I'm drawn to every shiny prepackaged food that has a gluten-free label. A month ago, I was not interested in frozen waffles or Santa Fe Barbeque tortilla chips, but in my self-pity and withdrawal from white flour, I'm forking over big bucks for tiny packages of processed rice and tapioca.
After I left the doctor's office, I went to the library and checked out some medical books, a cookbook, and Gluten-Free Girl
This is probably the end of being invited to dinner parties; people who wondered what to feed the vegan now have to rule out normal bread and pasta. For the first time in a long time, I don't have a good answer when someone asks, "But what do you eat?" I'm figuring that out myself.
From now on, all the recipes on this site will be gluten-free. I'll also tag past recipes that are gluten-free. I have so much to learn. Please chime in, and if you can, have a bagel and an Allagash White for me.