Update On Change #73: The Gluten-Free Challenge

I don’t always post the reasons why I am completing a challenge. This morning after my post from last night, I received a question from a friend who saw the gluten-free challenge on my blog and enquired as to why I would go gluten-free. I provided a lengthy explanation of my reasoning , assuring her that I was not going gluten-free because of a hidden concern over a gluten allergy.

From there it occurred to me, that my intention for this challenge was not to trivialize the symptoms, discomfort, and pain  that comes from fighting the fight against celiac disease. It was meant for me to understand the difficulties that a person goes through to live a gluten-free diet due to a food allergy. As well, I believe that everything for most people (not for those who have food allergies) is ok in moderation. My excessive eating of wheat, and sugary wheat products, I know is not healthy. In answer to the questions posed by my friend: yes, it may have been a test for me to see if eating a gluten-free diet made me feel stronger and healthier. (Going vegan sure did.)

I’m about to get very personal here. In my 20’s I suffered from Irritable Bowel Syndrome. (You will need to google the symptoms if you’re curious and haven’t already heard of it. I’m not sharing.) Let’s sum it up as this – it’s an embarrassing stomach issue that a decade later they realized may be caused from not eating enough probiotic foods. (Enter, yogurt.)

Initially in my 20’s when I was first diagnosed, they didn’t know probiotics would help. They knew it was related to stress, eating poorly, and not exercising. For a few years, I spent many nights eating foods that would cause an “episode”, try to eat better and that would cause an “episode”, and then begin again with eating terribly.  After going for a colonoscopy and ruling out colon cancer at the ripe age of somewhere around 23, I was relieved, but very frustrated at the same time. I had no idea how to control my problem/refused to do anything really meaningful to alleviate the symptoms.

That is until my late 20’s when I began exercising. For me, that made all the difference. Also around that time, they figured out that eating probiotic yogurt helps as well. I began eating at least 1 yogurt per day. I rarely have a flare up of my problem today. In truth, it’s only in times of extreme stress when I completely stop exercising (now you know the reason why I need to workout)  that my old symptoms make a small come-back. It’s never to the same level of doubling-over-in-pain-where’s -nearest-bathroom? I had in my 20’s:  but it will make a small, this-is-annoying-pain.

For those people who suffer from celiac disease, I can’t imagine how frustrating and difficult it is for you. It’s odd, because when I originally considered completing this challenge I thought it would be easier than the vegan challenge because there seemed to be more gluten-free foods around. Turns out the cafeteria downstairs where I work only has a couple of gluten-free options: 1) Banana-chocolate Chip Muffin (OMG! SOOOO DELICIOUS!) and 2) plain white rice with some kind of carrots/cranberry mixture (Meh. Also, I hope they didn’t sneak something gluten-like into the mixture).

As well, Starbucks has only one snack food: Rice Crispy Bar. (They have lots of drinks that are gluten-free though. But if you want something edible and you live in Ottawa, make your way to Bridgehead. They have a much bigger assortment.)

For all my friends, family, and readers of this blog who suffer from a gluten allergy, I have a new understanding and appreciation how difficult it is for you to find foods that don’t bring on terrible symptoms.

With that said here’s the list of foods that I eat:

  1. Scrambled eggs with Feta Cheese (I googled feta cheese but I told you that last night. For those who don’t have gluten allergies: Do you know that some processed cheeses have trace amounts of gluten in them that can make a person with celiac disease sick? I did not know.)
  2. 2 Yogurts. (I’m trusting it doesn’t have gluten in it.)
  3. 2 bananas. (I seriously don’t know what to eat.)
  4. Rice Crispy Bar (That’s the gluten-free Starbucks snack. From the article I read, that’s all they have right now that is a pastry-like dessert).
  5. Banana and Chocolate Chip Muffin (DELICIOUS!!! I thought about having another one for lunch. Then, I felt bad. I was worried I would eat the last gluten-free muffin in the building and what happens if someone else was counting on that for snack/lunch that is allergic?)
  6. Rice and vegetables. (We need not discuss that anymore.)
  7. Lemon bar (BRIDGEHEAD! And I get this almost every Saturday when I meet a friend for tea. I HAD NO IDEA IT WAS GLUTEN-FREE!)
  8. Wine
  9. Cheddar Cheese. (The real stuff, not processed.)  It was the end of the day. I really don’t have anything else to eat.

I did my best in going gluten-free. If there was even the slightest hint of wheat it was a no-go. Honestly though, without the allergy, I don’t know for certain if I got it right.

To my friends and family that suffer from a gluten allergy, here is my promise: I’ll make even more effort to find gluten-free foods when we dine together.