Monday, November 10, 2014

My Reaction to Gluten

I think everyone on a gluten-free diet is often asked what happens if they ingest gluten. I've noticed many people are very offended by this question, but I personally appreciate it. Even if someone's intention is to discredit my "pickiness" or whatever else their judgment is of me, my answer usually shuts them up very quickly.

To be honest, I'm not entirely sure what my reaction is any longer. I'm so overly careful that there have been a couple of times in the last few years that I think I might have been glutened, but I'm not entirely sure because it was only a small possibility.

With that being said, I can say what my reaction used to be. The most recent time that sticks out was about five years ago. I was at a baby shower, and the mother-to-be's mom has celiac disease. I was super impressed because she had a separate table with all of the gluten-free food to ensure it wasn't contaminated. I filled my plate full, and sat down to happily eat the feast before me.

When I was done with my meal, happily enjoying my belly full of food I didn't have to prepare, her mom tapped me on the shoulder and asked if she could speak to me in the kitchen. Once we were safely behind the closed kitchen door, she said "I may have slightly inconvenienced you." She continued when she saw the puzzled look on my face to explain that she had made regular meatballs and gluten-free meatballs. At the last minute, she had changed the crock pot that each was in to better accommodate the size, but her husband didn't change the placement of the crock pots when he brought them in for the shower. The regular meatballs had been placed on the gluten-free table. I stood there in shocked silence until I was able to mutter that it was ok, and then I said something about how everyone makes mistakes as I went back to my table.

The pathetic part is that I don't even really like meatballs. They're not bad, they're just never my first choice for something I want to eat. I only ate them because it was unlikely I would ever make them for myself because I don't like them that much, and it was too much effort for something I don't care for that much, and it was very hard to find packaged gluten-free meatballs.

At the time, the amount of time before I reacted to gluten was in direct correlation with the amount I had consumed. The larger the amount, the sooner I'd react. The smaller the amount, the longer before I'd react. In other words, if I was contaminated with a very small amount, it could be 24-48 hours before I got sick. I assume if I had eaten a piece of bread, I would have reacted immediately, but I never tried it to find out.

In the case with the meatballs, I ate them around 1pm, and I got sick around 6pm. It didn't matter the quantity consumed, the reaction was always the same once it happened. The only forewarning I would get was sometimes a little bit of brain fog. The next sign (but usually the first) was the IMMEDIATE need to get into a bathroom. This time, I still vividly remember that I was cleaning my dining room table. My head felt a little funny one second, and the next, my stomach seemed to do a complete flip and I was in horrible pain and needed the bathroom immediately. I shot through the kitchen, slammed the bathroom door shut, and hoped it would be over soon.

I'll spare you the graphic details, but I spent a fair amount of time sitting on the toilet in a cold sweat feeling like I was going to pass out while it felt like my insides were being torn out. Once that was over, my head was in a total fog, and all I was capable of doing was laying down. After a couple of hours, I was able to sit up on the couch, but I feared walking around was too dangerous as I might fall over. Part of me wanted some food as everything had made it's way out of my digestive tract, but I knew my body wasn't going to accept anything for the next two weeks.

That's right. Two weeks of getting sick every. single. time. I. ate. Bouts of brain fog were sure to work their way in there too. And don't forget the exhaustion. I could make my way through my work day, but that was it. I wasn't able to call in sick to work, so missing work wasn't an option, which meant the rest of my life was put on hold until the damage I had done had repaired itself.

That's my story. It's also why I'm so incredibly careful. My doctor once told me that every time I have diarrhea, it's a sign that my body isn't digesting anything I'm eating, so I might as well not eat because I'm essentially just throwing the food away anyway. He was referencing my other food intolerances, but it really struck home for gluten too.

So I want to hear from my readers. What is your reaction to gluten? Do you have celiac disease, gluten-sensitivity, etc? How careful are you and why?

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