Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Gluten Allergy - A Not-Fun Story

** This post is pretty personal, dealing with bodily/health issues so if that's something that makes you squeamish I suggest skipping this and moving on to another post about house flipping or books.

It's been a little over a year since I broke out in a mysterious rash and was diagnosed with a wheat/gluten allergy. Wow. A year! Why do the years seem to rush by the older you get? Slow down! But allergies... allergies to me go one of two ways - either you have a nut allergy and carry an Epipen so you don't die, or you get seasonal allergies (which I do) and it's just annoying and you can't breathe most of spring. But a wheat allergy? I don't carry an Epipen; it's not life threatening. So in some ways that makes it not real to me. 

Eating wheat results in one of three ways:

1. Sometimes between 1-48 hours after consuming it I get a two minute warning and then need to find a bathroom or perish.
2. I break out in a weird rash that is itchy and horrible and forces me to call my mother and whine over the phone all woe is me.
3. Nothing.

There are lesser symptoms - coughing, headaches, stomach pain that makes me think I'm going to poop my pants but then is like, gotcha, jk, and bloating that is painful and makes me look four months pregnant. But that #3, the nothingness response is what has tricked me for an entire year into thinking that a wheat/gluten allergy is really more of a warning, like, this ravioli could make you not feel so great, but like, it could also just be totes fine so you should probably eat it because it looks really delicious. Look at that cream sauce! Food was always just food and now it's the sum of its components and I need to pay attention to those components. A cookie is not just a cookie. It's butter, sugar, eggs, flour. That flour is the key.


Until I was 26 I ate pretty much everything (except lima beans, gross). Then I became a pescatarian and (except for this one time that I had too much wine and was starving and accidentally on purpose at some meat) whittled down my dietary options by what felt like half, at least when dining out. To then whittle down my food options further, because removing gluten feels like reducing it by more than half, I didn't want this to be my reality. And having dealt with the spontaneous diarrhea for so many years, I figured, eh, I'll roll the dice. I'll eat these madeleines and take my chances. Everybody poops.

Well I took my chances over all of last week. I sure did.

Sunday I had three pumpkin munchkins (BECAUSE IT'S PUMPKIN EVERYTHING SEASON, THE BEST SEASON THERE IS) plus a veggie egg white flat. Massachusetts runs on Dunkin. And so did I. (That past tense is making me weep.) Later that day I had fried clams.
Monday, I had an egg and cheese on a croissant (because let's be real here, croissants at 99% butter so they shouldn't count).
Tuesday, croissant with my CelestialDollars $6 frou frou coffee.
Wednesday, crackers with cheese and my mom made a dish with tofu. (Um, Tofu, why aren't you just made of soy? What's with the wheat addition? I've got to be honest, it's holding you back.)
Thursday, toast (What do you want from me? It came with my eggs and taters. Was I really expected to just let it go soggy in front of me?).
Friday, pan au chocolate. Because Friday. And then I reminisced about that amazing Paris trip three years ago. Le sigh. Crab rangoon (do those wrappers have wheat in them?) and miso soup for dinner (tofu). 

Wednesday, I started to think I'd touch poison ivy while cleaning out the brush at Porchlandia the previous Saturday. But the rash was weird. It was a spot on my ankle and random, sporadically placed bumps on my arms. But Friday it sprouted on my stomach and up and down my forearms. Okay, so not poison ivy then. Right. And then some far-off selective memory semi-surfaced. I'd seen these bumps before, hadn't I?




It's been a rough week. Sometimes it's unbearably itchy. Sometimes it oozes. And I'm so embarrassed about it. It looks like I have a disease. A disease other than plain old idiocy. So I've finally, a year later, come to terms with this. My body cannot handle the consumption of gluten. It's been trying to tell me that for years, with increasing urgency. I can't continue to pretend it's not real. I cannot pretend that one bowl of noodles here and there doesn't count. Or that bread placed on the table after the drinks have been ordered. Or, sweet Jesus, I cannot believe I am typing this, the buffalo tofu at Christopher's on Mass Ave. Let me just pause for a minute and allow myself (and Molly, I know you're reading this and just gasped at your desk) to mourn this sudden, horrible realization. I have to be cognizant unless I want to continue to wallow in a body that is miserable. And I don't want my body to be miserable. 

So that's what a wheat/gluten allergy looks like. It's not pretty. It's not fun. It's not trendy. It's unfortunate and annoying. And it's my reality. 

But in good news, my father returns from Italy tonight and we can resume full-time work on Porchlandia. Yayayayayay! I just ordered the downstairs bathroom vanity and I am hoping and praying it looks great in the space and that my father approves. Fingers crossed!

~Stephanie

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2 comments

  1. You know me so well! I did just read this and gasp at my desk! I had no idea that the buffalo tofu had gluten!!!!! The horror! We'll just have to find something else equally delicious for you to enjoy there. Or pick another place.

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  2. There's a pretty good chance that if you cut gluten out totally (no cheating!), that in a couple years your body would feel ready again and you could slowly introduce it back (but not to full throttle)! A similar thing happened with my step-mom and a SEVERE sodium allergy. Now she's 100% back to normal! YOU CAN DO IT!!

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