My Glutenscapades – Going gluten free

2 AM.

Late night munchies. Cookies? Gluten intolerant. Chocolate? Lactose intolerant. Air? Sounds delicious… meh.

Ripe banana with spots

Ripe banana with spots

So here I am, snacking on a banana, ready to tell you about why I am gluten free.

By the way, did you know that the black spots on bananas are a good thing? That’s when the bananas are ripe and sweet and less starchy – perfect to eat. Also, eat them in between meals – at least an hour before and an hour after.

In 2011, a few months after I graduated from University, I started experiencing anxiety, brain fog, and gastrointestinal symptoms which included stomach cramps and bloating. I also suffered from horrible back aches. Imagine being 21 years old and groaning every time you sit down or get up because of a swelling ache in your back. Or not being able to hang out with a couple friends because your tummy wasn’t feeling too good.

Oh yeah, and imagine things like that happening almost every single day.

I had no idea what was going on. I was feeling so sick all the time, wouldn’t go out, and I was feeling so out of it.

I lost a LOT of weight. I used to weigh around 50-51 kgs on average. I was down to 46 kgs. I went to see a nutritionist, gained all the weight back, but I was still feeling sick.

A friend suggested I take a closer look at my diet. 3451 google searches later, I began to wonder if I was lactose intolerant.

Farewell, dear dairy, since I must needs be gone. 

That’s what Shakespeare would have said if he were talking to dairy.

Symptoms got better but I still wasn’t feeling that great. It’s like when you’re running a temperature of 103 and it comes down to 102.

I kept a food diary recording everything I ate, the times I ate them, and the symptoms that followed. 2065 more google searches and I found a post by someone who was experiencing similar symptoms say it had reduced by going gluten free.

Exit gluten stage left.

It was so hard. But it was worth it. It was then that I realized…

Gluten is my nemesis.

Barely 2-3 days had passed since having cut out the obvious gluten from my diet and my symptoms were starting to go away. I thought what if I was just gluten intolerant but able to have lactose? I brought the lactose back in. Bad move. Symptoms returned but they weren’t as bad as the symptoms gluten brought on.

A few gluten/lactose free months passed and I wasn’t feeling perfect, but I definitely was feeling better. Then I thought let me try having some gluten and dairy again. I re-introduced the foods. Felt okay for the first couple days. I thought maybe it was all in my head. Maybe I’m not intolerant to these foods. Fast forward 2-3 weeks and I was cancelling plans again, staying home all the time because I was feeling sick, and the anxiety returned. It all happened in such subtle ways that I didn’t even realize I was slowly getting sicker and sicker day by day. By the end of the month, I decided I just didn’t want to eat gluten and dairy anymore. I just couldn’t deal with how sick it was making me feel.

I didn’t know back then that I should have gotten tested for Celiac Disease first to get that ruled out. So I’d encourage you to get tested before you decide to eliminate gluten completely.

I’m still not feeling completely better. Does that happen to the rest of you who are gluten intolerant? I don’t feel as good as I used to before I ever started experiencing these symptoms. I definitely feel better off gluten/dairy but is it normal to not feel as good as I did maybe 5 years ago?  I still feel sick and also suffer from brain fog from time to time. The FODMAPs diet has been really helping me out with minimizing that. Look into that if you’re dealing with any tummy troubles. It’s worth a shot!

I met a doctor here in Dubai who didn’t seem convinced that my problems were food related. I told him I’m pretty certain it has something to do with gluten and dairy but he didn’t seem to believe me. He just prescribed some Fybogel. That was pretty helpful actually, but I don’t know why it was so hard for him to believe it was a food issue. On a holiday to India earlier this year, a family friend recommended an allergist in Mumbai. After the intraderm testing process, where they basically inject you to test your sensitivity to food items, I discovered that I was sensitive to the following:

  • Bengal gram
  • Black pepper
  • Cabbage
  • Red lentils/Masoor dal
  • Garlic
  • Green Peas
  • Mushrooms
  • Okra
  • Dairy
  • Gluten

FINALLY I HAD A DOCTOR’S REPORT SAYING I WAS SENSITIVE TO GLUTEN! For the longest time, no one believed me! Everyone kept saying it was in my head, and to slowly eat a little gluten/wheat every day and build up tolerance and I was just all NOOOOOOOOOOO!

The test results made so much sense. I realized that I had already eliminated almost all the foods on the list because I always had stomach aches after eating them. To be on the safe side, I have also eliminated corn and soy from my diet.

So what do I eat, you ask? Every day is a challenge really. On days I’m feeling off, I tend to stick to eating ‘safe’ foods. Yes I get bored doing that. But it’s just not worth risking the possibility of feeling sick. I eat rice, potatoes, rice pasta, quinoa, beans, vegetables, lentils and fruit. You’d be surprised at how versatile some of these items are!

Anyway, that’s about it for my glutenscapades. Cutting out gluten and dairy has been difficult, especially considering the fact that im a vegetarian. It’s been worth it though. As parting advice, I’d say just listen to your body. It always pays. If you’ve been feeling ill and can’t figure out why, it’s worth looking at your diet and changing things around a bit. If you suspect you might have some food sensitivities, it’s worth going spending some time trying to figure it out. You’ll just be so glad that you did!

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