Being Gluten Free is not as fun as one may imagine. Sure, you sound posh and get special treatment at restaurants, but there are definitely downsides. Amazingly, it is not the food I miss most. I have been baking like a fiend, trying out gluten free flours and have been pleasantly surprised to find I can bake just about all of the food-stuffs I have stopped eating. My favorite recipe this season has been this Gingerbread Men recipe from a new favorite blog, Gluten Free on a Shoestring. So don’t worry Mom, I’m eating just fine, and I have developed quite the Mary Berry reputation for bringing my creations into the office.
I’d be remiss not to mention accidental gluten consumption, which is sometimes a challenge. Unlike an allergy that can be treated with Benadryl, an intolerance means your body literally cannot tolerate the substance. I’ve discovered the longer I am off gluten, the stronger my intolerance grows. It is discouraging to think about how sensitive I will be to gluten as time goes on. Last week I inadvertently had food with gluten and my reaction had me sick in bed within 30 minutes. Worse yet, a gluten reaction takes time to heal – time full of regret, hot packs for aching tummies, bananas and ginger ale.
However, my biggest challenge since going gluten-free has been with people. GF lifestyles are popular with hipsters these days, like vegan or paleo diets, and nearly everyone I tell about my intolerance assumes it is simply a choice. Moreover, they don’t believe gluten intolerance is real. I’ll admit I was one of them just last year – thinking gluten free diets were somewhat silly if you didn’t have Celiac. That’s everyone’s question, “Oh so do you have Celiac?” When I answer no (I have one of the two genetic markers for Celiac, leaving me with a gluten sensitivity, but not the full-blown disease), they look at me skeptically.
I haven’t yet devised a method for dealing with these reactions, but try to avoid the conversation as much as possible. If I go to a dinner party, I volunteer to bring the bread so that I can bring the gluten-free variety and avoid the question altogether. I am new yet to the GF world, but I am learning quickly. There are so many helpful resources and blogs to help me navigate this change, and I know it will just take time to adjust.
My gluten free lifestyle isn’t exclusionary; it is freedom. Freedom from pain, nausea, and continual discomfort. And for that I am willing to have a few awkward conversations.