November 7, 2014

Hi, my name is Carrie, and I am a Wheat Addict

Got some news from the doc today.  I was waiting for my results from my gluten and stool tests to hopefully get some answers about what is going on inside.  Much as I expected, wheat is my nemesis in this life.  The gluten test was really intense.  I never even began to think that there were so many different types of gluten out there.  Plus, I was unaware there were so many different places of the body wheat affects.  Well, much to my dismay (but not much to my surprise), I am sensitive to wheat in two different facets.  In one way, wheat in my body is like heroine.  It affects the same pleasure receptors in the brain that addictive narcotics affect.  So I eat wheat products, and they give me a high, which makes me happy.  Then I crave more wheat products....thus an endless addictive cycle.  I asked him if I did this to myself.  He said he wasn't a psychologist, but he thought that if I got a high off eating wheat products, then continued to do it because it helped me be happy, well then....  I nodded.  Got the message.  When he was explaining this to me, I was thinking in the back of my mind two things:

1. Is this weird?  Does anyone else get addicted to food?
2. This isn't so bad...maybe I can have wheat every once in a while....sign of a true addict, eh?

He assured me that there are so many people out there like me.  Food addiction is very real.  In hindsight, this completely explains my depression and anger towards taking my food away these past 2 months.  I was going through a withdrawal like a drug addict does in rehab...chemical response in the body.  Nothing I could control or avoid.  I am just thankful that folks in my family and my coworkers are still speaking to me.  I thank each and every one of you for this.  His next statement was a game changer....

My wheat sensitivity affects the myelin sheath (the cover around the nerves leading up and down the body into the brain).  This is the same area that is affected in folks that have Multiple Sclerosis (MS).  Since I am sensitive to this, if I continue a lifestyle I was living before, I am very susceptible to developing MS in my future.  I don't have MS now...but it could be likely if I continue eating wheat products.  Furthermore, if I cheat and just sneak in a cookie every once in a while, my symptoms could come back 10x worse than before and could stick around irritating my body for 2 years afterwards.

This was enough for me.  I don't want MS if I have the choice to control it. Wheat gluten free is my future.

What a relief it was to finally find out what is going on inside.  I have felt for years that my time in this life will be short.  After all, who wants to live each day in pain.  I feel valid in saying that everyday for 26 years I have been in pain and I don't want to do that for an additional number of years.  Although I am sad that I won't be able to enjoy sourdough bread (one of my favs), traditional pasta,  or my baked goods that I love to make, I am interested in learning about the world of alternative flours out there and perfecting recipes to taste like the ones that I used to enjoy.  And, even better, the light at the end of the tunnel is flickering:  I may be able to enjoy pain free days in my future.  If I proved anything in the past couple weeks,  I proved I could take a very minimal list of ingredients and make them into delicious recipes...and I can live happily without wheat (although admitting that hurts a bit).

These tests also test sensitivity for ~15 different types of gluten and some other common allergens.  What else was interesting on these tests we were reviewing, I learned I am also sensitive to: Buckwheat, Amaranth, Hemp, Quinoa, Eggs, and Corn.  Some of these I may get back in my future, but I think that corn is out as well.  At first, I wasn't really upset about the corn.  Apparently corn works like the wheat does in your gut and can cause the addiction issue to trigger in the brain.  After pondering the lack of corn in my future, I am a little bummed because corn and wheat are in EVERYTHING.  It is going to be a challenge to find products for me, but I am so grateful that I have such a short list of items to avoid.  I know a couple of folks that have severe gluten restrictions, and I am just glad that I will eventually be able to reintroduce a number of items back into my life.  And, I am also grateful to be discovering this issue these days and not thirty years ago.  There are so many gluten free products available now, that I actually have a lot of choices out there.  I am a lucky girl.

So the reintroduction process:  First of all, I am still on my diet.  I just get to slowly reintroduce items that were tested for on the sensitivity tests and I am not sensitive to eating.  That doesn't include everything.  And, I don't want to go hog wild after a 7 week cleanse and just start eating everything on the list.  However, I was advised to take one item at a time to reintroduce.  I got to pick which item to start with!  Prescription: Start with a small serving of the item, eating it slowly with some other foods and plenty of water.  If I start to feel lethargic, achy, or sick to my stomach, I have to stop, let the doc know, and go back to the repair diet to let my body heal again.  So believe me, I am listening to this advice.  And, I am looking forward to reintroducing some of the other grains so that I can experiment with those flours in my cooking and baking.

But, I know you are all curious about what I chose as my first food introduction.  Believe me, I asked for alcohol, but these next three weeks are critical to evaluate the repair work I have been doing on my gut, and alcohol is a gut irritant, so he wasn't enthusiastic about giving me my drinks back.  However, in light of my upcoming trip to Hawaii for Thanksgiving, he encouraged me to have a beautiful, expensive, glass of red wine with Thanksgiving dinner.  He wants a pic of the label too.  I told Ryan and dad about finding us a good bottle while we are on our trip for my first glass.

So what did I choose?  CHEESE!  Right after my appointment, dad and I drove over to 4th street in Berkeley to the Pasta Shop.  They have an excellent cheese counter there.  I walked unto the cheese monger behind the counter and said:

"I have been dairy free for 7 weeks and am allowed to eat my first piece of cheese today.  What would you choose and can I have some?"

She found me a beautiful French Saulnois cheese.  It hails from the Lorraine region.  Its a medium firm, nutty, silky cheese. It was a great reintroduction to the cheese world.  No tummy aches just yet...and I did refrain from eating the entire wedge of cheese.  Cheers!  We will try some more cheese on Sunday.  Then, hummmmmmmm, what's next???  Happy girl!