After years of believing the best part about being Italian is the food, I came to a brutal realization in recent months. I cannot eat gluten. This discovery was bitter-sweet. On the one hand, I felt relief because I was finally able to pinpoint what was giving me excruciating, ongoing stomach pains. But on the other, well, no gluten means no pasta, no lasagna, no fettini (breaded cutlets), and no extra bread to sop up the leftover tomato sauce on my plate. Or so I thought.
As I continue to grapple with my new permanent diet, I see there are plenty of substitutions for the foods I once loved. And sometimes these substitutions are even tastier and more satisfying than the original dish I grew up with. Sometimes. There are still times when I just want to chomp down into a fresh baguette.
Changing my diet has ultimately changed my lifestyle. I have become a healthier person overall, but I still stumble over little annoyances.
‘Oh, we’re going on an impromptu weekend getaway? Time to load my bag with an arsenal of gluten free snacks.’
‘You want to eat at your favourite pub tonight? Let me check out the pub’s website to see if they have anything for me.’ *time passes* ‘No such luck. How about THIS place instead?’
I understand gluten free options have come a long way in recent years, so it’s really not that bad. But for someone having to do an about-face on what to eat on a daily basis, it can be frustrating.
But that’s enough talk about the bitter. The ‘sweet’ part of my bittersweet discovery is knowing what was making me so ill for months. I’ve always had a sensitive stomach, and I just dealt with it. ‘Dealt’ being the operative word. I did not change anything about my diet to accommodate my stomach. I still ate whatever I wanted, and instead chose to deal with the discomfort later. Everything changed, though, in 2012. Mild stomach irritation morphed into sharp, knife-stabbing pains that seemed to last for hours. It felt like I couldn’t keep food inside of me, and yet at the same time, I had the most protruding bloated, rock-hard stomach of life.
I did some research and suspected it might be gluten. I went to a doctor and asked for a test. She eyed me up and down and informed me that because I was not losing substantial amounts of weight, I likely don’t have celiac disease, so to test for it would be futile. ‘Just stop eating gluten for a couple weeks,’ she said.
More recently I did further research and I now realize I should have gotten tested. I most certainly did not have to be losing ‘substantial amounts of weight’ to have celiac disease. From what I understand, this symptom is especially common in babies, not adults. I should have gotten tested. I didn’t though, and if I want it now I’ll have to have gluten in my system again in order for it to work – and I’m not willing to do this. I have never felt better. I did end up cutting out gluten, and I haven’t looked back since. Except when I smell bread baking.
That still turns my head.