I realized just how much my lifestyle has changed over the past few years when a recipe for a weekend dinner party called for sugar, and I didn’t have any. Nor did I have artificial sweetener, artificial sweetener that looked and tasted like sugar, or anything else sweet, save the maple syrup we bought for when my niece slept over several months ago.
On the one hand, I felt a bit domestically delinquent. We usually had some on hand for company, but beyond that, isn’t sugar one of those staples every kitchen needs? Then again, we don’t usually have flour of any kind, either.
As I’ve written before about the evolution of my gluten-free life, I’m more the “explore naturally gluten-free foods” type of girl than I am someone who looks for gluten-free versions of “normal” food—but I recognize that’s just personal preference and that each person needs to do what makes the most sense for his/her circumstances.
Lately, it seems like celiac disease is popping up everywhere. Of course, there’s a certain celebrity’s newly published book stirring up a lot of comments, but there’s more to it than that. The other day at Gluten-free Girl, Shauna mentioned how many new products and companies are now on the market offering gluten-free baked goods, mixes, etc. In my own area, I’ve recently discovered that restaurants like Papa Razzi and Charley’s offer gluten-free accommodations, and I love hitting up regular spots like Jake’s Dixie Roadhouse, which has a GF menu and strict cross-contamination measures.
What’s more, the amount of people around me who know what celiac is or have just gotten diagnosed with it is growing.
“Do you think it’s like food allergies, where more and more people get celiac now?” someone asked me.
“Honestly? I’m no expert, but celiac is so often missed because it is so tricky to diagnose. I think the reason more people are now told they have it because awareness has grown; patients think to ask their doctors about it, and doctors think to check for it, even when “classic” symptoms might not be there,” I said. These are people who may have suffered for years without knowing why.
Anyway, all this is to say that much has changed since I was first diagnosed five and a half years ago. I can’t believe it has been that long. I’ve learned how to make a lot of new foods, I go out to eat without fear or hesitation, we’re growing our own vegetables in our yard, and I’m even in a supper club whose members view the challenge of GF cooking as a good one.
But now there’s a wrinkle. No, it’s not dairy; I cut that out two years ago. No, it’s not processed food; that went out the window a long time ago.
I’ve mentioned before what an soul-crushing, lung-battering winter I had this year. (Okay, maybe slightly dramatic, but it was Not. Good.) As a result of that seven-month siege, I am on a very aggressive, very long-term suppressive course of rotating antibiotics. I don’t talk about it much because there are so many strong opinions about these medications out there, and yes, they are overused by people with colds and yes it’s a problem…but for people like me, they are, quite literally, a lifesaver. Not only do they save lives in acute infectious situations, but they can also help slow down irreversible lung damage. If it’s a choice between several weeks a year as an inpatient and trips to the ICU and suppressive treatment that actually gives me some quality of life and helps control the many infections I get, it’s a no-brainer.
But my aggressive treatment is not easy on the body, most notably the stomach. As evidenced by lots of GI issues and a lovely film on my tongue, my long-term use of these meds has given me candida, an overgrowth of yeast in the intestinal tract (it happens when meds kill the healthy gut bacteria) that spreads throughout the body. Lovely.
The treatment? Well, coming off the meds isn’t an option right now, so I’m trying to follow the candida diet, which essentially means eliminating all sources of sugar, yeast, and fermentation in the diet. Now, clearly I don’t eat a lot of sugar but it’s more complicated than that: naturally occurring sugar in fruit is out; vinegars, salad dressings, honey, tomatoes, white starches…all out. The list goes on, trust me. Again, not the biggest deal since I don’t eat some of this anyway, but if you’ve read Life Disrupted you know how I feel about my honey mustard dressing.
Now, my lunch of green beans and chickpeas is a bit sad and lonely.
“Um, so what do you eat?” a friend asked, knowing I limit animal protein to once a day.
The list is short.
When I was first diagnosed with celiac, I never went through an angry stage or mourned all the things I couldn’t have; I was ecstatic there was something wrong with me I could actually fix. (This doesn’t happen often in my world.) I’m channeling that sentiment to this latest dietary challenge—I feel pretty crummy so if taking these steps can improve things even a little, it’s totally worth it to me.
But if you have any pointers, I’m listening.