Two months ago I discovered that I have a sensitivity to gluten. This realization came to me quite by accident. After two or more years of recurring digestive "issues," I was beginning to get used to living with them. Then in April I realized that for two days in a row I felt great. I went through a mental checklist of what had been different those two days, and after reviewing everything I had eaten, it dawned on me: I had not eaten anything with gluten in it. No cereal, no bread, no pasta.
For the next two weeks I avoided all wheat-based foods, and ate no processed foods to be sure I wasn't consuming any "hidden" gluten. I felt wonderful! And I realized that what I had been feeling for so long was not normal. This was normal!
I reported my findings to my doctor and she ordered a couple of tests: one for celiac disease and one for an overabundance of bacteria in the small intestine. Fortunately both tests were negative. However, that left me without a diagnosis. I had only a strong gut feeling (excuse the pun) that I have gluten intolerance.
For the first several weeks after this discovery, I was careful to avoid all gluten. The results were great. Then I began to experiment, having a bit of gluten here and there. Sometimes I would regret it, sometimes not. I had pizza at my favorite pizza place (a big risk, but worth it) and felt fine afterward. The restaurant buys their flour from Naples ... I wonder if there's something about it that makes a difference? Another evening when dining out, I ate half a slice of cake and paid the price for it (it wasn't worth it).
If you're wondering about the symptoms I had been experiencing for two or more years, I'll fill you in (if you feel this is too much information, just jump to the next paragraph). The most frequent symptom I was having was bloating and cramping -- and lots and lots of burping. To the point of ridiculousness. I was also having heartburn more frequently, which at times was very painful, as well as acid reflux, which can damage the esophagus over time. On really bad days I had all of the above.
Since going gluten-free, these symptoms are gone. When I tell people that I've given up gluten, the response is usually, "Oh, I could never do that. I love bread and pasta too much." My response is, "You could do it if it meant feeling 100 times better." Plus, there are so many gluten-free products on the market now, some very good ones. Bread and pasta are still possible, they're just different. In a future post, I'll share some of the products I've tried and offer my personal review of each.
I'll admit, it can be tough to avoid all gluten. Eating out is more challenging. And if you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you may know how much I love to bake. However, I bought a gluten-free flour called Cup 4 Cup, sold by Williams-Sonoma, and used it to make a favorite cake (the cardamom coffee cake below). The results were great! I plan to experiment and use it in more of my favorite recipes. Go here to learn more about Cup 4 Cup and watch a video about how it was developed.
Are you or someone you know avoiding gluten for health reasons? If so, please share your experiences! What gluten-free cooking tips or products do you recommend?