Confessions Of A Bread Addict
Tuesday, 31 March 2009
It’s happened to me several times during my 4-year gluten-free journey. Maybe you’ve been through this before. You wake up one day and think, it’s been a long time, maybe, just maybe, today I can eat the things I used to eat and they won’t bother me anymore.
It started on St. Patrick’s Day. We were at a bar and in a moment of hunger I ordered a veggie dog (only in the bay area can you get a veggie dog at a bar). No, I didn’t eat the bun. But I didn’t know what was in it – all I know is it tasted really good and totally hit the spot. I asked where they got it from and they said Trader Joe’s. Great, I thought, here’s something I can add to my grocery list. So the next week when I stopped at Trader Joe’s I found two different brands of veggie dogs. Not sure which one it was, I read both labels. And there I saw it – toward the end of a long list of ingredients on both packages – wheat gluten. I gasped, then put them back on the shelf.
On my way home, I tried to recall whether I’d noticed any symptoms in the days after eating the veggie dog. Now mind you, my symptoms are usually delayed a few days and vary in severity. Sometimes I’m not able to pinpoint what exactly causes a reaction because by the time I react I’ve already consumed any number of different things (which is why I paid $400 for the blood test). I usually only know for sure that something is digestible if I can eat it and not have any reaction by the 5th day, and then get the same results the next time I eat it. Well I couldn’t remember having any specific symptoms that week. But I also wasn’t positive that the veggie dog came from one of the suspected packages, nor did I have any idea of the amount of wheat gluten contained therein – I may never know for sure. All I know is that the experience piqued my curiosity – am I still gluten intolerant?
That thought was on my mind the next time I was at the grocery store and staring at the $9 loaves of Grindstone Bakery gluten-free bread, which were right next to their $5 loaves of yeast-free spelt bread. I remembered reading online that spelt, a glutinous grain related to wheat, contains a much smaller amount of gluten than wheat, and when properly fermented is easily digestible and often tolerable to wheat-sensitive individuals. I picked up a loaf and thus began my most recent experiment.
That afternoon I savored the familiar aroma rising from the toaster as I made my tuna sandwich, and then unceremoniously ate the first piece of bread I’d had in years. It tasted great – though it was a little chewier than I’d remembered. I didn’t eat any the next day, to give my system time to absorb and respond. On day three, I had another piece. Though you’re supposed to wait 4 days to monitor reaction, I knew that the bread wasn’t going to last for long and so far I hadn’t reacted. So far so good, right? By the 5th day I felt some bloating, but I blamed than on another meal that I’d eaten out recently, which as far as I know didn’t contain any allergens but was very poor quality processed food. Gradually my symptoms continued to worsen. I felt sluggish and tired. My skin was more broken out. I felt achy every time I ate something. By the time we reached the end of the loaf of bread my digestive tract felt like one long balloon from one end to the other. Finally, nine days later, I am conceding that it must be the gluten.
Sometimes we want something so badly that we try to convince ourselves that our past experiences never really happened, or that we got it wrong the first time. (Or the second. Or the third.) No matter how strong the evidence, denial is very powerful. But now the evidence is keeping me awake late at night as I write this, trying to release myself from its grip, mentally as well as physically. Tomorrow I will begin to hunker down, get back on the diet, and cleanse my system, knowing that this, too, shall pass. Hopefully in about 4 or 5 days.