A couple of days ago I was sitting in a doctor’s office when I spotted a Whole Living magazine which was a welcome diversion. I don’t often see those lying around so I was happily surprised, yet far more surprised by what I actually read. There was an article about a baker making sourdough bread with regular wheat that apparently gluten intolerant people can eat. The story goes on to explain about the starter and yeast and other things, but the gist of it was that at least one Santa Monica baker has a technique that has gluten intolerant people lining up for miles around, and it also talks about ancient wheat varieties versus the modern ones. Here’s the article so you can read it too, and join me in my plan to move to Santa Monica, or at least find out more about this technique. It sounds like at least a lot more people are thinking about this epidemic in gluten intolerance and trying to do something about it. (Yay!) The bummer for me though is the fact I was not tested for Celiac Disease when diagnosed with gluten intolerance. I just asked the doctor (whose office I was in reading the above article) about getting tested now and she said I would have to go on a gluten diet again before being able to get an accurate answer. That bites! I didn’t even ask how long I’d have to eat gluten (and feel rotten) because my immediate thought was about the feeling rotten part. She said as long as I don’t know I just have to stay off gluten entirely and forever~ which makes these ancient wheats and sourdough starter prospects bittersweet. It makes me wish I’d demanded to be tested way back when the first GI doctor I saw told me it didn’t matter because whether I was a celiac or just gluten intolerant all I could do either way was stay away from wheat, and that I didn’t look like a celiac b/c they are normally blonde and pale. (That still cracks me up.) At the time I wanted to know for certain because I thought it important for my kids since it is a hereditary disease, but I let him talk me out of sticking a long scope down my throat into my small intestine. Honestly, it didn’t take long for him to convince me that was unnecessary. Oh well. I guess I can always try these new things and see how I feel which sounds a lot easier than eating a bunch of gluten just in order to take a test. Looks like the Santa Monica farmer’s market is now on my “must go to” list now.
Other good things to do is to ask your local grocery if someone could give you a tour of all the gluten free options. I know that Whole Foods and other natural groceries do this (at slower times. Don’t expect to tour at noon on Saturday) but I imagine other grocery buyers would be willing to do the same if it meant keeping your business. There are often great gluten free cooking classes at these groceries too. Going out to eat and traveling is easier if you can do a bit of research online first~ check menus, look for gluten free travel info., and make sure to ask ask ask. I’ve been pleasantly surprised how knowledgeable people are at most restaurants. Some have entirely separate gluten free menus but do not advertise it, others will have servers that need to ask their cooks or managers but there is always someone who knows how to accommodate every allergy. (No one wants to get sued after all.) Traveling is a great time to test your research skills beforehand and find gluten free devoted places in the destination. There are plenty of websites, magazines and twitter feeds devoted to gluten free cooking, traveling, restaurant going, and groups. As one person once told me, it might not be a club you wanted to join, but this is the best time to be in it. You can find all your answers at your fingertips, not to mention your new favorite cafe and a group of people who actually want to discuss the pros and cons of xanthan gum. (Thank you Internet.) At some point I’ll put some links on the side of this blog, but for now feel free to comment any questions and I’d be happy to try to find the answer for you.
While living in Prague my spectacular flatmate and I talked about everything under the sun, but really, the majority of the time, by a significant amount I’d say, we talked about food. Usually it was what we’d be eating if we were home right now, or in some other city, or what we ate at such and such restaurant, and what we would like to cook if only we could find the ingredients in these tiny little grocery stores. Because of that, I know far more about the frozen foods in Canada’s fine stores than any American should, and she probably will make a pilgrimage to a certain dark coffeehouse in a bad corner of Cincinnati one day. At the time we were both pescatarians in a city that is more red meat and potatoes than Texas. Needless to say, our options were limited. We lived on bread and cheese and surprise, surprise, I got horribly sick for months. At that time I was not aware of my gluten intolerance, but my natural foods background let me know it was something diet related. I started steaming broccoli for breakfast and living off Uncle Ben’s minute brown rice. And pineapple juice. Prague didn’t have much in the way of juices, but it had the best pineapple juice ever~ we drank it daily out of the same kind of box we later in the day would drink our ‘fine’ wines. The juice sections in Prague grocery stores at the time amounted to about half of an end cap. My flatmate went to Berlin over the holidays and all I remember from her trip was that the juice sections there were whole aisles, just like here. Anyway, at Trader Joe’s last night I saw they have a new pineapple juice in the cold section and I just had to try it. The ones in glass that sit on the shelf have never lived up to Prague’s standards so I have cautious hopes for this one. It isn’t organic so I won’t get it often, but in homage to my lovely friend and our days in Prague I’m going to down a glass and then throw together a sopsky’s salad, hold the fried cheese, please.
My stomach has hurt for a few days now and I haven’t seen the doctor, mostly because doctors never really seem to ever know what is ever going on…especially not the first visit, and I don’t have time for a bunch of tests. (who does?) Don’t get me wrong, doctors save lives and I wouldn’t want to step back even a year in the way of medical advances…thinking about living and giving birth just 50 years ago makes me shiver. But doctors could definitely learn to listen better and think deeper about the issues patients bring them…Such as gluten intolerance. My primary care physician was actually surprisingly open to my self diagnosis and ordered a blood test right away. At the time I hadn’t eaten wheat in a long time, though I still ate spelt (which I know is a wheat) and she advised me that even if the test comes back negative that if my body reacts badly to wheat, don’t eat it. As obvious as that sounds, I was really happy to hear she felt that way instead of assuming I’d made some wrong connection between what I ate and how I felt. The only reason I was having the test was because I suspected my son of similar issues and when looking into his health doctors always asked about the family history and I’d get disbelieving stares when I said I couldn’t eat wheat but had never been tested for intolerance. My test came back positive, meaning yes, gluten intolerant. She advised me to see a specific gastroenterologist to be tested for celiac, which turned out to be a very different experience. At that appointment he took one look at me and said,”you are not a celiac. Celiacs are fair and you are dark. You look lactose intolerant.” In my head I was saying,”um, OK. Aren’t many Italians celiacs?” But I could tell this was not a person with an open mind so I didn’t bother trying to get into a discussion with him. He did another test which came back negative~ no surprise considering he had already decided it would be! And he advised me not to have the scope test because, again, he said that a lot of people don’t do well with wheat and the only thing you can do for that is the same way you treat celiac anyway, which is to not eat wheat so it didn’t really matter. I still think it might be a good idea at some point, just to know for sure for my kids’ sake, but I will definitely go to a different doctor next time. It seems like everyone has a long story to tell about their gluten intolerance diagnoses, so I hope that it becomes far less of a mystery disease in the future.