Getting Glutened


I was “glutened” last night. I’m still under the effects of what happened as I write this, but I want people to understand what it’s like for someone like myself to eat something seemingly innocuous and become completely useless the next day.

People always tell me things akin to, “I don’t know how you stick to your diet restrictions, I could never do it.” Or, “I admire you for being able to be so strict about what you eat.” Let me explain now, it has absolutely nothing to do with willpower. When you get this sick from eating something your body clearly doesn’t respond well to, it’s relatively easy to stay away from the offending culprits.

I woke up today completely “hungover,” despite never having had even a sip of alcohol. The room was spinning, I feel weak and unsteady on my feet, and I can’t think clearly. I roam from room to room wondering what it was I was doing and what I need to do next. I’m cranky and my nose is running, and I have a headache. It’s been 3 hours since I awoke, and I’m only now beginning to put some coherent thoughts together, after guzzling supplements and digestive enzymes with about 6 glasses of cold water.

The culprit? Parmesan cheese. I made chicken the other day, with spinach and artichokes and a lemon sauce, and tossed in the cheese for some flavor. The morning after I had it fresh, I had the same experience as this morning, however I blamed it on something else. After having the leftovers last night, it’s clearly the cheese that is really to blame.

And I don’t think it’s the cheese itself that is the problem. I think that it may be due to how the cheese is processed, and that gluten is added in order to prevent the cheese from sticking together. Sometimes companies change their processing and things like this slip past me. What was once fine before now wreaks havoc on my system, and it’s like playing Russian roulette.

I hate driving when I’m in this condition, but hopefully I’ll be ok enough in a few hours to run to the health food store and pick up a few more supplements to help speed the process up a bit.

So it’s not about willpower and personal strength. It’s about feeling so utterly crappy so consistently that you actually begin to fear certain foods. Yep. Fear. But you can’t live your life like that. Or at least, I try not to, so I will socialize and go out to eat, and I seek to minimize my risk as much as I can, and I try to schedule those risks when I know that if things go south, I have nothing pressing the next day to worry about, and I can stay home and recover. But when it blind sides you, as it sometimes does, you begin to live life “looking over your shoulder” and food can become the enemy.

So you’d think I’d be twiggy-thin, but I’m not. That’s the worst of it. You’d think that with all these food sensitivities and how I eat whole foods 90% of the time, I’d be far tinier than I actually am. The truth is, my illness caused what I believe to be some permanent damage to my body, including but not limited to my glands (thyroid, adrenals, and ovaries) as well as my gut. More research is showing that gut flora is related to obesity, and I blame years of artificial sweeteners as a major factor in my unhealthy gut. Working on healing my gut has taken years, and each one of these inadvertent “poisonings” sets me back months.

I try to live life in good balance. I don’t want to spend every moment of every day thinking about food, cooking and prepping foods, or never being able to socialize with friends and celebrate joyous moments with them. This probably means I will never be completely healed, though. And I’m not sure I’ve completely accepted or even processed that possibility…