Why I’m Gluten-Free….and a Medical Disagreement (3e)

Why avoid gluten?

My mom first suggested I might be allergic to gluten a couple years ago. I scoffed at the thought of that nonsense. Puh-lease. Wheat is in everything. How can you be allergic to it? That would just suck.

Then she suggested it again a few months ago. This time, I listened. My stomach hurt every time I ate, instead of just a couple times a week. I spent most evenings feeling nauseated. Headaches were frequent. I took Pepcid every day to combat stomach aches, and Advil or Aleve to fight the headaches. But what they say is true: drugs are bad. (Okay, Pepcid and Advil aren’t bad for you. But like anything else, it’s best to keep things in moderation. So taking these medicines everyday, or twice a day, is too much.)

But sometimes when I ate, I didn’t get any symptoms. I decided to try out the whole gluten-free thing just to see what happened. I had been hearing about the gluten-free diet a lot, from other people and in the media. I had even seen gluten-free bakeries and food substitutes in the grocery store. As you already know (if you’re faithful reader), the stomach aches and headaches came to a halt.

My stomach aches, nausea and headaches had an explanation. Being an occasional hypochondriac, I was relieved my symptoms didn’t mean I was dying (thanks, WebMD).  I realized not eating gluten left me feeling more awake and energized. I can trace exhaustion, stomachaches and headaches right back to gluten now (it still sometimes sneaks into the food I eat accidentally. Do you know how much food has gluten? Writing a list of it would take an entire post! Let me just tell you one product though – SOY SAUCE. That leaves me out of eating pretty much half the world’s food!).

I spent some time researching gluten intolerance and Celiac disease, and it can actually start at any age. So maybe I wasn’t gluten intolerant my whole life, or the symptoms just started getting worse as I got older. At any rate, I now identify myself in the ever-growing circle of gluten-free eaters.

The Doctor’s Office

I know I’m not the only person who hates the smell of hospitals. They smell like sickness. And death. And needles.

Anyway, I went to the doctor (let’s just call her Dr. Wheat) for my annual physical. Near the end of the short appointment, I said that I had been trying out a gluten-free diet because I’d been getting a lot of stomach aches, and Dr. Wheat was all, “Eating gluten-free is not a diet fad. It’s meant to treat a serious disorder, Celiac disease, and if you had that, you’d be extremely sick and malnourished.”

“But it’s making me feel better…” I always get terrified in the face of authority disagreeing with me.

“You don’t need to eat gluten-free. Grains are very important for maintaining your health. Don’t stop eating them.”

I shut up about it, even though all I could think was I’ll show you! Although that was clearly impossible. I couldn’t perform a medical allergy test on myself. But if I could, I’d wave the lab results declaring me allergic to gluten in her face! Take that.

So here’s why I’m telling you all of this: Not all doctors will react like mine did, since gluten intolerance is becoming more widespread. I heard on The View that something like 10 percent of the population is gluten intolerant. That’s a ton of people! But also a word of warning – I’ve read about other people with gluten intolerance who gave up on a doctor’s diagnosis because they got the same reaction as I got.

Go to your doctor if you think you have an allergy, or anything else, and make them test you for it. Don’t be a coward like me (she was just so insistent I got scared). Maybe someday I’ll get a real, legitimate gluten allergy test, but for now, I’m just avoiding gluten. And that works.

Most of the time….

Pshh. I don’t need no doctor.


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