I’m in a love-hate relationship with wheat.
Cake, cookies, pasta, bread, pizza. I love it all. I never knew they would end up being my enemy. Not just because of the carbs, but because of the gluten. Until 3 years ago I’d even never heard of it. I’ve always suffered from a lot of headaches and stomach cramps up to the point where I couldn’t even stand up straight and my belly would swell up and make me look like I was pregnant. At first, I was told not to eat raw vegetables or whole weat products. That didn’t work. Then the doctor said it must be period pains. But I had it all the time. When I was trying to conceive, and it turned out I had PCOS, that could also account for my cramps. But not necessarily for the bloating or the headaches. The last diagnosis I got was IBS, and so was told to just learn to live with it.
Until 3 years ago, when I went to see my osteopath, because I’d also been having a lot of lower back pains. He asked me if I also had bowel problems. Yes! He suggested it could be gluten. I’d never even heard of it. I had been watching my diet to see if there was a pattern there, but never really found one. Little did I know that gluten was the root of all evil and in so much of what I ate, not just bread or pasta.
When I went to see my doctor, he just shrugged it off, saying: Gluten: that’s just the latest fad!
I didn’t feel he took me seriously, so I scheduled an appointment with a gastroenterologist, who took a biopsy of my large intestine and what do you know: borderline coeliac disease, but still “just” an intolerance. For all those people claiming there is no such thing as an intolerance, I’m sorry, but I don’t agree. It’s not an allergy in my case, as I don’t have allergy related symptoms, like a rash or runny nose, when I eat gluten. My gut just doesn’t agree with it. It’s intolerant to all things gluten.
I didn’t think becoming gluten free would be so hard. They had gluten free pasta and cookies and cakes, etc… Nowadays, they have it all. But it doesn’t taste the same, does it? It’s a lot sweeter, drier, not as moist as real gluten filled bread or cakes. I gained a lot of weight when becoming gluten free, because they add so much more sugar to gluten free food, to hide the taste I suppose. I’ve now stopped buying those prepackaged cookies and started making my own (without refined sugar if possible). Luckily, I don’t suffer from coeliac disease, because that sounds like a tough life to live. Having to keep your kitchen free from all things gluten with a boyfriend who loves bread, would be so much harder. Making sure you don’t even ingest a crumb or you’ll be suffering all day (or for days on end for some people). Not being able to go out for a meal because you can’t trust a lot of restaurants to actually understand your suffering. I really feel for you coeliac sufferers.
We’re three years on and I have adapted to my new lifestyle.
Sometimes I tend to cheat a little and most of the time I pay the price.
When I started reading about gluten intolerance (or sensitivity, if you will), it described other symptoms that I also had, like hair loss, fatigue, iron deficiency and depression. But not all of them have disappeared, so sadly I can’t blame gluten for all of my problems. But what has made the biggest difference in my life, is the lack of headaches. I feel so much better now, waking up without that blinding pain in my forehead.
Oh, and the intolerance hasn’t come between me and my wanderlust, because there seem to be so many gluten free restaurants wherever we go. The States are no surprise, Berlin is great, but the best experience I’ve had so far with gluten free dining was recently, in Spain. I’ll write a post about our stay there and mention all the amazing restaurants they had. Basically, I had pizza, lasagne, hot fudge brownie sundaes and hamburgers all in one week!
Belgium, wake up and smell the coffee (with gluten free cookies)!
One last thing I wanna share with you, is the amazing recipe for gluten free brownies that makes us welcome guests at every party. All credit goes to Nigella Lawson, though.
Makes: 16 squares
- 225 grams (8 ounces) dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa)
- 225 grams (2 sticks) butter
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 200 grams (1 cup) superfine sugar
- 3 large eggs (beaten)
- 150 grams (1 1/2 cups) ground almonds
- 100 grams (1 cup) chopped walnuts
- Preheat the oven to 170°C / 325ºF. Melt the chocolate and butter gently over a low heat in a heavy-based saucepan.
- Take the pan off the heat, mix in the vanilla and sugar, and let it cool a little.
- Beat the eggs into the pan along with the ground almonds and chopped walnuts. Turn into a 24cm / 9 inch square baking tin.
- Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, by which time the top will have set but the mixture will still be gooey. Then we put them in the fridge overnight, so they are nice and firm on the sides, but still gooey and fudgy in the centre.