Gluten and I are not friends. We broke up June 2011, which probably ended up being one of the best things I’ve ever done. We didn’t break up because of a fad, or that the new “thing” is to be gluten-free. I can’t eat gluten. I can’t touch it, use any products with it on my skin, or in my hair. Gluten makes me sick. Really, really sick.
Some people go gluten-free as a fad diet, to see if it will give performance boost with athletics, or to see if they just feel better. For me it is a way of life. Having celiacs means no gluten ever for the rest of my life. How bad can that really be? It’s a fight every single day. It means constantly reading labels, and doing research to find out what the big fancy names are really hiding. It means staying away from processed products that often have gluten emulsifiers or preservatives. Vitamins, and medications can be a nightmare because ingredients are rarely published, and gluten is a common binding agent. If the ingredients aren’t listed on a product I don’t buy it.
Every person with celiacs can have different levels of sensitivity. I am highly sensitive even with products I put on my skin, which is our biggest organ, and even alcohol sensitive to gluten. What does that mean? It means all of the hidden gluten in products like deodorant, shampoos/conditioners, skin care products, and make-up can make my hair fall out, my eye lashes disappear, and cause me to break out in itchy red blotches. I can tell if I’ve eaten something that has gluten in it within 30 minutes. It feels like I have the flu, and every joint in my body hurts, my tummy swells, and I want to sleep for days in the fetal position.
Some people like to make jokes about gluten. I know, I’ve heard most of them. My dad loves to ask for extra gluten at restaurants. To me they aren’t funny. Throw a dairy allergy in on top of everything, and I’m often limited in where and what I can eat at restaurants, which can often be frustrating experiences. I don’t get to go to the fun food festivals, or fancy tasting dinners like I would like to. At most dinners or parties I’m constantly explaining why I’m not eating, which is followed by multiple apologies. I don’t expect others to cater to my needs. If there happens to be an option I can eat I am always grateful, and usually pleasantly surprised. At one of my gigs my “gluten-free meal” was to have anything they were serving that didn’t have gluten in it. I got to play a live performance in front of thousands of people fueled by a dry spinach salad. People who can’t eat gluten don’t need a larger selection of gluten-free cookies, or breads. What we want is to be more like everyone else. Charging us extra for gluten-free options just makes us feel belittled, and frustrated. Most people don’t understand what living with celiacs or a gluten intolerance today means. It is not something we choose, but something we live with.