Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Re-establishing the gluten-free habit

I got glutened this past weekend during a camping trip for a class that I'm teaching. Or rather, I glutened myself, which is a much more accurate way of putting it. And I have felt unwell ever since.

We were in a rural area with few food options. We made a delicious, GF (gluten free) camp meal the night we arrived, but I'd forgotten to bring lunch or any truly substantial snacks for the next day. We got up early and drove from stop to stop, and I quickly felt my stomach begin to gnaw on itself. I had an apple handy, and a Larabar, but these were no match for the bottomless, insatiable pit that is my stomach.

By lunchtime I was beginning to feel dizzy and cranky. I could feel the hangriness coming on. So when we stopped at McDonald's (don't ask, not my choice but the only restaurant option where we were), I threw caution to the wind and ordered a snack wrap, fries, and a soda.

Thing is, I've started to wonder recently just how intolerant I actually am to gluten. I've never been officially tested for Celiac disease. After three years of following a GF lifestyle, I've been thinking that perhaps I made the whole thing up just to ride along on the now-crowded GF bandwagon. And I decided to test that hypothesis at a notoriously unhealthy fast food joint... while hundreds of miles from home... during a trip where I was responsible for driving and relaying information to 20 students.

Did I mention that I washed down my lunch with a pack of peanut M&Ms?

Clearly it wasn't just the gluten - McD's is probably tough on even the hardiest stomachs - but I now recall WHY I went GF in the first place. Part of it is the whole bathroom situation. It's partly the really odd, inappropriate gurgling sounds reverberating throughout my belly. Part of it is the fatigue. But another big part - the part I'd completely forgotten - is the feeling that my abdomen is swollen. It's like my insides are sore and inflamed. It's unnerving, and it can last for several days.

I haven't been eating all that well for about a month now. Training for a marathon means that I am hungry all the time, and I've been traveling a lot, which means that I've relied fairly heavily on high-sodium restaurant food and "healthy" snacks from gas stations and airport kiosks. Seeing friends whom I haven't seen in a long time at conferences means that occasionally I've consumed more alcohol than I normally would. So even without the gluten, my digestive system has been suffering. This was just the final blow.

But I'm back on the GF track now, and I'm going to be very careful - especially in these weeks before the marathon - to eat what I know my body likes. Also, I'm going to have to be more diligent about preparing myself for situations where healthy food options might not be readily at hand.

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Tonight my son and I made brownies for his school's bake sale tomorrow. They're gluten free, dairy free, and oil free, and based on the little nibble I had, they're pretty darn good. I hope they sell.

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The marathon is a week from Sunday! I'm so excited. As the event approaches, I'm sure I'll also feel a bit nervous. But mainly I am looking forward to being in Florida with my family and tackling this challenge with my friend.

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