I had a divine experience this morning - I visited a local gluten free café (newdayglutenfree.com) and had good old-fashioned biscuits and sausage gravy for breakfast for the first time in two years! It tasted so good that I cried.
That may sound ridiculous to some; but those with food allergies, sensitivities, and/or health-based dietary limitations can attest to how isolating, exhausting, and sad it can be to live in society, forced to eat outside of the mainstream. Attending gatherings, eating out, and even having guests to your own house all take more forethought. Grocery shopping time is easily doubled, if not tripled, as you become an obsessed label-reader looking for hidden ingredients. Food bills increase as you buy more produce and whole foods, and less of the cheaper, processed foods laden with chemicals and fillers. Doubt and suspicion from family and friends adds to the feeling of being the “tedious person who always makes things difficult for everyone else.”
It’s been two years since I gave up gluten in an effort to control my autoimmune disease, dermatomyositis; but my journey to healthful eating began long before that. Over the past 11 years I have gradually eliminated the foods that caused me physical distress, digestive discomfort, and skin eruptions. I didn’t do this on the advice of the doctors but at the insistence of my own body. Processed foods, HFCs, hydrogenated oils, artificial sweeteners, food coloring, nitrates and other preservatives have been replaced by the fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, lean, grass-fed meats and dairy, antibiotic-free poultry, and natural honey which now adorn my table.
For some people, whose severe allergies (like nuts) cause anaphylaxis; the threat is readily apparent and can be immediately fatal. For those with hidden diseases, the threat is not so immediate, but no less marginalizing. People with gluten allergies, or celiac disease, get extremely and outwardly sick from gluten exposure, but the biggest dangers are the internal damage being done over time and the lack of a foolproof diagnosis tool. Gluten sensitive and autoimmune sufferers can experience a similar course of sustained damage, although the mechanisms are not completely understood, and these people’s concerns are often discounted as “faddish,” “bandwagon dieters,” and “hypochondriacs.” Many doctors discount food sensitivities, while holistic practitioners encourage listening to the cues from our bodies. Fortunately, anecdotal evidence is mounting to show that some people with autoimmune disease see their symptoms improve when eliminating gluten and the medical community is beginning to notice.
This morning was bittersweet. It reminded me of what it was like to walk into a restaurant and order anything on the menu without fear and embarrassment. Savoring one of my all time favorite breakfast dishes also gave me a momentary desire to mourn the “old life” in which I could eat anything with abandon…and then I remembered the totality of that old life. I “could eat anything,” but I was really ill, took multiple medications, and felt terrible all of the time. I’ll take being different over that any day.
Here’s to your health!
Originally printed on EmilyFilmore.com (2015). All Rights Reserved.