Sunday, November 9, 2014

Suddenly Gluten-Intolerant

In my teenage years my favourite food was pasta and tomato sauce and I strongly identified with Jughead Jones, from the Archie comics because I shared his obsession for hamburgers. I continued this way into my late twenties, adding the joys of home-made bread, wraps and pastries to the menu.

photo credit

In January of this year, I started to have severe sinus problems stemming from an upper-respiratory track infection I had suffered in Dec.

I began to notice that when I ate hamburgers, my sinuses went crazy. I was unsure about it at first because even the ENT said he had never encountered a case where wheat flour activated sinusitis.

I self-tested to confirm my suspicions and discovered an undeniable connection between the two and so I embarked on a campaign to cut gluten out of my diet.

I was unprepared for how difficult it was. Wheat flour was in everything: For breakfast I preferred chicken chunks and fish-cakes. Lunch or dinner was a sandwich or a pasta dish and I had gotten into the habit of snacking on jam-filled pastries. Most takeaway meals were also out of the question, because everything from fried-chicken to rotis, all contained wheat.

I could not simply switch to the gluten-free alternatives because those products were very expensive. One loaf of gluten-free bread was twenty dollars versus four dollars for the regular kind. Multiplying my grocery costs by five times was not sustainable.

This lead to a complete overhaul of my diet and I had to start cooking three times as much as I had before. It was a challenge to keep myself motivated.

I wavered at times, and ate flour anyway and then suffered the consequences of sneezing fits and sinus headaches. It took six months to get into a routine that worked for me, and one of the biggest hurdles was finding recipes that I could use.

I am also dairy and egg-free, and I don't cook a lot of meat-dishes. The amount of recipes that you can use when you screen them for more than one dietary restriction plummets from 200 to around 20. And that makes it very difficult to fill up a meal plan without constantly repeating the same dishes.

I stuck it out, and eventually came to a list of recipes that I didn't mind eating over and over again. Learning how to use spices to make my vegetables taste spectacular was also a huge turning point in the journey.

Even when I had mastered my meal-planning I found that in social situations it was difficult for me to stick to my diet when everyone else was eating pizza or hamburgers. I felt like I was missing out, even though my choices were the best for my body.

Giving in every now and then and eating a bite of pastry or a piece of pizza seemed okay until I woke up one morning with a rash. Sh*t had officially hit the fan.

My motivation spiked and I redoubled my efforts to make sure that I had enough healthy food and snack alternatives so that I was not tempted.

I came to the realization that I was sulking and feeling sorry for myself and when I stopped acting like my sudden allergy was a curse, I was able to feel proactive instead of backed into a corner.

I detached food as much as I could from emotions, and I focused on nutrition. Truthfully, the diet I had before was not balanced or very healthy. I naturally lost a lot of weight and started to have more energy when I overhauled my diet.

My experience this last year of having to deal with my allergy, has improved my health and showed me that I have a lot more will power than I thought. I would be lying however, if I said that I didn't wish I could have learned those lessons in some other way.


  1. If you have access to an oven, yu can make your own bread using nonwheat flours. Much cheaper than anything you can buy, and you still get to eat sandwiches, etc. The Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a day book is the easiest way to do it, and I make my own flours from split peas, lentils, oats, chickpeas, any pulse food. You just grind them in a coffee mill. Easy. And very good food!

  2. Oh wait you said gluten intolerant, but then went on to talk about wheat. Two different things. If you really can not tolerate gluten, sorry, my suggestion above won't work, since it does use gluten. I was going on your comments about wheat only.

    1. Sorry for the confusion, I usually only ate wheat products so I only tested for that. I err on the side of caution and stay away from all gluten products.

  3. I bet you could safely eat that apple crumble I blogged about, though. Oats are okay for you, no?

    1. I can't say for sure. it is something I plan to test since I know that they produce gluten-free oats. I would love a slice of that apple crumble, it is one of my favourite desserts.