It's been about two years since I started stopping with the gluten. Not quite two years, though; one of my favorite things about being in Barcelona in February 2007 was the pan con tomate (bread with tomatoes) and espresso I had for breakfast a few times at this little outdoor cafe near where I stayed.
I honestly don't even remember why I thought to start avoiding it, but I do remember that less than a week into my sad and pitiful breadless state, I felt way, way better. Of course, it's not just bread that has gluten, but that was the hardest for me to give up. Worse than cake, or cupcakes, onion rings, pancakes, flour tortillas, or pie, and maybe just a scootch more than real beer, I miss bread. I miss baking it and smelling it cook, and I miss eating it hot out of my own oven. Pass the butter (which I also don't eat anymore, much).
So. When I figured out that I felt better without gluten, the first thing I did was make a grilled cheese sandwich to see what happened. What happened was a nasty headache, one that involved my entire head and felt suspiciously like the kind of hangover you get from cheap, hard booze; I was crabby; my fingers and face were swollen, especially my eyes; I was tired. I just generally felt like shit. So, I waited a little bit, making buttered toast for the kids' breakfast and cussing instead of popping bites of crust into my mouth. And then, I did it again (with buttered toast) and had the same rotten symptoms.
This cycle repeated for over a year before I really, truly believed that I had to stay the hell away from any and all gluten in the food chain. I wanted it to be all in my head. Badly.
And now, I'm pretty much mostly okay with this gluten free lifestyle. It certainly doesn't hurt any that my very own handsome SG is also gluten free. And? He is a kickass cook who also likes to cook for me. So, really, it's getting more okay as time goes by.
Still, though, I wonder if it's all in my head sometimes. Or I did, that is, until now. Yesterday my mom came and met me at work and took me up to San Francisco to visit a doctor.** We left around lunchtime, so we stopped in at Whole Paycheck on the way up for a little lunch and a visit to the best gluten free shopping I've seen so far in the Bay Area. (Laura! They have THE DONUTS. Also? Hamburger buns! SG and I are so totally grilling burgers this weekend.) We got our lunch and sat down to eat. I had turkey soup with wild rice, and as I was eating my mom said, Oh, can you do okay with barley? And I looked at my soup and realized that I was totally not paying attention to what was in it. Maybe this is the wild rice? I said, sort of willing it to be the case. I finished the soup and totally forgot about it. We went to the doctor, and then I came home and grabbed my yoga gear and went to a Bikram class for the first time in forever. (Dude. It's HOT in there, but I miss it, bad.)
Around bedtime, I got hit over the head with a truly nasty and ferocious headache. Weird, I thought, Why does my head feel exactly like it did the morning after that one time in high school when I drank the 7-11 Big Gulp cup full of rum after I caught my stupid boyfriend cheating on me with that skanky girl? And why the hell am I so, so tired?
I woke up this morning with the same headache, with my eyes swollen nearly shut, and with a general bad mood (which is still here). And then I remembered the barley. Or, as I lovingly am thinking of it at this very moment, the motherfucking barley.
I am guessing that this serves as something close to a blind experiment. I didn't spend yesterday afternoon worrying that I'd had gluten and then get sick afterwards. I ate it; I forgot about it; I got symptoms AND still didn't make the connection right away. So I guess that now I am more convinced that this gluten intolerance is not limited to my brain. That's strangely comforting. I'd hate to think that I've been not having crossiants all this time for nothing.
** I had to see a specialist, and since the topic was sort of a big deal (a fairly major, and totally lifechanging surgery) my mom came along to help me listen and to ask questions. Long story short; I am sick, but not THAT sick, and the surgeon told me that while I am actually the perfect candidate for the surgery, he was going to give me a pass. At least for a few more years.