Monday, January 30, 2012

Hello, My name is Traci, and I'm an obsessive label checker

Fifty years ago, I promised you an explanation on Celiac. (Okay, it was probably more like a few months, but whatever.) Today, as I'm cursing myself for a small lapse in dietary judgement, I figured I'd finally explain.

My story starts nearly a year ago in the middle of wedding gown shopping. I'm going to be a bridesmaid in my friends wedding, and a group of us went to lunch at Panera, then on to David's Bridal. I started getting really bad stomach cramps as we're searching the racks, and the next thing I know, I'm on the floor. (Small piece of advice--I would recommend against passing out in a bridal boutique. It's highly embarrassing.) I was hoping it was an isolated incident, but considering the stomach troubles I'd had for a few years, I realized that was unlikely. Sure enough, my doctor ran a gastrointestinal blood work pannel which came back positive for Celiac.

Not many people know what Celiac is. Essentially, it's an autoimmune disease that causes an allergy to gluten, a substance found in wheat, barley, rye, and malt.

With that news, I was sent to a GI specialist, who took some pretty pictures of my esophagus and a few tissue samples. What he said was frustrating: the biopsies did not positively confirm the Celiac. However, I felt better when I was eating gluten free, so it was decided that likely I had it anyway, or at least a gluten intollerance.

So, what does eating gluten free mean? Perhaps you've seen a GF symbol on a menu or at the grocery store. That symbol means that the product is safe for someone with Celiac to eat. Thankfully, some vegans also eat gluten free, so between their products and a rising awareness of gluten intollerance, there are more an more baked goods and breads that are made with something other than wheat flour.

The biggest problem I've run into with being gluten free is that I have to check the labels on everything. And by everything, I mean EVERYTHING. Not only do I have to make sure my favorite candies and foods are gluten free, but drinks, sauces of any kind, alcohols, and anything I put on my body, like soaps and lotions and deodorant. I made a silly mistake on Saturday and didn't bother to check out a steak sauce before I ate it at a restaurant. It was so good, and totally worth being a little miserable on Saturday night. However, two days later, I'm still miserable. It's not worth it anymore.

The moral of this story? Well...not sure there is one. Except, now I'm one of those people. You know the ones, the people who check every single label before putting things in their cart. The ones who ask what's in a dish before ordering it at a restaurant. I used to think those people were weird. Now, I do it, too.

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