After feeling pretty icky for several months, I was willing to try anything. I’d been experiencing joint pain, and exhaustion, and what sure felt like a gallbladder attack. My hair was falling out, my teeth were causing me problems, and I lost use of my hands in the cold. I was on the list to see a rheumatologist, but in the mean time, I was suffering. So when my friend, a registered nurse, suggested I experiment with going Gluten Free to see if that reduced my symptoms, I figured I would give it a shot. What could it hurt?
As it turned out, going Gluten Free hurt nothing but my pride.
While I noticed a drastic reduction in joint pain, fatigue, and stomach problems, I noticed a HUGE increase in the shade thrown my way by well-intentioned- and very, very ignorant- bystanders. Turns out, there are TONS of myths and misconceptions circulating about how and why a person might be on a gluten free diet…here’s the six that happen to drive me the craziest.
Note from Kate: Thank you so much to Jaymi for writing this guest post while I’m recovering from surgery!
1. I’m Hopping on the GF Bandwagon
Gluten Free is SO on trend. Which is A.) Actually super helpful, because GF options are popping up all over the place and B.) Super annoying to this little renegade. This mama hates a trend, so it about kills me when I have to ask a restaurant if they carry any Gluten Free alternatives. I can literally see the servers shiver. I doubt they’d have the same reaction to a peanut or parsley allergy (Sex and the City reference, anyone?). But something about avoiding Gluten just seems so obnoxious that I can tell I’m getting pigeon-holed right away.
2. That Gluten is Another Word for Bread
Somewhere along the way, things got twisted, and Gluten became a codename for carbs. Which, I guess kind of…but also, no. Gluten is a protein that is found in certain grains, such as wheat and barley. Since most bread is made from wheat, people are right in assuming that this means dinner rolls and ham sandwiches are mostly out for me. That doesn’t annoy me so much. But then I hear, “Oh, you’re gluten free? Psht, that’s easy. You can eat everything except wheat.”
Except red vines are made of wheat (I mean, seriously, Red Vines??? Whyyyy???) I don’t know if I can face the next sixty years without Red Vines. I mean, take my bread, take my brownies, take my soy sauce (yes, SOY SAUCE!). But Red Vines? Gluten, you’ve gone too far.
3. That “A Little Bit” Won’t Hurt Me
This one bugs me the most- because a little bit WILL hurt me, actually. Small amounts of gluten- like when I forget my restrictions and polish off my daughter’s peanut butter and jelly, for example- can be enough to ruin my day. And the day that follows. My hands cramp up, my brain is foggy, and I spend a LOT more time than I can afford to spend lying on my couch watching mindless TV. (Which doesn’t sound SO bad, now that I think about it, but stay with me here.) At any rate, whatever plans we had are now out of the question as I work the gluten out of my system. So I know a few bites of something isn’t a big deal to you- but I assure you, it is a big deal for me.
4. Gluten Free Means Low Carb/Organic/Healthy Somehow
Red Robin offers THE BEST gluten free bun I have ever tasted. But I have to order it off of the “Lighter Fare” menu. At a curvy size 10, I feel like a walking New Year’s Resolution every time I order it. And since I eat my weight in bottomless fries every time I go there (I mean, have you had their fries? So. Good.) I really couldn’t care less about “lightening up” my 1,100 calorie burger.
But the myth persists- going GF is healthier somehow, or lower calorie, or means that you only eat organic food. Which, for some people, I’m sure it does. But for me, it’s about swapping out my chocolate chip cookies for Skittles and my pretzels for potato chips. So yeah, I’m unlikely to start consuming organic kale smoothies anytime soon.
5. That I Have to Do EVERYTHING Differently Now
The people that do understand what being Gluten Free means, and the impact it has on my life, are so, so appreciated. They choose Mexican restaurants over burger places, stock up on Cheerios when I come to visit, and know a great little place we can go to with a flourless chocolate cake. And it makes me feel grateful. But I also want them to know that I am an adaptable creature, and that EVERYTHING doesn’t have to revolve around my food sensitivities. I keep a stash of almonds with me at all times, and have become very good at teasing out GF options from almost any menu. So while I greatly- GREATLY- appreciate the support, we don’t need to plan everything to revolve around my diet restrictions.
6. That I Have Celiac Disease
An increasing amount of people are aware of Celiac disease. So when I tell them that I actually tested negative for Celiac, I get looks of total puzzlement. “So then you CAN have Gluten.” Well, yes and no. I am lucky that I don’t have Celiac disease, and the heavy restrictions (and intestinal damage!) that can come along with it. I don’t have to worry as much about cross contamination or if a product is certified GF. My reactions are less severe, and I’m very unlikely to have severe reactions that impact my health and safety in the long-term. But just because I “passed” the test doesn’t mean I’m in the clear- there are levels of Gluten sensitivity, and figuring out where I am on the spectrum has been an adventure, to say the least.
Jaymi is a wife, mama, mystery-illness sufferer, and lover of coffee and refined sugar. She blogs at thesaltymamas.com with her best friend Christine, where they are all about embracing parenting with humor and good grace. You can find her on Instagram @TheSaltyMamas, on Twitter at @SaltyMamas, or on Facebook at facebook.com/thesaltymamas.