A few weeks ago … err actually I guess it was more like 2 months ago (the concept of time has completely broken since I've taken on this crazy job of mine), I decided to try a little experiment in gluten free eating.
First let me start off with the gross backstory… For years, I've been prescribed with various medications to make this random rash on my ankles go away. Doctors have told me it's eczema, a fungus, and several other random types of dermatitis. Some of the treatments have helped, but nothing has really made it go away. So I've pretty much just lived with it - as annoying as it may be.
After some conversations over the fourth of July weekend, I began wondering if these spots were my body reacting to a gluten allergy. Apparently this is a common thing… and I'm allergic to EVERYTHING. So it's definitely plausible that I could be allergic to gluten.
So just out of curiosity, I cut gluten out of my diet… this was really, really hard, because - as it turns out - I love gluten. I love bread
. I love chips. I love crackers
. I love Wheat Thins
. I love noodles. I love pizza
. I love beer
. I LOVE THINGS WITH GLUTEN.
The first night I started this experiment I had no idea what to eat, so I just ordered a salad, without croutons. I love croutons. The next morning I eliminated the bagel from the open faced bagel, egg, and cheese sandwich
that I eat for breakfast every morning. I love bagels. And for lunch I had seaweed salad and sushi without Soy sauce. Soy sauce has gluten in it.
After work, I went to some grocery stores and tried to figure out how to eat gluten free. I scoured for gluten free foods and grabbed as many Amy's and Love brand prepackaged meals as I could (because that's how I do as a temporary bachelor). I found some gluten free pretzels (meh), some bland rice cakes, and some terrible gluten free breakfast bars. As it turns out, most gluten free substitutes that are supposed to seem "glutenous" are simply not as good
and far more expensive than the real foods.
So I spent the next couple weeks learning about this strange diet. I quickly realized that there are several foods that are likely gluten free that aren't labeled as such because the tests to do so are expensive, and must be done regularly. There are, however lots of "carby" type foods that are great substitutes. Corn chips, corn tortillas, rice crackers, lentil crackers, nuts, oats, grains, rice, potatoes, potato chips, popcorn, etc. You've just gotta stay away from most flour and wheat based products. Once I realized this and started to get over my addiction to these things, I was golden. I started ordering lettuce wrapped burgers
, lettuce wrapped sandwiches
, more potatoes
, more tacos
, more rice
, etc. And my amazing wife started making, freezing, and bringing me gluten free casseroles.
Aside from figuring out that stuff, the absolute hardest things for me to kick have been the elimination of pizza and beer. There are some pretty decent gluten free pizza crusts
out there, they're just hard to find. And nearly all adult beverages (wine, liquor, cider, etc) are gluten free. But not being able to sit down and enjoy a good beer sucks so hard. Almost all beer is made with wheat or barley and is full of gluten. However, there are some tricks in this department, it just requires a bit of research… and potentially more home brewing
, which is never a bad thing.
Foods that are labeled gluten free in America are literally gluten free. But apparently by some european standards gluten free foods must contain less than 20 parts per million gluten proteins. There actually are some widely available beers that have been tested to fall below that, like: Budweiser, Pilsner Urquell, Sapporo, Corona, etc. If you're not a celiac, you can imagine that most rice based beer is safe-ish for a gluten free diet. I've definitely become more loyal to these brands, however they're also not the best beers for an enthusiast such as myself. This is hard.
All in all, I've learned a lot from this experiment and now have MAD respect for anyone with celiac's disease or a gluten intolerance. Aside from the lack of most bread, crackers, chips, and noodles, there are a LOT of surprising products that contain gluten. You really have to start paying attention to ingredients. And if you have celiac's, you have to make sure nothing in the manufacturer's factory even touches "glutenous" products.
So to back track a bit, after the first couple weeks of this experiment, my rash had gone almost completely away (while medicating it at the same time) and I dropped 4-5 pounds. After that, I started slipping some pizza/good beer
in about once a week and started to see some inflammation on my ankles again. I'm not sure if my little experiment has actually been successful or was a complete fluke, but I've learned a ton and am still eating (mostly) gluten free for fun.
I suppose I should go see a doctor and get tested for this gluten allergy thing. But after a decade of them not being able to git rid of my rash, I'm not quite sure I'll trust their opinions anyway.