Gluten allergy: inconclusive

Due to my lactose intolerance, I attempted to go gluten-free the last week of April and the first week of May. I opted out of anything containing gluten (wheat, rye, barley) but was unable to rid my diet of oats. Oats themselves do not contain gluten but they are often cross-contaminated with wheat.

Overall the experience wasn’t that bad. Eating at home was of course the easiest. Instead of pastas we focused on rices. I had granola cereal for breakfast instead of my whole-wheat-based fiber-rich mix. Instead of a bread sandwich I’d have the meat and cheese in a lettuce wrap.

Eating out wasn’t even all that challenging if you picked the right places. Mexican restaurants are your friend — corn tortilla chips are a-ok as are enchiladas and other items made with corn, but not flour, tortillas. Italian restaurants are your enemy — pastas, breads, even potato gnocchi, all contain wheat flour which contains gluten. On the plus side risotto is gluten free as are most salads so even dinner at Macaroni Grill was doable. Sandwich, pizza places, and other fast-food restaurants are right out.

During those two weeks I felt good, but not so good as to indicate that it was the gluten as compared to the wonderful spring weather that finally descended upon Denver.

My trip to Raleigh this week proved to be the end of the experiment. It’s nigh impossible to maintain a gluten-free diet as well as make a good first social impression on your coworkers without looking like a food freak. I’m sure it would have been different were I to know for sure that I can’t have gluten but it’s quite another to say “sorry, we can’t go to a pizza place, or a sandwich place, or a fast-food place for lunch because I’m doing an experiment to see if I’m allergic to gluten”. So Monday at lunch broke my gluten-free streak. I’ve tried to keep the gluten to a minimum but I’ve certainly been unable to avoid it altogether (a sandwich on Monday for lunch, pizza Tuesday for lunch, sandwich on Wednesday for lunch, pizza today for lunch (and no, there’s not a planned pattern here)).

So how do I feel? Overall I feel fine. Unlike the previous two weeks I did have some gastrointestinal challenges on Tuesday morning after my bowl of cereal but I didn’t have any problems on Monday, Wednesday, or today after the same bowl of cereal. No problems post-pizza on Tuesday or today. Unfortunately I think the experiment was inconclusive. The scientist in me is concerned about there being too many variables, not a good sample size, and the lack of a control group to conclude anything else — particularly given the lack of any dramatic result.

So from here on out I’ll probably continue to lean toward gluten-free or gluten-minimal options (there’s really more than you realize, yay for Mexican food!) but not avoid them altogether.

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I'm a gay geek living in Seattle, WA.

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