“I am not my allergy”

Project Description:

For the past couple years, I have had stomach problems. It seemed that almost every time I ate anything, I would find myself desperately sick, and unable to participate in my own life. Sometimes my stomach would lurch immediately after a meal, or it would wait, and hours after I thought I was “safe”, I would find myself sick. No matter where I went, whether it was to a restaurant, the mall, or even a friend’s house, I needed to know where the bathroom was. I was embarrassed, and I felt like I was always having to create an escape plan, because no matter what I did or didn’t eat, I knew I would need it. This problem ruined countless family dinners, gatherings with friends, and dates.

Finally, someone suggested that I might be suffering from a gluten sensitivity. When I looked up the symptoms, I knew immediately that I was going to have to change my life. Because if there was a poster child for the symptoms to gluten, it was me. But once I figured out what could be wrong with me, I felt like I had more power over the situation. I spoke with my doctor about the potential of me having this sensitivity. He told me, though, because I didn’t have Celiac, than gluten couldn’t be the problem. It was such an old fashioned response, and I felt almost all the power I thought I had drain away. There are so many studies and so much research done that says that gluten can wreak havoc in someone’s life without manifesting itself into Celiac. So, I decided that for my own health that I was going to make the change in my life. And it worked.

Since nearly eliminating gluten from my life, I don’t suffer from stomach ailments nearly as often. It has been a major struggle to keep these changes, macaroni and cheese was once my favorite food. I have lost a lot of weight, and my overall quality of life has skyrocketed. The new insecurity now, though, is having to explain why I can’t eat certain things anymore and why I had to stop using some products, because gluten is in everything. It seems that my new catch phrase is, “I’m sorry, I can’t eat that.” Whenever my friends and I get together, I usually can’t eat the pizza and desserts. When I go out to eat, I have to scour the menu for very specific details or order a burger without a bun, and substitute any pasta for rice. I get strange looks frequently, especially when the waiter offers me a whole wheat bun instead of white, and I still have to turn it down.

I also have to combat people labeling me as a “fake”. People have approached me, saying that I am just using this “sensitivity” as a fancy way to lose weight, and that I am just on a diet. What these people don’t understand is how much pain I have been in for years, and how much better I feel now. I can take the stares, questions, and accusations, because I feel like a new person. I’m still very insecure about having a gluten sensitivity, because some people will just never understand that it is an actual ailment, but I’m getting more and more comfortable in my new skin, and am looking forward to learning how to live fuller with the new choices I get to make.