I first noticed a sensitivity to wheat about ten years ago. I’ve had several different tests, conventional and unconventional bar the rigmarole that goes with going through the public health system and have been on and off it ever since.
When I am on wheat I am unwell, swollen, have IBS, gain weight (and cannot lose it regardless of efforts), depression, anxiety, lethargy, period pain, moodiness/anger, poor skin. When I am off it I am well and without all those symptoms.
After I had Elf three years ago I was diagnosed with two further intolerances- potato and tomato. I had also added asthma and acute joint pain to the list of symptoms.
I had started eating wheat again during that pregnancy at the advice of a dietician (with whom I handed over €200) who refused to accept the possibility that I had a food intolerance (without any testing- not even a food elimination diet). I was delighted. Thrilled at the thought that I didn’t have a food intolerance and followed her diet sheet to the letter.
Of course, by the end of the pregnancy all my old symptoms had returned and added more on the list. When Elf was about four months old I decided I’d had enough of being unwell and went back off the wheat. Within three weeks I had lots of energy, was feeling better and had lost half a stone in weight. That’s a lot of weight to lose in three weeks, for me.
I spoke to my GP about it and she advised that I trust my body. When I told her I was having difficulties socially, in that many people didn’t believe that I had a food intolerance and challenged me a lot or constantly offered me foods that I couldn’t eat and I had to repeat myself over and over to them, she advised that I just say ‘It doesn’t agree with me’. Nobody can argue with that.
Many people do not believe in or understand food intolerance and conventional medical isn’t really very interested in it. I am lucky to have an understanding GP but many people do not.
The thing is, for health professionals, there is another side to food intolerance. In the area of eating disorders, it has become common for some to fixate on food groups as part of an eating disorder and use food intolerance as a reason to avoid it. Some people have convinced themselves they have a sensitivity when maybe, just maybe, it really is psychological.
How do you determine the difference?
I wish wish wish that it was psychological.
When I first read about the link between food intolerance and eating disorders I tried the ‘mind over matter’ approach and returned to eating wheat. I convinced myself that it was all psychological and a control issue rather than a real food intolerance. Within six months I had gained two stone, had IBS, was depressed, moody and just not myself. My skin was in bits, I was bloated and had lots of uncontrollable cravings. My diet didn’t really change all that much. I went from rice cakes to bread, spelt pasta to wheat pasta, GF/WF treats to regular treats.
The thing is, when I look back, the times I have gone back on wheat came out of a particularly negative social situation whereby I was interrogated or treated negatively over it. Because person A, B or C didn’t believe me, I didn’t believe me. Because person A, B or C thought it was all in my mind, I thought it was all in my mind.
But it’s not.
I can understand the flip side too. This issue has plagued me for ten years now and at the beginning it was a huge part of my identity so I talked a lot about it. So, I kind of brought it on myself. I don’t talk about it anymore. I just say no thanks when I am offered something I can’t eat. When I go out for meals I ask for the coeliac menu rather than make a fuss.
So, over the last decade, I have gone back on wheat three times for an extended period. Each of those three times I have become depressed, moody, lethargic, fat, bloated, IBS’d and just plain and simple physically, emotionally and mentally miserable.
It doesn’t matter whether I have been tested by all the tests out there (I got them all done with the hopes that one of them would come back negative), whether every person on the planet doesn’t believe me or whether every doctor, dietician or scientist laughs in my face about how stupid I am to, God forbid!, trust my own body over their opinion- at the end of the day I have to live in this body and have come to accept that my body will never be able to tolerate wheat.
Sometimes, I do eat it. Every few months I get fed up avoiding it and I might eat something delicious like my MIL’s apple pie or an O’Brien’s sandwich. I eat it, suffer a few days and then recover. I guess that’s the easy part of having a food intolerance rather than an allergy- it’s not life threatening to eat a small amount on occasion.
Tell me, have you experienced social difficulties in regards to your eating habits?