celiac

Farewell, Iron Stomach

All my life, I would have described myself as a person with an iron stomach. I could eat very spicy foods without consequence. I rarely felt bad after eating. No matter what I ate, I felt basically the same. When people would talk about what foods make them feel good or bad, I really had no idea what they were talking about. I assumed other people were sensitive to the whims of their stomachs, but I was not. I had a stomach of steel! Super stomach.

Well, it turns out that the reason I never could tell if what I ate made a difference to how I felt was because I had murdered my celiac diseased stomach with gluten. I imagine it like all the cute little villi inside my small intestines, which should have been like a lush field of long grass, had been mowed down like an overly-manicured lawn. Of course, I didn’t know this until 6 months ago, so I just assumed that it was my natural state of being to feel impervious to the effects of food.

Oh how things have changed.

Today I would say I am extremely sensitive to what I eat. I’ve been on the gluten free diet since I was diagnosed and I feel so much better it is nothing short of miraculous. I truly feel like a different person. It is freaking me out a little bit, even though it is clearly an enormous improvement. Who am I? Who are any of us? If the very core of myself and the way I feel about the world can be so enormously impacted by something as silly as gluten, then what is this “self” anyway? I’m getting a little off track here, that’s a big enough subject for a separate post.

I have been very diligent about avoiding gluten and I don’t think I have ingested any in the last couple of months, or if I did it must have been a small enough amount not to cause me noticeable symptoms. If I did ingest gluten, it would have been through cross contamination. I’m really serious about this GF diet thing, and if I can’t verify that it is gluten free, I don’t eat it. I have avoided eating out almost entirely. I am very careful when I cook. I don’t trust other people to feed me, aside from a very select few. This is serious business here and I’m not willing to take chances with my own health and well-being.

villi

One of the side effects of my healing intestinal villi (which I am picturing as a lush field regrowing after a long drought) is that now I absolutely do notice a difference in how I feel depending on what I eat. A big difference. And I care about it, because I am really into this whole “feeling good” thing.

I cannot overeat without feeling terrible. I have trouble eating snacks I used to enjoy, like for instance, an apple. I cannot eat an apple by itself anymore. It hurts me! I need to eat the apple with something else to blunt the tart sweetness, like nuts or cheese or something. Grapes on the other hand seem to be fine. Berries are fine. Grapefruit is fine. Most sweets though, cookies, overly sweetened yogurt, milk chocolate, certain fruits… nope. Wow, so THAT is what a sugar rush feels like. I do not like it. It makes my heart race and gives me a general feeling of unease followed by tiredness and regret.

I have experimented with eating meat and decided that for the most part, I don’t like the way it makes me feel. It tastes alright, but later I feel tired and very, very gassy. Chicken seems to be okay, but red meat, nope. I think I will stick to my mostly vegetarian ways for now, except for special circumstances. Though I did find these gluten free chicken tenders (Perdue, frozen section) that are awesome chopped up in a big salad. I’ve been eating that a couple of times a week.

Salad seems to be my best friend again. For awhile there before I was diagnosed, I was not enjoying vegetables the way I used to, but my love of vegetables is back and better than ever. I would rather eat a giant salad than pretty much anything else at this point.

The carbs I can still eat are iffy. I feel fine eating rice, including white rice. I love Jasmine rice. But gluten free pasta, while quite tasty, has some of the effects I feel from eating sugary things. Potatoes are thankfully okay.

I cannot drink kombucha anymore. It makes me feel terrible. Maybe it’s the alcohol? I cannot drink alcohol anymore. I started teetotalling last December and haven’t looked back.

Spicy foods? Forget it. I am a total spice wuss now. I’m a little sad about that one.

I’ve been keeping a food diary on paper, with notes about how various things make me feel. It has certainly been a big change for me. I get it now, food does change how you feel. It just never used to happen for me because I had inadvertently murdered my own intestines with gluten. OOPS. Well live and learn.

There were some nice things about having that iron stomach. Being a sensitive (normal?) person is a huge adjustment. It’s a bit of a pain in the ass but it’s also so exciting to feel good that I don’t mind it. I finally understand what other people are talking about when they say that certain foods make them feel good or bad. Do I ever.

I have read that this period of adjustment can be difficult for people with celiac disease while the small intestine heals. So maybe this brave new stomach is not a permanent feature, but maybe it is. Regardless of the difficulty of having to be very careful about what I eat, it is completely and utterly worth it for the rewards.

2 thoughts on “Farewell, Iron Stomach

  1. Yay for taking care of yourself! It’s not fun to go though these trials, but hopefully you find yourself in a much healthier and even happier place in the near future. It’s awesome to know that people with dietary issues don’t have to feel alone or weird or bad because they can’t eat like everyone else.

  2. I hope your sensitivity decreases with time. thanks for sharing! Always interesting to see how celiac people react so differently. My experience was the opposite. I felt constantly nauseated and sick before i was diagnosed with celiac. Now, my stomach is much better aside from the acidity because I can’t eat bread when I get hungry…I am a grad student and am in lab for very very long hours and sometimes don’t get a chance to eat a real meal so my stomach gets hungry and acidic. Before diagnosis, I would snack on crackers and bread when I got super super hungry but couldn’t eat a meal. Most gluten free crackers aren’t super bread-y and don’t help. But I found fantastic animal crackers (gluten free) and drink more milk/eat more yogurt which helps me! However, overall, my stomach has been so much better (knock on wood!). I found that munching on those gluten free animal crackers and gluten free pretzels has helped a lot—I prevent myself from getting overly hungry. Stomach handles spice and flavor better now too! But handles grease and junk food worse–mostly because I don’t eat much of either anymore so body isn’t use to it.

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