The irony & daylight robbery of being Gluten Free!
This is a long over due rant…….
I got diagnosed with the all-encompassing condition of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) at 21 yrs old. This is a typical umbrella term used by Doctors to cover ANY general discomfort from the waist down to the crotch! At that point in time, the main remedy was twice daily sachets of yucky orange disgustingness known as Fibrogel — it didn’t work. In my informed maturity, I’ve discovered why this form of fibre would never aid my slow, mainly smooth and stretchy intestines courtesy of Ehlers Danos — Joint Hypermobility Syndrome. (Don’t worry in 10 years you’ll know what that is too apparently — but just remember you heard it here first)
In 2002, amidst my Adult-ed phase, I took a course in healing through nutrition. Thinking I was going to be learning about healing herbs I found Myself being introduced instead to the horrors created by the overly processed sticky protein — gluten. Finally and fortuitously a very valid reason for my repetitive gut issues, I immediately set about removing sed nemesis from my diet. An incredibly hard feat to achieve in 2002, especially if you are a bread lover and rely on it as a main food source. Pasta wasn’t quite so hard to relinquish because it had always left me feeling physically devastated, aka in a painful food coma.
Back then, which despite being 16 yrs ago feels like yesterday, there were bugger all replacement products in the market. Telling friends and family, who had invited me for dinner, that I was now ‘gluten free’ did not only require giving them an education and divulging my personal health problem but also me developing a thick skin to get through all their jibes. Why anyone would presume that I enjoyed having to introduce my bowels into polite conversation for the sake of a fad is beyond my comprehension! I had to cross those painful bridges because avoiding gluten made such an enormous difference it stopped being a choice.
I can remember turning up to an expensive training course in London and at lunch time being presented with a takeaway container of iceberg lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber?! I was pretty furious and complained, the following day I got a jacket potato — this is a standard substitute used far too frequently — thank god I like jacket potatoes! I’d love to say this was an isolated occurrence but it was/is not. If I wander too far from Brighton, being ‘gluten free’ is still an anomaly that is simply not catered for. As I’ve generously passed my inherited condition on to my children, imagine the continual ball-ache ‘that’ keeps on giving…I’m always surprised that in 2018 a lot of people remain ignorant of the perils of gluten or are challenged to even understand where it lurks…..no, not in potatoes, meat, dairy, vegetables, pulses just in grain products like wheat, barley and oats!
To add insult to this indignity, the cost of being ‘gluten free’ is astronomical. I can expect to pay up to three times the amount you pay and it drives my cost conscious, gluten tolerant, husband to mutinous distraction. The main stream supermarkets have, to varying degrees — Waitrose is still fairly appalling( not that I can afford to shop there) — finally recognised the existence of this customer base and cater to use with a small section of replica offerings. These expensive copies are heavily constituted of sugar to give flavour and largely have the consistency of sawdust. Unfortunately, my husband’s genes have gifted my children with a desire for all foods’ beige and I am heavily reliant on these substitutes but I attempt to limit where possible and make bread at home. As it is their daily lives are heavily coated in sugar, my parents seems to be unable to visit without a mountain of it in their pockets?!, there is every chance they’ll reach adulthood obese and toothless.
I resent having to fork out great wedges of cash for this tasteless unhealthy crap. I hear some misguided souls choose the gluten-free option believing it is healthier…they need to put their glasses on and read the labels! Gluten only naturally exists in wheat, barley and oats (if I write this often enough I hope it’ll imprint itself in your subconscious), but as with all waste products it is used as a filler in all kinds of random things like sausages?! WTF
I’m lucky I am not coeliac, eating out must equate to hunger hell on earth in this Country….Not in Italy though, where everyone is tested at age 5 for the disease and gluten-free is readily available. Why can’t we be more like them?????
Luckily or unluckily, depending on where you find Yourself in this, more people are finding themselves similarly intolerant of this blight. And as with anything the more popular it becomes the more seriously it’s taken. It would be great if farmers could become informed and do something about the way they farm and store these grains to eradicate the problem. Pesticides are not a necessary evil, they do more damage than good on every level, check out Knepp Castle Estate . It would also be fantastically not to be financially raped on a weekly basis out of necessity. I give this another 5 years before awareness and options are totally mainstream, I’ve already waited 16 so what’s another 5! Hopefully before I’m bankrupted by mine and my kid’s intestines!