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First gluten-free day: The blessings are in the challenge, somewhere

July 8, 2010

I stood still before the translucent brilliance of our trailing lobelia’s sun-brightened purple, a colander of fresh-picked raspberries in my hand. Twenty-four hours earlier, I scarcely had the energy to speak, much less go outdoors. What a difference a day without gluten makes to a person with CD.

I actually feel better today compared with yesterday, when my gluten intolerance maxed out, than I felt on my first day on hydrocortisone once I was finally diagnosed and treated for Addison’s. But I was for a long time unwilling to deal with celiac disease. I had been trying to outrun my assigned affliction, unwittingly undermining my health, and feeling much worse than necessary, rather than confront the challenge of one more limit. Besides, I hate the “D” word.

Celiac disease has morbid consequences, terrible discommodity, and saps whatever energy is left if you happen also, as I do, to have Addison’s disease and fibromyalgia. But I could not begin to master a scenario as to how I could be gluten-free while also eating for glucose intolerance, high cholesterol, and a classic Addisonian inability to metabolize much of anything with fat. But weighing in at 101 yesterday, down 11 pounds from this time last year, sobered me up.

I must repent of my dismissiveness toward my much wiser friends when they were discussing amaranth on another blog. I thought amaranth was some kind of cult food for hippies and wannabe Indians. It’s true that amaranth is a product of South American sustainable agriculture. But it’s also true that it’s considered a low-carbohydrate, high-protein, gluten-free, cholesterol-reducing, nutritionally balanced food, and even keeps your hair from becoming grey, though Wikipedia was wanting a citation for that one. And the God who has never taken anything from me without giving me something better in its place has made amaranth absolutely delicious to me as well. I figured that, given what amaranth reputedly does for the South American economy and world hunger, maybe it could sustain me.

I cooked some amaranth into a mushy cereal, and swigged it around in a skillet with a bit of sesame oil and sea salt. I ate about 6 ounces. It was delicious and filling and I was ready to buy a plantation. But science first. Even the most delicious hypotheses, the most hopeful and well recommended hypotheses, must be tested by blood.

As it happens, my initial testing of amaranth was a crushing disappointment. After a non-fasting starting glucose level of 100, my 6 ounces of amaranth mush laced with sesame oil and sea salt spiked my blood glucose to 171 at one hour, steady at 180 at two hours. Not good. But not the end of the experiment, either. Yesterday’s teff trial did not go nearly so well: 221 at one hour, from a non-fasting starting level of 113. But although gluten-free, teff is a high-carbohydrate grain, and predictably, it affected my glucose just as rice does. Why amaranth behaved the same way is a mystery to me at this point.

I will try eating a smaller amount of amaranth, and eating it with an avocado instead of alone and retest it. Sometimes these things help, sometimes they don’t. My glucose levels have their own life, but grains invariably seem to spike them, no matter what.

The challenge remains to feel full and sustain weight, and sustain the energy to learn about this, and cook and test these things, while living with multiple conditions. But I was pretty good at multivariate analysis in grad school, and now it’s time to get pretty good at living with multivariate trials in real life.

One Comment
  1. July 8, 2010 8:33 pm

    Hi, Welcome to the gluten free lifestyle. I just wanted to let you know that the
    first year is the hardest. It will get better, and you will feel better, as time
    goes by. Be careful of hidden gluten in soy sauce, gravies, broth and soups, and
    many seasonings. (not pure spices, but blends).

    If it will be helpful you can see a list of what to avoid at my site here:

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