Hello, me and my dodgy stomach here again, this time talking about life with a gluten intolerance.
Studies suggest that at present, 1 in 133 people suffer with a gluten intolerance of some kind… I would be inclined to say that those studies are a load of shit.
Everywhere I look, people seem to be struggling with gluten; a grain so processed that even those with the toughest stomachs in the world would struggle to digest it. Although it has been deemed a fad by many (more on that later), 1/5 people are thought to be suffering with IBS and therefore need to adhere to the Low FODMAP diet.
With that in mind, it’s not 1 in 133 at all, that’s over 20% people who should be avoiding gluten.
Now, before you continue reading I have a couple of declarations to make.
First things first, this post is sponsored by the Klarify.me & ALK to celebrate the launch of their Nima Gluten Sensor, which is the world’s first gluten detector. All you have to do is collect a little sample of your food, pop it in and the handheld portable machine will be able to detect gluten down to 96.9% accuracy.
So in other words, it’s a product that is absolutely about to change the lives of as many as 20% of us.
Secondly, I suffer with a condition called Leaky Gut, it’s an autoimmune disease that as far as I am concerned, falls under the umbrella of ‘IBS’, I have developed a lot of food allergies including gluten, dairy, am unable to digest nuts and seeds and I am constantly updating and adapting my lifestyle. I have written a lot about this in the past.
SO. When Nima got in touch with me and asked if I wanted to give their new gluten detector a go, hello I am obviously your girl, and I thought, while I was at it, I would dedicate a little post to the realities of living with a gluten intolerance.
I was very angry when I first found out I couldn’t eat gluten.
Not just with my stomach and my new found inability to eat so much as a crouton without watching my stomach swell to the size of a bowling ball, but with the rest of the world for their total lack of understanding.
I used to hate restaurants when they were totally un-accomidating, when I’d get to the bottom of a a menu with a waiter only to realise there was literally nothing there that I could eat and nothing that they would adapt for me.
I used to hate it when I would go into the supermarket and the ‘free-from’ aisle would be nothing but two small shelves of overpriced and underwhelming bread.
I used to hate having to contend with people who had decided to give up gluten because they were ‘on a diet’. Arguably, this was what I hated most of all. I’d go out for dinner with friends of mine who would tell me that they too were giving up gluten and they would make a whole song and dance with the waiter about not being able to have it in ANYTHING. It would only be when the bread basket arrived and it looked all too tempting that they’d decide that actually, it didn’t matter at all and they could cheat a little bit.
This was very much a ‘fad’ that came about a few years ago. I think, for the most part, people seem to be getting over that, but only just and it did really used to upset me.
When I wrote my book, I was very much in this state of mind. I was very unforgiving of these people that have, thankfully, for the most part fizzled out. Or at least, fizzled off my radar. They don’t bother me so much anymore, if people are stupid enough to voluntarily give up baguettes, all power to them.
The other things that used to annoy me, the conversations with waiters and exhaustive searches of supermarkets bother me less now too. In part because I am completely resigned to my fate and am pretty much happy to roll with the punches now but mostly because the world has moved on a LOT and the waiters are now totally clued up and the two shelves have in most cases turned into two aisles.
I can’t tell you that it doesn’t ever both me because I’d be lying to your face.
I’d like to be able to eat on the go. I’d like to eat cake. I’d like a Pret-A-Mangé tuna baguette. I’d like to mine-sweep canapés like I was able to as a hungry teenager. I’d like to have the option of a i-dont-really-like-it-but-peer-pressure-is-fun beer. Alas. I can’t.
Gluten intolerance and allergies don’t go away, in fact, they get worse and I am resigned to my fate now.
It’s not as complicated as it once was; not only is there more food available to me than there once was, my tactics are second to none.
When I’m out for the whole day, I’ll shove a packet of gluten free oatcakes and a Nakd bar in my bag. When I’m going to a friend’s for dinner I’ll either bring my own food or insist they do me nothing more complicated than a chunk of chicken or some plain gluten free pasta. I’ve scoured the internet so that I know exactly what restaurants have options for me and which ones not to bother with.
For the most part, I have got it under control.
Until I haven’t.
Despite all my research and hard work and precautions, there are still times when gluten finds it’s way into my body and boy do I pay for it.
Like Violet Beauregard in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory I expand at an alarming rate, doubled over in pain as it happens.
There are also times when I miss out on things because an overwhelming sense of uncertainty.
Because for me, knowing for sure that there isn’t gluten in something is of massive importance, but to a lot of others, it’s not all that big a deal. Since I don’t suffer with coeliac disease and therefore am unlikely to drop down dead should they say the wrong thing, people are less inclined to give as much of a shit as I would like them too.
A waiter manning the buffet at an all-you-can-eat-restaurant can tell me that there’s no gluten in the sauce but I know from his tone that he’s not entirely sure about that. Friends will tell me that they’ve read the list of ingredients on something and serve me something they think is safe, only for me to realise later that night that they misunderstood my allergies.
I find going abroad to be the most daunting of all. Not only do other countries not understand gluten allergies and intolerances but the language barrier means that I can never really be sure. If I’m honest, in lots of ways it makes me not want to travel, I just don’t feel safe.
I have long since thought that the superpower I could do with beyond any other would be the ability to know what was in all of my food. Yes, in comparison to say, flying, it’s extraordinarily mundane. But anyone that has ever felt their insides churn after welcoming something unwelcome into the mix will understand why my choice of power is so seemingly anti-climactic.
Knowing what is in my food will change my life.
And so, HI, can I please use this moment to seamlessly slip into talking about the Nima Gluten Sensor and why it’s about to change the game.
I don’t need this machine for every meal. Thanks to the strict regulations implemented by food companies, when I am in charge of what I eat I feel safe and confident and okay with it all.
But to have suddenly been given the piece of mind to KNOW that a certain canapé is safe, or that a sauce really was made with rice flour or that the waiter did totally understand what I meant when I said ‘bleé’ with poor pronunciation, is a bit of a game changer.
There’s only so many times you can ask a tired and impatient server if they are absolutely sure there is no gluten in your food. There are only so many friends who will indulge you as you ask them to try your food again to see if they can identify any flour (they never can) and there are only so many bed times nursing a bowling ball of a stomach you can tolerate before you want to write off food altogether.
To have the wherewithal to remove all of this stress and just conclusively know one way or the other is fab.
I anticipate my Nima will find itself testing an unprecedented amount of chips over the coming months, the food I fall victim to more than any other.
For a gluten intolerance this machine is game changing, for a food allergy it is life changing. If you have a coeliac in your life, please point them in the right direction.
The machine itself is only slightly bigger than my iPhone and can be charged via USB. The ‘testing’ part is done with capsules that are disposable and available for purchase separately.
Living with a gluten intolerance is infinitely easier in 2018 than it was when I first got ill in 2014, the ease of access is such that I’m no longer hungry all the time and the awareness that restaurants are adopting has not gone unnoticed. In most Italians these days I can have a gluten and dairy pizza!
I too have become more accepting, but the last four years has been, in lots of ways, a huge game of trial and error. I’ve learned a lot of lessons and not all of them have been enjoyable.
When you find that your test subject is your own body, you’re disinclined to get experimental should, oh, I don’t know, things go tits up and you find yourself doubled over in pain looking for the nearest bathroom.
Although I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, having a gluten intolerance has never been easier and thanks to products like the Nima Gluten Sensor, things are getting better still.
So, after I’ve implemented my three minute test and discovered that this is, in fact, definitely free from gluten, I’m happy to say: LET THEM EAT CAKE!
(To those of you that can eat gluten, what I’m about to say will probably evoke an eye roll BUT, if you have a free-fromer in your life I’ll give you a metaphorical nudge in the ribs to remind you that Christmas is around the corner and the Nima might just the be best present you can find. Equally, if you’re living the gluten free life and anticipating a hard holiday in the coming months – I wholeheartedly recommend).