Warning: long post!

I know it’s been some time since I’ve last posted here. Ironically enough to my present circumstances, my last post was the eggless pancakes. I sit and wonder now, should my next post be flourless pancakes?

It’s been only a couple of weeks since I made those pancakes and totally enjoyed them. It’s been a couple of weeks since I ate my favourite roasted vegetables couscous with chickpeas, which have become a staple in my diet since going vegan. I considered it my fast-food. Whenever I don’t have time to cook or shop for fresh ingredients, or simply don’t know what to cook or not in the mood, I went for couscous and chickpeas. Why, it takes only a minute to microwave the chickpeas and about 5 minutes to prepare couscous by adding freshly boiled water to it. Fast and simple. And yummy.

Something’s changed.

Tuesday last week it was… The day I anticipated so much because I was to start a new training routine, adding new exercises like front squats, which I’ve never done before. Tuesdays and Thursdays are always somewhat busy for me because I have to cook lunch/dinner for my husband, vegan lunch/dinner for me and our daughter, whose diet is not vegan per se but rather plant-based, then I have to do all the things that need to be done, get my girl ready, bring her to crèche and go to gym. Since there were too many ‘things to be done’ I decided to opt for the easy way and cook couscous and chickpeas. So I had a bit of it 2 hours pre-workout and then went to ‘work’.

The training was mad in a good way, and I left for home absolutely starving. When I got home I served myself a big bowl of couscous and added a fair amount of Cayenne pepper. Yum!

Only after finishing my meal I found that I was still hungry. Later I realised that it wasn’t the hunger, it was rather some discomfort in my stomach, something like being hungry and full at the same time. Time went by and soon I felt queasy and unusually sleepy. I had no idea what it was until the discomfort in the stomach turned into a deep stinging pain. It was a kind of pain that you would rate 7 or 8 on a scale from 1 to 10.

I could hardly eat anything that evening, except for a few Actimels which made me feel better. Of course, Actimel is not vegan, but who cares when you’re in so much pain? The only way to manage the pain was to lie on my stomach and not move. If I’d moved to my side the pain would have returned immediately. The cause of the pain was obvious – I must have got gastritis from too much spices. I used to suffer gastritis before, as a teenager. Last year my husband had something like ulcerative gastritis (not sure it’s a correct name though) from eating too much of very spicy food.

I suffered till morning and then shortly after the breakfast the nagging pain returned, becoming deeper and stronger with every hour until I once again lay on the couch, unable to move from my stomach. I swore I’d go see a doctor if the pain continued for the third day. But it eased up and went away almost entirely, except for some discomfort, which is normal for a short period of time after such a trauma to a stomach.

All went well after. I got sick with flu on Thursday though, and on Saturday our girl caught it from me, so we both have runny noses and annoying coughs, but nothing major. And I, once again, couldn’t wait for Tuesday to come. One more great leg workout. And ironically, on that same day I once again made couscous and chickpeas. But no cayenne pepper anymore. I swore I was done with spices.

My breakfast was small and typical: toast with houmous, a couple of Belvita Breakfast biscuits. My husband stayed home that day with our daughter who we decided to keep out of crèche until she gets better, so I didn’t know exactly what time I’ll go work out. I couldn’t time my meals, so I packed on a few more Belvitas and whole wheat crackers and went to the gym. Great workout, no starvation, went back home and ate my couscous. Two hours later I was down on the couch with the same excruciating pain in my stomach.

Then I realised something – the same food, no spices this time. It wasn’t the gastritis caused by damage to the stomach lining, it had something to do with couscous. Or probably with wheat. Because that day I seemed to eat a lot of things made of wheat. Could it be celiac sprue? Or wheat allergy? Could it suddenly develop overnight? Why would it develop at all? Well, I know that in most cases it’s genetic. I know that my 2 year old has some kind of wheat allergy – she can’t eat Weetabix or wheat bran, although she seemed fine with eating other products containing wheat. But I used to eat wheat all my life! Maybe not in large quantities as recently, but still… I decided to visit a doctor and get tested. And at the same time, afraid of getting the pain back, I decided to avoid any gluten so far.

The next morning I ate GF bread instead of my regular wholemeal, and I didn’t snack on any crackers. I made an appointment with my GP, talked to her and underwent the blood tests. The doc said that ideally I should continue with my normal diet, not gluten-free, while they test me. But since I’ve been in so much pain, I could give it a break for a week and then introduce some gluten back. It seemed scary, because that I actually didn’t have any pain, although it was already four o’clock. The gluten-free diet seemed to be working. But having returned back home, I was tempted to snack on something and found a Nature Valley bar. It contained oat gluten, but I thought I’d try it anyway. Within an hour after eating it the pain returned. I went back to eating GF and no pain since.

At the moment I still don’t know whether I have the celiac sprue or wheat intolerance or not. The test results will be back next week. But all the symptoms I have had (there’s more to them than just stomach pains) are similar to those with celiac. Avoiding gluten at all costs isn’t as easy as it seems at first. What bothers even more is the cost of GF foods. But the most bothersome thing is how do people with celiac disease go out? Do they eat at restaurants? Do they spend hours researching before choosing a restaurant? How do they deal with the thought of never ever eating foods they used to love? Desserts? How can one be a GF vegan, when being vegan means a lot of things are out and being gluten intolerant means cutting your choice in half?

I know it might not be the case with me. But even if the test is negative, it doesn’t mean I can’t be gluten/wheat sensitive, which means I will still have to go the GF route. I would so much love a piece of advice right now, but I am the only vegan I know and definitely the only one with gluten issue. Dang! And just when you get so good at eating right and being active, there’s always something coming up to steal your happiness…

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