healthy bytes: living without gluten
Do you ever feel queasy after a hot chocolate? Get a rash from eating too many strawberries? A headache after pasta? You may have a food intolerance. The milder cousin to food allergies, a food intolerance is a mild chemical reaction in the body that causes mild discomforts such as headaches, nausea or sweating. Common food intolerances include dairy, chocolate, eggs, MSG, wine and certain fruits.
This week I spoke to Niki, 21, who is intolerant to gluten but remains optimistic about cooking, eating out and PIZZA.
Lip: First up, what’s your food situation?
Niki: Well, last year I found myself cutting back on bread and Weetbix as they felt too heavy on the stomach. A visit back home and to the family naturopath confirmed my suspicions – I have gluten intolerance. This was the cause of all kinds of reactions I was having like morning congestion, headaches, stomach aches and that foggy head feeling, like I just couldn’t concentrate.
Lip: That sounds intense. It must have a big effect on your life?
Niki: Yup, I’ve never been a fussy eater. Now I actually have to think before popping something in my mouth and that’s quite difficult when someone is offering you what looks like a harmless piece of food or drink. These days you can never be too sure what is processed into food (don’t get me started on GM, artificial flavours and preservatives and MSG). I’ve said goodbye to pizza, bread, pasta – yes, I’m no longer welcome in Italy – Tim Tams, various baked goods and random things like soy sauce or liquorice. It’s crazy how much wheat there is in everything we eat today. I still slip up – a friend offered me this non-alcoholic beer and seeming as I was so used to taste-testing his alcohol-free beverages I took one “unladylike” gulp. This was followed by a rather delayed realisation that just like regular beer, alcohol-free beer contains quite a lot of wheat. Bring on congestion city.
Lip: Do you have any tips for other intolerance sufferers?
Niki: Honestly just take it like a challenge. If there’s something in a food that doesn’t agree with you, don’t be lenient because it’ll take a while to leave your system and the symptoms/reactions aren’t worth suffering in the meantime. It may require you to cook more (which doesn’t bother me as I love cooking) but if you do your research right, the meals you can create are interesting and taste amazing. Moving to Melbourne has been a blessing as there are eateries that offer gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, dairy-free etc. options and spell out the ingredients so I can still eat out. It’s best that you go to the smaller, quieter or family-owned cafés and restaurants as they usually have an idea of what’s going into the food (so do ask!).
I haven’t entirely farewelled those wheat-infused goodies like cupcakes and pizza – there are recipes out there with alternative ingredients and once you understand they work you won’t feel like you’re missing out. This site here is a gem – it has recipes that cover everything: gluten-, nut-, dairy-, corn- and sugar-free, to name just a few. My meal and dessert options no longer feel as limited. I’m currently wondering if there’s a recipe out there for my recent craving of jam donuts. Here’s hoping!
Do you have a food intolerance? What changes have you made so you don’t miss out on your favourite foods?
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