SigEp Blog

Learning to Live Without Gluten

Two months ago I received life-changing news; I am gluten intolerant. At first, adhering to a gluten-free diet seemed like daunting task. Up until this point, I had been an avid late-night snacker, famously known for going on late-night food escapades and sustaining myself on extra large pizzas and chicken wings Thursday through Saturday. Now, I was forced to not only think about what stores are open past 2 a.m. on a Friday but also what foods I was even able to eat.

What is gluten intolerance?

When people think of gluten allergies, more often than not, they think of Celiac Disease. Celiac Disease, unlike gluten intolerance/sensitivity, is an autoimmune disorder in which the body produces an immune response when an individual exposes themselves to gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley). This adverse reaction to the protein leads to the damaging of villi in the intestines and ultimately the inability to properly absorb nutrients.

Gluten intolerance, unlike Celiac Disease, is not an autoimmune disease. However, a recent study carried out by Columbia University confirmed that gluten exposure among non-celiacs still did, in fact, trigger a systemic immune reaction and cause intestinal damaging. The symptoms, therefore, are mostly the same and range from chronic fatigue, gastrointestinal and neurological manifestations, “foggy mind,” and anxiety, to name a few.  While both Celiac Disease and gluten intolerance are issues that have been prevalent for quite some time, in the past 20 years, incidents of both Celiac Disease and gluten intolerance have risen — raising questions about what factors (environmental, dietary, etc.) have changed that may be contributing to this.  

My Experience

For the past year and a half, I had/have been experiencing a number of strange symptoms. I felt constantly fatigued, experienced chronic abdominal pain, and had random twitches throughout my body. It was undoubtedly a relief to get an answer to these issues; however, I was now forced to confront the facts and make a substantial change in my diet, something I had never really thought about.

The transition surprisingly has not been too difficult. Although I am still getting used to the routine (I still often discover that foods I believed I could eat safely are actually not), our health-conscious society has made nutritional information readily available and has produced gluten-free substitutes for any late night snack you can think of. I still crave a chicken parmesan every now and then, but in all honesty, the new diet has kept me eating healthier and feeling great!

Tamio Guild, MSB ’18