KANEOHE, Hawaii, February 22, 2018. – This is the story of a girl and her first love. The two were nearly inseparable, whether it was together at restaurants, or just hanging out at home. He was always there for her; for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. His name? Gluten. Glorious gluten! Only to find that he was bad for my diet and my health.
Any food that contained Gluten, or wheat, made it into her shopping cart, and sooner rather than later, into her stomach. Bread? She loved it. English muffins? Even better.
Waffles? Cannot live without them.
Little did she know that all too soon, she would have to learn to live without all of it. Want to hear the saddest part? That girl was me.
The tale of how I lost my first love.
It was the spring of 2014, and I had just finished scarfing down my fourth, maybe the fifth waffle. I was looking in the mirror, pulling in the last hair of my ponytail, when I noticed the skin around my lips turning a splotchy red. It was barely noticeable, so I shrugged it off and continued on to my cross-country practice.
My workout was noticeably more difficult that day. I was tired and sluggish. My lungs were burning, and my legs felt like mush.
Even more surprising, the skin around my lips got itchy. I felt like I was dying! However, yet again, I passed it off as nothing.
I finished my day and went home, eating three more pieces of bread and butter with my dinner, and went to bed.
Gluten Disaster Strikes
The rest of my cross-country season was a disaster. I trained hard, and was rewarded with excellent times throughout the week. The evening before every race, though, I carbo-loaded on massive amounts of pasta, only to have dismal showings on each race day.
I chalked it up to nerves, but I kept worrying about the ever-spreading rash around my lips. I was Miranda Sings without the bright red lipstick! As a twelve-year-old girl, I hated this new look. For a while, I was able to delay the spread with some rash cream, but soon, not even the cream could stop the wildfire of a rash.
Something is not right and its the fault of Mr. Gluten
The sad truth of my situation is simply that I am allergic to wheat. As it turns out, not only am I allergic to wheat, but I’m also allergic to soy, milk, eggs, and corn!
How do you suddenly become allergic to everything?
According to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), some 15 million Americans have food allergies. Of that 15 million, 1.77 million are children that are allergic to more than one food. Here’s how my doctor explained it:
“Your stomach is like a bucket, which gets filled and emptied. Sometimes, we overload the bucket with too much of something, so it doesn’t have time to properly empty, and the bucket spills and physically manifests itself through your body.”
In my case, the “bucket” spilled into my body in the form of a giant rash around my lips. My body’s inability to properly process gluten was also affecting my running.
My body was spending so much energy just trying to digest my food, that I was physically exhausted.
That doesn’t even come close to comparing to the shock I’d have to live with.
No more waffles, pancakes, cakes, ice cream, or tortilla chips! No miso soup, soy sauce, or high fructose corn syrup! What could I eat? Dirt? I was going to starve!
Worse yet, I was condemned to bear a rash on my face forever?
Gluten has betrayed me.
Fast forward to 2015. My rash resolved, but my problems aren’t over. I’ve just finished a soccer game, and I’m in desperate need of food. I can’t eat spam musubi, a local Hawaii favorite because it’s cooked in soy sauce. I can’t drink the Gatorade because it contains high fructose corn syrup.
I’m moping at the corner of the field when the father of one of the players approaches me and asks about my allergies.
I explain how terrible things are, and how much I miss my waffles. He laughs and replies,
“This is probably one of the best things that ever happened to you.” I couldn’t believe my ears as he continued, “You’re probably the healthiest person in the world, eating all those fruits and veggies. The chemicals in all of those foods are probably what made you allergic in the first place. It may not seem like it now, but it’s a blessing you can’t eat that stuff anymore. You’ll be thankful for it one day.”
It’s taken me four years to realize that I am thankful for my allergies. I’m healthier for the changes that I have had to make in my life, and more dedicated to my athletic pursuits.
I can’t imagine what the long-term effect of continuing to eat 10 waffles a day would have had on my life.
The lifestyle change to a health diet is not easy
I know I’m not alone in my struggle with food allergies. Luckily, I now know many more of the ins and outs of being allergic to everything, and can help to encourage a few of these unfortunate souls, and help them to avoid some of the mistakes that I have made along the way.
I still have days where I long for a fresh Belgian waffle with a mountain of whipped cream, or pasta alfredo with a side of warm French bread, but I have found that gluten-free life is not impossible. If I, a girl who loved gluten with a passion, can stop eating wheat, anyone can.
My health and your health is worth it.
Image: Courtesy of www.inkmedia.eu
About the Author
Kylie Bean is a 16-year-old gluten-free girl navigating a gluten-filled world. Living in Kaneohe, Hawaii she enjoys reading on the beach, competing in soccer and track, and … oh yeah! She’s allergic to everything. When she isn’t in school, she’s at the library, training for sports, or finding food she’s not allergic to. She aspires to become a travel journalist or creative writer.