Friday, February 29, 2008

Congratulations Nick & Erin

This blog isn’t just about gluten free food. It’s about living and enjoying life too, my life happens to be gluten free. There are few things that make me happier than creating beautiful objects. Specifically, jewelry that brings joy to others as well.

I recently had the privilege to do this for one of my very good friends. After much work on my part, a young gentleman I know, Nick, ended or successful conspiracy by proposing to my friend, Erin, with a (gluten free) ring that I designed and made just for her.

She was so thrilled that I got such a wonderful, incoherent call at the gym that others around my stopped to see what was going on. If I may paraphrase, it went something like this: “I love it! It’s perfect! Oh my God! I love him! I love you! It’s perfect!”

As an artist, I can’t ask for anything more than that! Please join me in wishing Nick and Erin all the happiness they can handle.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Life in the Land of Gluten

I've been feeling poorly lately. Itchy skin, bloating, feelings of despair and self-loathing.

Not to hard to pick up that these are symptoms of gluten exposure for me. Work is stressful, but that doesn’t explain why I’m so exhausted. Why I gained 5 pounds in three days. Why my skin is breaking out in a rash.

It’s time to take stock of my surroundings again. I moved into my current apartment in August, living with my boyfriend and his parents and two brothers (gotta love New York life!). Everyday when I get home from work his mom has food on the stove waiting for all of us. After a long day at work and the gym I usually stuff whatever is on the stove right into my mouth.

Now, everybody here except me is ‘normal’. They eat bread all the time and there is often soup with pasta for dinner. My boyfriend’s mother doesn’t speak English, and I’m not sure she understands that I can’t digest gluten, but she knows I don’t eat bread or pasta or anything with beer in it. I know that she is as conscientious as she can be.

I never put my food on the table, which must be coated in gluten from all the bread they eat here, but somehow I ate something contaminated.

I was in the kitchen playing with my gerbils and I saw my boyfriend’s brother serve himself soup with noodles, and then use the same spoon to serve himself chicken. I had an ‘aha’ moment. His family doesn’t, or won’t, understand how serious this is for me. Even my boyfriend double dips knives between bread and peanut butter or cottage cheese. Every time I remind him he looks at the knife, looks at me, holds it up and says “look, no crumbs” and I have to remind him that you can’t see gluten, even if it’s there.

I’m always telling myself that I shouldn’t be eating the food that’s on the stove. Even though it tastes SO good, I know how it’s made. It’s chuck full of oil and fat. I am reminded again that I shouldn’t be eating anything that I don’t prepare myself. I simply can’t live like this.

My boyfriend is very thoughtful about it when I’m around. He knows what I can and can’t eat. He hides his impatience very well when I read the label on every single thing in the grocery store. He hates to see me when I’m suffering from an episode. He calls my upset stomach 'The Alien'. As I read other gluten free bloggers I see that others, like Gluten Free Girl, have such wonderful support networks. It’s something for me to aspire to, to educate my friends, family and as many total strangers as I can.

For now, I have to crank down and get well, and work on another way to navigate this minefield I live in.

A Case of the Itchies

So I'm laying here in bed pondering what I ate today that could have been contaminated with gluten. I have the itchies, so I know it was something. My best guess is that the food that my future mother-in-law cooked must have been contaminated in some way. It's the only food I didn't prepare myself.

Raise your hands if you have dermatitis herpetiformis too! In my case, my first symptom to manifest, before the systemic and emotional symptoms. My whole life I had itchy dry patches of skin that wouldn't heal for months at a time. My mother was always told that it was eczema, but none of the treatments helped for long if at all. It was this that ultimately led me to a gluten free diet and later diagnosis of celiac disease.

I'm sure everybody's symptoms are slightly different, but I get little pustules that itch and pop and create a rash that won't heal. And, more distressing, the skin on and around my nipples flakes of and bleeds. I have had open wounds on various parts of my body that have lasted anywhere from 4 to 8 months without healing.

I started a new job in August and qualified for health insurance in December. As soon as I was able I started looking for a dermatologist who was in my network, and could see me quickly because my skin was really starting to bother me. Somehow I got lucky enough to find one who had actually heard of celiac disease and dermatitis herpetiformis and was able to prescribe something that helped. So for all of you that are looking for a solution in addition to a gluten free diet, I highly recommend this new solution. For the itch he gave me a hand full of samples of a new antihistamine called Xyzal. To help with the external manifestation I gave me a 2% topical steroid, Mupirocin, to be mixed with an antibiotic, Fluocinonide, mixed together and applied over affected areas twice daily.

Using this treatment all of my open sores, including those that were at least 4 months old, healed with in the two weeks till my next visit. Since my living arrangement makes it all too easy for me to eat slightly contaminated foods, having a solution like this is crucial. For the first time in my life I am open sore-free, and I'm actually beginning to get vain about all the scars I have from the past. (Whenever I go to get a pedicure I hear "ah, you go camping? Have mosquitoes?")

It's nice not to suffer from itching, open sores, since these easily start to send me into the gluten-induced emotional downward spiral. Knowing that I can head it off at the start helps enormously.