Day 170: My beer-free St. Patrick’s Day

Goodbye Guinness.

Last weekend every time I took my first sip of a pint of beer I sneezed. I didn’t sneeze through the rest of the pint, just after the first sip. For the last 15 years I have been joking about being allergic to wheat (and thus Barley and Malt). When it came to beers, I really only noticed it when I drank Heinekin, so I just avoided that.

It wasn’t until this past weekend that I got fed up with it. Who wants their first bite of breakfast – english muffins in this case – to make their throat feel like they swallowed poison ivy? Yuck. Now that we have this thing called the internet, I searched for “wheat allergy symptoms” and found – wait for it – wheatallergysymptoms.org. I recognized the first four symptoms:

  • Swelling, irritations and itching in and around the throat and mouth.
  • Formation of rashes and hives on the skin due to itching.
  • Nasal cavity congestion caused due to mucus. It happens mainly because of the release of histamine after the allergen takes charge of the body.
  • Problematic eyes with watering, itching, redness and frequent irritation becoming the order of the day.

The other four symptoms were pretty scary and I had never had anything on the level of vomiting. I think I would have diagnosed myself a long time ago if I was barfing after my bagel.

This sparked an entire afternoon of online research. What I discovered was what this gluten thing was all about. The first time I met someone with Celiac disease was at work two years ago. I was in awe that she had to avoid all bread products entirely. Now that I have left the office environment, I realize that it’s the ultimate nightmare scenario for someone who can’t eat gluten. What catered meal, snack, breakfast, or potluck in the office doesn’t include some form of bread?

Now I feel like Celiac is breeding like a bunny. It seems like everyone has it now. Who hasn’t noticed the giant “GLUTEN FREE!” labels on all the products in health food stores and restaurants these days. I didn’t get it. Now I do.

Today is day 7 of no wheat (you know how much I like counting days). It has been surprisingly easy to leave the bread alone. I like eggs on corn tortillas or grits for breakfast. And the plethora of rice noodle based restaurants has made eating out brainless. My motivation got especially strong upon finding the book Wheat Belly, at the heart of my research. If Dr. Davis is right, then my weight problems are wheat-related as well. According him, wheat has a similar effect on your brain to morphine. It makes you act like an addict, not just for wheat, but for all food in general.

So after a week of not eating wheat, in addition to less itch, I have a much easier time controlling my eating habits. It’s easier to pass up offered food when I’m not hungry. The beer calls to me a bit more. I can still imagine, and often do, the crisp bite of that first sip of beer. The creamy top on the Guinness. Then I remember the sneezing. Today is St. Patrick’s Day and I chose to wear green instead of drinking it.

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