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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

I'm Not Avoiding Bread Just To Be Trendy

Recently I was at brunch with some friends, and I couldn’t find anything on the menu that was gluten-free and dairy-free. I ended up ordering two scrambled eggs and a piece of bacon, because those were my only choices.

One of my friends rolled his eyes and said, “The 1950’s called – they want their breakfast back.” He drilled me with questions – do you have celiac? No? Then, what would REALLY happen to you if you ate a piece of French toast? 

I explained that I’d get a stomachache that would last the rest of the day and into tomorrow. I explained that my stomach would swell up like I’m 4 months pregnant. I also explained that I really didn’t want to go into detail most of the symptoms I’d experience, because Mama taught me not to talk about toilet problems when I’m sitting at the table (but here's a hint - it involves a lot of blood). 

My friend vaguely accepted my explanation, but I could tell that he was thinking, “Whatever, she’s just being dramatic.” 

I’d like to explain something to those of you who do not have food allergies or intolerances: it is not fun to suffer food intolerances. Those of us who are high-maintenance-orderers in restaurants aren’t trying to be trendy. Personally, I find myself outrageously annoying when I’m in a restaurant asking what ingredients are in every dish. 

I wish I could go back to my old life in which I drank Dr. Pepper and at potato chips every day, and I ordered French toast with reckless abandon (and, ahem, I never gained a pound – those days have also tragically ended). But that’s never gonna happen. 

And it’s not just that I can’t eat dairy or gluten. I can’t eat onions or garlic or beans or a million other gas-producing things if I don’t want to suffer chronic pain. I don’t want my whole body to be so itchy that I am up all night scratching. And believe me, you don’t want to be in a room with me for too long if I’ve eaten onions or garlic or beans. And I don’t really want to be in a room with me for too long either. 

Those of us with food allergies can’t just relax and enjoy going out to restaurants like we used to. When we go out to dinner, we think, “Okay, I’ll be miserable afterward for a day or two, but I really want to go on this date,” or, “I really have to go to this work function and not question the menu,” or, “I haven’t seen these friends in two years so I’m going to eat whatever they cook for me…” We brace ourselves for the painful after-effects of eating something as simple as a piece of sautéed fish in butter. And before we take a single bite of the fish, we reach under the beautiful white tablecloth to pull out two Lactaid pills so that at least we don’t end up with cramps before we even get home. We leave Lactaid pill wrappers strewn across the tablecloth like little paper carcasses. And we hope that this time, the after-effects won't be so bad that we debate whether we need go to the hospital.

If you don’t have food intolerances, you are lucky. Immeasurably lucky. Enjoy it. The rest of us are watching you eat a piece of bread and secretly salivating. We wish we could be you. But we can’t. So please, give us a break, and don’t roll your eyes when we order nothing but two scrambled eggs and a piece of bacon.


  1. Last night I went out for dinner at a super trengy restaurant where they put wild garlic in EVERYTHING, which is basically poison. I had to order gluten free bread and a side salad. I saw the look the waitress gave me. And then I had to explain to a couple of people I'd just met why I'm eating like someone who believes that thigh gaps are actually a thing. Dinners out, from now on, are going to be such a pain.

    Thank you for your comprehensive list of good vs. bad FODMAPs, it's going to help with my trip to Saino's later. Also, the app recommedation is super helpful.

    It's nice to know that there's another person out there who has to navigate talking about their disgestive issues without revealing too much about their bowel movements. The thing I find hardest, even though all this is new to me, is convincing people I'm not jumping on some ill-advised bandwagon. Maybe I should get a t-shirt with the slogan "FODMAPs are, actually, a thing".

    1. Oh, Josie, I REALLY feel your pain. Going out to dinner is so hard for me. I recently decided to just go for some amazing garlic broccoli at a restaurant and I was miserable afterward. Ugh! People truly do NOT understand. I love your t-shirt idea! Do it! :) Hopefully some of my recipes will help. I'm going to post more and eventually put them into an e-book that people can get on my website. GOOD LUCK finding good food to eat!

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    3. Just checked out your blog - very nice!

  2. Oh yes I understand. When I'm going out I try to find out where ahead of time. I then look at the menu and find something that I would like that looks close to being safe...hopefully a few options. Then I call the restaurant when they aren't busy and talk to the chef and see if they can accommodate my needs. If not from my choices, is there anything safe I can est?
    I also take a supplement called Digest Spectrum before eating out. It doesn't make it so I can eat anything. But if there is some cross contamination, I don't usually get ill.
    When in doubt, I'd rather do without.
    It just hurts too dang bad.

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    2. I agree, and I do the same (call restaurant, take digestive enzyme)!

    3. You know I've never had anyone call me on it in a restaurant, but at parties. I've had people badger me to eat cake. "Oh you can cheat, it's a party." Ummm. I'm not trying to lose weight...I wouldn't mind, but that's a different story....I'm trying to not be poisoned! I don't want to upset the person having the party, they are normally my friend and understand, it's some wahoo there. So I'll tell them, No I am allergic to something in it. It could kill me. They then get all flustered. I am allergic to wheat, that's not a lie, but I won't die, just causes the same symptoms as IBS and like I have the flu.
      What's a little white lie to give some people a taste of their own medicine?