Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Heartbreaking, Drawn-Out, and Very Overdue Break-up

We've all had at least one relationship like this: you know you should break up, you might even want to break up, but you just can't seem to do it. Or, you break up, get back together, break up, get back together, break up, have sex, swear to yourselves and the world that you're not really back together, then break up again eight months later. Maybe it looks more like this: you break up, start hanging out as friends, just a little bit here and there, and then four years later realize how much damage the relationship has been causing you (realize meaning "remind yourself of all the reasons you broke up in the first place"), and break up--this time, for good. You think.

This is exactly how my love affair with fast food has been--my entire life. Exactly like every single one of these scenarios. I know how bad McDonald's and Taco Bell and Nauti Dolphin and Pepe's pizza are for me, just like I knew the Rugby player-turned-hippie was bad for my self-respect. I know how bad Chinese and Thai and Indian and Mexican take-out food are--every time I eat them, I feel bloated, dehydrated, stiff, and just...disgusting. By the time I feel normal again, I have forgotten how gross I felt the last time and I am reaching for the phone to place the order, or driving through the drive-thru for "just a cheeseburger, small fries, and a small diet Coke, please."

It's not like any of this is exactly news to me--it's not like the news doesn't tell us how bad fast food is, or how obese Americans are, or how rampant heart disease is. Strangely, though, and sickeningly, when I read Fast Food Nation's description of how McDonald's gets their french fries to subtly taste like beef, even though they are fried in vegetable oil, I found myself craving a Big Mac instead of disgusted by the artificiality of their food. Go figure.

In fact, ask my mom: I've always liked the store-bought, prepared foods over their homemade counterparts. Take, for example, chicken noodle soup. My mother makes the best chicken noodle soup, yet any time she did when I was a kid, I whined about how I just wanted Campbell's. Macaroni and cheese made with real cheese? No, thank you--I'll take Kraft, if you don't mind. Real melted cheese for my nachos when I could have Frito-Lay? Why would anyone choose that?

Yet, somehow, I grew up to lecture my mother on the evils of Diet Coke, in fact--soda in general (it's bad for women's bones, not to mention other things). I hassled her to start buying organic milk, eggs, cheese, and as much organic produce as possible. I encouraged her to stop buying packaged foods because "there is too much sodium and way too many preservatives in those kinds of things!"

And to think, I did all of this before I read The Omnivore's Dilemma, and realized just how bad all this processed, chemically engineered food really is. And, I made the most important discovery of my life: I, too, am intolerant to gluten.

Yes, it's true: me and wheat, done. A love affair with bread, over. Pizza? Never again. Chinese food? Thai food? Gone forever, thanks to the wheat in soy sauce. And of course, McDonald's--whose meat I can't even trust to not have wheat or gluten additives. (Although now that I am really seeing things clearly, I wouldn't want to eat their beef even if it is 100%.)

I suppose it's about time. I've suffered from migraines for the last 15 years. Weekly migraines, sometimes daily. Stress, hormones, environmental allergies, nitrates/nitrites, red wine--these are common triggers I knew enough to avoid. Nuts, citrus fruits--there didn't seem to be any known connection. But then, ever since a brief stint with vegetarianism in college, I have consumed ample quantities of pasta, bread, cereal, and other whole grains pretty much every day of my life, at every meal. So, who would be able to tell what other triggers exist, when the most obvious one is ubiquitous? In fact, I have joked for the last ten years about how I need to "beat the wheat" and get rid of all the "bad carbs" in my life (just like everyone else who's tried Atkins, South Beach, and other carb-restricted diets). The thing is, for me, this is not a bad way to go--if I want to stay migraine-free.

It baffles me, that I have suffered this long and not one doctor--of all the neurologists, homeopaths, chiropractors (yes they do more than just crack your back), general practitioners, and other doctors I have consulted for relief--has suggested that maybe, just maybe, I have a wheat/gluten intolerance. Because the thing is, it must have a cumulative effect. I'll be fine, I'll be fine, I'll be fine, and then BAM!--from out of nowhere, a mind-numbing, gut-wrenching pain in my head that might not go away for two, maybe three days.

Of course, at this point, all of my findings are self-diagnosed. I have heard an IGE or IGG blood test can tell me for sure, but I don't know what kind of doctor to see about having this done. An allergist is going to tell me "it's not an allergy." My chiropractor says all allergies can be eliminated with the Bioset technique--seems strange to me. The miracle worker I was going to see this summer doesn't take the insurance we're switching to July 1. But when it comes down to it, I probably don't need a blood test to confirm what I have experienced: after almost a month without wheat, I haven't had a single migraine. This past week was a bad one. Tuesday, I picked up some Jamaican beef patties from Mommy's Patties in Bridgeport. Had I stopped there, I might have been ok. But I didn't. I dared to push the limits. Thursday, the first day I felt like I'd spent more than five minutes with both my husband and daughter, I said the fatal words: "Let's order Pepe's." My husband put up a weak fight. It wasn't his job to say no...and I'm not sure he could have. (This wheat-free thing is tough on him.) We ordered. I ate. And ate. And ate. I even ate leftovers the next day. Just when I thought I was out of the woods...

Saturday morning. Migraine. The worst migraine anyone has ever had in the history of pain. I tried drugs. I tried caffeine. The pain got so bad I threw up the coffee and drugs. I tried ice/heat/ice/heat. I tried a dark room. I tried vacuuming (yes, strangely enough, white noise makes the pain less noticeable.) I used to be a functional sufferer: I worked through migraines. I took care of the house through migraines. Half the time, nobody even knew I had a migraine. It took my husband seven years to notice the symptoms. For most of the time we'd been together, he just thought I was a bitch most of the time. (Turns out, I mostly just had migraines most of the time).

Now, if this migraine wasn't caused by the wheat I ate this week, then I give up. Turns out, I was diagnosed with a wheat/corn/egg white intolerance back in college (remember that brief experiment with vegetarianism? Well, now I remember why it ended). I lost most of a day to the pain, and my husband, who desperately needed the day to do grad work, yard work, house work, and oh yeah--rest, was in charge of the little one with big ideas. It was a rough day for all, and he still gave me the thumbs up to drive two hours to see some good friends, spend the night, and not come back until 3 o'clock the next day. Although he did it all without a single complaint, I'm thinking next time I say "Aw, screw it, let's order a pizza!" he's going to think harder about convincing me otherwise.

1 comment:

Pamela said...

Ugh! That's terrible. I had no idea that you suffered like that. I hope your onto solving the problem. But that now wheat thing...that has got to be tough! Hang in there.