In the mid 2000’s, while browsing the shelves of my local supermarket, I casually came across a unique new section: the Gluten-Free Zone. While there has always been a healthy foods corner packed with all-natural products, this new little stand of cereals, pastas, and breakfast bars proudly displaying their gluten-free status, peaked my interest. Usually unacquainted with food trends, I was curious to know: what in the world is gluten, and why are they suddenly marketing food products without it?
Sadly, for me, I would not have to wait very long for an explanation. Shortly following my grocery store discovery, I was diagnosed with Laryngopharyngeal Reflux, also called LPR. Similar to acid reflux, LPR can produce heartburn, but its calling card is the burning sensation it creates in the larynx, due to the acidic digestive juices traveling up from the stomach. While prescription medications can be provided to alleviate the discomfort, important lifestyle changes should be implemented to help reduce flare-ups. It may be suggested that you lose weight, as well as employ fairly firm dietary restrictions.
As instructed by my healthcare professional, I was told to eliminate, as much as possible, caffeine and alcohol from my diet, along with the following red flag foods: acidic fruits, chocolate, onion, garlic, and fatty or spicy foods. Additionally, I learned that I have gluten sensitivity. Gluten, a protein found in wheat and other grains, can trigger the painful symptoms connected with LPR. While commonly associated with celiac disease, an autoimmune disease that affects digestion, gluten intolerance can sometimes occur alongside LPR or GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease).
After receiving my diagnosis, I felt a sense of relief in finally knowing the root to my painful sore throats and headaches. However, the idea of changing my diet overnight, for seemingly the rest of my life, made me panic. While I have always been indifferent to alcohol, the idea of decaf coffee, gluten-free bread, and bolognese without the pivotal tomato sauce, sent me into a spiral of self-pity. Over time, I saw my diagnosis as a challenge that I would not let beat me into submission.
Following a healthy, balanced diet when suffering from a gastrointestinal disorder can seem stifling and overwhelming. But as seen by the expansion of that tiny stand in my local grocery store, the gluten-free bandwagon is definitely growing. With it comes a wider range of delicious food options that makes life a little bit easier for those of us diagnosed with gluten sensitivity. If you’re interested in pursuing a gluten-free diet, whether out of necessity or choice, please consult with your physician.