I bite down to the sound of a satisfying crunch. Jagged edges lightly scrape my gums. I sink my teeth into the chewy inside, a burst of sweet and sour explodes in my mouth. Meeting resistance, I bit harder and shake my head like a dog, as I pull on the slice of oven fresh sourdough bread.
My chiropractor suggested that I try a gluten free diet. But I didn't want to seem fussy when I ate out. It would also complicate grocery shopping—I'd have to start reading labels. Then there was food preparation—pasta was so easy, and one of my favorite staples.
Perhaps instead, I could just cut back on gluten. I replaced wheat crackers with rice crackers, and instead of buying fresh bread once a week, I only visited the bakery every other week.
When I started yoga, my teacher also advocated a gluten free diet. I shook my head. “I love my bread too much.”
She swore by it. “I've become regular since I went gluten free.”
I was intrigued. I've always had digestive problems.
Then I came across an article about the benefits of a gluten free diet. Could it really help with my headaches? What about my digestion and fatigue? And my troubles sleeping? My chiropractor seemed to think so. He also claimed it would help with neurological issues. That caught my attention.
I still hesitated, until my yoga teacher pressed the right button. “There's not harm in trying it.”
Indeed there was no harm in trying it.
I toasted a slice, slathered it with lemon curd, then spread a thick layer of crème fraiche on top. I bit down, evaluating as my teeth sank in. The sour taste of the cream combined with the lemony sweetness of the lemon curd was pure heaven. A brief pause when I reached the toast, an almost satisfying crunch, then a pleasant softness and a brief crunch as I bit through the toasted gluten free bread. I chewed on the mouthful thoughtfully, at first gingerly then with increasing enthusiasm.
It would never replace a slice of fresh sourdough bread, but I could put up with this gluten free bread, especially if well disguised.
My digestion did seem to be better, though the evidence wasn't overwhelming. I didn't notice any cognitive changes.
But two days after I stopped eating gluten, I slept six hours without interruption then fell back asleep for another couple of hours. For the first time in years, I woke up feeling refreshed. My sleep cycle has been a mess since the brain injury. A good night was one when I slept four hours straight.
Was this merely a coincidence? The next night I slept for eight hours straight. Then again the following night and the night after.
I still wasn't fully convinced.
A few weeks into my gluten free diet, I attended a farmers' market. Without thinking, intent on a taste test, I picked up a pretzel from a cup sitting on the table, dipped it the honey and popped it in my mouth. As soon as I swallowed, I realized what I'd done. Oh well. One pretzel couldn't make a difference.
That night and the next, I slept very poorly, in one hour long stretches. I was sure that the first night was because Sarah had phoned me just as I was dropping off to sleep. On the second night, Daniel had woken me up after I'd been asleep for an hour. I didn't think much of it, though I was irritable around the kids.
No more than a fortnight later, I again accidentally ingested gluten. The following two nights I slept no more than three hours total. No one had disrupted my sleep.
I slept ten hours last night. Eight hours the night before, and at least eight every night for quite a while now, ever since I paid the price for that second exposure to gluten.
I still salivate when I think of sinking my teeth into a slice of fresh sourdough bread. But I'm okay with my disguised gluten free bread and I actually really like quinoa pasta..
What's next? Dairy free? Vegan? I do like nuts, but— No. I like my salmon too much, I won't give up honey, and I have to have a convincing way of disguising my gluten free bread--I need my dairy.