As I write this my stomach hurts. I’m not exactly sure why this time around. But this is hardly news – I have had a lot of good times with stomach aches in my life. For the record I am not one to talk about gross poo or gas-related things – the sisters know this all too well. I hate talking about it or hearing about it. That does not prevent them from talking about it in great detail around me just for shits and giggles. However, I do understand intestinal issues and for the sake of this post when I say “stomach ache” just assume it can mean all sorts of bad stuff. As long as I can remember I grew up having stomach aches constantly. Now I love my Italian family and all the great food that comes with it, and God bless Candy (my mother) for all the amazing stuff she would make, but even to this day it can be difficult to navigate the sea of pillowy dough, cheese, and tomatoes without the all-too-common debilitating stomach issues that result. I remember sweet little Candy just simply saying to me that I have a “sensitive stomach” and I got it from my her and my dad. That was it. That was my diagnosis. So for probably twenty years or more I just lived with my pussy-ass “sensitive stomach” issue. In her defense and any other parent’s of that time, I don’t remember ever hearing anybody talking about gluten or lactose intolerance or any other strange conditions ever. I never thought to dig any further, as it just didn’t seem to be a thing.
In college this got much much worse. Imagine now if you will – having these completely unresolved issues and then being dropped into Champaign-Urbana, where I could indulge in the land of cheaply made bready/cheesy concoctions, from morning (if I woke up in the AM) to late late at night (which was almost always), and all the while drinking the cheapest beer and liquor on the planet which could not have helped matters. Freshmen year it was not uncommon to have some sort of creamy pasta for dinner in the cafeteria the night before, drink my face off all night (college!), eat a whole pizza by myself later that night (score!), and then go back down to the cafeteria the next day for breakfast/lunch and see shit like cheesy eggs, pancakes, or even better – some pasta casserole for lunch (which was clearly the same pasta from the night before baked into a brick with more cheesy gooey-ness). Nicole, can you imagine? I know the second sis shares my awesome stomach ailments. Well, it was my own personal private hell. Strangely though, I dealt with it for all four years and beyond without really changing a thing. I honestly don’t know how and I still had the time of my life despite my digestive fragility (having a weak-ass pussy stomach). And since I was a weirdo who didn’t discuss gross things like this often I just dealt with it on my own – pulling many bathroom disappearing acts in the process. Sometimes the pain would be so bad I would be up in the middle of the night sweating and writhing around in agony and just wishing it would stop, but of course it wouldn’t and I always thought – this must be the feeling up being stabbed in the stomach with no way of defending yourself or probably 1/1000 the pain of giving birth. That’s why guys don’t give birth I guess.
It wasn’t until I was thirty-something that a loud bell went off in my previously feeble brain when I eventually learned about gluten and lactose intolerance. I never got “diagnosed” gluten or lactose intolerant by the way, but when I finally spoke to my doctor about it they just said to cut it out of my diet as best I could and see if I felt better and that gluten intolerance for example was tough to diagnose anyhow. So let’s just say I found out mostly what was wrong with me through some self-observation. For the first time in my life, I would think about what I felt like after I wouldn’t eat gluten or lactose (mainly milk, heavy cream, and oilier cheeses) – I would feel like a normal person (kind of)! Then I would see what I felt like after I would eat these other deliciously suspect things I couldn’t help eating – I feel like death, awesome! It was night and day. I finally realized many things, like why big breakfasts were often the premature end of my day. It was insane that I didn’t consider any of this previously, but I always wondered why something so innocuous as pancakes would destroy me. Oh man – fuckkkking pancakes. If only I had the internet as a kid or more than fucking dial-up and half-a-brain as a college student or any clue about links like this in my twenties, then I could have saved myself a lot of pain. But let’s just say – pancakes are like fluffy incredible tasting Kryptonite to people like myself; the perfect combination of milk, gluten and butter that can put me in my unhappy place for a while. If breakfast was considered the most important meal of the day, then I had been committing murder to my digestive system to start the day for almost twenty years without really knowing it. So over dramatic I know, but man the struggle was real. I just never understood why so many people could eat certain things and then just go about their day. I thought when people said they were stuffed after a big meal that they meant it like I meant it. I thought they meant they were so stuffed that they could barely keep their eyes open and that they literally could not think straight anymore because of what felt like a brain fog and that they felt their body immediately starting to wreak havoc on them for the foreseeable future. I am sure some have their own issues, but now looking back I didn’t realize what I was going through on a consistent basis and that it wasn’t necessarily normal or it was at least somewhat avoidable.
Thankfully, I am not Celiac. That I know, cause I would be dead. And I feel terrible for anybody who is. But the good news is that now at least there are options and knowledge for anyone who is allergic or slightly intolerant or anything in between; way more than twenty years ago that’s for sure. But let’s be clear – there was no way in hell I was ever going to stop eating gluten. I love all this shitty food too much to stop cold turkey. That would mean no good pizza, sandwiches, pasta, burritos, hot dogs, fuckkkking pancakes. There’s just no way. And I’m not giving up beer anytime soon – college! Milk I avoid like the plague if I can help it. So how do I deal with these first world food problems? Well, here are some tips:
- Enzymes. What are these magical little brown pills? I won’t get all technical here as I’m not a nutritionist, but for more info you can check out this link. I cannot overstate enough how these have helped me. I’ve been taking gluten enzymes for years now. If you ever see me go to my little pack of tic-tacs before some gluten-crazed meal and see these brown pills mixed in there too then yes those are them – my cool gluten enzymes. No I am not taking two molly’s before I eat my pizza. Not today at least! I keep enzymes in the kitchen, on my person, and in my car at all times – that right there should tell you again how cool I am but also how these help me. I’ve tried NOW Gluten Digest and Gluten Defense and both work well. Please find out for yourself what works best, but I strongly suggest trying them for anyone with similar issues as they are a cheap and safe solution. I take lactose defense probiotic pills once in a while when shit is about to really go down – like I’m about to eat some super creamy bullshit like ice cream or pasta with vodka sauce (so much heavy cream and cheese you would not believe). This is the best solution for a total asshole like me who can’t just stay away from the stuff that poisons them but also doesn’t want to be utterly destroyed when they do indulge. With gluten enzymes I notice that I do not get so fatigued as I would normally get and can still function and with lactose enzymes my stomach doesn’t violently protest as much. I tested this the last time I ate Pequod’s deep dish pizza – an arch nemesis of mine. I doped up on lactose and gluten enzymes before and I think I even had a couple for dessert (not sure if it works after a meal but I was desperate). That night and next day I experienced no major problems which was kind of shocking as it was always a guarantee in the past, though still worth it. Bottom line: try them if you have issues and are not about to drastically change your eating habits.
- Pay attention. Just think more about what makes you feel like what. Write it down if you have to for a week. You will learn a lot.
- Be better with breakfast. So basically fuckkkk pancakes unless it’s a special occasion or I’m semi-drunk the next morning and don’t give a fuck about life. Although Midsis makes me these Trader Jose’s gluten free frozen pancakes that are tits (also the gluten free pumpkin mix is really good too). But mostly I just eat simpler – ya know, egg white omelette with spinach and feta cheese (feta doesn’t bother me) and a half-rotten avocado left over for me by the Midsis. I also go for more gluten free cereals or granola or muesli with some milk alternative (fuck milk) and fruit. No fatigue or pain and I can go about my sorry day.
- Milk alternatives. Again – FUCK milk. I look to any other alternative that isn’t a complete scam (I heard Almond Breeze has something like one almond in there so that’s out). I try to switch it up – organic soy milk, hemp milk, or almond milk. I never tried Lactaid or any of those lactose-feee milks as they seem to have more saturated fats and I don’t think I need more of that shit. I already look like I’m 3 months prego. Did I mention? – fuck milk.
- Grain & pasta alternatives. At home we rarely have bread or pasta lying around. But honestly I don’t really miss it because I don’t miss having a giant glob of gluten sitting in my body all the time. I save that shit for when I go out to eat and I sic my nerdy enzymes on them. At home we do a lot of quinoa, farro and lentils (I also love these from Trader Jose’s). At home we do gluten free pasta once in a while. I have tried Ancient Harvest quinoa pasta and this brand that a lot of I-talians use. Both are pretty good – don’t overcook them and mix them in whatever sauce you are using or a little oil quickly as they will stick.
- Experiment with other gluten-free shit. Yes that’s my technical term for all of it. I will experiment with most any gluten free option and see if it’s worth it or if it’s just like eating cardboard and I would rather just die of one epic pancake-induced stomach ache than live my life eating this shit. I really haven’t found a bread that is worth the trouble yet. What I will do is put lunch meats and mustard or peanut butter and jelly on brown rice cakes instead. Yeah it sucks because there is no bread but it’s kind of decent because you are getting the flavor of those awesome sandwiches without the gluten bomb that will surely slow you down. When it comes to pizza there aren’t too many great options, but Forno Rosso has the best gluten free dough I’ve ever had. Also, if you are looking for a good Italian neighborhood spot that has tons of great gluten free options check out Da Luciano in River Grove.
- Enjoy your life. For some people – with way more will power than myself, cutting all this stuff out completely can be easy. For me – no way. When I want a fucking donut I just bite the moist and beautiful bullet, but before that you better believe I am taking two mollies – I mean enzymes – two gluten enzymes. So I don’t beat myself up about it and neither should you. None of the repercussions are nearly as bad as what I dealt with for twenty plus years, so for that I am gluttonously grateful.
So anyway, there’s my two cents on these two assholes gluten and lactose and how I tolerate their bullshit. I hope you enjoyed this total non-professional take on digestive issues. But – you know what – if one person would have just came to me earlier in my life and told me about this stuff I would have hated them for trying to turn me into a total enzyme carrying puss-puss, but I probably would have listened and saved myself a lot of belly-aching sooner. So if I can help one sorry stomach-clenching/brain-fogging/bathroom-frequenting sonnofabitch with this post then I think it’s well worth it. Ok – now time for me to figure out what’s going on with my stomach this time. Yes I still get issues despite my best efforts – I am sensitive just like my sweet mother Candy told me (wait til my next thrilling post on acid reflux and how refusing to stop drinking alcohol or eating tomato sauce makes it totally awesome!) But for now – send me your thoughts or some other good ideas or alternatives you have found that work. There are many still out there I believe. But for now, enjoy that donut or those fuckkkking pancakes.
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