Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Diary of a Glutening

Yesterday, four months in to my gluten-free lifestyle, I glutened myself. Not on purpose, I'm not that much of an idiot, but I am somewhat of an idiot, because I ate something, in this case salmon sandwich spread, without checking the label first.

For those that don't know, 'glutened' is the term used by many coeliac sufferers to describe the act of eating gluten, either knowingly or unknowingly, and effectively poisoning yourself. I have been 'glutened' before of course, but usually it's the symptoms that let me know it has happened, and I have to think back to what I've eaten, and work out what the culprit was. Sometimes, I've been glutened at the hands of others, and sometimes I've done it to myself, but this is the first time I've known at the point of eating (or rather, immediately after) that I've ingested wheat, and therefore can expect some pain to come.

Now aside from making me very cross with myself for failing to read a label, this episode has allowed me to pay attention to what happens as a result of eating wheat, and record my symptoms. Partly so that I know what to expect in future, partly so that I can look back in future and see if my symptoms have changed, but more importantly, so that I can hopefully help to increase awareness of how important if is for those of us with coeliac disease to avoid gluten, and how we can be affected by even the smallest amount.

I probably ate about a tablespoon of salmon paste, which contained wheat. Wheat was clearly not the main ingredient, so in actual fact, I will have consumed very little gluten. Here is my diary of symptoms for the hours and days following. (Times are approximate - I'm not quite sad enough to have noted exact times!)

Tuesday, 1pm

Ate the dreaded salmon paste. No bodily symptoms yet, just the feeling of being an utter imbecile.

Tuesday, 6pm

Feeling more tired than usual, but can I put that down to the gluten? Eyes feel fuzzy. Need to put my glasses on (which I don't often do)

Tuesday, 10pm

Feeling slightly queasy, but nothing that's affecting me too much

Wednesday, 8am

Extremely tired. Tired eyes and again need glasses on (it's pretty unheard of for me to wear my glasses during the daytime unless I'm reading). Made a series of bad decisions. Not thinking clearly - the dreaded 'brain fog'. Really thirsty.

Wednesday, 11am

Well enough to meet friends for coffee, but I can feel trouble coming now. Make even more stupid mistakes. Brain is definitely not working properly! Still really thirsty, although I've drunk loads.

Wednesday, 12.30pm

The dodgy tummy begins. I feel a bit spaced. Would definitely not trust myself to make any major decisions right now! Feel hung over, without the benefits of having had a good night out. Friends will attest to the fact I'm being even more of an idiot than usual. Leaving the car parked far too long, being where I'm supposed to be, but an hour early (that NEVER happens!), leaving the cafe without paying. You know the kind of stuff.

Wednesday, 5pm

Really tired. Bones ache. Limbs feel like jelly. Slightly nauseous and starting to get stomach cramps. Clock watching for husband to come home so that I can go to bed and cuddle a hot water bottle. Stiff neck and shoulders. Still very thirsty, cannot drink enough. Lips have split, although I've been putting blisteeze on then all day. Guess I'm dehydrated. Feels like a hangover, migraine and stomach bug all rolled in to one.

Wednesday, 6pm

In bed with hot water bottle on tummy, heat pack around shoulders and cold pack on my forehead. The migraine is kicking in. I've also got heartburn, and pins and needles in my hands. Feeling alternately sorry for, and cross with, myself. All this for a tablespoon of sandwich paste! Wish it had at least been a donut, or some lovely fresh bread.

Thursday, 7.30am

Just woke up. Slept for 12 hours straight. I've got a stinking headache. Feeling groggy, hung over, pains in stomach and heartburn, constipated, achy all over and legs feel like jelly. Could probably sleep another 12 hours, or at least stay in bed, but no chance of that with two preschool kids around!

All of this for a spoonful of paste! Next time anyone utters the words "oh, a little bit won't hurt, surely?" I will direct them to this post. Or punch them in the face, depending on how much I like them!

** N.B. Of course, I won't really punch anyone in the face ..... But I will imagine that I am **

Friday

Sluggish all day. Dull headache and random stomach cramps. Alternate diarrhoea and constipation. Going out tonight for a friends birthday, but feel more like going to bed!

Saturday

Felt ill all day. Nauseous, achy, headache, horrible cramps and gurgling in stomach. Went back to bed for the afternoon after taking a migraine pill. Got up for long enough to have dinner and watch Dr Who, then back to bed. 11pm and I'm in bed struggling to sleep due to pains and gurgling in stomach and restless legs.

Sunday

Horrible nights sleep with pains and gurgling in stomach. Awake at 6am with diarrhoea

Monday - Wednesday

Feeling generally run down and 'buggy'. No longer having specific symptoms, but can definitely tell that my immune system has been compromised. Apparently it can take my guts 3 weeks to recover from a 'glutening' incident, but since I'm still quite definitely in the 'repair' stage of my gluten-free journey, who knows what effect the incident has had on my overall recovery time. General wisdom seems to be that it can take 1-2 years for the gut to heal once you go gluten-free. Which is understandable, when you consider in my case, I was poisoning myself for almost 20 years before getting a diagnosis! I do hope my spoonful of paste hasn't put me back to square one!

To those fellow Coeliacs out there following my blog, how does my symptom diary compare to yours? And do you have any tips for me on how to get through it quicker or more easily next time?