The Jokes Aren’t Funny

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Accidentally using a soup mug for your coffee is funny. Jokes about the gluten-free diet are not.

There is a rise of gluten-free jokes on social media and on TV and the people telling the jokes and laughing at the jokes appear to have no concept of what it is like to live gluten-free. The fact is most of the general public still views the diet as a fad and that many people go on the diet without any idea of what they are doing or what gluten is just because a celebrity is doing it or a friend told them to do it. The rest of us, the 1 in 133, with Celiac or Non-Celiac Gluten-Intolerance are on the diet for medical reasons. When the jokes are made we are grouped in with the target of the jokes and we don’t find them funny. It’s bad enough we have no control over our illness, but now we are being made fun of for having it. The jokes are gallows humor to us and for gallows humor to work, it needs to be told by those of us living a gluten-free life because of the medical condition, not all the Tom, Dick, and Harrys out there.

It may seem funny to throw out jokes like “I don’t want to talk about my gluten intolerance, said no one ever.” Throwing something gluten-laden at someone with Celiac may garner a laugh on TV, but it’s not a joke for us. Smashing a cake in my face is as funny as throwing peanuts at someone with a peanut allergy. So many of the jokes are laced with a mean spirit, even if they aren’t, that’s how it seems to us because we are living with a serious disease that can affect all of the systems in our body when gluten enters our body.

I do my best to be kind to the joke-tellers when the joke really bothers me and educate them on why we don’t see them as humorous. Sometimes I ignore the jokes because I don’t have the time. But it’s Celiac Awareness Month so this post is for all those joke-tellers out there using gallows humor incorrectly.

Here are some reasons why the jokes aren’t funny:

  1. Many of us spend decades ill and seeking answers before we are correctly diagnosed with Celiac or Non-Celiac Gluten Intolerance. We may talk about our diet more than we might when we see changes. Wouldn’t you after years of poor health? You better believe I was shouting it from the rooftops when my lifetime of “clumsiness” and decades of migraines and vertigo were gone.
  2. Celiac and Non-Celiac Gluten Intolerance are very real medical conditions. They are not made up in our head. Do you joke about other chronic illnesses? Lupus? Fibromyalgia? Cancer?
  3. Our lives change drastically with the diagnosis. We have to read every label on our food, medication, and personal care products before buying them or using them. We have to learn the gluten derivatives so we know when we see them on the labels.
  4. We have to research food options when dining out. You get the entire menu to choose from. On vacation last December, we ate somewhere where I had three. There are times when we go out with people and I have no options and have to bring something with me or wait until after to eat.
  5. Gluten hides and it’s not just cutting out bread, pizza, and baked goods. We have to be careful of soups, sauces, dressings, seasonings, and everything our food could come in contact with when prepared in our own homes or by someone else. Buffets were once my comfort, they are now my worst nightmare.
  6. It is not an allergy, but it is just as serious as an allergy to us. Already with the decades of misdiagnosis we’ve suffered with gastrointestinal, neurological, reproductive, psychiatric, endocrine issues and more. It might not be the same as an anaphylactic reaction, but a fraction of a crumb can take us down for weeks and the internal effects last up to six months.
  7. We can’t kiss our significant other without knowing what they’ve eaten or made them brushed their teeth thoroughly. You can’t “kill” allergens. They can’t simply rinse with mouthwash and everything is a-okay. It does kill spontaneous intimacy because one or both has to be thinking about it so the gluten-free partner doesn’t get sick from a kiss.
  8. Jokes about us not being able to eat anything because nothing is left is completely off-the-mark. You think my options are limited based on what I can’t have and what you feel you could never give up, but you are wrong. I can cook delicious meals with a variety of fresh food. You know, the kinds of meals our ancestors ate before processed foods took over our diets.
  9. Naturally gluten-free foods are fantastic. They don’t taste horrible and just because you go on a “special diet” for medical reasons doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice taste. Joking about tasteless gluten-free food just reinforces a myth to people who might need to be on the diet and build fears about food. When I was working I normally took my lunch to work. Once I had to go gluten-free, I had to take my own lunch. My co-workers always commented on how good my food looked and smelled.

On the NCIS episode “Psych Out”, Dr. Samanatha Ryan (played by Jamie Lee Curtis) fires back at Dr. Rachel Cranston’s (played by Wendy Makkena) joke about lactose intolerance with “It’s a diagnosis not a fad.”

If you remember nothing else, remember it’s a diagnosis not a fad.

Grilled Chicken Salad with Toasted Coriander Lime Dressing

Grilled Chicken Salad with Toasted Coriander Lime DressingI wanted to do something bigger for the start of Celiac Awareness Month, but allergies combined with several other things have kept me down for the week. I managed to get in for an allergy treatment on Tuesday and I felt a little better after being treated for plant phenols (part of the chemical makeup of plants). I was reacting not only to nature while outside, but pretty much everything I was eating. My doctor said it was no wonder I felt like my body was trying to kill me. Seriously. I went in and told him I felt like my body was trying to kill me before giving him my laundry list of symptoms. I will be glad when we are done peeling this ginormous onion.

I should be sleeping right now, but I had to at least put this together quickly.

Yes, it is that time of year that everyone is posting about Celiac Awareness Month. This is the opportunity we take to help educate those new to a medically necessary gluten-free diet or those wanting to learn more because someone they love is on the diet.

This year, I want to challenge those of you who are veterans of the diet to make everyday an awareness day. I’ve stated before that it is our responsibility to educate others daily in a kind manner. This means not using vilification towards others when our diets are under fire from someone. This is a difficult thing to do because our natural reaction is defensive. Maybe if more of us can respond in a more rational manner to people there will be less jokes about our diet and more understanding of how it truly affects on a daily basis. Most people don’t know we have to learn what the derivatives of gluten are in food products and that we  have to be diligent about reading labels if we buy something packaged and when we use personal care products. We are our own best advocates and if we want to advocate for the entire community, we need to have cool heads about us to teach/correct the general public. Reactionary behavior/words only serves to inflame everyone and make us look like the irrational militants many people think we are.

In other words, BE NICE.

Grilled Chicken Salad with Toasted Coriander Lime Dressing – serves 2

2 chicken breasts

salt

pepper

1 romaine heart, chopped

3 handfuls of fresh spinach, chopped

5 radishes, sliced

4 mini-sweet peppers, sliced

juice of 1 lime

1/4 cup olive oil

2 teaspoons coriander seed

Season both sides of chicken breast with salt and pepper and set aside to come to room temperature. Grill chicken breasts until they reach an internal temperature of 185º. Let rest on a cutting board. Place coriander seed in a dry pan and toast over medium heat until fragrant. Grind the seeds in a spice grinder or use a mortar and pestle. Set aside. In a medium bowl, mix together romaine, spinach, radishes, and sweet peppers. In a small mixing bowl, add lime juice, olive oil, coriander seed, and a pinch of salt. Whisk together well. Slice chicken breasts. Plate the salad with chicken on top and pour dressing over the salad, including the chicken.

*If you want more depth to your salad, add grilled onions and fresh chopped cilantro. If you or someone you love has a lime allergy use apple cider vinegar.

Chocolate Cinnamon Chia Pudding

I want to share something real quick before I get to the recipe. As some of you already know, May 1st kicked of Celiac Awareness Month. I plan to make a conscious effort to pose a question on the Facebook page daily regarding symptoms and experiences. Make sure you stop in there to join the discussions.

Gluten Dude put out this wonderful infographic for those of us who like something visual. I compiled a list of symptoms a while back for an article I did for a friend’s newsletter. I realized the other day that I never shared that list here. They are listed in no particular order.

  • High/low blood pressure
  • High/low body temperature
  • Migraines/frequent headaches
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (or frequent stomach aches, diarrhea, and/or constipation)
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Abdominal pain/distension, bloating, gas/flatulence
  • Neuropathy/ataxia/Alzheimer’s/restless leg syndrome
  • Diabetes
  • Osteoporosis
  • Osteoarthritis/rheumatoid arthritis
  • Vertigo
  • Heart palpitations/chest pains
  • Mood swings/Diagnosis of a mood disorder
  • Brain fog/inability to concentrate or focus
  • Difficulty remembering things, especially if you used to be able to remember a lot
  • Fatigue/Adrenal Fatigue/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Rapid weight gain/loss
  • Inability to lose weight with exercise
  • Family history of colon cancer, stomach cancer, pancreatic cancer, lymphatic
  • Other food allergies/sensitivities (lactose intolerance is common)
  • Diabetes/hypoglycemia
  • Gall bladder issues
  • Eczema, rosacea, dermatitis herpetiformis, or other skin issues
  • Anemia/iron deficiency
  • B vitamin deficiency
  • D vitamin deficiency
  • Diagnosis of Sjogren’s, Fibromyalgia, Hashimoto’s, Hyper/Hypothyroidism, or other autoimmune disorders
  • Diagnosis of Schizophrenia
  • Diagnosis of ADHD/ADD
  • Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Family member diagnosed with Celiac or gluten sensitivity
  • Epilepsy/seizures
  • Acid reflux/heartburn
  • Environmental and seasonal allergies
  • Frequent infections/colds/flu
  • Asthma/respiratory problems
  • Other joint/bone/muscle pain not listed
  • Infertility/miscarriages
  • Dysmenorrhea/other pre-/menstrual issues
  • Failure to thrive/developmental delays in childhood
  • Hair loss/thinning/alopecia/balding
  • Dental enamel deficiencies/irregularities
  • Canker sores
  • Bruise easily
  • Nosebleeds
  • Inflammation not listed already
  • Night blindness

If you are new to this blog, newly diagnosed, or still trying to find the right diagnosis you should know that not all people who end up diagnosed with Celiac present with gastrointestinal symptoms. I had thirty-two of the symptoms above. THIRTY-TWO. Looking back once my symptoms started resolving themselves I realized that I had ataxia from childhood but no one ever picked up on it. I was labeled a clutz and my mother, thinking it was funny, would call me Grace whenever I tripped over air. I think being a gymnast and involved in a lot of active/sports play and later, martial arts, helped prevent ataxia from becoming as bad as it could have been. Right before I discovered the gluten connection it got really bad and I realized some of my tripping over air was really my right foot not fully coming up while taking a step and instead the ball of my foot would skid across the ground causing me to trip. I was walking into walls more frequently than before which was a great laugh for everyone because there is nothing like walking a straight line down a hall then BOOM! Oh, hello wall. So nice to see you again.

My earliest memory of tripping over air was at about six years old. I was in 1st grade and we were living in an apartment in Beaverton, Oregon, waiting for our house in Aloha (not the Hawaiian aloha, but American Indian. The h is silent) to be finished. We were close to a K-Mart and my dad walked me over there to get an Icee. We were walking on a dirt path along the road and either on the way there I tripped over air and stumbled. I looked down as I tried to catch myself with the stumble steps and spotted a snake curled up in the grass. I screamed and bolted. I was freaked out walking back because I knew the snake was there. Even if it was only a garter snake, to the six-year-old me a snake was a snake was a snake was a snake and snakes were no good.

I bring up my earliest memory because looking at all my symptoms it is the one I remember before all the tummy aches started in the mornings. I say tummy aches because it started as a kid. Not feeling well in the morning after eating breakfast (usually cold cereal) then trying to convince my mother that although I was ready for school, I was too sick to go. I was forced to go to school feeling ill more often than not. Once I was in college I wasn’t eating cereal for breakfast. It was usually Spam, eggs, and rice for breakfast and it was several years later after graduation when I was working for the YMCA that IBS symptoms started and about five more years before I was actually diagnosed with IBS.

These days my breakfasts are full of protein and vegetables like my Winter Hash. In my egg eating days it would be Black Bean Breakfast Tacos, Gluten-Free French Toast with Blueberries, Bananas, Walnuts, and Pure Maple Syrup DrizzleEggs en Cocotte, or an Omelette with Veggie filling. Sometimes a smoothie was enough for me (Banana Papaya, Chocolate Cherry Almond, Green Chai, Mint Chocolate Chip, Make It A Meal, Peachy Keen Cinnamon Toast Crunch, or my favorite, Super Berry).

Choc Cin Chia Seed PuddingOne of my favorite additions to breakfast is chia seed pudding. I use it like a breakfast side. Or a snack. Or dessert. It’s versatile enough to be any of the three. I like it as a breakfast accompaniment because I can shake it up in a mason jar the night before and it’s ready to go in the morning.

My love for pairing chocolate and cinnamon is no secret. Before I discovered all the new alterations I would have to make to my diet I was making this chia seed pudding.

If you have a mason jar with measurements marked on the side, you will save yourself from washing a measuring cup. I have one that I use just for chia seed pudding because it makes it even easier because I can pour my dairy-free milk right in the jar without measuring it out first. Also, there is no sugar added in this recipe. If you need to add a sweetener, feel free to do so. Chocolate Cinnamon Chia Seed Pudding

Chocolate Cinnamon Chia Pudding – serves 3 to 4

1 1/2 cups dairy-free milk

4 tablespoons chia seed

1 tablespoon raw cacao powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Add all ingredients to a mason jar, cover tightly then shake vigorously with both hands for five minutes. This will help keep the chia seeds from clumping together. Refrigerate for at least an hour. Top with fruit of your choice if you choose. It will help add some natural sweetness without adding sugar if you need the sweet.

See how easy it is?

This post is linked to Raw Foods Thursday at Gluten-Free Cat, Whole Foods Fridays at Allergy-Free Alaska, Wellness Weekends at Diet, Dessert and Dogs, and Slightly Indulgent Tuesday at Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free.