Researchers have found that just as the signs and symptoms of gluten intolerance can vary from person to person, so too can the intensity of the signs of having been glutened. This is an area where it would be helpful to be able to compare with others but, unless you have a family member or very close friend who you often eat with, you are unlikely to be able to swap details of the dawning awareness or the intensity of the feeling that you have after eating a particular meal. So, here goes, I will describe what an experience of being glutened is like for me, and how I handle it.
After a visit to Fish and Meat, a restaurant in Hong Kong, I was incapacitated for the rest of the following day and confined to bed suffering symptoms that felt very similar to intestinal flu but without the fever – internal and joint pains, diarrhoea and lassitude – all, I suspect, in this case the result of a completely innocuous looking chicken salad.
Suddenly feeling crabbit, anxious or ‘fallen off the edge’ low for no apparent reason a couple of hours after a meal also alerts me to a glutening. When that happens, together with the insomnia that is its friend – a paradoxical feeling of being too tired to sleep -it will take a further day or two afterwards to feel properly well again. Three days out of your life isn’t something you gamble lightly with.
Whether the symptoms are as bad as that or simply confined to intestinal pain, headaches and fatigue – sometimes more akin to generally feeling more vaguely ’under the weather’ – I often reach for the juicer.
I have several books full of juicing recipes but this is the one that works for me. It is a mix of carrots, fennel, pear and squeezed lemon juice. Given the scarily high levels of pesticides in vegetables from mainland China, in Hong Kong and Singapore I tend to opt for tiny organic bagged ones.
Quantities are approximately as follows: no need to be too precise. Sometimes in Hong Kong it is possible to find organic fennel in their City Super in IFC or Times Square outlets.
1/2 a bag of carrots or 3 or 4 large carrots
1/2 a medium sized bulb of fennel
1/2 a peeled pear
!/2 large lemon squeezed or, if small, a whole one
On a recent visit to The White Rabbit in Singapore they added mango to a similar mix. If you have a mango to hand this is an interesting addition. Adding a little grated ginger instead is also a good option.
One of the alternatives I have found that seems to work for me is to drink more weak tea than usual. Although here again beware of additives that might cause a problem. After I have suffered a reaction to gluten, I typically react by reverting to whole foods and tried and trusted brands. One of my current favourites is a range produced by Taylors of Harrogate, particularly their Moroccan Mint Leaf Tea, a mélange of green tea and peppermint leaves. Perhaps it is the peppermint that seems to help. When I have any, I also add a sprig of fresh mint while the tea leaves are steeping.
Another good brand of tea is pukka. Their peppermint, licorice and fennel tea is very good as is their detox blend. a mix of aniseed, fennel and cardamom.
Other than this, we tend to reach for the plant and paleo recipes in our repertoire, as this can be the safest zone for us. Another staple go-to is our dahl recipe which, perhaps as it contains the anti-inflammatory spice turmeric, usually seems to help.
photograph by FS999