This is second part of my interview with my Spanish teacher, Sara María. Apart from educating me about the Spanish subjunctive, she has also taught me a lot about the severity of food intolerances and allergies – and the unsavory social exclusion that comes with it.
KM: Could you tell us a bit more about your food intolerances? At what age did you discover you had your condition?
Sara: I’m not a celiac, fortunately, that is a problem that can have very serious complications, beyond the inconvenience of not being able to consume gluten-free foods. In my case, I already suspected something when I was still studying at university and asked my doctor for some tests.
Ten years ago, when I went to an acupuncture treatment, I was told that it would be good for me to eliminate wheat and cow’s milk from my diet, and although I did not pay attention to it, that advice stuck to my memory. A few years later, a friend told me about a book written in English — at that time there were no books written in Spanish on the subject. It was about a woman who, when she stopped consuming dairy products, wheat and corn, observed a remarkable improvement in her health, and after doing the same with her family’s diet, they also observed an improvement and even some chronic health issues disappeared. There was even an improvement in her general well-being at an emotional and mental level.
When I decided to test this for myself by removing these foods for several weeks, I noted a remarkable improvement. But what was more notable was how bad I felt when I consumed them again — which I did repeatedly — just a few hours after eating them. That left me little doubt, so I removed these foods from my diet. I was 33 years old. A couple of years later, on the recommendation of my acupuncturist, I took the Food Intolerance Test, where my intolerance to several kinds of food was confirmed.
KM: What food products can you not eat?
Sara: Anything with wheat, cow’s milk, chicken, eggs and soy.
KM: And what reaction do you have if you ate something with gluten?
Sara: Skin problems, inflammation of the tendons in my feet. I had plantar fasciitis (an inflammation of a foot tendon, which is very painful when I walk) and this was due to habitual intake of gluten products.
When I was researching about this issue, and the consequences of food intolerance —reactions to certain foods producing toxins, circulating in the lymphatic system with a tendency to accumulate in peripheral parts of the body and with worse circulation, such as feet – I stopped eating gluten. A specialist confirmed confirmed that my suspicions were well-founded -— my food intolerances could perfectly well be the trigger of fasciitis.
Another thing, when I consume products with gluten, I retain liquids, I gain weight, I feel physically and mentally more tired, and even emotionally my mood gets worse.
KM: What important facts do you want to tell people about gluten?
Sara: Celiac disease is a disease that can cause cancer, so it is not something that can be overlooked. .
(WE INTERRUPT THIS INTERVIEW TO INSERT A MEDICAL FACT CHECK with an actual doctor, my aunt Dr. Asuncion Diaz – whose actual medical degree trumps a Google Search):
“Ok, here’s a Snope-like response: Mostly true. That’s the short answer, which doctors abhor. The longer answer is boring but here it is: Celiac disease does not cause cancer; rather, it may predispose one to cancer, specifically small intestinal lymphoma or adenocarcinoma. Gluten causes an immune response in the small intestines, causing inflammation and damage in the mucosa, or lining. This exposes the patient to risk of abnormal cell development in the intestines. So, by extrapolation, the longer the intestine is subject to inflammatory substances — in this case, gluten— as in the undiagnosed patient, the more the damage, the longer duration before repair, the higher the risk, albeit above cancers are not very common. There has been some reports of increased risk for other cancers as well, such as breast or lung cancer, but studies have not borne this out.”
(NOW BACK TO THE INTERVIEW)
Sara: Some people tell me that they suspect they may have this problem, but they don’t want to confirm it because they don’t want to give up drinking beer or eating certain foods. On the other hand, food intolerances, by not manifesting itself as obviously as celiac disease or as an allergy, can be hidden throughout life. Over the years, the inflammation that is caused by the consumption of certain products is a perfect breeding ground for exacerbating physical and mental problems. The consequences of chronic inflammation are very serious.
KM: In your case, you’ve sought help through non-traditional means, how has this impacted your lifestyle?
For me, acupuncture has been very positive, and in ways very practical. It has helped me treat my health issues, including the effects stemming from consuming food that was impacting me negatively for many years, such as liquid retention — I was practically a cloud before! Then I started losing weight from getting rid of that liquid.
Chinese medicine and natural medicine, while preventive by nature, do have a very clear vision of the effects of food on a person, and many of the acupuncture treatments are accompanied by nutritional recommendations by the doctor, according to the nature of the person and their specific needs.
In my case, being careful about what I eat can be difficult, especially at a social level, since it is very difficult to go out to dinner and avoid gluten – it’s hidden behind foods that don’t appear to have wheat, such as sauces, cold meats, etc. But it is worth the effort because being healthy has a great impact on my physical, intellectual and emotional levels, and greatly improves my quality of life.