Tag Archives: coffee

SISTER (CELI)ACT: two sisters, one diagnosis, zero gluten

This is the first of three guest posts by my sister Althea. (At least, she thinks it will only be three posts…) Enjoy!

Faithful followers of Based on a Sprue Story may remember me as the benevolent sister who agreed to forgo all glutenous foodstuffs (as well as anything that may have ever come into contact with a glutenous foodstuff) in her own home, out of respect for Molly’s dietary needs (and neuroses). What a thoughtful, altruistic sister, you likely thought. That’s what I thought, too, when we first made plans to get an apartment together.

There must be an Udi’s version of this by now, right?
Photo © Tamara Evans | Flickr

Just days before boarding the trusty old Lucky Star (may she rest in peace), however, I learned that I also have celiac. But there’s a twist. (No, not one of those donut twists, or the twist in your stomach, dear reader, at the mere thought of one of those donut twists—just a twist in the story.)

The twist is, I did not suffer for years from mysterious symptoms before getting this diagnosis. Sure, I had had some mild GI trouble from time to time over the past year or so, but everyone gets constipated once in a while, right? I was probably just eating too fast. Or drinking too much coffee. Not enough coffee? (Do yourself a favor and click on that last link—but only after you’ve finished reading this post.)

Me chopping parsley (a naturally gluten-free food) in preparation for our housewarming party (details to come).

In fact, I bet I would have ignored the issue entirely if I didn’t have such a good little awareness-raiser for a sister. Said sister urged me to get tested for the sprue (which, as my case illustrates, all  immediate relatives of a celiac should do, regardless of symptoms). I asked my school’s health center to do it, but the nurse practitioner there said it wasn’t worth it; “It’s not like you’re running to the bathroom every time you eat a sandwich,” she said. (Well, no, but that’s not really how it works, so… but, okay.)

In the end, I got the blood test when I was home briefly after graduation, and my antibody levels were off the charts. I haven’t had a biopsy yet, but a recent paper concluded that blood test results are strong enough evidence of celiac that a biopsy isn’t necessary.

So, apparently, I have celiac disease just as much as Molly does, which means I need to eliminate gluten from my diet just as completely as she does. Or do I?

In my next post, I’ll delve into the questions that get asked of someone who only sort of has a disease that confounds people enough as it is. Stay tuned!

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I’m drinking coffee again. But why?

You were all super supportive when I announced I was giving up coffee. Thank you.

Buoyed by that support, I made it all the way from May 12th to June 23rd: 6 weeks total. I was coffee-free for my birthday; my sister’s graduation; my move from my former apartment to my June sublet; many, many, many workdays; a few weekend nights later than I thought would be possible without caffeine…

And then I caved. One tiny espresso one day, a small midafternoon iced coffee the next, a large midafternoon iced coffee the next, and now here I am, up to two large iceds a day.

Up to here, I am not. Yet. Photo © Josh Greenstein | Flickr

Up to here, I am not. Yet.
Photo © Josh Greenstein | Flickr

Since you’ve been by my side since the start of this grave undertaking, I felt I owed you an explanation for my failure to continue. So here goes.


Why I’m back on coffee:

1. Because each cup is worth an hour of sleep.

2. Because it’s gluten-free.

a. And I’ve sacrificed enough.

3. Because it’s too hot not to drink iced coffee.

4. Because it’s good for the brain*.

a. And the heart.

i. And the liver.

A. And the gallbladder.

5. Because it prevents diabetes.

a. And cancer.

i. And depression.

A. And cavities.

6. And I can use all the help I can get.

7. Because I have a desk job, where not only is it okay if I get up to pee every 25 minutes, but it’s actually a welcome stretch break.

8. Because it’s cheap.

a. Except when I buy it from Birch.

i. And in that case it’s worth every penny.

9. Because it smells good.

a. And tastes good.

i. And makes me look good (black coffee—so cool).

10. Because espresso cups are adorable.

11. Because it’s referenced in my OkCupid profile, which I’m too lazy to change.

a. Because the reference makes coffee sound like such an integral part of my life that it’s awkward to explain I’m actually not drinking it right now.

i. Because coffee is an integral part of my life.

12. Because, turns out, coffee isn’t bad for (my) digestion.

13. Because it makes me think faster.

a. And type faster.

i. And speak faster.

A. And, potentially, live longer.

14. Because it’s better than aspirin.

15. Because I’m not drinking alcohol right now either, and meeting people for a cup of water was getting old.

16. Because the experiment also got old.

17. Because cross-reactivity is bogus.

18. Because it’s a valid form of self-care.

19. Because everyone else is doing it.

20. Because it (sort of) supports the livelihood of one hundred million people worldwide.

21. Because I don’t have to drink so much to feel effects anymore.

22. Because I reassured myself I could live without it.

23. Because I missed it anyway.

24. Because I wanna.

25. Because I can.


Why I’m not back on Diet Coke:

Come on.


Thanks again for your support! Anyone else give up (or take back) anything good lately?

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One step closer to a 100% fun-free diet

I’ve been a lazy, lazy blogger this week. I can’t blame the apartment search, because I found a short-term option for June and punted the hunt to next month. This week, there is one reason and one reason only for my lack of blog: caffeine withdrawal.

People who know me well know that I like my caffeine. When I told some people I was trying to go caffeine-free, responses included:

“You are?”
“Is anything else left?”
“So you’ll drink a 2-liter of caffeine-free Diet Coke every day now instead?”
and, simply, “…Why?”

My answers:

“Yes.”
“I hope so.”
“God no.”
and… “I don’t know.”

I don’t have a great answer to the last one. Caffeine isn’t bad for you—in appropriate quantities—and coffee in particular has been associated with lots of nice health bonuses. Diet soda has been associated with depression here, weight gain there, but the data is inconclusive. Both excessive coffee intake and excessive carbonated beverage intake can mess with digestion according to, oh, every list of tips for dealing with IBS ever; and the proteins in coffee have supposedly been found to be “cross-reactive” with gluten proteins in some people—not confirmed, but compelling.

Most importantly, I just don’t like being dependent on caffeine. I’ve spent the past several years playing a little game called “undiagnosed autoimmune disease vs. coffee” and, as of last week, was drinking 11 cups every morning (all at once, over the course of an hour), plus the aforementioned Diet Coke later on. I’m tied to the routine and it sucks up more of my time than it should. If most people are made up of 70% water, there’s a good chance I’m made up of 70% coffee. That doesn’t thrill me.

Photo © Amanda | Flickr

Photo © Amanda | Flickr

Caffeine is such a part of my routine that I nearly cried after reading Cheryl Strayed’s Wild because I knew I couldn’t possibly carry a large enough supply of coffee and water to sustain me if I ever wanted to hike the entire Pacific Coast Trail. Kindly ignore all of the other reasons I would find it difficult to imitate Strayed (e.g., I’ve never hiked or even particularly wanted to hike). The point of the anecdote is this: I’ve come to see caffeine as necessary. But what if it’s not? What if I could retrain my body to exist and, such as it does, function—without caffeine? What if it would even function a bit better?

As I (half) joked to one friend, “I hadn’t given up anything major for a few months, so it just felt right.” It was only a half joke because it’s true that I don’t feel right about just spinning my wheels waiting for my magical gluten-free diet to magically kick in; I want to keep trying things. This is another thing to try. It’s something that, back in February, I didn’t think I could do. So, progress! Sort of.

I decided to go caffeine-free rather suddenly, with no prior reflection, when I found myself at the end of Saturday not having indulged in my usual afternoon soda fix. At that point, I just thought, “Why not?” I went cold turkey, which is apparently the exact opposite of the right thing to do. Caffeine withdrawal is real, folks, and I’m proof.

By Sunday evening a headache had banded itself around my temples and behind my eyes, rendering me useless to do anything but fall asleep. I woke on Monday and my head still hurtI don’t think I’ve ever had a headache that lasted overnight that way. It’s most likely the closest I’ve ever come to a migraine. I felt so sick that I actually stayed home from work on Monday and slept all day. “Caffeine withdrawal” may sound like a sorry excuse for a sick day, but trust me, I was sick enough. That morning, I came so close to quitting: I even brewed my normal pot of coffee and poured myself a cup. I was saved by the fact that I felt too ill to drink it.

Now, I think I’m past the worst of it, beyond the initial “I’m in hideous pain” phase and into the “I can’t bring myself to do or care about anything because it turns out coffee was the only thing powering my thoughts and actions” phase of withdrawal, which according to reputable internet sources shouldn’t last much longer than a week.

Photo © Christian | Flickr

Photo © Christian | Flickr

Like many of the things I’ve given up (alcohol, lactose, oats, eating out, anything made “in a facility that processes…”), I may not be done with caffeine forever. Heck, I may not make it through the rest of the work week. But, though not necessarily permanent, it’s worth a try. In the meantime, know that although I’ve been posting more infrequently recently, I’m still here and still gluten-free. That, my friends, is permanent.

I stole the phrase “fun-free” from this post on Gluten Is My Bitch. Have you read her book yet? It’s funny!

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Gluten-free runs on Dunkin

Have you heard the news about Dunkin Donuts? Apparently their introduction of gluten-free treats in select Massachusetts and Florida stores was so successful that the stores couldn’t keep them in stock. From what I’ve heard, the two varieties they introduced went over very well, and many people in the celiac community appreciated Dunkin’s cheeky disclaimer, “Still really unhealthy.” Didn’t stop folks from snapping ’em up like hot cakes, but it’s nice to see a chain bucking the trendy “go gluten-free, lose weight” angle.

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Did you have a chance to try one? I intended to on my last visit to Boston, but I didn’t manage to get to one of the few stores that carried them.

Turns out, it doesn’t matter much, because the success was so great that DD is rolling out gluten-free options nationwide. By 2015, all of their ~7,000 stores in the US will carry gluten-free options, and not just the cinnamon sugar donut and blueberry muffin they started out with but also other flavors currently being developed.

ht_gluten_free_dd_jp_121231_wblogThe spokesperson said people reported liking the gluten-free pastries better than the usual goodies on offer (perhaps, I’d wager, because they were shrinkwrapped rather than left out to get stale). He even confirmed there was talk of making all their products gluten-free by 2020, which would make Dunkin Donuts the first large mainstream franchise to go 100% gluten-free. This will be amazing for our community, both in terms of awareness and in terms of available donuts.

To be honest, I’ve never been much of a donut person. When I was younger, I had this odd insistence on only liking one flavor at any given time, so for a few months I’d accept only the powdered sugar donuts, then only the plain, old-fashioned donuts, then only the chocolate glazed donuts. Finally I just admitted defeat and moved on to the muffins (also the “healthier” option, each with only 100 to 300 calories more than the average donut).

Still, having grown up in its native Massachusetts, I do have a huge soft spot in my heart for Dunkin Donuts, mainly caused by a few too many iced coffees with cream and sugar. At the very least, I prefer DD to Starbucks. Less pretension, better coffee.

So I’m super excited for Dunkin Donuts to be all gluten-free by 2020! Are you?

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