Two months ago I made a decision. When I made that decision it never once crossed my mind that it would upset people. But unfortunately it has. The good news is most people have been very supportive. Thankfully that group includes my closest friends. The bad news is that the majority of the flack I have received has come from members of my own family. Sadly, that would be close family. Had it been fifth cousins seventeen times removed it wouldn't have seemed so bad.
So what is this divisive, controversial decision I have made? Simply this. I have stopped eating wheat. Last fall I heard about Wheat Belly, a new book by Dr. William Davis. This coincided with a nasty flare up of a condition I have called ocular rosacea. Rosacea is an inflammatory condition, and after reading Wheat Belly and discovering wheat can cause inflammation I decided it would be worth giving up this grain for awhile to see if my eye would improve.
In the worst case scenario ocular rosacea can damage the cornea and lead to loss of vision. The standard treatment of this disease, a disease which is not at all well understood, is to put the patient on a very long-term dose of antibiotics. This seems to me to be trading one problem for another. The only way I would ever consider taking antibiotics in this fashion would be if I was in immediate danger of losing my vision. But I was seeing my optometrist regularly and knew that so far my cornea was unaffected. This was good news on two fronts. One, it meant my vision wasn't in imminent danger. Two, it meant I had some time to try to find a safe, alternative way of dealing with the problem.
When I decided to stop eating wheat I never said I was giving it up forever. Not that it should make a difference! I never said anyone else should stop eating it. (Well, except for Alexandra, but that's another story.) I simply informed people about what I was doing, why I was doing it, and suggested that if they wanted a better understanding they could read the book for themselves. It didn't matter to me if they agreed or disagreed with the author. I was coming from the angle of simply wanting them to understand why I was doing what I was doing.
Perhaps it is because I come from a farming family. Maybe there is a special attachment to wheat because of that. But I don't think that's the whole story, because some non-farming family members have had negative reactions as well. What is it that challenges people so much when they hear someone isn't eating wheat? Would they have had the same reaction if I said I was giving up turnips? Rather doubtful.
One mistake I made in the early days was saying I was going gluten-free. To me it just seemed easier for people to wrap their minds around since there is so much press about gluten-free diets right now. But I have not intentionally cut barley and rye from my diet. Rye was already out simply because Alexandra is horribly allergic to it so I never have it in the house. Even breathing in the fumes makes her react. I don't have many things with barley in them, but the few I do I have continued to consume (that would mainly be the Guinness I use in the Jamie Oliver stew, along with a rare wee dram of whiskey).
What I hadn't counted on is the minute someone hears "gluten-free" they automatically think "celiac." Oddly, ocular rosacea doesn't pop into the listener's mind when they hear gluten-free. Their brain gets stuck on the celiac setting and can't seem to move on from there.
So now you know the ugly truth about me. I am currently a non-consumer of wheat. I hope you will continue to read my blog in spite of this shortcoming. I promise not to preach at you about what to eat or not to eat. After all, I am the person who linked to the amazing Nanaimo bar recipe in my last post, a recipe that happens to call for wheat. Which reminds me that not all family members have been Negative Nellies. Rebekah made a wheat-free version of Nanaimo bars for Christmas that was to die for.
And the ocular rosacea? It's gone, except for a small amount of scarring on the lower eyelid which I expect will gradually fade away. So was wheat playing a role? Impossible to say, but as long as I remain rosaea-free I think I will also stick with being wheat-free.