Monday, December 12, 2011

Under the Weather... beginning of trying Gluten Free in Japan

In the West they really spell it right out for ya...
I've only seen one section which was a single rack in a supermarket (not even a portion of an aisle) remotely announcing itself as friendly-food for food allergy sufferers

So I'm not getting much done... been kind of under the weather off and on. Stomach and sinus issues, and symptoms which in my experience and research all point to food allergy: that is stomach issues, sinus issues, fatigue, and flu-like symptoms. All were somewhat under control when I was much stricter with my diet... maybe 1 or 2 servings of gluten containing foods a week in America (say, a whole wheat hamburger bun) to... I don't even want to know how much gluten has entered my diet since I came to Japan.

Apparently there's just not much discussion of food allergies in Japan, except for the few for which it's a matter of life or death. And it's getting there for me... stomach cramps nightly (which resolve... I was experiencing a weekend without pain until today... ate some instant noodles and some cookies and BAM, a few hours later now and I'm just dealing with a swollen feeling in my sinuses)

I don't know if its just because so much food seems to revolve around cash crops and commodity foods: soy, rice, and wheat. Noodles abound, and so many staple foods (and peoples favorites) just as they do in the west.... are FULL OF GLUTEN.

The most popular and prevalent foods in my neighborhood: PASTA PASTA PASTA (a nightmare... I recall having an aversion to spaghetti when my father made it for me as a child, and the bloating that would follow eating out at an Italian restaurant) My neighborhood is rather famous for its bakeries and pasta. Or if you don't want pasta you could have a big bowl of wheat-noodles "udon", or occasionally I've been making takoyaki, or octopus dumplings, at home) which is grilled flower with octopus in it. Or Okonomiyaki, which is also grilled flour. All is delicious but the food allergy symptoms begin almost instantly after eating these items... a swollen feeling in my ears and achiness and post-nasal drip the next day.

And for about 2 months (about a month into giving up on my strict avoidance of gluten) some intense stomach distress began. My most painful nights I recall are (1) day I ate udon (2) day I ate a cream puff and a piece of cake (3) made a mistake and ate another cream-puff. While Japanese sweets, pleasingly, are not as extremely sweet as their western (American) counterparts, they do also increasingly contain lovely altered sugar substitutes like sorbitol which are also irritating to the stomach.

As bummed out as I am, I'm also hopeful that today will be a turning point. I'm going to try to go gluten free in Japan. Which, I can tell you, is not as easy as America. Most people will probably look at you in confusion, suspecting the reality that there is such a thing as sensitivity to wheat. I've only seen one food section in a store advertised as one that's food-allergy friendly. I haven't seen any food with a giant "I'm Gluten Free!" label like they have entire aisles dedicated to back home... And one health food store, which I was disappointed looked exactly like the other health food market. But I'm going to be persistent and write about this new "project" of mine in Japan. These will be under the title "Gluten Free in Japan" in hopes I can help people living in Japan with gluten allergies, as well as those pondering travel to Japan who have gluten allergies.

I'm not ready to go home to America just because I have food allergies...

Special thanks to Blogger Sofia, living in Kyushuu, who provides useful information on living Gluten Free on her blog

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