Gluten is Not My Friend

Jun 10, 2022 | All Blog Posts, Lifestyle, Via Francigena | 4 comments

Oh how I wish we were the best of friends. The pastries, the pizza, the pasta, the bread, Lord have mercy, the bread. I want to have a relationship with these foods like no other relationship I have had before. Sorry, Brian but you get me.

Italy makes pizza right!

I don’t want to linger on this discussion because I made a decision many years ago that my life will not be defined by whether or not I eat gluten. But I do think it’s an important topic for those who care to understand how I manage my food allergy.

Let me take you back to our first pilgrimage in 2017 on the Camino Frances in Spain. I ate zero gluten the entire trip and, with regards to food, I was miserable. I hated missing out, I hated have to explain my food allergy to every sweet person trying to give food to a hungry pilgrim, but most of all I hated being defined by my food allergy.

In 2019 when we walked part of the Camino France and all of the Camino Portuguese, I decided food allergy be dammed, I am eating whatever I want. LOL My body said, “Oh you want to play that game, let me show you who’s really in charge.” Guess what? It’s not the mind, it’s the stomach. I paid a hefty price on that pilgrimage. I had breathing issues, anxiety, and the horrific, constant wheat belly. When I eat gluten, my belly protrudes and makes me look very round in the middle until is processes through my body at a snails pace as it impacts my breathing. I didn’t want to believe the gluten was to blame, denial was much easier to manage.

Fast forward to when we decided to go on another pilgrimage. I spent the year working with my doctor to ensure my heart and lungs were functioning well (since I developed breathing issues). I got a colonoscopy where my doctor did two different tests for celiac disease. He confirmed that I do not have celiac disease. Well, there’s a win!

I went to my allergy doctor, we decided to go ahead with a food allergy test. Guess what? Dang it, it was confirmed that I am allergic to wheat. Not the, “you will go into anaphylactic shock,” type of allergy but one step down, a moderate allergy. I already knew that but my mind needed the confirmation. Now what? I am going to Italy! I am eating the pasta! Ughh!! But I will not let my food allergy define me.

Oh the pasta!!

I did some research and found a gluten relief pill to help ease the pain my body goes through to process wheat. Click here to see what I use.* It’s not a perfect system, but as long as I take it before I eat wheat, my body processes it a bit faster. I still have a bit of breathing issue and my belly still protrudes some but it helps the wheat process faster.

On pilgrimage, the greatest problem is that we are at the mercy of those who are providing food for us. Some places we stay only have bread and coffee for breakfast as that is typical for Italians. I am not going to hike on coffee alone. See my blog, “I’m Hungry and I Don’t Want to Talk About It.” Therefore, I avoid gluten when I can, I take the preventative pill and eat it when I have to do so.

Life is a delicate balance of choices whether you have a food allergy or not. Sometimes we eat too much, drink too much, and that’s just life. My allergy will not define me, it’s just part of the consideration when I make choices. I can feel a life lesson in there, can you?

On this day, I found gluten free snacks! And a cappuccino with chocolate. 🥳

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  1. Ellen Zimmer

    I feel your pain… in addition to wheat I have an allergy to raw fruit and vegetables and tree nuts! A few other foods as well. I actually had little cards made up in Spanish explaining it that I gave to the server during our Camino in 2014.

    It basically sucks! Mine does cause anaphylaxis so I have no choice. It made the Camino doubly hard!!! Tracking down food was a challenge every day!

    I’m glad you’re able to enjoy the food of the region!! Enjoy it for me too!

    • The Colemans

      Oh my gosh, that’s just terrible. I’m so sorry!!! Avoiding the wheat has been terribly hard, much harder than Camino Frances or Portuguese. We have gone an entire day where I’ve seen no food. I look for grocery stores to find allergy friendly food but it’s challenging. I’m currently carrying gluten free crackers that I found at a grocery store to carry me through a few breakfast meals. 😏

  2. Hilary Jones Rowan

    I have just discovered after a gastroscopy and colonoscopy that I have a significant lactos intolerance problem. I am experimenting how far I can tolerate some lactose before I have to be finding a toilet very quickly like five times a day. This is not what I need on my travels in 2023. I am taking the lacteeze tablets so I’m like you Michelle. This is not going to define me. Yes, there is lactose free food but it has ginormous amounts of sugar in it. Yuk! The blessing is I know about it now and have 14 months to strike a balance for my Via Francigena pilgrimage.

    • The Colemans

      Sounds like you’re doing everything right! I did a lot of experimenting so I know how to strike the right balance too. Be prepared and knowledgeable is 1000% better than just pouting about it or letting it define how you live. Stay healthy!!


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