I gluten-ed myself on Saturday.


I ordered Korean sweet potato noodles with vegetables, including shiitake mushrooms, from an Asian place, as well as a poke bowl for later. I took a couple bites of the sweet potato noodles, then looked at the menu again. The description listed the ingredients, but it didn’t list oyster sauce. But I was tasting oyster sauce. At least I thought I was.

I sighed, then shrugged. Too late, anyway, so I might as well enjoy the noodles, right?

NO! Wrong!! Bad, bad, bad idea!

I am so good at avoiding gluten that I’ve become complacent about my reaction. So in a couple of days, I’ll be sick for a couple of days, so what, right?

NO! Wrong!! Bad, bad, bad idea!

I’d had a sneaking suspicion for a while that my gluten reaction might have evolved. Some people eliminate gluten from their diet and later discover that a break from gluten was enough to let their bodies recover and they can begin eating it again in moderation. Other people eliminate gluten and their bodies say, “Whew, now we know that stuff is poison,” and the reaction gets bigger and stronger. I am in the latter camp. Which means no more waiting around two days to develop a flu-like set of symptoms (an immune system response) that include fever, sore throat, aching muscles and fatigue. Nope, I’m classic celiacs now, which means very soon after eating gluten, my body is doing its best to eliminate all traces of that poison.

The worst part — well, no, not the worst part, because that is definitely the physical symptoms. But an unpleasant part is the emotional response of feeling stupid and incompetent and sorry for myself.

In this case, in particular, the “sorry for myself” was irksome to me. Because I’m actually incredibly lucky and somewhat surprised by how many gluten-free options are available to me here. And not the kind of gluten-free options that I would have expected, which is the, “well, those are corn tortillas, so it’s probably fine, I guess I’ll take my chances,” option.

No, Costa Rica — or at least, San Jose — has a veritable plethora of gluten-free restaurants and choices. A mile away from the dentist’s office is a place called CeliHouse: a dedicated GF bakery and pizza place. About five miles to the north of the hotel is Cafeteria Rita 3 GF, also dedicated GF. Four miles to the NE, Ambroxia7, also dedicated GF. Now, it’s a little true that all those places look like the burgers & pizza kind of GF, which is not my favorite type of food, but the place I ordered from on my first day here, Raw To Go, with the spicy poke bowl and the papaya salad, is also mostly or perhaps completely gluten-free. At the very least, they clearly label some of their options as GF.

My problem is that it’s so much more fun to look for variety. Well, and also that labeling something gluten-free doubles the price, I think. My sweet potato noodles were actually a reasonably inexpensive Korean dish that I’d never heard of before, japchae, and I wanted to try something new. I did, it was a mistake. Oops.

Did I learn my lesson? Probably, at least for today.

And I did eat breakfast today, so I’m feeling enough better that I’m not going to spend anymore time moping about the miseries of life with an over-active immune system. Instead, I’m going to count my blessings.

Blessing #1:

A beautiful sunrise.

Blessing #2: Raw to Go has gluten-free brownies! As soon as my stomach promises to behave itself (not quite yet, it’s pretty unhappy about that breakfast I ate), I will be giving one a try.