I have been categorically unable to eat bread and gluten-containing things for about fifteen years now. At first, my body’s reaction to gluten foods was mild and so I merely limited my intake of those things, but as you’d imagine things got progressively worse. Then much, much worse. An errant gluten-noodle in my spaghetti bowl could send me ping-ponging between the bathroom and the bed for days. It was debilitating and caused me no end of anxiety for the most common sorts of eating you could imagine. “Does the waiter really know if this is gluten-free or did he just say that to get me to shut up? Guess I’ll find out.”
I’ve been in France for a week and a day now. Since arriving and then driving from Paris to the Mediterranean coast I have had occasion to test my gluten reaction. In that time I’ve eaten, without reaction, the better part of two baguettes, an eclair, and a pain au chocolate. None of these things have caused any problems. Zero.
The reason I even attempted a nibble in the first place was that I’ve been reading that French wheat is different from the stuff we get in the US. I’ve also read other anecdotal accounts of gluten-intolerant people coming to Europe to discover that they can eat bread here.
Of course, I want to understand why it’s working out this way, but there are a couple of complications that prevent understanding causality. The first is that “gluten-intolerance” and even a diagnosis of Celiac are just diagnoses of exclusion. Basically, when examined by a doctor there are some things they can rule out, when they get to the end of that list and discover that your situation does not fit anything on their list you get a diagnosis of exclusion. “Do you have an allergic reaction when you eat bread?” If yes then it must be … gluten.
The problem with this bucket mode of diagnosis is that a) it doesn’t seek to understand the mechanism that causes the debilitating situation and b) not everyone who is gluten-intolerant is going to want to move to France.
Prior to our move, I’d literally begged a handful of doctors to help me discover the root cause. What can I say, my superpower has always been the creation of really tasty sandwiches, and frankly gluten-free bread stinks. Worse, sometimes I’ve had seemingly random reactions to gluten-free bread and other products. Go figure, right? It’s still got to be the gluten?
So, now that I’m here, I can eat what is here, I’m left wondering, “What’s different?”
The first and most obvious difference is that glyphosates are 100% banned here in France and most of the EU. Wheat and other cereal farmers use older methods of growing and harvesting their plants than what is common in the US. Application, application at growth stage, and presence of glyphosates after harvest data are not universally collected where the pesticide is used in North America. To make matters worse, glyphosates may not be applied to cereal crops as a pesticide. Rather they’re used right before harvest as a drying agent.
Independent testing demonstrates the presence of the pesticide in just about everything grown in North America. North America seems to be swimming in the stuff and that’s a problem on so many levels. For me, at least, there is a strong correlation that suggests causality given the dramatic changes I’ve only recently experienced.
In the meantime, I may go enjoy the first beer I’ve tasted since the Obama administration. À votre santé!