The latest installment in the “how restricted can my diet get?” chronicles…

I’ve had a lot of stomach pain lately.

It’s not as bad as it was back when I was eating dairy, and had to take anti-spasmodic tablets before every meal to stop my intestines tying themselves in knots. Sometimes I’d spend hours in the bathroom (sorry if that is TMI!) in agony, pain blotting out even my ability to form a coherent thought. I’ve never been in labour, but I’ve seen a lot of women giving birth and that’s the only time I’ve witnessed anything that resembled the pain I would sometimes feel in my pre-vegan days. It was pretty bad, and I do not want to go back to that.

So I’ve been having a think about what the issue might be this time, and I reckon it’s a toss-up between sugar, and gluten. In the past, I was fairly certain sugar was the issue. After all, lactose is a sugar and when I cut that out, things got significantly better. But then, there are lots of sugars that I’ve never had any problems with. Fructose, for instance. Perhaps I’m just looking for excuses not to give up my regular hot chocolate, but based on the repeated coincidence of days of pain following a weak-willed purchase of breakfast cereal (my nemesis: I can’t resist eating it, with my personal record for eating an entire box being just four hours), I am now looking askance at gluten.

My dad and stepmum have gone essentially gluten-free. They’ve actually eliminated pretty much everything I eat, except a few vegetables and nuts, and although their diet works well for them it would probably lead to me dying of rickets, or scurvy, or starvation, or all at once. Gluten-free, paleo, carb-free, none of those are going to work well with veganism and I don’t want to give up one food group and be forced to take back up another one with the same or worse side-effects.

Low-gluten, though? That, I can certainly try. A lot of my food staples are inherently low or entirely free from gluten, I just need to make a bit more effort to reach past the pasta and bread. They’re the default, they’re so easy, but it’s probably time to sacrifice easy for pain-free.

I’ll give this low-gluten thing a try, transitioning into it the same way as I became vegan: no more high-gluten purchases (pasta, bread, BREAKFAST CEREAL, biscuits) but I will finish off what I’ve got in the cupboards. I’m not going to worry about traces or cross-contamination, and if my vegetable stock powder contains gluten then I’ll live with it. I’ve been tested for coeliac’s disease and don’t have it so a trace probably won’t make all that much difference.

Things are complicated a little by the fact that in the next two months I’m going away for two separate weeks to places where I’ll have very little control over the catering. Next week I leave for my cruise (I am so excited about my cruise!) and there’s no guarantee the ship will even be able to provide vegan meals, never mind gluten-free vegan meals. I’ve spoken to people who’ve been on the same ship in the past, and they’ve assured me that I’ll be fine just grazing the buffet for vegetables and salads. The second week is at the end of May, by which point I’ll probably know whether or not this low-gluten free is making the blindest bit of difference. That bridge can be crossed later.

The only things I’m going to buy specially for this experiment are arrowroot flour, corn starch and cashew nuts. They’re all things I could use frequently anyway, and they’ll replace regular flour for things like white sauces. Ground almonds are already a food-cupboard staple for me, and I’ve decided oats are allowed to stay because without them I’m not quite sure what I’d eat for breakfast.

Ironically, lunch today will be leftover whole-wheat spaghetti. Once that’s gone, I think I’ve finished all the pasta, unless I still have a bit of couscous hiding somewhere. I’m currently well-stocked with fruit, veg and pulses. A new food adventure begins.