About a year or so after I got here, I got sick. Really really sick. So sick that I almost left Japan. I had no idea what was wrong with me. After climbing stairs, I couldn't breathe. I woke up in the middle of the night not being able to breathe. I went to doctors and they didn't know what was wrong with me. I said it felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. One doctor told me I didn't have lung cancer...hmmm....hadn't been worried about that but thanks for telling me. I really didn't know what to do. Then I went to Canada for Christmas and had no problems. Zero. I came back to Japan and the next morning ate a piece of raisin toast and instantly couldn't breathe.
I was allergic to wheat or rather gluten. This wasn't exactly new to me as my grandmother had been diagnosed with dermatitis herpetaforamis which is a terrible itchy rash caused by the gluten in wheat (and rye, barley etc). But I had never reacted like this. I got bloated but nothing so life threatening and this was life threatening. I instantly knew my life had changed and in a land I couldn't communicate in. I learned the Chinese characters for wheat and soy sauce. I learned the Hiragana for soy sauce and learned that ALL soy sauce in Japan has wheat in it and most sauces have soy sauce in it so....needless to say it was a pain trying to eat. I carried a little card around with me and showed it to waitresses "Please do not put sauce on the meat." I would be asked why so I quickly learned the word for asthma "zensoku". I knew within a minute if I had eaten something with wheat as I would start to wheeze. I then cut out dairy as I knew it wouldn't help asthma and I always felt bloated after eating it. Eating this way I lost weight, could breathe and felt great. So...that was my life for a while.
Then, the asthma reaction to wheat stopped. Not a clue why. I never fully went back to eating bread or pasta but I didn't worry that much about sauces-silly me.
Just recently I started having severe cramps after eating at my favorite yakiniku restaurant or sushi place and sometimes almost didn't make it to a bathroom. I started to think about what it could be. The only thing I could think of was sauce-as in soy sauce-as in wheat. So, since last Thursday I cut out all sauce and other things that contain wheat/gluten and I feel so much better. I also know when I get some accidentally as the cramps start. It would be soooo easy if it was just about the big things like bread, pasta, cookies etc but no....it is shocking how many things have soy sauce in it or are dusted with flour. Potato chips, crackers, Italian dressing, nuts, most sauces etc. I now carry my own soy sauce (which ironically is made in Japan but I have to buy it from an online shop that imports it back to Japan) and have to explain to waitresses not to add sauce to meat etc. But all of this is sooo worth it. I sleep better. No need to run to the bathroom. My brain and body just feel clearer.....cleaner.
So now I have to shop online and have food delivered like rice pasta, breads, sauces, cookies etc. Thank God for the Internet!! And while it is expensive and inconvenient, feeling good is soooo worth it!