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I like to eat. I like to eat a lot. Sometimes when I’m lying in bed I like to plan out what I’m going to eat for my breakfast and lunch the next day. The only problem is, sometimes food doesn’t like me back. I’m somewhat lactose intolerant (i.e. if I eat too much dairy or have a really rich ice cream, it’s no good), but even on my low-dairy days I have issues.

My downfall.

Those of you who know me well or have had the pleasure of living with me, know that I am oftentimes very gassy. When I’m not gassy, I’m bloated, constipated or have a general heaviness in my tummy (not so much fun when running). Now that I’m done with classes for a month I’ve decided to do some food experiments and track what I eat. Starting today for approximately two weeks I am cutting out carbs in grain format. Next, I’ll go two weeks without dairy and if I’m still feeling abnormal, I’ll go two weeks without sugars. Hopefully by the end of this experiment I’ll have figured out what makes my stomach hate me.

So what does this have to do with boys, books or bygone times? Well, my stomach problems got me thinking—are all these food “allergies” or intolerance a new thing? Or did people in the past just live with them because there was no other option?

I’m currently leaning towards this being a relatively new phenomenon. At least for me, I’m pretty sure my issues stem from processed foods. I try not to eat a lot of “un-pure” carbohydrates, but it happens. I love bread. I love pasta. And we all know I love cupcakes. Back in the day these foods were made from scratch and there were no preservatives involved or additional chemical-like substances and things like white flour was considered a treat, saved specifically for cakes and other delicacies. In The Long Winter Pa Ingalls discovered that Almonzo Wilder stashed away his precious grain harvest to use as seed for the next year and Pa “borrows” some to feed his family, prompting Almonzo to go out on a trecherous journey through blizzards to bring back grain for the town. Does anyone today know how to turn grain into flour? And to then take that pure flour and turn it into bread? I don’t think so.

Nor does anyone harvest things like wild rice anymore, or at least not often. Which is a shame, because it’s very tasty, although it looks like a lot of work.

Native American women harvesting wild rice, print by Mary H. Eastman, 1853.

I remember reading an article in my A.P. European History class that said peasants during some time period (it’s been 7 years, sorry) were actually healthier than the aristocracy, because they ate a balanced diet of foods that came from the land, i.e. vegetables and whole grain products as opposed to a diet of mostly meat and some white flour products. Sound familiar? When’s the last time you ate a vegetable? What about fruit? Are you getting your fiber? I know there are many healthy people out there in the world, but  in America, we love our processed carbohydrates and animal based proteins. This is not to say I have any plans to go vegetarian or vegan, I’m not sure that’s any better. But it is interesting to think about—how even with our advances in society and science, our ancestors ate healthier.

However, I posed the initial question because I’m not sure if it really is today’s food or if in the past people just dealt with their issues since there were no options. My cousin, a chiropractor and natural health professional, firmly

No cupcakes for him.

believes that we, as mammals, have not developed the ability to properly digest wheat and gluten. Part of me thinks that humans have eaten wheat in some form or another for centuries, how could our bodies not be developed to  digest gluten? Yet, really, human civilization as we know it is still relatively new, as opposed to early hominids. I suppose this is why the new “caveman diet” or Paleo diet is so popular. The general idea is to eat purely unprocessed, natural foods. Basically, eat what was available to the caveman—vegetables, fruit, and meat. Lots of meat.

I’m not sure I could do that for an extended period of time. Even if turns out that grain is the culprit of my stomach problems, I don’t think I could cut them out completely.

Life without pasta is not a life I want to live indefinitely. And now I’m hungry.

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