Monday, December 12, 2011

Gluten Nightmares : Dreams of Eating Normal Food & Realizing the Consequences

Do you have Gluten-Nightmares?

Dreams about accidentally eating gluten / wheat

I can not help wonder if I am alone in experiencing rather vivid dreams, or nightmares as it may be, about consuming wheat products or other gluten-containing foods and then, in these dreams, realizing what I had done and freaking out about it.

I find it rather strange and disturbing that even after being 100% gluten-free for many years now, I have dreams in which I am in a situation where "normal" (gluten-containing foods) are being served, and for whatever reason I am partaking in its consumption along with everyone else in the dream (others that would be unaffected by gluten).

Most often, the food my subconscious falls for is PIZZA!  Next is bread — especially a great Italian Bread, Sourdough, or other fantastic artisan bread.

Gluten-Filled Nightmare / Dream Analysis

Clearly I must miss these "real" foods during my waking life, even as I feel quite satisfied with the gluten-free-diet equivalent replacements for most everything I ate in the pre-Celiac years.  But, regardless of what my conscious brain thinks about my diet, my subconscious haunts me at least a few times per year with these nightmares about eating gluten and realizing that I am going to become violently ill (since, in the dreams, I have consumed large amounts of those tasty, but evil, gluten-filled menu items).

This is where the dream becomes a nightmare: I know the damage that even a little gluten exposure can do to my body, and in my dreams I become aware of the fact that I just ate a LOT of gluten.  Then my mind is racing about what to do to minimize the effects of the gluten-exposure (there are not many options).  And, I am already thinking about how bad the exposure is going to be and how severe my symptoms will get —  I even think of going to the hospital. This is simply disturbing.

I think that my dreams are motivated not just by a desire to consume gluten-containing foods, but probably moreover by a desire to be able to just have the freedom to eat most anything that is being served — be it at a party, a restaurant, etc — and not have to constantly avoid foods that will surely contain gluten or that may contain gluten (due to cross-contamination).

These dreams tend to develop most often around times where there are events (like company Christmas parties) that I know I will not be able to safely consume a single item at.  So, my subconscious decides to run with this thought and torment me a bit and/or remind me of my need to remain vigilant with regards to gluten avoidance.

Have You Experienced This?

I am curious as to how widespread such thoughts are among the wheat-free / gluten-free / Celiac Disease community.  I guess this could apply to people with peanut allergies or any other condition where accidental ingestion of unsafe foods would lead to serious side effects too.  Feel free to post your comments if you have anything to share.

Here's hoping that this is uncommon, as it really is disturbing and shakes me up a bit as I emerge from my gluten-nightmares!

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Bad Alice said...

I've had similar dreams. I had to become so much more vigilant after diagnosis, particularly to guard against cross contamination. Every failure - the time I didn't notice the wheat crackers laid out right next to the rice ones in the supposedly gluten free snack tray - heightens that vigilance. I don't think you can help but have nightmares when such a basic activity as eating carries so much risk.

Sometimes I have a waking fear that I will without thinking reach for some gluten-filled item and start eating.

Popcornlizard said...

I've had nightmares about eating gluten, too! I've been off it for a couple years, and I still get them every once in a while. It's nice to know that I'm not the only one who experiences this! :)

MonsterAteMy said...

My husband, who has celiac disease, has had similar dreams several times. You're definitely NOT alone!

cocoa said...

I have those dreams some times too! I usually eat it because I've forgotten that I need gluten free and then I freak out in my dream enough it wakes me up.
Since I don't miss gluten foods in my waking life, I'm not sure what to attribute it to - maybe some kind of trauma from being so ill for so long. I never had those dreams everyone has about being naked on the bus or something - so maybe these are my "naked" dreams?

Unknown said...

When I first went gluten-free (about a year and a half ago) I had these kinds of nightmares quite often (2-3 times a week). Similar to your dreams, mine also usually revolved around social situations. Now that I'm used to being gluten free, I only get them once every couple of months. It's good to know I'm not the only one!

Anonymous said...

I have this dream about once or twice a year (that I remember anyway). I feel anxious when I wake up, hoping that it's not real and that I won't really be sick. Definitely disturbing!
~ Lisa

Colin Svingen said...

I can most definitely attest to having very similar dreams. I've been on the diet for five years, and immediately coming to mind, I have had two such dreams. Doughnuts and pizza and both at large parties/gatherings. Similarly, I have eaten copious amounts and shortly after realized the insanity of doing so. The cold sweat and shear panic sets in and the dream becomes a nightmare.

Interestingly, I am also an ex-smoker and have had many many dreams where I have a cigarette and suffer similar feelings of regret and panic. Clearly it is a function of depriving our brains of something they are accustom to.

Mike Eberhart said...

Thanks everyone for sharing your own experiences!

Although it is nice to not feel alone in this matter, I also surely do not wish such dreams on others, since as quite a few of you mentioned, they truly are disturbing and fear-inducing.

I find it very interesting how so many of us experience similar dreams, including those of us that have been off gluten a long time and in our waking lives do not necessarily feel like we miss it. It is amazing what the subconscious can do!

I next wonder if I can somehow force my subconscious to "learn" a less-disturbing outcome for such dreams. I have heard it said that you can influence the content of your dreams by giving yourself pre-sleep suggestions, but I want a more long-term/permanent suggestion like: telling myself that anything I eat (in my dreams) is something GF that I baked myself and took to whatever social event is featured in the dream or such... and that it just tasted like the real thing and that is why I *thought* it was "real". No idea if I can program myself to do this, but I can try I guess.

Luckily these dreams are only a few times per year, but I can certainly do without them. And, I now know that some of you face the same gluten-demons. Thanks again for sharing! m

Cesar said...

My son, who has celiac, always dreams of eating nice and tasty desserts. However, even though gluten free desserts are expensive, we try to surprise him with some goodies.

Chloe Boggs said...

I haven't had any experience or dreams in relation to this but I might as well ask a few people I know who have Gluten as their kryptonite. This sure is interesting!

wrecklessgirl said...

i DO have dreams about this, too! it's so disturbing! i think mine is mostly related to my experience with "cheating" by having a bite of someone's mozzarella stick (lightly battered)--or something like that--and being in excruciating pain afterward (and that moment when i'm trying to figure out how to deal with the upcoming side effects). this doesn't happen often, but i think it's my part of the irrational thought that maybe this celiacs thing is all in my head and i can convince my body to like gluten again, someday. testing .. 1.2.3.

paula said...

I too have had dreams about eating something with gluten ... I'm always so relieved to wake and find it was only a dream (nightmare!)
Paula @CeliacCorner

Anonymous said...

Once, I had a dream about running from a giant and eating a gargantuan portion of wheat pancakes from underneath his hand. Symbolism? Feelings of oppression? Or.. embodying the feeling of choosing the things you know will make you miserable.. a symbol of straying from your path and making unconcious choices in general (as NOT eating gluten has come to represent a choice for self-care and body awareness) What a nightmare indeed!

Helena said...

Eleven years on the GFDiet and very happy about it, but I do have the nightmares! I think they are much more related to the fear of getting "poisoned" and the helplessness that we feel when it happens than to some sort of craving. Very disturbing and so good to wake up and realise it didn't really happen!

Anonymous said...

Ugh....I just had my first one the other night. Funny that I stumbled across your blog and this posting.

I only ate one bite though, so that would not technically make it a nightmare. But I was anxious after 'eating' that bite in my dream.

I've been gluten free since Dec 26th of 2011...

I do miss the foods since my kids and husband are not gf.

Hope those dreams don't return for you!