Breathing Gluten?! Straw Allergies…

Straw...the root of all gluten...errr...evil?

Straw…the root of all evil…errr…gluten?

In an attempt to get back to my happy place I decided it was time for me to reconnect with horses. My entire childhood and teenage years were based on horseback riding and spending time in the barn; I was the epitome of a “barn rat”. When I left for college I had to put it all behind me; there simply wasn’t an economical way for me to keep my horse while I was going to school and it broke my heart. It took me a long time to come to terms with that pain; horses had been my identity up until that point. Fortunately, college helped ease me into a new life; with new friends, lots of freedom, and parties, of course. But after graduation I put my connection with horses out of my mind and stuffed myself into a corporate box that didn’t quite seem to fit, for years. Finally, I began to acknowledge the emptiness that had crept back in over the years. There is something about working with horses that calms me in a very inherent way on almost a primal level; it brings me unbelieveable peace.

That being said, there aren’t many horse farms out here in the big suburbs. Luckily, being the determined girl that I am, I was able to find one in need of help; working with Thoroughbreds. I always loved going to Tampa Bay Downs when I lived in Florida, and watching the race for the Triple Crown is one of my favorite yearly events, but that was the extent of both my Thoroughbred and racing knowledge. It has been an exciting road and as expected, I’m learning something new every day. For example, I learned the hard way about straw bedding.

My muck bucket overfloweth...

My muck bucket overfloweth…

With our own horses we had always used shavings for stall bedding. After the first week of cleaning stalls on the Thoroughbred farm, where they use straw for bedding, I noticed that when I got home I would start to get congested, my throat would turn raspy and I would start coughing. I thought that it was odd, but  I didn’t pay much attention to it. I assumed that after being “citified” (aka stuck in the city) for so long I was just adjusting to fresh country air again. Then, one fateful day, I cleaned out the straw bedding storage area. I felt fine at first, but a few hours later I was completely exhausted. I decided to give in and take a quick nap, only to wake up to a throbbing headache. I started throwing up and I was completely miserable. I wondered if it was dehydration, but it felt like I had been glutened! It didn’t make sense to me until I googled “straw” and found that straw comes from crops of “barley, oats, rice, rye and wheat”. I had in fact been glutened. 

Straw Bales

I still haven’t decided what to do about it yet. I try to steer clear of the straw and straw dust as best I can, but it is a barn after all. Honestly, at this point I’m just glad it’s the straw I’m allergic to and not the horses. I had that panicked thought originally; how ironic, that I would finally reconnect with my passion only to find out that I’m allergic to it, right? Seems about right.

Am I breathing gluten?

Am I breathing gluten too?

Have you had these issues with breathing gluten on the farm? What solutions have you come up with?

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