Last week I shared the beginnings of new goals and priorities as I turned another year older (one of which was 25 blogs this year…24 to go, baby!). In doing so, I rounded up a top-10 list of promises to myself, my family and my pup. There are 14 more, but I wanted to devote a blog post solely to number 11.
11. I’m going gluten-free.
Now, I want to clear the air: It’s not because I think grains are bad for you. It’s not because I’m going on some trendy diet. And it’s certainly not because I don’t love the stuff (and do I ever).
My family has a history of Celiac Disease and I’ve had several symptoms indicating an allergy almost instantaneously after a bagel, beer or nearly any other starchy goodness. I’ve had near-daily headaches (acute migraines, to be exact) for the better part of 11 years now and have been through countless doctor’s visits, chiropractor appointments, eye checks, dental exams and even an MRI to get to the bottom of it. I struck out time and time again and eventually came to terms with the fact that this wasn’t going away and I would deal.
It wasn’t until I began developing a rash and hives in the Summer of 2013 that I decided to give it another go. My motivation was in warp speed because within a few short months of developing hives, Jared and I got engaged and being in the trenches of wedding planning wasn’t helping my cause (and I was damned if I was going to be a bumpy bride!). I’ll spare you the dermatology details but essentially no cream or antihistamine under the sun worked and I was back to having more questions than answers.
I took actions into my own hands and started taking notes on my meals and potential rash triggers through a loosely kept food journal. It didn’t take long for me (or Jared, or my family and friends) to realize gluten was an obvious trigger. I began reducing gluten in my diet through easy substitutions and it seemed my symptoms subsided.
So, we got married, followed by a litany of other life changes and before I knew it, gluten had creeped into my diet…and came back with a vengeance. In a matter of four months, I got to the point of being physically sick after two full-bodied beers. So if you’re following along, that’s a light and sound-sensitive headache, followed by hives and/or a rash and nausea. It was affecting my work life, my home life, my confidence and overall health.
I. had. had. it. This time I was going to an allergy clinic and getting to the root of the problem. This time I was not leaving without answers. This time, as devastating as the news was going to be, I was going to find relief in knowing I was finally going to feel better.
And now I start sounding like a broken record. The tests for gluten sensitivity and Celiac Disease came back negative. Leading up to the appointment, I had tried to scale back on the gluten which proved to be counterproductive in that the tests were inconclusive. The recommendation? Eat more gluten. For three months.
I scanned the doctor’s office to see if Ashton Kutcher would pop out. Surely, I was Punk’d. (Is that still a show?) Anyway, I was discouraged and disappointed but was in the homestretch so I was willing to do it. The first couple weeks were miserable and consistently made me feel bloated and sluggish.
To cope, I started connecting with other g-free folks on their Celiac Disease symptoms and triggers and actually discovered a variety of ailments I would have never associated with gluten sensitivity.
Cavities. I hadn’t had a cavity since my baby teeth days and in December of 2013, I had four. Don’t even ask about that bill. I talked with a colleague about the trigger for her to explore further and it was her teeth and hair. Speaking of which…
Hair. My hair should be Rapunzel style for as long as I’ve been growing it out. It had been at a stand-still for nearly five years and no biotin supplement was going to give it nudge. It’s now finally starting to grow now that I’ve cut back on gluten.
Anemia. In addition to the biotin, I was an Iron pill popper for awhile because my Iron levels were about half of what they should be. Textbook gluten allergy.
Bloating. So I’m a girl and I’ll blame bloating on everything from food to the weather. I especially noticed my wedding ring tightening up after I ate and chatted with someone who’s first inclination of anything wrong was retaining fluid and constantly feeling crumby. Hellllloooo, new excuse!
I was suddenly becoming a WebMD poster child for Celiac Disease. Geared with a whole new subset of symptoms, I returned to the allergy clinic in May and ready to ace this test! Not before I got a lecture from the doc on how eating gluten with Celiac Disease can lead to malignancy. Again, no Ashton.
Long story short, results came back negative and feeling more confused than ever, I was at a loss of what to do or where to turn. The last several months have been more trial and error but in the process, I’ve discovered when I look and feel my best, and that’s going gluten free.
To start (again), I downloaded an eBook from Kristin Porter of Iowa Girl Eats as a way to guide me through the ins and outs of a gluten-free lifestyle. Kristin’s Celiac Disease was triggered by a severe shock to her system, which was a difficult labor with her son. After tests confirmed, she came to terms with her discontinued love affair of Dunkin Donuts and tortillas and began making, and sharing, g-free recipes.
I got to know Kristin through the Iowa Food & Family Project and she’s been both a great resource and sounding board for vent sessions. Just a few pages into the eBook, there are already so many times I’ve nodded in agreement and even said, “Amen” once.
Not only does Kristin know the long road ahead, she knows it doesn’t come without added speculation. For several months, I was almost embarrassed to be “gluten free” as I thought it identified me as a trendy dieter, which isn’t something I have the willpower for, let alone believe in. Whole grains are good for you. Pasta tastes good. Eat pasta and be happy.
While it’s unfortunate that an allergy has shifted into a fad and fallen under the umbrella of marketing gimmickry on food labels, it’s a challenge I’m up for and I know I’ve got a support system to see me through.