Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Why I am Gluten Free

I've heard of many people lately who call living gluten-free a "fad". While it does seem that there are an enormous number of people discovering the gluten-free lifestyle every day, I don't believe that they're doing it to lose weight or jump on the bandwagon. I truly believe that most people go through their lives feeling terrible - they have chronic headaches, indigestion, acne, depression, fatigue and any number of auto-immune disorders. Once you realize that feeling terrible shouldn't be your norm, you start to look for ways to change the way you feel.

I was one of those people - I was the healthiest sick person you had ever met. I got TONS of exercise every week, I slept 8 to 9 hours every night, drank a ton of water, and ate all the things that were good for me - including whole wheat products. I was a wheat and carbohydrate JUNKIE. And still, over the course of eleven years I had progressively violent physical problems: migraines, lactose intolerance, cystic acne, chronic fatigue, severe depression and then finally, a circulatory auto-immune disorder called Raynaud's Syndrome. My mom had read some research pointing to Gluten-Intolerance and Celiac as the reason for all of my health problems. For a year and a half I ignored her - who wants to give up Pastries and Pizza? One day I was finally sick enough that I read as much research on gluten intolerance as I could get my hands on. Everything I read came right back to Celiac Disease and my symptoms. I decided to give it a try, starting immediately - there would be no "final piece of pizza" or "last croissant". If the research was correct, then those were the very things that had gotten me to that point.

I went off of gluten cold-turkey that very day. Those first days were HARD. Really hard. I was re-learning how to eat. 48 hours later, I woke up before my alarm feeling refreshed - the exhaustion was gone, my brain felt clear and the depression that I struggled so hard to mask was nowhere to be found. I hadn't felt that good in longer than I could remember. I felt like I could take on the world! Since that day in August, 2009, I am proud to say that I have not willingly consumed gluten. There have been a few accidents along the way, and as time has progressed my reactions have become more and more violent. Now, if I get even a little bit of gluten my digestive system goes into meltdown for two days (I am glued to the toilet during that time), I get a migraine for 24 hours that medications can't touch, and scariest of all - I lose the eyesight in my left eye for a few hours. I call it getting "glutened", and it is my own personal version of hell!

To think that I used to regularly consume foods that my body hated THAT much - and I had become immune to any reaction. My body was screaming for my attention - and I ignored it for more than ten years!

I have a lot of healing still to do. Here's how my body has changed in the last sixteen months:
*I no longer struggle with cystic acne - it's gone.
*My lactose intolerance is gone. I can have dairy again!
*I wake up in the morning with energy for the day. No more chronic fatigue.
*I rarely get migraines - the only exceptions are the times I get accidentally "glutened"
*The depression is gone. I still have high highs and low lows, but I am not in a constant depressive state, always pretending to be "okay".
*My circulation is improving. It's a slow battle - I still have Raynaud's Syndrome, and while I have hopes that I will one day be Raynaud's free, I have come to accept that this damage may be permanent - a sort of cross that I will carry for the rest of my life.
*Then, as a bonus, those 15 pounds that I could never get rid of have totally melted off. I went from a size 8 to a size 4 and 6, and I didn't have to diet. I probably eat MORE calories now than I ever did before!

I have been blessed to be surrounded by loving friends and family who are supportive and understanding of my Gluten-Free (GF) Lifestyle. Their support enables me to get through the challenges of eating at others homes' and in restaurants. One expert says that when you shake a Celiac's family tree, other Celiacs start to fall out. That has certainly happened - my mother and my sister are both gluten free. We think my Aunt is definitely Celiac. Plus, in keeping a GF kitchen and home, we've discovered that my husband also has a gluten sensitivity (although he still chooses to eat gluten with friends or on vacation).

So... is Gluten Free a fad? Not for me. I can happily live without Gluten for the rest of my life. And when I see a particularly delectable pastry? I don't even feel tempted. I remember how good it used to taste, and I know exactly what a nibble of that pastry would do to my body today. It's okay to say "no".

And you know what? I'm okay. In fact, I'm better than before.

The next time someone tells you that they are gluten free, don't roll your eyes and shove a cookie in your face in front of them. Be supportive, ask how you can help, and know that this person is making a change in their life for the better.


  1. YAY! It's so mean that people think it's a fad. It's not like wearing stupid jeans or cropped shirts! It's what you have to do to be a healthier person. :) Love you lots!

  2. Hi Erin! My brother suffered from the same things you did, until they final realized that he had a gluten intolerance. I saw first hand how difficult it can be to change your diet completely but the results were amazing! People that think that 'gluten-free' is fad are people that don't understand that what we put in our mouths can affect our whole being!
    Good for you for finding out the cause of what was bothering you and not using drugs and medications in an attempt to cover the symptoms up. :)
    BTW - I gave the pumpkin pie recipe to my mom last week (that you posted) and it turned out wonderful! She even made a crust for it using gluten free cookies AND managed to make it sugar-free (she needs to stay away from sugar) and egg-free (something else that Gabe needs to stay away from for a while). Gabe was ecstatic! he hadn't had a pie in years-I think he ate the whole thing. Best part was, we all were able to eat it because it tasted EXACTLY like pumpkin pie!!

  3. Shona! That's amazing! There are some AMAZING GF food bloggers out there - and when I found that pie recipe, I just thought - YES! Right now I'm working on a sourdough starter for some crusty gluten free bread - I'll let you know how it turns out. I've been photo charting the progress of the starter, and tomorrow I'll make my first sourdough boule. I'll post the experiment here when it's done!

  4. cool! can't wait to hear how it turns out! that would be great for my mom. but I think Gabe needs to stay away from yeast so it might not work out too well for him. But we'll see!