My 6 Years Gluten-Free

Pomegranates from the trees where we stayed in the Maremma, Italy

“Every time you eat or drink, you are either feeding disease or fighting it.” -Heather Morgan, MS NLC

 

On Going Gluten-Free

I was rescued by a hurricane.

It’s true.

The problem started soon after I had our first son. Every time I ate, I had so much pain I had to lie down on the couch and try to keep myself from writhing in pain. When I had my second son, I realized I might have lactose intolerance, an idea inspired by an infant’s struggle with indigestion. But, truthfully, even after cutting out all lactose, I still dealt with the same stabbing pain. And, I often wondered how I could feel so terrible after eating something plain like Saltines or pretzels.

Fast forward to September 2008 …

The Cincinnati area dealt with the 80 miles per hour winds leftover from Hurricane Ike. We didn’t lose our roof like most of our neighbors, but we did lose power—for days. With the power out, we had to improvise with our cooking. That was the trigger.

Having eaten only rice from a box of Whole Grain Rice-a-Roni, with carrots on the side, I couldn’t understand what could’ve caused me so much digestive pain afterward. Then I read the box. The only debatable ingredient that jumped off the box was GLUTEN. Actually, something like “extra gluten added”.

Once we had our power again, I read every website I could about gluten. It didn’t take long to discover the autoimmune disease called Celiac, wholly caused by gluten. A few tests soon confirmed that the excruciating pain I’d felt for eight years was indeed due to Celiac Disease. But, amazingly, medicine doesn’t help with Celiac. The symptoms only disappear by cutting gluten out of all consumed food. Thus began my first gluten-free year.

Apparently, gluten (or the proteins found in whole wheat and other grains) acts like little burrs when it passes through a digestive system. Scraping the digestive tract of someone with Celiac, it causes every problem imaginable (including cancer), along with every symptom. I could write for days on the topic, but since I don’t enjoy gory details and am not a physician, I’m providing further links here (if you’re interested).

In one year gluten free, my skin color darkened about five shades to its rightful color, I felt far more energy and strength, and I didn’t feel even an ounce of the pain I used to have to suffer.

Jennifer in Prague, one year gluten-free
Me, in Prague, one year gluten-free

My 6 Years Gluten-Free

When my family and I moved to Prague in 2009, gluten-free eating became much harder. The language barrier created a huge learning curve on which foods might have gluten and which did not. I learned the words bezlepkova (Czech), senza glutine (Italian), glutenfrei (German). I consumed known gluten-free packaged foods in mass quantities–Lay’s potato chips and Snickers–until I could no longer even look at them. They made me feel terrible. Obviously, I had to find another option.

We become what we eat. Food is medicine, for good or bad.

Pomegranates from the trees where we stayed in the Maremma, Italy
Autumn, Pomegranates from the trees where we stayed in the Maremma, Italy

The foods available in Czech grocery stores were limited, though the selection and quality improved over the four years we lived there. One store on the other side of Prague soon sold gluten-free pasta and corn flakes, which I bought in large quantities. But over the four years in Europe, I became less interested in eating processed pasta, bread, or cereals with the gluten taken out, and mysteriously more satisfied with whole foods which were naturally gluten-free: avocados, nuts, yogurts and cheeses, eggs, fruits and vegetables, and meats.

Now, almost 2 years back in the U.S., I’m amazed how many foods are available in a gluten-free version. I love Chex cereal in the morning and a flaxseed cracker for an occasional crunch. My favorite foods include anything with salsa and/or guacamole, and dark chocolate to top things off.

If I ever do eat something with a trace of gluten (soy sauce seems to be the sneakiest offender), I can feel it almost immediately. The world is upended and everything hurts. But those times might happen only once a year, at most, and reinforce my need to stay completely away from gluten.

Jennifer Lyn King
me, grateful to be healthy, in 2014, 6 years gluten-free

These 6.5 years haven’t been easy, not eating anything with gluten. Bread, cakes, cookies, pies, pasta—you name it—everything good has gluten. But I have happily resisted, because I can’t even begin to tell how truly great and healthy I feel. No pain anymore. Amazing! All because of gluten.

Friends ask questions all the time. So many people have problems and pain with their digestion, and there are no easy answers. Tests don’t always prove conclusive, and allergies, sensitivities, and Celiac seem to mingle in strange ways. I do think if you have severe pain after eating, especially after eating bread or pretzels, try going gluten-free for a couple of weeks and see how you feel. If you feel an improvement, it’s worth it to pursue more answers. You just might find yourself feeling GREAT soon.

For you: have you tried gluten-free eating? What do you think?

More to come this January: I’m writing a month of posts on health. I look forward to seeing you back here next week, a healthy 2015 ahead!

 

Published by Jennifer Lyn Art

About Jennifer Writer Author Photographer Artist Corporate Marketer Happy Wife & Mom World Traveler Grateful.

16 thoughts on “My 6 Years Gluten-Free

  1. I live with Type I diabetes which, like celiac disease, is an autoimmune disorder. Fortunately, I do not also suffer from celiac disease, though about 10% of Type I diabetics do. I spoke with my endocrinologist about all the gluten-free foods available now. She said these are great for those who truly have celiac disease, but for those who don’t, eating gluten-free is simply a waste of money. A friend’s daughter developed celiac disease 2 years ago. She is so sensitive that antibodies to gluten show up in her blood tests if she has visited a house where her seemingly gluten-food is cross-contaminated because it is cooked in the same toaster (for example) as is gluten-containing food. I feel for anyone who really has celiac disease. It, like my Type I diabetes, is no picnic!

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    1. It’s interesting you mentioned your friend’s daughter with her sensitivity to food cooked in the same toaster … I have that issue, too. It’s strange how our bodies take on disorders like Celiac. Before, I never thought innocent foods like pretzels or crackers could be invasive and physically devastating. We’re taught to give crackers to soothe stomach aches. But I am grateful Celiac has a simple solution: eat no gluten. I can’t imagine having Type 1 diabetes … Thank you for sharing your story here, June! To a healthy 2015!

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  2. I’m so glad you feel better! I have several other friends who have gone through similar problems, so I know how hard it can sometimes be to even come to the diagnosis. Your story gives me renewed interest in trying a gluten free diet. Great post, Jennifer!

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  3. I didn’t realize you had Celiac Jennifer. Our youngest nephew is Celiac so we have spent a lot of time learning about it over the years. We’ve actually all been tested and no one else is showing up at the moment but I have suspicions about my oldest. I also know that I feel way, way better when I cut gluten out of my diet. I’m currently gluten, diary and sugar free- 3 days in to a three week plan. I do this periodically and always feel so, so much better. For some reason, though, I have never gradually and independently re-introduced the offenders so I’m not sure who the real culprit is or if it might be all three. I’m planning on doing that this time to see what it is that is really the issue. Thanks for sharing your story- it was really interesting to hear about your journey.

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    1. Wow, Stacey! A 3 week plan for no gluten, dairy, and sugar must take tremendous discipline. When I first started searching years ago, the test was to eat 2 slices of wheat bread and see how you felt afterward. I hope you find what might be the problem. By trying different things, you’re definitely on the right track. To a healthy 2015!

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  4. Love this, Jennifer! I was devastated when I learned it was celiac disease that was making me sick. But once I learned how to read labels, cook gluten-free and discovered there really was a life beyond gluten, I came to grips with it.It took a long time, but now it’s second nature.

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  5. I have two grown up daughters that are celiac, though to different degrees of sensitivity. The older daughter also has to be corn free, soy free and dairy free. A huge challenge for Christmas dessert, chuckle but with frozen or fresh fruit in wine sauce and a good piece of dark chocolate no one complains. They have also become very good at making gluten free pastry so pie is also an option.

    The internet has some wonderful recipes available if you just type in the kind of dish you want, or the ingredients you have on hand.
    I was so excited to try a flourless chocolate cake this year that it wasn’t until about half way through I remembered the dairy free… and oops… of course the cake needed butter. So I finished that one for some of us and made a second one I found on a website that used whole ground almonds as the fat. it was just as good as the butter one. Things have come a long way in the ten years since my daughters were diagnosed, and most things gluten free tasted like sand. Nobody now needs to “cheat” on this difficult diet to eat the foods they like, one has only to seek out the knowledge. Happy searching, and healthy eating.

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    1. You are right in saying most gluten-free foods tasted like sand, and that they have come a long way. Everyone in my family has been tested for Celiac but none have showed positive yet, and none show symptoms. I used to worry what they would eat (because they eat a LOT of food!) if one had Celiac, but now, with all of the options, it would almost be a smooth transition. I cannot imagine, though, having more allergies to contend with. You are a stellar mom for being so supportive and flexible for your daughters! Thank you, Christine, for stopping by and taking the time to share!

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  6. Good for you! That is something to celebrate and I think that it’s for your health and comfort is so important. I LOVE that picture of you in the white dress at the doorway of the bookstore. Incredible! You’re one hot mama!

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  7. I had a similar issue and was ready to go to the Dr. but being Dr-a-phobic and having a friend that had family with Celiac and just decided to cut out Gluten and cut way down on dairy (milk and ice cream mostly). In about 2 months not only did my belly pain go away (sharp stabbing pains) but I realized that my acne (how horrible to have worse acne at 44 than I did at 18) had cleared up. Acne caused by inflamation from an intolerance to Gluten…..Happy being gluten free for sure….

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    1. This is incredible, Renee. There are an incredible number of links from what we eat to how we feel and look — far more than I’d imagined. Thank you for sharing your story. To a healthy 2015!

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  8. I’m glad that you were able to (finally) get at the root of what was causing you so much pain. I’m also glad that there are many gluten-free foods available now. I had a friend in college who had Celiac. Back then, we felt sorry that he couldn’t drink beer along with the rest of us. 🙂 Of course it was a no-brainer for him because drinking that beer would make him feel terrible.

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