Thursday, January 10, 2013

why i'm going gluten free

Among my 2013 resolutions, you may have noticed my goal to stop eating gluten at least until my birthday on february 11. Truthfully, I started this goal before the new year and I've offically gone 18 days without gluten. (holla!) I realize this might not sound like a big number, but I challenge you to try it for one or two days and you'll get it -- it's hard. My sincere admiration and respect goes out to all people who deal with food allergies and dietary restrictions, seriously.

Not sure what gluten free means?

Basically it means no wheat...so the foods on the chopping block include bread, pasta, all baked goods (unless made special with non-wheat flour), most cereals (bless you, chex!), many sauces and soups, etc. also random things like reeses, but only the holiday shapes (weird, i know). Basically, the lifestyle means you have to check food labels and/or look everything up before you eat it (bless you, smartphone).

Why am I doing this?

I'll spare you the details of my poor, ailing tummy but suffice it to say, it's hated me for a few years now. I tried going without dairy and a variety of other remedies, but nothing ever seemed to make a difference. Aside from the stomach, my other issues included regular headaches, weak immune system, general fatigue, weird random fevers and joint pain, random itchiness, a plague of deathly canker sores, etc.

Not my first rodeo...

Visits to the doctor always came back inconclusive, even official blood tests (something involving an IgA deficiency that can cause a false negative for the gluten test). I first tried going gluten free a couple years ago, and let's be honest: i was terrible at it. I frequently cheated or didn't pay close enough attention to food labels, so i never could tell what made a difference and what didn't. The problem with gluten is that, if your body doesn't handle it well, it damages your digestive system -- so the only way to fix it is to go cold turkey long enough to let the system heal itself and then avoid gluten....forever. Needless to say, my low commitment level resulted in failure for my first gluten free trial.

But then, I just snapped one day.

I reached a point the last few months where i felt like i got sick every other week. If i was around anyone with a cold, i inevitably came down with it. I'd get random fevers that made my whole body ache and put me in bed for a couple days at a time, but i never tested positive for the flu or mono. We won't even get into the angst and woes of my tummy, but it was no bueno. I still struggled with regular headaches, and it reached a point during december where the pain was pretty crippling and struck like clockwork every afternoon/evening. The only thing that made it better was excedrin migraine, but i don't always love the racing heart and jittery caffeine high that comes with that avenue. So a few days before Christmas at the grocery store, I just snapped and took everything out of my cart that had gluten in it.

And I mean it this time.

It's never been so easy in my life to say no to something. All those christmas baked goods? No thank you. Free food at work and social events? I can pass. It definitely takes work and planning to eat gluten free (it's in pretty much...everything) but my mind is in a much better place this time around. As much as i love so many things with gluten in them, it no longer outweighs my desire to feel good. Instead of feeling resentful of things I can't eat, I've actually noticed a large amount of gratitude when I remember all the delicious things I can eat: grilled chicken, vegetables, gluten-free dressing and sauces, fruit, yogurt, oatmeal, etc. I also have a sincere appreciation for restaurants and grocery stores that cater to a gluten-free diet -- they do exist, and I want to hug them all and shout their names from the rooftops!

And has it helped?

Honestly, yes. I know it's only been 18 days so it might sound cheesy or dramatic, but I haven't had a single headache in more than two weeks, my stomach is working noticeably better (not perfect yet, but better), and my overall energy level is on the upswing. My initial goal was to make it all the way until my birthday on february 11 so i could get a more conclusive gauge on the situation. More time will surely tell if it's causation or coincidence, but with the way I feel so far I suspect I already know the answer. But like I said, only more time will tell for sure. I struggle a little with feeling high maintenance when friends try to plan their meals around me or I have to turn down free food offers, but I've been doing a really good job of keeping my own snacks on hand so I can just tell other people to do their thing if I can't eat what they are eating.

Thanks for the support!

And finally, I just want to give a shout-out to crystalee from delighted to write. This sweet girl has been gluten free for several years, and is someone I only know through the online blog world. When I sent her an email about not eating gluten a few months ago, she offered to have a phone conversation with me (a complete stranger!) and gave me the nicest pep talk about it all. It took me a couple months to get in gear and commit to the idea, but I am so grateful for her support and example that this crazy diet isn't completely daunting and impossible. You're a gem, crystalee!

Any other gluten free eaters out there? Thoughts?

19 comments:

karajean said...

Good luck with your commitment. Sounds like you are really in the right mindset this time.

If the gluten-free thing does not fix your canker sore problem, however, I know a simple way to get rid of them for good! All you have to do is change your toothpaste.

Anyway, good luck. I expect an update in February.

Allison said...

I'm not gluten-free, but Mara from ablogaboutlove.com is! Her blog is amazing and she often includes gluten-free recipes. Like in this post, there's a link for coconut flour chocolate cupcakes: http://www.ablogaboutlove.com/2012/10/my-danny-family-during-hurricane.html

katilda said...

Oh the canker sores! I swear I have tried every home remedy ever. I switched to all-natural bland toothpaste a couple years ago (Toms brand) and it tastes like baking soda but it did make things a little better. Just not all the way better! Funny that it tasted gross to me at first and now any "regular" toothpaste makes me feel like I'm brushing my teeth with sugar. I mean, what's in that stuff? Blech.

katilda said...

YUM! I love Mara's blog! I knew she was dairy free (I think?) but I forgot the gluten part. Maybe I just switched it all around. I am glad you read her blog too!

Kristen said...

My 4 yr old daughter got diagnosed with Celiac last January, so she (and all our dinners) have been gluten-free since then. I have learned SO MUCH. And it is crazy how much her personality changed (from ornery and tired all the time to happy and lotsa energy) after the switch to gluten-free. I could give you lots of yummy recipes if you want, and lots of good blogs I've found. My email is kristenhopkins3@hotmail.com. I could even tell you the best gluten-free mixes, breads, crackers, and snack foods that actually taste GOOD. There are a lot that taste awful, and believe me, you don't want to spend expensive money on them.

And yes, I want to shout from the rooftops for all the companies and restaurants that are helping my gluten-free daughter to feel a bit more normal. What will be hard for me come August is I will have to pack her a gluten-free lunch every day for school for years and years. Should be FUN. :)

Chantel said...

Wow you are amazing! I am so glad it is helping and you are feeling better!

katilda said...

this makes me so happy! and i've noticed a difference in my mood too, but i'm not sure if that was due to having time off for the holidays or not, haha. i do feel like my brain is less foggy and i don't get super tired every afternoon like i usually do. amazing! i am totally going to email you. also i can't remember if we've ever met in person but we sure will this march at your sister's wedding!

Katie said...

YAY I hope it continues to work!!!! That would be amazing!

Jacqueline said...

girl you can totally do this! living gluten free is amazing. i've done it for three years now and i'll never go back. the hard part is you really have to give it a good 3-6 months of staying off gluten strictly to see the best results. it is hard, very hard, but luckily there are so many great gluten free products today to make the transition easier, and many more restaurants are becoming sensitive to those with food allergies. wishing you loads of luck! Xx

John Gough said...

Don't feel bad. No one can trust street tacos.

katilda said...

3-6 months! i can do this! haha

Katie said...

Awww, we never made it to that taco wagon on 32nd street! Haha I'm glad you feel better though!!

Becca said...

I went dairy free for seven months and for somebody whose favorite food is cheese....that was flippin hard stuff! Then, for about a month and a half of those seven months, I was also gluten free! It ended up not helping me...and I was really grateful because it was the hardest thing ever! But, I have gluten free friends, and I'm really proud of all of you gluten free goddesses! Haha. :) It's hard, but if it's worth it...it's worth it!

Crystalee said...

Thanks for the shout out! I'm happy you've found something that helps you feel better. It's an adventure in looking at food in a whole new way. It takes discipline for the first year or so - but after that, gluten free is simple.

It's how you eat.

And you're welcome to call anytime!

karajean said...

Haha you already know about the secret, magic, baking soda, nasty toothpaste. Sorry it didn't work completely for you!

Helena said...

I've got a really good friend who is gluten-intolerant, and the only places we've gone out to eat are sketchy Mexican restaurants! Specifically for sketchy tacos. He says it may depend on how sensitive your stomach is, but he's never had a problem. So maybe you don't have to say goodbye??

imtryingtofeelbetter said...

I have been gluten free about a month and a half now (was also kind of off & on for the about 5 months before that.)
It has helped quite a bit with all my symptoms (very similar to yours, but without the stomach issues) some are still lingering, and I was starting to lose hope, but, I just found out about the 3-6 month healing time, so I have renewed hope that things will clear up completely :)

Crystalee said...

How's this been going, Katie? Need any G-Free support calls?

Stay hydrated said...

Some foods do trigger canker sores so it is definitely a good idea to pay attention to diet