Going Gluten Free

When I decided to go gluten-free, it wasn’t because I’d been diagnosed with celiac disease, although I’ve been told that my symptoms bear a striking resemblance.  It was a personal decision based on a lot of factors. Basically it was an experiment. I was making an educated assumption that gluten was irritating my gut, I wanted to see if going gluten-free would allow my chronic stomach troubles to improve, my low iron levels to normalize, and the array of other symptoms I experienced would change. 

You have to understand, I have never met a carb I don’t like. I live for pizza and bread and pizza and coffee cakes and muffins and sweet rolls and pizza and pasta and those holiday cookies my grandmother makes. . .

When I’d consider going off gluten, my mind would run wild with the “what if” and the “what will I do when…”  I looked ahead to years of birthday parties and pizza nights and social events and holidays with no gluten.  No vanilla cake, no pizza, no sweet rolls, no muffins, no dinner rolls, no fresh slice of homemade bread still warm from the oven and slathered with butter,  no pasta dishes . . .  How could I live?

But I was also tired of living with stomach discomfort, fatigue, skin breakouts and iron deficiency. So finally, I decided I would start Monday.  Sound familiar???  I had one last hurrah at a family Sunday dinner — lasagna and homemade garlic bread and caesar salad with croutons and chocolate cupcakes. I gorged. … And I woke up in the middle of the night with the usual reaction: my body overheated, sweating, feeling nauseous and miserable.  I wondered if this would happen once I gave up gluten.

The next day I decided to go cold turkey. I chose to start my gluten free journey during the month of November and had to endure various holiday parties and celebrations watching everyone devour homemade yeast rolls, delectable cakes and pies, crackers with their cheese and much more while I went without. But the amazing thing about it was, even though those things looked good to me, I didn’t crave them. 

Within a few days, I felt better than I have in years. People often ask, how soon did you notice a difference? Without hesitation, I always say, within 24 hours. It’s the truth. I felt lighter, my gut felt happy (I know no other way to describe it) and odd symptoms that I had never associated with gluten like brain fog and crabbiness disappeared.  My skin even started to clear up.

But let me tell you, just because I was feeling better did not keep me away from the occasional 3 or 4 holiday cookies, bite of pasta, a lunch wrap, or bread slathered with parmesan cheese and olive oil at my favorite Italian restaurant every few days. But every time I cheated I would be doubled over in pain within one hour. I found every excuse to why my stomach was hurting, I did not want to admit it was gluten!  But the broken record started to play in my head: I am never eating that again!!!

I decided to write down every possible symptom that was bothering me, in case it was related to gluten. I know how easy it is to forget about symptoms after they’re gone, and I didn’t want to fall into that trap. It’s already hard enough that not everyone takes this seriously. I need to make sure that I take it seriously, that I don’t forget how much better I feel living this way. And if the symptoms don’t go away I’ll have to try something else. But I decided to give the gluten-free experiment 100% for at least 3 months before I re-evaluate.

The hardest thing about being gluten-free is that you really cannot even have a smidgeon of gluten if you want to determine if you are truly sensitive and especially if you want your body to completely heal. The theory is, when you have food sensitivities, as long as you have those irritants in your body, no matter how few, your body can’t fully heal. I realize there are different views on the food sensitivity issue, but I look at it this way. 

I noticed the more disciplined I was, the better I felt.  Reviewing my list of symptoms, and I can definitely say that within the past four months, my skin has improved, the distension and bloating I used to experience with regularity is gone, and the brain fog and occasional overall weak feelings are gone.

So I decided to eat gluten.  Oh my god was it good for that moment.  Within an hour my stomach hurt so badly I was doubled over in pain again, a distant feeling I knew all too well.  It did not last as long as I had remembered but how coincidental, I woke up with small blemishes around my mouth the next morning.  Seriously there is no way, but there is...  I follow this cycle of going off gluten for months followed by eating it with a remembrance of those distant feelings I do not miss. 

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