It all started the summer before my 8th grade year started. I had recently been through tons of stress and a horrible 7th grade year. My body was changing and in a period of so many transitions. But I was still enjoying every food that came my way. Until one day I had a friend over and my mom ordered us pizza. I had been eating pizza my whole life so I ate and then we settled down to watch a movie we had rented. A little less then an hour later I knew something was wrong. I had never had so much pain, cramps, and stomach discomfort in my life. I had to secretly keep going to the bathroom (so my friend wouldn’t notice that there was a problem. Obviously 12 year old embarrassment!) I tried to calm myself, take some pepto, and just watch the movie. But I was in so much tummy turmoil I had to tell my mom and make up an excuse to get my friend to leave. Thankfully she did and was non the wiser. After she left I slept through the rest of the day and night. That was the day I realized my body hated me. We though I might have gotten heat exhaustion from being outside the whole morning in the sun, but after more days and weeks went by with similar episodes, we knew we had to act.
That summer I was down to eating Rice Chex, iceberg lettuce, and boiled white potato. I was starving, but my body couldn’t handle anything I would normally eat. We thought I might be lactose-intolerant so I went to see a pediatric gastro who signed me up for a lactose test. How fun that was to drink lactose laced lemon flavored grainy water for a few hours in the waiting room of the pediatric floor of the hospital. The initial reading of the test came back high, but then began to lower. So of course no thing was conclusive, but I cut our dairy anyway. However, that did nothing to calm my distressed digestive system.
I had a friend who had been recently diagnosed with Celiac Disease and she told me my symptoms sounded like I could be a candidate. So the next step my family and I decided to take was to cut gluten from my diet. I would do anything to be able to eat again. So that night my mom and I went out and bought a box of De Boles Gluten-Free Penne pasta. I remember eating that first gluten-free meal and I have to say, it was not bad. I knew if this was what my body would need me to do, I could do it. So I began to transition all gluten products out of my diet and became vigilant about cross-contamination. With-in a few weeks I started to feel better. I was actually able to eat without being sick or feeling much discomfort.
Of course at this point I had already missed so much school from visiting doctors (who were no help) and being sick practically everyday. The memories of eating a bagel and being doubled over in pain were still so fresh in my mind. I also began to think back to when I was younger and could pin-point times when I would go out to eat or have dinner, or a big Italian feast at my grandmas and how sick I felt afterword. I was young and just thought I had an upset stomach so I never told my parents about these episodes. But now I knew those had been foreshadowing events.
We went back to my gastro, after I had been gluten-free for about 3 months, and she wanted to do a biopsy of my small intestine to check for Celiac. Of course by that point it wouldn’t be 100% since I had been gluten-free for those 3 months previous. However, I was put under for my first endoscopy and the results were that there was visible severe damage to my stomach and small intestine (indicative of celiac), which now looked to be healing. Small amounts of tissue were taken and sent to a pathologist, certifying a celiac diagnosis. By going gluten-free I was able to heal my body and actually eat again! Other members of my family (my uncle and mom) have seem to have problems with wheat or gluten. My mom has recently been trying to go gluten-free and for the most part is now following a strict gluten-free diet. She experiences the same episodes of stomach distress when she eats gluten. Celiac is commonly found as a genetic trait passed down, so I wouldn’t be surprised if she had Celiac as well.
November 4th of this year will mark my 4 year Gluten-Free Anniversary! I feel like I have been gluten-free for so much longer though. I now don’t even think about it on a day to day basis. Being gluten-free comes naturally now, I know what I can eat and how to live. I hear and read so many stories of people struggling with transitioning and living gluten-free. Maybe it is because many don’t expect the diagnosis. But I know for me it was a blessing. Even if I suddenly didn’t have Celiac, I don’t think I would ever go back to gluten eating. Being gluten-free introduced me to so many new foods and cooking techniques. It also is what sparked my interest in healthy living and whole natural semi-vegan eating. So many positives came out of my experience I am actually thankful to have had it. (Could have done without the pain and suffering…).
Some of you may be wondering what exactly is Celiac Disease…let me explain.
Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disease where when gluten is digested in the body and gets to the small intestine the body reacts as though there is a foreign enemy invading. Thus the villi of the small intestine becomes severely damaged and interferes with the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from the food. Now what is gluten? Gluten is the protein found mainly in wheat, barley and rye. Thus any food containing these ingredients of their derivatives is completely off limits to someone with Celiac, gluten intolerance, or a gluten allergy. These is no cure or medication for Celiac so it can only be treated with a life-long strict adherence to a gluten-free life-style. If you don;t follow this life-style you could develop other autoimmune diseases, cancer, severe nutrient deficiency, thyroid problems, osteoporosis, and even death. Being gluten-free for a medical disease is no joke and no fad diet.
Gluten-Free has recently gotten a bad rep as a quick fix fad diet endorsed by celebrities and the like. I am so angry about this and how anyone who develops even the slightest stomach discomfort thinks they need to go gluten-free or that gluten-free will help them loss weight and be the epitome of health. This is so false. The only reason anyone needs to be gluten-free is for a medical condition such as Celiac, a severe intolerance, or allergy. There are no proven benefits to being gluten-free. Many people gain weight on this diet because they start eating every processed food labeled “gluten-free” they see. Of course if you have celiac you might gain weight because you body is now able to absorb nutrients and thrive. But besides that the term gluten-free is being thrown around and abused by the media and big name companies and it needs to stop.
Okay rant over. This post is way to long so I will cut it off there. I will definitely be doing more gluten-free posts in the future with tips and tricks for struggling newbies. If you actually read all of this or at least skimmed, I thank you!
So tell me:
Are you gluten-free? If so why?
Do you suffer for any other food allergies, intolerance, or disease? I also have a soy allergy and am still questioning my ability to consume oats. As you know I also don’t eat dairy or eggs. I have stayed away from dairy ever since that weird lactose test reading, but now I wouldn’t go back for ethical reasons.
Have a great Thursday and see you tomorrow with the Friday Finisher!