Saturday, November 16, 2013

My Journey to Gluten Free

A lot of people have been curious about my newly instated Gluten Free status. So, I thought I'd share!

About 1.5 years ago, I went on the Paleo diet (well, Paleo except Dairy. I still ate dairy). I loved it! I felt great, lost was wonderful. Then we went to Bermuda where vegetables were the most expensive things you could buy - and by expensive, I mean $6 for one Bell Pepper, $4 for a head of lettuce expensive. So I went off the Paleo diet. And I still felt ok - but I was walking and swimming a lot. And I was in freaking BERMUDA!

But when I got home, I couldn't get myself back on the Paleo diet. Just couldn't do it! I loved my breads and sandwiches and donuts and cakes...mmmm....

I started having stomach aches all the time - I can't remember if I had them before the Paleo thing. Nothing severe, just constant aches. And I was getting SO bloated! By bed time, I would look 6 months pregnant! It was frustrating. I thought maybe something I was eating was upsetting me, so I decided to try some elimination diets.

I settled on Dairy first - just a random choice without any research 'cause that's how I roll...sometimes. And it lasted about .8 seconds because I LOVE dairy. LOVE it. LLLLLOVE it!

So my stomach aches continued as I puttered around, thinking I should do something but never really taking action, eating a lot and gaining weight.  I also was getting frustrated that I seemed to have fuzzy brain all the time, was constantly forgetting things, but I just thought I'm getting older, have a lot going on and am slightly insane.  All of which are actually true. But I digress...

Then one miraculous day, I came across this link on Facebook. And VOILA!  There are 10 symptoms listed, here are the ones that applied to me:

1. Digestive issues such as gas, bloating, diarrhea and even constipation. I see the constipation particularly in children after eating gluten.
3. Fatigue, brain fog or feeling tired after eating a meal that contains gluten.

5. Neurologic symptoms such as dizziness or feeling of being off balance.
6. Hormone imbalances such as PMS, PCOS or unexplained infertility.

10. Mood issues such as anxiety, depression, mood swings and ADD.

Whoa! Epiphany! The article explains that Gluten Intolerance is different than Celiac Disease. Just read it! I also did some other research and while Gluten Intolerance may or may not be recognized by the medical community the way Celiac Disease is, it's definitely an issue.

So I went on a gluten elimination diet, which is actually pretty challenging - at least it was for me and my love of all things bread. But I had done it before - with the Paleo diet you eat NO grains! so at least I knew what to do for the most part. And I did allow myself other grains, like rice and lentils and such. 
It takes a while for the gluten to work out of your body, so I didn't notice huge changes. The major one was the headaches! 

I had been having some pretty bad headaches - headaches that felt like sinus headaches. I also thought I had a lingering sinus infection. ALL disappeared when I quit eating gluten. 

My stomach aches did ease up and I'm not sure if I noticed the bloating subsiding or not.

During this time, I was in rehearsal for Legally Blonde. It was a little challenging because not getting the carbs was an adjustment and sometimes I felt tired or weak easily at rehearsal. It takes me a while to remember I have to eat more and more frequently when I'm not getting the carbs. I started keeping snacks on me at all times.

One night, however, we were having a late rehearsal or early or something and the director had promised to bring in dinner. So I didn't really eat, of course forgetting that most stuff that people would provide a crowd has gluten in it. Sure enough, pizza! And I was starving. It had been just over 2 weeks on my elimination diet so I thought well, let's see what happens! Usually it's recommended to wait a little longer than that, but circumstances being what they were, I went for it. Well, within a few hours I had a headache. And I suddenly felt very fuzzy in my brain. And very impatient and emotional. It was a TOUGH rehearsal anyway and by the end of it, when I got in the car to leave...tears. TEARS! Sobbing, crying over nothing! My husband was like - what's going on. It's been a long time since I've had just a random emotional fit but it's not completely foreign to me. Finally I said to him - I think it's the gluten! Oh. My. Gosh! It had to be!

My feelings about this discovery were decidedly mixed. On one hand, I was excited that maybe I could feel better! On the other hand, I love gluten filled products! And I don't want to be one of THOSE people. You know, the ones who make their food allergies/intolerances everyone else's problem?

I had just had an experience where 2 relatives with gluten issues were really rude to me about my own birthday cake, even though I had gone out of the way to provide a healthy, fruit alternative to the cake. Like somehow I was intentionally torturing them by having birthday cake. On my birthday. Left a really bitter taste in my mouth. 

ANYWAY, though, I accepted that I should make the jump and go gluten free. It's not been easy and I've in no way been perfect. I slip up a lot. Like yesterday. For saltine crackers of all things! Sometimes it's a calculated risk and sometimes I just forget. And I don't like most gluten free alternatives. Gluten is what makes baked goods soft and moist, so gluten free bread, aside from being over $5 for a tiny little loaf, is dry, tasteless and nasty. I can do it toasted as grilled cheese or on a hamburger, but no pb&j's here. I mostly just avoid breads and other such nonsense. 

I feel better. And I've lost weight! But more importantly, I feel better. I think I've only gotten one really bad headache since I officially went off gluten and I think it was neck muscle related. I rarely get bloated unless I eat too much sugar or gluten. My sinuses are all cleared up, except today because I ate a lot of gluten over the last few days. My brain functions better, it's sharper. I'm less emotional! If I start to feel angry or impatient or irritable, I usually realize I had gluten in the last 24 hours. And if I get irritated with my kids, they say mom, did you have gluten? All my digestive functions are more pleasant. 

And... I make great efforts not to be one of "those" people. I have a special need so I just have to plan ahead. I'll bring snacks and foods I know I can eat. And if I forget, I try to suffer in silence. Ok, I was pretty vocally bummed last week at family dinner that I missed out on all of the 3 desserts provided, but I forgot to bring my own. I didn't think ahead! And while I won't turn it down if someone wants to provide something special for me, I am grateful for it, I don't expect it. 

I know I'll be adjusting for sometime - even 4 months can't re-program a lifetime of eating habits. Fortunately, during Legally Blonde I made a wonderful friend who is also gluten free, so she gave me a lot of tips and turned me on to some yummy products that are awesome!!

So, there it is. I'm Sandra and I'm gluten free. Almost always, anyway. :) 

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