Thursday, March 24, 2011

My Gluten-Free Journey

I rather sort of stumbled upon the realization of it in the summer of 2010. To jump start some weight loss, both my sister and I took a personal 30-day challenge to remove ALL grains from our diet and eat what the nutrition world has entitled a Paleo Diet: nuts & berries, fruit, vegetables, meats, eggs, and healthy oils. If it wasn't real, natural, or straight from the ground/animal, it wasn't consumed. No processed foods, no grains. After muscling through a few days of some pretty decent withdrawal symptoms, both of us felt better than we had EVER felt before. Night and day difference! We had energy and normal digestion... No more backaches, cramps, gas, bloating, indigestion, or heartburn. It was amazing!

After our 30 days were up, we slowly started reincorporating grains back into our diet. Corn was fine. Rice was fine.

Then... we reintroduced our bodies to wheat...

I'll spare you the details. But anyone who's walked the road of gluten intolerance knows what symptoms I'm talking about. It was not pretty.

We both backed off the wheat and within 3 days returned to our "digestive zen" so to speak. Every once in a while we'd try wheat again and the not-so-fun list of symptoms reared their ugly heads again.

What was going on?!!! Why was our beloved breads, grains, and pastas raging a digestive war within?! It never bothered us like this BEFORE! At least not this bad!

Then I remembered a long-ago conversation I had had with a girlfriend about a thing she struggled with called "gluten intolerance". I had never heard of it before until our conversation. I remember hearing what all she could and could not eat, how it totally affected her daily diet, but how much better she felt now that gluten had been removed from her diet. Praise God our conversation had been stored in my memory bank for fast retrieval!

I then started devouring (no pun intended) all the resources I could find concerning gluten intolerance and Celiac Disease. I read symptoms lists, "eat this" & "don't eat this" lists, Celiac forums, recipe blogs and websites... I researched topics such as "what will happen to the body if GF intolerance is never addressed", "what does gluten do to the body/intestines", "why do our bodies crave that which it shouldn't eat", etc.

After a LOT of research (and personal experience) I accepted the fact that I do, indeed, suffer from a gluten intolerance and I must make some changes to my diet. Drastic changes. MUCH of my diet consisted of grains... healthy grains, WHOLE grains... but grains nonetheless. Whole wheat. Oats. Barley. I loved them all. I craved them! It was a VERY difficult change to come to terms with. I remember researching "can I ever eat grains again?" and being terribly disappointed when EVERYTHING read said "no".

What was I going to eat?!

All I could seem to focus on at the get-go was what all I COULDN'T eat. I was discouraged. What was even more discouraging was the price tag on all the gluten free items in the health food section! $6+ for a small bag of brownie mix?!!! You've GOT to be kidding.

For a long while I clung closely to the Paleo diet, not knowing how to cook gluten freely... and being scared to eat out at a restaurant... Everyone else was eating normally, but me. So I also had to deal with the constant "it's right here in your face" torment. I knew if I ate it it'd make me sick. Sometimes I'd cave and eat something anyway... and would pay for it miserably for the next 3 days.

And what was I going to do with all these old recipes and cookbooks now?! Of what use were they?! Will I ever be able to eat normally?! Do I have to say good-bye to my favorite foods forever?!

In desperation, I started reading blogs and recipe sites coined Gluten Free. My favorite was General Mills' liveglutenfreely.com site, which actually posted NORMAL meals and dessert options. That's where I was first introduced to GF Bisquick. Albeit costly, it was quite thrilling to eat pancakes, fried chicken, and strawberry shortcakes once again.

To sum it all up, it took BABY STEPS! I was SO incompetent in the kitchen at first. Which was a hard blow because I was all about eating healthy, consuming whole grains, soaking grains, etc. I felt like an amateur in the kitchen once again.

But with time, PRAYER, and research I began taking these baby steps. And now, after almost a year of trial and error, persistence, and determination, I've mastered the basics and feel comfortable in the kitchen cooking gluten freely!

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