I Can't Eat What And It's Where?
May is Celiac Awareness Month
One way to share Celiac Awareness Month is to share our
stories. Shirley, author of gluten free
easily, asked if I would share my story on her blog. Here is what I shared. I hope you will find some helpful tips. I also hope you will share your experience
with others too.
Eat What And It's Where?
I remember when I was first told that gluten was most
likely making me sick. I had kept a food
journal and shared all of my blood tests and symptoms with a doctor. That didn't get me very far with that
doctor. But he did send me to a
nutritionist. She picked up on the issue
with gluten right away. So my homework
assignment was to not eat gluten for 30 days and then eat something containing
gluten like a piece of bread and see what happened. When she told me that gluten was in wheat,
barley, rye and often oats due to cross contamination I thought well, that's
not so bad. How much of that food am I
really eating? And then she told me
where you really find gluten.
At that point in my life I was feeling really bad and was
ready to stand on my head on a top of a pineapple if it helped me get
better. She gave me a list of safe and
unsafe foods. Also a list of long
chemical names if I was to read labels that could contain hidden gluten. I stopped at my doctor's office on the way
home to be tested for Celiac Disease.
Best to be tested before you go off gluten.
I had felt good so far that day. I had only eaten an egg and some fruit. I got home and really didn't know what to eat.
I was a little panicked but stuck to real food ingredients I had on hand. It was a small lunch. I realized I had not taken my vitamin so had
that too. Within 5 minutes I was bloated,
aching all over again, foggy brained and a few more bad things to boot. I couldn't figure out what was wrong. I was following what she said. Then I remembered the vitamins. I grabbed the bottle and read the label. Wheat!
My vitamins had gluten in them. I
won't tell you what came out of my mouth or how far the bottle went
flying. I ended up in a heap on the
floor crying. What was I going to do
when I couldn't even take a vitamin? What
was I going to eat? I was going to
starve there on my kitchen floor.
After 20 minutes or so, I got up and grabbed the
materials she had given me. Found a list
of resources of books and started searching for them and more online. I read through what she had given me with a
little understanding of what was required, but not an understanding of how I
was going to live like this. I found
only a few blogs online including Gluten Free Goddess and Gluten Free
Girl. I gorged myself on any information
on gluten free living I could find.
Compared to what's out there now, it didn't take too long to read them
By the end of that first day I had gone through
everything in my pantry, refrigerator and freezer. If it was safe I marked it with a big GF with
my black sharpie. If it wasn't I'd
circle the culprit ingredient. It took
forever because we had a lot of processed foods.
I went and bought myself my own jars of things that
others might cross contaminate and marked them as mom's, keep clean. I moved all of the GF things to one
shelf. I didn't have very many. I was actually shocked at how much of the
foods we ate contained gluten. My
nutritionist kept telling me to eat single ingredient foods. I thought she meant one at a time. I thought that was horrible and immediately
went out to buy gluten free packaged foods.
I thought it would make it easier to live gluten free.
I started feeling better and during this time I kept
planning what my gluten "test" food was going to be when the 30 days was up. I thought heck, a slice of bread, I'm eating
cake, the really good chocolate cake from Wegman's. Once in a while I would get a little gluten
from cross contamination. Boy would I
get sick. All of those really bad
symptoms would come back in a blink of an eye.
Well by the end of those 30 days you could not have paid me any amount
of money to eat gluten. I could tell it
was the problem. Don't eat it and I
start to feel better and allow my body to heal.
Eat a crumb and the results are almost instant, severe and last
outwardly for a week.
That was February 2007 and I have not willingly eaten
gluten since. Sure, there have been
instances of cross contamination which I pay dearly for, but there is no way,
and under no circumstances where I would eat gluten. I think of it like poison because that is how
it acts in my body. I describe it to
people who want to have me over to eat or try to bring it into my house as
e-coli. You wouldn't dream of knowingly
touch something with e-coli with anything you were preparing food with, cooking
the food or eating the food. You would
Well I will get sick if I eat gluten. When I say sick I'm talking about the outward
symptoms I can see and feel. I'm not
even talking about the internal damage that is being done to my body. The damage that takes longer than a week to
So as time went on I went from a pantry having 1 shelf of
gluten free foods to a few shelves to all of them. The same thing was true in the
refrigerator. Then I had my family
tested and found out they had reactions to gluten too. So far none of us has ever tested positive
for Celiac Disease, but don't tell my body that. It reacts in the same way as if it did.
Now our house is completely gluten free. After the first year of living gluten free I
was realizing I didn't feel that great.
I could notice more things going on in my body. I then discovered that dairy was a problem
for me too and rice. Well when I found
out I couldn't eat rice I was forced off almost all processed gluten free
products. It is the BEST thing that ever happened to me. I was now forced to eat single ingredient
items, real food, whole foods, foods you have to wash (Melissa's saying from
Gluten Free For Good), naked foods, or however you want to describe those
ingredients you use from nature to make recipes. Once again I had to go through my pantry to
mark what contained rice.
is my one wish for anyone making the
shift to living gluten free and the one I wish I had understood in February
2007. Save yourself a
lot of time and especially money and don't make the same mistake I made. Don't jump from gluten filled processed foods
to gluten free processed foods. I can't
even tell you how much money I wasted.
How much time I wasted! My local
homeless shelter was happy to get the foods I tossed and I was happy to get rid
of them. But really, what was the
purpose of buying them. Why did I buy
The answer is FEAR. I was so afraid of eating the wrong thing
that would make me sick that I went right for something that had the gluten
free stamp. It never crossed my mind
that when I walked into the produce section of the grocery store that it had a
huge gluten free stamp on it, the same thing with fresh seafood and meats. All
I really needed to do was look for organic.
Buying meats that were given no antibiotics or hormones makes it easy. Not the chickens that are injected with
seasonings or flavors but fresh organic chickens. How
much easier that would have been.
Instead of spending 3 hours grocery shopping for a basket full of
processed foods that I would spend so much time and effort reading, I could
have been in and out of the store in no time.
Now the body's healing is a long process, especially for
someone my age who has been slowly driving it mad with those foods it does not
tolerate. I'm like an onion with many
layers. I keep finding new things that
my body doesn't like. The best part is
when I remove them I feel amazing. Yes,
some are harder than others to give up.
But once you give up gluten and you realize life goes on, anything is
here are the steps I took to making the transition to living gluten free:
Identified everything in my house that
contained gluten and marked it
Separated out the foods that were gluten free
Made a list of all of the foods that are
naturally gluten free when not processed
Tried some new foods. If I can eat it I'll give it a try even if
it's something in the past I would not have touched with a 10 foot pole
(Brussels sprouts and beets)
Got back into the kitchen and started
cooking, instead of just heating and eating
Gathered support from my immediate family
Gathered support from the blogging world and
gluten free community at large
Gradually learned how to eat out again
Now I also:
Plan my menu for the month
Buy 95% non-processed foods
Eat more raw foods in my smoothies
Keep track of my recipes and what I learned
on my blog
Keep meeting more and more wonderful gluten
Have people over to eat who know I live
gluten and dairy free but never miss it
Cater parties gluten and dairy free
Teach others how to live gluten free
Give others ideas on how to eat real food
Started 30 Days to a Food Revolution
Cook from single ingredient real food and freeze
the leftovers for my fast meals
Eat out often but at restaurants that create
their own dishes from real food
Always learning more and more along the way
Eat more local produce and what is in season
Don't make decisions based on fear, but hope