Just Another Gluten-Free Girl

I’ve had stomach issues for most of my life. Around eight or nine years old is when I really remember the pain beginning. I can remember so many days being late to school because my stomach hurt. I can remember waking my parents up in the middle of the night feeling sick to my stomach. My mom took me to the doctor, but there was never much concern, really no testing done, and definitely no answers. In high school I was told it was probably IBS and just something I would have to deal with as there is no cure for IBS.

So I’ve dealt with it. For about a year in college I was prescribed a medication that really seemed to help, but then it was taken off the market when people started having heart attacks. Not ideal. But aside from that year, I’ve just done my best to grin and bear it. However, in the last several years, some aspects had become unbearable. While the aches and pains and cramping sometimes seemed better, the nausea was out of control. I felt pregnant all over again, and there’s nothing that depresses me more than feeling sick all of the time.

About five weeks ago I decided that despite my best efforts at avoiding the gluten-free lifestyle, I should really give it a try. And that meant really giving it a try, not just avoiding bread and pasta for a day to see if I miraculously felt better. In the past when I’d feel really sick, I’d think back to what I had just eaten. Much of the time, it didn’t include anything with gluten (that I knew of), so I decided that that must not be the problem. And I desperately did not want it to be the problem, so this worked conveniently in my favor! What I didn’t realize is that 1.) gluten hides out in all sorts of unexpected places and 2.) you really have to completely eliminate it for at least two weeks and then reintroduce to find out if it’s the culprit. Armed with new knowledge, I did my best to completely eliminate the gluten from my diet. The timing was pretty bad as I was about to get started with SXSW and having to eat out a lot, making it difficult to know exactly what I was eating.

The first two days went by with no noticeable differences. Then day three arrived, and I felt like I was dying. The next two days went much the same way. I had an unbelievable headache and felt more nauseous than ever. I told Nathan that I was either having withdrawal symptoms or was quite literally dying. Finally by about the sixth day I started feeling better. Incidentally, this was the day that SXSW started, so I really think that having that as a distraction and adrenaline rush really helped me get through.

Now I’m five weeks in, and I’ve definitely noticed a big difference in my stomach! The “doubled over in pain” stomach aches that I used to wake up to every morning are gone. Well, I’ve gotten them three times since I started this and all three of those times were when I knowingly (or unknowingly) ate gluten. The nausea has almost completely subsided. My stomach doesn’t feel perfect, but I’m not convinced that it ever will. I’ll probably experiment with some dairy elimination in the future to see if that helps even more, but even if I don’t or it doesn’t help, I’m pretty thrilled with the relief I’ve already experienced.

It’s definitely a lifestyle change and not one that I was thrilled about making. In the beginning I thought that I would just stick to it as best I could, but not be adamant about it. I thought if I really wanted to eat a cookie or something it would be fine, I would just deal with the consequences. But now I know that once you’ve gone off gluten, any slip-up can be damaging and eating gluten once you’ve been off it increases your symptoms tenfold. It’s just not worth it for the temporary pleasure of eating a cookie or piece of cake or whatever. That said, I have felt a little bit like I’m mourning a loss. Every time I think of something different that I can no longer eat, it makes me sad. But then I remember how much better I feel and try to remind myself of all of the things that I can eat. And that’s actually quite a lot.

So here I am. Just another gluten-free girl. I’ll stick with it for as long as it works and hope that things continue to get better as I get further down this road.

Have you tried going gluten-free? Dairy free? Vegetarian? How did it go? Any advice, words of wisdom? And perhaps most importantly, any recipes you’d like to share? 🙂

P.S. I just posted this and realized how LONG it is!! If you read the whole thing, you deserve a medal of some sort. And a thank you! Wow.