Booooo. It's been a week and a half since I've been "glutened" and man, oh man, this mama is still down and out.
Insomnia. Extreme fatigue. Moodiness and frustration levels through the roof (sorry, husband). Dizziness. Migraines. Can't get warm. Nausea. Can't eat anything but chicken broth and smoothies. And stomach pains that have become my constant companion.
All of this from a little drop of beer that snuck it's way onto my soda can.
It's been almost two years since I found out I am severely gluten intolerant and my reactions, when I do come across this stuff, are getting ca-razy. The last time I was glutened (like my fancy word I picked up from the Celiac community?) came from my plain boring steak being grilled on the opposite side of a grill from yummy marinated ones. I thought I'd be OK, but I ended up curled up on the couch, in the fetal position, for three days.
I have become super careful but *stuff* happens and wheat (barley, rye, oats) is a tricky little bugger that likes to hide in sponges, on cutting boards, in toasters, and it waits to pounce on me like a roaring lion. Well, maybe not the roaring lion part, but apparently now that I am super sensitive to this stuff I have to keep my guard up everywhere. Actually, Michael is making me keep my guard up everywhere because he does not like the type of wife he gets when she's on gluten.
Now that I have been "on the other side" I can see how bad things really were, before I eliminated gluten from my life. I can look back as far as I can remember - even as early as 10 years old - and see the effects of gluten reaking havoc on my body in various ways. Fatigue and lack of energy, despite being able to push through it, had always been a part of my life. I was the type of person who flew off the handle when overwhelmed or if something didn't go right. I suffered from depression after Avila was born and in high school I would have random episodes at night of hearing like a million people talk in my head at once. And of course there were the usual culprits: digestive issues, headaches, cravings, joint pain, and colds all throughout the winter.
Before I continue I must share the reason I'm writing this. It's not to simply document my eating habits (because that would be boring, you probably wouldn't care, and it's too sunny out to be posting about what I ate for breakfast). But it is to shed a light on what you or someone around you may be going through. Because if you or a loved one struggles with any of the above symptoms listed, even if it "doesn't seem too bad" you might be amazed at how transformative a life without gluten can be.
It is estimated that upwards of 40% of the general population struggle with gluten intolerance and it can be hidden in so many random symptoms. Here is an interesting post about some of these in general. And it makes sense that all of these issues can stem from a gluten problem. Because, for those who can't digest it, gluten is poison. It attacks the little villi on the intestines and prevents the body from absorbing nutrients from food. The body doesn't think it is getting nutrients and everything goes out of whack. And if these villi get attacked for long enough, the body can turn on itself and gluten intolerance develops into celiac disease (an autoimmune disease).
I write this because what seems like such a restrictive lifestyle change has actually been my ticket to freedom.
2 years later my skin has a glow it never had. I am able to be patient, control my emotions and not lash out on my kids or my husband as I once did. I have tons of energy. I am happy. I was actually able to lose the baby weight this time around. I have no cravings. I didn't get one cold all winter. My joint pain disappeared. And I can actually eat something without having to wear pants with an elastic waist.
And if you really want an awesome lifestyle change, give up dairy, too. Now, I'm not turning all weird and hippy, as the dairy thing was forced upon me by Levi. But crazy thing is that, after only 3 months off dairy, I reintroduced it back into my diet to see what would happen and the next morning Mr. Milk decided to come on out the same way he went on in. That and I got a weird rash. (Sorry, TMI?) As a result, while I'm not as freakish about dairy cross-contamination, I will probably stay off it as much as I can.
As a side note, for me, dairy was a lot harder to give up. I went through a longer "detox" period (about 2 weeks) before I didn't crave it anymore. However, once it was out of my system I realized how much I craved sugar before I gave up dairy. I now no longer need sugar-y things and man, I have so much energy, it's nuts. I think this was a god-send while taking care of a newborn (who is my worst nighttime sleeper) and two little ones. God works in funny ways...
The first thing someone will ask me when they hear I don't/can't eat wheat or dairy is: "Isn't that so restrictive? What can you eat?"
As to the restrictive part, I can only answer that how I would answer living a life of faith. To the world, Christianity (especially Catholicism) seems incredibly restrictive. There are all these "rules," right? Rules that sound as good as eating carrot sticks all day. However, as a Christian, I can tell you that, in following Christ and His Church, I am more free now than I have ever been. Freedom. True Freedom.
And the same goes in honoring our bodies the way God designed them; in only feeding ourselves food which nourishes, truly satisfies, and doesn't leave us with weird side-effects.
In response to "what can you eat?" I say: a lot. I've learned to enjoy cooking and experimenting and, now that we are a gluten-free household (yes, you heard it, Michael included), I've had fun balancing health with keeping it inexpensive and easy.
OK, time to end all this talk about food (and go make myself lunch). But I will leave you with this...It was a good friend of mine (shout out to you, Rebecca!), who is gluten intolerant, who first inspired me to see if this was the cause of me feeling so crappy all the time. And I am so grateful God put her in my life and put the bug in my ear. I only hope that, by hearing my story, someone else out there will get some answers and head down the path of finally feeling well, of finally living a normal life. Or if you know someone who struggles with gluten (dairy, soy, egg, the color blue) intolerance believe them and don't write it off on a passing fad. Because it's life-changing. And because if giving up wheat is all there is to it, sign me up.
(Just don't take away my peanut butter......)