July 2010. My journey to healthy living has been a long one. It has been confusing, frustrating, depressing and finally freeing and healing. Some parts of what I share are personal and detailed. I have chosen to share though because the more I share the more people I find who have gone through similar situations. I share so others don't feel alone. I share so others can maybe find the joy in once again feeling good and having energy. On this page you will find my journey. Click on the healthy living and gluten free labels to find posts containing recipes and day to day tips. I will be adding and updating a lot so check back in from time to time.
As I child I struggled with multiple food allergies and had difficulty gaining weight. I was much smaller than other kids my age. I often had bad leg cramps the doctors said I would outgrow but never did. As a teen, I contracted Epstein Barr Virus that resulted in a week long hospital stay. The virus infected my liver and spleen and wiped me out for several months. After the virus, I began having trouble with fainting spells and symptoms similar to drops in blood sugar. All tests revealed nothing but my mom was offered antidepressants for her teen daughter who was probably faking her symptoms. Thankfully, she refused them! After high school I married and began nursing school. During nursing school I started having major GI problems. I was passing blood and undigested food when I went to the bathroom. I started having stomach cramps and lots of gas. In my teen years I also began having what I now know was anxiety attacks. Over the next 5 years I battled multiple GI symptoms and problems and saw many specialists who had virtually no answers. My official diagnosis was irritable bowel syndrome which means what? My bowels are irritable?!?!.....I could have told them that for free not the thousands of dollars in healthcare we had spent. I was also diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome at one point as well. Frustrated with doctors and ready to begin my family, I went off all medications and started juice plus and felt better than I had in a long time. I suffered with varying symptoms that I just learned to cope with for the next several years. About once every 18 months I would have a severe flare up that would wipe me out for about 1-2 months. In 2009, I had such an episode after some emotional stress. The difference this time was that I didn't bounce back. I had diarrhea an average of 10 times a day for 4 months and had lost about 15 pounds. After seeing a general practitioner, I was offered another anti-depressant?!?! Fed up with conventional medicine, I visited a holistic DO and finally found some answers. My bloodwork and stool samples revealed severe inflammation consistent with inflammatory bowel disease and there were high levels of the antigliadin antibodies. They said it was possible that I had Celiac Disease and I should try a cleansing diet. For 8 weeks I did not consume any dairy, sugar, gluten (wheat, barley, rye), or processed foods. People asked me what did you eat? I ate meat, vegetables, and fruit in natural forms and alternative grains. I began several natural supplements to promote healing. In one week I felt like a new person. I had not felt so rested, energetic, or good in my adult life!
No more anxiety attacks, no more leg cramps, no more restless leg syndrome, no more sleepless nights, and no more GI symptoms! I never had further testing because I would have had to go back on gluten for 8 weeks to perform traditional western medicine tests. The results of the diet were enough confirmation for me.
Where I am now
I now have two of my three children on a gluten free diet. My son and I are mostly dairy free as well. It wasn't easy at first and takes lots of planning and preparation, but as time goes on it gets easier. I have been gluten free for 16 months now and am still doing very well. The only times I have had symptoms return I can always trace back to accidental or purposeful incidents of being what I call "glutened". I chose to go dairy free as part of the cleansing diet and it caused severe pain and GI symptoms every time I tried to add it back. Many people with Celiac or Gluten sensitivity become dairy sensitive due to damage of the GI tract. After over a year of healing, I can tolerate it in very small doses spread out over time. My daughter suffered from migraine headaches since she was a very young child that resulted in vomiting. It took until she was much older to realize that's what it was. She also complained often of the horrid leg cramps that I had grown up with. Finally, as her permanent teeth came in she had dental enamel hyperplasia (white spots on her teeth). All of these were symptoms of celiac in children. Even though her bloodwork was negative we decided to try her on the diet. She has not had one migraine since. No drugs no medicine….just the healing power of the food we eat. She has been off gluten for a year and we now allow her to have small amounts at times but always separated by a minimum of 4 days (allergy diet rotation). We are having good success with this. My son's story is quite different from my daughters. I was beta strep positive during his pregnancy and we received 2 rounds of IV antibiotics right before his birth. His entire GI system and immune system was challenged at birth. He was hospitalized and suffered from SEVERE reflux at as early as 2 weeks old. He stayed on strong medications the first year of his life to alleviate the symptoms. He had multiple ear infections and RSV and was given way too many antibiotics his first several years as well. Fast forward to school age and he was having very different issues similar to ADHD and his teacher noticed marked improvement this past year after starting him on the diet and supplements to promote healing of his GI system.
I believe my entire family of five is much healthier today than 2 years ago. My husband and other daughter eat many of the gluten free things we eat and have much more variety of grains in their diet than everything wheat. Making these changes in my diet really opened my eyes to the connections between what we put into our bodies (food, medicines, chemicals, etc) and the affects it has on how our bodies function. I believe that we are paying the price with our health for the conveniences of fast food and processed food! We were not created to eat that way. When we do consume those things it should be the exception and not the norm. Unfortunately for many of today's working families on the go, it is the norm. I have become very passionate about healthy living. I still believe wheat is a good grain. So I am not promoting that everyone needs to go gluten free. However, I believe for those that are not gluten free they need to eat minimally processed whole grain foods and maybe add many of the other wonderful more nutritional grains to their diet and also avoid processed foods with fillers, preservatives and additives. The problem is that wheat is added to soooo many things that we are being bombarded with it. I don't believe we were meant to consume it in such quantities and in so many products. I believe that because of this many people who are not Celiac are becoming Gluten Sensitive and suffering from many ailments resulting from the GI system not functioning properly. (Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye.) It makes so much since really. The food we eat is fuel for our body. It is up to our GI system to break down food and turn it into fuel which is absorbed through our intestines and dispersed to our organs. If junk goes in then over time damage will result and the body will lose its ability to break down the food and turn it into the fuel we need to power our vital organs which will in turn lead to all kinds of diseases (heart disease, diabetes, mental disorders, cancer, etc). Then we take synthetic chemicals to alleviate the symptoms and mask the problem. The true nature of the initial damage continues while we put more foreign substances into our bodies. It is a vicious cycle!
I have come to believe we should avoid processed foods and eat things as close to how God created them to be. When I go to the grocery store I will not buy things without reading the label. Have you ever taken much time reading labels? You will be very surprised! If I can't pronounce it….I don't buy it. I have found the fewer the ingredients the healthier the product is. If I don't know what something is I look it up. Now I know everything I am consuming. I don't have one product in my home that contains high fructose corn syrup. They use it in everything from cereal to ketchup. I was amazed.
I was very overwhelmed and even depressed when I was told I couldn't have many of my favorite foods. The first time I went to the grocery store after being told to do the cleansing diet I left crying. The next time I went, I was there 4 hours reading labels! It is very time consuming in the beginning to make such a drastic lifestyle change. However, as time goes on it does get much easier. You learn the products that you like and can get through the store in under an hour. I have so much more to share about my journey but I think this is enough information for an introduction. Please check for other blog posts under labels of gluten free and healthy living!
Suggested Reading and Viewing
The Maker's Diet by Jordan Rubin. Don't agree with everything but Chapter 4 is very eye opening and a must read!
Eat this and Live! by Don Colbert, MD
The G-Free Diet by Elizabeth Hasselback
Food, Inc the documentary
Surf the internet about:
- Gluten and chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, etc.
- Dangers of high fructose corn syrup
- Dangers of partially hydrogenated oils