I used to be the person who snickered at people who requested gluten-free options for the office pot-luck or when standing in line at a restaurant. This year I became that person after twelve years of thinking I suffered from IBS-D.
My digestion issues began in 2004. I was 19 and preparing to move to Miami, Florida to finish my undergraduate studies at FIU. I was diagnosed with H. Pylori (the H should stand for hell) a bacterial infection of your stomach lining, and was put on an aggressive antibiotic regimen to cure the infection. My digestive health went downhill from there.
Although H. Pylori was eliminated from my system many of the symptoms remained including frequent bathroom visits. As a result I went from 125 to 105 in less than two months. After several medical procedures and tests one doctor suggested that I try a gluten-free diet with magnesium therapy for a month to “reset my system”. I followed his orders and started feeling better. I began to put my weight back on, the sudden bouts of diarrhea decreased and I resumed my gluten eating life.
Over the years my “IBS” would flare up, but I didn’t pay much attention to the potential triggers. Things worsened around the middle of 2016 and my IBS attacks became more frequent. I was also getting headaches 3-5 times a week which I attributed to stress.
Then my arms began to go numb. I initially thought I was developing carpal tunnel and that it wasn’t related to my digestion issues. But then my skin began to change in texture and appearance. I was constantly dehydrated by the frequent bathroom visits and lack of mineral and vitamin absorption.
In all honesty, I thought I was dying. It sounds dramatic, but I did.
One night I haphazardly told my lash technician about my concerns and she said “That’s exactly what was happening to me when they finally diagnosed me with a gluten intolerance”. I went home and googled the symptoms and I had at least 60% of them. I broke down in tears because for the first time in a long time everything that had been occurring within my body finally made sense.
So that night I decided to eliminate gluten from my diet and I scheduled an appointment with a doctor. During my appointment the doctor confirmed that I didn’t have Celiac disease but I did have a gluten allergy.
I’ve been gluten-free for three months now and it is unbelievable how much better I feel.
If you’re checking out this post chances are that you’re newly diagnosed and aren’t quite sure what to do. Here are six things that would’ve been helpful to know when I was diagnosed with a gluten allergy:
- Stop Eating Gluten Immediately
Although that sounds obvious it must be stated, because if you’re like me, you might be tempted to ease into a gluten free diet rather than to go cold turkey. If you have an allergy the presence of gluten even in small quantities can aggravate your digestive system. You’re best bet is to get it completely out of your system.
- It’s hard to explain to people who don’t get it
More and more people are discovering that they have a gluten allergy which means more and more people are learning about the allergy. But some people still don’t get it. We’re so detached from our food sources that we often don’t realize what’s actually in our food. I didn’t necessarily know or care if gluten or wheat was in my food until I found out I had an allergy.I have found that saying that I can’t have flour or wheat or anything made with flour or wheat has been the most helpful.
- You’ll never pick a restaurant the same
My dining experience is completely different now. I often search “gluten-fre xxx” yelp when choosing a restaurant for the husband and I to dine at alone or with friends. Yelp has become my best friend and I research all of the restaurants we head to beforehand (thank God for my iPhone). One thing I’ve found is that most major restaurants have menu items clearly listed as gluten-free.
- Gluten Free doesn’t equal healthy
The In-N-Out burger protein style (lettuce wrapped) is gluten free. Does that mean it’s healthy? Heck no. Gluten-free doesn’t mean it’s low in carbohydrates nor automatically healthy. Read your labels and watch out for the calories, sugar, fat, and sodium content in your foods.
- Be prepared to BYOF (Bring your own food)
Whether you’re traveling solo or heading to a friends house for dinner it always helps to bring something you can eat along. I typically load up on gluten-free snacks when traveling such as almonds, hummus, cereal bars. If I’m going to a friends house I ask what the menu is ahead of time. This also includes alcoholic drinks. Social eating can be hard, but as long as you’re prepared you won’t have any issues.
- Watch out for the sneaky foods
Most items that contain wheat are clearly labeled and while there are obvious gluten culprits there are a few not so obvious ways gluten might be sneaking into your diet. Gluten is often added as a filler and binding agent to processed foods. Lookout for gluten in the following foods.
My first gluten-free meal was a grilled asiago chicken sandwich wrap with a sour cream and chive baked potato from Wendy’s. Terrible I know.
What was your first gluten- free meal?