* To read Part I of my gluten-free journey, click here.
After hours researching online, the great gluten-free experiment began with me clearing out my pantry. I remember filling up a few trash bags with food. Checking the ingredient labels, I kept thinking, “If it says wheat, don’t eat!” I had no idea wheat was in so many foods. Even my “healthy” cans of soup all had wheat! By the time I was done, I was left staring at an empty pantry, feeling depressed that all the foods I loved were not an option, and wondering what I was going to eat for the next 2 weeks of my experiment.
After the shock of an empty pantry wore off, I headed to the grocery store with a list in hand of “approved" foods. That first trip to the grocery store buying only gluten-free foods took about 2 hours. I had never read so many nutritional labels before in my life. Pushing my cart through the bakery section and smelling all that wonderful bread seemed like torture. Everything I wanted was off-limits, and instead I was putting things like quinoa into my cart (I didn't even know what quinoa was before that). I bought about half of what I would normally buy, but my total was twice as much what I would normally spend. This was going to be an expensive experiment. However, after feeling miserable for about 2 years, I was desperate to try anything.
For some people who have a gluten-sensitivity, their symptoms may lesson/disappear weeks after going gluten-free. Some people notice changes in a few days. I was one of the lucky ones. After 2 days of being gluten-free I felt like a completely different person. My headaches were gone, the joints in my hands and wrists didn’t ache, I had more energy, my body felt lighter, and for the first time in years I didn’t feel uncomfortable after eating.
After 2 weeks of going gluten-free it was time to reintroduce gluten and see what happened. I remember getting an Asiago Cheese bagel (my favorite) from Panera. About 30 minutes after eating it, I could feel the stiffness coming back into my finger joints and I got a headache. I felt so tired and took a nap that afternoon. I felt a mix of sadness (goodbye gluten) and relief (I finally had answers). I figured since I already had gluten that day I might as well go ahead and eat my “last supper” (containing gluten). I chose a breaded chicken sandwich from Chick-Fil-A. That was the last time I purposely ate something with gluten in it.
Soon after my gluten-free experiment, I returned to my general doctor. He did new bloodwork and was very impressed with all of the results. He said based on that and the fact that all of my symptoms had disappeared (headaches, fatigue, joint pain, GI discomfort), he would recommend me continuing a gluten-free diet.
For me, it was about a 2 year process to discover I had a gluten-sensitivity. I don’t know if antibiotics can trigger a gluten-sensitivity, or if it just magnified an issue that was already in my body, but I do know that my health drastically changed after taking a certain antibiotic back in 2011.
I’ve been gluten-free for about 3 years now. Since I gave up gluten, I have not had any major illnesses. In fact, the only reason I’ve seen my doctor is for annual checkups. I now know what I can eat and what I should avoid. Trips to the grocery store no longer take 2 hours, and gluten-free options are more widely available at stores and restaurants.
Have I missed certain foods? Of course. But I don’t miss how those foods make me feel after eating them. Thinking about that causes the temptation to fade.
Have I accidentally eaten foods with gluten? Of course. And when I do, my body lets me know…the headaches, tiredness, sinus congestion, and joint pain in my hands and wrists return. Sometimes those symptoms will last for several days after ingesting gluten…sometimes weeks. This is why I don’t “cheat” and just eat a little gluten. A few bites of food is not worth feeling miserable for days/weeks.
For me, going gluten-free has never been about dieting or losing weight, but enabling my body to function at its best. I gave up gluten, but in the process I gained back my health.
P.S. If you think you may have Celiac Disease or a gluten-sensitivity, please consult a doctor BEFORE trying a gluten-free diet. Otherwise your test results will not be accurate. Click here for more information.
About 3 years ago I ended my long term relationship with gluten. It was a painful breakup. For thirty years, I consumed foods with gluten at every meal. I loved going to Italian restaurants and eating bread and pasta. What caused me to give up the foods I loved the most? My gluten-free journey began back in April 2011…
I had just finished an antibiotic for a sinus infection. Each year it was common for me to have several sinus infections. I had taken antibiotics before and never had any issues. However, this time was very different, as I had an adverse reaction after my last dose of the antibiotic. I remember waking up with severe pain in both hands and wrists, along with itchy red spots on different joints on my body. It was difficult to bend my fingers or hold anything. For months I had daily pain/stiffness in my fingers, wrists, and ankles. Joints in my fingers and wrists would randomly start swelling. On top of that, I had daily headaches, was constantly tired, and felt uncomfortable after eating.
After several tests for autoimmune disorders came back negative, my regular doctor referred me to a rheumatologist. I tested negative for rheumatoid arthritis, but other tests revealed I had some vitamin deficiencies. The rheumatologist mentioned that my diet could be causing my symptoms and suggested I get tested for Celiac Disease. She then referred me to a GI doctor.
I had an endoscopy (that was a fun experience ;) and when that came back normal, the GI doctor said he did not think gluten was the issue. All along, though, I had a feeling that gluten may be the problem, as I noticed I got headaches and felt tired soon after eating meals. Looking back, I realize how important it is to trust your instincts...you know your body best.
My GI doctor ordered a different test, and in the process, one of his nurses actually suggested I try a gluten-free diet for at least 2 weeks. One of my friends, who is a nurse, also recommended this, as she said I could have non-celiac gluten sensitivity. This means your body reacts negatively to gluten, but there is no damage to your small intestine, and it does not show up in any bloodwork. The only way to prove you have a gluten sensitivity is to eliminate gluten from your diet for several weeks, see if your symptoms lesson/disappear, and then reintroduce gluten and see if your symptoms reappear. Several of my friends shared with me how their health had improved since going gluten-free, and by this point I was willing to try anything to feel better.
I went home and started researching online what I could eat and what I would have to give up for at least 2 weeks. The great gluten-free experiment was about to begin! Come back tomorrow to find out what happened!
P.S. If you think you may have Celiac Disease or a gluten sensitivity, please consult a doctor BEFORE trying a gluten-free diet. Otherwise your test results will not be accurate. Click here for more information.
I'm an ordinary introvert who loves an extraordinary God.