* 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.
I'm an ordinary introvert who loves an extraordinary God.