I have been on a gluten free diet for over 3 years now and it’s pretty much part of who I am, a lifestyle, really. I don’t miss much of the things I used to eat and loved anymore. Well, okay, except for pizza once in awhile.
For me it all started almost a decade ago. For years I lived in constant fatigue, dealt with excruciating migraines, suffered from gastric illnesses, and I was anemic for years. I was misdiagnosed with chronic fatigue, depression, anxiety, gastric reflux, the list went on. I took pills, had a new prescription for drugs monthly, went from one doctor to another, underwent multiple invasive procedures (NOT very nice to meet you colonoscopy!), in the speculation to find an answer to my misery. Yes, I was miserable.
When my daughter was about 2.5 and she was finally recovered from years of enduring multiple surgeries and health issues herself, I found myself at the bottom of my own life. I was so sick I couldn’t eat without hurting, and when I ate I wasn’t able to function because of how fatigued I was. That had to stop.
Luckily, I met this doctor who administered my biweekly Iron IV treatments (for my anemia), and he said to me to try cutting out gluten! I was like, what? Why? He explained to me of the remote possibility of gluten adhering to the lining of the intestines impeding the absorption of vital nutrients such iron. Iron is absorbed in your gut! I was iron deficient, so I had to give it a try. Three months after cutting gluten completely from my diet, my red blood cells went up, and six month later I was not anemic anymore. As a consequence, my energy level went up. I didn’t have any reflux or heartburn soon after I cut out gluten, and as you can imagine my quality of life changed! Hence, I became a health and fitness coach!
See gluten is that evil thing hidden in all the delicious foods we love. Gluten has major effects on health and for some, those who suffer from Celiac Disease, it’s a serious illness. Gluten is in everything!!!
It was not an easy process. Cutting out gluten doesn’t mean to just purge a few food items from your pantry. It’s a long and frustrating process that requires such commitment and a mindset that not everyone can understand.
I have to say that those of us who had to make the hard choice of eliminating gluten completely out of ours lives was a decision of dieting or a fad to make us lose weight or look fit. It is not a luxury either just because it’s the new trend or an option because it’s good for you. If you decide to go gluten free for those reasons, you will most likely give up on that choice once you hit your feet on your favorite vacation destination. People that are gluten free most likely suffered for years from an array of illnesses that were misdiagnosed, omitted, and not addressed, and probably experienced a debilitating and poor quality of life. It was a step by step process, which today, I am proud and happy I persevered.
Here are a few things I suggest you to consider if you are too entering the gluten free world!
• Gain knowledge!! Read, research, and get to know for yourself what gluten is and how it may be affecting your health. There are tons of great resources, websites, support groups, book, etc. that can give you answers and give you a direction on understanding a gluten free life style.
• Read your labels!! You may, like myself, need to become a label expert. Read all ingredient lists and if there is an ingredient you don’t know about, go find out what it is. Usually an ingredient label will not list “gluten” as an ingredient. There are several other names and ingredients that have gluten in it, but is not listed as such in food labels. Reading labels from other items than foods is also important. I had an eye “allergy” forever and then finally discovered my mascara had gluten in it.
• Mindset! Think that gluten is not by any means a natural, wholesome food item that your body needs to function properly. It’s an additive if you may, and put in your foods for some other reasons other than to give you nutrition. So, in actuality, when you quit gluten your body will not be missing out on any vital nutrient to live healthy!
• You can find gluten free substitutes for almost all your favorite foods! Yes, you will pay a bit more for it, but there are also vast options of easy to follow recipes that uses a combination of naturally gluten free flours that are totally worth of your time and that will save you a few bucks too! Note that not all gluten free foods are made healthy. Beware that many gluten free items are not healthy at all! They are packed with sugars, artificial ingredients, GMO corn and soy ingredients, etc., and for those you should stay away from as well. My thought is this: if you will be paying more for your GF foods anyways, just read your labels and make sure you are at least getting the best choice for your health.
• If you are eating out, and this is a tough one, try to check the menu of the restaurant you are going to ahead of time. Be prepared if the waiter does not have a clue of what gluten is or if they don’t have a separate menu for you. I only have a few places I can go, and often times, I eat before I go. It’s just food, okay. If I am going out I most likely going to have fun and enjoy the company of my family or friends.
• Traveling? Yes, that is tough too, but not unbearable! Planning ahead is huge! I pack a suitcase with foods and snacks. We now have a multitude of coolers in all sizes and shapes that fit wherever and anywhere we go. It’s just the way we roll!
• Be patient with friends and family. People that are not knowledgeable or have ever realized how bad gluten is for them, will have a hard time to understand why in the world you don’t drink anymore and partake on bagels and donuts at work. If they think you are on a diet, that’s quite alright. Don’t take it personal, don’t try to be the doctor explaining how it messes up your gut, and don’t try to change their minds. What you have to say is this: No, thank you! I DON’T eat cake. Note that I did not say “I CAN”T” eat that cake because that is not the case. If you want you can! But the fact is you don’t because…….. it makes you feel sick… it makes you spend thousands of dollars in the doctor’s office… it makes you depressed and tired of yourself! That’s why you don’t.
Eating gluten free can be truly a blessing in disguise. Have a good attitude about it and educate yourself about it. This is an opportunity for you to focus on your health and longevity. This is a gift you can be sharing with your friends and family – the gift of health!
I hardly remember anymore what I ate before I went gluten free. I still remember how much life I missed though from being sick all the time. Life is too short and too precious to feel sorry for what you cannot have. That’s what I focus on. My health and the delicious and wholesome foods I have the privilege to have in abundance at my dinner table every day! I would not trade the quality of life I have now for nothing I had before. Not even for the pizza!