My journey to living a gluten-free life has been long, hard and frustrating. However, once I got the basics down, a whole new world was waiting for me.
For as long as I can remember I have always had difficulty digesting food. After eating, I would bloat, have constipation and severe pain. On average I would have a bowel movement once every 10 to 14 days. (Excuse the TMI.) It was quite scary to go to the bathroom, knowing each time I would experience such intense pain and even rectal bleeding. There were times that I would literally double over from the pain.
My Gluten-Free Life Begins
Shortly after my husband and I were married, I had such intense abdominal pain an emergency room doctor recommended immediate exploratory surgery. Rather than deal with the risks and cost of an exploratory surgery, we met with my husband’s workout partner who is a naturopath. His diagnosis, using iridiology, was that my pain was bowel related. His prescription was a twenty-one day colon cleanse and a diet change. I removed all processed foods from my diet and eat healthy, mushy foods. I followed his advice and I never felt better!
About a year later, we moved out of the city to a very small town where good produce and healthy food is hard to come by. Because of this, I gradually fell back into my old eating habits even though it caused me to not feel well. Before long, my digestive problems returned.
In one of our attempts to “fix” me, I had a colonoscopy. Ugh! If you have never had one before, the night before, you drink disgusting fluid that is supposed to clean you out. Maybe this vile drink actually works on other people, but in my case nothing happened! The coloscopy was performed anyway and I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). The doctor who diagnosed me, also put me long term on a temporary prescription medication. This caused even more problems and made my health worse. After researching IBS, I discovered I had every single symptom.
I was so desperate, I had surgery to repair torn stomach muscles due to being pregnant with my son. Wow, was the healing intense! Sadly, it did not work.
You Are What You Eat
I have always been thin. However, growing up as a child, comments were always made about my size. Negative comments such as, “You better not eat that or you will get fat.” or, “You may be a size 2 but that plaid skirt makes you look fat.” I left home at 18 years old, anorexic and without self-esteem.
As a teenager through my early 30s, I watched every morsel that I ate. I drank non-fat milk, ate margarine and a lot of those rice cakes that tasted like Styrofoam. All carbohydrates and no fat! If I did not eat every two to three hours, my blood sugar would drop and I would become lightheaded. Wow, could I get cranky! I was too thin, had adult acne and had poor health.
While still dating, my husband gave me the, “Rice cakes and margarine aren’t food” talk. I remember feeling horrified when he suggested I add healthy fat to my diet. FAT?! My first thought was, “Fat will make me fat!” I could not have been more wrong. Yes, bad fats are bad for you but good fats are necessary for a healthy body and are mostly absent from our Western diet. Once I added healthy fats, my low blood sugar disappeared, the acne went away and I felt more energy.
One night in early December 2009, I experienced the worst abdominal bloating and intense pain that I had ever had. I literally could not stand up straight and I looked like I was six months pregnant. An enema did little to relieve the horrendous pain.
The next morning, I made an appointment with another naturopath. He suggested I could be gluten intolerant. He said we could do an expensive blood test or I could just remove gluten from diet. I did the latter.
Surprise! After I eliminated gluten from my diet I started feeling so much better and the results were nearly immediate. Those times I ate gluten by accident or ignorance, I experienced severe cramps and bloating. I would either become constipated or I had very intense diarrhea. At a follow up visit, the doctor told me that I could “cheat” six times a year with gluten. The longer I am gluten-free the less I believe that to be true.
For any of us, being healthy involves a decision to educate ourselves on diet and using discipline to eat right. This is even more true for those of us who are gluten intolerant. It’s not easy, it can be confusing and it takes time and energy. But there is good news in this. Because I have already started my gluten-free life, you can learn from my mistakes and from my successes. I have a lot more information waiting you starting with Part 2 of My Gluten-Free Life.