I am completely amazed that within moments of my first post, I was getting ‘likes’ and ‘follows’. Only one of my real-life friends even knows I started this site (the amazing Jenn of Type A Mamas), but I’m so excited that there are people listening 🙂 Thank you!
As I mentioned in the gluten-free pasta post, I gave up gluten over 6 1/2 years ago. This was right before “gluten-free” became a buzzword, or a trendy diet craze. A few years earlier I met a friend with Celiac disease, and I remember saying something along the lines of “I would rather die than live without bread and pasta.” Ohhhh sweet silly young Janine. You were so wrong.
The first thing people say to me when they find out I am gluten-free is usually, “So… do you have Celiac?” and my awkward answer is something like, “I might? But I’m not sure.” And then I tell them (a shorter version of) this story…
For years, I would go to doctors with mysterious ailments. They would run tests, come up dry, and refer me to a specialist. The specialist would run more tests, make some suggestions but also be basically stumped, and send me on my way. I’d still be miserable and end up at another specialist. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Oh, and sometimes they’d prescribe drugs to mask symptoms but never actually fix anything. I was running out of ideas until my sister suggested I visit a naturopath. Feeling desperate, I took her advice, and it completely changed my life.
The most amazing thing about that first meeting with my new doctor was that she cared as much about the big picture as all the tiny little details. She asked questions about sleep, stress, diet, cravings, digestion, energy levels… it was like a therapy session, but for my physical health. She suggested that I try eliminating dairy from my diet, and I panicked. It sounded impossible. “But what will I eat? When I’m stressed, I crave macaroni and cheese. I’m a grad student. I’m always stressed!” Her response still echoes in my head to this day. “You crave what you eat. You eat macaroni and cheese now when you’re stress, and so you crave macaroni and cheese when you’re stressed. If you start eating kale and sweet potatoes, that’s what you’ll crave.” Psshh… yeah right, crazy lady… kale and sweet potatoes. [Confession: She was completely correct. Kale and sweet potatoes are the best.]
I reminded myself that I wanted to feel better, so I followed her dairy-free orders, and I detoxed like a heroin addict in a movie — I had a fever, my skin had a bluish tinge to it, I was miserable — and then after three days of agony, I suddenly felt amazing. It was terrifying, a little embarrassing, and kind of hilarious in retrospect. I didn’t even like milk — I was just literally a cheesaholic. So we ran with that, and she put me on an elimination diet.I had to cut out all gluten, dairy, citrus, corn, legumes, peanuts, soy, eggs, nightshades, caffeine, alcohol, any type of sweetener, and anything artificial (colors, sweeteners, etc.). There may have more, but it was nearly seven years ago, and you get the point. She gave me some sample meal plans and had me come up with a plan for Week 1 for her to approve. Once she was happy with it, it was go time. I kept a thorough food journal where I would note exactly what I ate and when, how I felt throughout the day, details on restroom visits, etc. After two or three weeks, I felt healthier than I could remember ever feeling in my life. This meant it was time for the challenge phase.
The challenge phase involves eating a ton of one of the eliminated ingredients for a day, tracking how you feel and waiting a few days. The first thing I introduced back in was gluten, because I was absolutely certain I’d be fine. I was not fine. I had already lost dairy, and had some symptoms come back from citrus. I am now hyperaware of how anything I eat or drink affects my body, and am constantly adjusting what I am willing to eat accordingly. I’ll go into those details in another post, but I haven’t intentionally had gluten since that awful challenge day, and I don’t intend to intentionally have it ever again. This means I don’t have an official Celiac diagnosis, but there’s no doubt in my mind that I’m doing what’s best for me.
[edited 1/22/16 to add to the elimination list]