Its been two and a half years since I started my gluten free journey. It all started with innocently reading an article on gluten intolerance. But this simple act started a domino effect that lead to the difficult discovery of my own gluten intolerance.
What are the symptoms of gluten intolerance?
Did you know that is is suspected that one in THREE Americans has a gluten intolerance?? It makes sense to me when symptoms for gluten intolerance look like this:
- constipation [going poo less than three times a day/after each meal is actually considered constipation]
- gas and bloating, often painful, after meals
- Keratosis Pilaris [those icky bumps on the backs of your arms]
- Muscle/joint pain and/or inflammation
- Brain “fog” or the inability to concentrate
- Other autoimmune diagnosis like: Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Ulcerative colitis, Lupus, Psoriasis, Scleroderma or Multiple sclerosis
- Weight gain
Does that seem like a list of stuff that people would think was just normal due to their lifestyle? I think so. And because gluten is something that people don’t really understand, its often hard for them to pinpoint what is really causing these symptoms. Food has become their enemy, and they don’t even know it.
What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. This isn’t only bread products. Barley is used to brew soy sauce. Wheat starch is used as a thickening agent in hair products, vitamins, and more. You would be surprised where gluten is found! Medications, vitamins, hair products, make-up, syrups, seasonings, sauces, prepackaged meals, and more. Becoming gluten free is a big commitment, but I promise, the relief you will feel is WELL worth it. I won’t lie, though. It sucks. Sometimes I hate that I have to live this way. I LOVE that there are products out there to help me live a more normal lifestyle, but it is super hard [especially during the holidays] to not be able to eat things that every single person around you is consuming.
It can also be hard to live on a tight grocery budget when a gluten free loaf of bread that is half the size of the conventional loaf costs up to three times as much [my favorite brand is $5.99 a loaf]. There are many difficulties to having this allergy. But that is what it is. An allergy. If you or a family member had a dangerous peanut allergy, you’d be more than happy to accommodate and spend what you needed to in order to keep them safe, right? Same with gluten. It can be deadly. It can be very dangerous. The constant break down of your intestine by consuming gluten can often lead to intestinal disorders, cancers, and other awful things.
So what now?
Have I completely freaked you out now? :) I didn’t mean to if I did. I hope this informs you and helps you make the decision about whether or not you need to eliminate gluten from your life. I often advise people to purchase Elisabeth Hasselbeck’s book The GFree Diet. It is a great starting point to learn what gluten is, where it is found, what it is called on ingredient labels [believe it or not, there is not a law for labeling gluten, so its often very difficult to find complicated chemical names for gluten on labels], and how to live with your new lifestyle. I also really like the Gluten Free on a Shoestring blog and her cookbooks, Gluten-Free on a Shoestring: 125 Easy Recipes for Eating Well on the Cheap and Gluten-Free on a Shoestring Bakes Bread: (Biscuits, Bagels, Buns, and More).
But first, you need to find out if you have a gluten intolerance. You can ask your doctor if you want, but because there are no financial benefits for them doing the testing for Celiac Disease [and often they are very skeptical], they often will put off your concerns. Not all doctors do this, but it is an experience by a vast majority in the gluten intolerance community.
An easier way to find out if you have a gluten intolerance is the elimination diet. Eliminate ALL foods containing gluten for 2-3 weeks. If your symptoms go away [all of mine went away in 4 weeks, and I lost 20 pounds over my first three gluten free months], there is good evidence that you have a gluten intolerance. If you do not know what things in your house have gluten and which are safe, just eliminate everything and eat very simply. Sounds drastic, but in order to feel healthy, its necessary!
What I did was eat steamed vegetables and baked chicken that was seasoned with plain salt and pepper for lunch and dinner and purchased a known gluten free cereal [Chex is a good one] for breakfast. Other than that, I did not eat anything else for 4 weeks. I felt amazing!! And all my symptoms went away!
After that, I felt that I was allergic to gluten and decided that this would be my lifestyle. I did research on which brands clearly label their products if they contain gluten, purged my pantry of items containing gluten [it was too much of a temptation], talked to my hubby about what I needed in his support and what gluten intolerance was, and started researching gluten free recipes!
One misconception of gluten free eating is that you don’t have any other options than steamed veggies and baked chicken. Not true! Now, I am able to convert to gluten free most conventional recipes I want to try and am embarking on the scary field of gluten free baking. :) I mean, its not scary, but boy does it have a learning curve!! Its not easy to bake gluten free, but I want to master it! I want to eat pie and cookies and bread and cakes and more without “fudging.”
Still have questions?
I am an OPEN book. Ask me anything! The gross, complicated, and normal. Comment below or if its more private, email me at erin [at] erinlauray [dot] com. :)
Do you have a gluten intolerance? Any tips? Whats your story??