Jen and MacKenzie have both shared their stories, and as the “professional” gluten free girl of the group I thought I should add mine as well! I’ve been gluten-free since summer 2004 after about ten years of random illness that no one could seem to explain away. I was 21 years old and about to begin my senior year at the University of Miami at the time. I didn’t have regular celiac symptoms, which is probably why it took us so long to figure out what the problem was! I also have quite a few allergies that took a while to diagnose and all of the symptoms mixed up together were a little much for most doctors. After years in and out of hospitals and various specialists offices for extreme headaches, an over abundance of sinus infections, dizziness and fainting, lack of energy, and low blood pressure, I finally found my answer at the allergist.
I was tested for food allergies and the results were a staggering 30 or so foods, with wheat, corn, apples, beans, plums, chickpeas, and shellfish topping the list as the worst offenders. It felt like a death sentence and I did not take it well. After all, I had always been the girl who sneered at low carb diets while proclaiming that anyone who willing gave up bread must be crazy! I was a royal pain in the behind to be around for the first six months of my detox, but after a while my body responded and I felt so much better. I tried adding some things back in, working my way up from the lowest reactors to the highest. I was easily able to add back in black pepper and garlic, but adding in wheat made me so sick I could barely move. My stomach was in knots and my doctors were finally able to diagnose me with celiac. Corn gave me horrible migraines, chickpeas led to vomiting, and apples closed up my throat. Things like salmon, halibut, and beans give me horrible hives and led to sinus infections. Back then, it was difficult to find healthy foods that fit into my new diet, even in a big city like Miami, so I learned to cook. That first year was rough though–especially since I was a college student in one of the biggest party cities in the U.S. My sorority sisters had a hard time understanding why I wasn’t drinking beer, vodka, or whiskey anymore and why that 2AM Wendy’s run was now completely out of the question. And my cooking skills back then were decidedly sub-par. I ate a TON of plain baked chicken and plain steamed veggies, which certainly helped make me the skinniest I’ve ever been, but didn’t do much in the way of enjoying life and food!
It’s gotten easier and easier over the years to be on such a restrictive diet–especially thanks to farm-to-table movements and the increase in blogs and other internet resources. I moved to New York City for five years after college and learned to love food again while I was there. I learned how to cook all sorts of tasty dishes and how to eat out as safely as possible. It was city of inspiration for me and helped me learn to enjoy being gluten free instead of suffering through it! I’ll be sharing recipes, tips, and tricks alongside my fellow gluten-free gluttons on this blog. I can’t tell you what a relief it is after all these years to not be the only gluten-free gal at work functions 🙂