Gluten-Free Groupie

I’m kind of the “groupie” of these gluten-free gluttons. (Fellow editors—that ridiculous alliteration is for you.) I don’t personally have an illness or other issue that spurred me to make this lifestyle change, but my parents have had a host of major issues, so healthy eating and wellness have always been somewhat of a priority for me.

When Jen began this journey, I was very inspired and intrigued by what she was doing and how it was affecting her life. In addition, I share an office with Molly, who has to be gluten-free because of Celiac. Then Lisa changed her diet as well. And it seemed to be impacting everyone in really positive ways. The three big things we try to avoid are: Gluten. Sugar. Dairy.

My mom, who has struggled with autoimmune disease (lupus/mixed-connective tissue disease), thyroid disease, and food allergies (corn, food dyes, preservatives) was on a similar diet about fourteen years ago. It helped her quite a bit at the time, but then she began to plateau and eventually threw in the towel. This particular diet was extremely restrictive, and living in the middle-of-nowhere Midwest, there weren’t a lot of options for her to buy healthy, alternative foods. I grew up in the land of corn, wheat, and beans.

In addition, my dad is now battling lymphoma for the second time. He’s also had sarcoidosis and he deals with an extreme case of adhesions (scar tissue) in his intestinal tract.

Both of my parents have limiting diets as it is, but since we’ve began this journey, I have been overwhelmed with information on how important it is to avoid gluten if you have autoimmune disease or thyroid disease, and even lymphomas. (I don’t fully understand this article, but here was a big takeaway:
“There is evidence that strict adherence to a gluten-free diet long term will reduce the incidence of lymphoma.”

We’re still in the very stressful and frightening waiting-for-results phase and the first round of chemo for my daddy, so I have begun to shower my parents in prayer. And gluten-free foods.

As they don’t have access to Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Costco, or sadly even a Kroger or a Publix, I have brought healthy, natural, organic, and gluten-free foods and treats to them. A few things I’m already in love with:

Pamela’s Baking and Pancake Mix
Trader Joe’s Organic Brown Rice Pasta
1 2 3 Gluten Free Pan Bars
Blue Diamond Nut Thins

I tell you, even though I don’t have any of these diseases, I just feel better without gluten. I don’t often get that full, bloated feeling, and sometimes—before this recent lymphoma diagnosis—I would find myself in the best mood for no apparent reason. There were days you couldn’t smack the smile off my face. And I’ve lost twelve pounds.

I have had to keep reminding myself that I began this lifestyle change for the well-being of my body . . . however, I also did it to lose fourteen pounds. In less than two months, I’ve already lost twelve of them.

A New Venture, in Life and Blog

Last week, over lunch with a couple of coworkers at The Wild Cow, a local vegetarian eatery, all three of us decided to order gluten-free treats to take with–a chocolate cupcake and a piece of vanilla raspberry cake. Each. We reasoned that since we aren’t in that part of town often, we might as well stock up. One of us remarked that it was so gluttonous to be walking out with six desserts between the three of us, but hey, at least we’re gluten-free gluttons!

Aren’t we so clever? Just nod and say yes. We’re so dang clever that we thought this would be a great blog name and decided it might be fun to take it for a spin and see if it goes anywhere. I’m an infrequent blogger over at my own place, so I’m not sure I can make any promises. However, some lifestyle changes over the last four months as well as cancer among friends and family have me pretty obsessed lately with food and herbs and general well-being. That may be just enough motivation to spark frequent-ish posts.

It all started on October 10, 2011, with a delicious and beautiful cake pop. (My nails looked really good that day too.)

It tasted fantastic. And my mouth started swelling up within a couple hours–lips, tongue, roof of mouth. (It’s a good thing I didn’t eat the second one I took home.) The next morning my mouth was painful and swollen, so I went to a clinic and was put on prednisone and massive doses of Benadryl for what the doc believed to be an allergic reaction to food dye. Unfortunately, the treatment only sent my body into a further tailspin (I won’t go into details here–to sum up, prednisone = terrible). I ended up stopping the prednisone and the swelling went down, leaving raw skin in its wake, but even benign foods like apples began to make my lips swell. Fed up with Western medicine’s tactics, I decided to go visit a naturopath (otherwise known as Dr. WooWoo).

And then everything changed…

That’s the beginning of my journey, one that initially included a lot of whining and misery and detoxing because of the dramatic diet changes (and a lot of annoying my coworkers with the whining–I think that might be part of what made a couple of them ultimately join me in this lifestyle change, just to see what all the whining was about). All that bellyaching and un-fun detoxing came to a good result–an amazing result really. I am in a much happier and healthier place, where I am now gluten-free, mostly sugar-free, and mostly dairy-free (I’ll share more about my eating plan in a later post). I am completely off the medication for my Hashimoto’s and have never felt better. My head is clear, and I actually feel like my brain is working better. I am sleeping  for the first time in fifteen years. I feel AWESOME. Seriously. (If you know me in real life, especially in the past, I’m not a feel-awesome kind of person by nature. I’m a lay-on-the-couch-all-day-and-eat-chips kind of person.) I haven’t had another allergic reaction since I eliminated gluten, sugar, and dairy from my diet. And I have become obsessed with sharing my transformation and all this wellness-for-the-taking with others. For me, going gluten-free isn’t a fad. I believe I can manage my food allergies, my seasonal allergies, my thyroid, and my physical and emotional well-being by tending to my body in a way I had never considered before. The naturopath hasn’t told me I need to be gluten-free for life, but I’m definitely considering it. And strangely, I don’t feel deprived at all. In fact, I’m enjoying food in a whole new way, fascinated by all the creativity of learning to cook in this new dynamic.

So that’s what I’m here for. I’ll be sharing about my experiences, what I’m learning, and lots of recipes. If you’re going to live this way, you have to cook (which I already loved), but you have to cook in a new way. At first this annoyed me, but now I find it kind of exciting. I feel like some kind of wizard in my own kitchen.

The plan is for four of us to blog here. Only one of us is professionally gluten-free (she has hardcore celiac). The rest of us are kind of a domino effect of my initial diet changes. We all feel better, have lost weight, and are happier and healthier overall. We figure this will be a great place to share recipes and stories. I hope you’ll come along for the ride.