|Gluten free pancakes|
At first, I grieved the loss of gluten. I know that sounds dramatic. But because Celiac disease's only cure is to say goodbye to gluten-filled foods forever, I did. We Celiacs are not even allowed to cheat. "Just one bite" could be really detrimental, and as I've found, really not worth it. :) No bread, bagels, donuts, pastries, muffins, cakes, pasta, pizza, croissants. No Asian food that's cooked with soy sauce. "No" to many, many things.
A friend told me it would take about 6 months for me to get into a rhythm, but until then, every moment would feel consumed with navigating this new diet. She was right, and within about 6 months, I felt confident to protect myself from gluten. I knew how to read the labels and look for all the hidden ingredients, which restaurants I could be safe at, and how to avoid cross-contamination in my own home.
But the sadness for this long lost love of mine continued. It still does, to a point. Food is such a huge part of our enjoyment as humans - and to walk into a Panera, for example, and know that I can't have a single thing (except a couple soups or a salad) is just a little sad. I also end up being the high maintenance person at the table who has to speak with the chef to really feel safe about what is going in my mouth.
But thanks to several celebrities like Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Zooey Deschanel, and most recently Miley Cyrus, gluten-free awareness is growing. And thanks even more to doctors who look for Celiac routinely (though the average diagnosis time is still around 11 years), it's being caught earlier and earlier and people are able to get on with their lives and avoid the health complications that can occur if it's not diagnosed. There are more and more gluten-free products coming available every year, and by 2015, it's projected that the gluten-free food industry will bring in $5 billion. Whoa.
So with all of the sadness for the things I can't have, I am a thousand times more grateful for the things I can have because of this diet: excellent health, energy, clear skin, a stomach that doesn't hurt after every meal, and no seasonal allergies and bronchitis that I dealt with chronically as a child. It's amazing to me that this disease is basically cured with the lifelong elimination of one thing: gluten. No drugs. No shots. No surgeries.
Before being diagnosed with Celiac, I spent a physically miserable first 8 months of our marriage having panic attacks, leg tremors, weight loss, headaches, and stomach symptoms. I felt helpless as I went from doctor to doctor without answers. When I was finally diagnosed 8 months and 5 internists later, just having an answer was an enormous relief.
All that to say, I don't think a gluten-free diet is for everyone. It's time consuming, it's high maintenance, and it's expensive. I do, however, think a whole lot of people could be helped by eliminating it (or at least limiting it) from their diet. If just one person reads this post and thinks, "Wow, that sounds a lot like me... I should ask my doctor about this," this whole journey will be so worth it.