On being gluten free.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Gluten free pancakes
It's hard to believe that I have been eating completely gluten-free for almost 3 years now. This means I read every label of everything that goes into my mouth, I plan in advance where we go out to eat (do they have a gluten-free menu? do they understand cross-contamination?), and I say a big fat no to an entire food group that I really love.

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.


  1. Thanks for your insights! We switched to gluten-free 4 years ago, and it is rewarding to know that that decision really did (and does) improve our health so much. It's tough, but it also has the fun perks of finding foods that you CAN eat, and didn't know about before. :)

  2. "So with all of the sadness for the things I can't have..."
    ...Totally understand the feeling...
    For the past year I havent been able to eat grains, but its worth it to feel good!
    Glad you found what works for you!

  3. Whitney, my daughter and I both have Celiac disease. I've been gluten free for 10 years, my daughter around 5. Have you tried Udi's bagels? They are really good. I have a half almost every morning. :) Also, Snyders has really good gluten free pretzels. So glad you finally got diagnosed and are feeling good! Blessings!

  4. I believe Mellow Mushroom is gluten-free. That is a pizza place and oh so yummy. :) I am going to look up this disease to read more about it because I am not all that familiar with it. But part of this did make me say to myself "Hey, that sounds like me"

    1. Mellow Mushroom has gluten-free dough and you can choose from gluten-free ingredients. There are locations in TN. Just not sure how close to you they are. But it is definitely something you may want to try! :)

  5. Hello! I'm not GF, but I am trying to eat healthfully, and I noticed a pin cycling around Pinterest for GF cauliflower pizza crust. It doesn't look too bad, but I would rather hear from someone I trust that it's good! Have you considered trying the GF cauliflower pizza crust? I'd love to see it on your wonderful blog. :)

    1. Hmm.. yes, I've seen that around Pinterest and it LOOKS so good - I'll have to try it sometime soon!


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