Looks gorgeous doesn’t it? I can smell the bread just by looking at the picture. After over 2 years of not having a simple sandwich, Jon baked me a gluten free loaf the other day. I have to tell you, the joy was so overwhelming I almost cried. He used the recipe found at the Gluten Free Goddess’s Blog, and it was great. I have yet to find a loaf of bread that is exactly like what I use to eat – there is always a dryness factor that hasn’t quite been worked out, but it was bread… glorious bread! And I was and still am grateful to be living with someone that can bake something for me.
I didn’t know about my intolerance for gluten until about 4 years ago. And the journey since then has been a challenging one for me, but certainly not as challenging as the road leading up to my finding out. Being that I’m writing about food here on this blog, I felt it was time to share this journey with you all, since my gluten intolerance or Celiacs is an integral part to my food choices and my food practice.
Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance is a genetic autoimmune disease that affects one in 133 people in the United States. It interferes with the absorption of nutrients from food and can cause gastrointestinal and neurological issues, infertility, skin rashes and cancer. The only treatment for Celiac Disease is lifelong, strict adherence to a gluten-free diet. Not all who are gluten intolerant have Celiacs which is the genetic cause of the disease, but for all intents and purposed the results and the life style change required is the same.
Looking back throughout my life, there were signs. They were subtle, but there none the less. I have always been anemic or borderline anemic. Despite my fairly good diet growing up at home, the anemia persisted. It wasn’t until later when I was in High School and then in college that my diet got worse and so did my anemia. Along with this symptom, was the constant feeling of bloatedness and that heaviness that came after eating anything. Really, I just never thought about it, and considered it normal.
After college, the weight gain started. My diet had been awful, consisting of the typical fast food diet every college student seems to be prone to. Along with this came a depression that lasted a few years, and a general heaviness that was all over, not just in my belly. I can’t really describe it fully, because there was a general haze to my life for quite a number of years that also coincided with some very challenging relationships and the death of my father.
By the time the year 2000 hit, I was deep into therapy, self improvement, and beginning on a vegetarian diet. This helped tremendously in terms of feeling better. The anemia persisted, the weight and bloatedness persisted, but my head was clearer and my path to conscious eating began, which lead me to really start paying attention to my body and what it communicated to me.
Over the course of the first 5 years of this journey, I juiced, fasted, cleansed, went raw for several months at a time and really took stock of my body and what worked for it. I knew certain things like cheese really didn’t serve me well and when I stopped eating it the congestion would stop and I would feel better. And when I went raw or juiced for extended periods of time I felt better then I had in years, although I always found it hard to sustain this diet for any constant length of time.
By 2005, I was doing yoga 3-4 times a week and running 3 days a week. I was in the best shape of my life, and eating very little. Its interesting now to look at this, because the eating little had to do with an avoidance of feeling bad, and of gaining weight. I was drinking loads of Superfoods to keep myself nourished, and sometimes the superfoods would bring back that same bloated, and now painful feeling. During this time, Jon and I had broken up and during that 4 or 5 months apart, I ate out much less, because I wasn’t dating, and this also contributed to feeling better. I know this now, but didn’t then.
I’m not sure why what happened over the course of the next couple of years was such a health crisis for me, but it was and it was horrible for me. Jon and I got back together, and eating out once again became part of my world. Along with that, Jon and I loved hosting dinner parties and we did that, often. I was eating more. And by more, I don’t mean I was binging, but I was eating 2 and 3 meals a day, along with eating at restaurants and hosting dinners. And although not eating is absolutely NOT a good thing, it had kept gluten out of my system, hence I felt good, and strong. But with all this food, albeit still vegetarian, in my diet, I began to feel worse and worse.
This time the symptoms were more severe and different. The bloated feeling gave way to random abdominal pains, intense fatigue, headaches, depression, hormonal imbalances, and exercise became impossible as even walking a block would cause me severe muscle cramping. I would find out later that this was due to the severe anemia I had and lack of oxygen to my extremities. I started gaining weight and becoming more inflamed. My bones hurt, my joints hurt, my skin was looking aged, and my hair continued to get more and more grey even though I was still dying it at the time. I also had a series of anxiety attacks, which I had never had before in my life. My system was so out of whack, I was chemically imbalanced and malnourished and in pain.
This went on for months. At first I thought I was fighting something off, but that quickly became this growing fear that something was seriously wrong with me, and this caused huge fear. I thought it might be cancer or some other terminal disease. My mind during this time was hazy and just growing in terror that my body was completely out of any control and I couldn’t for the life of me get a sense for what was going on.
Finally, I went to the doctor…
Continued… stay tuned.