Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Why I eat gluten-free: in honor of Celiac Disease Awareness Month

Some people think eating gluten free is trendy, or like a "health/diet" food choice (Kim Ka-You-Know-Who, why did you do that to me and all of the other people who are allergic to gluten?????).  This is a life, or death, choice for some, like me.  Keep reading, and you'll find out why I eat gluten-free.

I have had awful, horrible eczema my entire life (yes, when I was a baby, too!).  My Mom and my maternal Grandma (when she babysat me) used to hold my hands when I slept, so I would not rip my skin open by scratching.  I was taken to the Family Doctor, Dermatologist, Allergist, and a Nutritionist.  NO ONE had answers for us.  I was prescribed steroid creams (which you can't use forever without side effects worse than eczema), special soaps, lotions, and allergy pills.  NO ONE got to the root of the problem, it was just a band-aid after band-aid.  The Nutritionist knew I was allergic to something, but didn't have the testing to find out what.

Here are some of the symptoms that I had, even as a small child:
Cradle cap/dandruff
Eczema/super dry skin which cracked and bled
Dark circles under my eyes
Bladder infections
Fainting
Migraines (though I just thought they were regular headaches back then)
Allergies to the outdoors, indoors, and both pets and farm animals
Irregular heartbeat
Brittle nails
Pale skin
*There were other issues, but I've only recently been informed that they are symptoms of gluten intolerance, and Celiac Disease.

Little by little, I began discovering things that were an allergic trigger for me, such as corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, msg, artificial coloring, artificial flavoring.  Little did I know, that many of these things contain gluten.

Sorry, this is a little Gross!
My other symptoms that I dealt with for a long time before I went gluten-free, but were getting worse as I got older are as follows:
Headaches after eating (not a super new thing to me, because I always got horrible migraines after eating MSG).
Stomach aches and bad digestion with diarrhea.
Seasonal allergies.
Allergies to all hairy animals.
Eczema.
Heavy, painful periods to the point of throwing up (Who knew that could be related?!?! But it is!!!)

I wish, so much, that someone would have figured out that I needed to be gluten-free when I was younger. When I was elementary school age, I used to just get eczema on my legs and it was really easy to hide.  As I got older and, not on purpose, ate gluten-free for a while, my skin cleared up and I kind of assumed that I'd grown out of my eczema (lots of people told me it would).  But back into eating gluten, and back came the skin problems and this time on my hands, something I could not hide.  I was more than frustrated, and all my symptoms were back with a vengeance. Because I'd had a reprieve, I felt worse than ever.  I tried everything, again... the lotions, the allergy pills, watching out for the food items and other things I knew I was allergic to, but nothing worked.

I went gluten-free about a year after that.  I was watching a YouTube video one day where a 20-something girl shared about her gluten intolerance.  She had so many of the same symptoms I had.  So, in June 2014, I decided to try going gluten-free.  It was really hard, because gluten is an addictive substance (I'll share about that in a future blog post).   Also, my family didn't understand why I was doing this, even though I tried to explain it to them.  My Mom couldn't even understand how wheat/gluten could be the cause of all my problems.  I did an elimination diet, and I did reintroduce to make sure that gluten was really the issue.  Many people ask if I got tested (blood test), but tests are not 100% accurate, especially if there is just a severe intolerance, rather than one of the forms of Celiac Disease (which is, also, not 100% testable).  Doing an elimination diet made much more sense, especially because doctors had refused to give me an allergy blood-test previously.  Taking gluten out of my diet, I got 100% better.  I accidentally ate gluten after 7 months off and my allergies to dogs came back the same day.

When I stopped eating gluten, my seasonal allergies and my allergies to animals went away.  My eczema also completely cleared up (well, until I got glutened--which is what the gluten-free community calls eating gluten unknowingly).  All the symptoms I mentioned previously went away, including the intestinal problems.  I noticed positive signs after only a week, but to get the gluten fully out of your system you have be gluten-free for 6 months.

Unfortunately, about every six to eight months of being gluten-free, I am not so careful and end up accidentally getting glutened, which continually confirms that gluten is definitely the issue.  It takes me a week to a couple of months to not have seasonal and animal allergies after a glutening.  Depending on how much I consume, I will or won't have digestive problems.  My skin freaks out even if I eat the tiniest bit of gluten, or if I get glutinous flour on my skin.  I even have a reaction to gluten flour in the air.  If I use soap that has vitamin E derived from wheat germ, my skin will break out in eczema really bad.  If I use chap-stick with the same type of vitamin E, my lips and face will be in massive amounts of red, searing pain.

I am so glad I know what I was doing wrong, even if I still get glutened sometimes.  I just can not let my guard down EVER.  For a while after I was gluten-free, I would sometimes eat gluten just so I would not offend people.  That was so hard for me to stop doing, even when I was in so much pain from just eating a type of food.  I recently got over that, I think, mainly because of some people being so nice about my having to eat gluten-free (I am truly crying right now thinking about them) and making me feel like I was important enough to have something special for me to eat.  I just love all of you! (You know who you are!)

Thank you for reading.  I hate talking about why I am gluten-free.  I'm sorry if this post was blunt, it was really hard for me to write.  I just felt like I needed​ to write this all out.  I think, and talk, better after I have written everything down.  I want to say thank you to everyone that has supported me in being gluten-free.  And thank you to everyone that talked about why they were gluten-free, so that I would finally realize that might be my problem, too.

In the future, I plan to do some posts about my favorite gluten-free specialty foods (not like fruits and vegetables).  I will do a post on tips for first-timers going gluten-free, because I wish someone had told me everything I know now, back then.  Although I hate talking about why I am gluten-free, I enjoy sharing tips and all the good things I've learned.  Oh, and FYI, my entire immediate family is now gluten-free, and some of my extended family, but that's a story for another day.

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