It’s been three and a half years since I went “gluten free.”
I remember the timing, because my first grandson was born three and a half years ago, and the idea started as a simple experiment while my younger daughter and I hung out at home and then at the hospital, waiting for her big sister to finally have the baby.
Going “gluten free” wasn’t exactly a lark, but it hadn’t been high on my bucket list either. Still, a friend with some auto-immune problems had switched her diet in that direction, and noticed some dramatic improvements in her health months before, and so it was somewhere out there on my list of stuff to try…one day. I had health troubles of my own to deal with, including pervasive exhaustion and fibromyalgia, and anything seemed worth a try.
That “one day” finally came, as noted, while we marked time waiting for the delivery date. My daughter also had health issues to deal with–Crohn’s Disease to put a familiar name on it–and so we thought, “why not?” We figured we could at least give it a try and be each other’s “diet coaches” for a few days. Also…it’s nice to have two pairs of hands ready to cook.
Within four days, we’d both noticed positive changes in how our bodies worked. In my case, I noticed more energy, a stomach that was less touchy, and the glimmerings of less pain from my fibromyalgia. This last was such a tenuous development that I even hesitated to claim with certainty that it was happening right then. Wishful thinking can be such a tricky placebo! But we both stuck with it for our own reasons, and now years later, we are converts. And YES, I have been able to say with certainty for QUITE a while that I live with less fibromyalgia pain on a daily basis. It’s been lovely.
In the “ripple effect” department, my sister-in-law, hanging out with us at the hospital and spurred on to try the gluten free diet by our own experience, tried it herself and noticed an improvement in her energy level and her diabetes soon after. Particularly, her A1C level plummeted. And it wasn’t for want of finding every tasty gluten free substitute pastry within a 50 mile radius for a while. Her health improvements happened while muffins and donuts continued. So she too has come over to this side of the divide and absolutely embraced living in what I call “The Gluten Free Zone.” And she now needs far less medication.
Folks sometimes ask me whether I feel “deprived” about my food choices now. Well…not really. I find that the things that I can eat without thinking twice about are still the things I’ve always liked…meat, fish, eggs, potatoes, rice, veggies, fruit, ice cream, potato chips, and, of course, chocolate. I need to look a little farther to find items like gluten free pasta and bread and cookies, but with the food industry embracing the gluten free trend with a vengeance these days, those are no farther than my local grocery store. Yes, the gluten free stuff is generally more expensive than the breads and pastas and cookies I used to eat. But the ability to turn my head from side to side while driving (or bending over to pick up the cat) and not think first about whether it’s going to hurt is priceless!!
I suggest it sometimes–gently–to folks I know who struggle with a combination of diabetes and obesity, since I’ve seen and heard just how much this change in eating helped my own family member. But some folks seem to have an automatic, nearly violent push-back to the idea. I’ve known a couple of people tell me flat out that they’d rather be thrown off a cliff to their deaths than make the switch. OK…to each his or her own!!
There has been a flip side to all this good news, which I absolutely had not anticipated. Within weeks of taking gluten out of my diet and my body, I found out the hard way that I couldn’t go back. Literally. For me, at least, “cheating” on eating gluten free and sneaking in a regular chocolate doughnut or a Cinnabon would start a downward spiral of misery that–in less than an hour–would commence with stomach cramps, and then get worse from there. Who knew?
For the record, my daughter and my sister-in-law have also experienced this, and so of out both determination and necessity (and a tremendous dislike of stomach cramps and worse), we forge cheerfully on in our gluten free lives. In past years, if a co-worker brought in a box of several dozen pastries to celebrate an anniversary or a birthday (we love to celebrate with food at my office!!) I could be counted on to eat two or three before noon. Not anymore. Now I walk into the break room and easily right past the box as if every sumptuous frosted long-john or Danish was branded with a skull-and-crossbones.
Three and a half years ago I got two great gifts at the same time–a wonderful grandson, and better health from going gluten free. And I am just so happy to have both!!!