“Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.”~Harriet van Horne
Today is National Celiac Awareness Day – so what better way to celebrate and spread awareness then to share my own story of my gluten-free journey.
I have always been a food lover. I love cooking, trying new foods, recipes and even enjoy baking. I’m much more comfortable with cooking than baking though. The reason is, you don’t have to be extremely precise when cooking, but with baking – you better follow those directions and measure accordingly. Growing up and learning to cook with my Grandmother it was always “a pinch of this” or “a dash of that” – no real measuring going on, plus you could taste along the way where baking you have to (for the most part) wait until you have the finished product out of the oven and keep your fingers crossed that it tastes good. And I was one of those people who would always say – “Thank God I don’t have a food allergy, I have no idea what I would do if I couldn’t eat…”
In June 2008 I was finally diagnosed with having Celiac Disease. Ever since I was little I had digestion issues and was told I was lactose intolerant and had irritable bowel syndrome so I did my best to avoid cheese. Mind you I love cheese so my best wasn’t really that great – I continued to eat lasagna, cheese sticks, mozzarella sticks, cheese and crackers, pizza and cheesecake. Is anyone else seeing a pattern here? Well it is something that my doctors have missed all of those years – it wasn’t the cheese that was making me have these issues, it was everything I was eating with the cheese!
I had all the symptoms of a person with lactose intolerance and irritable bowel syndrome – which is what I think clouded my doctors diagnoses. I was very much on the sever end of the symptoms for both of these. I was always tired (also diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), and at the age of 15 I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. I am now 28 so 13 years ago, it was very uncommon for someone my age to be diagnosed with such a thing. I went to at least five different doctors and it was always the same result “Oh, she is just looking for attention” or “There is nothing wrong with you, it is just in your head”. I don’t know what 15-year-old would want to be in that much pain, and trust me if you don’t have this, I hope you never are diagnosed with it. There were many days that I couldn’t get out of bed. Being in high school, that isn’t a good thing – I missed way beyond the max days of school both my junior and senior year. I have been on and off of muscle relaxers ever since. I do my best to stay healthy, exercise and maintain a healthy diet to avoid taking these as much as possible.
Over the past two years since being diagnosed with Celiac Disease I have done quite a bit of reading on the connection of all my previous diagnoses with Celiac Disease – it is pretty amazing that they are all tied together some how. It made me wonder for quite a while how my doctors over the years could have missed this connection. But I am not here to dwell on that, I’m just here to share my journey with you.
So what is Celiac Disease?
Definition By Mayo Clinic staff
Celiac disease is a digestive condition triggered by consumption of the protein gluten, which is found in bread, pasta, cookies, pizza crust and many other foods containing wheat, barley or rye. If you have celiac disease and eat foods containing gluten, an immune reaction occurs in your small intestine, causing damage to the surface of your small intestine and an inability to absorb certain nutrients.
Eventually, the decreased absorption of nutrients (malabsorption) that occurs with celiac disease can cause vitamin deficiencies that deprive your brain, peripheral nervous system, bones, liver and other organs of vital nourishment. This can lead to other illnesses and stunted growth in children.
No treatment can cure celiac disease. However, you can effectively manage celiac disease through changing your diet.
Symptoms By Mayo Clinic staff
There are no typical signs and symptoms of celiac disease. Most people with the disease have general complaints, such as:
- Intermittent diarrhea
- Abdominal pain
Sometimes people with celiac disease may have no gastrointestinal symptoms at all. Celiac disease symptoms can also mimic those of other conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, gastric ulcers, Crohn’s disease, parasite infections, anemia, skin disorders or a nervous condition.
Celiac disease may also present itself in less obvious ways, including:
- Irritability or depression
- Stomach upset
- Joint pain
- Muscle cramps
- Skin rash
- Mouth sores
- Dental and bone disorders (such as osteoporosis)
- Tingling in the legs and feet (neuropathy)
Some indications of malabsorption that may result from celiac disease include:
- Weight loss
- Abdominal cramps, gas and bloating
- General weakness and fatigue
- Foul-smelling or grayish stools that may be fatty or oily
- Stunted growth (in children)
Another gluten-related condition
Dermatitis herpetiformis is an itchy, blistering skin disease that also stems from gluten intolerance. The rash usually occurs on the elbows, knees and buttocks. Dermatitis herpetiformis can cause significant intestinal damage identical to that of celiac disease. However, it may not produce noticeable digestive symptoms. This disease is treated with a gluten-free diet, in addition to medication to control the rash.
When to see a doctor
If you notice or experience any of the signs or symptoms common to celiac disease, see your doctor. If someone in your family is known to have celiac disease, you may need to be tested.
Seek medical attention for a child who is pale, irritable, fails to grow, and who has a potbelly, flat buttocks and malodorous, bulky stools. Other conditions can cause these same signs and symptoms, so it’s important to talk to your doctor before trying a gluten-free diet.
So with no medicines to try (which I was very excited about, I hate taking pills!) I changed my diet. It wasn’t the easiest of things to do. Like I said before I love food and at first I got really nervous that things wouldn’t taste good. I cleaned out all of my gluten containing food items and brought them to work to give away. When I came back home I realized I had nothing left! It was mind-blowing to me where gluten was actually hiding in these food items. Soy Sauce!? Really!! I went to whole foods and about had a panic attack right in the store when I ever saw the prices of everything. I picked up a few of the basic things and decided that for now I would just eat fresh foods (veggies, fruits, non-marinated meat) and will eventually teach myself how to bake gluten-free. I searched and searched the web to find blogs, articles, recipes etc. The first one I came across and is still one of my favorites is Elana’s Pantry. Reading her site and trying her recipes helped me realized that this isn’t so bad. You can bake and cook gluten-free and it still look, smell and taste wonderful.
I started this blog shortly after being diagnosed for several reasons. To keep track of my journey, my recipes (both created by myself and those that I have adapted to be gluten-free), my experiences and to potentially help others that were in the same boat as myself. It has been an amazing two years. I have learned so much, yet there is so much more I have to learn (for example how to blend flours to bake with). Changing my diet and lifestyle to be gluten-free wasn’t nearly as bad as I was first expecting it to be. I realized I just needed to be creative with my cooking (hence my blog name). There are so many wonderful recipes out there that are naturally gluten-free or are easily adaptable to become gluten-free, you just need to think outside the box a little bit, be creative and realize that somethings aren’t going to look, smell or tastes exactly the same. I love it – even if I could eat gluten again, I don’t think I really would (maybe some french bread though). I have found many great recipes to replace my favorite gluten containing foods. I’m happy, healthy and feel great. Since eating gluten-free my fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and ibs have been under control. I rarely get flare ups and it is such a wonderful feeling. I’m not saying that this works for everyone but for me this diet has helped in so many wonderful ways!! I don’t have to take my muscle relaxers as much, and for the most part only the weather has affected my fibromyalgia -ahhhhh relief.
I love the huge gluten-free (dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free etc.) community that I have found. Granted I have yet to meet any of them in person their blogs, wisdom, recipes, funny stories, generosity, and kind hearts have helped me on this amazing journey that I am on. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for being the wonderful people who you are, for sharing your experiences and always sending encouragement along to others.
Along with all of the wonderful gluten-free bloggers out there I have to thank Bryan for being my wonderful taste-tester! Even though he isn’t gluten-free he eats all the gluten-free meals, snacks and baked goods I put in front of him. He is truly amazing and the most wonderful man in the world. I have no idea where I would be without him, he truly is my best friend. (and I am slowly turning him into a foodie).
If you haven’t been tested for Celiac Disease please do so, especially if someone in your family has Celiac Disease!
Here are a few of my favorite recipes over the last two years:
Garlic Basil Shrimp
Baked Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta
Sweet and Spicy Chicken
Honey Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Thai Chicken Soup (Elana’s Pantry)
Bacon Cheddar Scones
Happy Celiac Awareness Day – What are you doing to spread awareness??