I’ve been lactose intolerant for most of my life, I have my paternal family to thank for that. But my maternal family is equally to blame, with all their gallbladder and intestinal issues. So I was basically screwed from the word “go.” It wasn’t until I moved to Boston in 2011, however, that “Celiac disease” and “non-Celiac gluten intolerance” became familiar phrases. I struggled for many years trying to figure out what I thought must have been sneaky dairy, hiding in my food somehow and assaulting my insides at will. Like Jen, I’ve always been constipated (oops, disclaimer: we talk about poop), and at least once a month I would have what I called “episodes,” when the stomach cramping was so intense I couldn’t stand up, I couldn’t function. One of my first mentors in Boston talked openly with me about her dietary and intestinal issues, and I took that knowledge back to my gastroenterologist. He, however, was not impressed. We did all kinds of tests, but he wasn’t too keen on the whole gluten thing. He told me to just eat more fiber. Again. Despite me telling him that I had added fiber supplements to all of my meals, to no avail. So I went to an allergist instead. He was much more pleasant, but my blood test for Celiac disease came back inconclusive. Because that’s helpful… He suggested I eliminate gluten completely from my diet for 6 weeks to see how I feel. Long story short: Miracles happened. Rainbows appeared. Angels sang. But really, my headaches went away, I lost bloating weight, and I was pain free for almost SIX WEEKS. Things I didn’t even realize were wrong fixed themselves, because for years I just thought that was how things were meant to be. And I haven’t looked back since.
So, my take aways from this experience: (1.) Talk. Don’t be afraid to share with people, don’t keep thinking that these things are just your crosses to bear. Listen to your body, you deserve to be happy and healthy. (2.) Advocate for yourself. You are the expert when it comes to your own body. Tell your doctor how you’re feeling and what’s not working. And if they’re not listening, find someone else who will.
Number 1 is how Jen and I came together and what led us to this. Number 2 is how I’m able to function every day now. I met with a nutritionist to get fully on track, and I finally got my butt back in the kitchen and started cooking. It wasn’t easy at first; these recipes are coming after three years of trying and trying and trying. But it’s certainly been an adventure. And I haven’t poisoned my boyfriend yet so that a plus. 😉
I’ve also discovered through this that I have levels of lactose intolerance, but absolutely no tolerance for gluten. I can eat yogurt and hard, aged cheeses, but I can’t use the toaster if Marco puts regular bread in it. (I’m also allergic to red wine, don’t know where that came from. But fortunately whites are still in play. Phew.)
So you’ll see that Jen and I have to come to gluten-free living in different ways (I yelled at her a lot to stop eating it), and we sometimes deal with it a little differently in our cooking. But we both talked to doctors, experimented with our diets, and have come to find our own ways to deal with our tummy challenges. Hopefully, you can find what works for you, too, and we’re both here if you have any questions or simply want to share your story with us.