Gluten-Free: One Year Later

14 May 2011, Posted by Jennifer Iannolo in wellness

watchInterestingly enough, celiac, fibromyalgia and food allergy awareness all happen in May, so I could technically do a trifecta post and cover all bases. However, as one of the bloggers contributing to A Blogger A Day, the Gluten-Free Way for the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, I’ll stick with the gluten today. I know. Pun.

One year ago I went gluten-free in an effort to get my fibromyalgia symptoms under a semblance of control. After asking my online community for holistic approaches, I’ve received tremendous support from NFCA and the gluten-free community at large. What a wonderful, loving group of people you all are. I’ve learned oodles about reading labels and educating others, and get so much out of encouraging people with aches and pains to give it a try for themselves. My brother has recovered by leaps and bounds from his various conditions, and the catalyst was seeing my results, so all of your efforts have had a multiplier effect, not the least of which is my new project, Zenfully Delicious. I love when that happens.

I wish I could say that making one change in my diet resulted in a complete turnaround of my health, but alas, there are yet miles to go. Immediately after eliminating the gluten, I was soaring. My body felt great, my skin was lovely, and the pounds were melting off. However, I always let the stress get the best of me, and sometimes the road feels endless.  I’ll save that for the fibromyalgia post.

Avoiding gluten has definitely improved things, however. I’ve learned that it has a significant effect on my body, from swelling (think Violet Beauregard) to mood swings and skin reactions. To better understand this, and to be of any help to you, I’ve used myself as a guinea pig over the past 12 months, because after finding myself terrified to dine anywhere but home, I realized the gluten fear was starting to rule my life, and that just would not do. So I experimented with low levels to see how much my body could tolerate before bad things happened, and discovered that a small dose is manageable. This alleviates the panic of discovering that I’ve taken a few bites of something dredged in flour, or the fear of ordering something that may have been fried in the same oil as breaded food. I experience some swelling, but the reaction doesn’t take me out.

Of course, as I am wont to do, I took experimentation to the extreme over the Christmas holidays, from pasta to cookies and bread, and that was not a good idea. I was in bed for a few days reminding myself not to do that any more. Ever. But because humans can be dumb animals, I also indulged while I was in Vienna earlier this year. At a 5-star Relais Gourmand restaurant, they rolled out a bread cart. I mean, come on! It had at least 20 kinds of bread, beckoning to me like sirens from a world of crusty fantasy and crumb-coated dreams. Olive bread, lavender and honey bread, pretzel bread…lust.

Unfortunately, I was already in the midst of heavy stress, so the past few months have been something from my nightmares (hence my lack of posts). I’ve learned that if I’m not in optimal shape in other areas — calm, implementing regular fitness, sleeping well — the gluten serves as a kind of systemic atom bomb. I’m chalking this up as tuition, and setting up systems to pull all of the other areas of my life into alignment.

Now, mileage varies with gluten intolerance, so if you are new to this, or unsure, don’t take my word for it. For some, even one bite causes migraines, hives, or an extreme reaction requiring an Epi pen. This is where the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness comes in. They are doing a magnificent job whether you are a gluten-free veteran, someone in the inquiry, or a restaurant owner looking to train your staff. Here’s a great look at where they’re headed.

I’ve committed myself to posting again on a regular basis, no matter what I’m feeling like, because I realize that my silence isn’t helping anyone — least of all myself. Last time I broke the silence it led to huge breakthroughs in my health, so I’m climbing back on that train, because I like where it was headed.

Now my question to you: Have you gone gluten-free? If so, why, and what has been your experience? What are you struggling with, or what sense of freedom have you found?