Here is the story. I get asked questions a lot. I don’t mind. Sometimes I give the long version, sometimes the short one. Here is the one in the middle, hopefully it gives you some guidance, help, something that you’re looking for. Or skip it. Skip straight to the recipes and have at it. I won’t be offended.
I am gluten free. This does not define me or how I eat. It is not a death sentence. Sometimes it’s difficult, but most of the time it’s really easy. Well, I say that with a grain of salt. It has definitely become much easier, and most days it is actually simple. Then there are the days like when I was in New York and everyone was eating amazing bagels all around me and I almost have a nervous breakdown. Lately I’ve been craving donuts and have dreamt about them several nights in a row. But generally? I crave rice noodles, Pho with vermicelli, flourless chocolate torte, and my favorite meal hasn’t been altered in the least: an arugula salad and a baked sweet potato.
I come across a lot of people who ask if it’s a fad, a diet, helpful etc. I think for many people out there perhaps it is indeed a fad. But in reality more and more people are finally being diagnosed correctly with gluten intolerance, celiacs, and allergies. Foods were not looked at as the culprit, and definitely not as a cure by doctors in the western world until recently. It’s not a “healthy alternative”. Just because it says gluten free does NOT mean it is healthier, better for you, lower in fat, organic. THAT is the myth. That is why it is not the Hollywood Diet people tend to assume it is. Those folks give us intolerants a bad name. Alas, it’s all of us that has made people stop and notice and get more recipes out there, more foods, more of everything! But I get ahead of myself.
In reality, being gluten free is the best thing that has happened to me. For years I was told I should look into it and I ignored all advice. Then, 4 years ago I tore my ankle (well, I found out a year later it had torn) playing soccer. I taped it up and kept playing- I didn’t want to seem like a wimp for twisting my ankle during practice. For about 3 months I taped it up, it turned blue when I played, and then was normal within a day or 2- in time for the next game. Then it was almost fine. A year and a half later it started to hurt again, then more and then more. Then in yoga class one day I couldn’t do the most simple stretches. I found an orthopedic surgeon and week after week I went to PT and was told that soon I’d have to consider surgery, as I had allowed it to deteriorate until bone was rubbing on bone. I asked if my bad hip issue could be making it worse and the doc told me he wouldn’t go to my place of business and ask me for a 2-for-1. I left. I didn’t go back.
Finally a friend suggested her chiropractor who specialized in Eastern Medicine. I went. He told me it was my digestion. He did all these things to my body and said all these things that were true. Things that I’d been told were just my life as a recovering gymnast (the hips, the pains) and things I’d chocked up to a “sensitive” stomach, never realizing these things were remotely related. He didn’t say, you’ll never run again. He didn’t say your adolescence has messed you up good. Instead, he gave me some herbs and told me to come back. I didn’t buy it all. Heck, I still don’t buy everything he says. But he looks at me as a whole. A holistic body that is all connected, who would’ve thought?
Within a month he said, “you’re gluten intolerant. Do you want to believe me or do you want scientific proof?”. Excuse me? Will I willingly give up bread without hard evidence? Not a chance. Besides, I’ve been to gastroenterologists, orthopedists, chiropractors, blah blah, and I’ve been tested for celiacs. So I took this specific test. It wasn’t pleasant. It came back. Gluten was the culprit. One (of many) strange thing I learned? Apparently gluten was making me allergic to everything else. If I’d taken a simple allergy test, I’d have been doing the elimination diet for an eternity.
At the time there was no way I would have given up gluten for my stomach. I’d learned to live with the pain. I could handle it. When he told me about arthritis, my problems with healing, and that I would NOT ride a bike again (it had already been 3 years of too much pain to ride) or run again if I didn’t give up gluten, I stopped. Cold turkey. The crazy thing is, the joints took months and months before I noticed a real significant difference. But the stomach? Within a week I felt a little better, within 3 months? I didn’t know people lived without pain! I didn’t know this world existed and now that I know? Not a chance would I ever go back. And I can ride a bike. Yes, I still have the gymnast’s hip impingement issues. What I don’t have is the inflammation caused by the gluten that exacerbates the pain, heck even creates the pain.
We all have our different symptoms or reasons for cutting out gluten- or contemplating it. I don’t break easily. I don’t get sick very often. I figured the pain in my gut and in my bones was the thing I had. We all have our things right? When I get something, I really get it: but apparently that broken collarbone when I was 20 and the parasite from Cambodia when I was 29- well, they didn’t have to take months and years to heal. Who knew?
For me, I can’t see another way. Fresh baked challah will forever haunt me, but with the gluten who knows when it’s going to hit? I can’t just go home to a heating pad. Dairy, yea I cheat. Gluten? Not unless I feel like dealing with issues for days afterwards. And that’s me. My story.