My Journey to a Gluten Free Diet: A Story About the Ugly and Uglier Truth

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Nobody expects that when you’re 18, you’re going to be diagnosed with a million food allergies and have to start a strict gluten free diet. BUT, that’s what happened to me. And as a bread lover, this was TORTURE. Eventually though, leading this gluten free diet (as well as my other allergies) led me to be a healthier and stronger person. Starting an allergy free and gluten free diet was a process, including the 3 years it took me to get there! Here’s my journey with food allergies and eating gluten free! I hope this helps some of you that may be facing food allergies or have questions about a gluten free diet!

Getting Sick

I hope this is never a really big part of your journey to becoming healthy, but what started this whole thing for me was becoming really sick. I was a sophomore in high school, and was about to turn 16 in a few months. I was playing softball (I grew up playing travel and competitive) and was in relatively good health, or so I thought. And that’s when it started. I began getting sick ALL the time. I was having horrible headaches (days on end), I couldn’t sleep at night, and then I started not to be able to eat. I first would get stomach aches after eating, but soon that turned into nausea. Which in turn, resulted in my body being unable to keep a lot of my meals down. At the time, I never considered the possibility of having food allergies or needing to go on a gluten free diet. All I knew was that my body suddenly hated me, and I had no clue why!

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Image via Flickr

Endless Doctor’s Appointments

Needless to say, being sick led me to being at the doctor’s all the time. It seemed like the appointments never ended. Simple solutions turned out to be wrong, and blood tests were being done each time I went in. The verdicts always were false, “Your blood tests came back normal”. And “everything seems fine” was always the answer.

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Image via Flickr

An Unexpected Answer

One day we got a voicemail with some results, that a minor issue was found in my blood tests-I had food allergies. I would have to start following a gluten free diet, take out soy and strawberries, and eat apples sparingly. The voicemail was so informal though, that we didn’t know how “serious” these food allergies were. This was before gluten free became a fad and food allergies were almost taboo (as in people would say, “I have food allergies but it’s just to pineapple”). So that’s the point I was at.

Because this health crisis had been a nightmare so far, I of course decided that I was going to take out these foods. I thought taking the approach of an elimination diet and eating gluten free would be the solution to all of my health nightmares. I mean, eating a gluten free diet was expensive and on top of that I had to take out soy (and we HAD to shop at Whole Foods because no one else really had anything) and it was all organic and raw. Doesn’t that mean it HAS to be healthy for you? Well, maybe…but that’s a point for an entirely different blog post! Back to eating a gluten free diet…I thought that my health was going to be better. But, it turns out that an elimination diet and eating “gluten free” wasn’t enough to make me healthy.

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Image via Flickr

When That Wasn’t Enough

At this point, I was still extremely sick, losing weight, and not sleeping. For the first time ever, my body was constantly sick rather than healthy. At this time I was planning to attend college in a few months and I still didn’t really have answers! Somewhere along the line it was suggested that I go see an allergist. Once I went to that appointment, it was determined that I needed to have a scratch test done. The scratch test was done and after about 5 minutes the results were showing: I am allergic to the ENTIRE world. If you want to know more about how extreme the results were, let me know in the comments! So, as it turned out I not only needed to go on a gluten free diet, but I had to be very careful with what I was consuming. The gluten free diet I was on (although it excluded soy, which is one of my WORST food allergies) had me consuming other foods that I was highly allergic to. So even though I was eating no gluten or soy, I still was consuming other foods in higher quantities that I didn’t know I was allergic to! So, as it is when you have food allergies, or just allergies in general, my body was attacking itself!

This began the process of taking out all of my allergens. A gluten free diet, a soy free diet, dairy free, etc. At the time, I had just started at GCU and my options for food were severely limited to salad with carrots, olives, and tomatoes. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. After eating this way for a few weeks, and losing a ton of weight (again), I decided that I could not continue on. So, I began eating whatever I wanted again. I also was working in the campus coffee shop. I tried to eat a gluten free diet, but it was hard to stay consistent. This continued on for about 9 months. I started working at Starbucks the summer after my freshman year, trying really hard to keep this gluten free diet. But, I was REALLY sick the more hours I worked. One night driving home from work I had such a bad headache and I had to pull over because I was so dizzy it seemed like I was going to pass out. Nose bleeds and cracked hands (an allergic reaction in the form of eczema) were common at this point as well. It was at the point my parents told me that if I continue working there, I was going to end up in the hospital. I decided to quit my job and try to get healthy.

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Image via Flickr

Changing Your Diet is a Work in Progress

This is when I really focused on eating with a gluten free diet and going allergy friendly. It was a process, and it took about a year and a half for me to fully feel comfortable with how I had to eat. But, going gluten free and allergy free, was the best choice I made for my health. I had to do a lot of experimenting, and try a lot of GROSS food (gluten free was still not as common) before I found combinations of things I liked that were providing nutritious value. From this process I learned a lot about fitness and healthy eating. It’s really what brought me to wanting to help other women become healthy! 4 years later, I am on a 100% gluten free diet (as well as soy, shellfish, and melons). And I have learned how to balance my diet and rotate my foods so that I am still able to eat.

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Image via Flickr and www.SeniorLiving.org

I share this with you because the process was a difficult one. Going from an athlete that ate whatever I wanted, to becoming a person who has to be very diligent about my diet honestly was torture. But, now I am a lot healthier. I still have times where I get sick because it’s impossible to avoid the number of allergens I have-I would have to live in a bubble (and honestly I think I belong on a medical mystery drama). I have learned what a healthy gluten free diet looks like to me, and I know the consequences of not sticking to it (my allergist had me try out an experiment that did NOT work well). And although the process of going on a gluten free diet was not easy, the outcomes have helped me so much! I’m not nearly as sick as I used to get. I do not constantly fear that my body is going through some major problem.

Being healthy is the number one reason why I stick to a gluten free diet. If I could eat French bread though, and not get sick, you can bet I would! I would love to hear your thoughts about this post in the comments! Are you on or considering a gluten free diet? If so, what is making you consider changing to a gluten free diet?

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