My Journey to the Gluten Free Diet

I wanted to write this post when I first started my gluten free blog in March of 2007. However, I could not do the post justice at the time, so I began by blogging gluten free recipes. I decided that the longer I put off the post the harder it gets to write, so I suppose I will get started on this post and add pieces here and there as I remember my journey of getting started on the gluten free diet.

I was never a particularly healthy kid. I had pneumonia more than eight times as a child, one bout even requiring hospitalization. I thought that allergies and asthma would follow me around my whole life. In the seventh grade, my body started reacting in an altogether different and more frightening way- I began to get hives and angioedema. The swelling and red welts started one day and just never stopped coming back. My parents took me to several specialists over the years at several military hospitals and none of them could determine what was causing the outbreaks of hives. I was given medications to treat my symptoms but even the drugs could not keep the hives at bay. It seemed the hives came and went as they pleased. The antihistamine drugs they gave me messed with my already tender teenage emotions and made me tired all the time. Can you imagine taking the SAT on powerful antihistamines like Benadryl or Atarax? I suffered through high school never knowing if my lip will swell up in the middle of class or on a date because the drugs didn’t work. The doctors were stumped. My senior year of high school something amazing happened- one of my doctors suggested Zyrtec. They casually mentioned that Zyrtec had in some studies been shown to help with hives. I could not even begin to hope that this drug would help me because nothing had worked. There were still no positive results on my allergy tests- other than dust mites, but according to my doctors that would not cause the urticaria. So I took the Zyrtec and it not only prevented my hives, but would clear them up within 15 minutes after I took one. What was even more amazing was that Zyrtec had even fewer side effects than the other drugs I had been taking.

This “pop a pill” solution worked for a few years until my health took a turn for the worse. At first I blamed college food and then I blamed stress because my dad and both my grandfathers died within just a few years. I continued down this spiral of bad health until shortly after my marriage in 2004. I began getting hives closer and closer to the time I ate. On one occasion, I made a made a homemade chocolate cake and had a very severe immediate allergic reaction to the cake flour. My face swelled up once again and made me almost unrecognizable! At first I was confused at what course of action to take, but I decided that an elimination diet (of sorts) with a food diary might help me. All signs pointed to gluten. I wanted to also get tested for celiac disease immediately, but something stopped me. At that time my husband and I were very concerned about qualifying for health insurance coverage because my husband works for his family’s business. Once we did qualify, we were scared a diagnosis might jeopardize our coverage in the future. I decided I would go on the gluten free diet and see if the hives stopped and my health improved- after all, if a diet was the only remedy, what need was there of a diagnosis? I went on the gluten free diet and my hives stopped. Gradually my stomach problems, headaches, and back pain disappeared too. Five months later I was pregnant!

I know that not all of you have been so lucky. My few hardships pale in comparison to some of the stories my readers have shared with me. Now that I have found the gluten free community and gotten a little more life lived, I feel like I should have pursued a diagnosis (if there was one to be had) because maybe that would have made me a better role model for those of you starting your journey. However, I am a mom now and I feel like it would be negligent to pursue a diagnosis when gluten=hives. If I ingest gluten I get hives and that is not something I can live with for any length of time! I just can’t eat the stuff! In my effort to be responsible for my health, I went and had my allergies tested again last week and nothing new came up, thank goodness! No anemia either!

It took me over a decade to figure out the source of my health problems. I know for many of you, it took even longer. The sense of relief quickly turns to panic as you stumble your way through the first few weeks of the gluten free diet. I was lucky that I was a new wife and not yet a mother when I had to change my diet. Many of you have had to change established routines and traditions for an entire family; I can’t imagine how hard that would be. I am here to reassure you that once you become a seasoned gluten-free cook, no one will mind the diet!

I promise to tell you about my first days trying to live gluten free in a future post!

If you are starting your gluten free journey, you may want to check out the NFCA’s Do I Have Celiac? quiz.

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