Today I have been messaging back and forth with a woman who is wondering if gluten might be the cause of her uncomfortable symptoms. I sent her a message that I hoped would help bring awareness and understanding to the possible cause of her struggle. After sending it, I read the message and was amazing at the transformation that I wrote about. It’s been a long time since posting here but I would really like to share just how far I’ve come in the last 4 years, nearly 5 years. Jesus is good and gracious and has led me to healing and I want to share that joy with others. Note, this was originally a Facebook message and has not been edited for eloquence but I’ve learned that you don’t always need eloquence to speak the truth.
This is my story:
If I’ve realized one thing in these last 4 years it’s that the ability to be in tune and aware of your body is one of the greatest gifts we can have. If you think something is not right, trust your instinct and take matters into your own hands, that’s what I had to do.
Looking back at my childhood and teenage years I see and remember very clearly so many instances where I felt unwell and knew something was wrong but didn’t know what to do. In elementary school I asked my parents to take me for allergy testing but nothing showed up as a concern. I remember feeling tired and constantly sick. I loved the idea of exercise but I was too weak to go be regularly physically active. I constantly felt bloated, had horrible bowel movements, excema, dandruff and had irrational anger issues. Because this was normal to me, I didn’t see the red flags.
5 years ago I went to a Bible school in Germany for 7 months. While there, I was constantly sick with a cold or flu or just generally felt unwell. I has one friend who, at the end of the year, said, “at the beginning of the year I had no idea who you were because you spent so much time sick in your room. I was worried that I would never get to know that girl!”
I was very unwell.
Returning to Canada I developed strange “hay fever” and had constant colds and flu’s for the next year. I was taking evening classes and had an incredibly difficult time staying awake even with 10 hours of sleep. The following year I began teaching preschool and developed a huge list of symptoms that were quite concerning to me. The most upsetting were a series of very painful rashes and constant sinus infections. I was tired, had little appetite and felt so, so very sick. My doctor tried many different antibiotics – creams, sprays, pills – and finally referred me to a dermatologist who said, “your rashes are likely related to your allergies and eliminating those will help your symptoms”
What allergies?? I thought. At that time is was late December and my family was spending Christmas in Alberta. I went to the naturopath who my aunt sees and she promptly advised me to remove wheat from my diet, drink more water and gave me a natural nasal spray.
Within 1 week of completely eliminating wheat from my diet my rashes cleared by 90%, I began to have more energy and felt a sense of clarity in my thoughts and emotions. Unfortunately, the journey was much longer than 1 week. 5 months later I saw a naturopath here and she took me off of dairy and sugar as well as some other foods (oats, corn, brown rice, beets, garlic, mustard, pork, kale and more) that i have mostly re-introduced. Removing dairy and sugar (and those other foods and nearly everything processed) was the turning point as I believe my body finally had a chance to heal from the damage done from the previous 20 years. I remember a very significant morning in June, 6 months after I had eliminated wheat and 1 month without dairy and sugar: I ate breakfast, ate lunch and ate dinner all without a stomach ache. I told my mom that was the first day I could EVER remember not feeling bloated or in pain. Not feeling sick was a new and glorious feeling.
That was 4 years ago and my journey has continued. As mentioned in the comment (in a group thread started by this woman), I still avoid gluten like the plague and dairy will still make me feel sick. I feel incredibly thankful because my body has healed and I am finally at a place were I am comfortable with my diet and feel physically and emotionally healthy. I do not need an official diagnosis from my doctor because my body tells me what feels good and what doesn’t.
In terms of my symptoms, I no longer have painful sinus infections (I have not had one in over 2 1/2 years), I am able to think clearly without brain fog, I am in control of my emotions- no longer am I irrationally angry or weepy, my skin has cleared up by 95% (I believed the 5% left is actually scar tissue that becomes re-irritated and will never actually heal), my nails are healthy and strong, my hair grows faster than ever, dandruff is only an issue if I eat something I’m not supposed to, I haven’t worn deodorant in 3 years and only stink when I am detoxing from a mistake, my bowel movements are incredibly healthy, I am no longer bloated, I have energy to exercise and am learning to workout properly and love hiking and playing sports. No longer do I need a midday nap and I have energy for the whole day. My muscles only ache when I am sore from a workout instead of every day, my period is much less painful, I am no longer constantly cold- my body temperature has regulated itself. I still love to sleep in but don’t need a 10 hour rest every night and I wake up refreshed instead of exhausted and most importantly overall, I feel incredibly healthy.
To maintain my new lifestyle, I do avoid gluten and all cows dairy. I limit my sugar consumption and only use organic cane sugar. I avoid GMO’s and eat organic as much as possible. I purchase many of my vegetables from an organic farm in Surrey, I eat out on occasion and do not feel limited in that (FYI the white spot on Scott road and 72 has gluten free hamburger buns!!), I tried eating a Vegan diet but because I am anemic, I need to eat meat. As much as possible I buy organic pastured chicken and grass fed beef. I have learned to love vegetables and to cook many delicious meals that I never would have learned had I still ate wheat.
In all honesty, going gluten free has been an incredible challenge but an even bigger blessing. Jesus has transformed my life through what I thought was a curse.
However, it was not always easy, there were many, many tears involved and I literally had to change the way i thought about food. I had to convince myself that gluten was poison. It was very difficult and that is why I get defensive when people do not take a gluten free lifestyle seriously. Yes, there are many fad dieters but people do it hoping for their body to feel better and that cannot be ignored or understated. The big problem I have with people who “try gluten free” is that they expect it to fix their problems instantly. It will not. As you read above it took me SIX MONTHS to know what it was like to have a day without a stomach ache. Going gluten free is not for the weak. It takes emotional courage and dedication and can be extremely overwhelming and exhausting. There has been hundreds of times I have cried in anger about this. But now that I feel like I am other side of the bridge I see how the journey is worth it.
A word of advice, what helped me was not just “going gluten free” it was a dramatic change in my eating habits and lifestyle. No longer was convenience food an option. Had I gone from eating a poor diet of gluten containing packaged foods to a equally poor direct of “gluten free” packages foods, I would have failed miserably. I had a friend tell me that to start gluten free you should only eat food found on the outer edge of the grocery store and since part of that is the bakery, that leaves the produce section, meat section and dairy cooler. Since I was also avoiding dairy that meant for me meat, fruit and vegetables. I avoided all packaged foods for nearly a year to allow my body to heal from the garbage I had been consuming all my life. I cooked / home made 100% of the food I ate. Now I’d say I eat 70% homemade an 30% packaged food but the packaged food is very carefully selected with few and pronounceable ingredients.
I do still have some challenges and there are days where even the healthiest food doesn’t agree with my stomach, fortunately I have figured out a few solutions. I sell doTERRA essential oils and they have a blend called Digestzen which a digestive blend. I use it to relieve stomach aches and bloating. I do no know what I did before that oil, it is an absolute savior in times of trouble. I also take detox baths if I feel extra ill- Epsom salts, baking soda and ginger in hot water and I find those really help. I do still have creams that I use on my skin but now very minimally compared to before. Oh! Also, I stopped using shampoo and conditioner because the ones I had both contained wheat! (and I was too lazy to buy new ones. I’ve been shampoo free on and off for nearly 5 years) Eliminating gluten has to be a total transformation. I’ve had Chapstick with wheat in it and supplements with wheat. You have to be incredibly diligent.
AAs you might have noticed I am incredibly passionate about telling my story and helping others experience the joy and physical freedom that I have. It is not an easy journey but it is am completely worth it. A good blog to follow is Glutendude.com – he was super helpful in the early stages of my journey. Take time to read through the archives of his blog.
If you continue to suspect that gluten is an issue but still want help or support removing it, please keep in touch. I would be happy to have you over to see the safe food in my kitchen and give you recipes and ideas to eat. I should also add that I am not a doctor and do not have medical training but I the experience and testimony of myself, my friends and my family to share.
To note, that message does not mention the INCREDIBLE support I have received from my friends and family. From Amy who at the very beginning decided to go gluten-free with me (until she decided she liked baking better… grrr) and my parents and in-laws who have learned to cook for me and are constantly asking to make sure the food they make is safe. From Amanda who made me gluten free pasta and Jana who makes me INCREDIBLE gluten-free cookies and meals and my colleagues and administration at work who take time to make sure I can eat during staff events (A shout out to the amazingness at Hilltop Christian Childcare Center and their compassion for the staff and the children who attend. I have never worked somewhere where I have felt so valued and supported in all my difficulties.) And Kerry who swaps recipes with me and introduced me to some of my favorite blogs and Aunty Cheryl who has been through the same journey. Most of all, Ben. He has listened to a thousand rants and has wiped away thousands of tears and skipped out on trips to restaurants with me in solidarity and support, he eats the food I eat and cooks better than I do (when he does). I could not have done this without him. Thank you Ben.
If you are seriously considering a food overhaul and lifestyle transformation, a solid support team makes a huge difference. I have been blessed beyond words by friends and family who care and take time to support me in this journey.If you are one of them, THANK YOU.