Why this carb-lover is going gluten-free…and how I’m doing it.

gluten free for beginners

The whole idea of being gluten-free used to make me laugh. Chortle, really.

I adore baked goods. I swiped my kids’ graham cracker snacks all the time because hello? YUM. Annie’s white cheddar mac and cheese? Um, yes please.

A life without gluten sounded like a life not worth living to me. Until all of a sudden, just a few weeks ago, a host of health problems hit me (seemingly) out of left field.

Before the real drama started, I hadn’t been feeling my best for a while. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know I deal with depression and anxiety. I’ve written about how I’ve been frustrated with this terrible “brain fog” I’ve been feeling for months, seemingly because of antidepressants. My concentration has been nonexistent, I’ve been feeling like I have ADD, and I’ve just been out of it for ages.

Also, I should mention that I’ve always had IBS, which is the catch-all term for when your GI system doesn’t work right but no doctor can figure out why. I was tested for Celiac but it was negative (and I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief because see: my love of carbs?). But my GI system is still freaking out.

Anyway, to combat the brain fog and all that jazz, I’ve been weaning off antidepressants – again – in hopes of correcting these symptoms by clearing out my system. As of mid-May nothing had changed, even though I was down to a very low dose of my SSRI.

And then out of nowhere, I got really ill on Memorial Day. It’s a loooong story, so here’s the nitty gritty: I thought I had the worst PMS known to woman, got misdiagnosed with vertigo, ended up getting CAT and MRI scans, and then saw a neurosurgeon to be sure a brain thing I was born with (called a chiari malformation) wasn’t causing all this. Oh, and found out I have a cyst on my pituitary.

Um – say WHAT???

The nausea and balance issues have begun to fade, but all my other symptoms are still going strong: vision issues and depth-perception problems that prohibit me from driving. Headaches. Exhaustion. And all the neurological crap. Writing this post has taken me AGES because I can’t think clearly and looking at my big computer screen for too long is hard.

Finally my doctor ordered blood work – you know, after scaring me with the idea of brain surgery first – and got the Lyme test I had been requesting because I live in Tick Central, USA. She didn’t want to order it because I don’t have typical symptoms. But after me pestering her about it, she did.

In the meantime, Hubs started researching my symptoms himself.  What could be causing all this? And lo and behold, guess what can cause most of my symptoms? Yes, late-stage Lyme disease. But also? GLUTEN. Not Celiac – simply a general gluten intolerance. (I have found many articles about gluten intolerance symptoms, but this one lays it out best to me. I have 8 out of 10 symptoms on the list.)

Feeling so out of control of so many aspects of my health, I decided five days ago to go gluten free to see if I could improve my symptoms. And it’s been a whole lot easier than I ever thought it would. I’m mostly sticking to fruits, veggies, meats, potatoes, and rice. I’ve been following these Mayo Clinic guidelines to understand what is and isn’t GF. And I asked some GF friends for a few basic gluten-free snack recommendations, and they’ve all been delicious.

Seriously. I’ve been eating delicious, healthy food and still having some yummy snacks – and most importantly, ice cream. And it’s been easy! I didn’t even want to eat my kiddos’ muffins this weekend because those muffins now symbolize my GI issues and maybe even my other health issues. They no longer look tasty to me. It’s amazing.

I also found out on Friday that yes, I have Lyme. So I’m now on antibiotics and waiting for the confirmation Lyme test – and treatment of late-stage Lyme is controversial (who knew?) so I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that this round of meds works.

Honestly, I’m not sure if being GF with help with my neurological issues. Perhaps all of those issues are due to Lyme. Or my cyst. I won’t know more until this coming week.

But however the Lyme/cyst stuff turns out, I’ll have a feeling I’ll be staying gluten-free, simply because it’s already helping my digestive system. As I continue on with this GF thing I’ll be blogging about recipes and products I like, challenges I’ve had, and other discoveries.

If you’re thinking about going gluten-free, I invite you to follow along my journey and see what happens. Maybe being GF could change my life – and yours.

Here are my gluten-free meals and snacks so far. See? I’ve been eating well!

– Spicy fish (not the taco part) topped with Newman’s pineapple salsa

– Veggies sautéed with Wegman’s oil, over rice with parmesan cheese

– Salmon baked with GF teriyaki sauce, rice, snap peas

– Sandwich in GF wrap with GF pretzels and fruit

– Steak, veggies, potato

– Enjoy Life chocolate chip cookies

– Glutino multigrain crackers and Skippy’s all-natural peanut butter

– Nature’s Path Organic: Mesa Sunrise GF cereal

– Synder’s of Hanover GF pretzels with Newman’s pineapple salsa

– Talenti GF gelato: chocolate peanut butter (the most AMAZING thing EVER)

– Nutella and pears (Yay that Nutella is GF!!!)

Have you been thinking about going gluten-free? What intimidates you about it?
Also, if you are dealing with late-stage Lyme – I’d love to hear from you about tips and resources.

6/18/14 Update: It’s not Lyme, according to the second blood test. So now I’m off to a neurologist to try to unravel this health mystery.

photo credit: J P Davidson via photopin cc