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Living the Gluten-Free Life

Ten years ago, my health started to decline. Discovering the cause was difficult, as it often is with autoimmune disease. It took a year to get a diagnosis of IgA Nephropathy (Berger’s Disease).

When I first became ill, I was having a lot of digestive problems. My stomach would swell and I’d have pain after eating. My sister suggested that gluten might be the problem, so I tried eliminating it for a week and noticed a huge improvement. My first CT scan had shown fluid-filled loops in the small intestine. After eliminating the gluten, I had a second scan which showed almost no fluid-filled loops. I was in denial just a bit, so I decided to test it after a couple of weeks. I ate a piece of whole wheat toast and in less than half an hour had a swollen stomach and a lot of pain. My doctor tested me for Celiac Disease and it was positive. Needless to say, I’ve gone gluten-free.

At first, it was very difficult. You see, I’m a bread lover, especially artisan breads. I used to take my kids on outings on the weekend, selecting the location based on whether or not there was a great artisan bakery nearby. No wonder I had constant inflammation and pain! Luckily, after some serious research and trial and error (there are gluten-free breads out there that have the texture and taste of a brick), I discovered some great resources that make it less painful to go without artisan breads.

My first exciting find was the Gluten-Free Goddess website. Everyone with Celiac Disease or wheat sensitivity should bookmark this wonderful blog. Not only are the recipes great, but Karina Allrich is a terrific writer — the posts are always good reads. I love that she uses combinations of nut flours and ancient grains. This is the key to good gluten-free breads. Get rid of the rice flour!

The second discovery was Jovial Foods Multi-Purpose Gluten Free Bread Flour. This mix is a good flour blend if you don’t have the time or ingredients to make your own.

In search of recipes that actually worked, I ordered the book The Gluten-Free Vegan: 150 Delicious Gluten-Free, Animal-Free Recipes from Amazon. This one’s a winner! If you want a good cookbook to have around, I recommend it. I like the way the author limited foods that tend to be triggers for autoimmune disease, and as anyone with Celiac Disease knows, limiting dairy is a good idea.

Of course, it’s not all about bread. The multiple autoimmune-related diagnoses (I have 2 others along with these) were a red flag telling me that things were out of balance. It began a journey that has resulted in a complete transition to a whole foods plant-based diet, exercising more, spending more time with the people I love, and paying much more attention to my stress levels and mental health. Our physical health is a reflection of all of these aspects of our lives. Focusing on just one is a step in the right direction, but it takes putting our attention on all of these to heal the body and mind. I’ve recently started using an app called Shine that helps remind me every day to take care of my anxiety and stress.

If you’re in the process of getting a difficult diagnosis, which is often the case with autoimmune disease, it’s not a bad idea to try an elimination diet to see if any of the foods you’re eating are triggers for your condition.  I know my struggle with autoimmune disease would have been much more difficult if I hadn’t made the gluten discovery. It’s worth a try. Along with that, begin looking at the other aspects of your health. Most importantly, remember that it’s not the end of anything, it’s just a shift.

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