2002 was the year that changed my life. I married the man I love, but check out that photo below…I was not a healthy bride. I had a migraine on my wedding day, and the morning after was worse…and not because I had too much to drink. We don’t really celebrate our wedding anniversary, though – we celebrate October 24. More than my wedding day, more than my birthday, October 24 means rebirth. It means saying YES to a life without gluten and without chronic, daily illness.
My beloved husband married me 3 months before I learned that wheat was killing me. Mark married a woman who had horrific environmental allergies, near daily migraines who was fatigued and exhausted every day. We joke that Mark married “crazy Jenn” and truly, I was. Gluten made me irritable with wild, emotional mood swings going from normal to batshit crazy in a matter of moments. In those days, getting up and going to work was a struggle, then being stretched to my limits by the mountain of work that needed to be done could bring me to tears on any day…it was a good thing I had an office door to close. Life often felt unfair, like I was being personally prosecuted at every turn. Gluten did that to me.
My allergists and doctors had no answers for me, beyond taking heavier and heavier doses of allergy and pain medications, which only seemed to make me sicker. Feeling lost, depressed and not knowing where to seek answers, my amazing mother-in-law, ViviAnne, suggested that I talk with a naturopath she’d been working with for a few years.
The naturopath told me that my body was undernourished because gluten was preventing me from absorbing nutrients in the food I was eating. He gave me a daunting list of foods to trial living without for a few weeks – wheat, dairy, beef, pork, sugar and eggs. In a few weeks, we would meet again and he would lay out a healing path to create wellness, with the supplements, books, personal dietary recommendations and exercises I would need to walk my way back to true wellness that I had never known.
Everything the naturopath said turned out to be right on. I won’t lie, I grieved deeply for all the foods I loved that were now lost to me…but after a week on the new regime, my brain fog had lifted. I didn’t have migraines…I was still exhausted, but I could tell that the new diet was RIGHT. I never knew that it wasn’t normal to have a stomach ache after every single meal. I’d never thought to even complain about it because it was ever-present, so I figured everyone felt that way after eating.
Six months later, under the guidance of my healer, with supplements and many diet and nutrition books read, I had lost 50lbs and gained a new life. My life without gluten had begun. My LIFE had begun.
I’d always loved food and cooking, but the gluten-free life made cooking a necessity. As the months went on and my energy rebounded, doubled and tripled as I was healed, standing in the kitchen creating safe, nourishing meals felt like JOY. I learned to take the flavors I always loved and apply them to my new food life. A couple years later, it didn’t feel hard anymore. Routines were reborn, and my cooking skills rose to the challenge. I especially learned to love cooking foods from other parts of the world that were less reliant on wheat. Thai, Mexican, Asian, Indian foods were new flavors and an open book for experimentation.
A few years ago, the marketplace began to catch up and new gluten-free pastas, breads came along that actually tasted GOOD. I don’t take advantage of many of the gluten-free packaged foods as I prefer cooking from whole foods, but I am so glad that they are there…and that people who aren’t celiac have some awareness of special dietary needs. Eating out still isn’t easy, but it is becoming more and more possible.
Back in 2001, I never thought that food could heal me. That I did not have to be overweight. That I would be an athlete – loving to run and cycle and run crazy multi-day Ragnar Relay races.
Thanks for stopping by the Whole Kitchen – I hope you find a recipe or two that makes your stomach say YES! If you have any questions about any of the recipes or living gluten-free, just send me an email or leave a comment – I love helping others live their healthiest life!