Lying on the bathroom floor writhing in pain is a memory from my childhood I will always remember. Unfortunately, it was a common occurrence for me before school on many days. As I got older, I learned to deal with the pain, but it never went away. During my teens and twenties I often had to forgo a cute, form-fitting outfit due to a belly so bloated that I looked six months pregnant. I saw several doctors and went through a series of medical testing where at 24 I was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome or IBS.
Regrettably, there was no treatment at that time for IBS and I continued to suffer. I remember having a very basic and bland diet in my twenties and noshing the same type of food all of the time. This seemed to work for me–no processed food and only meat and vegies cooked in olive oil. Whenever I would eat at a friend’s house, go out to dinner, travel or celebrate holidays, the bloating and other symptoms all would come back. In my thirties, I moved away from my bland diet, thanks to my husband who liked to cook and also cooked very differently from the way I normally ate. The stomach pain began to be more consistent once again and I remember going to see an internist to find out what was going on. I was shocked, humiliated, and angry when he told me that I needed to see a psychiatrist, after I sat in his office and talked to him for an hour. He didn’t even examine me! I’m not sure there is a worse feeling in the world than knowing something is wrong with you and not having “the expert” believe you. So back home I went to suffer for another five years, until my condition worsened. By the time I had reached my forties, the stomach pain had morphed into symptoms other than solely stomach complaints. I now had severe joint and muscle pain, brain fog, memory issues, depression, major fatigue, horizontal ridges in my thumb nails and frequent unexplained illness that would put me in bed for 3-4 days at a time.
I sought medical treatment again with a new physician and went through a myriad of tests. I was checked for everything under the sun and the only thing askew were clinically low vitamin D levels. I did not have celiac disease. Okay, so what was my problem? Discouraged, shortly after, I went to see my gynecologist for a regular exam. She was an amazingly bright, beautiful and progressive woman, who took the time to listen to me. She was the one that recommended that I go off dairy and gluten for a couple of weeks. This was before the whole gluten-free craze. I had nothing to lose, so I completely went off of gluten and dairy and within two weeks, I started to feel better and the achiness that I had suffered from for the past year, started disappearing along with my bloated stomach. Eventually all of the other symptoms left as well and I started to feel like myself again. I was converted! It has been seven years since I have been gluten and dairy free and on the rare occasions when I cheat, I feel it in my hands and my stomach immediately, which just reminds me that I need to stick with it.
If you are battling stomach issues, low energy, skin problems, allergies or inflammation in joints and muscles, you too may benefit from a gluten free/dairy free diet. However, if you chose to do this, do your homework. Gluten and dairy can be found in many products under many different names and please don’t think that just because a product is labeled gluten free that it is a healthy or won’t cause you problems as well. Many gluten free bread substitutes are loaded with sugar and often contain strange grains that still may bother you. Read the labels and keep track of how you feel after eating it. Paleo is a grain free, no sugar, no dairy or processed food diet, that I feel best when I follow. This diet focuses on healthy meats and fish, eggs, fruits, vegies and nuts, but you don’t have to forsake your bread products completely. My daughter and I make amazing treats and breads using almond meal and coconut meal flours as the base, which are both non grains. One of my personal favorite cookbooks is by Danielle Walker called Against All Grain. You can check it out on Amazon here.
I know from personal experience that finding food to eat is frustrating and difficult, so in the future, you can expect to see some gluten/dairy free and paleo recipes, I have personally tried and have enjoyed. You can also check out my Pinterest board called Gluten Free Living which contains many gf/df recipes that I have either tried or would like to try. Just click on the “P” at the top right of my site.