Sweetest Love Muffins,
I LOVE gluten. I love it in my cakes, cookies, muffins, breads, biscuits, grilled cheese sandwiches, pizza, pasta, brownies, croissants, coffee cake, donuts, gravies, cereals, …
Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm … Gluten!!!
I miss it so much.
This will be my second holiday season sans the gluten. No Thanksgiving stuffing, gravies, desserts … oh my. I can’t even talk about Christmas and all the cakes and cookies and goodies I won’t be eating.
But I am adapting and making my own way.
Summer, a year ago, I had to go gluten-free for my health. At first it was just supposed to be a trial run to see if not eating it made me feel better. I was just over 3 years into what has become a chronic health moment in my life (now at 5 years in).
I make being an aging girl look really hard, and I promise you, I don’t mean to. Along with transitioning into perimenopause, my body has become alien to me in so many ways. It’s on a programmed mission that is difficult to cope with and is confusing me and my doctors. And it’s not telling us when, or even if, this is going to get better.
The symptom highlights I experience that are super relevant here: debilitating chronic fatigue, insomnia, exhaustion, and loss of a 24 hour day (My days can be as short as 2 hours, and I’ve gone as long as 34 hours – it was the major suck!!!).
For those of you who don’t understand what chronic fatigue is, it’s not like you just feel tired, like you didn’t get enough sleep. Nope, that would be a cakewalk compared to what it is for me. Imagine unbelievable weakness, where you can’t even get out of bed on your own. Imagine aching bones and joints. Being unable to concentrate and think, and not wanting to. Imagine being so mentally and physically fatigued that even breathing feels exhausting. And then you just lay there. A lump. Too debilitated and fatigued to do anything, and then add in the insomnia. You can’t even sleep yourself well. Which, by the way, sleeping doesn’t make you feel better or rested with chronic fatigue. You can wake up even more tired than when you fell asleep.
So with that picture, you might be able to understand why I was willing to try giving up the gluten. For those of you who know me and my love of chocolate goodness, you know this was a big give. But desperation was talking, and I was listening.
Just so you know, I’m not trying to convince anyone to go gluten-free. It’s so hard to do! All I’m saying is if you need to, it can be done, and in time, you will likely feel a whole lot better! And if you don’t need to, maybe my experience will help you to understand how hard it is for us, and help you to empathize with our journey.
The day we came home from the doctor’s office, the decision having been made, I went to our pantry and stared. I looked at all the yummy food that I wasn’t going to be able to eat. I was torn between feeling good about doing something to help my body but also thinking … what’s left to eat???
When going gluten-free, a first lesson you learn is that gluten is freaking EVERYWHERE!!! We Americans eat so much wheat and wheat processed product that its gluten has contaminated just about everything.
I came home thinking, all I have to do is move all the bread and wheat stuff to a newly designated “Paul’s side” of the pantry, fridge, and freezer. But nope. Just about every grain and dried product that you can think of has been processed in a facility that processes wheat, so gluten. And if you are gluten-sensitive, then yes, even that is enough to trigger a response.
So out went my grits, rice, corn, oatmeal, and all their related products, too. Going gluten-free when you really need to get gluten out of your body means going grain-free – unless, you specifically seek out gluten-free grains, which aren’t always easy to find.
And that cuts deeper than you might think. Marshmallows, for instance. Made with cornstarch. So yep, gluten. So no marshmallows. … Seriously?!!! You’re taking away my marshmallows on top of everything else? Yep.
So it’s not been easy. In fact, it’s been really freaking hard. I won’t lie to you. Going gluten-free is a challenge!!!! Especially when you are me, an organic vegetarian (who eats occasional fish). The variety in my diet plummeted, and I’m still working hard to build up my options and choices.
We are mixed household. Pauli still eats gluten … like … in front of me!!! LOL. We’re talking all the things I miss. Lots of gluten. Donuts. Cakes. Cookies. Pizza. And this list goes on. And it’s even worse for me … because we’re talking True Love, here … I still make cakes and cookies and all this gluten stuff for him to devour in front of me. (That’s like a straight to heaven kind of thing isn’t it?!!!)
For a quick explanation about the meat and organic choices … there’s a ton of cancer in my family, including colon and breast cancer. Just over a decade ago, I learned that practically every artificial food coloring used is correlated with colon cancer. This knowledge took me on my journey to find foods without additives and preservatives, which led me to organic options, and that has grown into a 99% organic habit. The meat, for me was hard to digest and came with its own hormonally induced symptoms. So what started out as removing red meat from my diet eventually turned into cutting out all meat except for occasionally eating sustainably wild-caught fish. Additionally, recently, I’ve learned the AMAZING benefits of bone broth, so I now also make and eat chicken bone broth (but don’t eat the meat itself).
SO. Being an organic vegetarian who needs to eat gluten-free brings me to my second lesson: it’s a very time consuming and effort-involved journey. Why? Because I have to essentially make all of my own food from scratch – which, let’s remember, the whole reason I’m doing this is because I have chronic fatigue … as in many of my days come with ZERO energy.
OK. I’m assuming by now, you are ready to run for the hills and say screw that going gluten-free thing. And if so, I get it. I understand. It’s hard, and it can totally suck at times. BUT, before you lace up your runners … here’s the thing:
It’s working. I’m not a 100% better. Not yet. But within a few months of cutting out the gluten, I noticed that my full-on, totally bedridden days reduced from about 27 days a month to about a week. And now, nearly a year and a half later, I maybe only have 1 – 3 REALLY BAD days a month, and for the most part, none of them are as bad as what I experienced back then. I still get fatigue attacks, but these days, they seem to be less intense and of shorter duration – however, they still drop me like a sack of potatoes in an instant and without warning. Also, I still have the insomnia and the non-24 hour day thing … but hey … improvement is good thing!!!!
So for now, I just want to wrap up with a couple of very IMPORTANT things I’ve learned so far.
Gluten is definitely an allergen, and if you are not allergic to it, you can still be sensitive to it and experience negative health effects.
If you are in either of these categories, gluten is a highly inflammatory substance, and inflammation leads to disease like diabetes, heart disease, cancers, and rheumatoid arthritis.
If you have ongoing health troubles, and you are wondering if gluten might be at the core, there’s this great doctor online who freely shares an abundance of knowledge – Dr. Axe. I love his website, and he has no idea I’m talking happy about him. Check him out. (I’ve linked his name to one of the articles he’s written on gluten intolerance … it’s totally worth the read.)
Also, there’s a hiccup with conventional (non-organic) wheat that has nothing to do with gluten and everything to do with Round Up (the highly toxic weed killer they use to dry out the wheat faster to make it ready to harvest faster. There is conversation about whether people are reacting to the wheat or the Round Up. If you’d like to read more, Wellness Mama is a website (human’d by a number of health-invested professionals) that offers tremendous healthy living information. (I’ve linked you here to an article they wrote about conventional wheat … and if you are eating it and don’t like the idea of eating Round Up, please read this article … it’s eye opening!)
It’s true that going gluten-free is a challenge, but making all of my own foods has saved us a lot of money … even with buying organic, gluten-free products. I’m eating super nutritious foods for far less expense. And my body is thanking me! So if you are feeling poorly, and you think gluten or wheat might be the culprit … it’s worth checking out. Just know that it can take a long time to see the full effects. It depends on you, your body, your needs, and your sensitivities.
What I can tell you is I LOVE Gluten, and even though I miss it, I am happy and grateful it’s out of my life, and I’m on the road to wellness again!
If you are interested in recipes I’ve found, made my own, and turned into things I love, email me and ask for recipes and I will start including them here.
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Gluten or no gluten, I hope your day is filled with sweet love and kindness and the biggest hugs ever to hold you and lighten your heart! Thank you for being here with me!!!
Love and Big Hugs,