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Day 98 of being GFCF

I’ve stopped calling it “gluten-free and dairy-free”, mostly because I’m a little tired of people telling me to just have Lactaid products. For me, it’s not lactose, it’s specifically casein, so it doesn’t really help, but good luck trying to explain that to… pretty much anyone without a food allergy. And so, GFCF (gluten-free, casein-free) it is!

I’ve also given up on not exaggerating it at restaurants and saying I just have to “avoid” those things: waiters do not care. And really, if you’d been on your feet for seven hours already and were about to get home to cook for three kids, make sure they did their homework, and bathe them before attempting to put them to bed, all for less than minimum wage, would you care?! Now I just say I’m “really, really allergic and cannot have” wheat/dairy and they’re usually pretty careful. I guess they don’t want to be responsible for someone going into anaphylactic shock in front of them? Who’da thunk?

But… I’ve slipped. I won’t intentionally have dairy, but if there’s a little butter on my steamed veggies or a tiny bit of cheese on my hardshell taco, I’m not really going to flip out, either; in fact, I’m going to enjoy the crap out of it.

:D

In general, my health is ridiculously better. I’m pretty much never sick (I should probably knock on wood right about now), I have more energy (it’s a work in process, I still need more than eight hours of sleep a night, for some reason), and I’m much happier. The downside is that while before, when my blood sugar got low, I turned into a cranky mess, I now turn into Snow White’s evil stepmother… and I WILL turn you into a freaking frog if you don’t feed me… and then I’ll roast your legs and eat them.

Another really uncomfortable downside is the whole “body reboot”. I have to have pretty small portions at meals or I feel kind of disgusting. I have to eat about every two hours, or my stomach feels like it’s going to eat the rest of my organs. The more I read about people detoxing from gluten, the more common it turns out this is… which is pretty reassuring: it indicates I’m on the homestretch! Complete detox is just around the corner!

Now if I could just keep from getting occasionally and randomly glutened, I would be more willing to eat at other people’s houses. *sigh*

April 12, 2011   5 Comments

Day 16 of Being Gluten and Dairy Free, a.k.a. DRUGS HELP

OK, so maybe not REAL drugs. But natural drugs? Yes.

I had added UltraInflamX and gut flora (sexy, right?) into the mix when I embarked on this “life-style change” and, a few days ago, as per my natural-remedy-loving-doctorfriend’s suggestion (which let me just add, is totally my philosophy, I don’t even take antibiotics when they’re prescribed by doctors unless it’s an actual infection), I added Fish Oil and Melatonin.

After a lifetime of sleeping four hours a night or sleeping next to windows that shine BRIGHT SUNLIGHT IN YOUR FACE as soon as it’s five a.m., I had never really gotten used to sleeping “through the night”, or what is known in some crazy circles as a solid eight-hour sleep. I would hear about people sleeping eight to ten hours a night and think, “What is this urban legend you speak of? Eight hours?! Not possible!”

My new best friends are Herbal Sleepytime Extra tea + one melatonin pill (unfortunately, strawberry flavored… it’s not as good as it sounds). I do not understand what crazy person decided that melatonin is a dietary supplement and should be sold over the counter because OH MY, I have never been as drunk as when I take ONE at night (this coming from, unfortunately, an ex-lush, so honestly, it’s SRS BSNSS). It knocks me out in about five minutes flat (or perhaps I am just that susceptible to the powers of suggestion/placebos?). I sleep through the night like a dead thing, wake up refreshed, well rested, and ready to focus on whatever task lies ahead of me.

Sorda.

I mean, things are still far from perfect. They’re much better than a week ago. I only feel like everyone hates me and life is not worth living and why even bother showering during five minute intervals maybe four times a day. My desire to exercise is back, I am enjoying spending time outdoors more, and instead of procrastinating endlessly with work, I tackle translations immediately! With, er, occasional breaks to blog? Heh.

My mom was here for a visit when I had just started with this whole thing, and yesterday I felt I had to apologize for my cranky and out of control behavior while she was here. My mom laughed at me and said, “Hon, you weren’t cranky AT ALL.” Apparently, my paranoia about being cranky and mean is much harsher than how I’m actually behaving (although I still think George deserves a medal). She did say it was the most pleasant I’ve been in a long while, and that she can actually tangibly see how gluten/dairy were poisons to my system. Well, I’ll be!

Additionally, I’ve had a couple of people mention to me, with no knowledge of this elimination, how I seem “brighter” or “lighter” or “radiant”. If it’s that obvious to people that don’t even know me that well, then how can anyone argue that there are foods that while they might not cause anaphylactic shock, clearly harm you from the inside out? It will never cease to surprise me how so many disorders/ailments (Lupus, Psoriasis, Autism, Epilepsy) can be relieved, lessened, and sometimes “cured” by diet alone. Yet our society chooses to pump people full of artificial drugs which are just toxins that will cause all kinds of side-effects that we have NO IDEA about in order to achieve temporary relief but not really getting rid of the ailment itself. What is WRONG with us?!

This is my little soapbox statement, guys: eat locally grown, seasonal fruits and veggies. Load up on good-for-you fats (fish oil, nuts, avocado). Consume lots of lean protein — if it comes from animal, make sure it’s free range, antibiotic and hormone free. Avoid empty “white” carbs. And if you still don’t feel 100% OK, go to a doctor that will help you find your food allergies. If your insurance doesn’t cover it or you can’t afford it, try an elimination diet. Not everything we want to eat is what we SHOULD BE eating. Diet and exercise are the answer to physical well-being. Spiritual well-being? Well… that’s a whole ‘nother entry, i’n't it? ;-)

January 20, 2011   6 Comments

Day 10 of Being Gluten & Dairy Free, a.k.a. “This too shall pass”

Attar of Nishapur, the Sufi poet, immortalized this saying with a little story. He told of a powerful king who assembled the wise men of his kingdom and asked them to create a ring that would make him happy when he was sad, and sad when he was happy. The sages pondered his request, and finally decided what to do: they handed him a simple ring with the words “This too will pass” etched on it. Genius.

Bahá’u'lláh says, in the Arabic Hidden Words, 52: “O SON OF MAN! Should prosperity befall thee, rejoice not, and should abasement come upon thee, grieve not, for both shall pass away and be no more.”

I guess there are echos of this in all religious, mystic, et al texts throughout recorded history. And right now, I’m clinging to these quotes for dear life.

Being dairy and gluten free is HARD. If I eat out, everything has gluten or dairy in it, or worse yet, being unaccustomed to eating this way, I will distractedly order something that contains them. Like Starbucks yesterday. I ordered a simple latte, waited for it to cool enough to sip, and then my spirits fell a little when I realized I had to pass it over to George and order myself something with soy in it. In the grand scheme of things, I suppose it’s not a big deal, but it starts adding up and gets a little overwhelming.

It’s difficult to gauge how it’s affecting me. There are external factors to be considered, but physically, this is basically it: I have more energy. I dance around a lot. My body feels stronger. I am losing weight despite eating like a pig (proof positive that fat is not the enemy — prosciutto, anyone? almonds?). I am sleeping through the night. My acid reflux is gone. It’s been 10 days straight without me getting a cold (unheard of before this, more so during winter months). It’s patently clear that there’s been an improvement, a huge one…

However! (There’s always a however!) Like I said, perhaps it’s the external factors, but I have never felt this out of control emotionally in my life. Today I spent six hours straight crying. Everything seems devastating, overwhelming, and like I am not capable of dealing with any of it. While I have the physical energy, I do not have the emotional energy to function. I have never, not even in my most awful teen/college days had thoughts this dark and overpowering. My only way of explaining it is to say, as someone else so adequately described it, you don’t want to know.

This is supposedly normal, some form of withdrawal as strong as quitting drugs. I didn’t anticipate it (I just thought I’d be sleepy, perhaps a little cranky). If you ever choose to quit dairy/gluten… be forewarned. Not everyone goes through this as harshly, but some people do. You will need an excellent support system, plenty of distractions, patience, and an insanely strong will.

And a reminder that this too shall pass.

January 14, 2011   5 Comments

Gluten & Dairy Free?

Years ago, I was diagnosed with Lupus. Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease. I was basically always sick in every possible way you can imagine. It was kind of hellish.

Fast-forward to about three years ago when a doctor friend suggested I try out an elimination diet. She was amazing — she sent me Metagenics products, recipes, and prayers. A rather whole-istic approach, pardon the pun, but it was a method of helping heal not only the physical, but the spiritual, as well. But I digress!

I immediately started feeling better — I wasn’t perpetually getting colds, I had the energy to work out more, &c. I started doing CrossFit regularly and decided to try out the Zone diet. The Zone is much like everything this friend had recommended: I eliminated white carbs (rice, flour, pasta) and ate carbs with a low glycemic index, lean protein, good fats (avocados and almonds, for example). I had never felt better in my life. After eliminating gluten from my diet, the few times I did choose to have something with a little gluten in it, I would get horribly sick. I would get cranky, sleepy, break out in a cold sweat, be doubled over from stomach pain, and within a day or so, I would inevitably get a cold. I quickly learned to stay away from gluten.

Once I was on this track, I remember reading an excerpt from a health book quoting a study on patients who were often misdiagnosed with Lupus when all they had was a simple gluten sensitivity — I’m not even talking full on celiac disease here, just a simple sensitivity to gluten with constant exposure to it could completely compromise your immune system enough to mimic Lupus symptoms. Isn’t that insane?

The more doctors I spoke to and saw, the more information I obtained confirming what I already knew: I definitely should NOT be eating gluten… nor should I be eating dairy. The gluten bit I could deal with, but the dairy? That just broke my heart. No cheese? No Kefir? No yogurt? I decided to gloss over this bit of medical advice and just stick to the no-gluten portion of it…

However! I have been falling off the wagon the past I-am-not-going-to-admit-how-long. It all started with a non-gluten muffin. It was followed by baking cookies for someone else, which made having flour in the house OK. After that came Pioneer Woman’s delicious Caramelized Onion and Prosciutto Pizza and Cupcakes with the recipe for The Best Chocolate Sheet Cake EVER. It was all downhill from there. I started getting sick ALL THE TIME again, feeling like crap, being cranky, you name it.

Fast-forward, again, to another article — one that George’s mom shared with us when we went to Tennessee (if you’re not pronouncing it tĕn’ĭ-sē’, accentuating the TEN! then you’re not saying it right, folks). The article was written by a woman who had celiac disease and talked about how irritable gluten made her and basically, how it was ruining her life (OK, maybe not those exact words, but I KNOW WHAT SHE MEANT). Everything she wrote about how she was feeling, emotionally and physically, made me want to cry. It’s like there was finally proof that this wasn’t all in my head and other people totally got me. I think that was, as we say in Spanish, “la gota que colmó el vaso” or the drop that made the glass overflow.

And so, this is what we’ve come to:

Goodbye dairy, goodbye gluten, you’ve been terrible friends, you’ve hurt me for years, but it was just so hard to let you go because of all those wonderful times we shared together. Remember that Mexican flan? Remember that beautiful challah I baked? Here I spent an entire life making you look good and taste amazing, and all you did for me was destroy my insides and break my heart. We’re so over. I’ll always remember you fondly, I can’t say I won’t miss you or long to be with you and hold you, look deep into your doughy insides, sprinkle you, grated and lovely all over my omelettes… but you can’t hurt me anymore. I’m stronger than you and I’ve finally learned to cut the things that only harm me out of my life.

*Sigh* And thus concludes day two of being without you. Goodbye, my loves.

January 6, 2011   10 Comments