gfrn_podcast_banner

Food is Medicine – EP001

In the premier episode of ‘Gluten Free RN’ Nadine tells us a bit about her journey in regaining her health and why it’s so important to understand that food is medicine to our bodies. If we think about food as medicine, we will make better food choices which will lead to much better health in both the short and long term.

Nadine also discusses the increasing rate of Celiac disease diagnosis and some factors that may be influencing this.

Listen in to learn why it’s so important to make good food choices and how making the right ones will help you maintain or even regain your health!

What’s Discussed:

  • Nadine’s background
  • Nurse for 25 years, 10 years as the Gluten Free RN
  • At the time, Nadine didn’t know that gluten intolerance and Celiac disease were often big factors in her patients’ health problems
  • Why Nadine considers herself to be a “Connectologist”
  • Nadine connects some dots that may not have been previously connected
  • Why Gluten sensitivity and/or Celiac disease is often common denominator in health problems
  • Why food is medicine and how that affects our health
  • Nadine’s journey back from bad health
  • Learned she had Celiac disease at the age of 40
  • Your GI Tract and immune system
  • 70-90 % of your immune system is in your GI tract
  • As humans, we do not have do not have enzymes to break down gluten proteins
  • Why you may be predisposed to Celiac disease
  • 30-50% of our population carries the genes that predispose us to Celiac disease
  • The increasing rate of Celiac disease diagnosis
  • The importance of having a plan for remaining or getting healthy into your 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s
  • It’s easier to maintain your health than to regain it
  • Nadine’s diet recommendations
  • Common problems of a bad diet
  • Topics that will be discussed in future episodes!

Resources Mentioned: 

Seeds of Deception” by Jeffery Smith

Connect with Nadine: 

Instagram

Facebook

Contact via Email

Books by Nadine:

Dough Nation: A Nurse’s Memoir of Celiac Disease from Missed Diagnosis to Food and Health Activism

 

baking-classics

Baking Recommendation

Recently here at the Gluten Free RN, we purchased Annalise G. Roberts Gluten-Free Baking Classics. We have quite a collection of gluten free cookbooks so it remained on a shelf until a special occasion gave me cause to pull it down and take it home. The assignment- make a gluten free birthday cake for my younger sister that is so good, no one will be able to tell it apart from “normal” cake.

I settled on a yellow cake that would make a nice double round recipe and set to work. A nice brown flour mix Ms. Roberts uses yielded cake batter unlike any other gluten free batter I had yet tasted. Sweet, no aftertaste, delectable. Upon baking, it rose to a normal cake height and sprung back when pressed. Topped with a simple chocolate frosting, it was the hit of the party. Not a person at our birthday celebration could tell it was gluten free, and most were excited when they found out it was.

The next morning, inspired by the yellow cake, I set to work. The same brown rice blend was used for breakfast crepes. A person would be hard pressed to tell the difference from normal crepes. They folded easily without the least bit of crumply texture found in some gluten free products. I stuffed them with left over potatoes, cheese and salsa and wolfed them down before heading back to the kitchen.

Next was a bread recipe. I tried the simple white bread, putting it in my bread machine where I am sure it did not rise to its full potential. The taste however, was again marvelous with an actual crust surrounding the outside crispy and brown. I tried it one more time in the oven as the recipe actually suggests. The top was just beginning to peak the top of the bread pan when I pulled it out. It was to my horror that I discovered it was not yet done and watched it quickly delapitate before my very eyes. The bread can most certainly be done, unfortunately, someone much more experienced at bread making than myself is going to need to try it.

Without losing hope, I switched to a brownie recipe. An avid chocolate lover I could not resist adding in an extra cup of chocolate chips. The brownies were chewy, dense and a chocolate lovers heaven. Similar, if not better than my pre-celiac diagnosis brownie recipe. The brownies lasted a day in my household before being devoured.

Entrigued by the “captivating chocolate chip” comment on the front of the book, I set out to prove it. Opening the oven half way through baking showed what appeared to be a melted mess. However, five minutes later the goo had turned into real cookies. The result left me delighted as my previous chocolate chip cookie recipe had always been flat and chewy as well.

Last but not least was a cornbread recipe. My father, who does not eat gluten free, proclaimed it was the best cornbread he had ever eaten.

I have yet to find a recipe that does not work from this book. If you are new to gluten free, or even if you are just looking to perfect a gf baking recipe, I suggest you check out Annalise G. Roberts Gluten-Free Baking Classics.

healthy-gluten-free

The Best “Bang for Your Buck” Cookbook!

Tammy Credicott of Bend, Oregon recently released the cookbook The Healthy Gluten Free Life  – By far this is the best, biggest cookbook we have ever had in the office. It is chalk full of delicious recipes that are free of gluten, soy, dairy, and eggs. After hearing Nadine rave about Tammy’s cooking, I could not wait to get this cookbook home! The hardest decision was deciding what I wanted to make first… everything looked so good!

Flipping through the cookbook there were a few things that stood out to me…

  1. The photos! I love that every recipe is accompanied by a beautiful photo, really who wants to look at a bunch of words?!
  2. All of the recipes use nutrient dense flours! Tammy’s motto is to “make every bite count” and she does a wonderful job of using flours like; sorghum, millet, teff, and amaranth to make every recipe packed full of nutrients. This can unfortunately be rare with gluten free recipes, so I really appreciate the time and work Tammy put into making sure every recipe was not only delicious but also healthy.
  3. The index, oh the index! I think that every cookbook should be as well organized and accessible as this one. First everything is color coordinated which rocks… Then the index is organized by pictures, categories, and there is another index to find recipes by name. Instead of spending ten minutes finding a recipe I can spend more time deciding what to make!
  4. The recipes! There are over 200 recipes in this cookbook and to be honest I have yet to find one that doesn’t look amazing!

Last night I decided to give the blueberry muffin recipe a shot – To be honest I am not the best baker, and I often just hope that my baked goods will turn out. If I do crave gluten free baked goods I usually head over to Eats and Treats Cafe and buy some of their already made gluten free deliciousness. But…. I had faith in myself and gave this recipe a shot!

The recipe called for several different flours, I got the sorghum and millet from Big River Grains which is an awesome local gluten free grain company here in Corvallis, Oregon. If you haven’t tried them yet, I suggest you do. They are one of the very few grain companies that I trust and I have never been disappointed in their products.

The first thing I noticed about this recipe is how it was organized. The wet and dry ingredients were already separated for me, and all of the instructions were short concise and clear… maybe this was a muffin recipe I could accomplish! First I mixed all of my dry ingredients, then whisked my wet ingredients…

Next I whisked everything together and folded in my blueberries, which I got from the lovely Sunset Valley Organics Company. I popped them in the oven for about 25 minutes and out came these beautiful muffins! And… They were AMAZING! Not to mention my picky hubby absolutely loved them!

Thank you Tammy for all the hard work and time you put into this book – We can’t wait until your next cookbook!

– Sam

paleo-indulgences

Paleo Indulgences Review

Tammy Credicott has done it again!

After months of eating our way through The Healthy Gluten Free Life, Tammy Credicott has come out with yet another extraordinary cookbook. Paleo Indulgences is filled with both savory and sweet Paleo recipes that are sure to satisfy the entire family.

Tammy and her husband Cain were actually the first ones to educate the Gluten Free RN office about the benefits of a Paleo diet. Over 18 months ago their words of wisdom helped us get started on our Paleo journey. We have not only had huge strides in our health, we have gone on to help others discover the benefits of eating whole real food. So, we were extremely delighted to receive our copy of Paleo Indulgences at the office.

We usually eat about 80-90% Paleo, eating as much grass fed beef and farmer’s market produce as we can. However, every once in awhile we do still enjoy our gluten free, dairy free baked goods. When we do decide to indulge it is always a bonus if those treats are not only dairy and gluten free but also grain, soy, and sugar free. This is where Paleo Indulgences comes in. It is chalked full with tons of Paleo friendly treats along with an abundance of savory recipes.

Paleo Indulgences is just as beautiful and remarkable as The Healthy GF Life:

  • The introduction gives a fantastic brief but thorough overview of what a Paleo diet entails and a run down on protein, fats, sweeteners, grains, etc.
  • The organization is amazing, from a picture table of contents to an ingredient index. Every recipe book needs to take note of Tammy’s genius organization techniques.
  • The photos are striking. I personally cannot stand when cookbooks do not have pictures. Paleo Indulgences includes a stunning photograph to go with every recipe… I have spent a good amount of time drooling over them.
  • This is not just another meat and broccoli Paleo cookbook. All of the recipes are unique and creative.

The recipes I have tried so far are the Slow-Cooker BBQ Beef, the Mandarin Chicken, and the Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins. Everything has turned out incredible and I can’t wait to enjoy the rest of the book.

If you are new to Paleo, a Paleo connoisseur, or even if you haven’t crossed the Paleo path, get this cookbook. You will NOT be disappointed.

Thanks Tammy once again, for keeping us happy, healthy, and full!

woman-happiness-sunrise-silhouette-40192

YOUR Gluten Free Story

Please share your story with us…

Our goal is to spread the word of the many faces of Celiac Disease/Gluten Intolerance. In order to do this we need the stories of those who have achieved a healthy life through a gluten free diet. Please be specific, but do not share anything that you would not be comfortable sharing with the world. We would like to use these stories on the Gluten Free RN’s website and possibly compile them into a book. By giving us your story you are acknowledging that we may publish it. Stories have the ability to remain anonymous, if you would prefer. Please include:

  • Your related symptoms and conditions
  • If you received any other health care treatment in the past (effective or not)
  • When you started a gluten free diet
  • Whether symptoms resolved

Remember, there are over 300 health conditions that have been associated with Celiac Disease. If you have been diagnosed with something in the past that you did not know was related, there is a good chance it might have been.

Please submit your story through the website or by mail to:

The Gluten Free RN
215 SW 4th Street
Corvallis, Oregon 97333

Thank you for your story. With your help, we can spread awareness of this common autoimmune condition not only within the healthcare community, but throughout the nation.

chloe

Chloe Marie: The Amazing Gluten Free Dog

Five years ago when I began looking for a dog I knew I had found the right one when I found Chloe.  She was adorable, energetic, and best of all cross-eyed.  Chloe seemed to be the perfect dog. However, I was unaware of the many vet trips we would take over the next few years.

Chloe’s first trip to the vet occurred only four months after her coming into my home.  To my surprise when I got home from school Chloe had several puke piles around the house, and her stomach was so bloated she looked like a doggy balloon.  Knowing something was definitely wrong I grabbed Chloe, lifted her into the car, and drove her straight to the emergency vet.  Although it was clear she was in pain, she laid on the vet office floor looked up at me with her beautiful eyes and wagged her tail.  It was that moment that I knew I would do whatever it takes to save her.  After a brief examination the vet informed me that Chloe had a gastric torsion.  Essentially she had gotten sick, and started puking so heavily that her stomach twisted.  Chloe had to have emergency surgery.

After Chloe recovered from her surgery she seemed to have little to no problems.  Over the next couple of years she was a really happy dog.  She loved running, swimming, and playing with other dogs. I did however have some small concerns about Chloe’s overall health.  She had occasional diarrhea, a stomach rash, and she always had trouble putting on weight.  Being the overprotective mom I am, I called the vet with questions at every slight chance of illness, and I brought Chloe in for all of her routine check ups. When I mentioned my concerns to the vet he had reasonable explanations for every problem. Her rash was from her surgery, her weight was her breed, and the diarrhea he felt could be worms. He gave me medication for the worms and told me to call with any other concerns.  Over the next few years Chloe’s health was about standard.  She occasionally had some joint pain but other than that she was fine.

It wasn’t until last year that I realized something was seriously wrong with Chloe.  Over the last year my husband and I had noticed her mood, and energy starting to rapidly decrease.  We just assumed it was her age.  We knew she was about 5, and that large breed dogs typically didn’t live long.  Then we noticed every morning Chloe’s dog bed would be soaking wet with urine.  We took her to the vet and without running any tests he let us know that she was going through a hormonal imbalance, and he gave us some medication to give her and sent us on our way.

For a while after the vet visit, everything seemed to be going fine. Chloe would still occasionally wet the bed, and her mood was still decreasing, but we just figured it was something we would have to deal with.  Then about two months ago my husband and I noticed a rapid change in Chloe’s physical appearance and mood.  She was extremely thin, she wouldn’t eat, and she was so fatigued she could barely get off the couch.  After watching her for a few days we took her back into the vet for some answers. The vet examined Chloe and expressed his extreme concerns for her health.  He said she seemed anemic.  She had developed small skin tumors, she was lethargic, and he was concerned about internal tumors.  He drew her blood, gave her a cortisone shot, and sent us home with steroids.  The next day he diagnosed Chloe with an autoimmune disease, and told us to prepare for the worst. He let us know that her mood might get better with the steroids, but we could be in for a long road ahead and that it was quite possible her time was up.

Now to most Celiac patients, Chloe’s symptoms probably sound familiar. She had diarrhea, a rash, she was skinny, lethargic, bladder problems, and now an autoimmune disease.  Not knowing any better I figured she was just a dog who had health issues, and I prayed that she would get better. I expressed my concerns for Chloe with Nadine and she recommended I put her on a gluten free diet. She pointed out the similarities between Chloe’s illnesses and celiac disease, and finally made a connection I couldn’t.

Chloe has been off of her steroids and gluten free for over one month now and she has more energy than she knows what to do with. We no longer have bed wetting problems, her energy is back, her coat is shinier, and for the first time in a year she wants to go for runs and play with other dogs.

Gluten free for your beloved pet
Gluten intolerance and celiac disease have been proven to be prevalent in canines. Unfortunately due to the wide variety in symptoms, it is not something that veterinarians often recognize.  Luckily there are great resources on the web for information involving pets and gluten intolerance.  Below we have attached some fantastic articles that will help you decide if a gluten free diet is right for your animal.

http://www.ehow.com/about_5300217_gluten-allergy-dogs.html

http://www.the-gluten-free-chef.com/pet-nutrition.html

http://www.glutenfreesociety.org/gluten-free-society-blog/dogs-are-gluten-intolerant-2/

http://www.celiac.com/articles/1129/1/Gluten-and-Toxins-in-Pet-Foods-Are-they-Poisoning-Your-Pets-By-Jefferson-Adams/Page1.html

http://distinctivedog.com/2010/08/gluten-and-your-dog/

Cross contamination
When deciding to put your dog on a gluten free diet, please consider the cross contamination issues that come into play with keeping gluten filled dog food in your home. It only takes a single breadcrumb to trigger an autoimmune reaction in a celiac patient.  If you decide to keep your dog on a gluten diet consider wearing gloves, or washing your hands after feeding them.

Food Recommendations
Here at the office all of our dogs have gone gluten free.  We have tested several different “grain free” dog foods, and unfortunately most of them do not test 100% free of gluten.  The only food that has past the test is Natural Balance, LID. This is a great dog food that can be bought at most pet supply stores.  It has a limited amount of ingredients, and comes in several different varieties.  Remember when switching your pet to a different food to always slowly switch them over because their stomachs cannot handle a rapid change in foods.

beautiful-blur-blurred-background-733872

Heidi’s Story: “A is for Anxiety”

Heidi lines her kitchen table with a virtual pharmacy of prescription pill bottles; celexa for sadness, ritalin for restlessness, ativan for anxiety, depakote for dark downs and hysterical highs, unisom for insomnia.   Each bottle tells a tale in Heidi’s life.

Sadness
As an infant, Heidi was adopted by prestigious Southern Californians: a psychologist and his wife.  She knows just two things about her origins: 1) her birth mother was very young when she had her, and 2) there was a history of diabetes in her family.  That’s it – nothing more.  No explanation for why exactly she was given up, who her father was, or if she had any more biological siblings.  Very little information; lots of gaps and holes.

What she did have was a privileged upbringing- an estate with a view, the best schools, horse riding lessons, and…she was daddy’s girl.  Her father worked long hours counseling clients out of a home office but always made time for special little rituals with Heidi.  In the mornings they squeezed fresh orange juice together, sitting down at the table afterward with their matching glasses.  Afternoons they walked the same path of their property together until it seemed that their footprints were a part of the landscape.  At night he kissed her on the forehead and called her “butterfly”.

Heidi’s mother was more distant.  Hugs were rare and felt forced.  Approval was hard to come by.  Warmth seemed reserved for her brother Ronnie, who came by way of another adoption when Heidi was three.

“I hated Ronnie for showing up,  I bullied him.  I called him all kinds of names.  I would kick and punch him until he cried.  It makes me sick to think about it now.” The rivalry escalated over the years and created a rift between her parents.  “One day my mom actually looked at me and said, ‘Your dad and I used to be happy and life was easy.  Having children ruined our marriage’.”

Sadness.  The feeling of being unwanted: before her birth and also after.

Restlessness
So yes, Heidi was provided with opportunity.  She attended the best private schools in Santa Cruz, with children of the other local elite.  They had the freshest textbooks, the most ideal student-to-teacher ratios, artists in residence, and unique, challenging, courses.  Where the majority of her peers seized these opportunities and excelled – whether out of self-determination or pressure from parents – Heidi failed and fidgeted.  “Sitting in a classroom was the hardest thing.  Fifty minutes seemed like waaaay too long for anyone to sit in the same chair”.

Heidi’s classroom routine was: bounce knees nervously till someone asks, “where’s  the earthquake?”, drift off in space, doodle caricatures of her classmates, tap pen nervously and to the annoyance of others.  Eventually she just stopped showing up to classes at all.  “I skipped out with this angsty little group of rich kids, doing what kids do when they skip classes.  We smoked pot, we drank in our parents dens, we stole stuff we had more than enough money for”.

All this absenteeism and trouble making led to a string of “fails” on her report card, a ‘Minor In Possession of Alcohol’ charge, the discovery of pot in her locker, and a bust for shoplifting.  By the end of her freshman year in high school, she had been kicked out of one private school and two public ones.  The last resort was an alternative setting for behaviorally and emotionally challenged youth.  “Pretty much all the delinquents,” says Heidi, pulling out the year book from her sophomore year.  Pictured within is a motley crew of kids sporting mohawks, heavy makeup, multiple piercings, and expressions ranging from vacant to brazen.   “I felt more at home here- less weird.  These kids were more like me.  They had real reasons to be angry, real passions, and a real cause for rebellion.”

“The way I looked drove my father crazy.  I think that was even harder for him than the trouble I got into.  Like the trouble he could break down and rationalize as a psychologist.  But the dad in him couldn’t deal with what was right in front of his face”.  Their very last argument was, in fact, about eyeliner.  It was a loud and heated one with a lot of mean words.  It built slowly but ended abruptly, with Heidi slamming the door and driving away.  When she came back it was bedtime but no one was at home.  There was only a note on the kitchen counter.  She can’t remember exactly what it said, but what the words amounted to was: her father was dead.

Anxiety
What followed? “Guilt- for years.  Obviously.  I mean I’d give anything for a better goodbye.  Or wonder if he’d still be here if I had said goodbye.”  Heidi wrestled with those- and other questions- until something came along to help in letting go of them: motherhood.  “I realize as a parent that no matter how ugly things get, you love your kids and they love you back.  There’s just no doubt”.

All grown-up and pulled together, Heidi is now a hardworking mother of two. Mornings are for packing lunches, braiding hair, walking both children to their classroom doors.  Afternoons are for swimming lessons, Little Kickers classes, and playing at home.  Four days a week, Heidi works the swing shift at a psychiatric residential treatment center for youth.

“I see myself in these kids.  A lot of them are going through the same troubles that I was, the same emotions, the same confusion.”  Though the work can be stressful and sometimes dangerous, Heidi thrives on the moments when she gets through to a client, providing them with hope that the future can be brighter.  Underneath the happy veil however, there still lies a lot of worry.  “I always feel like something bad is about to happen.  Or, like something bad’s already happening, but I’ve forgotten what it is.  I’m convinced, always, that there’s something wrong with me.  Stomach cancer, brain tumor…something.”

Heidi has a close network of friends and they are always telling her that the only thing wrong with her is hypochondria.  “They don’t say it meanly-  they’re just honest, and they know better than to feed my paranoia”.  But in the fall of 2009, things really were starting to go wrong in her body.  “Working in residential, there are a lot of germs floating around. That fall and winter, I had strep throat three times and bronchitis twice.  I was almost constantly on antibiotics.  After that I started having a lot of stomach problems.  I would bloat to where it felt like I was pregnant, and always felt tired or nauseous.  My doctor ran all kinds of tests, looking for ovarian cysts and ulcers.”  Looking for an ulcer meant subjecting herself to a stomach scope- the fifteen minute swallowing of a long tube with a miniaturized color TV camera at the end of it, allowing for close examination of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum.  The result: no ulcer.  More tests and x-rays did reveal something unrelated to Heidi’s digestive troubles.  She was found to have a benign tumor on her liver.

Dark Downs and Hysterical Highs
With surgery invasive, and the small tumor posing no imminent threat, her doctor advised a “wait and watch” approach.  He also prescribed one Zoloft for depression. Through all those appointments, her doctor had picked up on a certain level of sadness that was leading to a lack of sleep and motivation, and a whole lot of hopelessness.  “I went crazy with the first pill I took…literally.  I could go days without sleeping, I was paranoid out of my mind.  I’d always been anxious and nervous around people but now I couldn’t even leave my house”.  She discreetly met with Human Resources at work.  With her job protected through the Oregon Family Leave Act, she hunkered down at home for a six- week leave of absence.

Insomnia
“Those six weeks were a major roller coaster.  Some days I was exhausted, laying in bed, crying over nothing.  Other days I was filled with crazy energy – dancing around the house with my kids, talking hysterically and rapid fire, practically climbing the walls.  Every night my mind was racing.  I could NOT sleep…no matter HOW tired I was”.  Over the course of those weeks she was slowly weaned off of the Zoloft and popping Unisom to get some ZZZ’s.

In the ten months since then, Heidi has been through a cocktail of prescription drugs, and accrued a growing list of labels: Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety.  “I try not to take the labels on and let them define me.  I see that too much in the kids at work.  But I do know something is wrong with me, and I don’t want to feel like this forever.”

The Challenge
Convinced by a friend who has both Celiac disease and experience in the mental health field, Heidi has agreed to join the 6 week long gluten-free challenge.  “I’m willing to try anything.  I can’t deal with this anymore.  The insomnia, depression, and mania are mostly under control but the anxiety is definitely not.  That has always been a problem, and I feel like it always will be.  It makes me feel insane.  Truly.  It limits my life in so many ways.  So if changing my diet can help . . . yes, I will try that.”

Studies show a close link between celiac disease and mental illness, with three theories in explanation.  One idea is that antibodies generated in response to gluten proteins can attack the brain.  A second idea is that the gluten proteins themselves, or the peptides generated from them during digestion, are acting directly on the brain.  A third idea is that your brain is affected by immune responses in other parts of your body.  Celiac is an autoimmune disease; all immune activity sends signals to the brain to change behavior and to recruit a range of defensive responses.

Disturbances to brain function vary from routine effects such as sleepiness, fogginess, and brief episodes of confusion to symptoms of major mental or neurological illness. People with celiac disease may suffer for many years, and under varying labels, before the correct diagnosis is made.  Most will have reported along the way that they never feel well physically; this will typically be attributed to psychosomatic fears.  They will report periods of fatigue, difficulty concentrating, mental “fogginess”, extreme mood fluctuations, tearfulness, and irritability.  Common diagnoses include: Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, Major Depression, Bipolar or Borderline Disorders, Anxiety, and Schizophrenia.  Fortunately, most patients will return to “normal” after fully transitioning toward a gluten-free diet.(1)

A family history of “psychiatric problems” is more common in patients with celiac disease.  While Heidi does not have this sort of information on her biological family, she knows there was a prevalence of diabetes.  She had her own brush with this during her first pregnancy, developing gestational diabetes.  Like most women, her blood glucose levels returned to normal after pregnancy.  She is, however, at greater risk for developing diabetes later in life and her son was, well . . . BIG.  “Noah weighed 10 lbs, 7 oz at birth.”

Celiac disease and diabetes often occur together, at a rate of 10 to 20% in people with type 1 diabetes.  By comparison, the rate of celiac disease in the general U.S. population is about 1 percent.  Diabetes and celiac disease are both autoimmune disorders.  Genetic links between the two diseases are becoming clearer, and it is thought that a malabsorptive disease such as celiac may create the opportunity for hypoglycemia. (2)

Taking a look at Heidi’s more recent health history, we pinpoint two things often related to celiac disease and gluten intolerance: 1) the overuse of antibiotics, and 2) unexplained abdominal pain and bloating, most often after the consumption of food containing gluten.

“My diet is pretty heavy in gluten, I guess.  I eat what my kids eat; lots of pasta, sandwiches, cereal.  At night when they’ve gone to bed I like to relax with a beer.  I never thought of beer having gluten until my friend pointed that out to me.  So, I think the food will be pretty easy to give up, but that nighttime ritual will be hard.”  We sit down and make a list of “food alternatives”.  Heidi agrees that it should be simple to switch the entire family to a gluten-free diet for the 6 weeks.  She’s not at all overwhelmed by the idea of using rice flour bread and quinoa pasta.  As for the beer, I show her a list of gluten-free varieties available at local grocery stores, and also present the option of drinking Hard Apple Cider instead.  She decides she can do this.

Weeks 1 through 3
At the end of the third week of her gluten-free trial, Heidi is happy to report a lot of positive changes.  “I’ve had more energy without a doubt.  And have been sleeping better!  It’s interesting.  Usually when I was falling asleep I’d have this very strange, almost drunken, confused feeling.  I’ve noticed in the last couple weeks that’s gone away.”  Another thing that’s starting to subside is the stomach pain and bloating.  “I do still have troubles on my work days.  I’ve been eating at the cafeteria with the kids at work.  I’m making sure to just go for the salad bar, skipping the croutons and sesame sticks.  But it’s weird-every time I eat there I feel awful afterward”.  We talk about the reality of cross-contamination.  That can be a hard one for people to buy into; tiny traces of gluten can spread through the shared use of cutting boards, utensils, serving trays, and cooking surfaces.  All it takes is one sesame size kernel of gluten to disrupt the system.  This is of great concern, especially in a residential setting such as the one where Heidi works.  “When we take a group of clients to the cafeteria, we mark attendance in a binder.  The first page lists which kids have food allergies, and that’s something we’re supposed to keep an eye on.  A lot of those kids are diagnosed with gluten and wheat allergies or full-on celiac disease!  I know if I’m not getting a good experience when I’m being so careful about it, they aren’t either”.  We talk about discrepancies in care.  A client with an allergy to bee stings will never set foot outdoors without an EpiPen in the hand of a staff.  Those with latex allergy will never come near it.  There is some progress in the recognition of food allergies, but this is mainly relegated to peanuts.

Client care is a larger issue than Heidi and I can tackle.  We can only take care of her.  She makes the decision to bring her own packaged meals to the cafeteria, utensils and all.

Weeks Three through Six
Heidi has made it through six weeks of eating gluten-free amidst the challenge of balancing work, motherhood, and her own emotions.  “Bringing meals to work was definitely the right choice.  I feel much more comfortable with my stomach.  Less self-conscious”.  As for drinking, she says this has actually decreased with the switch to gluten-free beer.  “I don’t know what it is, but I’m good at just one beer when it’s gluten-free.  Maybe part of it is sleeping better?  I don’t know.  But before I would average two or sometimes three drinks in a night.  Now it’s just one, or sometimes none”.

Heidi is not imagining things.  Wheat is one of the most addictive things in existence.  The wheat protein contains a number of opiod peptides which can be released during digestion.  These may affect the central and peripheral nervous system, creating the same addictive attachment to muffins and pasta as to drugs and alcohol.  This also explains why withdrawal symptoms are seen in individuals during their first days of going gluten-free – that “worse before it gets better” effect. (3)

Heidi is also greatly relieved to have lost about five pounds in the last six weeks.  Weight gain is one of the more common side effects of Depakote, and while the medication may have leveled her moods out a bit, she was not exactly pleased with going up a pant size or two.  On a less superficial note, Heidi has been able to decrease her daily use of Ativan.  “Before the gluten-free trial I was taking Ativan up to five times a day.  Pretty much first thing in the morning I would need it, then several times in the afternoon, and then definitely before bed.  I wasn’t really even paying attention to it at first, but all of a sudden I realized I was taking less.  Mostly only on really stressful workdays and sometimes still at night.”  She is enthused at the prospect of decreasing or discontinuing other medications; after her traumatic experience with Zoloft, she knows to work closely with her doctor before making any changes.

The End (and The Beginning)
The question for anyone at the end of a gluten-free trial is: will you stick with it?  The greater the results, the greater the chance that they will.  Heidi is one of those people who has experienced some very positive improvement in both health and mood.  She ends her six weeks with a commitment to carry forth with a gluten-free diet.  “I feel closer to being “normal”, less like this crazy person walking around with a bunch of labels.”

(1) Lewey, Scot MD; Gluten Free Diet Should be Considered for Everyone With Neurological and Psychiatric Symptoms

(2)  Vitoria JC, Castano L, Rica I, Bilbao JR, Arrieta A, Garcia-Masdevall MD: Association of insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus and celiac disease: a study based on serologic markers. 27:47–52

(3)  Sephen Levine, PhD; The Nutrition Notebook: Food Addiction, Food Allergy, and Overweight

pexels-photo-765196

Claire’s Story

Claire fiddles with a napkin, folding and unfolding it, while telling me the story of Her and Food.  “I guess you could say I was raised on gluten, mostly out of boxes.  Mac-and-cheese, cereal, Beef Stroganoff. And- ooh . . . pizza. At least once a week.”  Claire’s story is not unusual.  Being in her thirties means that her own mom was raised in the advent of the microwave and the fast food chain, when suddenly convenience took priority over healthfulness.  Claire’s mom – a busy woman raising three children while working full time – definitely sought out convenience.  “There were lots of ‘fend for yourself’ nights,” says Claire, “There were the nights of cereal.  You know how that goes – the quantities of milk and cereal never quite match up. So you just keep eating more of it”.  She grins.

Gluten and gluttony may have ruled at home, but not in the place where Claire spent a majority of her other hours – the ballet studio.  “It was competitive.  Not just, you know, as far as who was the better dancer.  But for who was the thinnest.  We knew who had the longest limbs.  The smallest thighs.  We knew, literally, each other’s waistlines in inches.”  Claire says that during her actual dancing years, she managed to escape the trappings of an eating disorder.  She credits this not to a well adjusted psyche, but to an incredibly fast metabolism.  “Then around the age of 20 something switched.  Not just my metabolism, but life”.  Claire had quit dancing.  She says she floundered around for a while, looking for a way to expend all that excess energy.  She tried rock climbing (her strong dancer’s toes came in handy), writing (“every girl has her Sandra Cisnero’s phase, right?” she asks), and traveling.  “Travel was a great distraction.  So great that I didn’t even notice as I gained twenty pounds.”  She’d been living off the loaves of bread at restaurants where she bussed tables, and the “most amazing yet also terrible” pink, frosted, sugar cookies found at convenience stores everywhere.  “That bread and those cookies.  I could eat them endlessly.  Addictively.  They tasted so good but made me feel terrible.  And then, you know, there was the twenty pounds . . . which I finally noticed one day when I looked in the mirror.”

Claire started running- first with an inhaler for her asthma, then eventually without.  Initially every other block – then for miles straight.  She shed pounds.  She felt great.  She was eating mostly fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and gluten-free grains.  “I didn’t know anything about being gluten-free back then.  I’d never even heard the word ‘gluten’.  It just so happened that’s what my body wanted.”  Then one night, Claire fell off the deep end.  She made a carrot cake for her and her roommates.  She carefully trimmed around the edges of the rectangular cake, shaping it into a perfect oval.  She began to eat the extra bits.  She figured those would be even better with a little bit of cream cheese frosting. Sort of like the milk and cereal conundrum, one called for more of the other.  She ate that way – cake, frosting, cake, frosting – until her stomach was large and sore.  And then she did something she’d heard from the stall of a ballet studio bathroom, but had never personally done before.  She made herself throw up.

“It was like I’d found this great secret.  There was a way to gorge on food the way I used to, but not be stuck with it”.  Claire still ran a lot and ate well in front of others, but back at home, late at night, was another story: bread, butter, cinammon, sugar; vanilla ice cream with melted peanut butter; cereal and milk, milk and cereal.  “This was seriously how I ate growing up.  And not just me, but my mom and sister, too.  Emotional eating.  That wasn’t even, like, something we were in denial of.”  Claire says she figured this would be a short-lived phase, like what she’d seen in after school specials or the “It Happened to Me” section of 17 Magazine.  But then all of a sudden it was eleven years later, and the eating disorder was still there, bigger and badder than ever.  “I basically destroyed my health.  Bulimia led to ulcers, to throwing up blood, to acid reflux, to an electrolyte imbalance.  Then, at a certain point, throwing up isn’t enough.  You turn to laxatives and diuretics.  You dabble in drugs a bit…cocaine, amphetamines.”  Claire takes a moment to explain that she hasn’t touched drugs in a long while.  She says it was mostly just one summer.  She says it shows how much food had taken control of her life.  “Never, ever, ever would I have thought I’d touch drugs.  I was so against it.  I was the good kid.  I took great care of my health.  I was the dancer.  The runner.  Then all of a sudden I was just the girl who wanted to be thin.”

There were a few times when she did manage to get really, really, thin.  This was usually when there was some kind of impending event.  Like a Christmas when all her family would be back in town.  Or her sister’s wedding.  Or . . . her own wedding.  “I was a little confused on my wedding day.  That’s the day everyone’s supposed to tell you how beautiful you are.  No one was telling me that.  Now I look back on the pictures and I know why.”  We’re sitting at Claire’s laptop and she’s able to pull up one of her wedding photos.  There she is, thin as a wisp – her strapless dress is lovely but barely hanging on.  Her hipbones make sharp slices of the sequined chiffon.  Her chest bones are all lines and edges.  Her arms are like something out of the third world, like from somewhere where you can’t get to food no matter how hard you try.  She is very clearly starving.

After her wedding, with the pressure off, Claire strove to eat more healthfully.  She kept a food journal with the goal of eating at least 1200 calories a day.  Some days she ate lots less, sometimes more.  She looked for patterns.  She was well aware that days of fruits, grains, and meats were better.  She felt comfortable in her body and calm in her mind.  Days of pastries and cereal were different.  Her stomach immediately felt heavy with pain.  Her face puffed.  Her skin hurt.  Even if she hadn’t been binging, even if she’d had just one-half muffin or a triangle of a sandwich, it certainly felt like more.  After years and years of the binge-purge cycle, she could think of no other response to the physical pain than to purge.  “It’s a slippery slope.  At first you’re in control.  You’re able to stop yourself.  You can look at your food journal and know, for a fact, you have eaten healthfully.  You’ve eaten just one muffin, not ten.  But when your body feels like it’s binged, your eating-disordered brain says, ‘well, might as well just go for it’”.

The connection between eating disorders and celiac disease or gluten intolerance is well known and well documented.  Claire’s food diary is not unique.  Studies with bulimic patients reveal classic celiac symptoms not only when the eating disorder is active, but even after recovery.  Patients describe the same thing as Claire – leaving the table feeling quite comfortable, but then experiencing abdominal distention and discomfort to where they can only relieve themselves by purging.  While food diaries show very clearly that the symptoms only occur after meals with gluten, they will be told by doctors that this is entirely psychological.  Rather than being tested for celiac disease (which bulimia is a well recognized symptom of) these patients will be diagnosed as having psychological disorders.

Claire fell heavily back into a phase of bulimia.  She was binging and purging up to three times per day, all unbeknownst to her husband.  “You get good at hiding it.  There are tricks”.  But then the gig was up;  Claire doubled over in the bathroom at work one day, vomiting large amounts of blood.  She was rushed to the doctor, who prescribed her Aciphex for a bleeding ulcer.  “He knew of my long battle with bulimia.  I even asked him, ‘have I done this to myself?’  He told me I hadn’t.  He said it was just an ulcer… just an ulcer”.

The Aciphex took away some of the burning pain in Claire’s stomach and throat, but wreaked havoc on her digestive system.  “While on the medication, I had severe diarrhea.  Food ran through me.  After I was off of it, I could go days without a bowel movement.  My stomach felt like it had a pound of bricks in it”.  One other result of the Aciphex incident?  Her husband was now in-the-know.  “The eating disorder was no longer my problem.  It was ours.  I had to be honest with myself, and honest with him.”

Ulcers are in fact a symptom of long-term bulimia, the result of excess acids in the stomach.  In other patients, ulcers can be a common misdiagnosis for celiac disease.  The two can mimic each other very closely, and doctors are often more aware of ulcers as an explanation for the burning and discomfort that follows eating.  Instead of testing for celiac disease or gluten intolerance, strong medications such as Aciphex will be prescribed, and this may only exacerbate the underlying problem.  In Claire’s case, the combination of medication, drug use, and poor diet likely wreaked havoc on her digestive system.  Where some people are born with the propensity toward celiac disease, others may “acquire” it.  Drugs (prescription or illicit) and poor diet can damage the intestinal villi, flattening it to where an inflammatory response will be had upon eating gluten.  Whether Claire was born with the gene for celiac disease or she triggered the condition along the way is a mystery.  But the result is the same, and painful.

Claire launched back into another attempt at healthy eating.  She kept up with her food journal.  She avoided those “trigger” foods.  “My trigger foods are, by the way, anything gluten.  Cookies, muffins, bread, cereal.  I started to realize it wasn’t just because I love those foods.  Actually, I no longer loved them at all.  I hated them.  They were killing me”.  It seemed though, that all foods were killing her.  “Everything I eat makes me feel awful.  Everything.  It is very frustrating.  It’s like, here I am . . . I’m ready to eat well.  I’m ready to eat for hunger, instead of emotions.  I’m ready to sit down with people three times a day and talk over food, instead of hiding in my room alone with it.  But everything, everything, leaves my stomach feeling twisted and huge.  One bite feels like five hundred.  My skin itches and burns.  I am gaining weight no matter what I eat.”

So there we have it.  Claire’s reason for joining in on the 6 week long, gluten-free challenge.  She feels like she’s been eating “mostly gluten-free already” but we take a look through her cupboards to see how true this is.  Her wheat-free, Barbara’s Bakery Puffins are not gluten-free; same with the Newman’s Fig Newtons.  We talk about the difference between wheat-free and gluten-free foods.  It’s not just that there is a risk of cross-contamination- these products actually contain gluten.  They are made with barley, or oats.  Same goes for the Teeccino she’s been drinking as an alternative to coffee.  Teeccino, tasty and low-acid though it may be, is made with barley.  As for cross-contamination – there is plenty of risk for that in Claire’s cupboards.  There are cans of perfectly good food that has been “processed on machinery shared with wheat and gluten”.  We plop cans of garbanzo beans, black beans, and vegetable soup in a box, then label it “food bank”.

Next we make a shopping list of good alternatives.  There are plenty of cereals that are clearly labeled “gluten-free”.  Same goes for cookies and crackers.  As for the Teeccino, Claire has been drinking it out of concern for her sensitive stomach.  We place better alternatives on her grocery list: New Orleans style coffee (low acid and with a nutty taste leant from Chicory) or black licorice tea (soothing on the stomach, plus rich enough to please most coffee drinkers).

Greeks used black licorice as a thirst quencher and also to get relief from swelling that is caused by water retention.  The anti inflammatory properties of licorice act on the tissues, similar to cortisone, but without the side effects.  Licorice is prescribed by herbalists, naturopaths, and dieticians for treating and avoiding stomach ulcers.  When consumed before meals on a regular basis, licorice can heal existing ulcers at a 91% success rate.  The herb also acts as a protective stomach lining and maintains stomach acid levels.  For anyone who is newly gluten-free and still struggling with stomach pain and/or inflammation, licorice can provide great relief.

The remainder of Claire’s shopping list will remain unchanged, she’ll just know to read the back label more carefully from here on out.

Weeks 1 through 3
By the end of the third week, Claire and I check back in with each other.  She says she is feeling better, and it’s apparent to the eye; her skin is brighter, she looks more energetic. She says that while still dealing with some swelling and weight fluctuation, her stomach swelling has gone down and her stomach no longer distends after eating.   She does, however, continue to experience intestinal pain and occasional constipation.  Because of how sure she is that all gluten has been removed from her diet, we talk about the possibility of maybe removing dairy for the remaining three weeks of the challenge.  “As much as I love, love, love, cheese,” says Claire, “I’m pretty sure I could do it.  I mean, at this point, I would do just about anything to feel better.  I already feel so much better!  But the thought of feeling ‘normal’ again?  That is very exciting.”

On a psychological level, Claire says that sticking to a gluten-free diet has been very liberating.  “As someone with a long history of eating disorders, ‘rules’ obviously make me feel safe.  But in the past, the rules have always been very limiting, and unhealthy.  They’ve been about numbers.  Like, no more than 400 calories in a day.  Or it’s been about food groups; only vegetables, or only fruit, or only…coffee.  Going gluten-free is so different; I feel safe – I feel like the rules are concrete.  But I also feel like I’m nurturing myself – I’m allowing myself to eat with more freedom and less anxiety”.  She drums her fingers on the table top.  “How did it take so long to get here?”

Weeks 3 through 6
We end Claire’s challenge at Market of Choice in Corvallis, where gluten-free items are clearly marked on the shelves and we can shop easily.  With a handful of snacks and two cups of tea, we settle ourselves into a corner table.  “Well,” says Claire with a smile, “six weeks done”.  She says this is the beginning of something great for her: a chance to restore her health.  “My body feels SO much better.  The exhaustion is gone.  Food no longer feels like poison.  After cutting out dairy, my swelling and intestinal pain has all but disappeared ”.  Perhaps greatest of all, Claire says she has not binged on food for the last two and a half weeks.  “That is huge for me – HUGE!  Maybe two and a half weeks won’t sound like a lot to everyone else, but for me . . . it is.  We’re talking about an eleven year battle with food here.  To go that long eating regular portions feels like . . . freedom”.

pexels-photo-818819

Samantha’s Story

Patient:
Samantha

Age:
23

Age when diagnosed:
16

Symptoms:
Overweight, fatigued, lethargic, mood swings, depression, bed-wetting, underdeveloped bladder, anxiety, diarrhea, constipation, sharp stomach pains, gas, headaches, nausea, canker sores, delayed puberty, rashes, consistent tooth problems, heart arrhythmia, and consistent colds.

Family members diagnosed:
Blood sister
Half sister
Cousins
Great uncle and aunt
Mom

My Story:
I will never forget where I was when I realized my list of health concerns were anything but “normal”. I was in a porta-potty in the middle of Eastern Oregon, praying that I could actually go one day without having chronic diarrhea or constipation. I had taken a weeklong road trip with my friends, and although we were expecting to explore the beautiful sights of Oregon, we spent a majority of the time finding bathrooms and listening to my complaints about my horrible headaches and nasty stomach pains. After returning from the road, I made a trip into the doctor’s office and essentially demanded an explanation. I wanted to know why I was sick, and what the doctors were going to do to make it better.

I was born a healthy baby with no apparent health issues. As an infant I had very few health problems aside from a heart arrhythmia, and an unexplained rash. The doctors informed my parents that the rash was no concern and I would grow out of the arrhythmia. Growing up I was a fairly normal kid. I grew up on a farm south of Corvallis, and was raised by my dad. I spent most of my childhood playing in the fields with my sister and cousin. However, my sister and I also spent a lot of time inside the house, sick with various flu’s and colds.

I was sick throughout a large portion of elementary school. In the third grade I missed a month of school because I was sick with a cold that just wouldn’t go away. My weight was becoming a problem. I had previously been a fairly small child, but I started to gain weight that refused to come off. I also had horrible bladder problems, and was a constant bed wetter. My doctor didn’t think much of my weight or flu problems, and prescribed medication for my “underdeveloped” bladder. Another large portion of my childhood was spent in the dentist office. Genetically my whole family had bad teeth so it was only standard that I would make monthly visits to the dentist.

I made it through my middle school years with very few problems, and it wasn’t until high school that my health issues became more prevalent. I started to have problems at home. I had become extremely moody, depressed, and irritable. My dad and stepmom had a hard time dealing with me, but just assumed that I was a difficult teenager. At this point I was obese, anxious, and had become extremely shy. I had also begun to realize how irregular my bowl movements were, and at the age of 14 I was still wetting the bed. Going into the doctor for my annual check up, I expressed all my health concerns and poured my heart out about my depression and anxiety. My doctor decided it would be best to put me on an antidepressant, and told me that otherwise he had no concerns.

As I began to move my way through high school, I put my issues aside and focused on doing well in school. I continued to have the same health concerns, and developed a few more. I started to have stomach pains, I was fatigued, I had constant headaches, I had a mysterious itchy rash on my knee, and I had not started my cycle. My doctor decided that the majority of my problems were developing from being overweight and that my headaches were due to my need to wear eyeglasses. He referred me to optometrist and recommended I started watching my diet and working out. This would be the last time that I saw this doctor.

While I was having my own health concerns, my sister was having severe health problems of her own. My sister Mary had also suffered from health issues her entire life. Unfortunately hers were much more severe and prevalent than mine. Mary was overweight, often presented flu symptoms, and had chronic back pains, stomach pains, chronic diarrhea and a long list of other problems. When our family practitioner dismissed her back and stomach pains, my parents decided to take Mary to the emergency room. Within hours of being in the ER, the cause of Mary’s chronic pain had been discovered. She had a 20 lb benign tumor in her stomach that had wrapped itself around one of her ovaries and was continuing to grow. After removing the tumor Mary made a slow recovery, but still continued to have persistent health problems. After seeing several different doctors and specialists, and developing several new health issues, Mary was finally diagnosed with Celiac Disease.

Knowing that our previous family doctor had severely misdiagnosed Mary, our whole family began to see a new doctor. After returning from my weeklong excursion with my friends I marched into this doctor’s office and demanded answers. To my surprise he listened to me, took notes, asked questions and looked for answers. Although he had not been the doctor to diagnose my sister, this doctor knew celiac disease was a genetic disorder and decided to do a blood test.

One week later, in September of 2004, I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. In the following year I began to turn my life around. However, attempting to become 100% gluten free was anything but easy. When I was first diagnosed there were no gluten free bakeries, there was little to no selection of gluten free products in the store, and eating at restaurants was near impossible. I was overwhelmed with how to grocery shop, how to eat, and how to go on living a normal life. Unfortunately, my insurance would not cover a nutritionist or specialist and my family could not afford to send me to one; so I started research on my own. I went to the library and searched for hours on the web, and I started my journey to being gluten free.

Gluten Free…. Right?
Within weeks of starting a gluten free diet I began to have normal bowl movements, my mood was improving, my headaches were disappearing, and I was finally beginning to lose weight. As far as I was concerned I was on a gluten free diet, little did I know that everyday I was continuing to harm my body. In January of 2005 I started my first job at a local pizza shop. I would continue to work at this pizza shop for the next 6 years of my life. My first year working was also my first year being gluten free. I remember feeling like I could do anything; most of my symptoms had gone away. I was finally healthy, I had friends, my energy was improving, and best of all I had lost almost 100 lbs.

It wasn’t until 2007 that I realized my job could be causing me health issues. I was feeling sick quite often, I had horrible nausea, sharp pains in my chest, a rash on my hands, mood swings, canker sores, and continuing teeth complications. When I developed the rash on my hands I decided to go to the doctor. I told him about my nausea and sharp pains, and I showed him the rash on my hands. He ordered me a pregnancy test (for the nausea) and told me that the pizza shop could NOT be making me sick. He explained that gluten had to be ingested, and that while I was around gluten I wasn’t ingesting it so it couldn’t possibly be harming me. I was told that if I wanted proof then I could have the endoscopy test done. I agreed and we went ahead with the test. 500 dollars later I still had no results. My doctor informed me that the camera revealed I was fine. He told me to write down everything I ate and if I continued to feel sick to come back and see him in six months. After talking to my family I decided maybe I was being silly, and perhaps this is how I was supposed to feel. This is when I realized that maybe I was never going to feel 100%, and I might spend the rest of my life feeling less than average.

Over the next three years, I continued to have persistent health problems. Although I knew my doctors and family thought I was a hypochondriac, I still continued to make various trips to the doctors for all different reasons. I was given all types of tests and blood work for all different diseases and ailments. I complained of constant nausea and sharp stomach pains. So I was given several different pregnancy tests, stool tests, and ultra sounds. Then when they couldn’t find a problem I was given prescribed medication to ease my pain. I felt fatigued and tired all the time, so they took my blood work for anemia and thyroid problems. When those came back negative I was told to exercise more and stress less. I had severe mood swings and irritability, so I was told that I was on the wrong type of birth control and was put on several different types. I had severe canker sores on every part of my body, so I was tested for herpes… 4 times. When they finally ruled out herpes I was given an ointment to put on the sores to ease the pain. I was also told that I had mono, heartburn, nerve damage, and stress headaches. It seemed that every doctor had a “treatment” for my problems. However I didn’t want a “treatment” I wanted a solution. I was tired of wasting my time and money on doctors who weren’t invested into truly making me feel better.

It was 2010 when I finally realized that my doctors were not going to be my advocate and I had to take my health into my own hands if I wanted to get better. I decided to forget everything my doctors had said and I turned to forums and blogs on the Internet. This is where I discovered the overwhelming consensus that not only were my symptoms related to celiac disease; they were most likely a direct result of my daily exposure to gluten through work. Of course at this point I was outraged. I knew what was making me sick, and I realized I had no idea how much damage had been done to my body over the last six years. I decided the best thing I could do was move forward, and I took every precaution I could. While I was at work I wore masks, gloves, and I didn’t touch any loose flour, but my symptoms were still prevalent and only seeming to get worse. Unfortunately finding a new job was not an easy task. I had worked at the same place for the last six years. My job had become a part of who I was. I developed a strong relationship with my boss, and she had invested a lot into developing me as her manager. However I knew that my quality of life could be dramatically changed if I was able to find a new job. Shortly after I started my job search, I was lucky enough to find an opening working at the Gluten Free RN office.

Luckily Nadine at the Gluten Free office rescued me from my gluten filled job and I have been “officially” gluten free for the last six weeks. Everyday I take note of what I eat and how I am feeling and honestly I did not know it was possible to feel this healthy. If I had known that it was possible to feel this alive, I would have quit my job at the pizza shop years ago. I haven’t had mood swings, I have no nausea, headaches or sharp pains and best of all I actually have energy. I know that my body has a long way to go before it is damage free and I still have an occasional day where I don’t feel 100%. However, I feel truly blessed to finally be on a path to having a truly gluten free lifestyle.