My Gluten Free Journey
The overwhelming information about switching to a gluten free lifestyle may seem daunting at first but you are making a great choice towards a healthier you! I too didn’t know which brands to trust or how to tell which ingredients I should consume. You can’t eat wheat, flour, spelt, barley, rye, kamut, pizza, anything breaded or baked. There are substitutions for all of those food favorites. It just takes some time learning new foods.
What is Gluten?
You’ve heard the term “gluten free.” But do you know what it really is? Gluten can be considered poisonous to our bodies and potentially deadly if not properly addressed. I’ll keep the explanation short and sweet (hahaha): Gluten is a mixture of two proteins that create the chewy, glue-like consistency of dough and is critical in making dough rise in the oven. Our bodies can not completely digest gluten and it eventually causes inflammation.
I share my story in hopes that it can help assist you in making better food choices creating a long term healthier family lifestyle. As well as to further educate those that think eating gluten-free is just an excuse for being fastidious.
As a kid I was always active, playing sports and salsa performing; all through high school into college (still social dance, of course). I was born with acute asthma that is triggered by allergies not physical activity. I didn’t pay any attention to healthy eating habits because, let’s face it, when you are young, you can’t help but think you have immortality on your side.
I always remember watching my abuelita pour her heart out cooking for hours to provide us with nutritious meals, but I believe that the quality of food -overall- back then was entirely different than it is now. There are so many illnesses and diseases that seem all too commonly blamed on “heredity” without considering food. Yes, it would be hereditary because we’ve eaten the same foods the same way for generations. Doesn’t mean it’s grown the same! -#teamNonGMO
Finding out the hard way
As time went on, I found myself not having any energy to keep up with my kids and had constant allergies, breakouts, using my asthma pump more frequently, and simply not feeling myself. After having pasta for dinner, I wasn’t feeling well - like I was going to pass out. Stomach cramps, nausea, in and out of the bathroom, heavy breathing, and dizziness led me to the doctor’s office. I learned a few days later from my results that I had a ton of allergies and deficiencies. My body potentially was going into shock. My vitamins and minerals were very low. It was time for me to take extreme measures.
What is Celiac’s
What is Celiacs? It's an autoimmune disease where your body is treating gluten as an alien in the body. The immune system attacks the gluten as well as your body's gut wall. This internal attack starts a domino effect of severe digestive disorders. If your brain is the computer of your body then your gut is the engine. My issue? Non - celiac gluten sensitivity. My immune system is overstimulated fighting gluten, leaving my body defenseless, hence my year-long allergies: runny nose, watery eyes, low energy and asthma.
Sick and tired of being sick and tired
Mostly, everyone thinks I’m dieting to watch my figure because gluten-free to a Puerto Rican family is unheard of. And, btw, for context, I was also underweight and couldn’t gain anything. It’s like a dream come true right? Wrong!; For me, it signified that I was malnourished, and felt (and probably looked) my worst. So, I decided to go cold turkey and cut gluten out of my diet altogether and push myself on a path of taking better care of my body. I was just sick and tired of being sick and tired. I had a new food routine, survived the master cleanser to rid my body of toxins, and ultimately, created a clean slate.
Yea, at first it was torture. I LOVE food (especially sweets), and felt like I was going to starve since gluten-free anything was hard to find and afford. Ignorantly, I felt like I couldn’t eat anywhere. I was stuck on the popular brands and foods we are exposed to daily, not knowing there were so many foods I could still eat. Which brings me back to the “hereditary” meal prep that families are accustomed to. But guess what? I made the choice to change that cycle. My husband, 3 kids, and my dog have completely survived our revamped food shopping list and eating habits that they can’t even tell anymore.
It’s been a whole 3 years that I went cold turkey, and completely changed my diet that If I feel like eating a bagel with cream cheese, I can. Everything in moderation (-except for pasta in my case, unfortunately). That dinner experience was so traumatic that I won’t eat anything other than gluten free pasta & I found some really good ones. Yay! Besides following the advice of my doctor and changing my eating habits, I’ve been taking vitamins and probiotics regularly. He also told me I need to take some time for myself because no one else will. And that's the sad truth. As a mom, we sacrifice ourselves for our family. How can I help you if I don't take care of myself first, right? Slowly but surely I’ve gotten back into yoga and would love to get back into dancing (non competitively) but I already feel so much better.
It sounds worse than it is, but essentially, a lot of good has come from this experience. It’s somewhat driven me to create delicious substitutions for my favorite sweet treats. I’ve taught myself how to recreate traditional Puerto Rican meals without sacrificing the flavor. I still use sofrito but from vegetables grown in my garden and only store bought organic ingredients to make my own adobo seasonings. There are brands out there that you can trust but I would still follow your “gut” , pun intended, if you can’t pronounce the ingredient then you shouldn’t eat it.
For more information on how to get started on your gluten free journey, read Beginners Guide To Gluten Free Eating.
If you’re going through it and want to talk, I’m always happy to help the best that I can. And if you have any recommendations on good gluten-free brands or healthier alternatives to traditional foods, PLEASE share in the comments, ‘cause I’m open to try anything.