September 30, 2013

A Healing Process, and My Own Journey

 

Yes, those are Lego Hobbits. In a wheat field. Hopefully it’ll make sense in a moment.

Those who know me know that I’ve followed a gluten-free for over 4 years. I’ve been dairy-free for over three. I’ve also followed many other diets involving elimination of foods. (Paleo. Anti-candida diet. High-raw/plant-based. Low-FODMAPs. I even went through allergy testing and removed those “potential allergens” for a while.) I struggled with digestive issues before this time and during this time. It seemed I could not find relief, no matter how strict I was, no matter what I eliminated. Those who have similar stories can empathize, but needless to say, it was exhausting. There were many, many days I wanted to just throw my hands up and give up entirely.

What I didn’t know was, for me personally, this process of restriction caused more issues than it solved. Wanting to be healthy caused me to be anxious about everything I put into my mouth. I demonized foods. I ended up many times not eating enough to support my activity levels or allow my body to heal itself. I began to fall out of love with cooking, which was the whole reason for my starting this blog over 5 years ago.

However, starting about 5 months ago, I began to turn a corner. I have been on a personal journey towards understanding that perhaps what I’d been doing wasn’t helping my healing process. In short, I’m now eating enough food to heal my body and my metabolism, and I’ve been incorporating a wider and more varied amount of foods. I’m also learning to chill out about my food choices. As I’ve gone through this process, my body has thanked me by rapidly improving my digestion and my general well-being. I have more energy and better digestion than I’ve had in many years.

But here’s where the (potentially) unpopular stance begins. A wider variety of foods in my diet means that I’ve incorporated grains. Sugar. Some beans. Occasional treats that I would have never ever allowed myself before, like a small piece of candy. In the past few months, I’ve reintroduced dairy into my diet. (Attempts to do this in my past have always failed.) And most recently, I’ve begun testing gluten as well.

Full disclosure: I do not have celiac disease. I don’t even carry the genes for celiac disease. I never received any positive diagnosis for gluten issues, in spite of varied tests I’ve had conducted over the years. Going gluten-free for me was a move that was spawned because of family members with celiac disease and gluten issues. I was hoping it would solve all my troubles. I seemed to get better in some ways, but in others, like my digestion, I didn’t.

However, for years now, getting even the smallest amount of gluten caused me to react. My reactions weren’t extreme – not to the level that my family members experienced, for instance – but I still noticed I had trouble with it. But now that I’ve had several straight months of improved digestion, my trials have been successful. I feel fine. No brain fog. No heartburn. No diarrhea or constipation. It would seem I have no real issue digesting it. (Mind you, I haven’t gone full-out and had a gluten feast. I don’t intend to, truthfully. I’m increasing amounts as I go through my trial, but as I mentioned before – I am someone who enjoys a varied, healthy diet, and a diet heavy in gluten, or any single thing, isn’t all that varied or healthy.)

So it may be that my future path is one where I am not 100% gluten-free or dairy-free. Where I don’t have to restrict any food in order for me to be healthy. What does this mean?

For me personally, it means I’m feeling healthier than ever. I’m less anxious about food (and in general), and my body is responding positively. I’m falling back in love with cooking and with food. I have more energy. I’ve researched, and I’ve listened to my body. I truly believe this is the best path for me at this moment in time.

As for this blog, there will continue to be plenty of gluten-free and dairy-free options. After all, this is how I eat most of the time anyway. I eat a healthy diet based in whole foods. It’s how my body works best. I love that my gluten-free journey has taught me that there are dozens of different flours I can use for baking, many of which are gluten-free. Also, I love sharing delicious recipes, and I wholeheartedly believe that gluten-free living doesn’t mean you should sacrifice on taste. You will continue to see recipes for both healthy, gluten-free foods and gluten-free treats. And even healthy gluten-free treats.

I’ll still continue to fully support the gluten-free community. After all, I know many people suffer from celiac disease and gluten intolerance. It’s a shock to deal with the drastic changes associated with removing gluten from your diet. I know that support is one of the greatest gifts someone who is dealing with this transition or living the gluten-free lifestyle can receive. There needs to be increased awareness of celiac disease as well. I have always been a huge supporter and will continue to do what I can to be there for the gluten-free community.

And of course, I am not promoting that you or anyone else eat gluten or dairy, simply because I choose to do so. If you have celiac disease – there are many, many studies out there that state that even small amounts of gluten can cause continued damage. But even if you don’t have celiac disease, and gluten makes you feel ill, then by all means, don’t eat it. I am not a doctor or a nutritionist, and I don’t wish to prescribe that any person do/not do something for their health. It’s not my place, and it’s not my goal.

My mission here is to support those that need support, with as much information as I can find. I’m also here to share my passion for tasty, nutritious food, and occasionally, cookies. ‘Cause everything is better with cookies.

“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

41 Responses to “A Healing Process, and My Own Journey”

  1. Bravo, girl! A flexible approach to food and health is so important. I applaud you for all the work you have done to get to know your body, and what it needs and tolerates. Food restrictions have their time and place but they are not set in stone in all cases. You are an inspiration.

  2. Your story is inspirational on so many levels, Alta. Food is not the end-all-be-all, and your story helps me to keep that in perspective. It can play a huge role in our lives, and for good reason in many cases, but when we let it take center stage our health can suffer endlessly. I’m so glad you’ve healed and that you’ve found a place of balance in your life. It’s something that I think we all seek deep down, but few of us find. Hugs!!

    • Hallie – Thank you! I think finding balance is a continual process – sometimes we find it, but it’s a moving target. :)

  3. being true to yourself and what is the best medicine for your own health is awesome! I’m proud of you Alta! And enjoy seeing where you are on your journey!! :-) Keep on being YOU!

  4. What a great story. I think you are amazing to come out and be so candid about your story. Hopefully in time you will receive an answer to what is bothering your system. In the meantime, good luck!

    • Thanks Traci. Honestly, my system is better than it’s ever been. I have a feeling that anxiety plays a huge part, honestly.

  5. Thanks so much for your honesty, Alta! I think people are too often afraid to share where they’re truly at with this gluten-free journey, the good/bad/on/off/purist/occasional, etc because of criticism and judgement. Moderation and balance in everything is my philosophy (except for gluten/dairy/shellfish/peanuts/soy because I cannot tolerate them at all). I’m so glad that you’ve found peace, health, and balance that makes you whole. You have much to offer. Thanks for sharing you with us!

    • Connie – You’re welcome and thanks for your support. I agree on the moderation/balance thing, except of course in those instances where your body cannot tolerate certain foods. Everyone is different and the best thing to do is to learn and understand your body and what works best for you. <3

  6. I am so impressed by how well you articulated this, Alta. I know it wasn’t an easy decision to try eating gluten or “coming out” to the gf community. Way to be true to yourself and honest with all of us. I applaud you for that!

  7. I think that’s awesome that you’ve allowed yourself to be more free & accepting of foods. Being anxious about food is never a good thing!

    I think everyone needs to listen to what their body needs–a process that isn’t as cut & dry as eat this, & NEVER that. I applaud your honesty & am happy for you.

  8. Thank you. I was starting to get emotional while reading this because I felt like it was my story, in my voice. I have never tested positive for anything, but changed the way I eat to improve my digestive health and avoid feeling miserable. I loved food, but started to hate eating because of the way it made me feel. I’m still figuring things out, as I ease up on my dietary restrictions. You took the words right out of my heart, and I hope that I will have the success you are experiencing after having allowed your body to heal with patience and perseverance.

    • Cynthia – It warms my heart to read this. I wish the best for you in your journey towards figuring out what works best for your body.

  9. Sis, it makes me so happy that you’ve been able to find peace with how you nourish your body. Even throughout your ups and downs with your digestive woes, you have always dove in headfirst, determined to find a way to make it work, and equally important, make it delicious. You’ve been the inspiration I needed to teach myself to cook, and to be unafraid in trying out things I always thought were too hard for me. Your guidance also has led me to cook and live a healthier and happier lifestyle. Not just for me, but for my family as well. Love you so much and I’m so proud of you!

  10. Alta … it is refreshing to see people like you progress on your journey. Honestly, our main goal is to get our son to a place that he CAN tolerate the foods he once was allergic to. A healed gut can change things big time. Like you, gluten will likely be one we avoid forever, but it is so nice to be at a place where I know a drop of dairy or egg won’t wreck him and set us back. So happy for you and the health you have achieved by listening to your body!!

    xo

  11. Dear Alta,

    Not only do we share the same first name, you also think like me! My food/health journey has been very similar to yours with the same discoveries and conclusions — there is no one diet/lifestyle to fit all bodies and, so important, I listen to my body every day. It tells me all I need to know about its treatment and nourishment.

    You are an inspiration! Thanks for sharing your journey as well as those yummy recipes. Because where would we be without cookies!

    All the best,
    Alta (Australia)

    • Alta – It’s always awesome to meet someone with the same first name, because it’s so uncommon! Thank you for your kind words.

  12. This is amazing Alta, and the comments are fabulous – hooray for speaking your truth. Look what it brought you – good health and sooo much love and support. I think our minds play a HUGE role in how we feel. HUGE! That body-mind-spirit connection can’t go unnoticed, and thank you for bringing it out. Callum has been having little bits of goat’s cheese lately and I’m sooooo relieved and sooooo happy for him. It makes life so much easier for him too. I pray we will all have similar healing as you’ve We are certainly on our way! Congrats. xo

  13. Honestly Alta, the only part of this post that I zoned in on was the part about you feeling great, having good digestion, and enjoying a healthy relationship with food. I’m so happy for you! How you eat or any other aspect of how you live your life is your personal choice – but it is so sweet of you to continue on sharing recipes for those with a free from diet! Happy eating :)

  14. Thank you for sharing your story and being so candid. It can be hard to go against the grain with your diet, but so worth it in the long run.

  15. Trying different things and seeing what works and what doesn’t is hard, but I’m glad you’ve found some answers. Thank you for sharing your struggle with us – also for your inspiration to look for solutions.

  16. Pingback: Tasty Eats at Home » Pumpkin Hemp Oatmeal Cookies

  17. Alta, I’m glad to hear that you are feeling better! I’m also glad that you are continuing to support the gluten free community and plan to keep up the blog. You could have gone on without saying anything, so I applaud you for being open and honest with us. What a relief for you to not be stressed out over food. Happy to hear that you have regained your love of cooking.

  18. Wow! I am totally in a similar place right now. I found relief from my migraines with a GF/DF diet. Then I started reading more and more and tried paleo in hopes to improve two auto-immune skin conditions. Then started to also dive into WAPF. And suddenly found myself with regular migraines again. Then I started over analyzing everything I ate and felt wondering what more I would have to eliminate. Driving myself AND my family crazy! Finally I decided this wasn’t how I wanted to live so I went back to what was working…GF/DF mostly real food. Eating what sounds good. I have even been eating a little cheese. And guess what?! I feel so much better. And everyone is happier. :)

  19. Alta,

    I’m sure it took a lot of soul-searching to write this post and I commend you for your honesty. It’s very easy to be disingenuous in the blogging world; to hide behind a computer screen and pretend to be something we’re not. Authenticity in blogging is important and I respect your ongoing journey to be less anxious about food. I’ve been on a “healthy food” journey of one kind or another my whole life and have seen it all when it comes to food and exercise. Although I love the world of blogging and social media, it has launched a boat-load of mixed messages, pseudo-experts, anxious eaters, and stressed-out exercisers. There is no original human diet, best way to be fit, perfect or evil foods, etc. We get so caught up in the “next new thing” or “best way to eat” or “perfect way to lose belly fat” that it’s ridiculous and stressful. I say this a lot when I do presentations — we’re at the very top of the food chain and we don’t know what to eat. Even insects instinctively know what to eat and what not to eat. We’ve created anxiety around food. I understand your difficulties and my heart goes out to you. It shouldn’t be this hard. Good for you for finding some answers and feeling better physically and emotionally. It’s an ongoing journey, that’s for sure. I have my own set of quirky confidence issues. We all do.

    I do have to add one personal opinion about your post. =) You mentioned that you had “no real issue digesting” gluten. None of us can “digest” (break down food into absorbable units) gluten and for many of us, that can cause problems that don’t show up in obvious ways. We also don’t know what genetic pieces fall into this “gluten” puzzle, so you may not have the currently accepted markers for celiac, but there are a lot more genetic and environmental variables at play. We don’t have all the answers and never will because we’re all different. I have 2 genetic markers for celiac disease, so both my parents had at least one copy of the gene. I believe gluten contributed to my dad’s death (see “Melissa’s Story” in my book). My mom, however, lived to be almost 97 and had no sign of gluten intolerance. What made them different? Who knows?

    So, bottom line? Each to their own. I wish you well as you navigate this confusing thing we call life. It’s not easy, but you’re such a beautiful spirit, do what you believe is best for you, now. That’s all we can do.

    I’m glad you’re going to continue sharing your gluten-free recipes! You’re a treasure trove of good ideas and wonderful recipes.

    Hang in there. Onward…
    Melissa
    PS Sorry, this comment took on a life of its own.

    • Melissa – thank you for your info. I agree that we don’t have all the answers. I do see your point about not being able to break down gluten – we all eat things we can’t break down into absorbable units. Some can wreak havoc on a susceptible digestive system too – gluten is one. I certainly understand that be reintroducing gluten into my diet that I’m taking a risk at some level, even with all sorts of negative test results and a lack of a reaction to it. However, I also take risks to my health by eating any number of controversial foods. I might eat soy once in a while. Or something with artificial flavors or colors. The list goes on. For my mental and physical health, I’m choosing what works best for me. It’s not the same for everyone – and not everyone would choose to go the path I’m going, nor do I wish them to.

      Thank you for your well wishes. (And yes, my reply also took a life of its own!)

  20. Great post! It will help many people who read it, it’s not good to be anxious or stressed over such things.
    Have you ever tried lucky Layla’s dairy? My son has bad digestive upset to dairy. Through trial and error we figured out it was the protien in the a1 milk that he couldn’t digest. Their dairy is from a2 cows (same as goat and sheep) so he’s fine with it.
    http://www.luckylayla.com

    • Annette – Thanks! I did try Lucky Layla right before I went dairy-free over 3 years ago. I still had issues then (and had issues with goat/sheep dairy), but I haven’t had the opportunity again recently (except I did grab some of their grassfed butter not long ago – it’s a treat!). I’ve contemplated it but haven’t made the effort to get over there.

  21. I recently listened to “Dying To Be Me” by Anita Moorjani. I highly recommend it for the inspiration she received about living with no fear from a near-death experience she had. She had lots of fear of illness, foods, the medical world. Her inner discoveries have led her to a more relaxed viewpoint of how we eat and live. Anxiety was a huge factor for her too. This is such an insightful and motivating story. Hope everyone has a chance to check it out!

  22. Beautifully stated. And I love how you’re continuing to be there for those who do have to stay on the gluten free path! And triple YAY for finding what is working best for YOU! :)

  23. Pingback: Tasty Eats at Home » Healing My Digestion and My Relationship with Food

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