March 3, 2014

My Gluten-Free Journey: What Would I Do Differently?

photo credit: Flickr nathangibbs

I was gluten-free for over 4 years. During that time, I stumbled, I tripped, and I learned. A lot. I started with the basics. I learned things that made my life easier. I learned to navigate restaurants, and reduce cross-contamination in my home.

I have to admit, during those 4 years, I got pretty good at handling a gluten-free diet. I learned to cook wonderful gluten-free dishes, and I tasted a lot of gluten-free products and found many that were excellent.

But if I had to do it all over again, what would I do differently? How would I embark upon a gluten-free change?

Number One – I would have gone to a gastroenterologist to get tested for celiac disease before I eliminated gluten from my diet. I had the blood test and a genetic test done (both were negative), but I was gluten-free for almost a year before I saw a gastroenterologist about my digestive issues. By then, it was too late for an endoscopy test (the standard test for celiac disease) to be accurate. I don’t have celiac disease, but it certainly would have helped to go through the proper processes in order to get to the root cause of my digestive issues. (I might have saved myself a lot of time and agony!)

Number Two – I would have gotten more “chummy” with a few key restaurants that could cater to my gluten-free diet, and would have visited more often. I cooked 95% of my meals when I ate gluten-free, and while that meant I ate pretty healthily, it got tiresome. Also: I would have worked with other gluten-free friends and family more to reduce the cooking workload. Maybe we could each batch cook a few meals and swap, so we could each have different meals ready for those times when we don’t feel like cooking. When you have to adhere to a special diet, it’s a treat to have someone else cook for you.

Number Three – Related to the above, I wouldn’t have taken so long to speak up about my needs in restaurants. I would have advocated for myself from the get-go, asking all of the right questions to help ensure cross-contamination wouldn’t occur and I would get a safe meal.

Number Four – I would have practiced regular “chill out” times. Eating a restrictive diet raised my anxiety a lot. I worried when I wouldn’t be home to cook. I worried about travel. I worried every time I ate out that I would become sick. Truthfully, my anxiety probably negatively contributed to my health way more than a less-than-perfect diet, or a crumb of gluten, could have. (Note: yes, even getting a crumb of gluten can cause health issues for those with celiac disease. I didn’t have celiac disease.) More relaxation and less anxiety would have gone a long way towards a better transition into gluten-free eating. (Tip: Wine is gluten-free!)

Number Five – I would have spent more time doing thorough research into separating fact from fiction when it came to gluten. I read so much information on the internet that was false. I wasn’t sure which foods really did have sneaky gluten. I read that gluten was causing all sorts of unrelated illnesses. I also read that if perhaps, my mother just would have held off feeding my gluten for a while or breastfed me longer, I wouldn’t have these issues. There were so many fallacies out there, and I believed them all, rather than looking with a scrutinizing eye. (I’ve shared a Gluten-Free Mythbusters post to help separate fact from fiction when it comes to gluten-free!)

All in all, I went through daily life just fine on a gluten-free diet. With all of the gluten-free products out there today, plus my tendency to cook from scratch, I found it pretty easy to avoid gluten and eat a varied, healthy, satisfying diet. It’s not as difficult as it was twenty years ago, or even ten years ago!

What do you wish you knew when you first went gIuten-free? If you’re just starting out, what are you looking to learn?

Want to know more about gluten-free living? Check out my Living Gluten & Dairy-Free page!

Learn more about living gluten free! Visit http://udisglutenfree.com/community

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Udi’s Gluten Free. The opinions and text are all mine.

One Response to “My Gluten-Free Journey: What Would I Do Differently?”

  1. I agree that going gluten free has become something of a ‘must do’ trend or dare I say it a ‘fad’. However, your advice to get tested medically is not always possible. Here in Canada where we have government-sponsored health care it is pretty impossible to get any testing done unless your doctor approves and most doctors in my experience refuse to test for something they don’t understand. My own doctor doesn’t “believe” in gluten intolerance as a factor in anything other than celiac yet going on a gluten free diet has relieved my daughter of a life-long experience of joint aches. She also finds that when she does eat gluten, not only do her aches show up again (about 24 hours later) but she also breaks out! Sometimes you have to be your own doctor.

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