Whether you have decided to go gluten free for personal health reasons, or simply cannot tolerate it because of gluten sensitivities or allergies, many people are taking a liking to the benefits of a gluten free lifestyle.
Whatever the reasons, the steps remain the same. In our gluten free section we hope to educate and inspire you on how to go gluten free, the benefits of doing so, tips and food substitutions, and stories of people’s experience in the transition from eating a normal North American diet to serious limitations. If this is a path you are wanting or needing to walk then here is a chance to walk through it in my shoes….
When I was in my early teens, there was a year that I was absent for more math classes than I was present. Every week I would see a new specialist trying to figure out why I was always sick. Math just happened to fall at the same time as these appointments ;).
It was not as if I was in bed every day, but every time I ate it really hurt my stomach, I felt overly bloated, and extremely tired. I remember eating lunch at home and then trying to walk back to school. I lived a 10-minute walk a way, yet it took me twice the time because of my need to stop and rest- I was so tired, all I wanted to do was stop and rest. It was pathetic.
I had always been involved in many activities- basketball, soccer, baseball, track, piano and singing lessons, but I could not do any of these things without an inhaler. I had exercise asthma that needed constant attention. Even with the use of my inhaler I still struggled to play like a normal kid because I always had sharp pains and cramps in my side and in my stomach. The aches and pains mixed with my zomby like disposition took away from my abilities.
It was obvious that there was something wrong. My parents took it upon themselves to take me to every type of specialist to solve the mystery of my dying health.
I had cat scans, colonoscopies, allergy tests, blood work, stool samples, I kept food journals given to me by nutritionists, but each test came back fairly normal. There was nothing unusual about my organs, or blood work or anything! I remember feeling comforted that there was no major one thing spotted, but frustrated that I did not feel normal, and that I may need to live in this state of health permanently.
A couple months later my father decided to take me on a little road trip to see Dr. DeBavelaere. Dr. DeBavelaere lived in the next Provence about 8 hours away. I thought that was a little extreme to drive that far to see a doctor, but I was excited to miss some school and secretly had a little hope left to spare!
Not in a million years would I have thought I would walk out his office with an actionable plan to get my health back. He knew exactly what was wrong with me, and he had the answers.
He is the man that changed my life and I want to share with you my story in case you or your child or someone you love may be experiencing similar symptoms and you are looking for an answer.
When he tested for food sensitivities I scored 100% on every single food. That explains why even drinking water made me sick. He explained that my liver was not able to process very well because it was weak and getting weaker. He explained that if I did not make the changes he was about to challenge me with, I would have serious health complications that would only worsen over time.
He explained, through his thick French accent that I needed to go off wheat and dairy and have absolutely no sugar for one month and then come back to his office. I thought “ok, great! I have a chance and this is doable!” I left on a feeling of high hope.
I told my dad that I was not going to eat a single grain or morsel of the “forbidden foods.” I was going to give it my full effort to see if this man had any merit to his instructions.
There was a grocery store close by so we stopped to grab something to eat. I was starving. I remember thinking, “ok this is my first experience of having to make a conscious food effort.” We walked up and down the isle trying to find something suitable for lunch. That is when it hit, ‘this is going to be a lot harder than I anticipated.’ We left the store with two apples, and I started to cry. I was so hungry, and lunch would be two apples. I was not used to eating like this.
The first month of living gluten free was a roller coaster of emotions. Dr. Dr. DeBavelaere warned me that I would feel worse before I felt better. He said after about 3 weeks I would start to notice a change. I remember being constantly hungry, and I craved bread like crazy! He told me that you crave what your body cannot have. Food sensitivity can act like a parasite that is looking to feed itself. He cautioned me not to submit to these cravings. All I wanted and could think about was a thick slice of my mom’s homemade bread that she made religiously, with a slab of butter and honey- but I couldn’t, and I wouldn’t.
He said to help the cravings, only eat one type of food at a time.For example, if you have fruit for breakfast do not mix it with a grain. Back then it was cardboard rice bread that was about as stiff as a piece of styrophome – this was supposed to substitute for bread. He told me if I didn’t mix the foods it would help control my cravings and hunger pains. He was right it did help.
By the end of week one, the whites of my eyes were pure yellow, my tongue had a white film over it, and my skin started to break out like crazy. Even my arms and back were bumpy. He explained that this is a good sign, that the toxins were leaving my body and to invite it. I did as he instructed and moved forward.
Throughout that month, I think I cried more days than I had in my entire life- I was always hungry! I could not sleep. I was overly emotional. I was a wreck. I would pretend I was fine at school, and then come home and cry to my mom.
Even when I ate an abundance of fruit, or salad, or rice I had hunger pains that roared and kept me up through the night. He told me that my body wanted to be fed gluten. He used the analogy of the parasite again. He warned not to give in.
At the end of the month, the whites of my eyes had gone back to their original state, my tongue did not have that film, I did not crave what I could not have, and overall I was feeling, for the first time in years, kind of normal!
I went back to see Dr. Debevaliar and he congratulated me on sticking to it. He re-tested me and found most all foods scored a normal level of tolerance except for gluten, dairy and sugar. He explained that eating these three things was causing my whole body to be out of whack, making it impossible to digest anything. Once these three types of food were eliminated, my body was able to find a state of equilibrium.
He explained that is was important to eat like this from now on- no gluten, no dairy and no sugar. This would be a life change that I needed to accept. He warned that if I do not I will have health problems for the rest of my life. I took this very seriously and decided I would never look back. I would never eat my mom’s homemade bread again.
The differences that I saw after 3 months off of wheat, dairy and gluten…
-No more cravings or hunger pains.
-Plain food tasted vibrant and full of flavor. I could eat a plain potato and it was full of flavor to me.
- I woke up in the mornings feeling bright eyed and bushy tailed, whereas before I struggled not to hit the snooze button for over an hour before I would slug out of bed.
-I was full of energy and felt like a young bucking deer! Before I changed the way I ate I ran an endurance test for a basketball tryout. I made the cut by a thread; I almost threw up, and I was sick the rest of the day. I took that same endurance test three months later and broke the school record! I could have kept going but I felt silly being the last one still running for so long.
-My asthma was gone! I threw away my inhaler- there was no need for it anymore. I could run as far and as hard as I wanted.
-I literally was bursting with energy! I still am to this day! I have to run or do something physical most every day because I crave it. Before I dreaded the action of moving from the couch to the dinner table.
-My mind became clear and I was doing better in school.
-My skin was clear .
-My body felt like it was mine for once! I felt in control.
I was happier- I was a new and better version of myself.
People tell me all the time, “That must be so hard not to eat all of those things. What a trial.” I do not reflect on this as a trial but rather an interesting blessing. Nothing but good that has come from this life change and I am now thankful for the food sensitivities because it has forced me to get educated and aware of my health. I know it will help keep me on track for the rest of my life!
As I write and reflect on that grey past I can hardly believe I used to feel like that! Sometimes I am reminded when I accidentally eat something; I suffer for a few days. If I eat gluten my face swells, I look like a blowfish, I get a red itchy rash, and feel tired and ill (that has happened twice- TWICE in 12 years!) That is amazing to me.
I hope that through my experience and others including Tawny’s story, you will find guidance and hope to conquering your health issues in relation to food sensitivities, and/or incorporating more health into your every day life! Visit our tips for going gluten free section for more information.
Please feel free to ask questions, leave questions or concerns or your own experience and what has helped you!
*Please note that Tawny or I are not doctors, nor are we specialists in any form. We are merely people who have experienced first hand and have researched the issue in depth. If there is anything we can do to help you if this is a path you think will benefit your health, it would be our greatest pleasure in doing so. Let this section be a place we can learn from each other on making healthier wiser choices and take care of our bodies- in the most delicious way possible- of course!