It has been one year this month since I eliminated gluten from my diet. Going gluten-free has changed my life dramatically, even in ways I  never dreamed of. Things that I believed to be incurable, have been cured, for example I thought I lost my sense of smell. Guess what? It came back when I eliminated gluten! No one can really understand the joy that one feels from having even one good, pain-free, “normal,” comfortable, healthy day unless they have been in chronic pain for a long time. I can honestly say, I finally know what it feels like to have one, even two really good days, and that''s enough to keep me going.

I was a relatively normal kid. Very active and healthy, in honors and accelerated classes in school and always a hard worker. I did have a sensitive tummy though, and I recall spending my entire recesses slowly eating my lunch while the other kids played. Then I hit puberty. That is when the following symptoms really began for me-at least as far as I can pinpoint.  At 13 years old I became a vegetarian in an omnivore  household. It was my first attempt at trying to heal by body-I innately knew that my diet was making me sick.

I spent the last 10 years of my life getting looked at like a crazy hypochondriac from my doctors and being told that all my physical ailments (which coincidentally were multiplying exponentially) were psychosomatic. My symptoms included but were not exclusive to the following (the list is too long to write, and I am still realizing symptoms that were likely related to gluten):  reoccurring eye twitches, unstable emotions, itchy bumpy skin, chronic severe acne-untreated by medications, hyperglycemia, chronic sensation of crawling out of my skin, chronic digestive upset,  undiagnosed restless leg syndrome so painful that it woke me at night and paralyzed my legs, always bloated in my abdomen, numbness in my fingers and toes, all of which eventually led to; projectile vomiting every morning, unexplained and sudden weight gain that would not reduce even though I could not eat or  hold  anything down, sudden adult set chronic asthma that was getting worse despite 3 different inhalers, night sweats, night-time tooth grinding, crippling flu-like symptoms which lasted for weeks at a time, IBS,  kidney stones, neck and back problems that left me paralyzed for days and weeks at a time, shooting/paralyzing pain down my shoulder and arm and into my thumb and fingers, severe and chronic anxiety attacks, and  insomnia -just to name a few.
 
After the initial reaction to eliminating gluten, (which involved various visits to the ER to be rehydrated since I couldn't even hold down water for weeks) most of my ailments miraculously disappeared. So for me, being gluten-free is not a choice but a lifestyle I must adhere to very strictly. I also found that I became sensitive to many other foods after eliminating gluten, and now I am gluten, dairy, corn, oat, egg, meat, and   refined/cane/beet sugar free. When I tell people what foods I have to avoid, the standard response is, “What do you eat??!!”

For those people, I have included a list below of foods that have carried me through these difficult times. The following are foods that I have been able to eat without a problem almost the entire time I've been gluten-free, even when I have trouble digesting anything else. They are not in any special order-they have all been equally important to me and my survival.

Top 10 foods that saved me:

  1. Blueberries are full of antioxidants, and for me, they are one of the few fruits I can safely eat. Blueberries can be added to cereal or salads and are a wonderful super food.
  2. Coconut Oil. I slather coconut oil on just about everything. Contrary to popular opinion, coconut oils is one of the best fats for your body to digest. Coconut oil aids in digestion and is easier for your body to digest than other common oils. There is a wonderful article in the Fall 2009 edition of the Journal of Gluten Sensitivity, which addresses many of the common misnomers regarding coconut oil. I make sure my coconut oil is gluten-free.
  3. Avocados are easy to eat and digest. They are full of protein, vitamins and healthy fats. Avocados can be added to just about anything for a filling meal. Avocados are a constant staple in my diet.
  4. Rice and rice products have gotten me through many hard times. When I felt I could not digest anything else, rice was always there. Even when rice was difficult for me to digest, rice pasta, tortillas and cereals sustained me.
  5. Sweet potatoes are full of nutrients and are also easy to cook and digest. Sweet potatoes are  very filling, so when I couldn't eat much of anything, I could always fill up on a sweet potato.
  6. Vegetables. Lot's of cooked vegetables. I eat vegetables for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Whatever vegetables I can eat without a problem, I eat. I eat them raw, cooked, baked, steamed, stir-fried, you name it. I can never eat enough veggies.
  7. Coconut water is high in potassium and natural electrolytes. Coconut water keeps me hydrated naturally and it is a nice alternative to plain water-which is basically all I ever drink. It also seems to help keep my kidney stones at bay. I make sure to buy gluten-free coconut water, which is conveniently sold at many stores.
  8. Tapioca is easy for my body to digest. There isn't much in the way of nutritional value in tapioca, but it is a comfort food that comes in many forms and helped me get through hard times.
  9. Miso sustained me for many weeks when I could not eat anything solid. I made miso broth and added veggies as I was able to. Be careful-some miso is made with barley.
  10. Aloe Vera Juice (inner fillet). Aloe vera juice is not necessarily a food, but I drink it every day. If I have digestive trouble, aloe vera comes to the rescue. Aloe is healing and aids in digestion and also helps aid in  absorbing nutrients. I make sure to use the inner fillet because as my Ayurvedic doctor told me, 'there is no nutritional value in the whole leaf, only the inner fillet'.
Granted I am still healing, but as my Ayurvedic doctor said, 'it took you 34 years to get this sick and for your body to get this dehydrated. It is going to take a while to rehydrate your body and feel like a “normal” person again. You must be patient with yourself'. Whenever I feel impatient and don't think I can take another day of suffering, I remember those words and then I think about all of the hurdles I have already overcome.

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