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One Year Gluten-Free! The Top 10 Foods that Saved My Life

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.

As always, Celiac.com welcomes your comments (see below).


Spread The Word



23 Responses:

 
Florence

said this on
10 Jun 2010 3:27:19 PM PST
Hi Destiny,

I just found out I am gluten intolerant after 10 years on IBS medication. I just started a gluten free diet and lost 4 pounds and the constant bloating just after a week!!!!
This is also interesting because I do suffer from neck and head pain. They are sometimes very crippling. Is your neck pain gone now that you are on a gluten free diet? I see a neurologist for my pain and we are going to try to treat this ongoing pain.
I am just hoping that with time on this gluten free diet, the pain will go away.

Florence

 
sharrell

said this on
27 Aug 2010 7:53:15 AM PST
Has your neur tested you for dystonia ? Look it up and see if you are having symptoms.

 
Destiny
( Author)
said this on
10 Jun 2010 4:02:08 PM PST
Dear Florence,

Thank you for the reply. Before I eliminated gluten, I was told by my doctor that I would need neck surgery-because no one could figure out what was wrong and why my neck kept freezing up and paralyzing me. I did not consider surgery an option, but I was miserable. Acupuncture helped me get through the pain and alleviated the symptoms a bit. However, since eliminating gluten, I have not had any neck or back problems at all. It has actually been almost a year since I have had any acupuncture treatments-I haven't needed it. Best wishes to you on your gluten-free journey. It sounds like you are well on your way to recovery.

Take care,

Destiny

 
Racheal

said this on
22 Jun 2010 5:11:31 PM PST
As I sit here and read your story I feel like you are telling MY story I have the same symptoms that you had and I was told by many doctors that it is just in my head. I have been trying to be gluten-free but I'm still learning. It's only been two weeks but I already feel better. I have two sons that have a lot of the same things causing them problems too. Thank you for letting me know all these weird things could all be caused by celiac.

 
Claire Evans

said this on
09 Aug 2010 1:15:15 PM PST
Your story....my story.
Thanks for putting yourself out there. It helps me and probably many others not feel so crazy, and at last, vindicated, and best of all, going toward health.

 
Jo Smith

said this on
18 Aug 2010 12:19:21 PM PST
Destiny,
I've never heard of the symptom of "numbness in my fingers and toes". My daughter has these symptoms, but has tested negative for celiac (although she is at high risk, genetically). Is there literature anywhere on these symptoms being related to celiac? (as a 14-year old, she doesn't want to be gluten free)

 
Anne

said this on
20 Aug 2010 1:24:08 PM PST
Jo - I also had numbness in my fingers and toes, but didn't think it was related to celiac. I had other digestive symptoms which I was trying to get figured out, and thought those might be related to an allergy. However, my blood work consistently tested negative for celiac. Then they did several intestinal biopsies that were also negative for celiac. Finally one biopsy suggested it. My GI surgeon told me to try the diet, even though the blood work said I did not have celiac, and the biopsy was only maybe. I did try it, and have not looked back. I am one-year gluten free, and the numbness is gone, even though I had not recognized that as a symptom of the disease initially. I did some research and discovered that approx. 2% of the celiac population will never develop the antibodies in their blood which the current diagnostic tests look for. So I'm in the 2%. It's possible your daughter is also. Good luck.

 
SKL

said this on
14 Dec 2010 6:15:51 PM PST
I am at the 11-month mark, and I am finally starting to feel like myself again.
I am shocked and angered that medical professionals don't have more education regarding how harmful gluten is to so many people. It borders on malpractice.
The first doctor I visited told me I wasn't a celiac: he could tell by LOOKING at me. (He went to Yale Medical School)

 
Judith

said this on
16 May 2013 2:57:26 AM PST
Doctors are the elite in this country and I've had them say the most ridiculous things to me. You've just got to remember that they are people first and doctors second. And yes, celiac disease has a lot of symptoms that mimic MS. That's why there's numbness in arms in legs and painful muscle cramps(restless legs) which stay around for months even after following a very compliant gluten free diet. I'm just at a year as well and beginning to feel better, almost like my old self. I'm embarrassed to say that the 'fatigue' is still lingering though. I also work overnights and that's exhausting in itself.

 
Christina

said this on
13 Jan 2011 8:12:53 AM PST
I am a 28 year old female...I have had GI issues since I was a baby, but issues turned to problems when I had severe attacks in college, and 8 months ago I became ill with everything from GI upsets to tingling in the limbs, chronic panic attacks, heart palpitations, electrolyte and vitamin deficiencies, blood pressure disturbances and glucose inconsistencies...the list goes on. I have had several test with no conclusive diagnosis. I had an intestinal biopsy and some blood work for celiac...all which came back normal. Does anybody know: can these tests produce false negatives? And what other testing can be done!?! I want to start a gluten-free diet to see what happens but I have been told this will effect testing and that I should go through with the tests first. Thoughts???? When this all started my husband and I were trying to start a family and now instead I sit here googling because I'm home from work once again...sick and in no shape to raise a family. Thanks in advance for ANY insight!!

 
maureen

said this on
18 Jan 2011 9:09:53 PM PST
Get checked for Hashimotos- it is a thyroid disease and could be the cause of your illness. I have all the same symptoms as Destiny and so many replying and was just diagnosed with Hashimotos Thyroid Disease last week. I am on day three of a gluten free, dairy free diet (no eggs, peanuts, tomatoes, soy products, corn or sugar products) I feel much better and will probably be able to add some foods back into my diet but No dairy or gluten for life! It is so worth it once you start feeling better! Good luck Christina

 
Karen

said this on
05 Apr 2011 11:20:28 AM PST
As I read your article tears came to my eyes. I am so tired of being in pain and just as tired of being called a hypochondriac. I have also self-diagnosed. Eliminating gluten has brought me so much relief, but there is still something wrong. Lately I have suspected sugar and/or dairy to be the culprit.

Your post:

"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."

This gives me hope that I will be well again. Thank you for your posts.

 
Mark Durham

said this on
04 May 2011 10:43:23 AM PST
Destiny, wow, I, like you, suffered from most of the symptoms you have. I found that I was also allergic to SOY. So, if you are still having some, get rid of that, too. Also, I found that going off SOY and GLUTEN did not get rid of all of my Fibromyalgia and carpel tunnel symptoms, however, my MD who also uses holistic medicine, gave me a supplement list he had developed, which have. If you want more info, just drop me a note. Also, I've been sick since about 1995, diagnosed in 2004. My family and I are just now starting a Gluten Free business marketing bread, cookie and cake mixes that are our own recipe's, that are chemical, Gluten, and preservative free, kosher and vegan. No eggs, either, that actually taste good. We are in the testing stage, with a web presence in a month or so.

 
Joann

said this on
10 May 2011 6:51:24 PM PST
Destiny, your list of symptoms sounds almost exactly like what I have been dealing with for years! I went gluten free about three weeks ago, and within four days, I felt better. I am still getting used to the diet and have had a few accidental exposures and paid for them, but it just reinforces what I now know that no doctor could ever tell me.

 
Dottie

said this on
15 Jan 2012 10:26:15 AM PST
I am an older person and I have been having problems. I just found out that I have celiac disease. Since I have on gluten-free I have lost weigh and I feel a lot better. I had the blood test.

 
Donna

said this on
16 Oct 2012 9:21:43 AM PST
Thank you, thank you!!! I too have been suffering for about 30 years!!! I have been on antidepressants and numerous medications! I am 52 and have just self diagnosed a severe gluten allergy! It would keep me in bed for weeks!!! Your information has meant the world to me!!! I now know that there is a chance to feel normal again!!! I am just beginning, but am reading everything I can to help me begin to heal my life!!!

 
Norleen

said this on
07 Apr 2013 6:39:43 AM PST
Donna,

I too have suffered for 30 years; I'll be 51 this year. Off and on, I went to doctors both traditional and holistic, but not one ever suggested gluten as a possible problem. After years of self diagnosing and eliminating different foods and treating all my symptoms, I feel as though scales have fallen off my eyes. I see real hope for days without pain, clear thinking, and energy to get out of bed and live a normal life.

Thanks Destiny for letting us know we don't need permission to self heal our bodies. I've just began this journey, but I'm excited about the possibilities ahead of me. I am an artist and after 1 week gluten-free, I regained my motivation to paint again. I don't feel good physically yet, but I am noticing small changes. Thanks to you and others like you, I know this is a normal process.

 
Elizabeth

said this on
29 Dec 2012 2:45:50 PM PST
Just experienced another "severe cramping and have to run to the toilet" episode... I've had all the above symptoms for at least 8 years and cannot take it anymore. It's like Russian roulette when I eat! Can you take aloe vera by itself from the plant? I know the healing effects of it and want to try some immediately along with a gluten-free diet. It's so nice to be able to have all of you to talk to... hang in there, everyone!!!

 
said this on
14 Mar 2013 5:01:13 PM PST
I am in my mid-late 20s and have been doing my best to stick to the gluten-free diet for the past ~3 years. I could list a slew of symptoms that have banished since 2-3 months of doing the gluten-free diet: brain fog, intense fatigue, anxiety, muscle and joint pains, constant bloated feeling, lots of stomach upset as a child, scaling of my eyebrows and scalp, pitting of my nails (looked like manifestation of psoriasis), generalized swelling and weight I could never get rid of, palpitations, night sweats, always feeling overheated when exercising, odd swelling burning and itching of my hands after touching cold objects or going from cold to warm environments, very dry eyes and skin, and there's probably more that aren't coming to mind right now. I also was labeled a psychosomatic, and simply never understood why I'd always be dragging myself around, and thought that that was the way my body functioned and I had to deal with it, but fortunately I had gone to a doctor who had recommended that I try this diet, and I am beyond thankful for him!! This diet has changed my life completely, taking away all those nagging problems I had! When I do slip up with my diet, I feel the swelling effects and muscle and joint pains fairly quickly, so I do my very best to stick to my diet!

No doubt it is very difficult to stick to the diet, especially when eating out. However nowadays there are SO SO many gluten-free options whenever you want to splurge, and they're not too terribly expensive. Honestly I try to stick to naturally gluten-free options, and will purchase cookies, crackers, pizza dough, etc. when I really want to splurge since these tend to be incredibly calorie packed and lack nutrients. For example regular bread has a good amount of iron, but little if any in gluten free breads. It is hard especially when your schedule doesn't allow you to always prepare your own food, but that's why I stick to the salads at the cafeteria at work, and it ends up being a great way to eat nutritious non-processed foods. It forces you to stay healthy!
I swear by it fully!

 
Patricia

said this on
16 Apr 2013 6:02:48 PM PST
Hi, my name is Patricia, sorry for my English, I am from Venezuela. I am celiac since 4 years ago, then of my pregnancy. In my country, it was terrible; I couldn't eat anything and my life changed. I felt very bad, then I came to USA and here I can eat cereal, pasta, bread, cakes and others things excellent for me. Actually I am happy! I have a good weight. I keep my diet and never never never leave my diet.

 
Susan

said this on
07 May 2013 4:31:22 PM PST
Bless you for sharing your story! Great information!

 
Matthew

said this on
19 Aug 2013 2:19:52 PM PST
I have a weird set of symptoms for my gluten intolerance, but definitely the weirdest one that I encountered, (and definitely the most prominent one) was fatigue. Not slight fatigue, but the type of fatigue that would see me falling asleep while walking. It's a scary thing to have happen to you (if you are not narcoleptic.)

 
Tara

said this on
28 Mar 2014 10:55:59 AM PST
I never heard of celiac disease until 2 weeks ago, and I am 43 years old! I found it by accident while reading about the Braty diet that was suggested to me for constant diarrhea. I have had it all, including the seizures. I suppose the doctors never thought of celiac because I am tall. I've been gluten free for 10 days and still have D and stomach cramps. They had gotten so bad that I couldn't stand straight at work. I suffered a loss of short term memory, weight loss, and peripheral neuropathy with extreme pain in my left foot to the point I could barely use it.
There isn't much I can still eat that is interesting to me. I was a fast food addict and they all knew me at Carls jr. Im eating at home now. I feel very lucky to be here, though, and so glad I found out I wasn't hypochondriac after all.




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