Seriously? You’re Gluten Free?

Mary's Hand Gathered EggsSome of my friends have been gluten free for years. Some have an allergy to gluten, a few have Celiac’s Disease. Many of my friends, over the years have experimented with the concept of not eating gluten for a few days, weeks or months for various reasons. Some have actually stuck with it long term.

Since I am a big fan of bread and pasta, albeit the whole grain variety, I could not imagine going gluten free unless I absolutely had to! I, along with a good friend of mine, have raised over $200,000 for local charities by offering to cook dinner for 6 or 8 in people’s homes, as a live auction item. The minute someone said one of the group was gluten free, I asked them to please invite someone else. Frankly, I didn’t understand the whole gluten thing and it scared me. I’ll be honest, other than Celiac’s Disease, I thought the whole thing was a crock, but I wasn’t sure.

A little over a year and half ago, I started to have problems with my back and my hip. A lot of it was due to my age and the fact I spent so many years in a physically demanding career in the hospitality industry. As a result, I have a lot of inflammation in my back and hips. My pain is sometimes unbearable. I can not take NSAIDs like Advil, Motrin or Aleve, they upset my stomach. The only other pharmaceutical option to reduce inflammation is steroids. I tried a few rounds of that and I hated the side effects. I turned to the internet for alternative solutions and kept coming back to the two things, add turmeric to my diet and remove gluten from my diet. So, I went to my favorite natural foods store and bought turmeric. I added it to everything I could think of; dressings, marinades, sauces and dips. You name it, I added turmeric to it. It did help some. So then there was this gluten thing…….

I was still skeptical, but I did my research. Many of my close family members have auto immune issues and I have them, to a lessor degree. Inflammation is a big factor. My close family members also have a lot of bone and joint issues. Again, inflammation. And a few family members have depression issues. Inflammation was listed as a contributing factor. I couldn’t ignore it anymore, inflammation was a contributing factor to so much of my family medical history issues. Reluctantly, I decided I needed to give gluten free a try.

I researched gluten free diets. Everything I read said I needed to give it three weeks to really rid my body of gluten to see if it had an impact. I’ll admit, I took short cuts. I just eliminated it from my diet without really finding acceptable substitutes like finding gluten free free restaurants, GF products etc. After all, I was only doing it for three weeks. I started to feel better. Now, let’s be real, eliminating gluten did not undue years of wear an tear on my body, but it did significantly lessen the pain. At the end of the three weeks, I thought, maybe it was all in my head. So, for one week, I went back to eating gluten. If I had any doubt the impact of gluten on my pain, that week told me all I needed to know. I’ve been gluten free ever since.

I’m a foodie. I write about food for a magazine, I blog here about food, I love to cook everything from scratch, I love dining out and, don’t forget, I love breads and pasta. So, this is where things got real. I needed to find alternatives for cooking and baking at home. I bought a few books, experimented with some good gluten free items in the grocery stores and on line. The reality is, the toughest part is when I don’t eat at home. I eat out in restaurants, sometimes in my hometown, but often on the road. I would be attending my family reunion. I am often invited to parties or friend’s homes. How do I manage all that? I didn’t want to be “that girl” that announces to everyone that I’m gluten free and expect others to accommodate me.

Today, I started a Facebook page, Upstate NY Gluten Free. I am hoping others will share pictures and recipes and restaurants, so people who travel to the area (and I!) can benefit from others and they can benefit from me. If you go to a concert or festival, tell us where you found gluten free options for food and beverages. Don’t worry, not all of my posts to this blog will be about my gluten free journey, but expect that some of them will! I hope you will follow my journey.

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