Right about now, you’re probably rolling your eyes when you see gluten free options listed on your favorite restaurant’s menu. But, not me. Gluten-free isn’t just a fad; it literally saved my life. From Hollywood diets to Brooklyn bakeries… Gluten free may seem like just a buzzword. But at the beginning of my journey, 30 years ago, GF hadn’t crossed my doctors’ minds. I was very, very ill with no diagnoses in sight… and I had no idea that the foods I ate every day were actually killing me.
When I was 5 years old, I was hospitalized. I was told I had a minor heart murmur which was diagnosed as a result of “rheumatic heart fever.” The doctors prescribed 5-year-old-me penicillin, and I took one of those every single day until I was 16 years old. By the time I hit my mid-twenties, I was never feeling quite 100%. It was unusual for a teenager, in my family, to be so frail, but I had an unknowing family history of food intolerance—and a pretty fast paced life—so, for whatever the reason, my GI absorption was giving me grief. I just wasn’t well. And I had no idea the reason why.
In the beginning of my illness, I wasn’t experiencing stomach aches but I was thin, and just not… well.
I was always a skinny kid, so it was hard to know when to worry. I was like any other young gal living off of pasta through college and then mac and cheese once my first son was born. I’m Italian for goodness sake. Stuffed shells and baked ziti are my specialty! The satisfaction wouldn’t last for long and these pasta-filled meals made me feel exhausted. How can a dinner so delicious make a person feel so tired they can hardly stand?
A year after my first son was born, I realized this was no longer just fatigue after a big meal. I was anemic, and achy. Big barrels of air filled my upper abdomen. I was dropping weight. My hair thinning. I was tired and haunted by migraines. I was in bad shape, and something needed to change.
And then… the doctors. Oh my, the doctors.
“Have you tried giving up coffee?”
“How about holding back on the popcorn and chocolate..”
This was over 27 years ago. I was standing in front of them—visually unwell. Tests were done, but we had no answers. So I took things into my own hands. I discovered that brown rice and veggies didn’t make me feel so terrible, so I incorporated them whenever I could. But I was still falling asleep as I waited in my parked car in the school line while picking my kids up in the afternoon, or reading them bedtime stories at night. What else could I do?
I’m a nurse. My husband’s a doctor. And still, we couldn’t figure it out. I cut out meat. I cut out dairy. We didn’t even know if this was a food-based illness! The doctors said I was “stressed,” but I knew better. After 15 years of inconclusive tests and down to a scary and unhealthy weight of 104 lbs, I finally met Dr. Harold Richter, the hematologist who said the thing no one else had yet uttered: Celiac Disease.
My story isn’t uncommon. And the truth of the matter is that diagnosis does not equal instant health. The past 13 years living as a diagnosed gluten intolerant person has had many challenges.
I’ve finally figured out the balance of diet and exercise that works for me and keeps me energized, happy and thankfully healthy.
I started Gluten Free Sage—not to preach or to sell recipes—but rather, to give others the resource I wish I had many years ago. It’s packed with gluten free health and inspiration for anyone who thinks they may have celiac, been recently diagnosed, or has been struggling to find a new way of living around the diagnosis. It is a refuge and resource for you to change your life into a feel-good positive one, and bring power and strength into a healthy existence.
My life is now full of positive energy, and I hope to help you gain the same.
“Let your soul be your pilot.” — Sting
And me, Jet.