Around the first of March of this year, I finally made the decision to try a gluten-free diet. I’d read things about gluten intolerance here and there for a while, and I had several of the symptoms- the most significant ones being chronic, horrible, embarassing gas (people who know me well can attest to that) that recently had seemed to get even worse, and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS.
I had a few encouraging moments early on—a big one being when we moved back to Moldova and were still recovering from jetlag and a baby whose sleep was all messed up. Josh, knowing how tired I usually was at the end of a normal day (and this particular day had brought us very little sleep and a very grumpy, demanding little boy), commented that he was really tired, so he knew I must be miserably exhausted. I thought about it for a second, and to both of our surprise, responded that no, I actually felt pretty good!
But after about two months, I was still having the awful gas. Josh liked to say that I was “Gluten-free, but not pootin’-free.” That’s when I read something that said that the gluten protein in wheat, barley, and rye, is very similar to the casein protein in dairy products, and that most people who are intolerant of one, often cannot digest the other either.
A vague memory came to mind of being told I was lactose intolerant when I was little. I talked to my mom and she confirmed that I used to drink a lot of milk and started having bad stomach aches. A doctor suggested that it could be lactose intolerance, and so I began drinking less milk and felt better. I ultimately forgot all about it.
So I decided to try a dairy-free diet as well. No milk, cheese, butter… it was hard! Who am I kidding? It still is hard! Especially here where they don’t have all of the fancy gluten- and dairy-free alternatives like they have in America. But I have managed to find a brand of gluten-free pasta, rice paper to make wraps, and a few other helpful things.
(My first try at gluten and dairy free baking- Apple Streusel Muffins. They were a little dense, but not bad!)
At first, when I would “cheat” and eat something with gluten or dairy in it, I didn’t notice that much of a difference. I actually wondered if all of this was in my head and I was depriving myself of so many yummy treats- pizza, ice cream, cold breakfast cereal, snickers bars, lasagna- for no reason. But the farther I get into my new diet, the more affected I am by cheating.
Take last week, for example. We were staying at our isolated northern camp for two weeks and eating camp food. I’d brought some millet to make for myself, but it got pretty old after the first week and I wound up eating quite a bit of gluten and dairy.
I got the normal symptoms that I knew were related to what I ate- my stomach hurt, my body felt heavy and tired, and the poots returned- but I also discovered something surprising. My head throbbed, my sinuses were bothersome, and my knees ached. Once I noticed these, I realized that those are all things that haven’t bothered me since I went gluten and dairy-free. Wow! You mean that my old, arthritic knees (as I so fondly refer to them) aren’t a result of years of cheerleading and softball? Almost daily headaches and stuffy sinuses aren’t normal?? And I don’t need medicines to fix them??? Inconceivable!
So that’s just a little about my gluten and dairy free adventure so far; I hope it encourages somebody out there. Eating gluten and dairy free is not easy, but it’s not impossible either, and it is MORE than worth it for me!