I’m getting ready to celebrate five years of gluten-free living this January 1st. That’s something I wish I wasn’t celebrating because it’s a pain in the neck to live this way, except that I’m much healthier because of it.
My tale of digestion woes stretches back to early childhood when I developed a strong aversion to cheese. My mother thought I was just being picky, but it wasn’t only the smell of cheese I wanted to avoid, it was the way it made me feel: sick to my stomach.
Eventually, Mom just made me pasta and marinara sauce while the rest of the family had lasagna or manicotti. She left the parmigiana off my chicken on Christmas Eve and I picked most of it off my pizza.
As I got older, we figured out that butter caused my stomach to be upset too. On popcorn, in baked goods, etc. Then in my mid-teens, milk and ice cream started in. I was in denial. I hadn’t heard the term lactose intolerant at that time and the first doctor I went to asked if I could be pregnant and then mis-diagnosed me with IBS. What a joke! But after I switched to soy milk and found Lactaid at the grocery store, my symptoms eased a bit. I thought I’d be able to have the occasional ice cream treat, but I was wrong. I had to keep upping the dose of Lactaid and sometimes it still wouldn’t work. So I adopted a dairy free life for the most part. Every once in a while, I’d still cheat and have a bit of ice cream or a baked good with butter or cream and then I would pay for days afterward: nausea, gas, bloating, diarrhea. It was lovely. At twenty-seven I finally told myself dairy and I were not meant to be and enough was enough.
Dairy was the first component. The second was gluten. Since I was a kid, I noticed I’d get heartburn after I consumed baked goods and sometimes nausea as well. But what I never wanted to associate with my diet were my headaches. Often they were migraines, but not always, I had headaches between 2-5 times per week with some becoming so debilitating I would lie on the sofa with the curtains drawn just waiting for the day to end so my pain might lessen. When my kids were little, it was difficult to keep their noisiness to a minimum so I could rest. This was my life and I wished it were different.
Since I read all the time, I tried to find information about headaches and what might lessen their frequency and intensity. After much research and deliberation, I decided to give up gluten at the beginning of 2013. That was such a hard decision! I LOVE bread. But I knew I at least needed to try to improve my quality of life. People thought I was crazy or just on some fad diet, but I assured them this wasn’t about weight loss or wanting to eat on trend.
The first few weeks were like any other new diet plan–super hard! I didn’t know how to substitute anything, so right away I began searching the web for gluten free blogs, magazines, cookbooks, etc. I tried prepared flour blends and made my own. I tried several brands of pasta and bread. And I baked and cooked and baked some more. So many recipes were flops, but some were great.
One of my favorite blogs then and now is Sarah Bakes Gluten Free. If you need a birthday cake, some cupcakes, a batch of cookies, pudding, popsicles, etc., Sarah has you covered. She has her own flour blend that is easy to mix up, but her recipes will work with other gluten free flour blends as well. It’s a solid bunch of recipes you can rely on and I highly recommend her.
I’ve also made recipes from the Gluten Free Goddess blog. There’s a chocolate gingerbread recipe that’s to die for, as well as a peanut butter chocolate chip ice cream recipe that has a coconut milk base. Yum!
One very American recipe that up till now I haven’t been able to find is a great gluten free chocolate chip cookie. Until this week! I purchased two of Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain cookbooks. She has a Real Deal Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe made with almond and coconut flours. I made them Sunday just to see what all the fuss was about. Oh my goodness. Deliciousness! No heartburn, no sugar crashes, no overpowering brown rice flour or sorghum flour aftertaste. Just a really good, actually healthy cookie that I am thrilled about. Here is the link to her Real Deal Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe. (The only thing I’ll do differently next time is use half the salt.) They’re still amazing though, just the way they are.
I’d love to hear about your own health journey!