If you have any type of food allergies, autoimmune disease, or digestive complaints, then you know how much they can turn your diet and your life upside down.
A few months ago I started feeling really unwell — bloated, lethargic, moody and just plain crappy. After seeing my doctor I learned I had developed irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), the result of gluten sensitivity and intolerance to dairy and legumes. I’m not sure what caused it, but I strongly suspect I developed IBS while living in Asia.
As a devout carb lover, this diagnosis was hard for me to swallow. For a while, I lost all interest in cooking and eating. The list of foods I couldn’t eat made my dietary future seemed bland and uninspiring. It was longer than the list of what I could eat, for heaven’s sake!
Going out to eat with friends was no picnic either because now, I couldn’t share appetizers or desserts; and that felt a little isolating.
I was not a happy camper those first few weeks after my diagnosis, let me tell you.
Recently though, thanks to great resources like Pinterest, I’ve learned some tricks to living with gluten-sensitivity and rediscovered my passion for cooking (and eating!).
Glutenfree.com is a great resource and a good place to start if you don’t know where to. Their guide to preparing your gluten-free kitchen is pretty helpful.
So, here are some things that are working for me:
- I incorporate fish or seafood into my diet at least a couple times a week.
- I get more creative with my vegetarian dishes and I’m finding interesting gadgets like the Vegetable Spiralizer and peelers to change things up.
- I’ve found gluten-free flour to make my own bread and pizza crusts and there are ready-made ones too if I don’t feel like baking my own.
- I’ve added a lot of cool new grains to my pantry like amaranth, quinoa, polenta, and millet. Some standards like brown rice and cornmeal are naturally gluten-free too.
- I use spices and other items like Tumeric, ginger, marinades, pesto, lemon, and sun-dried tomatoes to turn up the flavor of my dishes.
- When I go out to eat with others I choose Japanese, Thai, Mexican, Ethiopian and other cuisines with plenty of gluten-free options on the menu.
- If I can’t eat something I don’t make a big deal out of it, and no one else does either.
If you’re not sure whether your symptoms are due to gluten-intolerance or sensitivity (more and more people are), here are some common ones:
- Brain fog or feeling tired after eating gluten
- Swelling or joint pain
- Mood disorders such as anxiety, depression and ADD
From what I’ve learned, even diagnoses like chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia may be gluten-sensitivity in disguise. So if you’ve been diagnosed and have tried everything to help your condition with little or no relief, go back to your doctor and ask for the panel of gluten sensitivity tests or just try a gluten-free diet for a while.
With a plethora of gluten-free foods on the market now, gluten allergy is not as big a deal as you may think. You can find so many alternatives and options to create great tasting foods.
Since the point is to feel better and get back to your life, my tip is to get over your disappointment as soon as possible and start educating yourself. It will make you feel better (more in control) when you know you have options.
Like any change, the adjustment stage is tricky and can be frustrating…just go with it!
One day the new and once scary scenario will become your new way of eating, and it can taste just as delicious (maybe even more delicious) as what you have to give up!
Pippa Vague lives in Wellington, New Zealand where she is a newly-wed and new mom. The family shares their home with a part time crazy cat named Chico. Pippa loves whipping up healthy (and not so healthy) recipes, soaking up the gorgeous New Zealand weather and watching trashy reality TV.