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In August of 2010, I was at a house party in Upstate New York when I realized that I was most likely gluten intolerant (if not celiac).

For the last 10 years, I had followed a mostly low carb diet. It worked and I considered it a very healthy diet for me. Meats, full fat dairy, lots of fresh vegetables, very few starches and no grains were the basis of my eating plan. I felt good on it. I followed this whenever I could, but when I couldn’t (traveling or eating at someone’s home), I didn’t worry too much about it. During the summer of 2010 though, I was traveling much more than I usually did. And I didn’t have control of my food.

I went to Wisconsin for training. The company that provided the training provided breakfast and lunch. You guessed it, bagels, breads, cereals and pizza. Since it wasn’t politic for me to go out on my own, I ate them. Within 2 days, I was leaving the training room every half hour to deal with stomach issues. I just thought I was coming down with something. But, strangely enough the same thing kept happening every time I traveled.

In August, my boyfriend and I were at a house party in upstate New York. Breakfast was breads and jams, lunch was pizza, dinner was okay. By Saturday morning, I again was spending most of my time in a restroom. As I was dealing with some of the worst cramping I ever experienced, I started thinking about how much I had been sick this summer and started putting two and two together. “I’m most likely gluten intolerant”.

My nephew had been diagnosed with Celiac earlier in the year, so it was a reasonable self-diagnosis. I decided to do something that in retrospect I regret. I cut out gluten entirely for 4 months. I started feeling better. It was amazing. I figured that I would ask my doctor about it when I was scheduled for my yearly physical in February. And I did. She wanted to test me, for celiac disease, which required that I go back on gluten for at least a month. (The enzymes which indicate a gluten issue are only present when a person has been eating gluten regularly, and in my case since I had been low carb for so long, the chances of the enzyme being present were pretty slim.)

So for a month, I ate 2 slices of whole wheat bread with every meal. Within 2 days I was sick. I perservered though. Within 2 weeks, I was sluggish, lethargic and my brain was fuzzy (not good for someone who works as a computer programmer). I finally finished the month and had the tests done. But even without a test result, I have empirical evidence that gluten was not good for me.

The test results were *interesting*. While the tests for gluten and celiac came back negative, tests indicating damage associated with a gluten intolerance were positive.

My Vitamin D test came back as a 22 when the normal range is 30-100. Vitamin D deficiency is fairly common in celiac’s since the disease inhibits the absorption of fat from the small intestine.

My test for C-Reactive proteins which indicate inflammation and is another indicator for damage came back high with a result of 9.18 when the standard is less than 5.0.

My triglycerides went through the roof as well (keep in mind that I followed the exact same low carb diet as I had for years, but simply added the 2 slices of bread). My HDL fell from 76 to 72, LDL went from 115 to 117 and my triglycerides went from 133 a year before to 207.

My doctor offered to re-test me for celiac if I kept eating gluten for another month, or to send me to an endocrinologist for a biopsy. I asked her what would happen if the results were positive. She said, “We will tell you to stop eating gluten”. I assured her that after the month of hell I had just been through, I didn’t have any desire to eat gluten again.

So I don’t have a diagnosis, but I have empirical evidence that eating gluten is bad for me. It took 2 months for the most of effects of the “not so great gluten eating experiment” to fade. All in all, I spent the first 3 months of this year feeling sick and I wasn’t fully recovered (brain fuzz and lethargy) until May.

My kitchen and home are now totally gluten free. I’ve asked people who come over to please not bring gluten into the house. My biggest issues are other people’s homes and restaurants. I’m solving these issues as I can, but unfortunately, I’ve still ended up being accidentally glutened on occasion.

One of the biggest hurdles for me is being my own advocate. I grew up in a household where most of our extended family kept kosher, but we didn’t. I grew up seeing my grandmother bringing her food to our house because she wouldn’t eat ours. Having uncles and aunts being “more kosher than thou” and refusing to eat with their relatives, because they didn’t know how well they kept kosher made an impression on me. I didn’t want to be “that person”. So changing a habit of a lifetime of trying to be an ideal guest and not making a fuss is hard.

It’s easier in restaurants since I’m paying, but even though I’ve talked to cooks and been assured they understand cross contamination issues, I’ve still been glutened. I used to love being adventurous in restaurants, now I’m happy if there are a few items I can safely eat.

One of the reasons I’ve started this blog is to help those who are facing the same things I did. I want to help you face the challenges and the benefits of this food illness. One thing I can promise you, any recipe I post or link to will be gluten free.

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