By: Sarah Koontz
Gluten Free has become quite the fad. I honestly don’t get the appeal. Wheat has been a staple in the American diet, for like, FOREVER! Why would someone choose to stop eating it? It just doesn’t make sense.
I tried it once back in 2006. I lasted about 3 days, and just could not go on. Not only is rice bread absolutely disgusting, but my very favorite foods (spaghetti, pizza, tomato soup, burritos, and my mom’s chicken noodle soup) ALL have gluten in them.
How is a person supposed to survive without ALL of their favorite foods? It just is not humane!!!!
Fast forward to 2011. My little girls were 1 and 3 and I was in a funk. I have battled with fibromyalgia since I was a teenager, so I struggle with pain and fatigue on a regular basis. But this was different.
I began having daily headaches. And when I say daily headaches, I mean headaches….all day….every day! My life was quickly becoming intolerable, and I was desperate.
So when my doctor recommended that I go on an elimination diet, I was willing to give it a try. It was a 30 day diet and I eliminated 11 of the most common allergy causing foods. This included gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, corn, pork, beef, chicken, beans/lentils, coffee, citrus fruits, nuts, and nightshade vegetables.
Phew…..just thinking back on that time stresses me out. It was extremely difficult for me to follow this diet but I had really good support. They gave me a large list of foods I could eat comprised primarily of rice, meat (i.e. turkey, fish, lamb), most fruit, and most types of vegetables.
About 3 weeks in, I lost my resolve and gobbled down a delicious brownie (ok, maybe 2) that had dairy, wheat, and soy in it. Shame on me!!!!
Well, I suffered the consequences, almost immediately. I will spare you the details, but it made me very sick. I was shocked. I had never had any noticeable reaction to food in the past, and I was astounded by how quick and how severe my reaction was.
Because the brownie had three ingredients from the “no-no” list, I wasn’t sure which I had reacted to although I had my suspicions it was gluten because of the nature of my symptoms. For about 2 months after the brownie, I did my best to avoid all three, but slowly realized that dairy and soy weren’t major problems for me.
Being 100% gluten free is a very difficult thing to achieve, and there is a huge learning curve, so I accidentally consumed gluten 3-4 times. With a few more mistakes which confirmed our suspicions, I realized that I definitely had a gluten allergy.
Unfortunately we did not have the foresight to test me for celiac disease before I went off gluten, and because I didn’t have a death wish (you must consume gluten daily for at least 4 weeks before you can take the celiac tests) we may never know what exactly is wrong with me. All we know for sure is I cannot tolerate the stuff.
Although going off gluten didn’t magically cure my headaches, I am grateful I did it anyway. The honest truth is, I choose not to consume gluten more because of how terrible I feel when I eat it than how good I feel when I don’t.
The first year was definitely the hardest. But in time, I learned what my safe foods are and I started focusing my energy on all of the delicious things I can eat rather than the few that I cannot. There is absolutely no way I would be on a gluten free diet if I didn’t have to be.
It isn’t a fun diet to be on, and unless your body has difficulty digesting gluten, there really isn’t any health benefit from it. But if you have suspicions that gluten may be an issue for you, I encourage you to read this article and consider going on an elimination diet.
It took me about a year to begin experimenting with gluten free baking. All of the different flours intimidated me, and every gluten free recipe I found online confused me. The very first step for me was to find an affordable flour blend that I liked. Through much trial and error I finally settled on making my own, and I have had a blast baking gluten free treats ever since!
I have used this Simply Homemade Gluten Free Flour Blend with great success in muffins, quick breads, and cookies. The very first recipe I modified to be gluten free was my mom’s Banana Bread Recipe. I would encourage you to start there if you are new to gluten free baking. It turns out great every time and I promise it tastes amazing!
Sarah’s Top 10 Gluten Free Packaged Foods
If you are newly gluten free and are looking for some awesome products to stash in your gluten free pantry, I have compiled a list of my favorites for you. These all link up to Amazon.com, but you can also find many of them in your local grocery and health food stores! My favorites are always changing, but each and every one of these products taste amazing and they have been my go-to for quite some time now.