In 2001, you were diagnosed with a series of digestive issues. Can you tell us a little about your experience and what you had to go through in order to find that diagnosis?
Yes, of course. I have a history of disordered eating. Choices I made as a teenager have greatly impacted my adult life. I wish I could go back and tell that young girl there is more to life than a flat tummy and tan lines, I would eventually learn that that the hard way. Shortly after the birth of my son I was diagnosed with impacted colon during an ER visit. It was a dark time for me. My body was having an extremely difficult time digesting due to the abuse of laxatives as a teen. I remember the ER doctor mentioning a colostomy and thinking to myself “what have I done”? I refused to let that be my future, and I left against his advice. This is where my health journey began.
I took my health into my own hands and healed my gut with food. I eliminated all food groups except fruits and vegetables from my diet. After several weeks of detoxing I started to reintroduce lean meats, dairy and gluten one by one to see how my body would react. Gluten seemed to have the most negative side effects for me. I had instant bloating, headaches, nausea and within hours a bumpy rash on my face. I decided to seek the advice of a GI doctor to be sure I was taking the proper steps moving forward. I learned through a series of blood tests and an endoscopy that I was not celiac as we had expected but extremely gluten sensitive and also lactose intolerant. From that day on I have consumed a diet high in fiber and eliminated both gluten and dairy and have never felt better.
Do I cheat? Yes. Do I pay for it? Also, yes.
You had to make significant changes to your diet as a result of your diagnosis. What were some of those changes? And, what advice do you have for, those going through a similar experience, to simplify the process?
I am a self-diagnosed carboholic. Bread is my actual love language. So, the thought of never being able to enjoy a sandwich again was a bit depressing for me. There weren’t many tasty packaged options available to me at that time. I had to learn how to be creative in the kitchen, this is where my love for cooking began.
If I could offer any advice to someone newly diagnosed with a gluten sensitivity it would be this, the majority of what we enjoy on a daily basis is naturally gluten free. A new diagnosis can seem overwhelming and daunting at first, but if you stop and really think about it, we eat so many fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and naturally gluten free grains daily. Sure, you may be missing out on cake at social events or your favorite treat meal on the weekend, but you can easily find gluten free substitutions for both. Start playing around in the kitchen, keep it simple, involve your family and make it fun!
I learned to focus on what I CAN eat rather than what I can’t. This mind set changed the game for me.
Besides your diet, what were some of your lifestyle changes you had to make after your diagnosis?
I had to learn how to cook. I didn’t love cooking back then, we ate out a lot. I hate admitting that. I had to quickly learn how to feed myself and my family healthy whole foods that tasted good without the stress of making two different meals. There were a lot of fails but when I found something that we all agreed we liked, I would write it down and repeat the next week. I still have that notebook somewhere, I should dig it up. Over time cooking became easier, more enjoyable and somewhat therapeutic for me. Now it’s how I help provide for my family, talk about a full circle moment.
How have you seen gluten-free options change over the last 18 years?
There is so much more awareness today than there was back then. When I was first diagnosed there were very few products on the market labeled gluten free, and those that were had little to no flavor. The majority tasted like cardboard if I’m being honest, and trust me I tried them all. We’ve come a long way in the gluten free world since 2001. You can now find anything from bagels to brownie bites and I see more and more gluten free options popping up on menus when we’re dining out.
You and your daughter are both gluten-free. Does everyone eat gluten-free at your house? What are some ways you suggest getting your family involved in the cooking and meal prep?
My son and husband have no dietary restrictions. Both of my daughters are also highly gluten and dairy sensitive like myself and we eat very similarly. We all eat gluten free 80% of the time at home due to convenience for me, but both of my boys eat how they choose when they are out. We have found some incredible gluten free dining options locally that we all love!
It was really hard for me to wrap my brain around how I was going to feed my family and myself after my diagnosis. The thought of it was exhausting as a young new mom, and I lacked the energy, so I just started feeding everyone what I was eating.
Nobody complained. If it was pasta night, they ate gluten free pasta. If we were having sandwiches, they ate lettuce wraps or gluten free bread. In fact, my husband prefers the Canyon gluten free heritage whole grain bread over any other in the bread aisle!
I have always said that kids who are involved in the kitchen are far more likely to eat a meal they prepared, and they do! It’s basically my favorite mom hack.
What are some of your go-to recipes?
Grilled meats & vegetables, hearty salads with lots of fruits, nuts and seeds and omelets packed full of roasted veggies are my go-tos! As far as treats, we have a love for powerballs at our house. I have over half a dozen recipes on my blog and they are all gluten free and delicious! My favorite is this one.