Can you tell us a little bit about your journey to get your diagnosis?
It was a little more than 6 years ago and I was struggling with a wide range of seemingly random symptoms. I was incredibly fatigued, I had daily stomach aches and digestive health issues, brain fog, eczema (which I later found out was Psoriasis – an autoimmune disease), low nutrition levels, and Amenorrhea (I lost my period for more than a year). After several trips to a variety of doctors and lots of my own research I decided to embark on a gluten-free elimination diet to see if I had a gluten intolerance. Within 4 months I got my period back, my energy levels increased, and I just felt… better!! Six years later and gluten is totally NOT an option for me. I’ve tried a few times over the years to add it back, but it is honestly NOT worth it. My mind has said, “Maybe,” but my tummy always says, “No way!”
In addition to removing gluten, what other modifications did you make to your diet?
I was dairy free for 3 years and that seemed to help. I’ve since added it back in small amounts and I find I CAN now tolerate a little bit of it. I’ve also been soy-free for the past 4-5 years. With an autoimmune disease and other chronic health issues I have to make additional dietary changes from time to time. For example, right now I’m on a low FODMAP diet to figure out and help manage some digestive health issues. Clearly, I’m a very ‘sensitive’ girl!
What surprised you the most about going gluten free?
Hmm, I guess I would say how easy it is these days. That wasn’t always the case! Living on campus as a freshman at a VERY small college while being gluten free, soy free and eating cafeteria food… that was HARD. But since then it’s gotten significantly easier. I eat simple and fresh foods and I’ve found a good rhythm with g.free living. I’m thankful to have an incredibly supportive boyfriend and family who always make sure I have g.free options when we go out to eat.
Additionally, Canyon Gluten Free bread products are a staple in my diet! My mom discovered you guys when I was in high school (pre-blogging days) and I’ve been hooked ever since!! Texture is everything when it comes to finding a go-to g.free bread, and Canyon’s texture is just perfect 🙂 Also, I’ve LOVED that your breads are gluten, soy and dairy free. While small amounts of dairy are no longer an issue for me, it used to be a problem. I loved knowing I could pick up one of your breads to enjoy despite all my restrictions. I could always trust Canyon!
I have a few personal favorites like Heritage Style Whole Grain – toasted & topped with mashed avocado and sea salt. Cinnamon Raisin tastes great turned into French Toast and drizzled with Vermont maple syrup. I also love a Blueberry Bagel smothered in natural peanut butter, banana slices and a few raspberries! So many yummy options!
What’s one misconception you think people have about autoimmune disorders?
Great question! For one, I don’t think people without one realize how greatly it affects your daily life. Mind, body, soul, spirit… it’s all connected. So when you’re struggling physically, it can take a real toll on your mental health and quality of life. Fatigue is something I really struggle with. As with any autoimmune disease you have your flare ups. But other times, the symptoms are far more manageable. I think that it can be hard for someone without an autoimmune disease to realize how debilitating fatigue can be- it’s far worse than just being “tired” and it doesn’t matter how much you sleep. I went through a tough time this winter and now that I’m starting to feel more energized, I have this immense sense of gratitude. I’m thankful for even the slightest increase in energy!!
Autoimmune diseases are dynamic and constantly changing. Unfortunately, once you have one, you’re more susceptible to get another. One thing I’ve been very careful with lately is my joints. Psoriasis can sometimes lead to Psoriatic Arthritis. So a big part of living with an autoimmune disease is preventative care. I’ve recently noticed some early signs of PsA, so I work hard to take extra good care of my joints. I’m a yogi and I have learned which classes help me and which ones cause more stress on my body than necessary. I make sure to walk, spend time outside, supplement, and manage my stress. Stress is TERRIBLE for auto immune health. I have a handful of doctors I see regularly and I recently tried (and liked) acupuncture. I eat a low inflammatory diet and I make sure to educate myself on all things health and wellness. Autoimmune diseases are chronic, but they can be managed!
What is a typical day of eating like for you? And how do you manage food for yourself? What kind of foods do you incorporate into your diet?
I always start my day with a nourishing breakfast! A couple months ago I stopped drinking coffee, but typically I’ll have a mug of green tea in the morning. As a health and wellness blogger and Instagrammer, I take pictures of most of my breakfasts. In fact, they often include some of Canyon’s amazing g.free bread!! I make sure that all my meals include satisfying protein, healthy fats, nourishing carbohydrates and lots of fresh produce! Today I had a slice of your cinnamon raisin g.free toast with natural PB & raspberries. I paired that with a fried egg & a fresh fruit salad! I always keep a loaf or two of Canyon Gluten Free bread in my freezer which guarantees a tasty option.
No day of eating is ever the same for me! Sometimes lunch is a garden salad topped with roasted veggies, some crunchy g.free crackers and grilled chicken or salmon. Other days it’s a protein bar on-the-go! Dinner is usually something similar to lunch but a little bit bigger. I’m SUCH a meal person, so I always love to sit down to a nourishing evening meal and unwind.
And I ALWAYS end my evening with a small portion of dark chocolate!! I’ve done this for YEARS and I still look forward to it everyday! I’ll pair this with a cozy herbal tea 🙂 Personally, I’m not a big snacker, but if I do need a little something it’s usually a healthy protein bar or g.free pretzels with PB or grass-fed cheese!
What advice do you have for gluten-free folks dining out/navigating a menu when dining out?
Make modifications!! I love going out to eat and I usually go to restaurants that either have a gluten-free menu or cater to food sensitivities. My favorite restaurant takes note of any dietary restriction and can usually accommodate almost any dish! Also, I LOVE ethnic food.
The food scene in Providence, RI is great! There are lots of little local places and I’ve found that often times the ethnic ones offer lots of dishes that are naturally g.free. My favorite is Indian food. Between lentil soups, basmati rice, and curries, there are tons of g.free options. I’ve even found a restaurant that has g.free naan bread! Also, Thai food is great because they have lots of dishes made with rice and rice noodles instead of wheat. And Mexican food is another great option! Rice bowls, garden salads with chicken and corn tacos! Lots of options. My advice? Check out the menus online, call ahead of time, and don’t be afraid to ask for a modification! 🙂 Just give it time. Living gluten free will become second nature and you’ll likely find a handful of go-to restaurants that you love!!