My Gluten-Free Journey Through The Rivers Of Celiac Disease
By Kirsten Berman
Featured at Honey Colony on Buzzworthy Blogs
Let me start by saying that the seven years leading up to my celiac disease diagnosis was a rough beast of a ride. Finally knowing what was wrong changed not only my life, but gave me the opportunity to help so many others. It turned out to be the best thing that could have happened.
So what triggered my celiac after years of being dormant? No one really knows. I ate pizza, drank beer, indulged in many a wheat item for most of my life and felt just fine … until, one day, I didn’t anymore.
If I had to make a guess, I would say it got triggered in 2003 while living in Guatemala and fighting an awful infestation of E. coli bacteria. My body was never quite the same after that.
Saying that those pre-diagnosis years were a rough ride is putting it mildly. Some days I would be so sick with vertigo, nausea, migraines, and a slew of other unexplained symptoms, I couldn’t even get out of bed. Vertigo was by far the worst symptom, but I also had constant dizziness, brain fog, stomach aches, bloating, cold sores, hand tremors, lack of balance, numbness in hands and feet, poor blood circulation, restless leg syndrome, serious depression, and incessant bad moods where I would wake up angry and go to bed angry … Ugh, I get tired just typing out that list.
It is crazy to think back and imagine how I lived that way for so long. Luckily, I am only reminded during the far and few between moments when I have the unfortunate luck to “get glutened.” Gluten is actually composed of two different proteins: gliadin and glutenin, and it affects the elasticity of dough, which gives wheat bread its chewiness.
The whole situation seemed hopeless until I stumbled upon a focus group in Los Angeles in November 2010. They were testing a new dietary lifestyle with exercise called “7 Days to Slim Down.” They would prepare all my meals for seven days and deliver them. I also had to attend a spin class every morning. I had no idea how I was going to get up to exercise when I could barely motivate myself to shower, but somehow I did it.
By the middle of the week I was thoroughly exhausted, but that was because of the spinning workouts. By the end of the week, I felt like a new person and I was confused. It surely couldn’t have been the exercise that made me feel better; I had tried that before.
No, it turns out it was the food. I had unknowingly been fed a gluten-free diet, which, interestingly enough, wasn’t what they were striving for; the menu just turned out that way—with whole foods and vegetables.
One of the other women in the focus group heard me talk about all my issues and symptoms, and suggested I check out information on celiac disease, so I did. I got tested and sure enough, bam—that is what I had. It finally had a name, and the way to “fix” it was by following a strict gluten-free diet.
I had been sick for so long I didn’t know what to do with myself. So I went to Vegas with some friends and had the best weekend in years. I celebrated my return. It never occurred to me to be sad about the food I couldn’t eat or how hard it was going to be. All I could focus on was how amazing I felt and I wanted to tell anyone and everyone who would listen.
This is where my advocacy for celiac disease awareness and spreading the word began. I created a Facebook page called Gluten Free Guide to Life. I dove into celiac research and gluten-free living with complete abandon. I taught myself how to bake gluten-free and learned how to stay gluten-free. I read labels and learned about the “hidden” wheat lurking in foods and products I hadn’t even considered.
I shared all I learned and created my first Twitter feed, and then another and another until finally GlutenFreeGal.com was born. The launching pad for all my research and rants sprang to life.
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