Today’s Inspirational Gluten Free Story comes from Robin Gregory. Robin runs the Facebook page, Primal Healthy Steps, a group for those seeking a community that encourages and supports one another to be whole in spirit, body, and soul. She shares recipes, fitness tips, inspiring words and more.
If you had asked me five years ago if I was healthy, I would have emphatically said, “YES!” Even though I was forty pounds overweight and felt about ten years older, I was eating the SAD (Standard American Diet – love that acronym) assuming that I was doing the best that I could for my health and the health of my family. Since birth I have had a serious food allergy to fish and nuts, and a number of environmental allergies (including a few years when I was actually allergic to polyester). I spent many nights drinking warm tea to “settle my stomach” while covered in pink calamine lotion (slight exaggeration but not much). My mother even often described me as having a “weak” stomach. When I was excited or stressed, nervous or worried, happy or hungry, I had a stomachache. While on my own in college, I continued to have discomfort on a regular basis. However, I just found a way to cope and mask the symptoms; I never considered that maybe there was something that I was doing to contribute to my constant condition.
Fast forward five years to when I was pregnant with my son. I thought a precious way to connect with my unborn child was to have a treat at Dairy Queen and wait for the show. He would twist and turn and virtually do flips in my stomach. I would think, “Boy, this baby LOVES ice cream!!” After his birth, he began to show signs of intestinal distress every time I nursed him. He was literally writhing in pain after every feeding. We learned that his impressive acrobatics in the womb were evidence of a painful reaction to dairy.
I eventually had to completely refrain from eating/drinking dairy products while I was nursing to relieve his constant pain. As he grew, it became more evident that he was suffering from a lot of the same symptoms that I had experienced as a child; he also began to develop allergies to almost everything. His body was in distress and there was not much that the medical community had to offer as a solution.
During this same time, my father was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. He too had suffered since childhood with constant digestive issues and with lactose intolerance. A pattern began to emerge, and it was time to get to the root of what seemed to be an apparent genetic predisposition.
In April of 2011, I started reading Mark Sisson’s book, Primal Blueprint, and learned what foods contributed to internal inflammation, a symptom that my son’s endoscopy revealed. Next I read Wheat Belly by cardiologist, Dr. William Davis, and followed up with The Good Fat by Fran McCullough. These books helped me to begin the process of learning all that I could about what foods we should eat to enable our bodies to work optimally. It was truly a paradigm shift to accept that what I had previously learned about nutrition may have been contributing to all of our conditions.
To wipe the slate clean and “reset” my body, I started with what is essentially a Whole 30. According to their website, on the Whole 30 you “cut out all the inflammatory, insulin-spiking, calorie-dense but nutritionally sparse food groups for a full 30 days. Let your body heal and recover from whatever effects those foods may be causing. Push the ‘reset’ button with your metabolism, systemic inflammation, and the downstream effects of the food choices you’ve been making.” That’s exactly what I needed!
I focused on quality proteins, fruit, vegetables, healthy fats, and occasionally a little dark chocolate. I ate a wheat free and grain free diet, and I focused on eating as many nutrient dense foods as I could. My daily goal was to make sure to eat vegetables at every meal. I watched just about EVERY food documentary on Netflix. I was a sponge. I discovered Pinterest at the same time and added boards devoted to Paleo/Primal recipes and wheat-free desserts. I became obsessed with coming up with acceptable alternatives to feed my family so that they never felt deprived. I was absolutely thrilled to learn about alternative flours that I could use to still feed my family pancakes, waffles, and biscuits like “normal” people. I never wanted to be without ideas or inspiration to cook and eat the best food for my body.
Honestly, my family had a much harder time adjusting. They were not as enthusiastic about the nutritional changes as I was. But I was committed, not just for my sake, but also for theirs. In eighteen months I slowly shed thirty pounds, but more importantly, I gained invaluable insight about how to feed our bodies and how to listen to cues that are meant to protect us. My son is now a healthy eleven year old who rarely suffers intestinal distress the way he used to. My dad is currently doing well and manages his symptoms with a diet tailor made for him. We listen to our bodies and feed them accordingly. I am not saying that we ALWAYS eat clean. However, we understand and accept the consequences of deviating from eating whole foods. Sites like The Daily Dietribe have helped us to continue to enjoy a variety of foods that fit our wheat free, grain free (by definition gluten free) lifestyle.