Gluten Free Story: What Does It Feel Like to Have a Gluten Allergy?
Gluten Free Story
What Does It Feel Like to Have a Gluten Allergy?
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IN THIS ARTICLE
- My Gluten-Free Story
- Living a Gluten-Free Lifestyle
My Gluten-Free Story
I was almost twenty the first time I heard someone say they were “gluten intolerant” or eating a “gluten-free diet.” It was right after my sister was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and worked with her doctor to find an alternative to traditional medication. So, she decided to become gluten and dairy-free.
I’ve struggled with hormonal imbalance since I was about 19-years-old. I started getting hormonal acne when I was twenty, and the entire story goes downhill from there. At this point, no one was talking about how diet impacted skin, so I assumed it was my makeup and skincare products. After struggling for months (and more Ulta hauls than I’d like to admit), a dermatologist put me on antibiotics and birth control.
I stayed on both for roughly a year on-and-off. If my skin was bad before, it was terrible on both of these pills. My anxiety went through the roof until I could hardly manage to go to class.
Eventually, things took a turn for the worst, but it was ultimately this extremely low point that helped me break free. I got off the pill and stopped taking antibiotics. At first, I felt fine because I was losing all the water weight from the hormonal birth control, and my skin was getting a little better.
I rode the wave blissfully for a few weeks until I started getting an extremely sharp pain in my lower left abdomen. The first time I felt the pain, it was like getting electrocuted and stabbed at the same time. At least that’s what I told my mom as I cried on the floor in her bathroom. My mom gave me her famous advice: “Go take a shower. You’ll feel better.”
Unfortunately, this wasn’t a kind of pain you could wash away.
It came and went in waves. I would be in extreme pain, crying and sweating, and then it would pass. I went on like this for a few weeks.
The final incident is somehow equally as funny as it is gruesome (in retrospect anyway). Fighting extreme nausea, I sat in front of the toilet, my head practically hanging inside of it, for almost an hour.
Finally, I managed to crawl to another room, where I sat with a bucket as I cried into it. My mom started to laugh quietly, and when I managed to roll my head towards her, she shrugged and grinned slightly. “If you didn’t up with your head stuck in that toilet, you’re probably not going to at all,” she said.
I guess my body took that as a challenge because I raised my eyebrows and promptly retched inside the bucket.
If there’s one thing my mom doesn’t do, it’s vomit. So, she quickly got dressed and drove us to the hospital at nearly midnight.
After countless visits to the hospital for nearly a year, I met a gynecologist who said she’d like to do a CT scan on my abdomen. It was revealed that I had a cyst on my left ovary the size of a grapefruit. The excruciating pain was the mass twisting my ovaries, causing torsion. I was wheeled into emergency surgery the same day.
After the surgery, it seemed there was only one option again: birth control. Terrified from my previous experiences, my sister encouraged me to get tested for food intolerances. It was there that I discovered that I was not only gluten intolerant but also dairy intolerant. So, I hadn’t been doing myself any favors by downing a box of Kraft mac and cheese every night.
I’ve never been a half-way kind of gal, so I went in full-force avoiding all gluten and dairy. Within three months, my skin cleared up dramatically and my period returned to a healthy flow.
Living a Gluten-Free Lifestyle
Living a gluten-free lifestyle felt so overwhelming at first because resources seemed limited. At first, I was convinced I could eat anything as long as it was labeled gluten-free, but after a few years of hits and misses, I learned that being gluten-free isn’t just swapping all the things I used to eat with different artificial products filled with stabilizers and additives. It was about changing my diet into a lifestyle and filling my body and life with whole foods that would support my body.
I’ve been living a gluten-free lifestyle for years now, and yes, sometimes it’s hard to see my friend Katie downing a bowl of pasta with no regrets (We all know a Katie), but the point of adopting this kind of lifestyle is learning to support my body. I’ve learned to swap traditional pasta for rice noodles or zoodles, or switching up pineapple and mango for berries and papaya.
Since starting my gluten-free experience, I’ve found nutritionists, friends, and a community to lean on and find support in. As I snack on some cucumbers and hummus (A great snack combo. I highly recommend it.), I’m grateful for the pain, if only to have the opportunity to take control of my own health.
Dana Haddad is a thriving, young writer with a focus in fiction and lifestyle-based articles. She is hoping to publish a book next year, and in the meantime, fills her days with writing, reading, sending memes to her husband in the next room, Spanish telenovelas, and snacks.