Oh what a long road it’s been.

My journey to living gluten free started years ago before I even knew what gluten was. I won’t bore you with the details of my 12 year journey to get to this point in my life, but what I will tell you is that I searched for answers to my health issues for many many years before finding my way to a better and healthier life.

You might ask me why I didn’t see a doctor, but the answer is that I DID see a doctor. In fact, I saw many doctors over the course of 12 years who did not connect my symptoms to anything specific and made me feel as if I was a medical mystery or hypochondriac. I saw 3 or 4 different sports medicine doctors who sent me for MRIs and gave me cortisone shots and made me do rehab and acupuncture that didn’t help my pain and therefore stopped me from running anymore. I went through 6 years of allergy shots for environmental allergies that weren’t my biggest problem, just to continue having the pain I was seeking to fix when it ended. I saw a GI doctor who treated me for a stomach bug, but at the time I saw him that was just the beginning of my journey and he said my symptoms and stomach pain were not connected to anything other than that. I repeatedly went back to the dermatologist for answers regarding the acne-like rashes that I have experienced on my face for years that seemed to get worse with treatment and never better. I became lactose intolerant after the birth of my son for no apparent reason which lead me to have to change my way of life once again. When I got pregnant with my daughter, I re-visited the dermatologist because I started experiencing terrible eczema on my eyelids, neck, and armpits making it so uncomfortable to go through daily life that I would just break down crying some days. This lead me back to the allergist for a chemical allergy test which showed I was allergic to a chemical that was in all of the products I used leading to another change of life…again. Outside of that, I had such low immunity while pregnant that I was sick the entire time with cold after cold and virus after virus. I had ulcers on my vocal cords and I was unable to eat anything that was the least bit citrus-y without having pain. After giving birth, I have spent another year and a half with stomach pain on a daily basis. Needless to say…It’s been hard.

I don’t tell you all of this for sympathy. I know there are people out there suffering with ailments and other life changing health issues that are so much worse than what I have gone through. The point of this post is to encourage people to seek out the truth. If you don’t feel right, seek help. If you aren’t getting the answers you need, find another way. Listen to your body – you’re the only one who knows how you are feeling. Doctors can try and help you the best they can, but their diagnoses are based off of their training. For me, it’s now apparent that each of the doctors I’ve seen over the course of these last 12 years have treated me to the best of their ability, but have never considered the whole picture. Instead of looking at my situation as a whole, they looked at the pieces and treated my symptoms instead of solving the problem.

Two weeks after going gluten free, my life has been changed for the better. Outside of the fact that the detox was difficult and I felt much worse before feeling better, it amazes me that all of these symptoms I have struggled through for years have simply disappeared. Instead of being on 4 different prescriptions and suffering through my days, I am now taking nothing and feeling fine!

Although I am feeling better and am happy that I have seemed to have finally found an answer, A little part of me still mourns. Not eating something that causes me so much pain is easy to do, but the “real me” hates this so much at the same time.

The “real me” is Chicago raised and loves pizza and hot dogs. The “real me” has strong connections to my Polish and Italian heritage and loves to share and make old family recipes that were my grandparents. The “real me” loves to gather with friends and family around food and loves to cook and host dinner parties. The “real me” loves to indulge in Portillo’s chocolate cake or grab a latte at Starbucks when I am having a bad day. The “real me” is an introvert at heart and does not like being an inconvenience at get togethers and ask for special food.

The “real me” is mourning.

Choosing to be a vegan, a vegetarian, or lead a life where you practice a Paleo or some other type of diet is one thing. Being forced to be someone your not for health reasons is quite another. If it’s by choice, You can have a cheat day or go to a party without causing an inconvenience or eating before you arrive. You can vacation with your family and set your diet aside for a week and not worry about how you will survive without being ill and ruining your experience.

It is not the same. Nothing will be the same for me going forward.

As I struggle to find a new normal, I know I will get there and that my family will find new favorite meals to share and places to eat. We will create a new home where we eat even cleaner food and lead healthier and happier lives. But, it’s not an easy road.

It seems fitting to me that this all happened the same month as our 8 year wedding anniversary. Through all the ups and downs and strange sounding health concerns I have had, my husband has been through it all – supporting me, believing me, and encouraging me to keep searching for answers. It may not seem like a lot to him, but having someone who understands that what I have been going through is real in the midst of doctors and other people who did not believe me was everything. And for that, I am thankful….well…that and the fact that Lou’s has gluten free pizza. 🙂

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