Special Announcement|Introducing Alicia…New Featured Contributor

When I started this space on the world wide web, I never could’ve imagined all the places I would go and people I would meet because of it. Nearly three years later and this blog has a reach well into the 10’s of thousands and is read in more than thirty (>30) countries including:

  • Phillipines
  • Quatar
  • Germany
  • New Zealand
  • Italy
  • Canada and more…

“Oh the places you’ll go”

I remain honored and humbled that anyone, anywhere takes the time to visit this site and read my ramblings. So, it is with an open heart and mind that I continue to grow, push, and develop more engaging content and recipes for all of you (Dear Readers). I am happy to announce the very first regular contributor to the blog: Alicia Alvarez. Alicia is a celiac survivor and all around A+mazing mother, writer, foodie, competitive athlete (WHOA), cool person, and budding friend. I’ll save the musings on how we connected {for a later time :)} and let you jump right into her first feature; where she details her celiac journey. Take a moment to read and welcome Alicia to the gluten free blog family…We’re glad you are here.

Who Is Alicia? by Featured Contributor Alicia Alvarez

One thing that everyone in the gluten free community has, is a story.  We all came to this point, this non-gluten eating point in our life for a reason. In our bagel loving, pancake eating, cookie obsessed culture, few if any of us grew up in a gluten free household with parents that encouraged us to avoid an obscure, until recent years, plant protein.  In wasn’t until 1888, that Dr. Samuel Gee described his patients as having celiac disease.  He knew that diet had something to do with their ailment, but he wasn’t entirely sure what in their diet the cause of the problem was.  It would be the 1950’s before the link was made between gluten and the intestinal damage endured by those with celiac disease.  So, we’re talking about a relatively modern awareness of this issue.  Maybe you’re not celiac.  Maybe you’re gluten sensitive.  Or, maybe you limit your intake of gluten because of the other benefits that can be found in a gluten free lifestyle.  Whatever your story may be, you have one.  Here’s mine.

I really like Pop Tarts.

I really, really, like them.  I mean it’s probably an unhealthy sort of love. I know it’s an unhealthy sort of love actually.  Setting aside the fact that no one is going to argue for Pop Tarts being a health food, they can kill me.  Okay, perhaps that’s a little extreme.  But, it feels like they can kill me.  Or, when I used to eat them I wanted them to kill me and put me out of my misery.  It started ages ago, when I was a little girl.  I was always the kid that had an upset tummy, as my mother and the school nurse that I was skeptical about because she liked dolls called it.  Dolls are creepy.  It felt like I was constantly in her office hearing about her weird dolls.  My mother, being a loving, kind, and long suffering woman didn’t understand what the issue could be.  I know my pediatrician didn’t either.  When I visited him I was usually told that it was stress.  Apparently, I was the most stressed out ten year old on the planet…  My stomach ached. I was in the bathroom all the time. He thought that it was irritable bowel.  I was gassy and bloated.  I got headaches.  Sadly, things got much worse as I got older.

When I was seventeen is was the Fruit Loops.  I remember driving back from a night out with my boyfriend and having a bowel before I went to bed.  That was a mistake.  I spent most of the evening in the bathroom.  I’ll spare you the intimate details.  I had to stop eating those.  The sad and scary thing was that I started to have to stop eating everything.  Everything made me sick.  Bagel.  Sick.  Chinese food.  Sick.  Cereal. Sick.  Pop Tarts???  Really, really sick.  After a few months of this I started getting nervous.  The constant diarrhea (that’s just a horrible word) wasn’t nearly as bad as the painful stomach cramps.  So, I went to the doctor.  Going to the doctor at seventeen and eighteen just seems silly.  There couldn’t possibly be anything wrong with me.  The doctor didn’t think so either.  It was stress, he said.  Maybe I was just a stressed out, tightly wound person?  I could believe that.  I’m not the most easy-going relaxed woman you’ll ever meet.  I do run double digit miles for fun and brought my computer to my vacation in Jamaica because I was worried I’d be bored.

Over the next few years, things got really bad.  I started losing weight.  I was sick all the time.  I wasn’t that stressed out!  I went back to the doctor again, and again, and again.  Finally, they decided to do a CT scan.  I have no idea why.  I still have no idea why.  But, I got one.  In fact, I got three and they all showed nothing.  Then, came an ultrasound.  That was clear.  Then, I went to a gastroenterologist and they brought out the big guns, the colonoscopy.  Yay for getting a colonoscopy when you’re 22!  What did it show?  NOTHING.  Well, that’s not true.  It showed increased lymphocytes which indicated that there was an immune response going on in my gut, but there wasn’t enough to warrant a diagnosis of Ulcerative Colitis, which is what they were looking for.  So, there was nothing wrong with me.  Nothing wrong with me.? I felt horrible all the time.  I mean ALL the time.  It was bad.  I had no energy.  I couldn’teat anything.  My brain was foggy.  I couldn’t sleep.  It was a nightmare.  People started bandying about the term IBS.  Maybe I had Irritable Bowel Syndrome.  That was all the rage in the late 90’s and early2000’s, so they decided that was what I had and that fiber was going to help me.  Only, it didn’t help me.

Nothing helped me

So, I just plugged along being sick and miserable. Then, I couldn’t stand it anymore.  I returned to the gastroenterologist and pitched a fit.  I didn’t know what could be wrong with me, but something was wrong with me.  So, they did what doctor’s do.They ordered more tests!  I got an endoscopy.  That was weird.  I got blood tests.  And, I got a colonoscopy…again…  Only, that time they did something differently.  There was this new thing people were becoming more aware of.  It was something called celiac disease.  I remember reading up on it and thinking that this was the worst thing that could happen to anyone.  I’d have to say goodbye to my Pop Tarts.  The doctors didn’t think I had it because it was so rare, but they figured they’d test for it.  I mean,they tested for everything else under the sun.  And, what do you know?  I finally found out what theproblem was.  Goodbye Pop Tarts. 😦

I don’t think my story is all that dissimilar from many with a celiac diagnosis.  It often takes years for doctors to weed through the myriad of confusing symptoms to get a diagnosis. And, the medical community is only now becoming aware of non-celiac gluten sensitivity and other gluten related issues. They can attack anywhere in the body.  Those symptoms aren’t limited to your gastrointestinal tract.They can present neurologically, dermatologically, etc.   It took me over a decade to be diagnosed.Possibly, it took you just as long or longer.  In that time I was doing all sorts of damage to my body.

Right now, I’m doing better, but I think I destroyed my gut with years of eating gluten when I shouldn’t have been.  It was those blasted Pop Tarts.  Right now, I’m trying to heal my gut and working with different eating protocols like FODMAPS, Paleo AIP, GAPS, and some other protocols and supplements.  I don’t know if my system will ever be “normal,” but I’m hoping I can get better.  In subsequent articles I’ll let you know how I’m doing and what works and doesn’t work for me.  Maybe, it can be of help to you too.  I think that’s an important part of the community that we’re in.  We need to help each other.  We may all come from different places and backgrounds.  We may all have different motivations.  We all have our own stories.  But, we all need support and assistance to help us live the healthiest lives we can.

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