A Gluten Free Journey

gluten-free-journey

I’d like to say my gluten story starts with my teenage son, but that would be totally unfair to him. It starts many years before that, but I just didn’t realize it until a few years ago.

Since my discovery started with my son, I’ll have to start with his story. I can’t list all his symptoms for the world to see, but he had most of the classic signs plus some of the more bizarre ones.

My son started getting migraines at age 4. When my Dr. said “give him these drugs, we don’t know the cause”, I ignored him. Sorry Doc. I took him to 2 more doctors & got the same answers. I told them I was not drugging my son, indefinitely, because the side effects seemed worse than the pain. As wretched as it is, a migraine is temporary. I’m guessing liver damage is not. There HAD to be a reason my little munchkin was getting so sick. I knew missing meals and lack of sleep were his migraine triggers (much like his mother, aunt, grandma & grandpa).

I fed him well, (or at least I thought so, right?) He packed his little lunch on whole wheat bread, ate homemade mac n cheese for supper, none of that stuff in a box. I even cooked up beef barley soup to fatten him up because he was so skinny. He got plenty of sleep. In fact, he slept a lot more than my other kids.

Then, he started to get these weird rashes that stumped his doctors. One tried to tell me it must be scabies, even though it didn’t look like any kind of rash he had ever seen – including scabies. Gee, thanks doc for making shit up because you have no idea what’s going on. Let’s not guess, let’s check!

I got a call from school one day when my son was 13. His knee gave out in gym class & his friend had to carry him to the office.  I’m not a doctor. I don’t have a fancy college degree – in any subject. I do know a little bit about kids and I know it’s not normal for a 13 year old boy to have joint problems.  That’s for old people. 

That’s when I finally took my sister’s advice and put my son a gluten free diet.  I won’t air her dirty laundry either, but I can tell you, she discovered gluten was her enemy all on her own (well, with the help of google). Her doctors never told her to give up gluten. She was constantly bugging me to give up gluten and I thought she was crazy. I didn’t believe her.  But, she kept bugging me and I am grateful for that!

So, I took gluten away from my son (for the bad knees & other reasons) and his migraines totally disappeared. Totally. Before I banished gluten, he had them almost weekly.

I took him to an allergist to make sure he wasn’t allergic to anything else and he said “Your son is not allergic to gluten”, so I let him celebrate with a doughnut. The very next day he was out of school with a migraine (plus other symptoms he would not want posted on the internet). Then, and only then did the Dr. tell me “Don’t do that again. He has a gluten-sensitivity”. At this time, I didn’t realize there was a difference between an allergy, celiac disease and gluten intolerance. He had migraines for 10 years and has not had one since that day. I just wish I had known sooner. My poor baby. When I realized I had essentially been feeding my son poison for most of his life, I felt so guilty. I was a horrible mother.

He had two other symptoms that I hadn’t blamed on the gluten, but since going gluten-free they have disappeared, so that’s my only explanation.

– He ALWAYS woke up like the incredible hulk. I thought it was just teenage moodiness, but when my teenage daughter called him out on his bad attitude, I knew it was something more.

– His acne totally disappeared. Have you ever met a teenage boy without acne? I have one. No drugs, no acne, just a clean face. Now that I think about it, he was my only kid with baby acne. Maybe baby and teenage acne are related?

When my son went gluten-free, the rest of us did by default. It just felt rude to eat pizza in front of a teenage boy and expect him to be happy eating chips and salsa. 

Since eating gluten free, I haven’t had a migraine either. I’ve been getting them for almost 20 years. It’s a very bizarre feeling to wake up & say, “Ooooh, I haven’t been lying in bed with a pillow over my head in a while. I bet today is the day” and have it never show up. It’s kind of like that one annoying friend that nobody wants around, but when you haven’t talked to them in a while you start to wonder where they are and how they’re doing. No, I haven’t talked to a doctor about eating no gluten. I don’t need a doctor to tell me “hey, your finger is bleeding, put a Band-Aid on it” or “hey, you’re fat, stop eating junk food”. I don’t need him to tell me eating the wrong foods can make me sick. I have no idea if our problems are because of gluten intolerance or celiac and I’m not about to take the gluten challenge to find out.

Looking back, I don’t remember being a sickly kid. I do remember my grandma constantly telling my mom, “These girls eat all the time and they’re too skinny. They must have worms.” Ok, she was a farmer, worms were a very real possibility, but we didn’t have them.

Here are a couple websites with symptoms of celiac disease and gluten intolerance.

celiaccentral.org

mindbodygreen.com

Once I figured out what to cook & what not, it wasn’t all that hard to give up the gluten. My son and daughter have been told to give up dairy, but that has been a lot harder to do than shunning gluten. We now have a couple of dairy goats, so we will see how that goes. That story will have to wait for another day, my fingers are getting tired. 

If you are looking for more gluten-free adventures, I found Deb Nevergall’s and Shauna James Ahern’s stories both relatable, inspiring and hopeful. I know there are many more out there.

Do you have a gluten-free story to share? I would love to hear it. Comment below or post a link to your blog for us to read. 

“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.”

–   Louisa May Alcott

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