I spent decades of my life suffering with horribly painful digestive problems as well as other seemingly unrelated physical problems. It was embarrassing and I felt like a hypochondriac. I saw a lot of doctors and suffered through oodles of tests all leading to a series of incorrect diagnoses over the years. The diagnoses were all over the place too, from arthritis to fibromyalgia to IBS to gallbladder sludge even a suggestion of a tumor was thrown in for good measure among other things.
It was near the end of my last pregnancy in 1996 when my symptoms got noticeably worse. At first I was told it was probably pregnancy related and afterwards was told it was probably postpartum related but nothing definitive. Then my baby was six months old, then nine months old and finally almost two years old and I still had no answers or resolution when a friend suggested that I might be suffering from food allergies. It was an odd idea since I never had them before…how could I suddenly have them now? It was worth a try but I couldn’t find a doctor to take that idea seriously so I embarked on a journey to figure it out for myself. I had no clue what to do other than lots of research and just start.
After a very long period of trial and error to isolate foods that could have been causing so much trouble and getting the proper tests done, peanuts and almonds were the eventual diagnosed allergies. Once I removed them completely, I began to feel exceedingly better…for a time. I still had unexplained pain, seemingly unrelated symptoms and horrible digestive problems and again the doctors had no answers. At this point and out of complete frustration to know how to proceed, I just gave up and tried to live my life as best I could but without peanuts and almonds. Strangely enough, I found that when I did not eat anything, I felt better. This began a roller coaster of unhealthy eating habits which of course was a terrible and unreasonable solution.
So, moving ahead to 2011, my symptoms had become uncontrollable and I could hardly leave the house some days, leaving me to struggle with depression and anxiety. All of this was having a negative impact on my family and social life too. Out of desperation I tried yet another new doctor and for the first time, this doctor truly listened, asked questions, ordered tests and had some ideas of what might be going on with me. He referred me to a specialist who reviewed the tests and presented me with a diagnosis; Celiac disease. He was quite surprised that it had never been previously investigated or diagnosed.
Aha…puzzle solved! In the moment I heard the diagnosis I was beyond relieved to have answers and not continue to believe I was imaging all of it. The reality of it all began to sink in pretty quickly and I realized my food world was about to be turned upside down. Don’t get me wrong, I was thrilled that my disease didn’t require any pills, surgery or anything else invasive. Just changing up a bit of food, I could do that, right…what was so difficult about taking gluten out of my diet, wasn’t it just bread and pasta??? With as much enthusiasm as I could muster, I went cold-turkey, gluten free immediately.
The positive outcome of a gluten free diet became apparent within the first week! I began to feel better, the constant brain fog was beginning to lift, other random symptoms were healing but most of all, my entire digestive track was getting a long awaited reprieve with the prospect of complete healing on the horizon.
A short while into my new journey I became a research-aholic devouring any bit of information I could get my hands on. The kitchen cabinets and fridge experienced a big purge as a result. Once armed with better information and some resources I began to tackle what I soon-discovered to be huge changes in my diet. Within a few months I felt like I had the basics under control, I was feeling fantastic and I wasn’t starving.
Now, seven months into this new life style change, came one of the biggest challenges of my life; my husband accepted a job transfer to Luxembourg. Great, cool, exciting, our dream…oh, crap, we were moving to Luxembourg with 3 foreign languages (Luxembourgish, German and French of which I only knew a bit from high school long ago) and I have food allergies!
I arrived here terrified to eat anything and could not read a food label without a dictionary. It was horrible! Many of my first market trips took 3+ hours with me trying to decipher as many safe foods as I could. My selection was fairly small, not because there weren’t allergy-free foods available, but because my dictionary didn’t have the unique and unusual words that appear on food labels. At this point I was still trying to eat equivalent gluten free replacements (GF bread for bread and GF pasta for pasta…) to what I had been previously eating because that is as far as I had progressed back in the States. I was still very new at this and had a long way to go in this new learning process and life style change.
In the years since those first challenging months, I’ve learned so much. Trial and error have been unavoidable and while I haven’t perfected anything, my situation has improved tenfold. Restaurants, menus and labels don’t scare me so much anymore. I’ve learned to cook rather well for my family. In fact, I recently made a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner serving 20 people which concluded with rave reviews all around. There were a couple regular American delights for our friends wanting to experience traditional foods but about 90% of the meal was gluten, nut and lactose free. I’d say I’ve come a long way in this lovely foreign land I now call home!
Well, this isn’t the Outback and there won’t be strange animals to deal with but I did want to get your attention. This is where I am putting my disclaimer for all those wacky and bizarre reasons everyone says I should have one. So, this is my personal blog. The information and tips I share here do not necessarily represent those of anyone other than myself and do not endorse any specific product, service or store. The information and tips I provide are from my own personal experiences with any mentioned products, services or stores. Experiences shared by others in a post are used with their permission. I make no representations as to accuracy, allergy-free guarantee, completeness, current availability, suitability, or validity of any information on this blog and will not be liable for any errors, or omissions in this information or any losses, illnesses, injuries, or damages arising from its use. I will, however, do my very best to have current and correct information because these are things I use myself and of course I need it all to work for my own health and well-being.
(contact info below) I run into issues with receiving comments and inquiries from time to time due to spam, trolling, and hacking issues just like any other site on the internet. I thought I’d put my email contact here in a very creative way so that if you really want to contact me, you can see it and hopefully the bots and trolls won’t detect it as easily: d e b b i e *at* theglutenfreecupboard *dot* c o m (just put it all together with no spaces with the correct symbols for the words between the asterisks); I look forward to hearing from you.