Austin Gluten-Free Story: Part 3
Welcome Rita, the 2nd blogger behind Gluten Free Edge. The other blogger behind this great local blog is Gretchen, whose guest post for Austin Gluten-Free Story is here. Make sure and check out her long list of resources, favorite products and helpful links.
Rita Ramirez Terrell is a longtime techie gone a new healthy, gluten-free direction. She got the idea to do the Gluten-Free Edge blog as a way to share newly retired Mom’s wizardy in the kitchen along with her own growing interest in nutrition. She currently works at a local bank while attending the Academy of Oriental Medicine at Austin. Contact Rita and Mom at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My gluten-free journey
I was not aware of my detrimental relationship with gluten until a food allergy test in April 2007. I had grown increasingly ill and gained weight very rapidly in my upper body, very unusual for me. I would look in the mirror and not recognize my body. I knew I needed a new perspective to find the cause and over the years allopathic doctors had not given me answers, just medications to reduce various symptoms and issues. I researched and found “functional medicine” which has a basis in digestive health first and foremost. I located a nearby physician and went through several tests. I came away with data that showed my state of health in shambles: gluten food allergy, severe candida, high inflammation/bad intestinal flora and low nutritional status. I was also given treatment to quickly remedy a severe bladder infection and H. Pylori (ulcer-causing bacteria) with antibiotics.
Curing the candida actually made me feel and look much better. The unusual upper body weight gain miraculously disappeared. Now, when I gain weight, it is the usual pattern, much to my chagrin. However, I have uncovered another cause of ongoing fatigue and working with a local chiropractor to heal my adrenals and other organs with whole food nutritional supplements. I found that, not only was I masking stress and uncomfortable feelings, but also anxiety. I am now working on eliminating sugar, in part to reduce being prone to anxiety, and have researched various things to help me. So, I am working on the mental/emotional aspect of making change.
One thing I came to realize was my emotional connection to gluten. Foods with gluten taste so good. For example, I had a habit of eating multiple slices of bread when stressed from work when younger. Over time this evolved into a carbohydrate addiction to processed foods containing wheat, and of course, sugar. It took me a year to actually go totally gluten-free and that was at the same time I finally found a treatment for candida. But when I started feeling stress or other uncomfortable feelings afterwards, I didn’t have a replacement for my “comfort” food. It was strange to identify this previously unknown condition about myself. I still use sugar (but have stopped now using candy) as a crutch and occasionally I slip and eat something knowingly with gluten. But for 99.9% of the time, I avoid gluten.
I see the inter-relatedness to my situation, both physical and emotional health, and the consistent self-care I need to do. I still have the goal of optimal health, but it has slowly evolved into a broader vision. You have to work to get to your own truth considering genetics, environment, habits, impact of years of ignorance and misinformation and take it a step at a time. For me, finding out that I had a food allergy to gluten, and now honoring that daily, has made all the difference.
I just finished the online program at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and earned my certification in Health Counseling. My vision is to help others through a similar process of defining and achieving optimal health specific to their own needs, especially embracing those new to the gluten-free diet. This includes looking at the areas of Primary Foods (relationships, physical activity, and spirituality/knowledge of self and work/career/interests) that nurture us as human beings, as well as, Secondary Foods which are the actual foods we choose to eat. In continuing my health and wellness education, I was inspired to enroll at the Academy of Oriental Medicine at Austin to become a licensed healthcare practitioner in oriental medicine and acupuncture. I believe pairing these ancient healing techniques with modern nutritional awareness and lifestyle counseling will prepare me to sit down and be present with those in pain, with disease or just not feeling like they want. This all began with a loss of health and the renewing gift of eating gluten-free.
The best tip I can give is to eventually get to a place where eating gluten-free does not create anxiety. It does take time and effort. I longed for the day where I could just eat again in a normal way…anticipating and eating a tasty, satisfying meal. I guess I am more hard-headed than most but I don’t tend to seek out special restaurants or foods to eat. I eat whole foods and eat very simply…no fuss, easy to prepare and of course, gluten-free and nutritious. You have to look at what you CAN eat…not at what you cannot. I will give credit to Udi’s for creating “real” bread that is gluten-free, but once that novelty wore off; I just don’t use bread anymore. I eat differently than I did… it was a profound lifestyle change, but now as natural to me as how I ate before. I encourage you to embrace change and have fun with eating a new way. Be inspired, not discouraged…life is better gluten-free!
Thank you Rita for participating in this series of Austin gluten-free bloggers.
Make sure and stayed tuned for more posts in this series, every Wednesday in September.