Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Going Gluten and Dairy Free...

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I have become one of those people. You know who I'm talking about- the people who stop eating gluten. Oh yes, and I've also stopped eating dairy which makes me super one of those people.

I used to think people who gave up eating whole groups of foods for reasons other than allergies were weirdos. I mean, how the heck can not eating something wholesome like wheat or cheese cure all that ails you?

Well, I have realized through much soul searching and Googling that while healthy foods most certainly help your body perform at its best they can also hurt your body. Wholesome whole wheat bread can make some of us sick- yes I said us because I am part of that group.

Believe me, making such a drastic change to my food ideology and lifestyle was not something I did on a whim. For the past fifteen years I have had Crohn's Disease. It is something that I will have for the rest of my life and it basically causes inflammation in my intestines which causes me great pain to the point I can't stand up or eat. It also can cause issues throughout your entire digestive tract- along with extreme pain in my lower right side I get pain in my actual stomach when I ingest anything (even water) during a flare up.

When I am not having a flare up things are fine- I'm like a regular person and can eat as much as I want. I have been controlling my Crohn's for the past ten plus years by avoiding trigger foods such as soda, greasy foods (like fast food) and overly processed foods. I'm not perfect and would cheat but wouldn't have a flare up unless I ate my triggers foods continuously over a long period of time.

Things have definitely changed for me this past week. I had a fast food meal and have been sick ever since. One stinking meal and my Crohn's flared up- this has never happened to me before. This really scared me because I do not want to ever be as sick as I was when I was first diagnosed. I was fifteen years old and had gone from weighing 100 lbs to 75 lbs in a very short period of time due to not being able to eat much of anything. I would have my heating pad on so high that I had a permanent red burn on my stomach. I had to take very strong medicine with very real side effects to make it so I could function and attend school. I actually got to the point where I was going to have sugary to remove the infected part of my intestine; my doctor saying that because I was so young that I would most likely have to have multiple surgeries throughout my life because there was a good chance the disease would come back. Thankfully, right before I was to have the surgery my symptoms lessened and I decided to not go through with it- I am grateful for that everyday.

Because of this I decided that I need to be more aggressive in how I am handling my Crohn's Disease. Just simply avoiding soda and fast food was not going to make me healthy as my condition is getting worse. I needed to do something that would keep my flare ups at bay and also possibly help heal my body of the damage that has been done through the years by my disease and by my eating.

After talking to friends and doing a lot of my own research I decided that going gluten and dairy free would be my best bet. Dairy is hard on the digestive system and I have known that for awhile but kept telling my self that as long as I didn't drink straight milk I would be fine. I recently realized that while I wasn't having an immediate reaction to other dairy products as I would to a glass of milk, they were still putting strain on my digestive system. Gluten on the other hand was something I never even heard could be harmful to those with Crohn's but alas, gluten causes inflammation which is terrible for someone who already has issues with inflammation in the digestive tract.

So yesterday was day one of my gluten and dairy free diet. I am still in the midst of a flare up so pretty much everything I eat causes me pain, but I really am hoping that ditching those two groups of foods will allow me to live a healthier life and will allow my "gut" to heal after years of eating things that I didn't realize were hurting me. After getting over the initial freak out about not being being able to eat bread or cheese, I am now feeling really good about the whole thing. There are still so many things I can eat, plus going gluten and dairy free pretty much ensures that I am going to be eating a very minimal amount of processed foods. As far as the cost of going gluten and dairy free, well I just don't know how it will affect my grocery budget. I definitely do not plan on partaking in all of the prepackaged gluten free foods but after looking at prices of gluten free flour, etc I know I will be spending at least a little more.

With all of that said, I am in no way against modern medicine. If things get bad I will most certainly go on medication but I want to do everything in my power to do things a more natural way. I feel lucky that I am still at the point where I can control my Crohn's by diet and a healthy lifestyle because I know there are many who cannot and have to rely on hospital stays and strong medications to help them. I never want to get to that point and will do everything and anything I can to avoid it, so going without foods as silly as gluten, dairy and junk food seems like such a small price to pay.

So I guess you can call me a gluten and dairy free weirdo now, but I'm fine with it because if begin weird is what I need to do to get to my optimal health then I completely embrace it  : )

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