Saturday, July 30, 2011

My gluten free story, Part 2

You can read part 1 here...

Tristan's birth was perfect, but that's a story for a different time! When Tristan was about 10 months old, I started getting desperate to find something to help me feel better. Gluten intolerance had been mentioned to me a couple of times in the past, but I was in total denial about it. I didn't want to have to make such a drastic, permanent change to my diet! I always pushed that thought to the back of my head and didn't do any research about it at all. But in January of this year, I read an excellent article in Experience Life magazine about gluten intolerance. It explained everything for me in a way that I had never heard before. I never knew that so many people have a gluten intolerance(they estimate at least 30% of Americans), and that most of them don't even know it! I never knew that gluten intolerance could be linked to depression, auto immune disease, cancer, and many other things. I really started thinking about giving gluten free life a try. I was still hesitant though- it seemed like such a big change. I thought I'd give myself several months to read up on it and really learn about what I was getting into and prepare myself. I think the Lord had other plans for me though, because just about that time my issues started getting really bad. I was in a lot of pain, I was miserable, and I could barely leave the house. I had to do something.

I decided to just jump in head first. I spent a couple of late nights on the computer reading everything I could find about going gluten free. I made out an entire meal plan for a week- breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. It shocked me when I realized that with the way I was currently eating, I was having gluten at every single meal! This was going to be a tough transition! So I got my meal plan in hand, did my grocery shopping, and celebrated my last night of gluten with a piece of ganache-glazed chocolate cake from Carrabbas. My plan was to eat gluten free for a week, and then eat a piece of bread to see if I had a reaction.

The first couple of gluten free days were interesting. My stomach felt calmer than usual. I didn't have any blood in my stool. But I wasn't convinced yet that I had a sensitivity. It was so hard for me to stick to the diet at first that I almost gave up after just 2 or 3 days! Thad talked me into at least finishing out the week that I had planned. I never got around to eating that piece of bread that I was planning on though! About 5 days into eating gluten free, I stopped at Carrabbas to get some dinner after a very crazy day out with the kids. (Seeing a theme? Thad worked at Carrabba's at the time.) Carrabbas has a gluten free menu, which is great. But on this night, the restaurant had just gotten a new kitchen staff that didn't quite know what they were doing yet. They forgot to leave the grill baste(which has gluten) off of my chicken. I was exhausted and starving by that point, and decided to just eat it and see what happened. Within an hour or two, I got really bad diarrhea- and blood. I was pretty sick that night. I knew then that I truly did have a gluten intolerance. I've been gluten free ever since- going on 7 months now!

Going gluten free was hard at first, but honestly not as hard as I thought it would be. For me, planning was the key, quite literally. Since I was nursing, it was especially important for me to have something to eat every couple of hours! But when you're gluten free, it's a lot harder to rely on convenience foods. If you're out doing errands for longer than you expected, you can't just grab a quick burger! If it's been a totally crazy day, you can't just throw together spaghetti and call it dinner. (Although now I know that you can, with rice noodles.) So for the first month or two, I meticulously planned everything, down to every single snack. I had to.

But now that I've been gluten free for 7 months, I've gotten the hang of things. My fridge and pantry are stocked with gluten free snacks that I can grab if I need to. I know what the portable snacks I can take with me are(Larabars!). I've got my go-to dinners that everyone in the family loves. And I know which restaurants I can stop at in an emergency.

It was hard to have to cut out so many staples of my diet, all at once. Gluten is in so many yummy things! But I really tried to make it a positive experience. Instead of thinking about what I couldn't eat anymore, I focused on all of the good foods that I still could eat. And really- those first couple of weeks were kind of fun! I was trying so many new recipes, and new foods that I hadn't tried before or used in a while, and almost all of it was delicious! I also tried to use the gluten free shift as an opportunity to change my diet in other healthy ways. I figured if I was making a big change anyway, why not go all out!? I'm trying to make as much food as I can from real, whole ingredients. I do buy some packaged gluten free things, but I try to leave those for treats, and regularly eat the things that are naturally gluten free.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

My gluten free story, Part 1

In case you didn't know, I'm gluten free! In January of this year I discovered that I have a gluten intolerance, and I've been gluten free ever since. Today I'm going to share my gluten free story with you!

My story begins almost 3 years ago, about 9 months after Hayden was born. I'd never struggled with any kind of medical issues before, but around that time I started having some pretty serious digestive issues. TMI ALERT!!! I started having diarrhea every day. Then I started to have blood in my stool. I was seriously freaked out! I'm no expert, but I knew that blood in the stool definitely wasn't something to just ignore. I was having a lot of discomfort as well. I didn't know then what I know now about diet and natural healing methods, so the first thing I did was get a recommendation for a GI doctor. Even though we didn't have insurance at the time, my issues were serious enough that we knew I needed to be seen anyway.

The initial doctor visit was very confusing. She asked several questions and I tried to explain my issues as best as I could. I asked her what she thought could be causing my problems, and why they would have come on like they did. She said that she wouldn't know without some testing, and that she wanted to do a colonoscopy to see what it would find. Then she explained that my issues were probably related to my pregnancy, and that some women have gastrointestinal issues as a result of the changes of pregnancy.

That didn't make sense to me at all! Hayden was already 9 months old. I didn't have any problems during my pregnancy, or even in the first few months afterwards. It didn't seem realistic to me that these issues could be linked to my pregnancy. I was totally freaked out about the colonoscopy! I felt like I had this huge medical weight on my shoulders, and I hadn't even been diagnosed with anything yet. I knew I didn't want to live with a chronic condition, and I definitely didn't want to be on medication for the rest of my life. I was pretty nervous about it, but I didn't know of any other options to find help! 

A couple of weeks later, the colonoscopy date came around. The day before, we picked up the colon clearing drink that I was supposed to take, and I called the clinic just to double check that it was ok for me to drink it while I was nursing. While I had the nurse on the phone, I double checked with her that I was going to be able to nurse right after the procedure the next day. The doctor had told me initially that it would be fine to nurse after I woke up from the anesthesia. But this nurse told me that no, I was going to have to wait 24 hours after the anesthesia to begin nursing again. I started to panic. The nurse told me, "Oh, just pump some milk and have it on hand for her to drink."(And this is just another example of the majority of medical personell being completely incompetent when it comes to breastfeeding. It would have been impossible for me to pump the amount of milk that she'd need in just the 12 hours before the procedure.) So pumping was out, and formula wasn't an option in my mind. I'd nursed Hayden for 9 months without a drop of formula, and I certainly wasn't going to give her any now! I knew that I needed help with my issues, but I wasn't willing to sacrifice my nursing relationship for it. I got off the phone and talked things over with Thad, and we decided to cancel the colonoscopy.

The next year and a half to two years were very hard on me. I tried to learn to live with the issues as best as I could. There were good days and bad days, but on the bad days I was in a lot of pain and it was hard for me to even leave the house. And on top of all that, I got pregnant again just a few months after the canceled colonoscopy. If we didn't have money to spend on doctors before, we certainly didn't now! We were struggling just to pay my midwife. I shared with her about my issues, and she suggested a probiotic. It was a good idea, but didn't help at all. I was disappointed, but just focused on getting through the pregnancy and birth. I'd try to find a solution after I got through that. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

What I Learned from My Placenta

Yes, I'm serious. A couple of days ago, I uploaded some photos of my placenta to share on a message board. While I was eating. I'll be honest. I'd seen the photos before, of course, but it had been a while, and my first reaction was a little bit of shock. If you've never seen a placenta before, they can be pretty graphic. Definitely bloody, and slimy, and very organ-like. A placenta is an organ, after all.

But then I started to question myself(a good habit I've gotten into lately)- why was that my first reaction? Why was my first impulse to think of my placenta as gross? Is it because that's all I've ever heard about them? I've heard placenta jokes, heard that they're disgusting, heard people say that they don't even want to catch a glimpse of their placenta when it comes out. But why? Placentas are actually really, really cool. Think about it- in the course of 9 months, your body not only grows a baby, but an entire ORGAN that nourishes your baby while it's inside you. A temporary organ- we only use it during pregnancy! It's amazing the way the blood vessels connect to mom, and also to the baby via the umbilical cord. The baby doesn't even have to breathe in utero- all the oxygen and nourishment that it needs passes from the placenta, through the umbilical cord, and to the baby. The placenta is an amazing, life giving organ.

So why all the placenta hate? Is there something strange about the placenta that causes people to be repulsed by it? I don't think the problem is with the placenta. As I pondered these questions, I began to see that the aversion to the placenta is just a symptom of a bigger problem. As a society, we've become detached from reality. We're so detached from the basics of what it means to be human. We're so constantly surrounded by fakes, by artificial images and concepts, that when we do get a chance to see the real thing we're repulsed by it.