When I was a kid everything I craved consisted of wheat flour. Bagels, donuts, cake, flour tortillas, macaroni and cheese, Mexican sweet bread and pasta were just a few of my favorite foods I ate almost every day. Needless to say, I also spent each night drinking the prune juice my parents placed beside my dinner plate. Their guess was as good as mine to as why I had such difficulty with bowel movements.
I continued on this wheat flour/prune juice diet through college and into early adulthood, until I was diagnosed with IBS. Instead of prune juice, my doctor at the time prescribed me medication that would make me “regular.” At the time I thought “regular” was going at least once every four days! The medication did help, so I continued taking it, but always wondered if I would have to for the rest of my existence.
One day the medication was discontinued because it was linked to the occurrence of heart attacks. My doctor was optimistic however, and thought since I was so young, she might be able to still get it for me. Nineteen years old and I already knew that sounded wrong. Why would I keep taking a medication that gave people heart attacks? There must be another way to help my IBS and my skewed perspective of ‘regular’. Could it be diet? Well yes.
Going gluten free was not something I celebrated with open arms.
First, I tried eating more vegetables, cutting out meat, eliminating cheese, and doing more yoga (in addition to my walking, dancing and daily workouts). Alas, the desired bowel movements evaded me, but they did occur enough to keep me functioning.
That is, until I went to Cuba.
After two weeks of traveling in a country without much else to eat but bread, I returned home and went straight to the emergency room. My intestines could not empty themselves. You’d think that would have been my wake up call I needed - but I continued to eat bread until my second emergency room visit. Ironically, I had the same doctor for both visits.
Laughingly he said, change your diet, cut out gluten for real this time. So I did.
Eight years have passed since I gave up gluten. There are far fewer inappropriate bottom burps (#euphemism), and I’m finally ‘regular’! My experience has also forced me to learn how to make delicious gluten free alternatives for all of my favorite dishes. So out of this adversity a love for cooking emerged!
The most important lesson I learned, is that what we eat is who we are. Not just internally, but externally and ethically as well. Through my researching on the process of making wheat, I gained a better understanding of the food industry in the United States. And surprise, surprise, many of my favorite childhood foods were processed with gluten and other ‘I-don’t-know-how-to-pronounce-that’ ingredients. What at first was an unwilling change in diet has become one of the best decisions I didn’t want to make, but for my body’s sake - had to.