It all started fourteen years ago. I was thirty-three, working full time, and married with two daughters who were 3 and 5 years old. First came the diagnosis of autism for our previously happy baby girl. As if that wasn’t enough of a punch in the stomach, shortly thereafter, she developed persistent and pervasive tummy troubles. Watching her little body suffer and be suffocated by this mysterious disease was something we could have never predicted or planned for – we didn’t even know what autism was before she got caught in its tight grip.
After six months of investigation by a gastroenterologist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, our four-year-old daughter was diagnosed with Celiac disease. Unfortunately, removing gluten from her diet only improved her symptoms slightly. So, another six months later, a different specialist tested her for delayed food intolerances using IgG testing and discovered she had an additional twenty-five foods to avoid.
Wow, was that a game changer! No longer were goldfish crackers, Oreos, chicken fingers, pizza or microwave popcorn an option. All the easy and beloved childhood foods were off the table. In the beginning of the transition, I had my doubts, but seeing the dramatic transformation in her mood, tantrums, sleep and belly, I became fiercely committed to a completely new way of looking at her diet.
For the first time in my life, I truly understood the meaning of food. This powerful experience also opened my eyes to the possibility that perhaps she wasn’t the only one whose body reacted to what’s put in it (remember this is fourteen years ago before the internet, cell phones and iPads!).
Confessing to others how our autistic daughter saved my life is something that makes me want to cry and shout at the same time. Seeing the profound change in her made me realize that my chronic health problems might also be improved if I modified my diet. Before then, I had never connected the dots between what I was eating and how I felt.
With the elimination of gluten, I was blown away that my acid reflux and chronic pain disappeared at the same time as my energy soared and my thoughts became super clear. No doubt, being gluten free took a huge leap of faith. Yet, once I jumped in, and only then, the door opened for me to see how clueless I had previously been about how foggy my brain was or just how badly I felt.
Feeling amazing was reason enough to continue, but the icing on the cake came from looking in the mirror. My skin began to glow as its hue changed from a puffy grey color to a softer peach tone, and the adult acne I had been struggling with also vanished.
Having my daughter as a partner in the journey made it much easier to stick to it. I knew she had no choice and her willingness to accept this inspired and motivated me.
This is just a snippet of our incredible journey that is not ours alone. So many others share similar stories. Clinging to hope has always been in my mind’s eye. That said, allowing myself to explore all the emotions involved including feelings of loss has allowed me to become stronger and wiser. I can now say that for me the dominant feeling about it all is gratitude.
- Gratitude for my husband’s patient supportive love
- Gratitude for her sister’s understanding of the challenges and her resulting self imposed independence
- Gratitude for the doctors who helped us figure it all out
- Gratitude for the knowledge of the power of food
- Gratitude for the ability to trust my instincts and be committed
- Gratitude for her understanding how she needs to stay away from those specific foods that zap her of life and well-being
- Gratitude to my family for standing by and watching me go from neurotic and frazzled to passionately and peacefully committed
- Gratitude for the continuous support of doctors, friends and family
- Gratitude for the strangers I meet who are in the same boat, instantly bonding us together
With Celiac awareness month right around the corner (in May), now is the perfect time to focus on expanding this gratitude. Every day in April, using Twitter, I will shout out expressions of thanks to all the players in our journey, plus add in some tantalizing tips and tricks for those who have Celiac’s Disease or are gluten-free.
On Twitter, I will be using the hashtag #glutengratitude. My goal is to grow this circle of gratitude larger and larger by having the hashtag used at least 100 times in April. If we accomplish that, on May 1st, the beginning of Celiac Awareness Month, I will donate $500 to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness.
Think about who has helped you along the way enlightening or embracing your journey? Maybe it was as simple as listening to your stories, picking a restaurant with a gluten-free menu or buying you some gluten-free treats. Let’s take the month of April to thank them and follow me on Twitter @CleanLeanSexy for tips, tricks and #glutengratitude news!
Hop on over to Twitter and let’s get this gratitude party started, yippee!