Wednesday, December 28, 2016

San Diego Gluten Free Expo

I have been super lucky in my Celiac diagnosis in that it happened after a boom in gluten-free living began. I had a friend diagnosed over ten years ago who had a horrible time adapting to being gluten free - labeling was almost non-existent and whatever gluten free products there were could basically be described as horrible bricks of yuck. Forget going out of your home to eat - if you asked if something had gluten, the response was either confusion over what it was, with many back and forth questions, or "no, but we can add it!" Gluten-free living at the time was cumbersome and expensive, and it was an exhausting endeavor to try and find products that were safe to eat.

Basically this:

Or this:

Gluten free has come a long way baby! Today, I can easily walk into a store and find gluten free products. While I still enjoy baking and cooking from scratch, sometimes it's easier and more time-effective to find a ready made product that is already labeled gluten free that I can simply grab and go.


Gluten free can still very much be hit or miss. There have been many products that I've tried that were simply awful. In particular, a gluten free sourdough comes to mind - it tasted of straight apple-cider vinegar. I even tried to make stuffing out of it in order to not waste it; the loaf was half the size of a normal loaf and $7. It was simply awful, nothing could save it, and I was so upset that I had paid three times the normal price of sourdough on an inferior product. 

I often find new-to-me gluten free products in stores and, when that happens, you can find me paused in the aisle looking up reviews trying to get a feel on whether or not this product is worth the risk of the gluten-free price (because while gluten free has come a long way, the price still remains in the two to three times more-than-gluten price range). It's still time consuming trying to find quality gluten free products, unfortunately.

Which is why I am SO excited about the San Diego Gluten Free Expo

This is an event that popped up when I first began googling "gluten free celiac" after my diagnosis. It was an event I made a note in my calendar to remind me of, and a page I kept visiting for more information as it became available. 

In my visits, I saw a blurb for "bloggers wanted" for the expos - it required you to chose what city you wanted, and to send in your blog for review. I sent mine in, figuring that my blog was probably still too new, but that I could keep getting updates. Lo and behold - I was chosen to be one of the bloggers!

I am so super excited about this for a multitude of reasons! I've already mentioned the first above - it can be really tough to find gluten-free foods that are yummy without spending a lot of money on trial and error. The Gluten Free Expo is the perfect place to sample, test, and try a variety of gluten free foods without breaking the bank. The foodie in me is super excited for this - even before going gluten free, I loved trying new things, and so this is a way to continue that love while still remaining safe. The list of vendors is exciting - some I already know, but there are quite a few that are new to me. In addition to gluten free, they also have an allergen free section at the expo, so it is a fantastic place to go if you have any allergens along with being gluten free!

In addition, the expo offers "classes" for those interested in educating themselves on gluten-free related topics. The one I am most interested in is "Gluten - Beyond the GUT!" with Dr. Edward Madrid. Too often people attribute celiac to an "upset tummy disease", but it is really a whole-body autoimmune disorder. I still have issues with my joints, and, before diagnosis, had brain fog, insomnia, extreme fatigue, and a whole host of other issues. Going gluten free has very much saved my life, in addition to my gut!

If you have stuck around for this super-long blog post, here is where you benefit! As a blogger for this event, I have five (5) tickets to give away!! 

Leave me a comment letting me know that you are interested in going to the expo, and I will chose five winners! Please be local to San Diego and able to go on February 11th or 12th. I will chose winners on Friday, January 6th. 

If you are not one of my lucky winners, you can still get discounted tickets! 

Purchase tickets through January 10th and enter code "EARLYBIRD" for 30% off.

If you are not an early bird, purchase tickets through February 10th using code "ADVANCE" for 20% off. 

(FYI - I do get some affiliate sales if you click the links above when purchasing tickets)

If you are interested in gluten free products, or learning more about the gluten-free lifestyle, I highly encourage you to attend this event! 

(I am pretty sure this is the event coordinator's mentality! 😄)

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Gluten Free Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a huge holiday in the McAllister household, and a huge cooking event for us, as it is for a lot of families.

In the past, everything for Thanksgiving was made from scratch. I spent the days ahead making bread from scratch, that would then be cubed and dried to prep for stuffing. The bread maker would be mixing and churning and beating ingredients together to create a beautiful, spongy dough to be turned into butter glistened rolls, and I would prep apples for apple crumble (better known in this home as "apple yum-yums", so nicknamed by my brother in law).

Luckily, many of our Thanksgiving "staples" are already gluten free. The turkey is prepared with a white wine and rosemary baste, glistening with honey and butter. The sweet potato casserole, passed down from my great-grandmother Baba, took years to perfect (although my aunt always made it better, and my cousin seems to have inherited her mother's touch). Jason makes a green bean casserole from scratch, although the fried onions definitely are NOT gluten free (and I don't touch green bean casserole, so nothing will change for that recipe). I make twice-baked potato casserole every year, and while it is definitely not fat-free, it is gluten free. Our pie fillings are either gluten free (apple, chocolate, cheesecake), or easily converted with a gum free flour (pumpkin pie).

I've figured out the pies - I've already made the apple crumble gluten free, although I think the addition of oats would take it up a notch. My mom found AMAZING GF ginger snap cookies that I will use in place of graham crackers for the pumpkin cheesecake (ginger snaps - my neice, who has been GF for years, tried these this week and, eyes sparkling, asked where to get them - they are THAT good). Pamela's has a fantastic graham cracker that, although it is a little sweeter than the traditional, will make a great crust for the pumpkin pie. I am still waffling for the chocolate crust from my chocolate pie. All of my options are untested, and I am choosing between chocolate cookie crumbs, chocolate cheerio crumbs, or cocoa pebble crumbs (guess I will just have to experiment with some chocolate - huge bummer there! 😉)

My biggest hurdle is the bread components. I am still struggling with making GF bread. Part of that was the ease of bread flour and my bread maker. Bread flour created beautiful, fluffy, chewy bread every time, with little effort, and the bread maker made it even easier - I could simply dump all the ingredients in and 3.5 hours later I had bread. I've bought a lot of GF bread in the last 7 months, but, for someone who used to make at least one loaf a week, I've made less than one loaf a month. It's disappointing to have so many failures when my bread used to be such a success, every time, without trying. Part of that is understanding that GF bread is just.... different. It's not the same as regular bread. I often tell Jason to describe the bread he's eaten... "was it fluffy and airy like a wonderful yeasty cloud? Tell me about it!!!"

So, after years and years of being boastful and proud of an "everything from scratch" Thanksgiving, I'm giving in a little when it comes to stuffing, and possibly with rolls. Trader Joe's has a GF stuffing mix, that I am going to experiment with - we've already tried the stovetop directions, and I will try the oven directions next to see what turns out better. I also haven't decided if I will use the seasoning mix it comes with, or if I will season it myself. Rolls are still in debate. I had initially given in to just store-bought for everyone (GF for me, regular for all the gluten eaters), but I think we will be experimenting with my mother-in-laws roll recipe (what we normally make) to see if it would work GF.

Either way, the minor and major changes to Thanksgiving will work out. Despite the emphasis on food for this holiday, what really matters is being surrounded by family and friends, breaking bread (GF or glutened), enjoying the company we keep, and being thankful for all we have and for who we have. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Good with the Bad

Yesterday, we hiked 3 miles around Guajome Lake.

The day before, I conquered this mountain (extinct volcano) at Calavera:

Sometimes, having autoimmune disorders can feel like two steps forward, one step back. I had two fantastic days, during which I felt "normal". Today, I am on the couch in Star Wars pjs, dealing with some UC issues (no matter how much I love them, salad, corn, and j-pouches just really don't mix well). Today I need to take it easy. 

"Taking it easy" has always been tough for me - I am Type A, sometimes to an extreme, and I enjoy being active. I go stir crazy when I am relegated to the couch by my symptoms. Autoimmune doesn't listen to Type A though, and I've learned over the years to listen to my body, and respect it when it cues me in that I need that break. I've had people comment that my life must be fantastic. I myself even joke that I live the princess life. But there is nothing fantastic about being forced to rest, being forced to take it easy, being relegated to the couch when there is a whole world to explore.

It's one of those tough things to explain to people who don't have autoimmune issues - the good days and bad days. The good days look really good. The good days are really good. I had a smile on my face walking up that mountain. Six months ago, I was barely able to walk around my neighborhood, let alone walk up a volcano. I was excited at how easy it was to get out there and conquer. I was excited to not wake up sore the next day, to able to go on another hike right away. I felt good. 

The bad days suck the life out of you. But I am learning that they are necessary in this life I am living. These days - where I need to do nothing but lay down and let my body recover - are necessary so that I can conquer mountains on my good days. I may resent the bad days for not being good days, I may resent having to couch-potato, I may resent the comments that I am "so lucky" to be able to couch potato when all I want to do is explore, conquer, live life, but these bad days remind me to slow down. These bad days remind me to rest, recuperate. These bad days remind me that, if I listen to what my body is saying, if I stay in tune to it, if I don't push past what I am capable only to end up more sick, if I agree to a couch day, well, good days are coming. Conquering can be achieved. Exploring can happen. Life can be lived. I can get back here: 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Skinny Drawer

Today I went into the "skinny" drawer. Every woman has one - it is full of clothes that have been kept for that day in the future when she finally loses the weight and can get back into the clothes of the past.

I used to have three of them. One for clothes that will "hopefully fit soon", one for clothes that were a size down, and one for clothes that were two-three sizes down.

I purged those drawers about a year ago, thinking that I would never get down to those hopeful sizes, and condensed those three drawers down to one. That one drawer has some pants that I just didn't want to part with. I figured it wasn't too horrible to store those clothes, even thinking I would never be in them again.

During the time of the purge, I was an 18W. To be honest, I was larger than that, but refused to get rid of my worn jeans because I couldn't find ones anymore that fit me in that size, and I absolutely refused to go up yet another size; I told myself that "when I felt better" I could start working out, and wouldn't have to. This thought process continued for years as I battled through feeling ill all the time. Still I refused to go up a size, holding onto my thin, shabby jeans, and promising myself I could get more as soon as I could fit them again.

I have few pictures from that time that aren't taken from above the waist - I hated how I looked in pictures, because that wasn't the me I remembered. The me I remembered was fit, and played soccer, and enjoyed being outdoors; it wasn't this horribly out of shape blob. I do have a picture that Jason took, as I was trying to sneak up on some deer (this is why I can't live outside of California - while I recognize and know the danger wild animals pose, when I am in a situation where I get close to one, my excitement overcomes me and I apparently lose that respect! It's a good thing I've never seen baby bears up close in the wild - I'd be shredded by now!) This was me at my heaviest - only barely fitting into those 18Ws, and living in denial that I was any bigger than that.

Since being diagnosed and going gluten free, I've lost close to 30 pounds. I am not sure if it is my body letting go of all the inflammation, or that I have been able to become more active, or a combination of the two.

Today I saw the "skinny" drawer while putting away laundry and decided to see what was in there, and found these jeans, a size 14. Now, I am firmly in the size 16 category, something I am proud of; women's sizes go 18W, 18, 16W, 16, so I'm down 4 sizes since going gluten free. (It is really nice being able to go into a store, pick out a regular size, and know it will fit.)

Those 14s spoke to me though - they have sparkly bits on the back, and are the perfect dark jean, and I knew, as I pulled out the 16s from the skinny drawer to be added to the "jeans I can wear" in my closet, that I had to try them on.

(Please excuse the playroom mess, as there is no full length mirror in the master bedroom)

I have to say, I am super excited at the progress I am making. These are still a bit tight (in that they fit, but shouldn't go out for a huge dinner tight), but they can be added to the rotation, and not just shoved in a "skinny" drawer.  It's amazing to me that this time last year I was stubbornly refusing to go up to a 20W, wearing crappy threadbare jeans to get by, and donating a bunch of stuff because I would "never see that size again". Now I can wear that size. It's still not were I want to be, but progress is always so invigorating and inspiring. I can't wait to see where I will be a year from now, considering where I was a year ago.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Celiac and Kissing Frogs

Jason and I were having a conversation about marriage today when I made the analogy that sometimes marriage is more about kissing frogs than the frog becoming a prince, and you better make sure that the person you are in the marriage with is the person you want to be kissing frogs with.

He was a little offended (rightfully so!) until I explained myself. HE wasn't the frog. Life was.

I imagine life sometimes like a hologram. When things are going fantastic, that hologram is the prince - life is great, it is everything you ever wanted, everything is sunshine and rainbows and nothing bad can ever happen, ever. When life hits you with things like autoimmune disorders, the hologram becomes a frog. The frog is the work - you keep kissing it, hoping it will turn into the prince and you can live happily ever after. Too often, that frog just sits there, as you kiss and kiss and kiss and wonder why it isn't turning into a prince no matter what you do and what work you put in.

I can't really say for sure when I developed celiac. I don't know if I have always had autoimmune responses to gluten, or if the other autoimmune issues I have decided to band together to create another disease. Autoimmune is funky like that - it's almost like a snowball effect; the more autoimmune issues you have, the more likely you are to develop another. It's like a fucked up version of Captain Planet (shout-out to the 90s). With your autoimmune disorders combined, I am.... a tired exhausted mess is what I was....

I also can't really say for sure at what point the full exhaustion and illness hit. It seemed like such a slow progression, starting with infertility, into hypothyroidism (which was actually Hashimotos), into PCOS and finally into a place where I had three bad weeks in a month and maybe one good, if I was lucky and didn't "overdo it" (and by overdo it, that often meant just walking to get the mail).

I was always exhausted. It's hard to describe the level of exhaustion to those who have never felt it, but it was genuine effort just to get up to take the dogs downstairs. Those were my good days, forget it if I caught a cold, or had the flu, or had a flare up.

I felt like I was in a never-ending battle of kissing the frog and hoping to get the prince. I started taking birth control, as I noticed onset of symptoms after I stopped. This helped for a time, but I quickly was back to the norm of feeling horrible. It was like I had kissed that frog, and the hologram fritzed, and I got a glimpse of the prince before being smacked in the face with the frog again.

Every time there was a little bit of progress in dealing with the known autoimmune disorders, I got a glimpse of the prince through the frog. It was frustrating, and made things even more exhausting than they already were, because I could visualize how my life could be better if I could just get these autoimmune disorders under control. Eventually, for lack of a better term, I gave up. The frog was always going to be there, so I better learn to be happy with the frog, rather than continue the exhausting chase of the prince. I stayed in that place for longer than I would like to admit. People tried to help - suggesting trying this, or experimenting with that. I shut them all out. They didn't get it - how can you get it until you've faced that level of illness? Even my endocrinologist was telling me that sometimes there's not more you can do, and this is the "normal" of autoimmune. I took my medicines, I took my supplements, I was doing everything "right" and still getting the frog. 

Testing for celiac felt like another frog situation. I was already exhausted enough with the three known disorders, and piling on another only to have the metaphorical prince never show seemed like too much. To be honest, I only did it to have everyone off my back; "this is just another thing I am doing that won't help, and I will still be stuck with the frog, and nothing ever helps, and I am so exhausted already so why continue putting energy I don't have into trying to find something that does?"

Obviously, being diagnosed with celiac hasn't taken away the frog. I still have four autoimmune disorders, and they will and do still flare. Autoimmune diseases don't go away, they are simply managed.  I am learning to enjoy the prince while it is there, and to deal with the frog when it pops up, and with a more optimistic attitude than I've been able to afford in years. 

With all that said, I really feel like the celiac diagnosis has created this glimmer of hope that I haven't felt in a long time. I am getting sick less often. I am able to go for a walk with my husband and not be out of commission for the next week. I am hoping that as I continue to be gluten free, I will gain even better health, an even better life. What I was doing before wasn't living, it was surviving, and barely that. I have finally "kissed a frog" in life, and gotten less of the fritzing prince. While the celiac diagnosis means I don't get to splurge and eat out worry free, it does mean that I get to see a lot more of that prince than I have seen in years. And that is worth all the gluten in the world. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Starting Points

Search "going gluten free" and you will get 6.4 million hits in less than a second. There are LOADS of websites out there telling you the steps to take, what to avoid, what to get rid of, and various other advice that comes with the gluten free lifestyle.

I'm not here to give advice (I'm four months in!) - this is simply a post of what I have learned in a short time.

I am type-A personality to a T. Give me a challenge and I will have it figured it out quick as a snap. Gluten free, to put it lightly, is a massive challenge, especially when it came to baking. Jason kept reminding me that people spend years learning to bake, let alone gluten free (but I am already an accomplished baker! People love my baked goods! I need to be just as good as before! I will be just as good as before! I need to be that NOW!). Type A was both great and horrible for this new challenge. Within a week I was learning about gf flours and what they do and how to use them and had 20 of them in my freezer, ready to accomplish. And that first failed attempt brought tears and cursing and "this isn't fair I already have enough on my plate without adding gluten free to it!"

Part of the problem is I was going through withdrawals. Oh yes, in addition to not being allowed to eat chewy, glutenated, beautiful airy bread, I also had to withdraw from the effects of gluten still in my body - a two week to two month process. Symptoms that included even more exhaustion than before, non-stop stomach cramps, headaches, insomnia, and, my favorite, zings of what felt like lightening zapping through my body at any given time of the day. Everyone's withdrawal symptoms are different, and those were mine, coupled with the manic need to learn alltheglutenfreethings as soon as possible.

So in my manic-ness, here is what worked for me:

1.    Learn the foods that are and aren't gluten free. I was a little ahead with this, since I had some already gluten free friends, so not much of a learning process. If I was new to gluten free, I would have gone with the advice of stick to fruits and veggies, meats, beans (ones labeled gluten free or make your own), and rice, and to stay away from anything packaged until you have gluten-labeling under your belt. Also, finding out that only the USA and Canada label whether an item (like soy sauce, or beef broth) has gluten helps in purchasing decisions.
2.    Celebrate the small victories. Finding recipes I had that were already gluten free, and were tried and true and loved, helped me keep positive. Finding things I already liked (Cocoa Pebbles!) that were gluten free were even better.
3.    I didn't take all the advice. Some made sense - get rid of the toaster because the spring mechanism CANNOT be cleaned. Getting rid of my pots and pans did not make sense to me however. They are an expensive set for one, and for two, they can go in the oven; gluten proteins are killed at 500 degrees.
4.    Find gluten free blogs. Read the comments/reviews. There were so many blogs where the gluten free cake looked amazing, but reading comment after comment let me know it would be a failure. There are some blogs that even post pictures of gluten-containing cakes/cookies and pass them off as if they are the baked goods from the recipe. They're not, and the comments of failure speak to that. I was already fairly in touch with reading and deciphering comments anyway, what with using Pinterest as an avid baker, but became even more so after getting the Celiac diagnosis. The ingredients can be too expensive, and the recipe too time intensive, to allow for a failed recipe.
5.    Reading reviews for packaged gluten free foods before buying. For example, Udi's breads and bagels got the best reviews, and while I have tried others, that is what I go back to.
6.    Learning the flours and the science behind gf baking. Normal, glutenated wheat flour is 60% protein and 40% starch and so to mimic it, you have to do a blend of flours. I have twenty+ flours in my freezer because I wanted to learn what they all do (and they have to be kept in the freezer otherwise they go rancid - yuck!).
7.    Find a good blend and see if there is a good commercial flour already out there. I LOVE Better Batter. So far I have been able to make all my recipes taste "normal" using this flour.
8.    Get used to GF being more expensive. This one has been the hardest for me. I have found some great gf alternatives that are in the same price range (Walmart has a brand of corn pasta that is about $1 each), but I typically pay 2-10x more for GF. While I used to pay around $3 a loaf for bread (or made my own for far less), Udi's is almost $8 for a normal-size loaf. A GF personal pizza is around $7 at the grocery store, for something that is smaller and far less palatable than the $1 Totinos we would get when feeling cheap. I used to buy flour at Costco for $8 for 20 pounds. Better Batter, when I can find it on sale, is $80 for 25 pounds. As hard as it is to pay the extra, what is the alternative? Going back to gluten and being sick all the time, or not baking anymore. It's expensive. I try to find cheaper, grain free alternatives in baking, but it is nice to have an easy (expensive) go to.
9.    Don't force GF textures on yourself. Thanks to gluten free dieters, there are quite a few selections of GF items on the market. I have tried pizza after pizza, hoping to recreate the glutenated pizza texture I loved before. It hasn't happened. I don't buy the pizza if I don't like the texture, hoping at some point the texture is something I will get used to. I find alternatives. Right now, that is making pizza bagels on Udi's bagels. I would make pizza bagels before, so it is a texture I like, and feels close enough to what I used to have. Until I find a gf pizza I like, I will keep making the bagels.
10.  Trying new things. A couple examples - before going gluten free, I couldn't eat onions or pork - after the inflammation went down, I was able to add these back into my diet. I've also found fantastic go-to recipes by being open to "weird" ingredients - like this chocolate quinoa cake.  I get asked for this recipe all the time, and until I tell people what's in it, they have no idea. Sometimes it pays to be adventurous, especially in gluten free.
11.   Bringing food with me when going to others house - I usually find out whatever they are having for dinner, and bring a GF alternative - hamburgers? Bring an Udi's bun. Not sure about the marinade? Bring your own meat. It is far easier than going without.
12.   I wish I had relaxed a little more at the start. GF has so many opinions and options that it is easy to become overwhelmed. I wish I had taken it slow, rather than diving in and trying to become an expert (something Jason suggested, but TYPE A MUST MASTER IT NOW!)
13.   Finally, going completely gluten free in the home. Jason still eats gluten while at work, or if we go out to dinner, but it is so much easier, and less stressful, to have a completely gluten free environment. I have had people ask if I will bake them a gluten item (like I used to) and I tell them if they want it, it is gluten free or nothing. There's no checking labels at home, no cross-contamination worries at home, and no temptations at home. Those who complain can be reminded they can get a break outside of the home, while you never can. It is what keeps me safe and keeps me healthy.

Some of my favorite GF items:

Better Batter - expensive, but worth it if you want your gluten free baking to taste "normal".

Udi's breads and bagels - very similar to "gluten bread", especially when toasted. I don't miss sandwich bread or bagels with these products.

Vans Say Cheese crackers - I like these more than any other cheese cracker. I have also tried their Fire Roasted Veggie crackers. The cheese are definitely my favorite, but Vans crackers are my go to for GF crackers.


Miltons GF Crispy Sea Salt Baked crackers - I use these as a dipping cracker - in hummus or artichoke dip. They are a great alternative to pita (you can even find it at Costco).

Trader Joes GF waffles - almost as good as an Eggo. Almost. I am not a huge fan of homemade waffles, so these work for me.

Walmart brand (Great Value) GF corn pasta, in elbow shapes or spaghetti. I like it better than regular pasta.

Goodie Girl Mint Slims - TASTES LIKE A THIN MINT!!!

Trader Joes GF Rolled Oats - these are the cheapest GF rolled oats I can find (rolled oats *should* be gluten free but can be cross-contaminated if their fields are next to wheat - Trader Joes has certified them, which means there is no cross contamination). $3.99 for 32 oz when others run $7 for 24.


After years of struggling with other autoimmune disorders (PCOS, Hashimotos, and Ulcerative Colitis), I was DONE. I was living an existence of being sick for two weeks, barely able to crawl out of bed due to extreme exhaustion, feeling "okay" for a week and so risking an outing, and then back to being sick.

When I say "outing" I don't mean a whoop-it-up night on the town. I mean going to a friend's house for an afternoon, or doing a day of substitute teaching, or going for a quick, easy, hike with my husband, or, to really push it, go for a weekend up to the river. Nothing outrageous, but that one thing would send me into a tailspin of exhaustion and illness that I just couldn't crawl out of. I constantly told friends and family, while making plans "I'll have to see how I feel." Sometimes I pushed it, knowing the event was important, and knowing I would "pay" for it in the following weeks.

At my lowest I even told my husband, should I die, I wanted him to marry a certain person because I thought they would be a great match. As what I said sunk in over the next few days, it really freaked him out. He realized that I was saying this because I was always so sick. He called me while he was at work to tell me that we needed to figure this out. There had to be something, anything, that would help me feel better. He wasn't willing to just say "this is how you feel, will always feel". He reiterated to me that I was usually sick two to three weeks out of the month, and asked if I really wanted to live like that - one week out of the month, one "good" week where we had to cram in as much "living" as possible, knowing it would set off some autoimmune reaction and I would be out for the count.

I cried. I was upset. I was pissed. I told him "this is what having an autoimmune disorder looks like. I'm doing all I can. I'm seeing specialists. I have three autoimmune disorders. This is just what it is". He refused to believe that. He offered to come with me, talk to my specialists, explain from an outside perspective what he was seeing (those with autoimmune problems tend to downplay the issues they are having, even to their doctors, because the symptoms are their normal). He then suggested something my mom had been saying for a couple years - "what about trying gluten free?"

Those who know me know I already had some diet restrictions because of the Hashimotos and Ulcerative Colitis. For years, I fought the gluten free suggestion because it was just one more thing. I had also done the research on Hashimotos and gluten, and how once you go gluten free, you can't go back - basically with Hashimotos, your autoimmune response attacks the thyroid cells. If you try to return to gluten after going gluten free, your body starts to see gluten proteins as thyroid cells and attack them, causing more autoimmune responses. All these years I refused to go gluten free because I didn't want one more restriction that changed nothing, and could not be changed back. I was nervous about the undertaking of going gluten free, especially considering that if it didn't work, I could not go back to a gluten diet because the autoimmune response would be worse.

For whatever reason that day, my husband's question made me pause (sorry, Mom!). I told him my reasons for not wanting to "try" a gluten free diet. It had to be all or nothing, and I wasn't willing to do that without a confirmed gluten sensitivity test. He asked why I wouldn't take one, and I didn't have a response.

So I called my endocrinologist and explained that I would like to see if my Hashimotos was affected by a gluten intolerance. She told me not to be surprised if it came back negative, but that going gluten free could help the Hashimotos.

A few days later, the diagnosis of Celiac came back. Not just gluten intolerance, but Celiac. Another autoimmune disorder to add to my list. When gluten is in the system, the Celiac body puts up an attack in the form of an autoimmune response. It isn't an allergy (although symptoms for me come on in about 30 minutes), it is a full-blown autoimmune attack. Basically, for who knows how long, my body had been attacking itself on a daily basis. My immune system was in constant overdrive, working to clear the invader from my body. This is why I would have two-three bad weeks, and only one good.

I remember getting the notification and opening it up to read the results to Jason, and just full-stopping when I got to the diagnosis. I instantly started crying. Jason was hopeful that this would finally be it - this was the missing piece to finally feeling good. I was both hopeful and devastated.

I originally wrote this back in April, as a Facebook post to just vent. It was really indicative of my feelings of gluten free at the time:

"It is silly to be sad to lose something that has such consequences on my body.... This weekend, I chose to "gluten it up" one last time. Tomorrow is the start of gluten free, but this weekend was a chance to have some of my favorites one last time (the easy, glutenated version, anyway). One more favorite sandwich from that hole in the wall in Miramar, breakfast sandwiches in the morning, a salad with croutons and dressing I don't have to scrutinize or ask for a detailed list of ingredients, homemade cookies, beer, and, one of my favorite comfort foods, grilled cheese sandwiches. All week I have felt awful, because I have consumed extra gluten in the hopes of having an accurate test. This weekend I really over did it in the hopes of having "one last", and it was so bad that I started declining things. I honestly wasn't really upset about anything that I was going to have to give up. It seemed like every item took a turn that is the universe telling me this is what is supposed to be. Mayo on the sand which. Cheese bread that fell in baking, so grilled cheese wasn't as good. Beer that, while good, can be substituted for gluten free (which one of my favorites is, and Jason can make gluten free). I also feel awful. Things that I have felt for a long time that, after being diagnosed, I realize is as a result of gluten. And making a weekend completely gluten filled amplifies it all. Horrible headaches, a constant stomach upset, being so exhausted that I have had to take a nap every day just to be able to "adult" later. This whole weekend I have just felt awful, but I have been really hopeful that the amplification of these symptoms means that once the gluten is out of my system completely, I might finally feel "normal" again. 
And then I decided to have one of my favorite beers one last time. Jason emailed the brewery this weekend, asking if they use clarity ferm, which is a product that reduces the gluten in beer so much that it is gluten free. Some breweries use it but don't advertise, because each batch made has to be sent off for testing to prove it has no gluten, but if it is used it is safe for me to drink. The brewery in question does not use it. So I had one more. And, unlike everything I had eaten, this taste I will miss. And it brought up all the anxieties I have been feeling about what this process will entail. Beer aside, Jason and I already eat a reduced gluten diet. My issues with soy mean we stay away from most processed foods. We cleaned out cupboards this weekend, and they are still almost full. A little pasta out, some flour, and some croutons. Not much. 
The freezer, however, was another story. I am the baking queen, and I bake in bulk. I find it easier to make a double batch of French bread, and freeze them into mini loafs so that one can be quickly pulled out for dinner. We make our own hamburger buns, and do so in bulk. I make cookie dough in double, sometimes triple batches, ball up the dough and freeze it, so I always have a dessert handy and quick. I enjoy baking. It's one of the few things I can do without exerting a lot of energy, and so on those really bad days, when the 3 (now 4!) autoimmune disorders decided to band together against me, trying to force me to stay in bed all day, I could still bake. Nothing else might get done, the dishes might stay in the sink, but I at least could feel I accomplished something.
And then I drank this beer. A beer that, knowing Jason and his palate, he will be able to replicate. But this beer was the first instance of, "I'm going to miss gluten". It opened the floodgates of how far reaching this ingredient is. Especially a baker like me. It is a HUGE part of who I am, and frankly, I really enjoy knowing something I've made was successful, and I really enjoy people telling me they enjoyed it. Gluten free baking is tricky. I have a lot of things I bake that are gluten free, but there are a lot more that are not. And that is daunting. I am having a moment of life already being hard enough without taking another part of my identity away. Enough of my identity has been - the girl who thought she would be a mom, the adventurous girl, the girl who never said no to hanging out with family and friends because she always felt good, the girl who could make plans in advance, secure in the knowledge that it would always be a good day. I am really hopeful that parts that have been lost will return with this drastic measure that MUST be taken. But tonight, I am wallowing a bit in the enormity of the struggle I may face regaining my identity of queen baker - even if it is queen gluten-free baker - and I am bitter that, yet again I am being forced to give up another part of myself, even if it is only temporary or slightly changed."

It has gotten better. I trial and erred my way into some great gluten free recipes (which I will share!). I found great resources and not so great ones (again, will share!). Jason was able to make a better version of the beer, "gluten reduced" (It is called this because it was made with gluten ingredients, so it can't be called gluten free. But the enzyme he uses takes it below 20 ppm which is what is considered GF). I still have my days of "being gluten free is NOT FAIR" (particularly when I am shopping and smell the Cinnabun, which I am convinced has special vents that are connected throughout the mall to taunt you), but I am feeling better. A cold, which usually had me in bed unable to move or accomplish anything for three weeks, now takes a couple days to run through my system. The last cold I had I was able to hike in 100 degree weather - I kept asking if this is how "normal people" felt with a cold - like they could still accomplish life and they weren't dying. It seems like an extreme statement to make, but when your body is constantly having an autoimmune response to one thing, and you add another "attacker", a cold really can make you that miserable.

I still have my bad days. I have four autoimmune disorders, all with a host of vitamin deficiencies and symptoms that are typical for each. My bad days however, are now typically that - days instead of weeks. I've been more healthy since April (when I was diagnosed), than I have been in the years past combined. It makes me hopeful for life again.