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Published: Sunday, September 22, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Going gluten-free ended two years of agony

I'm one of those individuals who doesn't eat gluten, but who doesn't have celiac disease.

You probably know someone like me. Maybe you've been a bit skeptical about her situation the last time you were at a potluck together, and her eating requirements seemed annoying.

In case it helps spread a little understanding around, I thought I'd be brave and share what happened to me, and why I eat G-free.

My story starts when I was pregnant with my daughter. Like many expectant moms, I had an upset stomach and a digestive system that forgot how to be normal. Unfortunately, those problems didn't go away after delivery. They got worse.

Some days, my stomach hurt so much that I couldn't button my jeans. Then I developed a weird rash. The worst part was when my hands got so swollen, I couldn't wear my wedding ring.

I lived like that for two years. It was long enough for me to understand how chronic pain can really change your personality and outlook on life.

I didn't share what was happening to me with many people because it felt too embarrassing. Who wants to talk about the bathroom? It was really hard to stay positive and not get depressed.

During this time, I saw a lot of excellent doctors who ran a lot of tests. I did not have celiac disease. My rash was not contagious. After that, there were no conclusive answers.

So I tried to help myself with diet. I learned to cook paleo, vegan, macrobiotic, high-fiber, low-fiber, whole foods, no food; you name it, I tried it. I also talked my husband into buying a Vitamix, and we started making green smoothies.

But no matter what eating style I was experimenting with, I always started each morning with a bowl of Grape Nuts. Cereal was my comfort food.

Finally, the dreaded acronym "IBS" was being mentioned. For my 33rd birthday I was headed to a well-respected GI doctor to discuss a colonoscopy.

I called a friend with Crohn's disease for advice, because I was absolutely freaking out.

"Have you tried eliminating gluten?" she asked me.

"No. Who am I, Gwyneth Paltrow?" I answered.

But I was so desperate I gave her suggestion a try.

Three days after going gluten-free I was feeling 80 percent better. A week later my rash disappeared, my rings fit and my jeans didn't hurt.

The further away from gluten I got, the more my health improved.

I cannot explain any of this.

But in the past two years of being gluten-free, the few times I've accidentally been "glutenized," all my symptoms have returned.

That's why I know that gluten intolerance is a real thing. It's annoying, and there aren't enough answers, but at least there is a simple solution.

It turns out, I don't miss Grape Nuts at all.

Jennifer Bardsley is an Edmonds mom of two and blogs at teachingmybabytoread.com.

Story tags » FoodDiseasesNutrition

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