Scallops from Savor.
Three weeks ago I was diagnosed with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder in which gluten (a protein found in wheat, barley and rye) inflames and damages the small intestine. Aside from immediate discomfort and trouble absorbing nutrients, consuming gluten over time can lead to a host of other serious issues, such as diabetes or MS, anemia, neurological conditions, infertility or miscarriage, and much more.
My personal questions began at the beginning of 2014, when I developed a skin rash on my abdomen that itched like crazy. It would come and go, get worse and better, appear in different places, like my elbows, back of my knees, scalp…and I could never place the cause. A dermatologist diagnosed me with eczema, and wrote me a script for a steroid cream, promising that eczema would be recurring and I would need the topical medicine often. Unsatisfied, I started researching and came across information that food allergies/intestinal inflammation can show up in the form of skin issues.
Quail from The Rustic.
In April, Johnny and I traveled to Argentina and Uruguay, where we ate wonderful meals, but I returned itching more than ever for weeks after. I also quickly gained 5-7 pounds that despite my usual intense exercise routine and overall healthy eating, I couldn’t seem to entirely shake. Prior to the trip some of my favorite jeans didn’t zip, but now some newer pairs were snugger than ever. I was convinced something I was eating was making me sick. Considering our Argentine diet primarily consisted of red meat, red wine, bread and dairy, I had a hunch that one of these items was the culprit.
During this time, my paternal grandmother was diagnosed with celiac disease and was told that it’s extremely hereditary. I wasn’t willing to simply try cutting out foods I love – I wanted answers and solutions. After more online research, I found a nutritionist in Dallas and went through the process of lab tests. So now I know. I have celiac disease, but thankfully the other possibilities, red wine, red meat and dairy, were safe (small sigh of relief at this point).
Gluten-free muffins from HG Sply Co.
I learned that my misdiagnosed eczema was in fact dermatitis herpetiformis (no, it’s not linked to herpes), an extremely itchy skin rash that is generally associated with celiac disease. I had constantly been bloated and uncomfortable, though thankfully didn’t have bigger, more graphic issues I’ve read others suffer from. (See Nancy Nichols latest article in D Magazine.)
My treatment? Gluten-free eating. From now on. No, there is no exception and I don’t yet know what cheating would look like for me. For now, I want a solid 30+ days totally free of gluten. I have already seen immediate results. I dropped those last few pounds (4-5) in a matter of days. My rash and itching is gone. A favorite pair of J.Crew skinnies that I haven’t been able to zip in over a year, and recently couldn’t even get over my thighs, fit again.
I cried when I was first diagnosed. Ok, I cried a few times. After all, I’m a foodie. I LOVE dining out. This was detrimental. But the instant results have been impressive. My stomach is flat, not some inexplicable pooch at the top of my pants that never seem to fit my profile as a half-marathoner, yogi, tennis player and overall health enthusiast (except when dining out).
Breakfast plate from HG Sply Co.
So these past few weeks haven’t looked all that different at home, though in a very kind gesture Johnny went out and filled our pantry with gluten-free friendly items, but dining out seemed foreign at first. I can’t eat French fries if they’ve shared a fryer that crisped up flour-battered and fried items. Salad dressings, sauces, marinades and even broths often contain gluten. I’ve suddenly become the challenge at the table who asks a million questions, rather than my former go-to for the server: what are your favorite items? Instantly one of my favorite interests became overwhelming, disappointing even.
But after a small pity party for a few days, those instant results I mentioned reared its head and my outlook changed. I truly do feel better, and I’m anxious to see how much better it gets from here. I’ve also visited some great places in Dallas and had awesome meals, as usual, as witnessed by the photos throughout this post.
I’ll continue to post recipes and concoctions from my kitchen. Look for more dining recommendations in Dallas and from my travels. Know I’m still visiting some of the top-notch spots and searching for the best eats near and far. In those aspects, little has changed.
So, this is it. Me, now gluten-free.