My first indication of a food allergy was around the age of sixteen. One morning after inhaling my usual corn flakes my stomach gurgled and I had to make a run for the toilet. The next day the same thing happened. Stomach ache and diarrhea after my bowl of cornflakes. Soon even eating my usual amount of cheese over my instant noodles didn’t agree with my body. I didn’t have any idea what was wrong or why my body was reacting this way. This was also around the time extreme and very painful stomach cramps and bloating appeared in my life. It was only every now and again but I can vividly remember a third of them.
Eventually I got the memo and started minimizing diary in my diet. Nothing extreme really. I didn’t have the knowledge or the interested to be honest to make big changes. It didn’t seem serious. So I can digest milk? What’s the big deal? I didn’t even know about the term lactose intolerant till I was nineteen years old. I’m not even kidding. Food allergies was an alien subject to me. It was around the time that I came to the Netherlands as an Au pair when I made the big switch. It was my first week here and my host mother asked me what type of milk I like. Out of a whim I said soya milk because my body doesn’t respond well to normal milk. I hated everything about the plant based milk. It took me two years to like it, but that’s not the point.
Once I started cutting out diary, the results were pleasing. Less bloating, less toilet stops but my stomach pain didn’t stop. It was something that I just accepted. I didn’t know why I was in so much pain which was happening more by the way but in my head there was nothing I could do about it. Eventually the frequency of the very bad stomach cramps got worse and the toilet stops raved up again which was strange as I really was careful with my dairy. It was around this point where I was learning more about healthier food choices and started to take note of things. Basically I was taking an extra two seconds to think what I was stuffing in my body before inhaling the food. It was a great turning point in my life. I was introduced to smoothies and vegetables started occurring in daily meals.
So as I mentioned before I started to get off track…my stomach pain wasn’t behind me and I had no idea what could be causing it. I started to hate eating. I didn’t know what I could eat without some pain and discomfort afterwards. No matter how hard I tried somewhere something in my food would make me sick.
One day my host mother and I sat down at the dining table and we discussed my health. She mentioned that she and her husband (they are doctors) thought I might be gluten intolerant that caused my sensitivity to dairy. It was the first time in my life I heard the word gluten. I had absolutely no idea what it was or what it would mean for my future. At first I thought: “that shouldn’t be so bad?” . I can cut out bread and pasta. You can’t hear my laughter but I want you to know that this makes me chuckle every time. Gluten is in everything honey. As a self test I ate gluten free food and the result was amazing. I was in no shape or form 100% gluten free but the little changes made a big difference. It was very clear that my body didn’t like the protein called gluten. I however didn’t want to change my entire lifestyle without knowing for certain.
To test if you’re sensitive to gluten you need to have gluten in your body. It makes sense right? I ate gluten foods for two weeks and it came very clear to me that gluten was the devil and it hurts me like hell. I was anything but surprised when my test results came through. I will never forget the day I opened that email. 28 January 2016. It was the day after I landed in South Africa after my au pair came to an end. Attached to an email from my host father was my test results. ‘It was just like we thought. You need to cut gluten out of your diet completely.’ By the 1st of February I was officially 100% gluten free or well trying my utmost best. It took me a few fails before I got the hang of it. There was a few slip ups with family cooked meals and my lack of knowledge of certain unexpected gluten products. Did you know even a chocolate can contain gluten? I sure as hell didn’t. After three months I knew my way around labels and had my set gluten free meals. I adapted. I’ve only willingly ate gluten twice after the 1st of February and both times I’ve regretted hours later.
The longer I went without gluten the more sensitive I became to the protein. Today products that may contain gluten is a big no and god forbid if we mix up the pasta spoon while we’re cooking. Or using the same toaster. It took me a few months before I wanted to know more. Am I gluten intolerant? Do I have celiac? Am I going to be gluten free for the rest of my life or can I eventually eat some of my husband’s pizza?
On the 1st of September 2017 I took my results to my new doctor here in the Netherlands, he could tell me nearly instantly that I have celiac. It wasn’t a big deal at first. I mean I’m already gluten free. I know by now what products are trustworthy and what slip ups to look out for. It wasn’t something new, but as the news settled so did the emotions set in. It was just like oh holy shit this is going to be my life forever. I always need to check and ask about gluten. I can never try the native food when we travel. It took me few moments to adjust completely. Now I can learn more about celiac and in essence get to know my body even more.
If you want to learn more about celiac then please feel free to follow this link: https://celiac.org/celiac-disease/understanding-celiac-disease-2/what-is-celiac-disease/
Links to connective blog posts:
How to go gluten free: https://butterflyfingers.com/2017/08/09/going-gluten-free/
What I used to eat at my unhealthiest time: https://butterflyfingers.com/2017/09/04/an-unhealthy-history-what-i-used-to-eat-in-a-day/