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A Gluten-Free Anniversary




Years ago I was desperate for answers. My body-mind-spirit was skidding down hill fast. The symptoms, Sugar Pie, you don't want to know about. Suffice it to say that Pepto Bismol was my true companion.

What I knew?


That a diagnosis of IBS with lactose intolerance was getting me nowhere. I wasn't feeling better eating more wheat germ and whole grains for fiber, like the doc instructed. In fact, I was feeling worse. Lactose enzymes did absolutely nothing. And the bread and pasta I was told to consume seemed to trigger more pain.


My intuition told me gluten might be a culprit after my first cousin was diagnosed with celiac disease. When I searched my symptoms on the Internet I discovered I was not alone. Gluten is an issue for roughly three million Americans. And having a family member diagnosed with celiac disease upped my odds considerably.

I called my nurse practitioner and asked if gluten might be the illusive enemy we were searching for. Maybe was her one word answer. I thought I heard her yawning. I asked if we could try a gluten-free trial to see if my symptoms abated. Sure, she said. See you in two weeks.

I knew within 48 hours I was on to something.

By the third day sans gluten I was symptom free and already envisioning a life without bloating and pain. The difference in my body was dramatic and immediate- and I wanted more of it. I consider myself lucky that I have obvious and attention-getting symptoms (to even the tiniest amount of gluten protein). The symptoms made my decision to go gluten-free an easy one. (Read about the ease and importance of testing here at Celiac Central.)

There were inadvertent bumps along the way to living totally gluten-free. I neglected to check on an herbal tea once and was "glutened" by  roasted barley. Lip balm did not register on my gluten radar at first; it was four weeks before I checked my lip balm label (lurking in the fine print: wheat germ oil and wheat bran).

Not thinking, I still used my old cutting board (saturated with wheat flour proteins) until it dawned on me how sticky a protein gluten actually was. I was contaminated at a well-meaning friend's house because she cooked and stirred the inherently gluten-free soup with her ancient wooden spoon.

There's a definite learning curve when it comes to living gluten free.

The good news is: it gets easier. 

Much easier. And as energy levels return, and life expands beyond planning rest room strategies and swigging Pepto Bismol for breakfast, you begin to comprehend just how awful you felt for so long. And how many odd and mysterious symptoms you took for granted as "normal". And how many insidious ways gluten affects and triggers the body's autoimmune system (digestive, cognitive, visual, neural, hormonal).

Gluten- the elastic protein in wheat, rye, spelt and barley- can cause impaired agility, balance and gait, lessen vitamin, mineral and protein absorption, diminish lactose, fructose and fat digestion, and whittle away bone integrity. Not to mention, energy and stamina. It can even trigger depression, migraines, skin rashes, brain lesions and seizures in certain individuals.

Scary stuff.

Going gluten-free requires a time for realignment and adjustment- living gluten-free is traveling in unknown territory without much of a road map and very little support; though that particular aspect is rapidly changing thanks to the Internet, the fabulous work of the NFCA, and the recent flourishing of dedicated research centers devoted to understanding and curing celiac disease.

As awareness grows, gluten-free products are becoming more widely available (my favorite baking and pancake mix is Pamela's) and better tasting.

GF life is good and getting better. And living gluten-free has been a slow but steady climb toward healing and regaining strength, clarity, and stamina. I've come a long way. And I've developed quite a passion for gluten-free cooking.

So today, in honor of my Gluten-Free Anniversary, I just may have a cupcake for breakfast.

Care to join me?

Karina xo


TRENDING

Sunbutter Cookies

Here's an easy gluten-free cookie recipe made with sunflower butter- a post-modern peanut-free take on those retro peanut butter cookies your Aunt Lizzie used to make. You know, with those jars of Skippy peanut butter (or was it Jif?). Instead of using traditional peanut butter in this recipe, I used sunflower butter, which has a golden nutty flavor not unlike peanut butter, but slightly different. Kinda like peanut butter's wacky, geeky brother. You know, slightly nutty. Fun. Like a bright new bike. And they taste so good you just might want some more. Now, please. I adapted this recipe from a peanut butter cookie recipe (submitted by Erin Smith) to Beyond Rice Cakes , an easy, fun cookbook (especially for teens and students) by Vanessa Maltin, director of outreach and programming at the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness .

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Scones

Sconelicious. You heard me right. Because I know what you're craving.  I'm craving it, too. Something indulgent.  But not overly indulgent.  Sweet.  But not too sweet.  Something warm and tender, and laced with the autumnal spices you've been shaking and dashing and pinching with abandon.  Something using up that leftover half cup of pumpkin sitting in the fridge. Are you with me?  Are ya feelin' me?  Then let's get sconed. Karina xox

My Favorite Gluten-Free Pumpkin Recipes for Fall

My Best Gluten-Free Pumpkin Recipes For Fall... The bittersweet, textured beauty of Autumn has always gripped my heartstrings, pulling me in deeper, connecting with some invisible part of me, so much more so than Spring. Much more so than summer's flirtatious pleasures. And Winter, well. She is a dark and icy mistress. That relationship has always been complicated. So unlike my truly, madly deeply love of Fall. Bake on, my friends. Tis the season for pumpkin. xox Karina

Gluten-Free Coconut Flour Apple Cake

As soon as I buy apples and start daydreaming about my favorite fall confections- imagining clear, cool evenings on Cape Cod and Miles Davis' haunting rendition of Autumn Leaves . September turns golden and sultry with a hint of rain, reeling me back into the closet to peel off my boyfriend jeans and fresh new flannel shirt. Faster than Gordon Ramsay can mock sashimi, Yours Truly is grabbing faded summer shorts and my favorite Patriots t-shirt to bake barefoot. See what I do for you? So go ahead, babycakes. Enjoy this new apple cake recipe. Share a slice or two amongst yourselves. Don't worry about me here in my hot little Hollywood apartment. Really. Go. Have some cake. You'll love it. Apple kisses, Karina xox

Pumpkin Polenta Recipe with Tomatillo-Avocado Salsa

Vegetarian pumpkin polenta with salsa fresca. The first gifts of Fall have arrived. Time to dig out the Crock Pot and your favorite flannel shirt. If you can find it, that is. It's got to be around here somewhere, right? You used it wore it to death last year. Or was that the year before? The harvest moon is playing tricks with your memory again. The crows outside in the oak trees caw like the crows in tomorrow's dream. Days turn into weeks and lunch turns into next month's breakfast. Hours spill through worm holes of time like so many episodes of Lost . And the Buddha imagines the universe. And gets it close to right . We're talking atoms, people. Particles of teeny tiny specks of even tinier teenier fragments of a single point of something so small the naked eye perceives it as invisible. Yet the Buddha perceived this. In 528 BC. I ponder this as I walk in a stream of brittle bronze oak leaves. The succession of days that adds up to a life is only a

Best Gluten-Free Pumpkin Muffins

We found canned organic pumpkin on the store shelves this week. So be prepared for pumpkin recipes. I, for one, Darling, can't get enough. Pumpkin is my favorite fall ingredient. Maybe because it cozies up to gluten-free flours so well. It adds moisture and depth to g-free baked goods. It flirts with cinnamon and ginger like the sexiest, inscrutable movie star. You know what I'm talking about. It's not overt. Or blatant. It's not over the top. It is subtle. Secure. Pumpkin doesn't demand to be admired. Because it doesn't have to prove itself. It's not a bully flavor that crushes gentler flavors in its wake. It doesn't bark and claw to be Top Dog 24/7. It doesn't have a deep seated need to own the room, to dominate, to control the ingredients it shares a bowl with. Pumpkin goes with the flow. It likes vanilla. And it likes chocolate. You could say, it's bi-flavorful. Which happens to be a quality I admire. Even embody and

Gluten-Free Baking Tips + Substitutions

Need wheat-free gluten-free baking tips? Help is Here. Here's what works- and what doesn't- in quirky Gluten-Free Baking and Substitution Land. From Karina, Gluten-Free Goddess®. Baking Substitutions for Wheat-Free, Gluten-Free and More Notes on GF Flours: Gluten-free non-wheat flours generally fall into three basic weights- light starch, all-purpose medium, or heavier whole grain. A blend of medium and heavy flours with some starch mixed in to lighten, tenderize, and help bind the batter or dough works best, and tastes best (too much starch can result in a gummy texture). Light, starchy GF flours include sweet rice flour, white rice flour, and the ubiquitous gluten-free starches- tapioca starch, cornstarch, potato starch (NOT potato flour, which is whole different animal) and arrowroot starch. Medium flours are akin to 'all purpose flour'- these include sorghum flour, certified gluten-free oat flour, and superfine brown rice flour. If you cannot find sorg