I grew up in a small town in northern Ontario. I had a wonderful childhood with a loving family. My older brother was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of two. My parents were very conscious of what we were eating as a family in order to keep my brother’s blood sugars stable. We rarely had treats, and when we did, they were low sugar or sugar free. We also ate homemade meals the majority of the time. This focus on diet, I was accustomed to growing up, is what sparked my passion for healthy eating.
Although my family ate what was considered a heathy and balanced diet, I still had health issues. Rashes, eczema, headaches, belly aches, and very painful bms had become a part of my normal. It was never even a question that my health issues were from something I was eating.
By the time I went to university, I had also developed a consistent urge to clear my throat. I always felt like I had mucous in my lungs that needed to come out, but no matter what I did, nothing ever came out. I saw an eyes, ears and throat doctor, who determined it would be best to remove my tonsels as they were enlarged and swollen. I was hopeful this would help my urge to clear my throat, but discouragingly, it did not.
I started a work term placement at the university, where I met Sylvie. We clicked instantly since we both had a passion for healthy eating. We would discuss our health issues with one another daily. Our friendship was a type of support I had never felt before. She got me, she understood!
I moved on to another work placement, away from the university and away from Sylvie. I was working downtown with other students, which made it all too easy to eat out at restaurants more frequently. I also started grabbing a coffee and muffin in the mornings out of convenience.
My belly aches and painful bms had gotten even worse by this time. I went to see a GI specialist who told me I needed more fiber, and suggested I ate more bran. At the time, whole wheat was all the rage. You know when pizza places started offering whole wheat crusts and whole wheat pasta had hit the stores? I started replacing foods with the whole wheat versions and adding in bran muffins as my breakfast muffin. My health took a turn for the worse. I would wake in the middle of the night bent over with excruciating belly aches. Indigestion and bloating were occurring even more frequently and fainting spells would catch me off guard.
I returned back to the university for the rest of my work terms. This meant working alongside Sylvie again!
Sylvie had started seeing a naturopath who suggested she had a wheat allergy. Knowing my health issues, Sylvie encouraged me to try going gluten free. I committed to a week of eating completely gluten free. By the end of the week, it was like a light beam shone down from the sky, because HALLELUJAH, I felt normal for the first time! The painful bms, the bloating, the indigestion were gone. I was shocked and amazed that my health drastically improved simply by removing gluten from my diet! It just blew my mind!
Sylvie and I began experimenting with gluten free baking and we’d often bring treats to work for each other. Looking back now, we laugh at some of the things we made AND ate! Back then gluten free was not what it is today. Most people had never even heard of gluten. Tasty recipes were not easily found so we made sure to stay positive with what we made!
My new gluten free life was suiting my digestion quite well. I was on the road to recovery, or what I thought was recovery. But damage had already been done. Shortly after discovering my gluten sensitivity, I was diagnosed with Lichen Sclerosis.
Continued in part 2.