Honesty time! I had the bones of an article planned out, bare bones admittedly, but something to work with. I seem to have let it slip out through my mental fingers and now I’m just going to trundle through in my haphazard way, par the course really. As always I should open with the classic: I’m not a doctor, nor an expert, certainly not the sole voice on coeliacs. I’m just giving you my take based on my own struggles and successes. What you’ll get here is just a smattering of anecdotal advice and what little wisdom I’ve scrounged up over the years, hopefully distilled into something you may be able to work into something useful. Now onto the why before the what.
What is gluten? Baby don’t hurt me. Okay, I’ll say this: I’m not slagging off anyone, nor am I attacking guides for new coeliacs, they’re more than needed and certainly useful. It’s just how many times do we need to cover the basics? I mean I see a new “What is Gluten?” article every other day, but I rarely if ever see an article helping those who have been following a gluten free diet for a while and are now figuring out that that isn’t the end, just the beginning of the journey and let me tell you the road we’re all travelling gets damn perilous at times and a map to guide us wouldn’t go amiss. So, I thought, why not shut up and write an article rather than complaining? So here we are. One person. One article. Perhaps it’ll serve, if nothing else, as a drive towards more information, perhaps a little flame of hope in seeing a familiar situation to your own will be kindled, who knows, but staying quiet isn’t the answer. I’m not one to preach or to speak up, but maybe I should. If I’m careful and watch my words it can’t hurt at least, I hope.
This will be structured slightly differently from usual. I’ll try to present a time line from one point in my early journey, hit the middle in the closest way I can, my memory is fuzzy as all out, remember I was months with food withdrawals after going gluten free, that messes you up, and hint at what I hope the future might be prepared for with. I’ll start with what I call The End of Euphoria. You may remember the feeling of extreme well being that goes with cutting out gluten, it’s the same with all those one month fad diets, where you cut out all the bad stuff and feel better, which in their case you feel awful after you start up again after getting over the joy of starting up again that is. That’s another think-piece for another day, if ever. You’ll probably feel it differently depending on how ill gluten was making you, for me that was pretty huge, though as I’ve said: withdrawals, but what will then happen is a crash back to normality. I was once told that you’ll have god-awful days and to be prepared, best advice ever. Yeah, you’ll have bad days, dark days too, but if you stay on the path you’ll never be as bad as you were or could have been, depending on what effect gluten was having on you. So don’t stress about feeling bad on occasion, that’s part of life and if you’re doing all you can to stay gluten free then you’re probably doing just fine.
So what happens next? that depends, for many that’s it, they carry on and do nothing else, but what I continue to see is a lot of sick coeliacs. Nutritional deficiencies being the main problem. Again, not doctor, but I never needed supplements and my blood tests and cholesterol have been perfect since I started and continue to be. So, what’s the deal? Really, it’s an educated guess, but it’s one I’ve seen made by a few people. The gluten free food you’re eating is not meeting anywhere near your body’s nutritional needs. So, supplements? Nope. Go to the supermarket and head to the fresh produce aisle. Get real familiar to that place, it’s got all you’ll need, well almost. The old chestnut of eating your fruit and vegetables is grounded in truth, but because people feel that’s too simple they ignore it and assume all these expensive fads are far more accurate. Yeah, what does anyone know? Why, every generation before us subsisted on their expensive smoothies and vitamin pills too. Oh, wait, nope, they grew their own vegetables and ate barely processed foods. I grew up with that, I just fell in with the processed food crowd like nearly everyone else. It’ll take a while to rewire your thinking, but you’ll either do it or regret it. Change happens gradually. An expensive fruit powder will have no more effect than eating an apple a day, you’ll just get fooled into buying that idea. I’m not saying don’t buy them, I’m just saying I’ve eaten at least two pieces of fruit a day and I’m not lacking in anything with no need to resort to expensive powders. Look, however you get he good food into you doesn’t matter, it’s doing it regularly that important. I remember as a teenager deciding I was going to be healthy, so I ate all the same foods and just drank a huge lumpy smoothie for a week or so, then gave up. You can see why that’s useless. I’ll try to explain how you can approach the problem of changing your diet.
So what do we do? Well, you start by thinking of going gluten free as a foundation to be built upon. You have all these bricks, but which are the ones to use? Do you listen to food companies trying to sell you on the latest super-food? To fellow bloggers? To doctors? To yourself? Yes. Listen to them all, but also research and decide for yourself. You need to learn what food is, you need to research each and every ingredient. Like when you first when gluten free, checking all the ingredients listed then Googling them to see what they are, checking how they’ll affect you. You’re building your body for your future, you wouldn’t let one person tell you how to live, would you? No, you’ll listen to your body, to other’s words, their advice, their troubles and you’ll place each brick one at a time, because they’re not to be knocked down and started up again and again. This is going to be hard, there’ll be resistance from all sides, detractors from within and without, but it has to be done. I see so many people falling to food fads with the supreme galling stupidity to think they know it all. You’ll know nothing, I know nothing, but we’re here to learn, to share, to think for ourselves. You don’t like it? Tough. This is the road to a better you. I’m a little further on than some, but as the poet said, I’ve got miles to go before I rest.
Now stop if you think I’m taking perfect abs, white smiles and whatever else the idea of health conjures up. I’m going to get dark here, really dark, so skim over the bolded part if you’d rather. Like me, you’re going from vomiting up your guts at four in the morning, every morning, for two years, crawling away and praying that you’ll be able to move in half an hour and then hope that you’ll be able to crawl to a bed and be plagued with night terrors only to wake up unable to move with exhaustion to a person who can fucking (I’m sorry, gentle reader, but it’s needed) function and actually live their life. You’ll probably say: “But that’s not how it is for me, I’m gluten free now.” I’d have said he same if I hadn’t gone through that, but know that health can be ephemeral (That’s a beautiful word, isn’t it?) and just because coeliac disease can’t get you one way doesn’t mean it can’t get you any other number of ways, even if it’s just making you let your guard down and having other problems build up. All this is preventative, you’ll never know how much of it was needed, but you’d be better to do it now than waiting until it’s too late. I’d give anything to stop myself from falling into the mess I was, I can’t, I’ve paid the price, but I’ll do all I can now to keep myself as good as I can be now, that’s all this is: Being the best that you can, no matter how minor that may seem, it’s actually really major.
So, we’re at the stage where we know what foods we can eat, what foods we need to eat, how much to eat, really all the things that are needed for a healthy you are going to be various and entirely different from me, but you’ll have to figure them out for yourself. Get help where you can, don’t get me wrong, it’s just that it’s important to remember that we’re all different, we have different needs, struggles and achievements. You need to hold yourself accountable, sure, but you need to remember to look back and see what you were and how far you’ve come. This is all about health and that’s different from only gluten free, right? That’s what I was saying earlier about it just being the start, going gluten free that is, I’ve already said my part about knowing nothing so I won’t reiterate it. So here we keep it going, add in the bricks where needed, replacing and even re-structuring where needed. This part carries on to the future, it does get easier, more than you’ll realise as you’ll always be working on it. So as for the future? Well, more of the same, though I’ll try to provide some practical tips rather than vague ideas and concepts. You can’t eat an idea.
Now if you’ve never left the gone gluten free, but nothing else stage then you are in the same situation no matter how many years have passed. This advice, taken from my own experiences, will be the of the same value to you as it will to a total newbie. I’ll keep this simple: Learn to cook and bake. Not just blends and mixes, I mean the bare-bones basics, you need to be able to adapt to any situation that crops up. If that pre-made bread or that pre-blended flour disappears, then what? You need to know this, no ifs and but, it’s vital, in varying degrees for everyone I admit, but necessary, you wouldn’t have kept reading this far if you doubted that. I’m not taking perfection. Just passable is more than fine. This also goes hand in hand with learning the value of food, you don’t need to bean expert, just find a variety of foods with different nutritional values and learn to use them. Learn to listen to your body, not just like when you’ve been glutened, more like when you’ve eaten too much, when there’s something lacking or something in over-abundance. It takes time and each new food you try will require it to start all over again each time, but it can be the greatest skill you can acquire. Honestly, all of this sounds like common sense to me now, but a few years ago it’s be oblique ranting. Maybe it’s not going to help anyone, but if there’s a chance it would I had to take it. Maybe that’s the last thing I can tell you, that some day you may find yourself in a good enough place to help others. As much as a pipe dream as I’d have though that before now, here I am, trying if nothing else. Now, I’m going to call it quits, re-read over this and hope it’s worth publishing. Recipes still incoming as always. Until later.