A 20 year journey to gluten-free

The term “Gluten Free” might not be all that uncommon to you: after all, you see gluten free restaurant menus, gluten free grocery store sections and lots of gluten free snacks now.

But nearly 20 years ago when it was first suggested that I go gluten free, the term was nearly unheard of. At the time, I had been suffering for two years with undiagnosed symptoms that stemmed from a severe case of the Epstein Barr virus. I had just finished my junior year in college when I got sick and struggled to find a doctor who could pinpoint the root of what was causing my maladies. (You can read details of my health journey here).

Two years passed of simply ‘surviving’, but I managed to graduate Emory University and go on to pursue my MA at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. It was in NC that we discovered a doctor who not only treated others who were going through what I was experiencing at the time, but had dedicated his entire practice to helping those with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

He was the first person who didn’t try to shove pills down my throat and looked at me and my symptoms as one entity. He also took a much more holistic approach to my healing, including lifestyle change, supplements and eliminating the foods that may be contributing to my failing health.

One of those was gluten.

I actually proceeded to go on a diet free from gluten, dairy, caffeine, sugar, & red meat. Believe it or not, within 3 months I went from being the sickest of my life to competing in the Miss North Carolina USA pageant and being in some of the best shape of my life!

Of course, you know the cycle – when you’re sick, you do whatever you can to feel better; when you’re healthy, you let your guard down. Or at least that’s how it was with me. Once I started feeling better, I gradually started adding back into my diet the foods I’d missed: chocolate, cheese…french fries! They no longer made me sick, so I didn’t see them as such a detriment.

Fast forward to the past couple years when I wouldn’t say I was nearly as sick as the years above, but I knew something wasn’t right. I even went through a thyroid lymphoma scare last summer that truly rocked my world. After learning that what I had wasn’t truly lymphoma, (but was then labeled as Basedow’s disease), I realized once again that I had to make a serious change & find someone that would look at my overall health and how all my symptoms related to one another.

Through my role as the Savings Expert on 94FM the Fish, and co-host of the Discount Shopping Club LIVE!, I was introduced to Dr. Jana. I had heard great things about her from Calie as well, so I finally decided to go check her out.

I knew she did Nutritional Response/Muscle Testing and I was curious about how this non-evasive approach worked. While she confirmed I had issues with my thyroid, she also found how it related to issues with my adrenal gland, nervous & immune system, as well as some digestion issues and yes, a gluten-allergy.

So here I am again, nearly 20 years later since my first gluten-free experience, but this time with even more gluten-free awareness in our culture.

While that may make it seem like this go-around would be easier, you have to remember that the first time I was a single female pursuing my Master’s Degree with no-one else to cook for or worry about. Now, I have a family of four to feed and a much more active schedule and lifestyle.

Since learning about my gluten allergy, I’ve had the hardest time with one thing: preparation. Because I’m on the go so much, I find myself away from home for long stretches of time…yet I don’t often prepare for that ahead of time. So this week in addition to just watching what I eat, I’m going to be much more cognizant of anticipating when I’m going to be eating and where  I’ll be at that time.

So I’m curious, how do those of you with food allergies, especially gluten-free, prepare for your days when it comes to eating? I’d love to hear your tips and encouragement!

Who has tips for Sami?  I know many of you can relate to her journey and the challenges of a lifestyle adjustment like this.  Please share your suggestions and words of encouragement in the comments.

About Sami:

Sami Cone is a blogger, radio host & tv correspondent mentoring others to live their dream life on less and pursue their passions. As a frugal expert, she is equally comfortable sharing advice on screen as she is offering practical money-saving tips and how-to advice on her blog, SamiCone.com.

A published author and seminar speaker, she draws on her experiences as a writer, editor, university professor, performer, professional athlete, and pageant winner to help women realize their full potential in life.

Sami is known as the “Frugal Mom” on Nashville’s top-rated talk show, “Talk of the Town” and educates over a million listeners every morning on radio’s nationally syndicated “Family Friendly Morning Show” as their “Savings Expert”. She also co-hosts Nashville’s “Discount Shopping Club LIVE!” and is proud to call Nashville home with her husband of nine years, Rick, and their two children (a daughter & son) who are 19 months apart. They love traveling and are happy to sacrifice the “stuff” of life so that they can fuel their mission of being a family on the go together!

You can keep up with Sami and her fabulously frugal family adventures on her blogTwitter & Facebook.

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  1. I have been gluten free since January and I find my toughest meal to be breakfast. I miss muffins! I have started making omelettes on the weekend to last me the week. Starting the day with protein is so important. Since I still miss my muffins, I have started making some using almond flour. It is no where near the same but it fills the void. I have also been making granolas that I can take with me on the go.
    I’m looking forward to seeing what others suggest!

  2. At the deli counter at the supermarket, have your deli meat sliced a little thicker than “shaved”, so that it will roll. If you tolerate dairy, you can add a slice of your favorite cheese and a dab of your favorite mustard inside, even a lettuce leaf or some shredded lettuce tucked inside. You can also use a big piece of lettuce on the outside and roll meat and condiments inside.

    You may be too grown up to need the fancy toothpicks. *wink*


  3. When my toddler and I went gluten free, I sat down to study hard and made a list of three or four days worth of meals and snacks that I knew that I could go to, and for several weeks, I did little except rotate those meals and snacks.

    “Whole foods” cookbooks and “farmer’s market” cookbooks often have a huge percentage of naturally GF recipes – they are a really good start for someone looking to avoid making substitutions as they begin.

    There are some great cookbooks out there, now. Go to the library and borrow some! ;)

    A hamburger pattie (call it a “hamburger steak”) with a baked potato or Bushes baked beans and salad on the side.

    A pot roast and veggies in the crock pot – after studying quite a few cookbooks, I tried one made with coffee – yum!

    Apricot jelly or jam + your favorite honey mustard make a tasty bbq sauce for baked chicken breasts that my kids like, too.

    Breakfast for breakfast or supper works. Hash browns, eggs, bacon or sausage, a GF pancake or waffle (Trader Joe’s in Green Hills has a decent frozen pancake and frozen waffle)

    Hummus and tortilla chips are a quick snack.
    Penny´s last blog post ..Mari Nosal: Ten Commandments for Interacting With Kids On The Autism Spectrum

  4. Penny (me again) says:

    If you tolerate dairy, freeze a yogurt drink overnight to take along with you the next day. A good insulated lunch bag is a must. We like Pack its, the bags lined w freezers packs.

    Leftovers salmon patties are good cold for lunch or breakfast.

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