5 Ways Going Gluten Free Changed My Life for the Better

I won't deny that, sometimes, eating gluten free or having celiac disease sucks. You have to read every label, turn down every cupcake at work and often pay a lot more for your favorite treats

However, if four years of celiac disease have taught me anything, it's that going gluten free came with its share of benefits as well. 

Not sure you believe me? Here are five ways going gluten free changed my life for the better

5 Ways Going Gluten Free Changed My Life for the Better

1. I'm no longer in a lot of pain every hour of every day. 

As I shared last week, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia at age 11. For those who don't know, fibromyalgia has two major symptoms: extreme fatigue and widespread, constant pain. I grew up believing that always feeling pain was "normal." My mom, who also has fibromyalgia, felt the same

And then celiac disease entered the picture at age 17. I ate gluten free as a result of my new diagnosis...but, slowly, I noticed that my old diagnosis was improving as well. I wasn't in as much pain as before. I didn't have as many debilitating migraines that required several physical therapy appointments to fix. I could exercise without feeling like I'd been run over by a truck for several days afterward

5 Ways Going Gluten Free Changed My Life for the Better

My mom tested negative for celiac but went gluten free with me anyway - and she now feels better than she has in decades. If I'm honest, that is one of the biggest blessings from going gluten free: the ability to do what doctors haven't been able to for years and help my mom live the less-painful life she deserves. 

2. I've learned how to cook...a pretty impressive amount of dishes! 

Pre-celiac, I barely touched the oven or stove on a regular basis. I could whip up baked potatoes, boxed mac and cheese and frozen chicken nuggets...and that's about it. When I was diagnosed with celiac disease, though, food was suddenly the key to my health. And I wanted to know as much about both as I could. 

So, we bought and checked out countless "gluten free for dummies" books and got to work. By my sophomore year, my college cafeteria could no longer make me celiac-safe meals...and I was on my own. Cue the steep learning curve of everything from chicken pot pie to pesto zoodles to my favorite allergy free pizza

5 Ways Going Gluten Free Changed My Life for the Better

Today, I can proudly call myself a foodie and an amateur chef without feeling the need to laugh. I cook at least once a day and will be cooking even more often when I'm living alone for grad school. And you know what? While that prospect would've terrified pre-celiac Casey, this Casey is always excited to get her hands movin' in the kitchen! 

3. I eat a healthier diet overall. 

Now, I'm not saying that I was eating an "unhealthy" diet before celiac. I was just the average "meat and potatoes" American teenager, never reading labels, enjoying plenty of processed foods and eating maybe a fourth of the vegetables I do now. 

I'm also not saying that I eat the perfectly "healthy" diet now. Shortly after my diagnosis, I became so obsessed about healing my body that I only ate "healing" foods - like fruits, veggies, whole grains. That wasn't healthy mentally or physically, and I would never adopt that mindset again. Nowadays, I eat more processed foods...but I also smash the daily guidelines for fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

5 Ways Going Gluten Free Changed My Life for the Better

My diet is healthier now because I am more aware of what I'm eating. I read labels. I try to choose products with the simplest and most whole food ingredients. I care about where my food comes from, and I load up my plate with more plant-based protein than meat. But I still know how to enjoy a delicious gluten free cupcake when the time calls! 

4. I've met countless wonderful people from all over the world through my celiac diagnosis. 

I'd I hadn't been diagnosed with celiac disease, I am 90% sure I never would have created this blog. I've always enjoyed writing and connecting with people, but celiac gave me a reason to publish my thoughts online: meet and inspire others with celiac in college. 

Since I clicked the first "publish" four years ago, I've received comments from people in Canada, Germany and countries I've never heard of. I've answered emails from mothers desperate for advice on their newly-diagnosed children. I've been inspired by - and hopefully have inspired in return - other bloggers who face similar medical challenges. 

5 Ways Going Gluten Free Changed My Life for the Better

For the last couple of weeks, the blog has been my life as I've updated the design, added some more personal posts and worked on growing my social media channels. I won't deny that it's been draining. However, one Facebook message asking to quote my blog in a research paper, one comment praising my transparency, or one viral post raising celiac awareness makes all of the work worth it. 

5. I'm in control of my own health and well-being. 

When you have a chronic illness, you may get used to not having control over your own body. With fibromyalgia, I sometimes never know what triggered a flare and just have to ride it out. Ironically enough, though, following a restricted diet has actually given me some of my control back. 

I can't "cure" my celiac disease but I can minimize its symptoms through a gluten free diet. I can choose to stick to the low fodmap diet that makes my body feel it's best...or decide to splurge on chips with salsa and guacamole and accept the bloated food belly that comes with it

When I hear about newly diagnosed celiacs or suspected gluten intolerant struggling with their limited diets, I want to tell them this: "Focus less on what you can't eat and more on what you can. Focus on your ability to directly impact how great you feel based on the foods you choose to eat. Focus on the choices that are still yours to make."

5 Ways Going Gluten Free Changed My Life for the Better


Going and staying gluten free isn't easy. It can be awkward to continually reject offers of pizza at college socials or to inform suitors about your special diet before every first date. Eating a gluten-free diet isn't for anyone, either. Unless you have celiac disease or gluten intolerance, eating gluten-free could even cause more problems than benefits. However, in my particular situation and in my mom's, a gluten-free diet is a must. And, most of the time, I wouldn't change a thing about my medical history or diet. 
Because, for better and for worse, going gluten free has transformed my life. And, this Celiac Disease Awareness Month, I'm focusing on the better

How has celiac disease or a gluten free changed your life for the better? Comment below and/or tweet your story using the hashtag: #gfchangedme

Comments

  1. What a great story about how you've taken control and improved your health and overall well-being! My hubby is just starting to adopt gluten-free eating (begrudgingly...), and so this is very encouraging for us. Also, your cooking looks amazing! Cheers, Mary Jane

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    1. I wish him all the best. Gluten free isn't for everyone, but if you need to do it for your health, it's worth it!

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  2. My has recently discovered he's sensitive to gluten (he's not a celiac but, man, does it make him sick) and he was staggered by the amount of products that gluten weasels its way into pretty much every packaged food out there! We've started eating a lot more salad/veggies instead of bread - it definitely took a lot of getting into but once you make the change it gets easier. My stomach can tolerate gluten but my waistline can't :D so I've cut down too.

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    1. It's amazing how many products have wheat hidden in them! I've even found "paper" plates made of wheat instead of paper...

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  3. I've been diagnosed for 8 years, and I agree with everything you've said! It sucks sometimes, but I'm so thankful for the lessons I've learned from it.

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    1. Glad you can relate and keep kicking life's gluten free booty ;)

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  4. My son has recently gone gluten free due to an autoimmune disease and I decided to do it with him. While I have never had a reaction I was aware of to gluten, I feel so much better and long term digestive issues have resolved. Gluten and sugar seem to be the worst things out there. Thank you for sharing your story. You inspired me to try cooking more.

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    1. You and my mom have a very similar story! And yes, lowering my sugar intake has def helped a lot too! Thanks for your very kind words. <3

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  5. WOW! Fibromyalgia at such a young age. Thank goodness you have taken control of your health.

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    1. My medical chart is definitely one heck of an adventure to read ;)

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  6. I've thought about going Gluten free for a while because of Fibro, PCOS and IBS but here in the UK for a long time we didn't have much other choice. Now we have specific areas in stores of Free from food I'm willing to give it a go! Good post xxx

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    1. I wish you the best of luck! Gluten free isn't for everyone, but if it helps your health problems, it's worth it!

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  7. This is great advice! I´ve thought about going gluten free mainly because of health but the options here are very limited. I do love the advice you give to newbies ¨focus on what you can eat and not on what you can´t eat¨. I think that advice really changes everything makes the diet transition much smoother. Thanks for sharing this!

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  8. Awesome post, Casey. This is amazing advice. Although I do not eat gluten free, my grampa has this disease so I am aware of the challenges. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Sending lots of gluten free love your grandpa's way! <3

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  9. My boyfriend is going through his transition right now to the gluten free lifestyle and let me tell you... it's tough. Great post. I'm so excited to move into the full lifestyle as well

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    1. Sending lots of gluten free love y'alls way! The gluten free diet isn't for everyone, and I don't recommend it unless you need to for health reasons. But, if it helps you feel your best, it's definitely worth it!

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  10. I've got Fibro too! I've had it for almost a decade. Great that you've finally figured it out. You should add a little disclaimer that you should only go gluten free if you have intolerances because it's been known to cause heart attacks in people who don't have a gluten intolerance. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/behindtheheadlines/news/2017-05-04-low-gluten-diet-linked-to-heart-attack-risk/

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    1. Thank you for the link Claire! I actually read the article last week and usually include that disclaimer, but it totally flew my mind. I've now added that disclaimer to the end of the post and it is something I TOTALLY believe (in my other posts, I usually always say that gluten free isn't for everyone...but if it helps your health or makes you feel your best, it can be worth it). Thanks for commenting and again for the link!

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  11. I'm happy to hear this. That's great it helped your mom feel better too even though she tested negative. Its a real thing that could cause issues in others without knowing. I really enjoy your positivity. It's funny how most people start searching for gluten free food when most real food is just naturally gluten free :)

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    1. Thanks so much for the kind comment. And that last remark is SO on point! The hardest part about celiac is dealing with the cross contamination. Finding gluten free food isn't too bad...finding food that hasn't been contaminated (by being cooked with gluten, etc) is harder.

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