This is a question I get a lot, and I often have a hard time clearly explaining it. For me it was a rather complicated personal choice that has drastically improved the way I feel while helping me to manage a variety of medical issues. While the jury is still out on the scientific efficacy of gluten-free diets, my view remains that if it makes me feel better (and doesn’t hurt anyone else), why not do it?
As people who know me well already know, I made some drastic changes in my life during my senior year of college after some scary medical issues. To make a long story short, I spent my senior year in and out of hospitals and doctors appointments in an effort to figure out what was wrong with me, while just barely being able to graduate. After several months of medical testing and scary hypothetical scenarios I was finally diagnosed with a weird trifecta of medical problems including a benign dermoid tumor, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and systemic lupus erythematosus. I spent my senior JanPlan having surgery, meeting with specialists and figuring out what all of this meant, and finally was able to gain back a little control over my life.
During that time, one of my friends sent me an article called “The Spoon Theory” (which is pretty well circulated in the lupus community) that helps to explain the difficulty of living with a chronic illness where you don’t look sick, are perpetually exhausted and have little to no control over how you’ll feel on any given day. While it’s kind of a silly idea, it helped me, and those around me, to conceptualize what I was going through. The idea of “spoons” stuck with me as measurement of my disease status and energy level each day (hence the title of the blog).
When I was first diagnosed my number of “spoons” was drastically low. I had trouble doing basic things like showering, brushing my hair and going to the dining halls for meals. I was only enrolled in two classes and was still barely able to make it through the semester. Each day was a struggle and I was perpetually frustrated with my body. One of my doctors suggested I test out a gluten-free diet to help manage my symptoms and inflammation, and out of desperation I ran with it. After a couple of months I also went vegan (for a variety of reasons), and I can honestly say I’ve never felt better. Obviously, I still see my doctor regularly and take medications to manage my symptoms. I am in no way claiming that I single handedly cured myself with a gluten-free, vegan diet. There are still days when I am inexplicably exhausted and sleep for so long that I get texts from my roommates making sure I’m still alive (sorry guys!). Some days I can easily run 3 miles, and others I can’t even get out of bed. However, there’s also no denying that I feel markedly better and more energized when eating healthy and exercising daily and that being gluten-free and vegan have given me more “spoons” to use on a day to day basis. Now I’m in a full-time nutrition Masters program, working part-time as a research assistant and still have the energy to wake up at 5 every morning to work out. I’m, quite honestly, a completely different person now than I was when I was first diagnosed. If giving up bread, cakes and cookies in their gluten-full forms helped with that at all, it’s totally worth the sacrifice, but hopefully the recipes I post here will prove that it really wasn’t that big of a sacrifice after all!