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Holiday Gear Up: When You Don’t Feel in the Spirit

Halloween is a wrap-up and I’m a little depressed. A lot depressed if I am honest about it. Halloween is my favourite holiday even though I don’t dress up for it. The whole month of October is a holiday for me when I really think about it. It’s scary movies every day that starts off with A Nightmare Before Christmas; it’s Pumpkin Spice Latte’s because just inhaling it reminds me of the childhood memories I have of fall. I love decorating my house with Halloween decorations and lights and I could keep them up all year if I had my way. I’m Wiccan, which adds an element of the “witch” to a season where witches take flight on a broomstick against a dark, moonlit night. Of course, if I had a broomstick it would make getting around a lot easier- or at least I hope it would because I sure don’t know where I’d hang the handicap placard from. Then, the spooky fun comes screeching to a halt and in comes November with Thanksgiving, soon followed by Christmas, replacing my joy with anxiety, and general lack of holiday spirit.

Grinch

You might be asking why is there such a difference between Halloween versus Thanksgiving and Christmas? I can tell you there is a lot. It starts with the pressure of Christmas that starts early in November, and now, even starts late in October. You’re blitzed with advertisements everywhere, enticing you to buy, buy, buy for all those people you love until you are in so much debt that you can’t even see. We’re not rich and while I’d like to be very generous, I can’t be and I end up feeling very guilty about it. I tried to make up for it with creativity, sending gifts [care boxes] to the family with a theme. But I still felt like not thinking about them individually was somehow letting them down and being a bad relative. I dislike how corporations take advantage of a holiday and the sentimentality, and generosity that is intertwined with it.

black friday sign

Where you have a holiday event, you have to have great food. Thanksgiving and Christmas are probably the biggest food, focused holidays. It’s traditionally when most families get together to visit each other, which explains why there’s so much food involved. In times when the norm was very large families of four or more children, common to see twelve children in a family, and then possibly expecting uncles and aunts of the same number, grandparents and cousins etc., you needed a feast with everyone bringing something to make sure there was enough food. I get it. And I love food. But right now, food and I are not talking. We’ve had a falling out. You see, food is trying to kill me and I haven’t been able to look at it the same way again. It’s an all-out War of the Roses. I’m not sure who will come out alive at the end of it, but right now it’s up in the air. These holidays are important to some of my family and missing them would be difficult, and because I don’t know “safe foods” yet, I’m not sure how to protect myself, other than avoidance. This leads to dread. I’m dreading it. I’m even more worried if I have a flare. If I just can’t go. What then?

foodtrauma

This leads me to anxiety. I already have social anxiety. But this complex relationship with food has led to what I can only describe as “Food Anxiety,” which has led to a paranoia before I eat and after I eat, never knowing if what I have chosen to put in my mouth might cause the next gastro-nuclear-war. It’s an extremely difficult position for me to be in because while I have always enjoyed all aspects of food, there’s also a darker side to the relationship. I struggled with an eating disorder as a teen to my early 20’s and managed to build a healthy relationship. I fought demons and I struggled, and there were some times that I failed. But in the end, I ended up healthy. So, the irony for me here is to be back in a situation where food is my enemy; where I never know what might happen to me physically, after eating something that’s never given me trouble before. Even now, being as careful as I am to try and stave off symptoms, there are still times when it happens. No matter how careful I am, no matter how much I watch what I eat and try to stay away from things that may trigger symptoms, I’ll flare. It feels like a no-win situation and one that leaves me anxious around food. There’s a running joke in my house about me eventually wanting to live on air and sunshine, and it’s true. I wish I could. I wish I didn’t have to eat normal food and I wish that I could avoid putting my body through the trauma of eating and never knowing what might set it off.

breatharian

Few understand my general lack of holiday spirit. They want me to ignore the state of my digestive system and enjoy holiday meals and company. I’d prefer to put on cosy joggers, cover-up in a blanket and watch something on Netflix while waiting for my bland chicken to roast, with rice and apple sauce. It’s a sad state of affairs, I know, but if I can avoid the “distress” I will make the effort to. Sometimes it’s unavoidable. But it doesn’t mean I will eat anything. Its only human when you experience pain and distress that you try to avoid it. But I also don’t want to put the family through the extra trouble. It’s not their “special diet,” it’s mine. And even the loose diet, is not something cast in stone. Sometimes it fails, and sometimes I have episodes even after being militant about what I put in my mouth. It’s exhausting. I wish people understood. I wish I could be given a Get-Out-Of-Holidays-Card, until I had some kind of handle on what is going on, what I can eat and what I can’t so that I wasn’t a wreck before and after, not knowing what was going to happen.

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When Love Hurts

October is Domestic Abuse Month. I wanted to share something before the end of the month because the subject matter is personal and important to me, and extends to the topics of my blog. I am a survivor of domestic abuse and I want you to know that not only can you survive, but you can thrive and be happy in ways you never thought you would while you were in the relationship.

My relationship began when I was 18. I became pregnant and got married by 19. As most beginnings tend to be, things were good. But as the relationship evolved our “honeymoon” ended and our true temperaments were unveiled. I was still a child and he was avoiding being an adult at four years, my senior. He couldn’t keep a job and I was working 60 hours a week while pregnant. I was also trying to go to school. Our fights about money were epic. The abuse didn’t start until our second year.

I honestly didn’t know I was being abused. Much of the abuse was verbal and emotional. He humiliated me. He threatened me. I dealt with mental illness and he used it against me, telling me I was a bad mother. Threatened to take the baby away from me if I tried to leave. When I got pregnant the second time, my mental health unravelled pretty badly. She was born prematurely at 28 weeks and I tried to kill myself after one of our fights where he threatened to take them both away. There was physical abuse too, but in all honesty, the worst of the harm he did, even to this day, was the harm he did to my psyche. That is the point I am wanting to make here.

I didn’t believe I was in an abusive relationship. It took me four years to leave him because I didn’t see he was hurting me. He wasn’t beating me every day. Did I get left with bruises? Sometimes. Mostly if he drank. Was I threatened? Yes. Did I look down the barrel of a shotgun and think that was going to be it? Yes. Did I not think that was abuse? No. Because for the most part life was quiet. Life was walking on eggshells, making sure I didn’t do anything wrong to piss him off because he mostly hurt me with words. I was degraded. I was humiliated. I was made to feel worthless. I believed it. How could I not see it beforehand? How could I get myself into this situation? How could I be such a terrible mother?

It’s important that women/men know that abuse can take many forms. It’s not always bruises and a person can hurt you in a number of ways that leave you scarred for a long time. But once you face that you are being abused, you can get help. You can turn to someone that you trust and get out of that situation. If there’s no one that you trust, there are numbers to call that I will leave at the bottom of this blog. You have a chance at a better life. A chance for a more positive future.

Abuse leaves its scars. There’s a number of evidence that links domestic violence with many chronic illnesses, not limited to but including arthritis and hormonal disorders, asthma, diabetes, hypertension, chronic pain, severe headaches and irritable bowel syndrome and mental illness. We really don’t know the scope or depth of how domestic violence affects the human body or brain. Hidden Cause of Chronic IllnessWe don’t know how the trauma can change the human body or brain, and how this event may predispose someone to any one of these chronic illnesses. But we do know how resilient the human body and brain can be and how adaptable they are. You can overcome this trauma, and even if this trauma triggers chronic pain in some form like me, you can live a fulfilling life beyond what happened to you.

National Domestic Abuse Hotline: Call 1-800-799-7233.

The Hotline

Procrastination in Chronic Illness

I have never been one to procrastinate. Never. I am the kind of girl who always got her assignment done in school early. I plan for things. I plan for research and I have time-tables. I like to know how long it will take for me to research before I sit down to write so I have everything in order. I make menus for the week and sometimes for the entire month if there is a surgery that I have to plan for. The point here: I am a planner, not a procrastinator and what chronic illness sometimes creates is a huge procrastinator. Here are some reasons why.

Showers: My Nemesis

showernemesis

Once upon a time, when my world was lovely, I could luxuriate in the bathtub or a long shower. I loved turning up the music sometimes, singing my favourite songs and just relieving some stress. There’s none of that now. Besides the fact that the simple act of taking a shower exhausts me, it’s compounded by the water hurting my skin and making me itch violently and for unexplained reasons. It could be a combination of the fibromyalgia’s allodynia that makes my skin sensitive and susceptible to pain, and my own pressure and cholinergic urticaria that causes unexplained hives when the water beats down on my skin. Whatever the reason might be, showers have now become my least favourite activity and one which I put off because it makes me feel so badly. I hate the way the procrastination makes me feel too: dirty. Which usually sets off my particular brand of OCD, which then causes a spike in my anxiety. I hate that feeling. I lament those days when I could sit in the bathtub for an hour and turn into a prune. Even if the itchies were to go away there’d still be the exhaustion that comes after the shower. The deep exhaustion that leaves me so tired I need to go sit down for a while before attempting to dry my hair. And I dry my hair sitting down! I feel like I’m 100 years old and I’m only 45.

Blog Posts: On Hold!

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I love writing. My perfect world consists of a cabin, and writing, drinking hot tea and not much else. But with chronic illness and chronic pain, there are days I procrastinate writing or weeks where it gets put on hold because I am feeling so badly or where I’ve gotten so little sleep that I know stringing two sentences together is going to be a challenge. It bothers me when I procrastinate. Even when the procrastination is not really procrastination but time off, for medical reasons. It makes me feel like I can’t even do one thing, like a “normal” person. And I have to sit down with myself and tell myself sternly but gently, that no, I’m not “normal” but who is? We all have things going on with ourselves that present us with challenges. The art of living is learning how to work with these challenges so that we can live our lives the most abundant way we can. And if that means My work schedule is one week on, one week off, or three days on two days off or however it may look and however unconventional that maybe? So be it. As long as I roll out articles that my readers are happy with, I will keep on doing it because it makes me happy and gives me purpose.

Food is Divine: Unless You’re Gut is Fuc**ed

Crohns2

I love to cook. I love to bake. Bread was once my best friend. Pastries my lover. The holidays had me salivating and planning for months. What to cook? What to bake? Cookies were sent to relatives and friends for gifts. Now, where I once saw food in a vibrant palette of colour, it is grey. I procrastinate with eating and cooking and making my weekly menu for meals. It is no longer with the same enthusiasm that I sit down to eat with the family or go to eat with my husband, and the holidays have grown dismal and lack the flavour I was once accustomed to. This is all because of my gut issue, partly related to Crohn’s and partly to other contributing gut issues like non-Celiac Gluten Intolerance that have made my eating experience something I don’t know what to do with. Cooking for my family was an extension of my love for them and I don’t know how to do that anymore. Eating the food cooked is no longer an enjoyment. I feel like chronic illness has stripped away from me something dear, that made me who I am.

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream: Unless You’re in Pain

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Ah, to sleep. This has been something that has eluded me since I was a youngster. Being the INFJ I am, I can remember reading my mother’s Reader’s Digest, and catching this article about how keeping your room cool, having lavender on your pillow and your bed at the opposite end of the open window so you could feel the breeze would help you sleep better at night. I have been struggling with insomnia for a long time. 35 years to be exact, though these days my insomnia is the result of pain and I procrastinate for bed because I most of the time I lie there in pain counting exploding sheep. They explode because in the midst of my trying to peacefully try and breathe through the pain, I will suddenly get a lightning bolt down my leg and there will go the peace and the sheep with it. Inevitably, I avoid the whole situation by not sleeping. But, not sleeping isn’t exactly great coping skills for someone with chronic illness or someone with insomnia. You need sleep but when you are in pain and you have tried everything, or think you have and haven’t gotten adequate results, it can be more than frustrating. That’s when you just avoid everything. Goodbye sleep. It was good knowing you.

All of this is part tongue-in-cheek but truly heartfelt. Your life changes when you are faced with chronic illness and there may be many reasons you procrastinate. It’s not just an unwillingness to do something. I feel a lot of times that we simply aren’t understood. That people haven’t tried to see things from our perspective or taken the time to think about why we might be the way we are. It’s a very rough road we’re on. One that unless you’ve travelled it, it’s unlikely you will ever truly understand it. But it shouldn’t mean that you can’t try and empathise a little. Maybe something cheeky, silly but still real, will help.

 

It All Started with An Itch

Almost two years ago, and quite benignly, I began to develop these mysterious rashes. I was the sensitive-skinned child with eczema and so I didn’t think much of it, chalking it up to a return of childhood skin issues and the doctor issued me some skin cream with cortisone and made sure to keep my skin hydrated with lotion while applying the cortisone mixed in, vigilantly.

dust_mites

Two years later, this is no longer a little problem but one that is driving me crazy and one that I’m losing sleep over, scratching myself like mad and trying to figure out what the culprit is. I’m an investigator by nature, so I am perusing the internet, revisiting old offenders: dust mites! If you didn’t have a skin or allergy problem beforehand, let me tell you, just looking at the pictures of these nasty little critters are enough to make you think you think you have one. I bought dust mite protective covers for both the mattress and the pillows, not just for me but for my husband who has also been having a weird skin issue. Checkmark that off, and I’m still itching like crazy. I go and visit the allergist, and get tested. Not too much there. Two types of dust mites, cockroaches and ragweed. She is unsure of what is causing the itch.

 

My rheumatologist was closest. She believed I was having some kind of heat sensitivity issue. I began investigating and did find out their urticaria had many types. So, I called up a dermatologist and sat down with her and within five minutes she lifts the veil on what may be going on, on what now has become chronic urticaria. Have I mentioned lately how much I’ve begun to loathe the word chronic in conjunction with myself? I feel like every facet of my being is chronic. My pain, my illness- I’m just Chronic Liza. But enough of the whining, the issue has been is this: Pressure urticaria and Cholinergic urticaria. In layman’s terms, you’re bloody itchy. But to give you a clinical understanding, I’ll explain it better.

 

Pressure urticaria: chronic inducible urticaria characterised by the appearance of weal’s and/angioedema after a pressure stimulus or more commonly, delayed pressure urticaria, after a delay of 4-6 hours.

Cholinergic urticaria (CU): is a type of hive brought up by raised body temperature. It develops when you exercise or sweat. It usually disappears on its own in a few hours. In severe cases, CU can sometimes be related to exercise-induced anaphylaxis.

 

My case seems to be moderate (this translates to somewhere between the worst case of poison ivy and washing with lye soap), but we’re also trying to figure out some triggers. I know heat aggravates’ s me. My clothes have been a nightmare and that is saying something coming from a woman with fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis, who wears jogging pants and T-shirts. But my underwear and bras and socks hurt. They leave me itching and scratching and wishing there was a cactus nearby. It’s amazing to me that it’s not even always an immediate cause and effect type of thing. Meaning when I get dressed and put on my bra, I don’t suddenly sprout hives. But three or four hours later? I can’t get out of that thing fast enough and under the band, around my ribcage, even though the bra isn’t tight, it feels like I have a line of hives and they’re doing the itchy Cucaracha.

lacucaracha

Other triggers in my case: possibly sun but I am thinking it’s mostly heat-related and not specifically sun (solar urticaria). I’m not even sure if that is how it works so if any of you wonderful readers have it, understand it, please shoot me a message. The other possible trigger I am concerned about is my pain medication. It’s an opiate and I am in considerable pain from my various health issues and so my dermatologist and I are waiting to cross that bridge when we get to it. She’s very understanding that I need the medication, and right now we are trying to do everything we can to reduce the itching before we have to cross that bridge. There is also stress urticaria. I don’t think stress is a trigger but I will monitor that too. And like solar urticaria, you have cold urticaria. However, I don’t think I live in a region I can test that and I usually feel better when I’m cold so I feel positive that won’t be an issue even when we move to a colder climate, but I won’t speak in absolutes because I know that can change.

The itchies have been horrid for me. If you have them too and want to share with me your itchy madness, please feel free to connect on Twitter [@fibrohippiechic] or Instagram [@lovekarmafood]. I always find it easier to go through things with people than alone, and this is one of those things that people have to kind of have to take a moment to let it sink in because it’s a little unreal. “You’re allergic to you’re sweat?” Uh..kind of? “You’re allergic to pressure on your skin?” Well, yeah..sort of. This is when you invariably, have people wanting to play tic-tac-toe on your arm. Despite the hives. People are weird. So, feel free to make contact. We can lament about the itchies together or find fun, festive ways to celebrate fall.

 

 

 

They Call That Fashion?

[image: Getty Images]

KimhēKim fashion brand posted videos from its September 24 Paris Fashion Week show, which features a model walking up the runway in a T-shirt labelled Sick across it with an IV as an accessory instead of a purse. The collection is described as “energetic,” as models sported black sunglasses and either carried selfie sticks or IV drips. Among some of his reasoning for this line: “This collection is about attention-seekers spending their summer vacation in a hospital.” He also says, “These days we all want attention and positive reaction from people, especially on social media. But instead of hiding it, let’s just be honest and admit that we want it, but do it with elegance.” (Burlet, 2019)

Okay. There is a lot to cover, so let’s get down to it. As a person with chronic illness (autoimmune disorders), who goes every six weeks and sits for roughly two hours with an IV for infusions, who is SICK, and who doesn’t give a crap about being elegant about it because I’m not an attention seeker- wow! This takes absurdity and shock fashion/art to a whole new level comparative to Bstroy, which showcased their bullet-like hole hoodies, and names of schools who had experienced mass shootings. It’s difficult for me to grasp why any designer would want to take these tragedies and exploit them in this way. But by his very own words, “attention-seeking” and “spending their summer vacation in a hospital” he truly doesn’t understand the difference between sick and trendy or fad. Where the rich or elite go to IV Infusion Bars to receive vitamins and rehydrate after a night of partying. I also considered that this collection might be in part to poke fun at these rich and trendy types, with their IV drips and selfie-sticks but I think it failed because of the manner he went about in showcasing it that would have been solved with one word: Not Sick.

I kept reading his words over and over again trying to understand his reasoning for this outrageous collection. It did not seem like a purposeful attack on the chronic illness community, however ignorant it may have been. But before you become angry with me, ignorance is never a defence and yet, I would still try and understand him. What I zoned into was the part he says “we all want attention and positive reaction from people, especially on social media. But instead of hiding it, let’s just be honest and admit we want it, but do it with elegance.” I read this and interpreted from him that these people who are flying off to these resorts they call “hospitals,” for their IV drips and “medications,” because they’re “sick,” should perhaps be honest about what they’re doing, be more authentic about themselves and while they are doing so to be more elegant and fashionable. But he widely miscalculated this interpretation and in doing so offended another community who is Sick and who is Not Attention-Seeking. Those suffering from Chronic Illness.

My first reaction when seeing the Instagram posts were quite visceral. I was instantly angered that someone could be so obtuse that they would throw this “Fashion” out there to be oohed and aahed over by fashion gurus and the general public everywhere. I may not be a fashion follower, but I know enough to know that Paris Fashion Week is a big deal and something like his collection can suddenly shift chronic illness and the people suffering from it into a negative light. We already bear enough scrutiny in our daily lives from the public that seeing this on the catwalk made me mentally scream and then take to social media to vent my anger the only way I could. But because I blog, I decided to use this platform as a way to explain to readers why this angered so many. However, I thought it was only fair to research why he may have created this collection, to begin with, hence the reason the introduction is laid out the way it is, which is only a logical guess. He’s been pretty cryptic about the meaning and inspiration of the collection and I did my best to be fair. He’s a fashion designer, successful from what I have read, dealing with an element of society that we might call the 1%. I am not implying that the 1% doesn’t deal with chronic illness, but what I am saying is that they can check into hospitals on a whim, for summer vacation, whereas the working class do not.

So, I’m wondering if there’s a bit of ironic humour going on with him somewhere there. A stab at those elites who think that checking themselves into the hospitals for a summer equated to being “sick,” and not vanity? His collection backfired among those of us who are sick. Did it backfire as a whole? Did it do badly at the Paris show? I don’t honestly know? Will it draw chronic illness into a negative light? Will people think that we are attention-seeker’s more now than we were before his collection? I don’t think so. Was it in poor taste? It’s aggravating to me as a chronic illness advocate, as someone who struggles with chronic illness, to wake up one day and see things like that. It’s frustrating. But then I remember, that’s why I am here. I’m here not only to bring awareness and to bring positivity to people who are sick, and their families, but also to those who know nothing about the illness and the chronic illness community, like him. So try not to despair when you see things out there like that my friends. Band together and redouble your efforts to spread awareness.

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Being Your Own Health Advocate

It’s Not as Easy-Peasy as it Seems

As long as I’ve been sick, and as long as I’ve been blogging, I’ve either been reading about or hearing about being your own health advocate. While being a self-advocate is something that seems easy, and is something that we have been doing since we begin seeing the doctor on our own, it’s not always easy. I’ve wondered why that is and how we can improve on that, to become better self-advocates, because there may come a time when ourselves is all we got.

 

Difficulty Being Assertive with Your Doctor?

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You’re not alone. Many people find that being assertive with their doctor can be a difficult undertaking. We can find ourselves at our most vulnerable when we are with our doctor, both physically and emotionally, but hoping that with all their education and experience, that they have the answer we are so desperate to have. However, when their diagnosis or treatment plan goes against what we may have in mind, we have a great deal of difficulty telling out doctor this. Why?

 

Many of us feel that if we question a doctor, we are somehow questioning their expertise and authority. We don’t see ourselves as equals when sitting with our doctor, even though we are both adults and equal as human beings. This seems to make us feel, in a sense, like a child and a “questioning of expertise may lead to retribution in the form of a lower quality treatment from their doctor somewhere down the road.” We’ve all heard doctors as possessing God complexes. There’s a reason for that and challenging their authority is one of them. But there are ways you can have a relationship with your doctor as an effective communicator- self-advocate. [1] Wagner, 2019

 

 

Non-Negotiable with Doctor

susie signs a contrat

 

Trust: Once you have a doctor, establish trust. Without this, you can’t proceed. Good doctors listen, don’t make you feel rushed and have patience. But doctors can have a bad day and staff can be off, so remember to have patience too.

 

Respect: Everyone starts with respect in my book. You don’t have to earn anything with me. But once you lose it, it’s gone. If a doctor disregards a legitimate complaint; if they tell you it’s nothing and to just lose weight-game over. Find a second opinion and start again.

 

Serious surgery/treatment: Any experimental/trials, surgeries, cancer treatments or whatever, get a 2nd or 3rd opinion if necessary. Do your research and see what trials they did for it; see what other patients said about it, and how they are feeling now. It’s very important to do your homework. If you don’t like what is said, find another doctor.

 

 

Tips for a Good Self-Advocate:

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Communicate: It’s not just about talking. It’s about being effective. Any advocate out there will stress the importance of clarity with your doctor, and communicating your concerns and desires over the progress of your treatment while maintaining a professional relationship is essential. It’s important to be able to discuss treatment with a doctor without feeling like you’re going to hurt an ego.

 

Assertive: “Being pushy without being annoying.” You won’t find that definition on the dictionary, but I like it. In order to be an advocate for yourself, you need to learn how to do this for yourself, because there are going to be many instances you find yourself needing to use it. Whether it’s calling up the insurance company and finding out why a bill hasn’t been paid yet- and as my grandma once told me, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar, it pays to be persistent but not a bitch on the phone. They’re only doing their job and they don’t know any more than you know them.

 

Passionate: Oh, energy and enthusiasm! Chronic illness and chronic pain is a long struggle. You have to bring your pom-poms with you for you, to fight this. Ain’t no one gonna fight harder than you. Remember this when you feel like crap when you’re tired and you hurt and remember when you just don’t want to do it. You gotta look out for number one.

 

Knowledgeable: Research the Issue. It’s easy to Google something but it’s better to research. Google doesn’t mean it’s true, but if you research it and you find five or ten articles that say it’s true, you have a far better chance of the information being true. I’m a big proponent of research and being armed with research when going to the doctor can only strengthen your case when you bring your ideas for certain treatment before them. You may not have a degree but you have the right to consider what treatments you want to try.

 

 

 

[1] Wagner, 2019

8 Weeks Gluten-Free

It’s been roughly, 8 weeks since I began my journey into a gluten-free lifestyle. There’s been a lot of reading, a few incidents of accidentally being glutened and the continued frustrations of my tummy still not progressing in the manner I want. But I imagine all of us who are struggling with gastrointestinal issues, diarrhoea and unexplained nausea and vomiting would like answers and a return to normalization.

Where gluten-free has become the topic of trendy conversations, and the latest in fad-dieting, for those of us with chronic tummy issues, non-celiac gluten-sensitivity or celiac disease, Crohn’s, IBD or IBS this is a very serious issue. Going gluten-free has become a lifestyle choice and sometimes necessity that has vastly improved the gut situation and while hearing something like being “accidentally glutened” might sound funny, and is perhaps being said to provide a little levity to a serious situation, the consequences of being “glutened” can be very serious. Just ask anyone who’s suffered the effects of accidental cross-contact. (Which is different than cross-contamination.) Cross-contamination: Cross-contamination is a term that implies that a food has been exposed to bacteria or a microorganism, which could result in a foodborne illness like salmonella. By definition, it can lead foodservice and other industry professionals to believe that if a food is “contaminated” by gluten, they can simply “kill off” the contaminant. However, gluten is a protein (not a type of bacteria) and proteins cannot be “killed off” using heat or disinfecting agents like most bacteria can be. Cross-contact: more accurately reflects that a gluten-containing food cannot come into contact with gluten-free food. This is actually a really important distinction because to be able to speak the same language that chefs to when you are away from home will allow you to have a better experience dining out and explaining what you need. (Beyond Celiac, n.d.)

I’m still learning a lot and I’m by no means an expert. I’ve been reading blogs and books and trying to learn as much as I can. The thing I find most difficult about being gluten-free is balancing how many stores bought [gluten-free items] I want to get and how much I can make at home [from scratch], given that gut issues aren’t my only problem and while I wish I had the energy to be the Martha Stewart-type, because the fact it is, besides writing I would say cooking is my other passion and DIY stuff a close third. But there are only so many things I can do and the energy it takes to prepare a menu for the week, go shopping and cook, is about the size of it. There times, where I do enlist a bit of help to, can things, or have made bread and frozen it, or have prepared meals and frozen them and have been glad for it for I’m not sure how much more time-consuming gluten-free meal planning would be. I’ve looked at a few things, like bread making, because buying gluten-free sandwich bread at the store is ridiculous in price and I have my youngest who is getting ready to switch over and possibly my oldest as well, who’ve shown already to have my gut and inflammatory issues- my oldest already being diagnosed with R.A., while my youngest has only been diagnosed with inflammatory arthritis. If we can stave off a diagnosis, simply by changing her diet she felt it was worth it especially since she has a lot of tummy issues already. But with bread prices between $7 to $12 per loaf, we were wanting to make it ourselves if possible. She’s an amazing baker so I’m hoping to find a recipe that is worth the time and effort. If you know of a good one that you’ve tried, please send it to me!

So far for me, the results are worth continuing even though at times it can be trying. I’ve lost 11 pounds. My gut issues have calmed down about 80% and although they haven’t been eliminated, I can’t attribute the near resolution of it to anything but the change in diet and that unresolved 20% could still be because I haven’t mastered this lifestyle. There are many, many places where gluten can lurk, that I am still learning and there are many names that gluten can go by that I am also learning. Reading labels is very important. This where I am just going to drop this link: Celiac Organisation They have some great information to follow if you’ve just recently discovered you can’t do the gluten thing. It’s not as easy as you may think and just jumping into it blindly is not the way to go. Not if you want to truly give your gut the best chance to heal.

I’ll be giving regular updates on my Gluten-Free life and I’ll even drop some recipes that I love. I’ve discovered some recipes and products already that have made going Gluten-Free bearable and even, dare I say it, enjoyable. So, stay tuned. It’s not as dreary as it seems. You can do it. Do a little research, give yourself a couple of days to enjoy the last of the gluten before you plunge into it. But no cheat days! If you are really sensitive like me, cheat days mean sick to your stomach and that’s just not good at all.