My path to discovering a gluten-free lifestyle was a long one. Here’s how it played out:

I went 34 years without reacting to gluten, but my second pregnancy stirred up trouble. The pregnancy itself included multiple hospitalizations and an inability to eat any food at all for about six months. A few days before my daughter’s birth I started having dull, tingling pelvic pain that persisted for almost three years after the delivery.

As I searched for answers, the pelvic pain grew to include bladder symptoms, such as pain and numbness. One savvy doc finally pieced together the numbness and tingling as peripheral neuropathy and started me on a medication that relieved a bit of the pain.

No sooner had these initial nerve-related symptoms been labeled than I started experiencing numbness on the left side of my face and head. Sometimes it traveled down the entire left side of my body, head to toe. During this period I had massive incidences of brain fog, literally having to pull my car over to figure out where I was trying to go. I still had no idea what was happening to my body, but clearly it was moving to the next level.

Spinal taps and MRIs followed, neurologists convinced of something serious like MS or even a stroke, but test results failed to confirm these suspicions. The doctors eventually gave up, but I had no room to do the same. With two young children to care for, I was determined to figure out a way to keep it together no matter what it took.

I consulted a naturopathic physician for advice and after hearing my history she immediately declared, “It sounds like a food sensitivity to me.” Although I was highly skeptical of this theory, I was also willing to entertain any ideas at this point. I started a month-long elimination diet, removing the most allergenic and inflammatory foods from my life. A few weeks later, I felt better than I had in years, and was completely symptom free. At the end of the month, I reintroduced food groups one at a time to gauge any adverse reactions. My very first bite of bagel produced facial numbness within seconds. I had discovered my body’s aversion to gluten.

It took four years to figure out the cause of my ailments, yet with one dietary adjustment, all of my symptoms disappeared. It was that simple—and that difficult. I admire the compassion of the many doctors who tried to diagnose my problem. They viewed it as a puzzle, which, when left unsolved, caused inordinate frustration for everyone (especially me). What troubles me most is how not a single Western-trained doctor considered food as a potential source of my illness. Not one.

I was not crazy, a hypochondriac, chronically stressed, or suffering from post-partum depression, yet these were the prevailing guesses. My body considers gluten toxic and when it’s present in my system it wreaks havoc. Only by trusting my own judgment and what my body was telling me was I able to persevere. Going gluten free not only saved the quality of my life, but possibly my life itself.

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