Over the course of the last seven years, I’ve been in a battle with my body. What started as debilitating stomachaches morphed into migraines, weird rashes, multiple types of belly pain, bloating, cramping, nausea and general uncomfortableness.
Waking up every day, I didn’t know which symptoms I’d have, how they’d impact my work day or my social commitments or how to cope.
Doctor after doctor gave me inconclusive diagnoses and shoved me full of prescription acid-blockers. I was told to go on the BRAT (bananas, rice, applesauce and toast) diet whenever my symptoms arose, and after extensive testing, including an upper endoscopy, MRIs, CAT scans and blood work, I was still left without conclusive results or a treatment plan that didn’t include multiple medicines.
Frustrated and fed up after three years of what felt like no progress, I went to see a nutritionist who specialized in food allergies and sensitivities. She was the first person to suggest that my health problems could be related to what I was eating instead of overactive stomach acid. She took me off of gluten, eggs and dairy, and put me on a strict, six-small-meals-per-day diet. For about a year, I felt better than I had since my cycle of bad health had started. It was exhausting having to plan for so many meals and bring food with me everywhere I went, but I forged ahead, hopeful that my digestion disasters were behind me.
Then, somewhat suddenly, my symptoms reappeared, once again waging war on my daily life. Nine months of seeing a naturopath, a Chinese herbalist and a homeopath, and three full days of more extensive testing at the world-renowned Mayo Clinic later, the only answer I had was that my system was slightly low in B12. Unhelpful and disappointing to say the least.
What I didn’t know at that time was that, though my Mayo doctor had done all the standard Celiac disease testing, he wasn’t aware that in order for a blood test to point to a Celiac disease diagnosis, I had to actually be eating gluten for 8 to 12 weeks before the test. Fail.
It wasn’t until a doctor went back to look at my endoscopy results that my Celiac disease diagnosis was confirmed—and that was less than a year ago. For a while, I was angry with all the doctors I’d seen.
How had no one thought to test me correctly or accurately? Why didn’t anyone tell me about cross-contamination? I’d inadvertently been poisoning myself for nearly seven years and I had no idea.
Now, I’ve spent the months since my official diagnosis mourning the lost years, and learning all that I can about the autoimmune disorder (I highly suggest picking up the book Celiac and the Beast if you’re new to the disease, or just wondering about whether or not you could be intolerant). I’ve adjusted my lifestyle, bought a new toaster and new cutting boards (yes, cross contamination can happen through household items) and declared my home a gluten-free one. The only gluten-ful thing we stock in our house is beer, for my husband.
Why do I tell you all of this, when my headline promised tips on how to recover from getting glutened? Because I was in the dark for so long. Because I read countless articles about going gluten-free and still didn’t understand how to get tested or how to live a truly gluten-free life.
Now, I’m not saying this post is conclusive in all of those realms, but I do want it to be anecdotally comforting. If you’re struggling with any kind of long-term, undiagnosable health issues, you’re not alone. No matter how long it’s been going on, or how hard it’s been for you or how many doctors you’ve seen, don’t give up hope. There are answers out there for you, and though the road to get them is full of detours, speed bumps, crashes and breakdowns, it is ultimately worth it. You won’t always feel this badly.
Even though I’m painfully careful about avoiding gluten at home and at restaurants, no matter where you go (unless it’s this awesome, 100% gluten-free restaurant Susannah and I ate at in Austin), how many questions you ask and how certain your server is that your meal is gluten-free, there’s a chance that eating brunch at a new restaurant will lead to head fogginess, migraines, stomachaches, rashes and general un-wellness.
So how do I cope when I’ve been glutened? Here’s what’s worked best for me:
- I do a one-day juice cleanse.
- I up my probiotic intake to increase the good bacteria in my stomach, which helps soothe and calm things down.
- I pop Tummy Drops in ginger or peppermint to combat acute nausea (and to placate myself).
- I sometimes drink ginger ale. (I know, I know—sugar can make things worse. But I do it anyway.)
- I use Hope Gillerman’s Tension Remedy multiple times a day for my headaches.
- I take liquid chlorophyll to help my system detox.
- I make smoothies with GI-healing nutrients (GI Revive or Intestinal Repair Complex—see the comments of this IG post for a great recipe from Chase at Kypris Beauty).
- I heat up a corn bag or hot water bottle to hold on my stomach to alleviate cramping.
- I drink a ton of water.
There you have it: my Celiac disease story and how I cope when I get glutened. Do you have a similar story or tips on how to recover from food allergies? Share with us in the comments below!
Say good morning to Jenny from New Mexico! You’ll love her routine for the great variety of clean and green goodies, and the scenery is standout, too. We love the way this very feminine routine ends. Hint: there’s a little zoo at the end of the rainbow. Read on!
City: Rio Rancho, New Mexico
Weather: Perfect days and cool nights. The cottonwood trees are starting to change so it finally feels like fall.
Hair: Medium length, honey brown.
Skin: Pretty oily and prone to breakouts if I don’t take good care of it.
Star: Olivia de Haviland
My mornings start at about 7:00am when the sun starts to come up and the dogs decide it’s time we all get up. The night before I have already showered with Alaffia Shea & Honey Nourishing Shampoo and Conditioner and used Alaffia Liquid African Black Soap on my body. I comb through my hair and style with hot rollers then Schmidt’s Deodorant in lavender and sage is next.
For my skincare, I wash my face with Wedderspoon Manuka honey. Ever since I started using this in combination with my other products I never get breakouts. I like to leave the honey on as a morning mask while I brush my teeth with Tom’s Sea Fresh Toothpaste and floss. Next I wash the honey off and spray May Lindstrom’s Jasmine Garden mist all over my face. While my face is still damp I take one pump of Osmia Organics Luz Brightening Face Serum. While I haven’t been using this serum long enough to tell whether it actually brightens, I love the way it wears under makeup and the smell is something I look forward to every morning. I alternate that with May Lindstrom’s The Youth Dew, especially on a day when I feel like I may be breaking out. When I’m done with my skincare routine I remove my hot rollers and spray my hair with Alba Botanica medium hold hairspray to hold my loose curls all day.
I follow with Lauren Brooke Cosmetiques Crème Foundation in Cool No. 10. It has a SPF of 28 so it also doubles as a sunscreen and the ingredients read like skincare. Next I cover up any dark circles with RMS Beauty “Un” Cover-Up in shade 00 and dust some of Kari Gran’s Mineral Powder in shade 7 to set my face makeup. I apply Tata Harper’s Volumizing Lip and Cheek Tint in Very Charming to my lips and cheeks. This is the perfect natural and fresh pink color for my cool, fair toned skin. On top of the cheek tint I layer Kari Gran’s Mineral Blush which helps set the cheek color for the day. Finally, I apply Kari Gran’s Eyeshadow, Honeybee Gardens’ eye liner in Belgian chocolate and Honeybee Garden’s Mascara in black magic.
Before putting my clothes on for the day I take the time to use Udder Delight’s Goat Milk Lotion in Apple Blossom. This is a local New Mexico company which has lots of beautiful smelling products. Then it’s time to feed our zoo of cats, horses and dogs and head out the door to make it to work on time feeling fresh and ready to go!
Cottonwoods and horses. Love that Western vibe. What do you have in common with Jenny’s routine?
The current laws regulating cosmetics in the U.S. date back to 1938. That’s just 18 years after women were granted the right to vote.
Doesn’t that seem impossibly long ago? That’s when the Palmolive ad featured above was current, by the way. Loopholes and inadequacies in the U.S. law allow the cosmetics industry, worth $50 billion and growing, to put unlimited amounts of chemicals into their products without any real oversight. Sometimes I get so carried away in my little green bubble, celebrating the latest amazing shampoo or serum, that I forget there is still so much progress to be made.
When I read Siobhan and Alexandra’s book No More Dirty Looks, I saw the cosmetics industry clearly for the first time, and I was forever changed. Yes, it was that dramatic for me. I knew my personal relationship with skincare and cosmetics was in for a serious overhaul on a consumer level and on a more personal, emotional level as well. Probably the most troubling realization I had was that brands I loved and trusted were not, in fact, looking out for my well-being. More bothersome yet, many of these companies were marketing their products in a way that duped me into thinking I was making good choices for myself when I wasn’t. Hello, greenwashing. At least with the L’Oréals of the world, you aren’t being sold the idea that ingredients matter. It’s just wham, bam, now you’re glam. The greenwashing hurt the most. I fell for it, and all because I didn’t know how to read an ingredient list or suspect that I even needed to. Sound familiar? Oh the naiveté.
So we’ve got this regulation problem on our hands, and Congress is not, uh, functioning very well. However, legislative change is not our only hope. Consumer preferences are a powerful thing. The real green beauty industry is booming, and companies are getting the message that there is a shift occurring in how people think about personal care products and their health. Point is, we can laugh about how we don’t even miss those old conventional products and boast about how clean beauty is better than ever, but we need bigger change. People shouldn’t have to worry about what’s inside the bottle of any product. Ever.
I’ve got a little grassroots challenge for you. Think of this as a social responsibility experiment. Thousands of us have committed to cleaner lifestyles and beauty habits, so why not let those old dirty companies know we changed and they should change, too?
Here’s the plan. Pick one cosmetic or skincare company that you loved before going clean. Send them an email and let them know that you used to be a customer, but you broke up with them. Tell them why. Maybe it’s because you found out they use ingredients that are harmful at worst and useless at best. Maybe it’s because they claimed to be natural, but you figured out the game. If you’re feeling sweet, tell them why you loved them in the first place. Let them know that you have standards for ingredient safety, and you think they should, too.
It may seem like a little thing, but the savvy companies are listening. In response to consumer pressure, Johnson & Johnson recently reformulated their baby shampoo to remove formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane. Unfortunately, they replaced one questionable preservative with another, but the move was no small thing for a corporate giant like Johnson & Johnson. It signals that consumers can incite change where government laws and regulations do not. We just have to know what to ask for.
How do you feel about current cosmetics regulations? Will you join me in contacting a brand you used to love and share your concerns about ingredient safety?
I have an intense sweet tooth. Not the gummy bears and jolly ranchers kind of sweet tooth — the chocolate, cakes, and cookies kind. Though I am largely in control of my sugar cravings — I eat small portions and don’t binge — I’m not that person who can sub Greek yogurt for ice cream, nor do I really want to be. But all things in moderation, right?
Here’s the thing, though — I have just enough of a problematic relationship with sugar to know that if I don’t have access to a little bite of bliss at some point on most days, I will seek it out. In my darker, weaker moments, that means taking the path of least resistance and grabbing one of the hyper-processed, sugar-saturated candy bars at the corner 7-11. Usually it’s a KitKat. And just like an addict, I know exactly what the fall-out of my decision will be but proceed nonetheless.
Hey, I’m not one to feel guilty about eating sweets. I live a pretty healthy life, but any run-in with the fast food version of candy leaves me with a physical and psychological hangover that is just yuck. First, talk about fast track to jelly belly. I’ve got a mature metabolism now, and I notice the littlest amount of hyper-processed candy on my waistline within no time. And my skin? My complexion looks red and blotchy for the next 24 hours, and boom — a zit or three pops up where there were previously none. The “you are what you eat” mantra is never more apparent than when I eat poor quality, highly refined sugar. Not only are the outward effects manifest, but inwardly I’m left feeling super irritable or downright depressed. Blech. So I made this deal with myself, because I don’t want to give up all sugar — I want to give up that kind of sugar.
Rather than repress it, I try to satisfy my sweet tooth in the most healthful and conscious way possible for me.
My foolproof method for avoiding the most toxic treats is to keep a better alternative on hand. Again, while I love a bowl of fresh fruit, I’m talking about something a little more indulgent. Just a little. With a little planning, I can reliably have something sweet in my kitchen that might include some sugar, but also contains healthy, life sustaining ingredients.
I don’t have a lot of extra time to spare in the kitchen. It takes enough effort to make sure I’m eating balanced meals as often as possible throughout the week. So when I found a recipe that is simple and fast, includes healthful ingredients, and satisfies my sweet tooth in that deep and wonderful way (no crazy side effects!), I kept making it and making it. It’s the perfect afternoon pick-me-up or after dinner treat. I’m talking about No-Bake Chocolate Almond Oat Bars.
- 1 cup almond butter
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1 stick butter
- 2 cups rolled oats
- ½ cup chopped almonds — toasted if you feel fancy
- 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
- ¾ cup golden raisins
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- Line an 8 inch square pan with parchment paper and leave an overhang of 2 inches on two sides.
- Melt almond butter, honey, and butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir frequently for about 5 minutes until everything is well blended.
- Turn off heat and add chocolate. Stir until it melts.
- Add the almonds, raisins, and salt. Blend in.
- Add the oats and stir until all the ingredients are well incorporated.
- Pour mixture into the pan and spread to distribute evenly.
- Refrigerate for at least 3 hours and up to 1 day until it hardens.
- Run a knife around the edges to loosen, and use the parchment paper to lift out of the pan and onto a cutting board. Cut into skinny 2 inch x 3 inch bars and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
I adapted this recipe from Martha Stewart Living, but variations abound on the Internet. You can take a lot of liberty with the ingredients. Switch to a different nut butter. Use walnuts instead of almonds. Try chopped figs or apricots instead of golden raisins. Try coconut oil or ghee instead of butter. You get the gist. With all these super healthy ingredients, you might think this sounds more like a chocolate flavored energy bar. Trust me, this definitely has more of a dessert vibe with its fudgey, rich taste. Better yet, this is rich enough that a little hunk goes a long way, but you won’t feel sick after eating it. Nope, just happy and sated.
Do you have a sweet tooth? How does your body respond to super processed treats?
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