Navigating the Social Isolation of Being Gluten-free

By Michelle Pitonyak

When I was a child, my family often went to my Grandma’s for the weekend or holidays. Grandma had a bread maker and I distinctly remember her adding gluten to the flour to make the bread delicious. Her whole house smelled like bread. I LOVED learning how to cook with my grandma. She even had a small, special pizza pan just for me!

Fast forward about 15 years.

Life happened. And then I got sick. REALLY SICK.

I became extremely tired and slept for hours at a time. I was in a deep fog. I went to the doctor because this did not seem normal. He sent me to specialists and they gave me new medicines. Still no change. Finally, my doctor told me to get off gluten. “It will be hard,” he said. “But you will feel better.”

My doctor was correct! Two to three days after going off gluten, THE FOG LIFTED and much of the pain in my body went away. It was surprising how much better I was feeling. If I hadn’t experienced it myself, it would have been hard to believe it.

This was a huge transition for me! Gluten, the protein found in wheat was found everywhere! It was in obvious foods like donuts, bread, and Raisin Bran. Unfortunately, it also hid in less obvious places like red licorice and McDonald’s french fries. Everywhere I looked, there was gluten. Going out to eat became a research project. Going to a potluck became 50 questions. Going on vacation became tiring. All of sudden, I was thinking about gluten ALL THE TIME.

The unexpected difficult part of becoming Gluten-free was dealing with people who didn’t believe that I really needed to do this new diet to remain healthy. Having to defend myself to others can be tiring and discouraging. Luckily for me, I have an awesome husband that is protective and loving when it comes to keeping me safe from harmful food. He more than makes up for the naysayers.

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