Life, In General…

Let’s take a break from food today and discuss life. I started my journey as a Gluten Free Gidget in March of 2007. On the brink of death, I was malnourished, exhausted, depressed… you name it! I had every Celiac symptom in the book, yet went undiagnosed. I was told I had everything from IBS to Anorexia Nervosa. I tried explaining to the doctors. It’s not that I didn’t want to eat pizza. I was just tired of getting sick every time I did. I developed a fear of foods (ie- glutenous foods) and isolated myself from my family and friends. Finally, at a frightening 79 pounds, I met a young doctor who actually listened. He was the one to diagnose me and guide me through that first awful year. He listened, let me cry, and helped me heal.

At first, I was angry. “How could God do this to me?” “How could He strip away everything I held dear in one foul swoop?” It took some time, but I now know why. I was not on the correct path. My life is not meant to be lived blindly and flippantly. It is a gift. I see that now. Each day is full of new opportunities to be enjoyed, new people to help, and wonderful moments to be savored. Even if you are not a “Celiac” you can probably relate. It is so easy to become blinded by the business of life. Take time out of your busy day today. Look around. Breathe in the crisp autumn air. Smile at a stranger. Hug your family. You will never know what’s out there to be experienced until you look.

I want to share with you my before and after photos. I am struck by gratitude toward my family and friends every time I look at these pictures. They stuck with me through my healing process and never gave up on me, even when I wanted to give up on myself.

Before:


After:

I hope this post give others struggling the little push they need to make it through. Life is too precious to let pass us by. You can heal. You will heal. Do not lose hope. I would love to hear your stories of healing and hope. If you would like to share, feel free to email me or leave a comment with your story.

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22 thoughts on “Life, In General…

  1. Wow, Katrina, you definitely look healthy now. I have read a lot of stories from fellow celiacs that have struggled with illness for 10, 15+ years without a diagnosis. It's so hard to find a solution for so many people. My dad was not as ill as many when he was diagnosed (15+ years ago), but his many undiagnosed years have left him unable to completely heal. And he had to research his symptoms himself and bring them to a doctor before a solution was found. My brother, sister and I have all determined on our own to go gluten-free without diagnosis, as we were all beginning to feel more ill over time. I've only been gluten-free for 3 months, but it has made a difference. I was so exhausted before. I felt "old" at 29, even though I was eating very healthily, taking care of my body. I'm so glad that I'm on the road to healing now, and so glad that you are too!

  2. Your honesty and openness in this post is awe inspiring. You have been through so much sweetheart and are a much stronger person for it. You are the picture of beauty and perseverance and I think an inspiration to many individuals out there who suffer from the same intolerance as you. Lots of love to you Katrina, It's a blessing to know you ๐Ÿ™‚ xo

  3. Thanks for sharing that story with us. I am just starting out on my gluten free life, I am less than two weeks in, but I already feel a world of difference in so many areas of my life. I even just feel more happy and content and I don't feel like I have a black cloud hanging over my head anymore. I'm so happy to be on the path to healing.

  4. Katrina — I love your approach to life and I am so happy that you ultimately found health and healing!! I adore your passion for food and all things gluten free and I find your story to be incredibly inspiring. I've talked about my journey to health on my blog before but here it is in comment form!In June 2007 I got really sick. I didn't have a GP at the time so I ended up at a walk in clinic. I was in so much pain that I was lying on the floor in tears while I waited for a doctor to see me. I told him about my diarrhea, vomiting, fever and horrible pain and he sent me for some tests and told me to take some pepto bismal. I was sick for two and a half weeks and didn't have a reason as to why I felt that way. It finally went away, but many of the problems continued to surface from time to time. It took me probably 16 months, but I came to realize that I was still ill and that I shouldn't have been feeling the way I was feeling on such a regular basis. I finally spoke to my GP at my annual physical who gave me some antibiotics in hope that they would help me feel better. Um, no. So he sent me to a specialist because it "could be colitis, but probably not". A visit and exam by a gastro and then a colonoscopy confirmed that I had Crohn's. Like you, I got angry somewhere in there. I was young and "healthy" and suddenly there was a possibility that I had a Disease. I eventually came to realize that having a name for my problems meant that I could further my healing and help myself to feel better. As soon as I was diagnosed I started seeing a naturopath and she was instrumental in helping me determine what I needed to do in order to help myself feel good. I now eat gluten free and vegan and feel great. Thank you for being such a lovely blogger and sharing your story. I'm so happy that we have connected through the blog world!!PS – Did those gosh darn oats ever arrive??? I need to find the tracking number…

  5. Wow, what an amazing story! Thanks for taking the time to share it with us. And congratulations on finally finding what works! Your kitchen creations are such an inspiration! I don't have Celiac, but I do have a strong sensitivity/intolerance to gluten, so I always enjoy your blog and hearing what you have to say about it all!Also, what a gorgeous pic of you and GF guy!

  6. Katrina, your story is so compelling and inspiring. thank you for your honesty and strength to get through such trying times…and for looking at all the positive things that came from it! :)one question: how were you finally diagnosed with celiac disease?

  7. its hard when you have no one to listen to you.or to help you.or diagnose with you 1000 other things before really getting to the point.it makers everything more of a sturggle.. I developed a massive fear of starchy foods.. and I still do fear starchy foods. I still freak out when I go out to eat ( i DO go out.. but it takes like a day in advance to "prepare"):( UGHyou look beautiful , dearxo

  8. Hi Katrina,Wow – what a difference in your before and after pictures! You look so healthy and vibrant now! Thank you for sharing this. Here's my story:All of my life, I have suffered from environmental allergies and asthma. At one point, I was prescribed two inhalers, two nasal sprays, two allergy pills, and three allergy shots per week! I can remember leaving school via ambulance several times because I could not breath. I had chronic sinus infections that would return as soon as my course of antibiotics was finished.At my allergist's recommendation, I was subjected to immuno-replacement therapy because he said that I did not produce one class of immunoglobulins and that's why I get so sick. This treatment triggered anaphylaxis, and I could have died (my mom thanks the quick-thinking anesthetist that just happened to walk by me in short stay). They could not tell me what the ingredient was that was the culprit – that is scary!In my early 20's, my nephew was diagnosed with autism and my sister made it her mission to understand the connection between food sensitives and autism. In addition to learning the foods that he needed to avoid, she learned that people with my symptoms should look into a connection to food allergies. She said, "start by giving up dairy and see how you feel." I told her that I would after I finished graduate school.I did it. I gave up dairy, but I didn't experience much relief and sort of put it out of my mind. Then, as a way to continue battling my weight, I eliminated carbs from my diet for a couple of months. I felt great. I then went on vacation (you know what I mean – "I'm on vacation so it doesn't count") and had a veggie burger on a roll. I proceeded to get so sick ("fuzzy thinking" – the inability to make a decision, intense abdominal pain – the kind that makes you double over, extreme lethargy, a complete "lock down" of my digestive track) – it ruined my long weekend!At the time, I had both a primary care doctor and an allergist. When I told them both what happened and that I was afraid to eat, they both said a version of "well, next time you need blood work done, we'll check for food allergies." Not good enough. Needless to say, that's the last time I saw both of them.I educated myself and did an elimination diet on my own, and found that foods containing gluten were the culprit. This was later confirmed by a conclusive blood test: Celiac Disease. My lonely adventure of figuring what this is and how to live with it began. Boy do I wish I had help! It would have been a lot easier! Once my body began to recover, I no longer needed the inhalers, nasal sprays, allergy shots – I was just using one allergy medication.Flash forward a few years – I was managing the gluten issue beautifully but began experiencing unpleasant symptoms (skin irritation and itchiness, chronic vaginitis – sorry for the detail, but I believe this needs to be talked about! -, sinusitis, fatigue, digestive issues, unexplained aches and pains, moodiness…). My holistic doctor made many suggestions, including switching to green cleaning products, using all natural laundry detergent w/o dies/perfumes, changing birth control… When nothing improved, she said, "do some research."…and off I went, feeling alone yet again, but determined to get well. I discovered information about Candida and the work of Dr. Crook. I literally cried when I read his book because I knew I had found answers – finally! I embarked on another elimination diet and found that I needed to add sugar, cherries, peanuts, yeast, and tree nuts to the list of things to avoid. I do better when I eat less grains, and I am susceptible to Candida. Soon after these discoveries, I kicked my one allergy medication to the curb – 15 years of taking something to help with allergy symptoms and now I needed nothing! It was quite liberating! This began a new chapter of getting educated and adjusting – I have a sneaking suspicion that it won't be my last…

  9. I was luckier than most, although I probably had symptoms of Celiac Disease for a long time before being diagnosed, I did not wait for years and years like so many people. My younger brother had been sick all his life, in fact, hospitalized as a young child for an eye injury the hospital staff reported my family to CPS for neglect and malnourishment while he was there. While a diagnosis for him was not to come for another 35 years, it finally did. He called each of us to tell us we should be tested for Celiac disease. I had all the classical symptoms, and as a nurse you would think I would have been more forthcoming. But another 6 months went by and I found myself in Paris, on a three week food emersion trip. I was so sick I nearly went to the hospital. Upon my return I went in for a routine physical and reported exhaustion, shortness of breath and a funny stomach. My Hg came back at 6.8 and I was referred for a colonoscopy. A day before the procedure I remembered my brothers call 6 months earlier about his Celiac diagnosis and called my provider and asked for a serum Celiac screening and an endoscopy. Reluctantly she ordered the blood work but would not order the endoscopy. When I arrived for the colonoscopy I told the physician doing the procedure my story, including my symptoms and my brothers recent diagnosis. He agreed I needed an endoscopy and he would do it right after the colonoscopy. To make a long story short he told me right then and there, before even seeing my biopsies that I had Celiac disease, then while in the recovery area my blood work came back also suggesting Celiac. I went on a one week gluten binge, eating all those things I knew I would never eat again. Then I went to see nationally recognized physician at the Mayo clinic. I was indeed very sick and needed a great deal of medical attention to restore my health. It took over three years but finally I am feeling better and my vili have perked up. This is not a disease to fool around with, left untreated it leads to serious conditions. Like yourself I have wrapped my mind around a positive attitude. I focus on what I can have, not what I can't. I don't go to a place a deprivation or feeling sorry for myself. I am resourceful and a good cook. I am very grateful to have access to best medical care in the world, grateful that I can afford the food, grateful to have a partner that supports me. I find a positive attitude is essential in managing day to day. I am also grateful for the other gluten-free bloggers who share their stores, their recipes and their experiences. It is so helpful to have this network!

  10. I'm new to the gluten-free life but, from what I've observed in the last month, I'm pretty sure Iโ€™m here to stay. Thank goodness I live in the Internet age โ€“ without blogs like yours (thank you for sharing your story!) and all the GF resources out there, I may never have found even a glimmer of hope.After eight years of sinus misery, including 3 surgeries to remove infection and 2 years to re-grow my sinus lining, there seemed no end to the frequently recurring infections and increasingly severe sinus swelling. Add in the huge out-of-pocket medical expenses, secondary symptoms such as eczema, and side effects from the antibiotics and steroids, and I developed a surly attitude towards life in general. I don't have typical celiac symptoms, and I was surprised when my doctor ordered a celiac test (which came back negative anyway). My doctors finally dismissed me as "chronic" and I figured I was out of options โ€“ so I gave up on the pharmaceuticals and started searching for alternatives. A number of sources recommended an elimination diet, so I gave it a shot; I started with dairy, then nightshades, then gluten.One month of GF living and I've seen a dramatic improvement โ€“ an unbelievable reduction in mucus and far less sinus swelling โ€“ I can actually breathe through my nose again and no longer sound like Elmer Fudd when I talk. My coworkers have noticed and commented that I look and sound better than I have in a long time. The other thing I've noticed is that my intense craving for baked goods (Biscuits! Tortillas! Coffee cake!) is completely gone. Perhaps I'm just terrified of eating things I know will hurt me, but it's remarkable that I'm not even tempted.Recently I saw a quote by that resonates with me: "Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured" (attributed to Gordon B. Hinckley). Perhaps I'll eventually believe that there might be joy in my future. I have a lot of healing to do, but I hope that being GF will allow me to begin the process.

  11. Katrina, it is so wonderful to read your blog (even from far away now!), see how beautiful and healthy you look now and know how far you've come. I remember very well the time when you were so sick; we were all so worried about you and obviously didn't know how to help. You look AMAZING and I love looking at all the pictures and hearing about your amazing success with becoming the Gluten Free Diva Foodie that you are! I'm not GF myself, but I'm still mostly veggie and try to cook and eat organic as much as I can. I get a biweekly delivery of organic fruits and veggies @ home in NYC, and every time it comes, my friends who read my blogs tell me I should blog about it. I always think of you and your blog…maybe I'll take it up myself! Your lovely story today (knowing it already but being reminded by reading it) also reminds me I have wanted to start trying to eat a little more GF myself, so today, as I'm visiting friends in DC, I will get something specified as Gluten Free and eat it with great relish…I'm meeting a friend at Whole Foods for lunch; it should be easy! ๐Ÿ™‚ Take care, and much love to you and Mike from the Big City. ๐Ÿ™‚ xoxo,ME

  12. I only got diagnosed with celiac 6 months ago and I'm 25…I have battled with my weight and the assumption that I have been anorexic all my life. It wasn't until I finally lost 25lbs in about 3 months that my doctor finally paid attention (6 months ago). If I hadn't lost that weight I think it would have been years before I was diagnosed. It has only been 6 months gluten free, but things have gotten so much better. We actually found out that both my brothers, both my sisters, and both my parents have celiac. I can only say that my mother is feeling the best she has in her whole life!! Keep you head held high and stay strong – you are beautiful!!

  13. WoW Katrina. You have indeed come a long way. You are a strong amazing woman. I have watched your tenacity through this entire ordeal. Cried with you, cried for you, and pleaded with God to find a cure for you. In spite of the fact Dad is a Doctor and I'm a nurse we searched far and wide trying to find an accurate diagnosis. Only when you were on the brink of collapse did we find Dr. Morrissey. Many judgemental people pointed and shouted "eating disorder." As your mom I knew better. We were doing everything in our power within the medical perspective to find a proper diagnosis. We were open to whatever it may be. You were always a strong stable child within our family. Suddenly you were withering away. Life has it's way. Even with all the medical help at our fingertips one can not change a person unless the person is willing to change themselves. It was time. Thankfully once your strong will decided gluten was the villian your healing crusade began. This is a relatively new disorder. Finally medical science is addressing it. The blood work does not always come back Celiacs but the physical symptoms and destruction from the gluten is the same as celiacs. When Nicole struggled with this in high school starting in 1999 labels didn't even have gluten free on them. We researched and researched-listened and prayed. Dr. Moressey listened and prayed with you too. You have come along way. Your strength and desire to help others is admirable. Each day I see you I see more and more of my Katrina "coming back home" Your expertise in making GF meals will help so many people. If they never stop saturating our wheat fields with pesticides you will continue to live happy healthy GF life. Meanwhile you will help others do the same. I thank God for letting you go through the painful struggles in which I agonized watching as your mother. Because I trust God will use your struggles in a mighty way to help others. Lastly, the two years on the road in musical theatre has caused you to excel in living to "GF Across America" and avoid junky fast foods "No Excuses." I am so proud of your strength. May God bless you with a double blessing for each individual's pain you are able to lighten because of your past experience. Your positive outlook is contagious and healing in and of itself. I love you – Mom

  14. Thank you for your honest post! I loved it and I love you! I am so happy you finally diagnosed correctly and found yourself in a better place! You definitely look so much more vibrant!!You are so beautiful Katrina!!

  15. What a journey Katrina!I know what it is like to feel so sick and frustrated, not knowing what is happening.For over three years I struggled with unfortunate symptoms of extreme abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, and a lot more that I won't share. My GP didn't really have an answer to what my symptoms were showing, so I decided to go the alternative route of naturopathy. I got tested for food intolerances, and wow were there a lot! I eliminated the foods from my diet but still was feeling awful. It wasn't until about two years into my symptoms that I went to see a GI who ordered some intensive tests…from those tests, he concluded I had a mix of Crohn's and irrritable bowel. I am now on 2 medications and following an Eastern approach to medicine. I have been living without many foods such as dairy, refined sugars, corn, and a few more for the past 2 years, but it was only a few months ago that I eliminated gluten…has it made a difference! I am still not 100% in remission, but I am definitely having WAY more good days than bad.Life gives us obstacles that we have to endure, but I am now finally realizing that what I have, just has to be lived with. It is my new norm and I should embrace each day to the fullest!Take care Katrina, I love your blog…and the new format is awesome!

  16. What a moving story! I am so happy that you found answers and most importantly…found life again!!! My story is actually of my husband, who when I met him was battling awful skin and digestive problems… problems that he hid from me for a good 6 months or so in the start of our relationship. I still remember the day I went to hug him and he pushed me away while mad. I thought it was over between us. A couple hours later he broke down and opened up to me. He had a terrible rash all over his lower stomach that hurt even to have a shirt rub against. He was out of his medicine- thus the reason he had pushed me away and got upset. He suffered from terrible ADD, skin rashes and digestive issues beyond anything I'd heard of before. The doctors after endless tests said he had a rare skin disease and put him on meds to mask the problem. The digestion they said was stress related. My heart wanted nothing more but answers for him and I knew there had to me something… After over a year of research of my own I came across a website explaining about a rash that developed when exposed to gluten to those with celiac disease… the page had pictures… exactly as my husband. The next day he had tests done. Just as we suspected- he finally had a diagnosis. Immediatly we purged everything with gluten in our home, even personal care products. To this day so long as he doesnt consume gluten he is fine. He finally went off those horrible drugs and is living rash free and with a happy digestion!!!

  17. What a beautiful post, Katrina! I love hearing stories about how eating gluten-free has changed peoples' lives. I feel like deciding to eat gluten-free was a miracle in my life. I'm such a happier person now and am so grateful for all the blogs that helped me decide to try eating gluten-free.

  18. Katrina,thank you so much for sharing such an amazing story. You are an inspiration for others!P.S. I LOVE the new look of your blog and your profile photo, you look so beautiful!

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