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I Have a Gluten Intolerance, Now What?

July 15, 2013

When I was 14 years old, I began going to the school nurse complaining of stomach pain on a regular basis. Cramps, bloating, distention; I remember feeling like people were staring at my stomach wondering why it was so big or if I was pregnant. I stopped wearing shirts that hugged my midsection. Anything that clung was tossed aside. My parents routinely took me to the doctor for tests, which came back as positive for lactose intolerance but negative for anything more serious. They concluded that I had IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and to just “watch what I ate”, which to a 14 year old doesn’t resolve much. To a 30 year old, it doesn’t even resolve much. But gluten intolerance wasn’t a ‘thing’ back then. So the stomach pain, bloating, and distention continued just about everyday for the next 15 years. This sounds like a story of blaming my doctor but let’s be honest, I’ve been highly aware and fairly knowledgeable about gluten intolerance for at least the past 10 years. Have you ever been in extreme denial of something, albeit the pain it causes you? Well, that’s me with my stomach problems. I’ve debated even telling this story because of the shame in my denial (that and the fact that people cringe at the sound of “stomach problems”). The mere thought of being gluten intolerant felt like a threat to my identity. My love of cupcakes and desserts and bread of all kinds runs so deep I’ve based the past 5 years of my life around it. I just didn’t want to be gluten intolerant. But in case you didn’t know, you can’t just wish something like that away. So in spite of the fear of what this means to my identity, I think I’m finally ready to accept reality. After years of sacrificing my health and tight shirts and stomach confidence for my business and my ‘cupcake identity’, I think I’m ready to give up the gluten. The past two weeks I’ve lived gluten-free and I’ve got to tell you, I’ve felt almost fantastic. The swelling has gone down, the bloat has subsided, and I no longer sit on my couch in pain after eating a big dinner. I’d like to say, “I wish I hadn’t waited so long to accept the reality of my gluten intolerance and to give up the gluten” but I’d be lying. Dollop would not have been as successful as it was had it been a gluten-free cupcake shop. And I would not have had the creative freedom to write such a unique and innovative cookbook as The Dollop Book of Frosting: Sweet and Savory Icings, Spreads, Meringues, and Ganaches for Dessert and Beyond had it been restricted to gluten-free baking. And as much as I’ve lived in pain everyday, I don’t regret all the amazing foods I’ve enjoyed along the way. Warm crusty bread, pints of craft beer, apple pie, and chocolate chip cookies—I’ll miss you. (Frosting though, is naturally gluten-free. MAJOR WIN.) The best part of all this though is the freeing feeling of unleashing that dirty little secret. That one thing you don’t want anyone to know so badly that you won’t even admit it to yourself. You might even have multiple little secrets. I know I do. But I think starting with one is a huge step forward. So here goes: Hi, I’m Heather and I’m gluten-free. For comments: What have you been denying that you want to free yourself from? Do you have a gluten-free experience you can share?    

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