When living with autoimmune, Don’t forget why we keep going.

Last year was the second time I went through the unwanted experience of struggling with health issues because of autoimmune problems. Fortunately, Celiacs is one that is not as serious as other autoimmune diseases like lupus or MS. But the symptoms for me were severe until I found out and became gluten free. During the months before diagnosis I went through the maze of doctor appointments and testing.

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The first time I went through autoimmune problems, symptoms, doctors, and testing was in 1993 to 1995. By the time the cause was discovered, I was heading to heart, kidney, and live failure. The test results were dismal. For example, my cholesterol was 413. Fortunately, it was a simple autoimmune problem to manage. I found out I have hypothyroidism, so I take a pill each day.

Both times I tried not to focus on just myself, but instead, on my calling to serve others as a teacher and in ministry. Last year as I went through the months of pain, skin rashes, and other issues related to Celiacs, what kept me going was the thought of my students.

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The picture above is of me sitting in front of a calendar my students made in my morning class. It is a class of moms I teach in the mornings at the school where their children go. They come to learn English, so they can help their children. Living with the pain before diagnosis getting out of bed was not something I enjoyed, but it was the thought of ‘my moms’ as I call my students that got me out of bed.

I didn’t tell them anything. The focus is on them and their needs not on me. So the classroom still had laughter, learning, and community. I didn’t tell them until we returned in September after I was diagnosed. I only told them because sometimes we have food days and I wanted to explain that there are foods I cannot eat anymore.

What keeps you going as you live with autoimmune problems?

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Mental Health Mondays- Exercise Has Helped

Last May I began physical therapy for a bad knee. The therapy was in the water in an aqua track at Madonna Proactive in my home city Lincoln. I have to admit at first I was not really into it, but I wanted to try to avoid surgery, so I went and did my best. The picture is of the actual aqua track.

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For therapy, I would do two laps into the current, two laps with the current behind my back, one lap backward, one lap sideways, and then go into the center for some exercises.

After therapy was finished, I joined the gym to continue exercising. I would do about ten laps and then the exercises, BUT- something happened.

After I became gluten free last August, my energy level improved. One day as I was walking I felt I could go longer, and lo and behold, I went 20 laps. So I did 20 laps each time for a few weeks and then one day I went 30. I read on the sign that 43 laps equaled one mile, so I hoped to reach 43. One week after going 30, I kept going because I felt good and I hit 50. With nasty gluten out of my body, my energy level and stamina for exercise improved.

What does that have to do with Mental Health Mondays? I don’t think I need to quote experts because it is common knowledge by now that exercise benefits us by reducing stress, increasing oxygen flow to the brain etc etc. The reason I am writing about exercise today is the light goes on while I walk.

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I get ideas when I exercise. I started writing again, short stories, drama pieces, and blogs. Ideas come to me while I am walking in the aqua track. As a creative person, I cannot express enough what that means to me now that the foggy brain of Celiacs is gone. On Saturday I was walking around the aqua track and I finished writing a short story in my head for my blog encounterswiththeancients.com about a man meeting Peter while fishing. I came home and typed it up and will post it on Tuesday.

Exercise helps me sleep better, think more clearly, and just plain FEEL better. If we feel better physically, it helps us feel better mentally and when living with autoimmune problems, which I have a few, that is so worthwhile.

What helps you as you live with Celiacs or other autoimmune problems?

Food Fridays- A Way to Enjoy PB and J without a Sandwich

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches

I used to love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. In attempts to be somewhat healthy I would use 100% whole wheat bread and all natural peanut butter. BUT now that I know I have Celiacs, the 100% whole wheat bread is a thing of the past. Do I need to buy the expensive gluten free bread to enjoy the taste?

Fortunately, I have an alternative. The ingredients are simple. I start with certified gluten free oatmeal. For the peanut butter, I use all natural peanut butter made with only- PEANUTS. No high fructose corn syrup or oils. Only peanuts and a bit of salt.

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I prefer the creamy. What about the jelly? Do I need to buy something with WAY TOO MUCH sugar or high fructose corn syrup? No, a thousands times NO. For my PB and J treat, I use fresh fruit.

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Of course apples are readily available now, but oh when summer comes, the choices are plentiful. To sweeten it a bit more, I like to add 100% grape juice.

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So I cut up the fruit and put in my food processor thing and then add some grape juice and let it blend. Then after the oatmeal is cooked and ready, I stir in a spoon full of all natural peanut butter. I like to do that first to mix the peanut butter throughout the oatmeal. Then I add the fresh fruit grape juice mix and stir it up and I have PB and J without the gluten, without the high fructose corn syrup, and without the unhealthy oils.

The nice thing about this concoction is I can use any fruit and if grapes are in season, I use fresh grapes not juice. Black grapes tend to be sweeter than green grapes.

I am certainly no chef and I won’t even try to post recipes. This is just one little thing I found I can do to still enjoy that PB and J taste without the nasty stuff. For those who are vegan or vegetarian, this also works.

 

 

Positive Changes After I Became Gluten Free

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At first when one hears the words, “You have Celiacs” and “You need to have a zero gluten diet” one could go through a sort of grieving process. The no mores can flood our minds kind of like storm clouds gathering. No mores like no more pizza, no more sandwiches, no more cookies.

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For me the no mores were replaced by the Oh Wows as I discovered a few positive changes.

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One that I began to notice about a month after being gluten free was my sense of taste improved A LOT. I noticed one day when I took a bit out of a peach. My taste buds reacted big time.

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The way I describe it is it was like the taste sensation was dancing on my tongue. I noticed it every time I ate some fruit.

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And then one day I ate some quality dark chocolate and my tastes buds exploded.

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Wow so chocolate and fruit are both so much better tasting now. The only thing was adjusting how spicy I had my food so I would not feel like my tongue was on fire.

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So if you are newly diagnosed with Celiacs, cheer up because some positives can happen. Having my sense of taste come alive was a big one for me. Oh and hint hint- Organic fruit tastes better than regular fruit.

Food Fridays- Refugee Friends Made A Gluten Free Lunch for Me

One aspect of having Celiacs is the concern of eating at someone’s home. It can be a pain in the neck to explain what Celiacs is and what gluten free is. One thing I have found with my friends from other cultures is their willingness to make sure food is gluten free that they share with me.

With some cultures it is easier because wheat is not part of their normal diet as well as barley and rye. They cook food with fresh ingredients. I have found that with my Asian friends if I explain I cannot have soy sauce, they will make sure they do not use soy sauce. (Soy Sauce has gluten).

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That was true of my lunch yesterday with Karenni friends from Burma. Htoo, my hostess, cooked a delicious lunch and reassured me she did not use soy sauce. We had a dish made of bamboo shoots, curry beef, eggs with mushroom, chicken, and other delicious foods.

I even went home with some left overs which is ALWAYS a happy moment for me.

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I am glad the food was healthy and conducive to gluten free and also to weight loss. I needed that because, well, I went home with some gluten free chocolate cake last week that a student from Dominican Republic gave me.

 

Mental Health Mondays- Foggy Brain?

Foggy Brain???? What is that????

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I didn’t hear the term foggy brain until after I was diagnosed with Celiacs. Basically, foggy brain for me meant the normal day to day stuff was okay kind of like being on auto pilot, but my creative side was SHUT down. It is probably different for everyone. If you want a clinical explanation I got this from NIH. Just click on the NIH for it.

It is kind of like being stuck in 2nd gear when you want to be in 3rd gear or sometimes in 4th gear. I was fine with teaching because I had taught my classes for so long that like I said it was auto pilot, but writing, creating, etc were just not there for the few years before I was diagnosed. It was kind of like walking through mud when I wanted to be running on the sidewalk.

I really noticed the difference a month or so after I became gluten free. It was like someone turned on the light bulb in my head.

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I started to notice ideas for writing were coming to me quickly as if I had just gone into hyperspace.

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I would notice as I was doing my water walking at the gym. Ideas started coming to me. I wrote a drama script for my church that was performed in the Christmas Eve service about the angel Gabriel visiting the nativity to check it out first hand.

So why would I share about something like foggy brain? Because if one person reads this and it helps them to think they possibly could have Celiacs due to just not feeling their peppy selves mentally, and they get checked, and they find out they have Celiacs, then this post is worth it. Sorry for the run on sentence-(I am a grammar nerd myself just got carried away).

So if you are reading this post and you feel not so peppy mentally, and you have other symptoms, if you want to see a list click on the word symptoms for a list from Mayo Clinic, then get checked out.

Remember- IT IS YOUR BODY, IT IS YOUR HEALTH.

 

 

Gluten Free Dining/Sunday Lunch at Chopsticks Chinese Cuisine Restaurant

Anyone with Celiacs Disease experiences the apprehension about dining out because dining out can be too complicated. We have to ask questions about what is in the food. We constantly have to be careful and we should because as my mantra goes- IT IS YOUR BODY, IT IS YOUR HEALTH. It means a lot to me when I can talk with someone at a restaurant about my need for gluten free and they understand.

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This afternoon after church, I went to Chopsticks Chinese Restaurant to have lunch with a friend. I looked at their menu online, but wasn’t sure if they had gluten free items, so I called them last night and spoke with a woman. She understood about my need for gluten free and explained to me they do have some gluten free items. Why do I need to ask that before going to a Chinese restaurant? Soy Sauce has gluten in it. The woman I talked with let me know they have items without soy sauce.

SO– This afternoon I met a friend there. When I went to the counter to order, I told Maggie the owner I need gluten free. She remembered me from the phone and said, “Oh I talked with you last night.” She was very helpful about what I could order and could not order. I got the chicken with snow pea.

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The portion size was generous enough that I took some home. The food tasted good. I feel confident about going back there again. If you go there, you will find Maggie the owner to be very helpful and understanding about the need for gluten free.

Oh by the way, I have proof I can eat with chopsticks. The picture isn’t the best because the window was behind me, but here is proof I can eat with chopsticks.

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Food Fridays- Trying Gluten Free Snacks

If you are like me, when you hear words like organic or gluten free about snacks, you envision something that tastes like flavored this

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And yes there are some gluten free products that are kind of hard to chew or that make me wonder- WHY would anyone think of this?????

Some I have tried pleasantly surprised me. I have to say that as someone with Celiacs, I SO appreciate it when I go into a supermarket and see a gluten free aisle, not only a small section, but half an aisle like I found at a local HyVee supermarket where there were snacks, cereals, canned soups, gluten free pastas etc.

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Well, this week I tried an Acai/Blueberry snack bar from Glutino.

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And NO I am not a paid to advertise. Glutino doesn’t know me and doesn’t follow my blog or me on twitter, BUT I will give a shout out to a company that makes food for those of us that have Celiacs.

I thought it would be fun to make a video of myself trying the snack right out of the box for the first time for an authentic reaction. Here it is from my new youtube channel Celiacs Guy:

 

Is it really gluten free?

In a recent conversation I had with a woman who teaches in the school where I teach in the mornings, the topic of gluten free came up. She has a daughter who was recently diagnosed with Celiacs Disease.

Once a month at the school, there is a pot-luck lunch for the teachers. I stopped in and commented, “I came in to see food I can’t eat anymore” more as a joke with one of my colleagues. My colleague patted me on the shoulder and commented that Celiacs isn’t easy.

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That got the attention of the teacher whose daughter has Celiacs. She shared with me about her daughter and that her daughter still has symptoms after the family became gluten free. That introduced THE question for those of us with Celiacs. IS IT REALLY GLUTEN FREE??????

When she mentioned the name of one popular cereal that has gluten free on the front of the box, she didn’t have to say anything more. Of course I won’t mention the name of the cereal because I don’t want some corporate lawyer calling. However you can figure it out easily.

Gluten Free has become a bit of a fad for advertising. At first, I was misled by it until I met with a nutritionist at the gym I belong to. She explained that it has to be Certified Gluten Free. The light went on.

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I thought right away about the cereal I had still been eating that said Gluten Free on the front of the box. Then I googled it and found that it was not for sure Gluten Free, so I don’t buy that cereal anymore.

Now I look for one of the Certified Gluten Free symbols on the package before I even think about buying packaged food.

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Don’t fall for advertising gimmicks. Look for it to be Certified Gluten Free. It is YOUR health and YOUR body. If I have any doubt, I simply don’t buy it.

Mental Health Mondays- Coping with Chronic Conditions

Having been through two serious problems with autoimmune from onset and being sick, through the process of diagnosis. to adjusting to life after diagnosis, I can see how easy it would be to give in to depression and anxiety.

With autoimmune, the problem is ALWAYS there. It is a constant companion we wish would go away. In the days of trying to find out what the problem is, there are doctors to see, tests to be performed on us, and living with the symptoms. After getting diagnosed, each day we need to be vigilant. Depression can set in.

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Anxiety can also set in.

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With Celiacs Disease depression and anxiety can become an issue especially before going gluten free but also even after going gluten free. I will never forget the first ten days in August 2017. On July 31 the rheumatologist office called to say the blood test came back positive for Celiacs and that I should eat “normal” until I saw the GI specialist for confirmation. I had stopped eating bread and was perhaps 90% gluten free over the summer because I read that white flour and sugar cause inflammation in the body. I went back to eating bread and a “normal diet” and after one day depression and anxiety HIT HARD. The pain was severe and I couldn’t sleep much. On August 10, I was in the rheumatologist office with a PA to go over the results of all of my tests and I broke down telling her I can’t do it. She left the office; I thought they might come back with a straight jacket; she talked with the doctor, the doctor contacted the GI specialist who said I could go back to gluten free.

My biggest concern was to be able to be there for my students and for the people I help through my ministry. My faith is important to me, therefore, prayer is a big part of my life. I found a video by Kristene DiMarco on YouTube early last year and began to listen to it everyday during my times of prayer and it got to the point that I would listen to it ten or more times a day. The song is It Is Well.

 

This is the official Bethel Music video for the song. This song helped me keep going through all of the testing, all of the pain, all of the down days, and through the adjustment period to my new life of gluten free. I still listen to it each day along with other songs. It is how I start my day and it helps me to focus on God and not myself.

I would like to encourage anyone who is struggling with depression and/or anxiety as a result of chronic conditions like Celiacs to seek help. Talk with someone, a friend, a doctor, someone. There is hope. For me, it was talking with Jesus and seeking him. Please do not stay alone in your struggle. There is hope.