My Story

It all began in 2007 when I was hired at The Steeping Room.  Emily Morrison, one of the owners, was eating gluten-free at the time.  I asked her why and she explained that eliminating, or at least moderating, gluten in one's diet can lead to more consistent energy levels, better sleep, and a more predictable mood.  At the time I was still in graduate school, so I definitely could have stood for some intervention in all three categories (ask anyone).  Plus, the menu made eating gluten-free so accessible.  So I thought, "Why not?"

I started out the experiment by moderating my gluten intake, and within the first three weeks, I was feeling a distinct difference.  I was remembering my dreams, sleeping....period, and I didn't experience as many digestion issues.  So I decided to take the plunge and do my best to eliminate gluten from my diet.  And from then, I just kept feeling better and better.

"Better than what?" you might wonder.  

Well, starting with sleep, and my lack thereof, I was an insomniac since middle school.  I also had a very temperamental gut (that's putting it very kindly).  Whether it was colitis, IBS, a spastic duodenum, or ulcers, my digestive system seemed to always be complaining.  As a result, my weight would rapidly fluctuate from underweight to bloated and puffy.  Upper respiratory infections were also part of my modus operandi, as were their partner in crime, migraine headaches.  And my joints, knees and ankles in particular, were prone to inflammation that often prevented me from doing things.  There is more to the list, but as you can gather, it was quite the life. 

In hindsight, the crazy thing to me is that I had accepted all of these things and fully identified with all of them.  My mantra was, "That's just how I am.  Sorry."  I had learned helplessness, and rather than look for a way out, I was content with my suffering, taking medication upon medication to numb the pain, and in effect, numb my mind and my senses.  

A few months into my experiment, I was amazed at how different I felt.  The digestive issues were becoming less and less frequent, I hadn't had a migraine in over a month, I no longer needed a nap in the middle of the day,  it was much easier for me to concentrate and stay focused, and my body wasn't as bloated and swollen.  Feeling much better, I started exercising regularly and was beginning to wean myself off all my medications.  It felt like a brand new start.

Of course, the true test of an experiment is changing one of the variables and seeing what happens.  I was thoroughly convinced that I had chosen to go gluten-free, so I could easily unchoose from time to time and all would be well, right?  Hellooooo, wake-up call.

Some friends had invited me to meet them for dinner, and it happened to be at restaurant known for it's southern, homestyle food.  I hadn't really told everyone that I was eating gluten-free, so when the waiter gave me a blank look (you know the one) when I asked him about gluten-free options, I didn't make a big deal out of it.  Now, I thought I had made some decent choices to help me minimize the amount of gluten: cornbread (I'm sure it's mostly cornmeal), green beans (the sauce is pretty thick, but certainly not a roux), and hot wings (this barbecue sauce probably doesn't have soy sauce in it).  [cue sound of angry buzzer]

I was sooooo wrong.

After saying goodbye to my friends, I noticed that my waistband was feeling very tight.  And yup, wouldn't you know, a migraine was starting to grind into my temples.  That night, I didn't sleep.  In fact, I didn't sleep restfully for the next 2 nights, because it hurt to lie down, my body was so swollen ( I won't get into some of the gorier details). And that's when it occurred to me:  this is not a choice anymore.

Now, while some people get really huffy about not having a choice, I felt relieved.  There was finally clarity as to why I had felt so horrible for most of my life.  Without being conscious of it, I had conducted something close to an elimination diet.  Taking gluten out, my symptoms started to resolve.  Challenging the body by putting gluten back in resulted in the symptoms flaring up.  It was cool to know that there was something I could do about it, that I wasn't bound to the body I had grown up with.  And having experienced how good my body could feel, it put into perspective just how badly my body was suffering.  

*******
And so here I am today, and I haven't looked back.  Since eliminating gluten 7 years ago, I have also eliminated dairy, and for the last two years have followed a vegan, plant-based way of living.  And I continue to feel better, more complete, and more whole.

Now, I see the world and my place in it so differently.  I am more in tune with the ebb and flow and wants and needs of my body, and step by step, I am walking the path to fulfilling my potential as a human being.  Strong words, but the greatest lesson learned thus far, and the greatest lesson I can share with you, is the direct correlation between quality of life and quality of food.  Food nourishes the mind, body, and soul.  If we poison ourselves, how can we expect to live a joyful life?

Every human being is the author of his own health or disease. - Buddha

Indeed, we are.

Thank you for reading.  I hope you enjoy your visit to The Canary Files.

Wishing you Love and Light,  

Jonathan