Today I have the pleasure of sharing a guest post, another personal story—yet another gluten-free journey to wellness. I think gluten-free personal stories are so very important in helping individuals recognize their gluten symptoms. Today’s personal story comes from Linda Etherton who you probably know much better as Gluten-Free Homemaker (sadly, this site is no longer active).
I have long admired Linda; she gives so much to the gluten-free community. From delicious gluten-free recipes to thought-provoking discussion posts to her weekly recipe roundup, Gluten-Free Wednesdays, Linda and her blog are a valued resource for the gluten-free. So I was especially delighted to meet Linda in person at a bloggers’ summit last month. And, she was even more wonderful in person. Here’s a short bio of Linda and then her story, in her words.
Linda, a former elementary school teacher, is now a stay-at-home mom who home schools two of her three teenage boys. She shares gluten-free recipes and information on her blog, Gluten-Free Homemaker.
It’s a privilege to be able to share my story here at gluten free easily (gfe). If you have read Shirley’s blog much at all, you know that she is an important and encouraging voice in the gluten-free community. I highly respect her, and I so enjoyed meeting her last month at General Mills.
Everybody’s celiac (or gluten intolerant) story is a little different, but there are often many similarities. Sharing our stories can be therapeutic for us, and very helpful for others. Sometimes it’s just nice for people to know they are not alone. They may share a similar experience with a doctor or have the same symptoms, and hearing your story helps them to feel that theirs is valid (even though it’s valid anyway). Or maybe your experience is different, but it triggers something that leads them to see symptoms in another person. Talking about our stories helps to spread the word that celiac disease and gluten intolerance is a real problem that needs to be taken seriously. I’m going to summarize the major point of my personal story below.
(photo from microsoft.office.com)
I was losing weight. It was nice to be rid of the 10 pounds I had gained over three pregnancies, but it wasn’t making sense. I could eat lots of fattening food and still lose weight. Then I became very weak and had such a hard time thinking and concentrating. When I later heard the term “brain fog” I thought, “That’s it! That describes it perfectly!” A visited a couple of doctors and had tests run, but nothing was showing up. Then my mom told me her brother had something called celiac disease. This was ten years ago and celiac was still considered rare. Only about 1 in 5,000 to 10,000 people had it. So they said. I looked it up in a medical book, and it didn’t sound like me at all. I blew it off.
We did have the Internet back then. I was using dial-up and searching for answers. When nothing else seemed to make sense I started searching for information about celiac. Maybe I had missed something. Sure enough, the information I found on the web sounded much more like my problems. For one, I had constipation, not diarrhea. That really threw my doctors off. But the more I read, but more I became convinced that I had celiac disease also.
I got a referral to a gastrointestinal doctor who at least believed me when I told him how terrible I felt. Other doctors I had seen told me things like, “Your body is just losing weight right now,” or “You’re just depressed.” The GI doctor ran a celiac blood test which at that time was the antigliadin test. It was positive. After I pleaded with him to do an endoscopy, he finally agreed.
I had stopped eating gluten for about a month in an effort to do anything to feel better, and sure enough, I started gaining some strength in just a matter of days. The doctor had me go back to eating gluten for two weeks before the endoscopy. It gave me a chance to eat my favorite foods one last time, but the abdominal pain it gave me made it less than enjoyable.
Wheat Bread and Other Favorite Foods One Last Time (photo from microsoft.office.com)
The endoscopy revealed obvious damage and the biopsies showed villous atrophy. When the doctor called me with the report he said, “You diagnosed yourself. I should give you your money back.”
And so, my gluten-free journey began. I was soon to learn that after being gluten free my body reacted even more strongly to ingesting tiny amounts of gluten. I saw it as a blessing in disguise, because it taught me just how careful I had to be. After a number of years, my reactions grew less frequent and less severe, but I know that I still have to be just as careful. I now have a 19-year-old son who is eating gluten free. He did not test positive for celiac, but definitely reacts to gluten. He is now the sensitive one in the house.
Linda’s Gluten-Free French Bread Rolls (photo by Linda Etherton)
I have enjoyed the challenge of learning to cook and bake gluten free. While other members of my family do eat gluten, it is kept in its own space away from where I cook. Anything I make is always gluten free. I don’t apologize for serving gluten free food to anyone because I believe that gluten free can and should be delicious. Many foods are naturally gluten free, and Shirley excels at sharing those kinds of recipes on her blog. I also believe that gluten-free baking can produce amazing results that anyone will enjoy.
Shirley here: Many, many thanks to Linda for sharing her personal gluten-free story. You can find more gluten-free personal stories on gfe.
This is Day 12 of my 25 Days of Christmas holiday/blog anniversary event. You can check out all the previous posts below:
Day 1 – Mommy, What Is Celiac Disease? Book Review
Day 2 — Guest Post from Debi Smith (Hunter’s Lyonesse)—My Journey Back to Healthy Living
Day 3 — Corn and Butter Bean (or Lima Bean) Casserole for A Gluten-Free Holiday
Day 4 — Little Cayman Beach Resort Review
Day 5 — 20 (Plus) Thoughts on International Food Bloggers Conference
Day 6 — Nutiva Products (Coconut, Hemp x 2, & Chia) Review
Day 7 — Reindeer Antlers Punch for Share Our Holiday Table
Day 8 – Flourless Pecan Sandies (Gluten Free, Grain Free, Dairy Free)
Day 9 — Volcano Pancake and Other Breakfast Fare Plus Allegro Marinade
Day 10 – The Palate Peacemaker’s Pecan Butter & Pumpkin … Uh Oh … Cake!
Day 11 — Kitchen Table Bakers Crisps Review and Giveaway
Originally published December 13, 2010; updated February 26, 2022.
Shirley ~ Thanks so much for having me as your guest. Keep up the good work!
Hey Linda–Very belated reply, dear, but it was totally my pleasure having you guest post. 🙂 Hope more folks will find their way here to read your story!
Thanks for the kind words … you’re a gluten-free sweetheart. 😉 So happy we’re “in this together.”
Thank you Linda for sharing your story. It was great to see both you and Shirley at General Mills. It is always so interesting to hear others share their stories. Each story is so unique yet so similar.
Hi Lynn–Thanks for taking the time to comment! It was wonderful to meet you, Linda, and others. Nothing beats those moments when we see each other face to face and inevitably end up telling our stories, sharing our gf tips, etc. Yes, the stories are so similar, yet individual like you said. I think that’s what makes them so fascinating, but, of course, the happy endings are the best part. 😉
It was great to read Linda’s story. At first, I didn’t get that it was gluten free homemaker Linda because I hadn’t seen her last name before. I forget that bloggers also have last names. 🙂
And I’m making those rolls. They look wonderful.
Tia ~ That’s funny! I don’t use my last name very much in blogging so it’s not surprising that you were confused. That has happened to me too.
Tia–I remember seeing Linda’s last name for the first time, too. I was like, who? LOL We become our first names and blog names. 😉
Linda is well known for her bread and rolls. Bet you’ll love them!
Wendy @ Celiacs in the House says
Thanks Linda and Shirley. It is so important to share our stories and compare notes. Makes me wonder how many of us should ‘get our money back’ after self-diagnosing.
Hey Wendy–Thanks so much for taking the time to comment on Linda’s story and how important it is to share our stories. Hey, now there’s an idea … maybe the diagnosis rate would go WAY UP if the doctors gave us our money back when they couldn’t diagnose or just confirmed our self diagnosis. 😉
I’m interested in hearing more about how Linda convinced her 19-yr old son to go gluten-free. The GF transition was hard enough on me… and my 18-yr old son want almost nothing to do with my “weird” food. I have made substitutions so that I have stopped cooking 2 meals every night for dinner for the family. So my son is eating some of his meals GF. It just seems a little “late” in the parenting game to convince him to try a whole different diet.
Lisa ~ You can read about my son’s story here:
I was gluten-free for so long before he had to be that gluten free did not seem weird to him. Since everything I cook/bake is gf, he was already used to eating great tasting gf food. Not that the diet change is easy for him, but it’s easier than it would be for someone with less experience.
Hi Lisa–Thanks for commenting! I did want to add in my own experience with Son. He could never get a celiac diagnosis despite having dermatitits herpetiformis and a host of other typical symptoms. He did test positive for gluten sensitivity. What motivated him initially to go gluten free was the DH on his torso. He was 16 and a lifeguard at the time. So he stopped eating gluten and after several weeks his DH went away. I cooked completely gluten free for all of us and had naturally gf snacks on hand … real food, mainstream gf snacks, a few specialty products (like gf frozen waffles and such). Basically, we were all following my whole gfe approach, although Mr. GFE still ate gluten out and ate gluten sandwiches for most lunches. All sounds rosy, doesn’t it? Well, not so much because fast forward a year or two, Son eventually went back to eating gluten … said it was too hard to manage, too expensive at college, didn’t want to get special treatment, etc. But, his health suffered and although he didn’t want to acknowlege it at the time, he knew it. So finally at age 20, he made the decision on his own to give up gluten again. I was thrilled and tried to keep quiet, only offering suggestions when he asked for help. For a good while, he was still eating out in fast food restaurants (burgers with no buns) and still getting cross contamination and feeling the results. Now he’s being much more careful and coming up with new strategies. It’s definitely different for a young man out on his own in college who does not cook that often. All that to say that he really had to come to it all on his own. It was painful to watch him suffer for a long time, but my loving reminders (aka nagging) did no good. The best thing I did was to make tons of naturally gf recipes to show him how good they were; buy real food and some mainstream, safe foods; and show him how to eat out as safely as possibly. I have just led by example as much as possible. My sympathies because it’s not necessarily easy on either the mom’s or the son’s part, but it can be done.
So glad to hear your story Linda! I couldn’t imagine eating gluten anymore, that’s how much better I feel compared to the ‘before’ days. My oldest son (9yrs) shows signs that he is sensitive to gluten too so this Christmas holidays we are going on a two week trial to see if there is a difference. I’ll be sure to make him lots of festive treats because like you I believe eating gluten free should taste delicious!
Hi Chelsey–I really appreciate you taking the time to comment and share your personal experience a bit as well as your son’s possible sensitivity. He has the perfect mom for this trial period as you make wonderful gf food! 🙂
Thanks for sharing Linda with us Shirley! I discovered her through GF Wednesdays, which I love! I always enjoy hearing everyone’s story. It amazes me how vastly different they are!
Hi Maggie–I was so happy when Linda agreed to guest post and share her story! We all get so used to seeing each other for recipe roundups and such (and don’t we love them? especially Linda’s GF Wednesdays!) that we forget the “back story” sometimes. They are all so enlightening … I’m truly riveted to each one.
Anne Mikszewski says
I want to thank you for all of the education and guidance John and I have received from you. John’s health is back on track due to eating real healthy gluten free food. We are both healthier and much thanks goes to you for that.
Hi Anne-Oh, you’re a doll! Thanks for taking the time to comment and I appreciate your very generous words, but you guys make a great team and are truly responsible for getting John back on track! Maybe I’ll get John to share his story on gfe one day … hmmm, I like that idea.
Can’t wait to try that homemade relish you made for me! 🙂 Holiday hugs!
Valerie @ City|Life|Eats says
Hi Shirley – I loved this guest post by Linda. And glad you like the Spicy Hot Chocolate recipe 🙂
Hey Valerie–I haven’t made your Spicy Hot Chocolate yet, but I’m so glad you shared it over at Linda’s. The last mug of hot chocolate I made got spilled after only two sips. I’ve been too busy to make another, but when I do, it will be your recipe. I’ll report back!
Linda did a great job, didn’t she? I never tire of these personal stories. Those of who are already gluten fee can totally relate and empathize, and others who suspect they might need to be gf might have their eyes opened further. So personal gluten stories help us all. 🙂
Thank you for your story. I’m newly self diagnosed and then confirmed by enterolab for Intolerance. My husband also tested positive for intolerance. Genetically speaking our kids are likely intolerant and two have symptoms. My doctor’s seem to want the celiac diagnosis and I do wish I’d gone for blood tests early just for “proof” I think I probably did have celiac but I’ve been GF 3 months and can’t go back. My kids tested neg. for celiac so now all their symptoms (according to the drs.) are disregarded. So no one is REALLY GF but me. I know they would benefit from the diet but they are all teens and I’m just banking on cooking yummy GF food and getting them to eat it. Thanks for your story. I imagine I’ll have more questions about helping your kids as I go along. Your story was so helpful, Delise
Delise, While more and more doctors are aware of the prevalence of celiac disease, gluten intolerance is still something that many disregard. That can make it difficult when it comes to convincing family members that they need to be on a gf diet. Luckily, my son’s symptoms have been strong enough that he sees it for himself. My three kids are teens too, and they enjoy my gf food, but I’ve been doing this for a while. It might take time, but I think yours will learn that gluten free can be delicious. Don’t give up!