DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor, nor a healthcare professional. Please seek advice when starting a gluten and/or dairy free diet and do not diagnose yourself based on my story/Google. You honestly won’t thank yourself later!
Hey guys! I thought I would write something a little more personal here to give you my journey into a gluten and dairy free diet. Hopefully this will give you an insight into why I have decided to create this blog, as well as challenges I faced along the way.
Let’s start from the beginning. My whole life, well as long as I can remember anyway, I had always had gastrointestinal and digestive problems. For years I put this down to IBS and didn’t want to bother the doctors about something I had just come to terms living with. I always thought that this was just ‘me’, something I’d always have. I’d suffer from quite severe bloating, cramping to stomach pains, and even to being doubled-over in pain on some occasions. I just assumed this was ‘normal’ for some people. As the years passed, I just carried on eating what I wanted, without a care in the world. Yes there were times I began to wonder if certain ‘trigger foods’ made me feel more sick than others, but quite honestly I don’t believe I had a problem every time I ate certain foods. At least I don’t remember it.
It was in the first year of my undergraduate degree in 2012/13 when things started to take more of a turn for the worst. The ‘issues‘ started to become more frequent and apparent. Unfortunately, a health incident occurred in which I had to be cared for in hospital. Luckily, it wasn’t too serious or anything, but eventually was a blessing in helping me find the initial problems with my diet. As with any hospital visit, further routine blood tests were taken. This was the real start of it all. There were some odd results which popped up. At first, they thought it was just part of me being ‘ill’, until I pushed to understand this a little further. With the help of a food diary, we were able to narrow down the first culprit to be gluten. Although I have never been given the FULL testing for coeliac disease, which required 6-weeks of constant exposure to gluten, the doctors were pretty certain from the elimination diet and my symptoms. The only reason I didn’t finish the tests was the absolute agony I was in after my gut finally healed, and trying to re-introduce gluten. The diagnosis wasn’t as well understood then as it is now, so I had cut gluten out of my diet a good year or so by then. Just a huge no from me. However, if you can, I would suggest getting the full testing before cutting the food out of your diet.
Here comes the honesty.. I thought being GF was the literal end of the world. I struggled so much with actually sticking to this and making myself better it was unreal. I cannot tell you how much I ADORE Danish pastries (I can still remember the taste even this many years on – one of the few things I don’t connect with being ill actually – I simply loved them). As much as I would try to resist, I would still make myself ill as I was desperate to just have ‘one last pastry/cake’, all the time. As I cut out gluten more and more, this ‘odd treat’ started to trigger more severe symptoms every time. It did take me a good 6 months or so to finally adapt to being completely free from the devil food, but it was worth it in the end. I genuinely thought that I would never have good food again. Oh I was wrong! There is so much out there that you can enjoy.
After finally sticking to a GF diet, I piled on weight. I was an awful cook at uni (although I like to think I can make some better dishes now) and I just relied on convenience meals/free-from isle foods. These are absolutely PACKED with sugar and all the baddies – even though most of the time they taste so good! Not saying don’t have these though, a treat is always needed. I still can’t help myself but scoff a whole box of GF/DF millionaires shortbread biscuits in one sitting.
One major thing that going GF taught me was that you do really start watching what you eat. Although, mine was ultimately spurred on by having to eliminate dairy too. When I would start checking the non-free from aisle food for GF goodies (and yes, there are loads – and they are half the price too), I consciously started also looking at the other ingredients. As I got more and more into the swing of things, I then began to cook luscious, hearty GF meals from scratch. Definitely worth doing, I must say. There are plenty of blogs out there which are great for recipe ideas.
In regards to being dairy free, this has been a much more recent thing (officially late 2019/2020). This is also reflected in some of my blog posts, where places may be suitable for GF but not DF. So this one was a tricky one really, and I am still trying to figure this out. When I cut out gluten, the agonising pain did stop. However, I still would get the horrific bloating and stomach knots. This was very apparent after eating ice cream or custard (I did say I had a sweet tooth)! Again, I still ignored the symptoms for a long while, always passing it off as ‘IBS’. It wasn’t until mid-2019 when I went on a family holiday that I REALLY noticed my stomach turning on me. So we had ventured to Somerset – and you know what that means? Cream tea. Lots of cream tea. Oh man! My stomach roared. It absolutely hated me. But I couldn’t resist the temptation of a cream and jam scone, no matter what my body was saying. No matter how much pain I was in. The struggle was real. After this holiday, I noticed more and more my stomach absolutely raging at me every time I had dairy – like it was after revenge for a solid week of attack! Like before, I started to keep a food diary. It was clear again, there was a ‘suspect’, mainly yoghurt and cheese. This is because I didn’t really drink cow’s milk anyway. I was already going to the doctor for other tests when I mentioned my symptoms in passing. Unfortunately they said to me that there was no test for dairy intolerance, just an elimination diet. This is where I started the trials. I found it somewhat of a game in a way, taking foods out and trying to reintroduce them. A month at a time. When I ventured to Spain in early 2020, the decision was pretty much final. The dairy I had ‘test consumed’ in hot chocolate and cakes left me in a lot of pain. I had decided to re-introduce it into my diet to see whether I had healed enough to handle the stuff. Apparently not.
This is where my GF and DF combined journey begins. It hasn’t been an easy ride as you can see, but it definitely isn’t the end of the world like I thought it to be. Actually, cutting out dairy was a million times easier than cutting gluten (where even trace amounts sometimes really upset my stomach).
I never originally planned to make a blog of my journey or findings (hence some places lacking photographs), but here I am now. After visiting Barcelona in early 2020 with my partner, I realised that there are so many hidden gems out there for us and I just wanted to share them far and wide. I spent a good few hours researching places and marking them on a map for when we were out and about and needed to nip somewhere quickly – it was ever so helpful. Now I thought I would make your time easier with this and mark out some great places for you to try (compiled into one).
I hope you enjoyed the read and understand a little bit more about me and why I am doing this. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments you have via the contact form. I’m also open to any suggestions on where to try next!