A friend of mine, as the cool kids say, has had a rough go of it for the past several years. He was in college and was in a car accident, unrelated to the accident his knees stopped working, and unrelated to that he began to develop a skin disorder. Last year after dealing with clueless doctors he and I sat down to try and determine what was happening to him.
We scavenged the internet trying to find a solution. The internet is a new age library but often you have to be careful what you read because unless coming from a verified source you are probably reading opinion and fiction. My friend’s skin condition must be one of the most frustrating things that a person could ever experience.
He sheds. His skin falls off of him. It is like dry dandruff flakes all over his body. If he were to try and run away from the police they could find him based on the amount of skin that he loses. This isn’t the worst part.
It hurts. He has sores all over his body from the irritation of the skin flaking. He’s one of the nicest people that you will ever meet and if I can say so myself, he is a very sweet kid.
He and I set out on a mission to determine what was going on with his body since all of the doctors he saw had seemed to have no idea. After several days of searching we had come to two conclusions. Like any medical opinion based on internet research our first assumption was that he was dying. After shaking loose this horrible idea we stumbled upon another thing that was of interest – celiac disease. The disease comes in two different categories: one based on malabsoprtion and one based on malnutrition including vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
We read further into some of the symptoms and found that they were eerily similar to what he had been experiencing. He took our results and assumptions back to his doctor where he was again tested and the results reviewed. It was determined that he was indeed suffering from a severe gluten allergy, otherwise known as celiac disease.
In order to combat this and help him adjust to his knew gluten free diet I decided to try and do it along with him. I found the diet to be interesting because the only thing that I had to eliminate from my diet was bread. I was already eating primarily a gluten free diet with a few exceptions. We had to avoid processed foods and we relied heavily on foods that were fresh and organic. We ate meat but had to watch what seasoning we allowed ourselves. We ate all of the fruits and veggies that we could find.
The hardest part was that we had to reeducate ourselves in regards to how we ate. We had to learn to stop eating foods that had yeast, wheat, rye, and regular flour. This was the most difficult part. In order to maintain a gluten free diet you have to completely rework the way that you would normally eat. This is also hard when you have budgetary constraints that you have to deal with. My friend likes to say that he lives on a poor man’s gluten free diet that consists mostly of potatoes, meat, and rice.
He slips with his diet occasionally and will eat something that has some of the forbidden products in it and does so largely out of impulse. When this happens he develops sores inside his mouth and feels awful for a day or so. He maintains his new diet based on how it makes him feel. He has to make it work around his budget and this can be a hassle but the positives in his life that he gains for following his new diet far outweigh any financial strains it places on him.
I talked to him about what it is like to maintain his diet long term and he told me that he utilizes the outsides of grocery stores. He walks in and turns right. From this point on he follows the layout of the store from the vegetables, to the fruits, to the meats, and then he leaves. He avoids the middle of the stores and once he trained himself to have this tunnel vision in the supermarket he is able to avoid all the temptation of the inner aisles.
In order to maintain a gluten free diet long term you have to be vigilant and patient. You have to remember that it is a process and in order to make this process a success you have to change the way you eat. My friend has to do this in order to get healthy. Each day for him is a trial. He knows that in order to be healthy and overcome some of the things that have afflicted him he must change the way he eats. He has done so to a degree that is impressive and he is indeed getting better slowly. He has lost an extraordinary amount of weight and with each week it seems like his skin is getting a little better. Now when I invite him over for dinner I keep his gluten free diet in mind and when I grill I make a special plate just for him. A gluten free diet is one that I tried to help a friend get started and I found that once you are able to get over the mentality of how you are used to eating a gluten free diet can become just as instinctual as the diet that you are eating now.