Friday, November 14, 2008

Nine months later: gluten-free, dairy-free ice cream

I wore jeans yesterday - all day. And again today too.

No, I'm not talking about the difference between having to dress in office-wear versus home-casual. I'm not bragging that I don't have to wear business-casual. I'm talking about jeans feeling like home-casual; it's been a long time since jeans felt comfortable.

I used to suffer through wearing jeans or dress slacks while in public (at school or work) and then scurry home to put on sweat pants or workout pants (those with stretchy, giving fabric) so that my poor little belly would be comfortable. By the afternoon I would feel painfully bloated so that the jeans that had fit that morning felt like they had shrunk two sizes. And not to mention I would be so cranky and irritable that all I wanted was to be home.

I may be saying too much for some audiences...though many of you who are reading this site have been there and you are, by now, so used to talking about your former symptoms (even if only with close friends and family or with doctors), or hearing about others' symptoms that it doesn't even phase you.

Some of you, I imagine, stumbled upon my site through a google search for gluten free recipes or other information. Maybe you are suffering from a strange set of symptoms and you suspect you may be gluten intolerant, and, as I did, you are soaking up anything you can to determine what path to take and whether you may have to ditch glutenous foods.

I like to point out how my life has changed, what symptoms I am no longer experiencing because it helps me remember how far I've come. I am not completely healed, but I am getting there. And many would say I am nearly 100%. Did I mention I rowed in two 5K regattas last month?

Sometimes, though, I feel as if I maybe just awoke from a bad dream. I feel so healthier now that I “forget” what I used to feel like and I frequently “forget” that I still need to be super careful about what I eat. I bought a package of Trader Joe's rice cakes a couple of weeks ago, not looking at the package until I was already half-way through one of them – they are processed on equipment shared with wheat! Ugh - I paid for that one.

I also write these things because I want to make a difference for anyone who is, like I was, searching the internet for hours, searching for answers. I read countless people's stories; stories of their symptoms and their path from one healthcare provider to the next, until they finally got a diagnosis. Or, until they finally listened to their bodies, ignored the doctors who diagnosed them with “irritable bowl syndrome,” and started the gluten free diet.

I wrote a large part of my story in my original post on this site, called acceptance, for that person who might read themselves in my story, decide once and for all to try going gluten free, and discover what feeling normal and healthy feels like. And, eating gluten free doesn't just mean the elimination of symptoms. Untreated celiac disease can lead to anemia, malnutrition, thyroid disease, osteoporosis, and even GI cancers, among other things.

What I would say to the former me is to not worry about the food part; you really don't have to “give up” or “go without” anything. In your own kitchen, the sky's the limit. And companies such as Pamelas and Thai Kitchen and Glutino are creating ready-made gluten-free versions of all of your favorites. More and more companies and restaurants are tailoring food just for us, right down to breweries that make gluten-free beer. Several gluten free bakeries are popping up all over the United States and many of us have access to freshly-baked gluten free scones, muffins, bread, pies, cookies, and brownies (to name a few!).

And, gluten-free bloggers are all over the internet, from all over the world, with stories and recipes and tips to keep your life sane.

Someday you will look back on your former life with wonder over what you put up with on a daily basis.

That is what I would say to my former self.

I realized today, while on my run, that next week marks nine months of gluten-free eating. Poor Ben had only been dating me 4 months when I called him, late, after hours of devouring information in chat forums and on various websites and blogs. My head was spinning. I had been crying, realizing what I had guessed was likely right, that I would have to “give up” gluten. I explained to him what I had discovered and he was more excited for me that I might have the answer than worried about the dietary restrictions. He said, “So, we'll eat gluten free.” I countered with, “I don't think you realize what this means – everything has gluten in it!” He refused to be phased by it and just simply stated that we will figure it out together. His support, and his help, really got me through those first few months. He called restaurants for me, before we met friends for dinner, to see what GF options they had available. He searched out GF products while grocery shopping for himself. He now has that automatic reflex of turning a product over, to read the label, as much as anyone who himself is gluten intolerant!

So, here's to celebrating 9 months of gluten free eating! Have some ice cream!

Gluten free, dairy free mint chocolate chip ice cream:

3 cups coconut milk (I used 1 ½ cups lite and 1 ½ cups full fat)

¼ teaspoon peppermint extract

1 Dagoba chocolate bar*

¼ cup agave nectar

In a saucepan over medium-low heat, bring coconut milk, peppermint extract, and agave to a strong simmer (but not a full boil). Stir constantly once it begins to audibly simmer and cook for about 5 minutes. Pour the mixture into a bowl and let cool. Chill in the fridge until completely cold.

Meanwhile, chop your chocolate bar into small pieces or shave with a large-hole grater.

Remove the bowl form the fridge and remove any skin that has formed on the top. Process according to your ice-cream maker's directions. (I have to add the chocolate at the end, so add the chocolate according to your maker's directions).

*Most of the Dagoba bars say they “may contain trace amounts of milk protein.” If this is too much of a risk for your belly, use a bar or chips that are 100% dairy free, such as Enjoy Life brand.


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