For many years, I have worked in retail. Ahhhh retail, long hours, standing at counters, ever challenging staff, corporations always changing everything to try to keep up, weekends and nights, ya gotta love it. On the other hand, I really did love the field that brought me to retail, Optics, and I was good at it. I was sincere, customers believed me. I could talk the talk and walk the walk. Although I struggled with numbness in my legs and fingers, I chalked it up to standing for hours on end and constantly handling hot eyeglass frames in order to adjust them. Being alone on the sales floor really bothered me, especially as my bladder problems got worse, but with a declining economy , the corporations weren’t having it any other way.When I had an attack of Optic Neuritis that lead to a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis, , I finally realized why I had been feeling the way I was. At last, I could start to deal with it, I could start to heal myself. For me, it was a beginning, not an end.
If you know me, you know my sister Barbara Westfall. She and I are inseparable, except for the fact that we live 2000 miles apart! She lives in Boulder, Colorado and I live in Pompano Beach, Fl. Boulder is the place that I would be living if I didn’t live where I do with my husband Mitch. Great husbands are hard to find and I plan on keeping him, and that means living where it’s warm.
Everyone is gluten free in Boulder, well almost everyone. When Barb found out that I had been given the diagnosis, she immediately went to work researching it. Next thing I know, she is telling me that I am going gluten-free! And she would be too, to show her support. Now growing up in Brooklyn, NY on bagels and pizza, that’s like telling me to give up breathing. So I thought. I began looking up what I would be giving up, and found that it didn’t have to be as hard as I thought. I was already eating most of my meals at home, and that was easier than eating out. It did take some time to figure out the hidden foods that I needed to be aware of and that was going to be the tricky part. There are lots of foods that may contain wheat or are manufactured in places where wheat products are also made. I will give you an example. Take Maltodextrin, for example. Maltodextrin is a white powder often used in processed foods as a thickener or a filler since it’s fairly inexpensive, as well as in pharmaceuticals as a binding agent. You’ll find it in canned fruits, snacks, cereal, desserts, instant pudding, sauces, and salad dressings. Since it contains fewer calories than sugar, it’s also found in sugar substitutes, such as Splenda or Equal. Maltodextrin can be derived from any starch. In the US, this starch is usually corn; in Europe, it is commonly wheat. While wheat-derived maltodextrin may cause concern for individuals suffering from gluten intolerance, maltodextrin is such a highly processed ingredient from which the majority of the protein is removed, it is basically gluten-free. If wheat is used to make maltodextrin, it may or may not appear on the label. Even so, the maltodextrin itself will be gluten-free. See it can get a little complicated. I find that sticking to basic foods is the best in the beginning, but I am still eating most of my meals at home, a year and 1/2 later! Little by little , I am introducing my family to some gluten-free foods, but I have to bring them with me , and don’t count on them to have them or cook them, when I come. That’s ok, though, because as time goes on, they are getting more receptive to the benefits of eating gluten-free and that can’t be bad. I always bring a bag of Crunchmaster Multi-grain crackers with me, so I can enjoy the cheese plate if it’s served. If you are someone who likes to go out to eat a lot , you just need to find some go-to foods that you can rely on in a pinch until you sort it all out. Or you could go raw, and just eat vegetables and fruits, like my son Brayden does most of the time. It’s probably not for me but you need to decide that for yourselves.
I’m afraid I have gotten off the original topic of why I am now gluten-free. When I found out that certain foods could reduce inflammation in my body, and therefore help the symptoms caused by M.S., I decided to be pro-active about the disease that could be very damaging to my health over time. Giving up bagels and donuts and pasta and pizza no problem! I had eaten enough of that junk anyway in my life, and I was ready to make a commitment to healthier eating . Maybe I could even loose a few pounds!! As it turns out, that has not happened , because I have replaced these things with rice products and other flours that have calories just like wheat! I am definitely eating a lot more fruits and vegetables to replace things that used to eat. So I look forward to slimming down in the long run, or just not gaining any weight since as you get older it is better to be lighter for many reasons. But that’s another article entirely!