Julia and Me

My novel, Julia the Secret Keeper, features Julia Fairfield, a young woman recently thrust by force into the gluten-free world. Of course, Julia’s story is mostly a humorous adventure in dealing with family secrets, but each chapter features a gluten-filled food that tempts her. Gluten intolerance is a challenge she deals with along the way around a Southern family of non-sympathetic wheat-eaters (see the link to frankybrown.com for more about Julia and the novel that inspired this blog). So this is part of Julia’s world…and mine. Everyone, including myself, faced with the choice between a major diet change and a life of illness, deals with it in her own way. It is important not to panic…but it may happen. I panicked. Celiac Disease, gluten intolerance or gluten sensitivity is a major life change and no one expects you to turn on a dime and be okay with changing your whole lifestyle over night. I believe I went through all the stages of mourning and I definitely dealt with many of the emotions Julia experiences in the novel. It’s normal. You might go six months to a year hating any person who dares to eat a “real” pizza in front of you. You might not feel better right away and you might be wondering why you’re going to all the extra trouble and all the extra expense. Is it worth it? Definitely.

But you certainly won’t think that until you realize the impact it has on your health. Everyone is different, but I was very sick for a long time after changing my diet forever. Some folks feel better in a matter of weeks, some take several months. You may not get rid of gluten completely at first while you are learning. There might be things you miss. Celiac is extremely sensitive to even the smallest amounts of gluten. You can’t always see it and it can drive you crazy. That smallest crumb that reached your plate from a shared counter can put you in bed for weeks. The most important first step is to breathe deeply and realize the beginning is the hardest part…IT DOES NOT LAST FOREVER! You are not sick forever and you are not alone!

I was so extremely sick when I was finally diagnosed (after 15 years), I could not tolerate dairy products for at least 6 months after eating gluten-free and it was nearly a year before I could eat fruit without stomach pain. Things got gradually better throughout that time. Energy slowly came back. Once you switch to gluten-free, the worst of your illness is over (even though you may feel exactly the same the next day). Now I have better health than ever before.

Say to yourself, “The worst is over. Everything will be okay.”

Franky A. Brown

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