Breaking Up With Beer (A Gluten-Free Story)
Remember that playful question, “What food would you bring with you on a desert island if you could only have one thing forever?” When asked, I would change the question to “one drink”, and my answer was always beer. Ah, beer. I’ve had a love affair with beer since college (I drank Zima and wine coolers in high school — don’t cringe, I grew up in the 80s). I love all beers in all climates. I don’t discriminate. IPAs, Belgian ales, wheat beers, and yes, even a cold Coors Light. All are welcome in my belly.
That is, until three years ago when I was forced to reconsider my relationship with beer. It was after the birth of my third child — I was a busy working mom juggling multiple hats, when all of the sudden, I didn’t feel myself anymore. I started experiencing a variety of physical symptoms that I’d never felt before — overwhelming fatigue, debilitating back pain, stomach upset, muscle cramps, and rashes. On top of that, I suddenly became depressed and felt a loss of clarity (or what doctors describe as “brain fog”). It was scary for awhile. I felt like something was very wrong with me, and I wasn’t sure what do to about it. I visited multiple doctors, each providing me with a different answer. I was diagnosed with anemia, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), candida overgrowth and SIBO. After hundreds of dollars spent on medication, diagnostic tests, and supplements, many of my symptoms remained. I was flabbergasted and even more depressed.
That’s when I took my well-being into my own hands. I started paying close attention to my daily routine and how it affected my physical and mental health. What was most confusing is that some days I felt good —I had a lot of energy and less pain. What could be contributing to that? After journaling for one week, I discovered that what I ate severely impacted my overall symptoms. It was not rocket science. The days that I ate bread, pasta, and drank beer caused a severe dip in my energy as well as an increase in symptoms. I diagnosed myself with Celiac disease, an auto-immune disorder where gluten negatively impacts the small intestine and causes inflammation.
I went to a gastroenterologist and described my self-diagnosis. The GI doctor agreed to test me and to my surprise, the results were negative. I was shocked. Celiac disease had to be the answer. There was no other explanation. I heard from others that it was ‘just anxiety’ and ‘all in my head.’ I decided to test this theory and went back to drinking my beloved beer and eating foods with gluten. And boy did I pay for it. My stomach immediately blew up resulting in the appearance of being six months pregnant (3 kids is enough for me, thank you very much) and my back pain returned with a vengeance. I knew this was not just a coincidence.
I also noticed that when I was off gluten, I was the person I wanted to be — energetic, clear-headed, positive and ready to tackle my hectic life! I loved feeling that way. It allowed me to focus on my goals and work hard but have energy to play with my kids. I was less reactive and more present in my life. After reflecting on this, I made a bold decision. I didn’t have to be diagnosed with Celiac to know that gluten was not good for me. And I didn’t have to make excuses to anyone about why I stopped eating it.
I chose to be gluten-free because I want to live a healthier, happier life — to thrive.
So, about two years ago, I made the difficult but healthy decision to say goodbye to beer. It was a rough breakup and sometimes I do look back on our relationship with longing and wonder ‘what if’. But given the way I feel now, I know there’s no going back. My new relationship with wine (in moderation, of course!) is just as fulfilling.