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The gluten free struggle

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Kali Ausplund Dionne from Tenants Harbor just turned 31 years old, but she has had to deal with gluten problems for years. In June of 2008 she was diagnosed with extensive food allergies that didn't include gluten/wheat. After restructuring her diet she was still exhibiting issues, many that mimicked thyroid disease.

"I had been told that my thyroid levels were fine, and that I just had IBS. I had all but given up on ever feeling well again. I felt arthritic, lethargic, tired, brain fuzzy and confused constantly," Dionne said.

On top of the aforementioned problems she had a chronic pain issue that was later being treated with surgeries. In the fall of 2010 she ended up at a chiropractor as a last ditch effort to ease her pain.

"I had mentioned my food issues, allergies and other symptoms. She immediately asked me if I had a gluten intolerance, which I had never heard of. She referred me to another doctor who didn't want to do a gut biopsy, but instead did a series of spit tests," Dionne said.

She was soon told that she had a gluten intolerance, which prompted Dionne to immediately cut out all the wheat and barley products that she had been eating on a somewhat regular basis.

'It took roughly six months to feel normal, but I started feeling better within a month's time,' she said. "Three years later, all of my random and unexplained symptoms are gone, and the only time I have issues is when I may accidentally 'gluten' myself."

She has been able to get her husband to join the gluten free lifestyle with her and definitely feels much better now that she has cut it out.

"Feeling healthier since going gluten free is an understatement. I feel better than I did in high school. My mental clarity is so improved that I have gone back to school for my MBA."

At first it seemed as though the gluten free lifestyle would be very hard on her wallet, and with a newborn child she needed to manage her money wisely.

"After a while we got the hang of it. We buy a lot of in season produce to keep costs down and stock up on meats then there is a sale. It may be more expensive up front, but it makes up for my frequent trips to the doctors."

Elizabeth Clark, 22, has also had to deal with living gluten free due to Lyme disease. She stopped eating gluten when she was 18 years old.

"My family had to change how they cook,' Clark said. 'We generally will make one meal, so my whole family eats mostly gluten free. The only thing we will make two of is pasta, but usually make the sauce gluten free."

She thinks that some of the gluten free substitutes such as gluten free pizza taste like cardboard and are dry, but she has been able to accept the pasta.

"Rice pasta isn't bad at all. I am a big pasta girl and gluten free or not I will get my pasta in one way or another," she said.

She has had a hard time finding places to eat and it has made her not go out for food as often, and as a college student it has been hard on her wallet.

"Lots of chains have gluten free menus,' she said. 'The problem is finding restaurants with good gluten free food.'

Dionne offers advice to those who are trying to live gluten free:

"My biggest piece of advice for those just trying to eat gluten free is to not replace processed foods with gluten free versions. Most of the time the gluten free versions of processed food have an increased amount of sugar. Using a gluten free diet as a weight loss diet may not work for everyone. A gluten free diet isn't for everyone, but as more and more research has been done on gluten intolerance and celiacs, it appears more people are affected with a gluten issue."

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