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Dan Kohler's Story

 
1/4/2010

Growing up sick is not fun. I was fortunate that my allergic reactions to food were minor, but any discomfort, no matter how small, carried out over years of your life builds up to a major pain in the ass (among other things). I've met many more people who suffered through extreme reactions without the help of a diagnosis and I know I'm lucky my allergies weren't severe. It was, however, the fact that my reactions were so under the radar that I didn't stop eating the foods which had been making me sick for years.

My family and I assumed I had some semi-normal kid illnesses: exercise induced asthma, colds that would last for weeks, cramps and stomach aches sent from the devil. Normal stuff. Right? We didn't really make the connection to food until I was 14 (thank the lord, I mean, I really wanted a normal cake for my Bar Mitzvah).

The first thing to go was dairy. It seemed the most manageable, the most accessible and most understood at that point, at least for a 14 year old. I'm sure you'll find it no surprise to hear that my runny nose and stomach cramps started to disappear. I thought that would be it-cut dairy out of my diet and be clear and ready to rock.
And I was wrong. What's interesting about my allergy journey is that almost my whole family was doing it together. I didn't have to suffer through the flavorless early incarnations of soy ice cream alone, both of my moms were changing their diets at the same time.

We all wanted to feel better, so why not see if this new lifestyle could help out everyone?
After dairy was out, one of my moms (a nutritionist already living a semi-allergen free life) suggested we cut wheat out of our diets. It was a small step, one accompanied by a sigh of relief, "Well at least we're not cutting out gluten." Yeah, you can see where this is going.

The wheat free diet failed to curb some of our aches and pains. When Linda (mynutritionist mother) brought up the idea of making our house gluten free, I was not thrilled. I had just spent a few years working out brilliant spelt cookies, figuring out how to bake with regular oat flour, and falling in love with barley, and then we decided to jump into what I considered to be the deep end of diet trends.

I stopped eating gluten when I was 20. Since I left it behind, my lingering colds areno more, my stomach pains are a thing of the past, and I've lost weight. I'm fortunate that changing my diet was a family game. I wasn't going through this alone, my moms were right there, getting in the kitchen and working together as a team to figure out how we'd make all our favorite treats with these new rules. None of us were willing to bid adieu to decadence. In fact, we became more determined, more focused bakers and cooks because of our limitations.

I started RenegadeKitchen.com as a way to share recipes I've come to love with people who may be new to the lifestyle. My support system was built in, I had my parents and I'm lucky for that. I know the reality is that most people get a diagnosis and feel alone and confused, unsure of where to go or what to do. The online community of gluten free bloggers and celiac associations has been incredible in raising awareness, making a gluten free lifestyle accessible and fun. Changing my diet was one of the best decisions I've made, I feel more energetic, my skin is lessoily and my immune system is stronger. I'd get GF FOR LIFE tattooed on my neck, but that might be a little extreme. No?
 

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