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The Right Rx

A wheat allergy almost squashed her dreams. But a new perspective and a little personal growth changed her life.

A new hope for sufferers of wheat allergies

I’ve had migraines on and off since I was a teenager, but five years ago, they got worse. Much worse.

Every day around 3:00 p.m. a debilitating headache would hit. I tried every kind of migraine remedy out there: I made sure to get enough sleep and exercise, avoided common triggers like aged cheese, coffee and chocolate. I took prescription meds and even got monthly liquid magnesium injections from a neurologist. I prayed. Nothing worked.

The worst part was that my husband, Daniel, and I had to put our dream of starting a family on hold. How could I care for a child when my own health was unmanageable? God, please help me find the answer, I pleaded again one night, barely able to string the words together, the pain from my migraine was so agonizing.

The next day I was talking to a coworker about needing to go in for my yearly physical. “I’m looking for a new primary care doctor,” I said.

“Call mine,” she said. “He’s great.”

I got an appointment, expecting a quick routine exam. Instead, Dr. Pedre took a painstaking medical history. “No major problems,” I told him, “except for the daily migraines.”

He raised his eyebrows. “That’s a problem,” he said. “I’d like to do some blood tests, see if we can figure out what’s going on. I’ll call you in again to discuss the results.”

When I returned, the first thing Dr. Pedre asked was, “Keren, have you ever been diagnosed with a wheat allergy?”

“No,” I said. “I can’t imagine anything worse. I love toast!”

“The test results show you have a high sensitivity to wheat, one of the highest I’ve seen in here. I think you should eliminate wheat from your diet, and we’ll test again in a month.”

Cut wheat out of my diet? He must be crazy! I ate bread or pasta (sometimes bread and pasta) every day. And I loved the bagels and double chocolate muffins Daniel and I had for breakfast on Saturday mornings. Could these foods really be causing my suffering?

“I know it’ll be hard giving up some of your favorite foods,” Daniel said that night, “but isn’t your health more important?”

Hard? Impossible! I could avoid the obvious—cereal, baked goods, pasta. But I found out there was wheat in the canned beans I used to make chili. In canned soup—no more grilled cheese and tomato soup, which was our Saturday afternoon standby. There was even wheat in soy sauce. My food options were so limited!

Still, I stuck with my new eating plan. I didn’t just feel better, I felt fantastic! I had two migraines—mild ones, at that—all month. The follow-up blood tests Dr. Pedre did showed that the levels of inflammation in my body had dropped dramatically.

I’ve discovered some great gluten-free cookbooks and gluten-free breads and pastas. Most important, I cook healthier. Instead of making a meal with canned and processed items, I use fresh ingredients.

That’s how I came up with this chicken and pasta dish. Not long ago some friends were coming over for dinner. I opened the fridge wondering what to serve. I could use those chicken breasts and broccoli. And I’ve got that quinoa pasta I’ve been wanting to try. I chopped up the chicken and sautéed it with onions and garlic while I boiled the pasta. Then I steamed the broccoli before tossing it into the mix. “This is great,” my husband said. “Really light and tasty,” our friends said.

What I thought was the worst thing possible—being forced to give up wheat—turned out to be the best thing for me, an answer to prayer more wonderful than I’d imagined. God doesn’t always ask us to do the easiest thing, just the best.

The migraines have receded from once a day to once in a very long while. I’ve gotten more inspired in the kitchen. And the most wonderful part? By the time you receive this magazine, my husband and I will be welcoming our first child into the world.

Try Keren’s Rotelle Pasta with Chicken recipe!

Watch Keren’s video about 10 tips for living gluten-free.

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