Getting away from gluten releases member from gastrointestinal pain

by Rachel Toon, Glutenwatchers  ·  Aug 25, 2022

Nurse finds more natural approach worked for her, even though finding quality gluten-free foods can be a challenge.


An illness changed how my life operated forever when I was 12. I first had to take medications that just kept adding up, but ended up stopping the meds and changing how I ate.

When my illness started, I was your active eighth-grader in multiple sports and suddenly became ill overnight. For nine months, I experienced daily nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Finally, a gastroenterologist, or stomach doctor, identified a virus that was attached to my intestines and had paralyzed my stomach. This left me with a condition called gastroparesis.

Gastroparesis is a condition in which the movement of your stomach slows or stops, which won’t allow your food to be digested properly by your stomach and moved through your intestinal tract. The food sits there and eventually makes its way back up. Fortunately, there was a medication that would help with this problem. It worked well for me but then was removed from the market. At 15, I began a new prescription but experienced side effects, such as tremors, migraines, and much more. The only “treatment” the physicians could come up with was to keep adding medications to combat the side effects I was experiencing.

By the time I was 18, I was taking eight to 10 different medicines. I lived like this for a couple of years, until 2004. When I was 20, the church I attended did a 21-day Daniel Fast. I committed wholeheartedly to those 21 days. Although I would never recommend anyone do this without first talking to their physician, I also stopped taking all my medications during those 21 days. I am so thankful that I did. By the end of the 21 days, I felt better than when I had been on the meds. Some abdominal pain and nausea were still present, but nothing more than what I was experiencing while taking medication.

This experience propelled me down the path to becoming a nurse and learning about nutrition and the effects it has on the body. I began paying attention to the foods I was eating and took a more natural approach. I had been learning about gluten-free foods and trying them on and off, but I found that some of them tasted like dirt.

This experience propelled me down the path to becoming a nurse and learning about nutrition and the effects it has on the body.

In 2010, my husband and I opened an organic and natural-foods grocery in Mount Vernon, Indiana. The access that I had to gluten-free foods allowed me to find the ones that worked for me. I knew that I felt better when I ate gluten-free, but now I was able to go completely gluten-free. I quickly realized that once I went 100 percent without gluten in my diet, the rest of the symptoms I was experiencing— abdominal pain and nausea—had completely gone away.

Although we closed our store after we had our second child, I have never picked gluten back up and have never regretted it. It certainly has not been a walk in the park. I have spent countless hours searching for gluten-free foods and brands that I ended up never wanting to eat again, spending more money than I would have liked trying recipes that turned into disasters, and spending hours hunting for the items I needed.

While I was on this journey, I realized there had to be other people on the same struggle bus trying to find resources and sifting through all kinds of information. That is when I knew I wanted to provide a central location for other people, and in 2016 Glutenwatchers was born. I developed a website called Glutenwatchers as a “one-stop source” for gluten-free information. It offers “Gluten University,”  which provides recipes, lists of brands, instructional videos, shopping suggestions, conversions and substitutions, and much more. The motto is “Putting Life Back into Your Lifestyle.”

Thankfully, I have learned a lot and even wrote a book called Guts & Gluten: A Step-by-Step Guide to Gluten-Free Living. It provides my understanding of steps for gluten-free living. It took years for me to understand just how important it is for my body to receive the proper nutrition and how that allows me to perform at an optimal level.

I still learn new things every day, whether that includes new recipes, brands, or cooking techniques. Unfortunately, it is difficult to make permanent changes to one’s lifestyle, even when it means providing better care to the temple God gave us. I honestly can’t imagine where my health would be today if God had not prompted me to take a step of faith and provided the strength to commit to making changes that would serve me well for the rest of my life.

I pray this article finds you well and encourages you that there may be other options out there for health issues you may be experiencing. In a future article, I’ll go into more detail on an overview of the dietary changes that I made to provide a way for me to experience a higher quality of life and knowledge on how to take better care of my temple of God.

Samaritan Ministries member Rachel Toon is the founder of Glutenwatchers.

The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and is not meant as medical advice. It is the opinion of the writer. The information is not meant to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health professional.