About Kristine

Kristine Ofstad - The Gluten Free Lifesaver

Photo: Emily Archbald Photography

 

About Kristine Ofstad - The Gluten Free Lifesaver

Hi,

I am one diagnosed coeliac, which means that in my statistical wake there are over a hundred like me who still don’t know, still aren’t well and are still looking for answers.

In Norway where I’m from, the average time between symptom onset and diagnosis is about 6 months. In the USA it can be up to 11 years. I was very ill for about 9 consecutive months. Before those terrible months I had a variety of health issues from the age of 21. There are 19 main misdiagnosis commonly given to coeliacs before they find the truth. I had been diagnosed with 15 of them.

I don’t want to spend too much time highlighting the torment I went through, for the simple fact that I want to move on. But I do know that a great many fresh coeliacs and gluten intolerants out there want and need to hear that their symptoms and their struggle isn’t unique. I was desperate to find someone who had felt what I felt, someone who understood, and most of all someone who had gotten through it. How can I be sure that there’s a way out if nobody has done it before me?


I was very, very ill for a very long time. So ill at times that I wondered if I could actually keep going. My life was so altered that I had lost everything I liked about it. I had lost myself, my personality and my pleasures. I was no good to anyone, just a big fat problem they couldn’t get rid of. That’s how I felt. And the pain was so severe and so constant that I developed anxiety on a multitude of levels. The suffering was so real to me, yet so vague to everyone around me. I didn’t have a diagnosis, there were no definite patterns, no answers and so I must be going insane. The varieties of advice I was given from people who meant well ranged from “eat concrete and toughen up” to “surgery is the only way forward”. My physician wanted to give me antidepressants because they “sometimes fix stomach problems”, and the specialists I saw put me through no less than 7 antibiotic treatments in the course of 3 months. I was broken, there was nothing left of me.

My life before I was diagnosed..

My life before I was diagnosed..

It also took me a very long time to improve as soon as I got the diagnosis, and because I was the only coeliac I knew I kept questioning my diagnosis and the methods. I had no one to turn to, no experts, no black-and-white’s.

I am a lot better now, but my body is still healing. Sometimes I must remind myself that it hasn’t really been that long, and look how far I’ve come. I have ups and downs. Sometimes symptoms seem to come out of the blue, and quite often at the most inconvenient times. I wonder if the pain imprinted a pattern in my memory, and my body follows its old course and gets me into trouble. Or it could just be gluten.

I am of the extremely sensitive kind. No gluten comes through the door in our house. My husband walks this road with me and eats gluten-free.


I have a fantastic husband who stuck with me through the grand decline, and now through my up-hill battle back to being the woman he met. I started getting really ill just 5 months into our relationship. For a year he stayed in with me, mashed me potatoes, drew me hot baths, took me to emergency rooms on work nights, slept in hospital furniture next to my bed and let me squeeze his hand with all the strength I had left. I sometimes didn’t think I had the strength to continue the relationship, and I felt strongly that he deserved better. All the while he decided this mess of a girl would make the perfect wife. I love him.

My parents took great care of me. I couldn’t work in the end, and moved back in with my mum and dad for a couple of months to be cared for. I couldn’t function on my own, and I was scared of being alone. I didn’t know if the pain was gonna kill me. My mum made sure I ate, and she moved into another room so I didn’t have to sleep alone.

It was my sister in the end who came up with the idea that I should be tested for food intolerances, and it was a lady called Tina Hamelten, a nutritionist from Yorktest Nordic, who stepped up and offered a complete stranger a free test. From there on the pieces came together, and I was slowly but surely freed from my cage.


Feeling better!  Photo: Emily Archbald Photography

Feeling better!
Photo: Emily Archbald Photography

I am sure my story is the same as yours in some way or another. Tell me about it if you want, I would have told you back then if I had been given the chance.

When I got the diagnosis my then fiancée said excitedly “this is your path, you will do great things with this!” I was too tired to consider it then, but it makes sense now. I have to find a purpose in this chaos. I have to own it or it owns me.

This blog is the start of a path that will unfold as I walk it. My vision is to hold out a hand for you to grab, and to take a few steps along side you so that you are better equipped than what I was. At the same time I want to make the world a slightly safer and easier place for us GF’s to roam about. By providing the right  information to those who impact our lives, and by making it a wee bit easier for GF’s to find what they’re looking for. A big statement I know, but a lot can come from a little I recon.

This is just a start, but I am going to put my back into it.

Lots of love,

Kristine

26 Comments on “About Kristine

  1. I understand the misery of undiagnosed celiac disease and the final refief in just knowing what is wrong with you. I was finally diagnosed in 1988 after 8 years of doctors, hospitals, tests and confusion. In those early days almost no commercially made gluten-free items were available and it was a struggle to keep a gluten free diet. Rice cakes were the only thing available and they were not too tasty.
    Fortunately for us, things have improved and we can now have an array of wonderful baked goods made with a variety of gluten free flours.
    Thanks for creating this blog and providing information to the newly diagnosed and to those of us who have been struggling for yeaars to stay healthy. Your ideas and sincere desire to help us is very much appreciated.

    Like

  2. Dear Pat,
    thank you very much for your comment!

    It is true that we have come a long way, and thankfully I didn’t have to live gluten free 20 years ago. I can only imagine what you must have gone through, as it is such a challenge even today!

    There’s still a long long way to go, and by sharing experiences, requesting products and information, getting involved and by raising awareness we can do our bit to push development in the right direction.

    Thank you for sharing!

    Like

  3. Kristine, your story is so intense! I’m not sure how I missed seeing this page before, or if I did I must have been interrupted (kids!) before finishing it.

    Your family and fiancé sound incredible. What a journey you all endured, especially you! What a relief to be where you are now. (And here I thought your fiancé was lovely for buying you tons of ice pop molds! That clearly was just the tip of the iceberg!)

    Keep writing and inspiring with your wonderful blog.
    -Dana

    Like

    • Thank you for taking the time to read it Dana..

      Just think that you have saved (and continue to do so every day) your daughter from experiencing all of the above! -Apart from an incredible family, which she has. And a great fiancee at some point one should hope :)

      Much love,
      Kristine

      Like

  4. Your site is wonderful. I have Dermititis Herpetiformis, took me over a year to find out. Not to many people around me have ever heard of it or Celiacs, so it is hard for them to understand. It’s a long hard road but one we must travel.

    Like

    • Dear Brenda,
      Thank you for stopping by! Awareness is indeed our biggest challenge, as more information in circulation would ease our struggles tremendously. This is true of the medical profession as well as our communities.

      Living with a gluten related disorder is certainly a challenge, one that more and more people are faced with. On the bright side however, we get to heal with food. What could possibly be better than medicating yourself with a risotto or a chocolate brownie?!

      All the best on your journey Brenda, hope to hear from you again!

      Love from
      Kristine

      Like

  5. Great story Kristine, and you’re providing a great resource! If you need more assistance with NZ cafes, food products and so on, please do head over to my bog, glutenfreenz.wordpress.com.

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  6. Well done Kristine! Great site… really great information (LOOOOOVE the kitchen Cheat Sheet… it’s exactly the info I’ve been wanting, yet not knowing what exactly it was I was looking for (!) – I have tons of recipes I’d like to convert). I’m not coeliac, but I’m gluten intolerant… that is enough to confuse the sh.t out of all friends and family :( but FINALLY they and the shops here in Cape Town, RSA are coming to the party!! It’s about bloody 15 years time!!! GRRRRR… (that’s why I love England… they’re SO jacked for g-free things… sigh!) Anyway, just to say I’m going to bookmark your site and learn from it :) Thanks again for spreading your love and desire to help others. Keep well :) Jean Sleigh

    Like

    • Thanks for stopping by Jean, and thanks a lot for your kind words! I’m super happy to see that people can make use of the information I put together. I think there’s quite a universal frustration around the world over the lack of knowledge and availability, but I’m sure it can only get better! :)

      All the best,
      Kristine

      Like

  7. Hei Kristine!

    Thank you so much for sharing all of your wonderful Failsafe variations on delicious, nutritious and varied recipes. Even better for me: with my Swedish heritage you are bringing joy back to some of my favourite Scandinavian delights and going me hope that I can adapt more of farmors favourites!

    After suffering from birth into my early 30s from severe digestive and respiratory tract distress and skin rashes, nothing fit the pigeonhole that medical testing could provide. Last year my Health hit such a low & whilst everyone was convinced it was the severe work stress I had been under for 24 months, I knew it was something else. Diagnosis with Gilbert-Meulengracht Syndrome was the trigger for me to investigate the impact my food was having on me: by all standards I had always followed a “healthy” predominantly plant based diet with 5 fruit and 5 veg serves a day with hearty home made stews in winter : it instead left me constantly ill and it turned out that salicylates and amines were the “root of my evil”.
    I’m still learning to live with this, and looking for practical tips to vary my food repertoire! Tusen hjärtlig tack!!!

    Courtney
    Ps where do you get safe vanilla extract from? I know that the processing can elevate salicylate levels so I have been too scared to risk a reaction in using it!

    Like

    • Dear Courtney,
      Thank you for visiting my blog!

      It’s incredible what impact the right or wrong food can have on our health. And it’s even more incredible how few physicians have embraced this. Long times with wrong or no diagnosis is far too common, and happened to me too. I’m happy that you are finding your way through it now, and I’m please that my recipes can offer you some inspiration!

      I buy organic natural vanilla extract, or use vanilla straight from the pods. Just bear in mind that you shouldn’t use much vanilla if you are very sensitive. Some people can handle more, others less. You should try small amounts at first, then find your tolerance level. Talk to your nutritionist if you have concerns!

      All the best,
      Kristine

      Like

  8. I’ve just come across your blog. As a fellow coeliac, I know how difficult it is. I’m still struggling with the diagnosis, after being diagnosed with Fructose Malabsorption as well, I’m now following a Paleo diet and finally starting to see some results. Good luck in your adventures

    Like

    • Thank you for visiting! I know many people find the paleo diet helpful for a number of food related issues, I’m glad you’ve found something that works for you!

      All the best,
      Kristine

      Like

  9. So glad you got a diagnosis &can now move on with your life Kristine. Love the blog, keep spreading the good word of going gf
    lots of love
    antoinette

    Like

  10. I stumbled on our site while searching for a carob recipe. Gee whiz. I forgot all about the carob. I was moved to tears by your story. Sniff, sniff. I am so happy for you that you are on the road to recovery, with such loving people around you who really, really care. God has blessed you in your struggle. Never give up, Dear!

    Like

    • Hi Linda,

      Thank you so much for your kind words!

      I am really excited that you are enjoying the blog, and I really appreciate your comment :)

      Hope to “see” you here again!

      -Kristine x

      Like

  11. Kristine,
    From one very sensitive soul to another. I am relieved to find your blog. I started crying when I read your story because it sounds so similar to mine. I am now down to 43 kg and have been unable to work for almost a year because of debilitating symptoms. I also was not feeling well for awhle though before becoming really unwell. Similar to you, I had five courses of antibiotics in three months. However, I also had a parasite and found this out myself when I did my own research online and asked to get proper testing.

    Since then, my food sensitivities are worse. I have not put on any weight. I also have ups and downs. Sometimes I feel like my symptoms are triggered by bad memories of when I was sick in certain places, so I know what you mean about how the trauma you have been through leaves a psychological imprint. I feel like I have PTSD as a result of getting nowhere with doctors and specialists.

    In the past, I was also scared to be alone when I was really very sick because you just don’t know if your body is going to have some freak out attack and pass out or perhaps worse. I have had symptoms ranging from anxiety, dizziness, fatigue, numbness and tingling in lips and arm and hands, a few near seizure like episodes, severe and persistent nausea, shaking, sweating. Did you have any of those symptoms? I am not sure if I am gluten intolerant but I avoid eaten gluten. Do you have any other sensitivities, as quite often that is the case? I also can’t stand strong chemical smells or food smells. My diet is very simple. Some days I can only stomach one meal.

    I also understand it can feel like a very lonely time as others can be vague to your pain and suffering. They really don’t have any idea of what it feels like unless it was happening to them.

    One good thing that has come out of my illness is that I don’t get stressed about the small stuff anymore…so many things seem so completely insignificant to me now. I can’t tune in to others when they are complaining about really minor things or first-world type problems…I just think…that is the least of your worries. I have so much gratitude for everything in my life. The fact that I have clean water, food, relatively good housing. I just love being in nature and one of my favourite time out activities when I feel so sick is to lay on the grass or go to a nice garden and just be. That feels like heaven to me!

    Look forward to making my blog and getting back in touch with you. Also, look forward to reading more of your blog.

    Love and hugs. xo

    Like

    • Dear “Healingjourneygirl”,

      Thank you so much for sharing your story! For the same reason I share mine, yours is valuable. Others who are going through similar situations will be able to find some comfort in knowing that their struggle isn’t unique. I sure did!

      I am very sorry to hear that you are still in the middle of this, and although I naturally can’t contribute with specific answers, I do urge you strongly to request testing for autoimmune disease and coeliac. Although it is tempting to try almost “anything” when you’re suffering, please do NOT stop eating gluten without first having gone through the right testing. If you do have coeliac disease, cutting out gluten can make it almost impossible to perform an accurate diagnosis. Even though it hurts, you really need to keep eating gluten util you either have a firm diagnosis, or you have firmly established that you do NOT have coeliac disease. I’m sorry, I really do know how terrible that prospect may seem. But take it from someone who had to wait 9 years for a second biopsy after “self-diagnosing” and cutting out gluten before the first one. You might say it’s “short term pain for long term gain”.

      There are a number of possible causes for your complex medical history, and you cannot exclude food as a source or contributor to these problems. Once you’ve had testing for coeliac disease, perhaps you might also consider getting tested for chemical food intolerances through a professionally monitored elimination diet. It helped me.

      Until you get to a doctor and receive proper help, I would advise you to make sure you drink enough water or caffeine-free herbal tea, and eat soluble fiber foods that are nutrient rich but easy on the stomach (like potatoes, oats, bananas). Steam or cook your vegetables, as raw veggies can be really hard to digest, and stay away from dairy, alcohol, fatty foods, and additives. I know this sounds like “something everyone should do”, but trust me, if your gut is hurting this can go a long way! Personally I found that nibbling on plain rice cakes between meals really helped.

      A dietitian will be able to give you very good advice once you’re diagnosed. He/she might recommend some enzymes that will help you digest food easier, as well as putting together a plan for adding vitamins and minerals to your diet, which you may or may not at this point be lacking. I do not recommend adding anything to your diet on your own accord at this point. Get diagnosed first, so that you aren’t doing more harm than good.

      I had to push and push for answers, and I eventually got most of them. But if I hadn’t trusted myself above all else, I would have listened to the first doctor (or the second, or the third..), and I would probably still be sick. It is very positive that you educate yourself and ask questions to medical staff. It is equally important that you know what information to provide them with. I strongly recommend keeping a food and pain diary (ugly symptoms and all), so that you can show consistency and remove any doubts. Collect all your documentation, bring it along with your to every doctor, and keep at it until one doctor finally says; “I believe you. Let’s get to the bottom of this!”. There are many fantastic doctors out there, you just have to find the right one for you!

      I hope you will keep visiting the blog, and I would LOVE to hear about your progress!

      I wish you all the best!

      -Kristine

      Like

  12. Wow Kristine… what a captivating story and I can relate to the ‘not having the strength to continue the relationship’ part and happy that you now have him as a wonderful husband! :) I’m enjoying looking around your site and seeing all your tantalising photos! :)

    Like

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