Christina Kantzavelos will be speaking at the Nourished Festival Sunday February 10 at 1:30pm. Tickets available here.

Christina Kantzavelos would like to officially apologize for all the eye rolls she gave people on a gluten-free diet.

“I learned the hard way that gluten intolerance and celiac disease are very real,” she says.

Kantzavelos admits that she ignored her symptoms for years. She was at her worst in graduate school, but she assumed that stress was the obvious cause.

She suffered through bloating, swelling, migraines, and cramps and took it all in stride. The last straw for her was acne.

“It sounds vain that it was acne that sent me to the doctor and not the other stuff, but, well, it was a lot of acne,” Kantzavelos admits with mock horror. She never had acne as a teenager, so developing blemishes after graduate school seemed a cruel twist of fate.

Visiting dermatologists didn’t yield a solution. The lotions and potions didn’t help, so a friend recommended she see a naturopath, something else that Christina would have normally greeted with an eye roll, but this time she was desperate. The naturopath diagnosed her with celiac disease almost immediately. Later tests confirmed her condition—and then everything changed.

Her gluten intolerance made her a lot more tolerant of gluten-free enthusiasts.

“Yes, it’s a fad diet for some people, but the fact that it’s a fad drives up demand, which means that there are a lot more options for people like me,” Kantzavelos says. Besides, going gluten-free won’t harm anything but your taste buds, she explains.

She’s found some great gluten-free options, including some things that rival their gluten-laden counterparts. But occasionally, she starts raving about a product that she thinks must taste as good as the original and she presents it lovingly to her spouse or family for confirmation.

“The response is usually, ‘um, no, I can tell it’s missing gluten,’” she says. “So my baseline has definitely shifted.”

The good news is that she doesn’t care and she doesn’t feel like she is sacrificing. Her diet is stricter than most because of other dietary issues, but she says that it doesn’t feel limiting since she focuses on what she eats that makes her feel good.

She’s gluten-free, dairy-free, and soy-free. She keeps her sugar intake to the bare minimum, doesn’t drink alcohol, and mostly follows a low-histamine eating regimen as well. When she “cheats,” she eats lentils, nuts, other legumes, avocados, and sometimes eggs.

“I know it sounds really sad that those are my cheats, because most people think of those things as really healthy, but they don’t agree with my body. So if I eat them, I do it in moderation,” Kantzavelos says.

A licenced psychotherapist by profession, Kantzavelos is also a writer. Her favorite topics are wellness and mental health.

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Favorite Restaurants: Nectarine Grove in Encinitas, Starry Lane Bakery, Plumeria vegan Thai

Go-To Snacks: Laiki Crackers Gluten-Free Rice Crackers, NuGo Egg White Protein Bar, Justin’s Peanut or Almond Butter Packets, Crunchmaster Protein Crackers, Lark Ellen Farm Grain Free Bites, Bubba’s Snack Mixes, Bhuja Snacks

Christina Kantzavelos will be speaking at the Nourished Festival Sunday February 10 at 1:30pm. Tickets available here.

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