*By Sarah Stanley*

A little more than 10 years ago, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease.  After a series of tests and medical evaluations with specialists, I was prescribed a variety of medications to treat the disorder. Never during the process did any of the doctors suggest exploring a more natural treatment approach revolving around dietary adjustments. Instead, they summarily sent me off to the drugstore with prescriptions for anti-inflammatories.

Never a fan of pharmaceuticals, I was anxious to learn about other, more holistic ways to treat my condition, and gluten free diets were consistently mentioned as very crucial step in managing autoimmune disorders. I looked around for ways to gain a deeper understanding of what a gluten free diet would mean. I researched extensively, read books, and spoke with my doctors, but I had difficulty in seeking out others who were in a similar situation and who could guide me. Remember, this was 10+ years ago. No Twitter. No Facebook. No web chats or blogs. Where could I turn for ideas, suggestions, and advice? So I researched and began experimenting with the food I was eating, assessing how dietary changes made me feel and understanding the effect it had on my physiology.  After a long journey of personal research and trial and error, I developed my own dietary plan that worked well for me and allowed my body to respond favorably.

Omitting gluten is an underlying foundation of my diet. (For those of you who follow my blog, “What I Eat” is a subject I’ve written on extensively.) As a result of dietary changes, my body stopped fighting with itself so much. My symptoms waned. My energy was consistently high. Fast forward to 2012. Last week, I joined the Udi’s online community as a community leader. Oh, how I wish I had had such a resource when I first began learning about gluten free living. This community is living proof of the power of social media. It is comprised of active, accessible people who all have an interest in and passion for gluten-free living. They share their perspectives and ideas. They host live chats and blog about their personal experiences. They post recipes and tips. If you ask a question, they’ll offer up answers. It’s a dynamic, engaging community and one in which I’m proud and grateful to be involved.

If you have an interest in learning more about gluten free living and how it affects your overall health and wellness, I encourage you to check out the Udi's Gluten Free Living Community