Teresa’s Note: When Mary Simonson was told she had to give up bread for her health, she was willing. When she learned there were many more foods her body was allergic to, she rebelled. When she realized it was either crucify her desire for certain foods or live, she chose life. She began eating to live. Here’s her story.

Mary Simonson with five of her 52 great grandchildren.

Mary Simonson with five of her 52 great grandchildren.

By Mary Simonson

As a child, in family pictures, I look like the poster child for the malnourished in third world countries. I had the big belly, skinny arms and legs. I was always conscious of that belly.

When I reached junior high and got into Physical Education classes, I found my niche. From that day forward I was doing exercises.  I was determined not to have a big belly like my mom and aunt. Even though I exercised, the belly stayed.

I was always very active and healthy, but I always had problems with bloating and swelling around my stomach. I loved all breads. I loved to bake them and I loved to eat them.


In 2008 I started noticing changes in my body. I was in the habit of donating blood every eight weeks. One day I walked in to donate and my hemoglobin was down to seven. They said I should see my doctor right away.

That was the beginning of a very long road of blood and iron infusions. Every two to three weeks, I was getting from two to four units of blood and iron infusions in between. I went through every test imaginable. I was so tired of the “good” results that I quit seeing the doctor.

By September of 2008, I was very tired and lethargic. I was in brain fog. and started getting depressed. I sat after day without energy to get up. I started researching my symptoms and trying to figure out my own diagnosis since the doctor didn’t seem to have a clue.

I was so sick at this time. All I did was read the Bible, pray and search the internet and books for some kind of answer.

At least five years prior to this a good friend of mine, gave me a book called Prescription for Nutritional Healing by James F. Balch, M.D. and Phyllis A. Balch C.N.C. I began reading it and found my symptoms under “anemia.”

I was tired, lethargic , couldn’t breathe well, wasn’t getting enough oxygen, was malnourished and was not retaining vitamins and minerals. It told me all the vitamins and minerals I should be on and the dosages. I believe this book was supplied to me by God for such a time as this.

My daughter, Kim Weger, called me. She had run into a friend of hers who was familiar with celiac disease. When Kim told her of my symptoms and they compared notes and they came up with the same conclusion — celiac disease. Kim called to tell me what she had learned and said I should ask the doctor about it at my appointment the next day. I read her my own list from my research. It was a match ‑ confirmation.

mary simonson porrch

Mary Simsonson


The next day I went to see Dr. Russel Kennedy, my family doctor.. He came in and said “Wouldn’t it be funny if you had an allergy?”

I said, “Funny?”

He said. “Not funny like ha, ha, but after all the tests I put you through, wouldn’t it be ironic if it was an allergy?”

I asked what kind of allergy He replied, “Sprue.” I had not heard that word before so I asked him what that was and he wrote it down for me — celiac sprue. Another confirmation.

He said I needed to begin on a gluten-free diet. I started that right away. I was really excited when he told me it was celiac sprue. Up until then all my tests came back normal or good. I knew how sick I was, but no one else did. I thought I might die before they figured it out. Finally, I had a diagnosis. I was actually eager to start my gluten-free diet.


I loved breads. I was addicted to both baking and eating breads of all kinds, but especially yeast dinner rolls. I loved to bake pies, cookies and cakes. I was a cake decorator for many years. I used to buy gluten from the Amish to make my bread raise even higher. The looks and smell of a loaf of that bread cooking was by far better than any other enjoyment in my life. Giving all of that up was very hard for me, but I knew it was a matter of life and death.

I prayed daily for God to give me strength to get through this and to help me come up with gluten-free recipes so I could still have my bread. I researched recipes everywhere. I came up with some really good ones, not like my wheat recipes, but they would do. I was just getting comfortable with my new recipes with flours made from beans, rice, spelt and other starches.

Truth Is Hard To Face

Kim told me about a “wonderful doctor that Teresa goes to.” She said he treats patients with symptoms like I had. She had talked to him about me and he told her that I should stop eating all grains.

I thought, “Wait a minute! That means all those books and expensive flours I bought, not to mention all the time I have invested in learning to bake with those flours are for naught?”

That didn’t make me happy. In fact, I was down right mad. I was determined I was not giving up all that.

I can be pretty stubborn when I want to be. I didn’t give any of it up for several weeks, but the Lord kept convicting me regarding the foods I was eating. I kept being physically ill and Kim kept nagging me. Finally, I gave in to no grains.

The right doctor

Upon meeting Dr. William Trumbower, I knew he knew exactly what was wrong with me. He was very educated about celiac disease.

He had another order for me — no nightshade vegetables. What? Did he not know that included eggplant, potatoes and tomatoes? I craved tomatoes. I would buy three to four boxes of the little grape tomatoes and eat at least two of those boxes before I got home from the store.

Even rice has the same lectin that is in nightshade plants. What in the world did he expect me to eat? I was not too happy with my Dr. T. That’s not all. He kept adding to the list. Every time I saw him, he would add something else.

I was getting pretty used to that and was accepting it pretty well when he sprang another surprise on me. Peppers are a nightshade plant. That included red pepper, yellow pepper, hot pepper, paprika and sweet peppers. That was the only thing I had left to make my food palatable and he took that away.

Now, I was just plain mad. However, I knew he knew what was best for me. He was telling me the truth, though the truth is sometimes hard to face.

I have learned to adapt to my new world of food allergies. I realize I have had this disease all my life. It was passed down through my mother’s line, thus the big belly, known as a wheat belly. I have three children, two grandchildren and several great grandchildren with wheat allergies, some with celiac disease.

Mary Simonson, Teresa Shields Parker and Kim Weger at Sweet Change Book Launch.

Mary Simonson, Teresa Shields Parker and Kim Weger at Sweet Change Book Launch.

How I Eat

Today, I eat mainly according to the Paleo diet plan. I also stay away from processed sugar. My food list includes meat, poultry, fish, butter, whipping cream, hard cheese, coconut oil, olive oil, palm oil, lard, eggs, coconut, coconut flour, almond flour, arrowroot powder, black pepper, white pepper, sea salt, sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkin, green vegetables and root vegetables. I am currently into making kefir milk, kombucha tea and fermented foods for gut health.

It has not been an easy road, but Jesus has walked every step of the way with me and so has my beautiful, loving daughter Kimberly. When the doctor told me to eat gluten-free, Kimberly said she would be my buddy and walk that road with me. She has done that. Celiac disease robbed my body of vitamins and nutrients. I looked like a malnourished child because I was. I was allergic to wheat way back then, but didn’t know it.

After over 60 years of eating items made with wheat, my gut was all but destroyed. My thyroid was messed up, my immune system was compromised and I became sick with every cold or flu that came along.

I had pneumonia many times in the last 10 years. I contracted mold poisoning three times last year. For most people that is not a big deal and acts like any other cold or allergy and goes away. For me it is deadly.

Restored Health

God has been good to me. He has restored me to full health after so many years of transfusions and pneumonia. I have not had a transfusion since April, 2011 and that long since I have had pneumonia.

Still, I have to be careful where I go, especially in old buildings. I am careful not to go into the hospitals to visit because of my lack of immune system. That is very hard sometimes, especially because I have a son with lots of health issues who is in the hospital a great deal of the time. I hate not being able to go visit him there.

By God’s grace I have overcome my craving for breads. I know for me it is poison and I will never be able to eat it again. I know I have to depend on my Savior and Lord to keep me from craving bread because I can’t do it on my own.

I exercised my whole life. I got into aquatic exercise, aerobics and walking five miles a day. I still participate in aquatics and water Zumba classes three days a week.

I’ve lost 25 pounds. However, my belly fat has not totally gone away. It may always be there. I eat healthy and exercise in order to have the energy and stamina I need to do the work God has called me to do and to remain here on earth as long as He wills.

God Knows Me

I love the Word of God. I especially love the Psalm where God tells me I am fearfully and wonderfully made.1 That He made me, knows me, understands me and loves me. He even had the hairs on my head counted before I was born.2 I read those scriptures over and over again. If He made me, and He did, if He knows me and He does, then He has to know what is wrong with me and how to fix it. And He did.

I have come to accept that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. God knew what He was doing when He made me. I am not hidden from Him. It is because I am metabolically broken that I must rely more heavily on my Lord to lead me every step of every day.

Mary Simonson is a wife, mother to 10 children (three biological), grandmother to 30 grandchildren, great grandmother to 52. As a minister’s wife, she is actively involved in her church, especially in the children’s ministry. She loves researching family history and gathering her family together as often as possible. She lives in Joplin, MO. And I claim her as GiGi like most who know her do.

1 Psalm 139:14 NIV

2 Matthew 20:30 NIV

arms r t 5It’s time to get some help on your journey towards health and weight loss. I needed the help of others (peers like me), another (a mentor who had been there) and the Other (God’s leading) to lose 260 pounds.

I established Sweet Change Weight Loss Coaching Group with the same principles. It’s an online group where no matter where you are in the world you can participate. We have folks from India, South Africa and New Zealand in the group right now. Come join us and begin your LIFEstyle journey.

Whether you have a 26 or 260 pounds to lose the group will be a resource that will make a difference. See you in the group. Here’s the link: https://teresashieldsparker.com/sweet-change

Mary Simsonson