I have recently discovered that I have a gluten intolerance/allergy. I believe that this is probably something I have had all my life. A little background for those of you who may not know what gluten is: Gluten is that protein found in wheat, barley and rye. It makes our dough stick together better, makes our cakes and breads all light and fluffy and yummy. But it also makes the body work very hard to digest it. For someone who does not have a problem with digesting gluten, this is okay and even beneficial. But for those of us (and there are a lot of us, more than was previously thought) that *do* have a problem with gluten… the results in our bodies can be terrible… leading to sickness of all sorts… even premature death, eventually, because of the effect it ultimately has on our systems.
I started gaining weight when I was little, about 3 or 4, and when I was younger, the only way I have ever been able to keep it off is by drastic dieting measures, extreme exercise, etc. It used to work, but as I have aged, it’s gotten harder and harder. Now when I undertake a major exercising plan, it ADDS INCHES to my middle. I recently began a vigorous daily plan of 1-2 hours day. I lost a few pounds… gained them back… lost them… gained them back. Every few days I would lose a couple pounds and get so excited… and a few days later, despite the fact that I was dieting and eating healthily… those pounds would come right back. And then, I thought, well maybe I at least got some lean muscle! Sure… right around my middle, on top of the fat that was already there. I felt discouraged… depressed… hopeless. For those of you that look at overweight people and think “well they just don’t exercise” or “they must eat twinkies all day,” this is wrong. I’m sure there are people who do… but get to know the person before making a snap judgment.
I always thought that maybe it was a thyroid condition and so I recently made plans to visit an endocrinologist, as some doctors seem to ‘pooh pooh’ the idea that anyone could have a real thyroid condition (even though it does affect so many people.) I know… I should have already had that checked out long ago… but that kind of thing costs money that I just didn’t have. I recently tried the “morning temperature reading” test for thyroid problems and my temperature was just a slight tad under normal … so what in the world was wrong with me? I went vegetarian for three months… and GAINED WEIGHT. Two of those months I even followed an 85% raw diet. What gives?! Now I know what it was. **(Update: since identifying my gluten problem, I have lost one dress size and working toward my next! YAY!!)
I have been interested in healthy eating for a long time now, as well as taking vitamins, etc. Recently though I became aware just *how* bad white floured items were (turns to sugar after 5 minutes in the body!) for us… if you eat a piece of white bread for example, as I have read, it turns to sugar super quickly in the body, within minutes of eating it! And if those carbs are not used up… guess what… excess fat. I was horrified when I thought of how much white bread in just one day we used. So I began studying more about whole grains and decided from that point on, we would be a whole wheat, whole grain family. And we’d like it! :P
So we switched to whole wheat *everything*. If it was a bread or cereal or cracker item, etc… it was whole wheat.
But… after a couple of weeks of whole wheat in different forms, several times a day, I suddenly broke out in hives. Terrible, itchy, miserable hives. I couldn’t figure out what triggered them… where they came from. I thought maybe a detox reaction… clothes detergent… I just didn’t know. I have never had allergies of that nature, just like sinus, hayfever-type stuff… nothing involving welts or hives! I had read a while back about people who were gluten intolerant (or that had celiac disease) but I never thought much about it. I really can’t say what it was that made me put 2 + 2 together… I personally think it was God. I was thinking about this one morning, feeling extremely sorry for myself and wondering what the heck was wrong and should I see a doctor or a dermatologist… when it was like this thought jumped into my mind: “Gluten Sensitivity.” I know it sounds weird… but it was like that thought was “inserted” there… I hadn’t read about that in a looooong time and never would have thought I might have that.
So I hopped on the internet and started researching everything I could find about gluten intolerance and celiac disease. I read a book by Dr. Shari Lieberman titled “The Gluten Connection – How Gluten Sensitivity May Be Sabotaging Your Health” and it was like she was reading my mail, as the saying goes. All my life I had just felt… bad. Not much energy… acid reflux constantly… gall stones… headaches all the time… often depressed, even when I was “happy” … just blah blah blah. I took my vitamins and ate as healthily as I knew how… it would help somewhat but nothing ever major. Sometimes I would tell my husband, “I just don’t feel good. I don’t feel good at all.” I would sleep and not even felt like it when I woke up. While these symptoms can be attributed to other things too… they are also symptomatic of people with gluten intolerance/allergies or the more advanced form, celiac disease. And long ago it was thought that extreme weight loss was possibly a symptom of celiac disease… but now they are finding weight gain and inability to lose it can be a symptom as well… weight that people could not get rid of, disappears on a gluten free diet… not overnight… but it does go away. Some people have lost it rather quickly, others a bit slower. It seems to affect people in a way that normalizes their bodies… those that were underweight, gain up to a normal weight… those that were overweight, lose down to a normal weight. I felt I had stumbled onto my lifelong problem. I highly recommend this book if anyone has had problems like that.
And if you think these symptoms might sound like you, my suggestion is just to try a few weeks with no wheat, barley, or rye items… just see how you feel. If you notice a change for the better, then do what you feel is best. Have your dr. check you out… whatever… but remember that even drs can make mistakes. You know your body best. I read of people who had *asked* their doctors to test them for gluten problems, and they were laughed at. This is very poor professional judgment on those doctor’s parts and I know not all doctors are that way. In those situations, the people took care of the situation themselves… went gluten free… and today are enjoying happy, healthy lives, free from the problems that had once plagued them day in and day out. I’m not against doctors… I am very thankful for them. I’m just saying that God gave us a brain and common sense. We need to use it.
Anyway… I began going gluten free… and where before the hives had been continuing… the *next day* after I stopped my gluten intake, I noticed a difference. They started to go away. Then we went to a restaurant & I decided to eat just a salad… but they served light ranch dressing. I would never have thought wheat would be in light dressing… but low and behold, it was. I ate half of it before I realized it, after reading the packet (I was new to reading labels that closely and just figured the dressing would be okay… never assume anything about gluten. They hide it in places you would never dream. If it contains wheat… barley… or rye… it contains gluten). And guess what… by the time I got home, a couple small patches of hives had newly popped up. That cinched it for me. (Please note that corn and rice glutens are not the same and are considered safe for celiacs. Corn and rice lack the “gliadin fractions” that are found in the other grains mentioned above.)
At this writing in April, I have been gluten free for about two weeks now… the hives have nearly disappeared (and would probably have been gone sooner had I not scratched them so badly) and I have a new energy. My headaches, which I had always thought were just sinus problems… have disappeared. I have not had a headache since going GF (gluten free). My problems with feeling depressed have greatly improved, even after just a couple weeks! I have felt cheerful, happy, and even my husband has noticed the difference. They say it takes time for all the gluten to be flushed from your system, it can take as much as a month, to three months even… but I am already seeing positive changes. I have slowly, steadily, and surely started taking the weight off. Some people say it takes as much as a month to start losing the excess weight and to notice the other beneficial changes… but if you think gluten sensitivity is a problem… and you swear off everything (it must be everything!) that has gluten in it… and if you notice yourself feeling better, looking better, even feeling GREAT … you may have found your answer. You can’t go halfway though and expect to see great changes. I have read of people who bloat up several pounds after a spaghetti dinner (it has happened to me too) just overnight! And while it sounds strange… it is TRUE, I promise you. If you really care about your health and you even suspect that gluten is the culprit… start finding better ways to eat. One thing that has helped me is my friendly neighborhood health food store. I buy quinoa (a wonderful grain, as old as the hills, the native americans used to grow it) “pasta” and I cannot tell the difference between it and reg. pasta. I cook a small amount of quinoa pasta for me and my family still wants the reglar pasta, so I cook it for them… and we all have our dinner together as usual. There are lots of little things you can do. (Incidentally… if you are currently dealing with hives and rashes, as I was, and after reading this you suspect it may be gluten related… I suggest putting tea tree oil on them. It helps greatly with the itching, I wish I would have had some on hand sooner, maybe I could have slept better! haha Be careful with tea tree though, as it is very strong. It would be best to mix it in a base with some olive oil, in a separate jar. Like, 1/4 cup olive oil and about 5 or 6 drops of tea tree. Remember this is NOT medical advice, just my suggestion for things that have worked for me! I love aromatherapy so this was easy for me to implement.)
I wanted to share this with you out there, anyone who may be suffering from this and just never thought to check it out… now is the time. Research it. YES you can live without bread. At first I was like, “Oh no… now what will I eat?” But there are so many good healthy foods out there… after a few weeks, you truly will not miss it. If you crave something bread like, there are lots of good recipes that use flours such as white rice flour, soy flour, tapioca, corn, etc… get on the trusty internet and google your way to good eating with all the great GF recipes that you can find. I have found though that I feel better not eating of the breads, cakes, etc., even the GF ones. But they are great to help you with the transition, or to break up the routine.
This is not intended to be medical advice. As I have said in my last post… I am not a doctor. But I have a desire to help people and when I come across something that will possibly be of help… I want to share it. I am simply sharing what I have read, and what I have found to be true in my own life. Take what I have said and do what you will. I am a firm believer in doing my own research! It’s not hard with today’s technology… just hop on the internet highway and get surfing! Search engines are great vehicles to take us where we want to explore. Do your own research… and see what you come up with. You just might find yourself on the best ride of your life, the ride to good health! You can have all the money in the world… but if your health suffers… you will never be able to enjoy it. The good health of you and your family is more important than anything else physical this world can offer.
Here are some good links that helped me, I hope they help you too, towards the road to good health!
Celiac Disease, Gluten and Wheat Allergies
Celiac Disease & Obesity – There is a Connection
Gluten Sensitivity, Celiac Disease, and Weight Gain
There are lots of gluten free recipes on the net, here is one site:
Gluten Free Recipes
Tortillas are naturally gluten free, this recipe tells how to make y our own at home!
Book of Yum, Gluten Free Recipes
All kinds of gluten free foods you can get, even mail order:
The Gluten Free Mall
Hopefully this info and these links will get your road trip started out to success. I hope this is helpful to you. :)