For the past couple weeks I have been eating gluten free. I have been wrestling with when to share this new development in my health journey. The thing is I don’t know yet if it is permanent, or if this experiment will show that I can go back to my normal varied diet. I hope at this point my position on healthy and personal nutrition has been made clear enough. I want you to know I have not gone and jumped on an anti-wheat band wagon nor am I attempting to be a trendy foodie. I continue to feel very strongly that each person should consume the widest variety of foods their geography and personal health allows.
You probably want to know how I came to this decision.
Throughout the summer months I did not feel like myself. Without going into the details I will say that my head was in a fog and it was becoming more and more difficult to grab a hold of a thought. I was not waking up feeling rested and spent a good portion of each day trying to ignore a constant splitting headache. My emotions were on a roller coaster and I could see no way off. All the distractions of summer helped me to keep moving despite the physical discomfort and mental disorientation.
Once my world slowed down from working and traveling I waited to feel normal. It didn’t happen. My energy tanked. My digestion was all messed up, my belly was distended, and I was in pain from being stretched from the inside out. A few weeks ago everything ground to a halt. Grinding is the right word for it too. Things were going on in and around my body that should only happen in a construction zone. There was grinding, tumbling, loud noises, and very unladylike emissions. I’ll stop there and hope that you’ve gotten the idea.
My instinct was to look at my diet. In the past when things got out of whack, I added a few servings of produce and grabbed an extra glass or two of water. This time those quick fixes yielded no change. Next, I restarted my regimen of daily vitamins and added a 14-strain, 20 billion count probiotic. After a couple of days things improved but only a little.
When adding things didn’t get me back on track I felt that subtracting should be the next step. At this point I made an appointment with a wonderful nutritionist I have worked with in the past. The wait time was almost two weeks so I made a decision to begin experimenting on my own. I wanted to have a little more to bring to the appointment than, “I feel like crap.” I was also very motivated to no longer feel like crap.
I have done a bit of reading and spent the past few years moving around on the fringes of the health world. I made what I feel was an educated guess that my body was showing signs of a food intolerance. I know that the big three are Dairy, Soy, and Gluten. There are huge discussions to have surrounding all three of these foods. For instance: are these items actually food, now that we have spent years genetically modifying to them, or are these simply trendy targets for people who want to shift the blame for their poor health away from personal choices? I’m not prepared to tackle these issues but I encourage anyone who is curious to do their own research. I did a bit more reading and chose gluten as the first food to test. I found symptoms of gluten intolerance were the most similar to my issues.
The first few days of no gluten were a bit stumbling. Keeping a pantry stocked with ingredients rather than prepared foods proved a huge help. I did not need to go on a spending spree and overhaul our food supply. Most of what I have been eating looks the same. I needed to buy more oats so I grabbed a package of gluten free oatmeal instead of hitting the bulk bins. I also snagged a bag of Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour. That’s it. No cases of crackers, no shopping cart full of brown rice pasta; I don’t frequently eat those higher carb foods. Admittedly it took me a moment to remember that I am not a big bread and pasta eater. My second thought after picking gluten to eliminate was of all the new foods I would have to buy. Marketing is an amazing thing. I was not a gluten free customer but all the product ads wormed their way into my subconscious.
How do I feel now?
The first few days my digestive system started back up and the most immediate concern began to resolve. By day four I was itching like CRAZY! I took that to mean my body was going through a detox. In my lay opinion a detox seemed like a good sign that my body would be happier without gluten in it. The mental fog slowly lifted and the emotional roller coaster has leveled out. By the end of week 1, even with a few mishaps, I enjoyed my first headache free day in recent memory. That was a good day.
I have met with my nutritionist. She feels I am on the right track with eliminating gluten and is eager to work with me in figuring out my level of intolerance. She also recommended a few things to add into my diet to help my body get more of the nutrients it may be lacking. A sick and swollen digestive system may not be absorbing what the body needs to work at the peak of its ability. Now I get to eat more salt and more fat! Just a little. A slice of avocado and a dash of natural mineral sea salt may help me heal even faster.
I hope this doesn’t come off as flippant or callous, but I am looking forward to adding another layer of adventure to my journey. It remains to be seen, but if wheat is eliminated from my diet I get to replace it with a whole range of new ingredients - many I have yet to discover. I will keep you posted as things become more clear. In the mean time I hope you enjoy trying something new this week.
Whatever the reason we can all benefit from broadening our nutritional horizons.