23 December 2011

Five Years Gluten Free

Brown Rice Pasta with Bolognese Sauce
Five years ago I jumped off a cliff and went gluten-free.  I was desperate.  I was headed to Detroit for six weeks with my parents (who both smoked) and I was in a panic that my migraines would be non-stop because of the second-hand smoke.  I was reacting to all sorts of things: perfume, smoke, all kinds of foods.  I had facial pain, neck pain, migraine, bloating, gas, constipation, iron-deficiency anemia and other slight problems with vitamin absorption.  I went to a naturapath, who tested me for food allergies (IgG and IgE combined).  The test results were not even back when I happened upon an issue of Living Without Magazine with an article on the cover on how gluten could affect the brain.  Leafing through the magazine, I found an ad suggesting that iron-deficiancy anemia and tooth enamel problems could be signs of celiac and it hit me that the naturapath might be right.  She thought it likely I was at least gluten intolerant, if not celiac.  I also found out what gluten really was and I understood why my attempts to eliminate wheat and dairy from my diet to stop the gas were not effective.  I went gluten-free the next day.  That was December 22, 2006.

Four months later I was tested for celiac, but the test was negative.  I had been gluten-free for four months.  I had a stool test done and that found enough gluten antibodies to suggest that I had a sensitivity to gluten.  I avoided gluten and about 30 other food items for two years.  Gradually, I brought back all but the gluten.  Now I mostly avoid milk too, but not all dairy.  I took a test for cow's milk allergy and it said I had a moderate allergy to it.  I seem to be ok with yogurt, cheese and butter, but not milk in large quantities and not whey protein powder at all.

Well, not all my problems were related to gluten, but I have remained gluten-free with only a few cheats over the years.  Since I do not know if I have celiac, once a year, I try a little gluten to see what happens.  The first few years, I got reactions within two hours.  Then it was 3-4 hours.  Then I tried some bread in France a year ago and got no reaction.  I am not sure what my level of sensitivity is, but since my iron levels came up slightly after a few years gluten free and my osteopenia was unchanged, I decided to stick with it.  I am no longer as sensitive to perfumes and smoke, although I prefer not to be around them (and what's up with all these people who douse themselves with perfume anyway? Don't they know it isn't PC anymore? That people have real issues with it?)   I have to admit that I never lost my anger and sorrow over the loss of regular bread and pastries and the frustration that I live with on almost a daily basis living in a gluten-laden world.  I am particularly angry with Starbucks (although I still go there all the time) for not providing good quality gluten free pastries and sandwiches.  These days, it is so easy to do that I get miffed with companies that can't be bothered.  Tully's, on the other hand,  I love  for providing WOW cookies right up at the cash registers.  Very classy, Tully's.

Last month I had double jaw surgery and had to endure a liquid diet for 10 days and then only semi-liquid since.  I only started chewing a week ago and it's not much, yet.  My experience as a cook and a gluten-free cook saved me.  I made 4 or 5 pots of soups and froze individual servings of them.  Then I taught my husband to make gluten-free high-protein smoothies for me and I survived it.  Thanksgiving was hell, but Christmas is going to make up for it.  I am making my usual Thanksgiving meal for Christmas, using Udi's Gluten-free bread in my stuffing and making my gravy from scratch with potato starch instead of flour (or using Jules' Gluten Free All Purpose Flour).  I am not sure I will be able to chew the turkey much, but the rest of the meal will be fit for a king...or queen.

Here's hoping you all enjoy your holidays...gluten-free.

Karen, herself


Kim said...

I'm a new follwer, decided last night to go gluten free, I'm a sufferer of migraines, which ive been told by my doctors is mostl hormone related, but this past week ive had three migraines, i've got a new devlopment of eczema, and im just all out of whack in my body. ive spent the past few days researching it, and the amount of articles ive read about gluten free diets has me thinkin this could be a way to go. it's inspiring to see someone having reached the 5 year mark, you were gluten free before it was popular to be gluten free. if you can do it,so can I, and so far im liking your past blog, it's helpful in my new journey.

Tomek said...

congrats on the 5 years gluten free! I am going on 11 months myself! I am also hypoglycemic. Last March I found myself in the hospital with trouble breathing, unable to stand, feeling like I was on the verge of loosing consciousness. at first the dr just told me I was having a "panic attack" and gave me some valium (which I refused). I went to my regular dr, and told her I felt these symptoms every time I ate, and she sent me to get tested for everything under the sun except food related allergies or diabetes/hypoglycemia. While I was waiting for the results - I couldn't take it any longer and ended up googling around and found myself at an endocrinologist's office. there I was diagnosed with hypoglycemia. I went on Atkins (great book about metabolism btw, I recommend it). I ate mostly protein, and veggies. I also in this period of time found out I was gluten intolerant. I read somewhere that the gluten intolerance actually could cause hypoglycemia because when the gluten clogs up your system and damages it - you don't absorb nutrients nor sugar properly. I was getting sick every time I worked out as well (now I believe that was because I wasn't absorbing nutrients - so my body didn't have the proper energy to do my workouts). I have hope that the hypoglycemia will reverse eventually once my body fully heals from the gluten. I read that can take 2 to 2 and a half years do to the size of our digestive system. I noticed in one of your older posts that you too had hypoglycemia, and now that you've been gluten free for 5 years, I wonder how that has impacted your ability to digest sugar if at all. Adjusting my diet was difficult for me, but now I'm so happy about it because I eat so healthy. I feel in the end it was a blessing because the Universe forced me to make good choices for myself. Best wishes..Tomek

Karen said...

Hi guys, thanks so much for your comments. To Kim, please get yourself tested for Celiac before you try eliminating all the gluten in your diet. I can't emphasize how important this is. I know how frantic one can get trying to make the pain and misery stop, but really, you will never know for sure whether it is Celiac if you don't test first. I wish I had done so.

Tomek, thanks for your comments on the hypoglycemia. I am glad you found out and hopefully are feeling better. Mine is still with me, but seems a bit better since my jaw surgery, but maybe I am just more careful what I am eating. I find that if I do not eat more than 30g of carb at breakfast, I am fine but any more than that causes problems a couple hours later, no matter how much protein I eat. The problem with exercise for me involves adrenaline release. Have to eat balanced meal prior to exercise...really starting with breakfast or the exercise causes too much adrenaline to flow and I start shaking and sweating, etc. So I watch the caffeine intake too. I find the ADA diet guidelines for diabetics useful in keeping the carbs in balance. A nutritionist gave them to me.

Tomek said...

Ah, I try to eat less than 20 Carbs a day. I ready Atkins book - AMAZING in reference to hypoglycemia. I keep my body in Ketosis by keeping my cards down - so it doesn't run on "sugar" but instead runs on "fat" giving my pancreas a rest and making it easier for my body to keep my blood sugar stable. Best wishes to you. Tomek

Tomek said...

p.s oh and that's read not "ready" the book lol. and yes, I am feeling fantastic! the Atkins diet has been a miracle for me. I have gotten back to my work outs and running - and am feeling great.