A few weeks ago, after a wonderful dinner, I started to immediately feel sick. The misery was alarming so I did what I always do when me or one of my family members get sick: I google it. Because you know, that’s the most clinical way to evaluate a medical problem.
After a few minutes online, I had diagnosed myself with everything from a heart attack to food poisoning. And as I clutched my chest and prepared to die, I stumbled upon another possibility: gluten intolerance.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and malts. It’s also used as a food additive or stabilizer often called “dextrin” and can be found in a plethora of foods. Some people have been found to have allergies or intolerances to this protein. Others have an auto-immune response defined as Celiac’s disease which caused the lining of their stomach and intestines to be inflamed.
Studies have shown that 1 in 250 people are affected by gluten intolerance, yet it is severely under-diagnosed with only 1 in 3000 getting medical attention.
The symptoms of a gluten intolerance include: fatigue, headaches, digestive problems, chronic infections, nosebleeds, tingling in arms and legs, weight loss or gain, bloating, joint pain, “fuzzy brain”, hair loss, low blood sugar and sleep issues to name a few.
I was blown away when I read the symptoms because I either have or have had all of those symptoms at one time. It’s not that the symptoms alone were alarming; it’s that I could have checked them all off that night, not to mention I noticed that the symptoms described my mom and other family members as well as my children.
Add that to the fact that I already have a host of food allergies and I started to wonder if I shouldn’t do a little more research. I did and found that a gluten intolerance is hard to diagnose. There is a blood test available but it’s often times shows a false negative. According to my doctor, only way to truly find out if I (we) have an intolerance is to cut out gluten for a month to six weeks and see how we feel. What a drag.
It’s now been two weeks without gluten or with a significant reduction in gluten and I can already see the results. I’m sleeping better and have not been sick. I have more energy and yesterday I literally felt a hop in my step. But the best part is the difference in my kids. My loud, rowdy bunch have become quiet and cooperative. It’s like the twilight zone over here! It’s like someone came and replaced them during the night with some kind of Stepford children that I hardly recognize. Who are these kids and why aren’t they arguing or talking back? My daughter who has ADHD has been calm and her impulsivity is numbed. My son who has mild autism, has not had one frustrated outburst. Cue twilight zone music.
It hasn’t been that hard either. With all the yummy gluten-free options out there, we’re hardly deprived. I didn’t even tell the kids we were doing it, I simply changed things here and there and offered them delicious alternatives. Breakfast consists of Chex Mix with organic milk or eggs with fruit. Lunches include soups and salads and crackers with cheese and fruit and veggies. We have yogurt and nuts and gluten free cookies for a snack and dinner is simple too. I made a roast last night with some carrots, potatoes and fennel. I even got creative and tried Quinoa for the first time last week. It was a recipe that called for black beans and corn with some amazing flavors and it was orgasmically delicious!
We still have a few weeks to go in order to confirm a gluten intolerance and even if the blood test comes back negative, it’s hard to imagine not wanting to stick with something that makes me and my family feel so good. I would highly recommend seeking your doctor's advice if you think you might have an intolerance to gluten as he/she will provide you with healthy alternatives to gluten which ensures that you get all the vitamins, minerals and fiber necessary for optimum health.
For people without a gluten intolerance it isn’t suggested to go gluten free as they might struggle to get enough fiber or vitamin B but cutting back can have tremendous benefits that include more energy, better digestion and even lowered cholesterol. It’s hard to reduce your gluten intake and eat out a lot, eat fried foods or lots of processed stuff so you can see how eliminating those things are good for you too!
For more information about gluten intolerance and gluten diets, click here.