Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bye-bye Gluten...

Health is such an interesting multifacited thing.

Is it just a headache, or is it a tumor?

Am I just tired, or have I become anemic?

Do I simply have indigestion or is it that pesky ulcer?

Admit it, your laughing because as silly as reading those worries may sound in your head, at some point and time we've all had a similar question run though our mind. It's ok...I think it's normal...I don't think I've ever met someone who hasn't "self diagnosed" themselves with some catastrophic illness/condition. (Including my physician friends.)

For the most part my family (immediate and extended) has been blessed with great health. Just like any other family, we have had our run ins with heart disease and cancer. Diabetes and obesity. But we've also been blessed with long living ancestors whose minds have stayed sharp even as their bodies have started to slow. My Great Grandma (who is in her mid-nineties mind you) recently agreed to at least move to a cottage in a retirement community. (From her 3 bedroom house on a corner lot.) A move she has resisted because those places are just filled with "old" people don't you know! (I truly hope to be so stubborn and able when I reach my mid-nineties.)

Recently, triggered by some new health annoyances, my Mom under went some testing and consultation and it has been determined that an unknown gluten intolerance (most commonly known as Celiac Disease, yet I think there are varied levels of intolerance and I don't that my Mom has "officially" been diagnosed with Celiac) has been probably exacerbating her problems. One of the comments her doctor made was to make sure we (her kids) knew of this new discovery because gluten intolerance seems to have a very strong familial link.

So like any good health obsessed individual, I hopped on the internet to see what I could find about the condition. And I kid you not...it wasn't so much a feeling of "yes, I think that could describe my symptoms" hypercondroism (I just made up that word I think) as much as a sigh of relief that maybe, just maybe, there was an honest answer to the unshakable fatigue, the recent weight gain, the increased occurrence of annoying joint pains, the lack of muscular endurance no matter how hard I train (or don't train), and the frequent respiratory/sinus infections that have settled in and held on for weeks at a time over the past 2 years.

Gluten intolerance can be triggered by stress if you are predisposed. (Hmmm...let's think about that for a moment...)

A gluten intolerance affects how your body absorbs nutrients and often anemia and fatigue are symptoms.

A gluten intolerance triggers one's body to have a heightened inflammatory (auto immune) response which can aggravate joints and exacerbate arthritis.

People who have an intolerance to gluten often have more problems with "wet" infections...such as sinusitis.

So...it didn't take me long after reading a few bits on WebMD and Celiac support sites to decide the easiest thing for me to do was to avoid gluten for a few days and see if I noticed a difference. I figured there would be no harm done and if I didn't notice a difference I could get back on the bread train at the snap of my fingers.

And I have to say, after only 5 days I can tell a HUGE difference. Most notably in my energy level. I'm starting to feel like me again! For the past 2 years I've blamed my frequent, almost constant fatigue on the fact I exercise for a living; that I have 2 small kids in the house; that we've had crazy amounts of stress in our lives. All legit possibilities. Yet no amount of long weekends/vacation time away from it all/sleeping in really ever recharged my battery. I've been perplexed by the frequent colds and sinus infections considering I normally very rarely get sick. I figured stress had my immune system down and so I started taking some extra vitamins. I had accepted the fact that the extra joint pain was probably just a hazard of my profession and have basically ignored it except to bitch now and then when my sciatica is so bad I have to give in and take some Advil. But guess what...5 days off gluten and even that, even my sciatica, feels better!

Keep in mind I have not talked to MY doctor about all of this BUT I have plans to and am going to schedule a long over-due physical very soon. (So if your reading this Dr. Ferguson, here's a heads up.)

I will admit, making the switch is still new and there are a few adjustments that seem easy now that I'm not sure how I will deal with long term. Do you know how much pasta we eat in this house? I have a very picky vegetarian off-spring. Her diet is centered around pasta and PB&Js...of course made on whole wheat bread. And we often make waffles or pancakes not only for weekend breakfasts but for quick, easy week night dinners.

Luckily, THANKFULLY, there are already lots of gluten free products on the market in both normal grocery stores and speciality health food stores that will help ease this transition. Two of our local grocery stores have recently put in small sections devoted to gluten free products. I think it's going to take some trial and error to find what products fit our taste, lifestyle, and budget, but it's not going to be an impossible switch. And if I slip up and eat some good crusty wheat bread or indulge in a beer now and then it's not going to be the end of the world. I can handle feeling a little less than 100% once in awhile for the occasional treat.

But when you get to make a gluten free lunch like this...

I hardly consider having to use the gluten free alternatives a sacrifice! (This is Schar brand gluten free pasta...and it is DELICIOUS! I look forward to trying more of their products.)

We even made buckwheat (not a wheat even though it's in the name) pancakes this weekend so I could enjoy our big family breakfast on Sunday and I'm happy to report they got a thumbs up from everyone.

And to be honest, if it is determined that I have a gluten intolerance it will probably be good precautionary diet changes for my girlies who could, thanks to heredity, have similar sensitivities.

To think, all these years I've been a stickler for using whole wheat flour in our baking and have insisted that we always buy whole wheat bread for sandwiches/toast. And now wheat (and barley and rye) may have to become an extinct grain(s) in our kitchen.

What can I say...we only get one life to live. I plan to live mine as healthy as I am able for as long as I am blessed to be here on this Earth.


peace

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jenn,

Thank you SOOO much for sharing this! I have never thought about my issues until I read your blog. I did some research too, and was surprised at some of the symptoms that are showing themselves in our house - not only me and my hubby, but the kids too! I have been almost gluten free for about 4 days and have noticed that my joints aren't aching anymore! Thanks again for your blog!
Jenn Sample