I’ve wanted to write this up for a couple of weeks now, but I’ve been too nervous. I keep waiting for the old gluten symptoms to spring up, but so far…nothing. It’s been three weeks that I’ve added spelt back into my diet and so far I haven’t had any issues. Spelt is the last thing I gave up way back at the beginning of this blog’s existence actually, and now it’s the first thing I’ve put back in my diet after years of actively trying to heal my gut. My personal symptoms include bloating, headaches, fatigue, general malaise, and acne. I realize these sound like odd things to string all together, but the fact is that when I used to eat wheat, those issues plagued my life, then when I’d stop they’d stop, then when I’d eat wheat either as an experiment or by accident, sure enough, those symptoms would immediately be back. So far though, these last three weeks have been symptom-free despite eating spelt once about every other day. It isn’t much but I was so nervous to do it that it took about a month of thinking about it before actually eating a bite of spelt. (By the way, spelt is a variety of wheat with a lower than average gluten content which is why it is more tolerable than regular wheat flour.) My protocol started two years ago which I detailed here, but I also ended up adding adaptogens to my daily life which balance all the bodily systems, digestive herbs every day, and I’ve used Renew Life’s IntestiNew powder for a few months to really rebuild the intestinal lining. I also did a candida cleanse about a year ago b/c it’s important to your digestive health to make sure you don’t have an overabundance of candida in your system which many many people do because of antibiotic use and sugar-filled diets. If you are working to overcome food intolerances, here are some things to consider:
Stop eating the trigger foods (of course)
Take probiotics~ the highest potency ones you can find, and take different brands each time you need a new bottle. Talk with your doctor or naturopath about the dosing because most likely they will recommend higher dosages than on the bottle. This is especially true if you’ve been on antibiotics (ever) and never taken probiotics before.
Heal intestinal lining by taking glutamine and herbs targeted towards such, and also by eating foods that are not overly taxing on the digestive system. These can vary by people, but you know what sits in your gut or causes you to bloat and have digestive distress and what feels good to your body when you eat it. By taking digestive enzymes before you eat and incorporating digestive herbs into your diet, you are also aiding the healing process.
Give it time. Depending on how long it’s been an issue in your life, it could mean 3 months to 2 years of work. Trust your body, your intuition, and your medical professionals, but especially your body. Food intolerances can arise at any time in a person’s life but they don’t have to last for the rest of that person’s life. You can beat it, you can heal, and you can have optimal health.
Curing food intolerance is not something to undertake alone. I’ve worked with my physician, naturopath, and a GI specialist, plus I am an certified herbalist who’s worked in the natural foods and products industry so I know about what supplements are out there. Please work with health professionals of your own before trying to heal yourself, but hopefully this post will encourage others to heal and not just live with food intolerances indefinitely.
I’ve written before about my own path to figuring out my gluten issues and it seems everyone has a diagnosis story like mine, though most are far more involved and long-lived, with the average person waiting 10 years for a proper CD or gluten sensitivity diagnosis. Just recently I read that another reason gluten issues are misdiagnosed is due to false negative blood tests~ if you have an IgA deficiency, the blood test for gluten reaction can come up negative even if it is positive. This is a big deal because: “Immunoglobulin A (IgA) deficiency is 10 to 15 times more common in patients with celiac disease (CD) than in healthy subjects.” That is a quote from Clinical and Vaccine Immunology. Another article on Food Matters gives further evidence of the link between IgA deficiency and food allergies and intolerances, such as:
“A significant number of allergic individuals have associated IgA deficiency, and there is evidence that IgA deficiency is linked to the development of gastrointestinal food hypersensitivity. (5)
Increased susceptibility to food allergies is now associated with IgA deficiency. (2,4)”
And, “IgA deficiency is much more common among those with celiac disease (gluten intolerance) than the general population.”
This is the worst part when I accidentally ingest gluten and absolutely the hardest thing to explain to people who don’t have a gluten issue~ the ‘brain fog’. This article adds to growing research into an often cited but hard to study complaint of brain fog in celiacs and those gluten intolerant. They liken the brain fog to a .05 blood alcohol level, which is an interesting attempt to try to wrap some definition around something as hard to grasp as ‘fog’ but I would classify it as that feeling when you are getting sick and feverish and your brain just feels like it needs a nap before computing, but maybe that’s because gluten makes me tired, oh so tired, and so all I think about are naps. Probably everyone experiences it a bit differently, but it certainly points to early detection being more and more important if we want our children to have the best experience as possible in school. The article notes that they are still not sure why that happens since one theory was a lack of micronutrients making it to the brain when the digestive system is impaired, but that did not in fact seem to be the case. Another theory has to do with the gut bacteria, always super important when talking about brain health, but it could also be the gluten itself. Whatever it is, I’m just glad enough people have cited the issued that it’s being studied.
Schar just shared this infographic on their Facebook page. If you don’t already follow them, I heartily recommend doing so if you like nice visuals along with your gluten-free tidbits. And if you are planning a visit to Italy, this is definitely a company to know because as I understand it, they have played a major role in making the land of pasta a safe place for Celiacs and the like. As far as the picture below goes, I can check off more than half those symptoms myself~ how about you?
Did you know all children in Italy are automatically screened for Celiac? They, as a society, are much more aware of gluten issues in general which is about reason number 172 that I would like to be there right now, although with the sun warming up around here Washington feels pretty good. It’s been a long grey winter though and I just don’t trust this sunshine to stick around long. Whatever the weather where you are, check out this infographic that Gluten dude is kindly sharing:
I’ve never been tested for celiac but as a gluten intolerant person, I can attest to a very large proportion of these.
Just had to share my latest favorite afternoon snack. Coffee and protein powder. I know, it sounds wrong but it tastes so right! I add ice to the above and blend it into something that tastes similar to a Frappuccino but has 17g of protein (I just use one scoop~ the directions call for 2!) and lots of other good things like micronutrients and super greens. I figure if I’m going to have coffee in the afternoon anyway, might as well make it extra healthy.
And consider this a public service announcement~ Have you had your iron checked lately? Did you know gluten sensitive people are almost always iron deficient? And vegetarians really need to work to get the recommended daily dose too, but I don’t know about anyone else but no doctor, ever, has checked my iron. Not even the naturopath I see! She recommended my boys take Floradix Iron (nasty liquid stuff which they hate) because of their gluten intolerance so I did a bit of research and decided I needed to take it myself. My goodness, what a difference it makes! I have more energy, consistent energy, and I don’t feel like fainting when I ‘get up too fast ‘~so I’m now a fan of the nasty liquid stuff. I have probably been deficient all my life considering most of it has been spent eating a vegetarian diet (more like a Pastafarian diet in my younger years, as my friend pointed out) and have the gluten issue. So anyway, if you think this might apply to you, ask your doctor! And if you go the Flora route, make sure to get the gluten-free one (if you need it) because there is one that is and one that is not. It is worth it.
Traveling with food intolerances to the Washington coast is not something to be done without your car full of groceries. You can always find grocery stores, but they aren’t going to be the kind with a ‘gluten free section’ and restaurants are pretty typical gluten/dairy laden places. We stayed at Seabrook and my sister saw that the menu at the restaurant there did include gluten-free options, but I did not inquire if they were also dairy and egg free. We had enough corn tortillas, rice, and beans to keep everyone fed enough until we hit our next destination on the north side of the peninsula where we knew there would be more to choose from. (The ocean was phenomenal by the way, despite some drizzly days and cooler temps then we ideally wanted. It is called Juneuary here though so I wasn’t too surprised. We enjoyed it anyway.) Between Port Angeles and Port Townsend is Sequim, and we found at least gluten-free options in all three places, plus in Port Townsend there is a great Co-op with which to stock the car back up with groceries, if that be needed. In Sequim we ate twice at the Sunshine Café where there was a great gluten-free, egg free, soy free, dairy free bread from a nearby bakery. I meant to get some bread before heading leaving Sequim but forgot. It was a great place though, for breakfast and lunch. In Port Townsend which is a beautiful Victorian town on the water we ate at the Owl’s Spirit Café which had a great menu and tasty food, but it wasn’t the best choice for children. The adults all had delicious meals though and you can get fresh juices there also while you wait for your food which is a nice bonus. In Port Angeles we ate at Next Door which boast gluten-free buns and notes foods that are gluten-free. Other than that we ate in our “fake homes” as my youngest called them and although it took a bit more planning, we made it a whole week without anyone being too upset over any food issues. Yay! Another thing I’ve noticed with this whole food intolerance thing is that my both my sons are surprisingly ok with the fact they are for instance the only ones who can’t eat the pizza at a get-together, or the cake at a party. I just tell them I’ll make whatever it is for them when we get home, and that seems to satisfy them, and more often than not they don’t even ask for whatever it was later. It makes me think about how often we just mindlessly eat whatever is in front of us. The other day at a party my son would have eaten pizza, cake, ice cream and rice crispy treats. Instead he ate the protein bar I had packed him and the rice crispy treats. He was a little sad, but I assured him I could make him pizza and ice cream (what he most wanted) at home, and then he happily forgot about it all. Just an observation. Another thing that’s been very obvious is both the boys’ skin issues are clearing up fast. My youngest has had red bumpies on his cheeks since he was about 4. I always suspected food issues but the pediatrician and dermatologist both insisted it was Keratosis Pilaris, something 1/3 of the population has on the back of their arm, and kids can have it on their cheeks. “It’s hereditary,” they said. “It’ll go away.” It hadn’t by age 7, but now it is indeed going away~ his skin is looking beautiful and his eyes are even brighter. My other son had bumpies on this arms and back, probably the same thing, and they are going away too. A friend of mine told me this happened to her husband after going off gluten also, plus his asthma completely cleared. Pretty amazing! It makes me wonder if 1/3 of the population has gluten sensitivity…
I was feeling a little bad for a couple of weeks. Not terrible, just kind of like I was fighting a little virus or something~ bit of a headache, less energy, skin looking bad, vague sense of un-well-ness. After about a week I started thinking, wait a minute, this feels like gluten! But what could it be? My diet has not varied much lately and I rarely eat out and the symptoms were persisting, telling me I was taking it in continually but it seemed in low doses because of how stealthily the bad feelings crept up. That is when I thought about the supplements I take everyday and I began to wonder when was the last time I checked to make sure those are gluten free…and let me just say as someone who used to work in the natural foods industry and as a certified herbalist I tend to take more supplements than the average human, so that’s a lot of bottles about which to keep vigilant. Sure enough, my three Whole Foods brand supplements were made in a facility that also processed wheat, etc. They weren’t made with gluten mind you, just had potential to be cross-contaminated. To be honest I was dubious these were the culprit~ am I really that sensitive? After I stopped taking them, I felt a little better the next day, and even better the day after that, and by the third day I woke up with no headache. Bingo. It is a bummer to be so sensitive although I do take those supps every day and who knows for how many months it’d been before either a. it built up in my system as a problem or b. I just had starting taking some that were indeed contaminated. It was a good reminder to keep vigilant. Now I make sure my supps have a cute little gluten-free symbol on the bottle~ these are the most common:I’m partial to that top one…tatoo material maybe? I’m gluten-free after all. Or at least I try to be.
While living in Prague my spectacular flatmate and I talked about everything under the sun, but really, the majority of the time, by a significant amount I’d say, we talked about food. Usually it was what we’d be eating if we were home right now, or in some other city, or what we ate at such and such restaurant, and what we would like to cook if only we could find the ingredients in these tiny little grocery stores. Because of that, I know far more about the frozen foods in Canada’s fine stores than any American should, and she probably will make a pilgrimage to a certain dark coffeehouse in a bad corner of Cincinnati one day. At the time we were both pescatarians in a city that is more red meat and potatoes than Texas. Needless to say, our options were limited. We lived on bread and cheese and surprise, surprise, I got horribly sick for months. At that time I was not aware of my gluten intolerance, but my natural foods background let me know it was something diet related. I started steaming broccoli for breakfast and living off Uncle Ben’s minute brown rice. And pineapple juice. Prague didn’t have much in the way of juices, but it had the best pineapple juice ever~ we drank it daily out of the same kind of box we later in the day would drink our ‘fine’ wines. The juice sections in Prague grocery stores at the time amounted to about half of an end cap. My flatmate went to Berlin over the holidays and all I remember from her trip was that the juice sections there were whole aisles, just like here. Anyway, at Trader Joe’s last night I saw they have a new pineapple juice in the cold section and I just had to try it. The ones in glass that sit on the shelf have never lived up to Prague’s standards so I have cautious hopes for this one. It isn’t organic so I won’t get it often, but in homage to my lovely friend and our days in Prague I’m going to down a glass and then throw together a sopsky’s salad, hold the fried cheese, please.
When I was first diagnosed with gluten intolerance, my physician said that once I got all of the gluten out of my system and out of my diet for a few months I might be able to reintroduce small amounts and tolerate it. This was great news at the time, but after years of a gluten free diet I can tell I have become more sensitive, not less so. I’ve talked to other gluten intolerant people who have had the same experience, so I wonder if anyone ever successfully reintroduces wheat back into their diet? It would be so nice to go out to eat and not worry about the soy sauce used and such, but honestly, I’m not sure I’d want to be able to eat all the wheat I wanted anymore. Having to think a bit more about every thing I put into my mouth has made me make healthier choices, and honestly, I rarely even buy or make gluten free bread anymore. I eat more salad and soups, and (probably way too many) corn chips and rice crackers. Just because I’m gluten intolerant doesn’t mean I can’t still be a carbo-holic, unfortunately! But generally, I eat far healthier than I used to, but I feel far ickier when I do eat some smidgen of errant gluten. I’d really like to explore more more traditional diets, like in that book, The Jungle Effect, to get more ideas on foods, because one thing I do miss is the ability to trust food out and about, so I end up mostly only eating what I make, which is limited. Maybe some cooking classes are in order.