After an almost 6 year sabbatical from gluten (yes, not a bite since August of 2006), something inside me was persuaded by the crispy, luscious, saturated with cheesy goodness, veggies and fresh grass fed meats that so perfectly disguised the GLUTEN FILLED BASE to my New York Style Pizza!
I was mesmerized. Without as much as a thought, I dove in for one slice which quickly accumulated into four insanely good slices of pizza. I broke my gluten free diet of 5.5 years with much regret, I must admit.
Now, let me back track for a second. I’m 30 years old and I have eaten gluten every day of my life until August of 2006. Most of you are probably thinking, “what is gluten anyway?” So let me start there. Gluten is a protein found in some grains such as wheat and related species like spelt, barley and rye. Corn, rice, quinoa, millet and amaranth are NON-gluten containing grains. Some theories say that ALL grains contain a small amount of gluten, but the ones mentioned above as GF (gluten free) typically do not give gluten sensitive people a problem. Oats. Well, those guys are on the fence for most people. Half the gluten sensitive population who buy gluten free (GF) oats do just fine. The other half, just can’t seem to process any grains all that well and oats are a definite no-no.
Common symptoms: gas, bloating, digestive issues, constipation or diarrhea, fatigue, inability to gain or lose weight, muscle or joint aches/pains, head aches, moodiness, sleep disturbances, inability to regulate your own temperature (running hot or cold), dehydration, anxiety, depression, diabetes, poor immune system, thyroid issues, adrenal issues, infertility, cancer, heart disease and much more…
Gluten was introduced to our diet during the industrial revolution. Prior to that we were eating more of a paleolithic diet (veggies, meats, fruits, nuts and maybe some legumes/beans). We were grain free. As a matter of fact, cows naturally eat grass, but since we have been trying to bulk them up by feeding them corn, soy, gluten and other grains, the cow’s inability to process the grains has weakened their immune system leading to more disease = the use of antibiotics and then the use of hormones to re-bulk the cows for slaughter and resale. Gross right?! To think that you are eating meat with hormones and antibiotics in it. Ewwww.
The point was actually, well 1. eat grass fed beef, but 2. since we are carnivores and omnivores, we too do not typically do well with grains. Grains weaken our immune system and gut function. So living in a society where EVERY meal contains some sort of processes carbohydrate (or grain) is hard on our bodies. Hence all the disease and dysfunction. To make things even worse, 2/3rds of people are sensitive to gluten. And get this, most of our immune system is in our gut and 90% of our happy hormone (serotonin) is also produced in the gut. So if you are eating foods that upset your gut, like gluten, then guess what. Your immune system is compromised and you probably aren’t full of energy and Suzzie sunshine. Get it? Our digestive tracts, like the cows, are compromised by excess grain intake leading to a weakened immune system which leads to all sorts of other mental, physical and emotional complications. Gluten being the major culprit.
So how do you know if you’re gluten sensitive or truly allergic? You can start by requesting a stool sample or an allergy test from your Doctor. I prefer to get as much information as possible, which is why I like ALCAT. ALCAT is a lab that tests up to 200 different types of foods and even herbal medicines, molds, environmental allergies, food additives and dyes with your blood. It tests your immune systems response to the antigens in each food/allergen being tested. It is my personal favorite test and done right in my office!
Ok, so if you aren’t even curious or convinced yet, watch this 12minute clip I did on TV several months ago about gluten, then be sure to read my personal story. This will blow your mind. PS- the gluten topics starts 4 minutes into the clip.
So, here is my story.
I didn’t even know what gluten was until I enrolled at National College of Natural Medicine to being my medical school journey the natural way! I remember walking into my first doctors appointment thinking, “there’s nothing wrong with me. I’m fit, I’m healthy, I’m happy and I’m about to be a doctor. I’m a personal trainer and nutritionist. I know all about healthy living and healthy foods.” BUT I made an appointment because I felt it was only appropriate that I begin seeing a naturopathic doctor since I too would soon be an N.D. Turns out I had some body aches and pains, my periods weren’t regular, I wasn’t having daily bowel movements, I had chronic urinary tract infections and brain fog mixed in with some learning difficulties and some suppressed emotions due to past trauma that I had “overcome”. Dang, maybe I was a mess! But, my issues didn’t seem that “obvious” and as “bad” to me. I felt fine. The world experience me as awesome and the issues I did have weren’t “that bad”, so I thought. I guess I could have felt a little bit more energized, had less physical pain, less sensitive to cold weather and of course I wished I was a better “learner”, but I truly thought everything was “good” minus a moment here and there of feeling crappy. But crazy thing is- you don’t even have to have those moments. You can feel amazing all the time and reach a whole new level of health that you didn’t even know existed. So, as my doctor was so eagerly trying to convince me of this “even better health feeling”, I agreed to take gluten, soy and diary out of my diet for 3 months with the promise that I could slowly add it back in to see how my body reacted. I was skeptical and somewhat defiant at first, but finally committed to taking gluten, soy and dairy out of my diet without as much as one single bite for 3 whole months.
3 months later was Thanksgiving. Yup! I gorged on all my favorite foods. Stuffing (gluten), pie (gluten and dairy), corn bread (corn, gluten and diary) and much more…. needless to say, I was comatose 5 minutes after dinner and still “not me” for about three full days after that. My gut hurt, my body ached, my nervous system was shot and my mind felt emotional.
That’s when I decided, I would be committed to going gluten free for good.
It’s amazing what shifted for me over the years. I was truly able to see how different my body felt and performed in every day life as well as in my sports- I was functioning off real energy, I felt physically stronger, more agile and pain free. My mind felt clearer, sharper and I was communicating more effectively. I felt less emotionally reactive, at a whole new level of happiness and grounded. I felt alive, solid and free. I transformed into a happier and healthier version of me! Now don’t get me wrong, food is just one aspect of the whole picture. I was being treated on all levels using botanical and energy medicine, exploring my new profession, but having one less stress on my body (food- something you eat at least 3x/day) definitely helped!
It was interesting because so many of my “little symptoms” went away and my overall health improved drastically with a very obvious “bad” reintroduction experiment with my eliminated foods, that once I made the choice to stop eating gluten, I never really thought twice about having it . It was never tempting. And truth is now days, grocery shopping GF really isn’t as hard as you think. Eating out is getting easier since most restaurants have GF options. And I knew how it made me feel, which wasn’t worth the bite of a gewy chocolate chip cookie or a warm slice of pizza.
I much prefer being at the top of my game, feeling good, having the clarity and energy to manifest the future I want, playing in the sun and loving life 24/7 verse having lingering issues, feeling internally irritable, tired, unmotivated, constantly making trips to CVS for a quick suppression drug that will have a negative side effect on your overall health and eventually cause some alternate medical issue or feeling clueless in the “all natural section” when really you just need to avoid the foods that “hurt you” and seek out naturopathic medical care to 1. repair your gut, 2. detox your central nervous system and associated organs and 3. balance your endocrine system.
But something about last Sunday. I either forgot or needed this quick reminder to educate YOU! Day one post-gluten, I was a mess. Irritable, indecisive, emotional (and for those who don’t know me- I’m a very free spirited, happy go lucky person with a lot of energy and an optimistic attitude), but I was in a head space. A funky space. I wanted to be alone, but then I didn’t. In my mind everything irritated me, options created confusion and nobody could do anything right. Of course, I could push all that aside and show up in the world as “regular easy flowing me” so nobody could tell there was anything “off”, but the mental process and the internal feelings were so “irritable and insane”. The internal inflammation created by my indulgence manifested as joint pains, muscles aces and fatigue. I felt like I had the flu. And even worse, my insides were so irritated I felt like I was crawling out of my skin. Everything itched, I was tired but wired and I wanted it all to just STOP. Honestly, I felt like a drug addict detoxing. Sounds dramatic, but watch any movie that portrays a drug-detox or a mentally ill person in a psych-ward and that is how I FELT. I was internally uncomfortable and it was effecting my physical body, my mind and my mood. Fortunately I’m in control of my mind, body and emotions and could detach myself from what my body was experiencing and move through my day “normally”, but my insides felt like I was going crazy- mentally and physically with itches and twitches, oh my! My immediate thoughts were irrational, I couldn’t sleep and I was unmotivated and tired. I was a mess.
Clearly, still a bit brain foggy since the last paragraph was so repetitive!
Day three proved to set me closer to normal, but honestly, I still feel a little “congested”.
This whole expereince just reminds me that when we are feeding our bodies foods that our body LIKES, it creates a healthy, happy body that can reach it’s optimum potential. But when we are unconsciously (or consciously) feeding our body foods the body is “reacting negatively too”, we are causing a constant stress leading to imbalance and differing levels of dis-ease. That could be physical symptoms such as weight gain, constipation and head aches…high blood pressure, joint aches/pains and sleep issues. Or it can mean feeling mentally unstable, moody, anxious, irritable, depressed or even fatigued.
I suggest YOU don’t let the gluten monster impact your life and see what foods are healing you and what foods are hurting you. Get an ALCAT test done or start with the elimination diet and see how your overall health and specific issues begin to change.
As always, I’m here for you! Happy eating! From Life In Motion Clinic and Dr. Michelle 760.230.2270.
In Health, Dr. Michelle Wolford, ND