November 9, 2012

Going Gluten Free

We here in the E household have recently gone gluten free. Celiac Disease is something we've known about for a while, but even though Hubby has showed several of the signs for years before we met, it wasn't something we thought about until back in September. I mean, Hubby has been under a doctor's care for unintentional weight loss and being under weight for the past five years with absolutely no improvement. Even so, we couldn't think of anything else it might be until another family member with almost identical symptoms was told to try going off gluten for thirty days.

So we decided to remove gluten from Hubby's diet for a month to test and see if it was the problem. We didn't even need the full thirty days to get our answer. His symptoms abated after the first week, and when he decided to cheat with a couple donuts at work, he paid for it almost immediately.
At first I just cooked gluten free for Hubby, and the girls and I would have sandwiches or the occasional frozen pizza for lunch while Hubby was at work. Then I found the videos of Dr. Vikki Peterson and Dr. David Clark and started doing more research as we neared the end of thirty days knowing Hubby definitely had a problem with grains. While we knew a bit about Celiac Disease, it was the first time we heard about gluten sensitivity. Apparently there's a spectrum defining reactions to the gluten protein, with Celiac being at the most severe end.

After several hours of research on the subject, and hearing about issues we'd never heard connected to an inability to tolerate gluten, we decided the girls and I would try the thirty day elimination diet as well. Like most, we mostly thought of it as a condition affecting the GI tract with some influence on brain chemistry. We knew the vitamin deficiencies could cause depression and other mood disorders. We even know a GF diet has been found to help lessen symptoms of autism, but we'd never heard it linked with skin issues, virtually every autoimmune disorder out there, chronic pain and fatigue, and so many other issues related to inflammation.

It's been almost thirty days for the girls and me now, and I have to say, we've noticed a big difference too. 

Sneak tends to be a much happier girl these days. Despite our best efforts to curb them, she'd been having screaming tantrums several times each and every day. Within thirty-six hours of going off gluten, she just stopped. I mean, she'll still whine and tear up now and again when she doesn't get her way like any child going through the developmental stage she's in at the moment, but it's a far cry from throwing herself on the ground screaming bloody murder because we either told her no on something or asked her to wait a few minutes.

It's no secret I'm dyslexic and dysgraphic, and it seems like Boo Bear has inherited at least a mild case from me. While she's made progress with learning to read, it's been very difficult for her, and she'd get frustrated with her lessons two or three times a week. In the past couple of weeks, she hasn't exactly taken to reading full books on her own, but we have noticed a marked improvement in her schoolwork across the board. She's less antsy, more apt to listen carefully, and seems to have an easier time distinguishing letters and letter sounds. Some like lowercase b and d, p and q, m and n, and i and l still give her issues, but given my own experience, that will likely be the case most days when they're shown individually. (There's a reason Hubby wouldn't let me help grade multiple choice tests even back when he had over a hundred students.) 

In my own case, I seem to be one of the folks whose body tries to break down the gluten protein but only manages it halfway. In those cases, the gluten protein gets altered just enough to make the body think it's a morphine. Normally those "glutomorphine" molecules stay trapped in the digestive tract, but if the intestines become inflamed, you can end up with what's called "leaky gut." Those glutomorphines get into the blood steam, and you can literally end up addicted to foods with gluten in them. In one of his videos, Dr. Clark said something like, if the idea of giving up breads and pastas makes you want to cry, you probably have a problem with gluten. That line is the reason I wanted to try the diet for myself, so at least I had a little warning.

The first week and a half was miserable. I itched all over, had absolutely no energy, and my internal thermostat was completely out of whack. Once I got through the withdrawal symptoms though, I started to feel ten years younger. I mean that literally. It's been nearly ten years since I could think without brain fog, didn't need four or five cups of coffee just to get up and moving in the morning, and lived without constant pain in my neck, shoulders, and spine.

Just this week, Hubby got a doctor's confirmation of his issue with gluten. His neurologist sent him for testing to prevent potential future issues with our insurance. Turns out while he isn't a Celiac, he is sensitive to gluten, and as is usually the case, it's a genetic issue. It's usually not an obvious one from birth like you might think it would be. It can actually be a silent thing for years until something triggers the development of symptoms, and like most food allergies only gets worse with continued exposure.

So, we're rethinking how we purchase and prepare food. If there's interest, I'll post more about going gluten free along with recipes as we go along.

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