So, some of you have noticed a change lately. In me, specifically. On Facebook, I have been posting links to different things, and I have talking with some of you about a recent development in my life.
**Disclaimer!! I am NOT an expert and what I say is what I am learning, so please do not take it as fact (unless I state a fact, of course) because I am learning as much as I can about this topic. It is simply me representing what I am finding out along my journey.**
The insoluble protein constituent of wheat and other grains (rye, oats, and barley). It is obtained from flour by washing out the starch and is used as an adhesive agent, giving dough its tough, elastic character. For some people, ingestion of gluten results in potentially life-threatening malabsorption. [Taken from a free online dictionary.]
This life-threatening condition is called Celiac Disease, an autoimmune disease, that causes the body to attack its own cells. This is triggered by gluten ingestion. It flattens the little hair-like “fingers” in the intestine that, in a normal person, absorbs nutrients from food. The Celiac becomes malnourished from the lack of nutrients and this can then trigger a painful and dangerous domino effect in the body as a system.
Insert new journey here. :)
A friend of mine’s husband posted a link recently to a Wall Street Journal article on the topic of gluten-intolerance.
Here is a short excerpt that smacked me in the face:
“Gluten sensitivity, also known as gluten intolerance, is much more vague. [Compared to Celiac Disease.] Some experts think as many as 1 in 20 Americans may have some form of it, but there is no test or defined set of symptoms. The most common are IBS-like stomach problems, headaches, fatigue, numbness and depression, but more than 100 symptoms have been loosely linked to gluten intake…”
Many of the agonies listed in the article (and in my further research) that people were suffering began to strike a chord with me…familiarity…commonalities were popping up that began to spark curiosity.
I am by no means a “textbook” case. All symptoms that I have struggled with are symptoms that I can live with (mostly) and do not make my life unlivable. I can make it through each day. Survive. But is this how I want to live? For the “textbook” Celiac, they can experience debilitating intestinal pain, nausea, etc. from ingesting gluten. This is where my possibly lifelong struggle has come from. I always have considered my bodily functions as normal. I don’t experience debilitating pain…I always thought a little stomach cramping was normal after a large meal, or any meal…that being bloated after every meal was normal…that (TMI – too much information – alert!!!) having gas and burping a lot was normal…that sitting on the toilet for a long time pushing on my stomach for something to happen was normal…that being tired every. waking. moment. was normal…that getting migraines, weight gain, delay in memory/concentration or feeling in a “fog”, constipation/diarrhea, feeling nauseated often, moodiness and irritability (i.e. not liking anyone. ever. ;), feeling achy all over…the list could go on…was normal. I felt them all. On a regular basis!
I have visited our old family doctor…the one who I have gone to since before I was in kindergarten…several times over the past five years. Each time, I complained of major fatigue, achiness, and other struggles. Now, I love this doctor, but each time he would say, “Eat better. Exercise. Stop drinking coffee. Stop stressing out,” and that this general recommendation would solve my health woes.
Well, I am an active person, do NOT eat poorly by any means (except the occasional craving), stopped drinking ALL caffeine. And the stress?? Well, its sort of hard to just stop stressing. That’s like saying, “Stop being mad.” Stopping an emotion takes time and practice, if it is even an emotion that you should stop anyway. But that is another topic.
Anyway, I feel like CRAP. Pardon my bluntness, but I really do. I feel awful! All. The. Time! That is no way to spend life…to live your “good years” in your youth. I am young, I shouldn’t be feeling like going to bed at 8:00 pm every single night with major body aches and pains and waking up 10-12 hours later still tired. Now, I know many of you who will read this are mommies. But, there is a difference between being tired from chasing a toddler around and being tired no matter how much sleep, rest, and nutrition you get. Most days I spend on the couch trying to rest! And I don’t chase my toddler around all the time. That’s what baby gates are for, right? ;) I can easily sit on the couch or floor and play gently with her in a way that doesn’t expend much energy on days that I feel completely exhausted. And the days I am chasing her?? Lets just say its not a happy house in the Sanchez residence.
SO…I did a lot more research. And I found out that many things that the “average” adult complains of can be symptoms for a gluten intolerance. Now, I am not going to list everything that I have learned so that you can see if you are gluten-intolerant too. To protect you (and me), I am going to let you do your own research. I simply cannot represent the vast amount of information out there on the topic. I especially do not want to state something falsely and have someone mad at me or misunderstanding something.
But I have been finding that maybe, just maybe, I have found a solution to my general lack of zeal. Going gluten free (GFree) is not easy. At first. And it is NOT cheap! An easy way to go gluten-free is stick to a meat and veggies/fruit diet. These items, when eaten in their purest form, are safe.There are also the GFree breads, tortillas, dinners, pastas, etc. These will cost you. Except I have made it my GFree mission to not only get healthy again but to learn how to save…even in an expensive GFree market. :) Going GFree means NO GLUTEN. Not a one little piece. NOT ONE. If you have as little as ONE MILLIGRAM of gluten, it will produce the same amount and intensity of symptoms as eating an entire bag of Oreos. You simply cannot “cut back.” Its all or nothing, baby. You’ve got to commit and stick it out completely to see ANY results.
Going GFree has many other benefits as well. But I will let you find that out on your own if you’re interested.
My BIGGEST (and only) suggestion is that if you suspect a gluten-intolerance, research it. I simply cannot afford the expensive medical tests that it would take to see if I have Celiac Disease, and for gluten-intolerants, the intolerance cannot be detected with tests anyway! So this is where the research comes in. Honestly take a look at your life and compare it to the current research and information. If you suspect you have a gluten-intolerance, try a GFree diet for a month. See what that does. If it makes you feel amazing, you’ve probably fallen into the gluten sensitive category. If it doesn’t do anything to your symptoms, I’m sorry friend, but you’ve probably not found your answer yet.
I will make one more recommendation. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE Elisabeth Hasselbeck’s book The GFree Diet: A Gluten-Free Survival Guide. It is by far the most comprehensive and exhaustive source of information I have found. I read it cover to cover and it helped me to not only learn about gluten sensitivity but also how to live with the restriction of a GFree diet. Once you get the hang of it, you can modify most recipes you love to be suitable for your new diet! :) And so far, I have found dozens of yummy recipes for GFree-ers that are not only delicious…but easy!
Now, you’re probably wondering if I have made the GFree commitment. So far, I have been trying to go as GFree as possible. I know that my symptoms will not subside until I go GFree all the way, but it is expensive in some aspects. And financially, I don’t have the means to just go all out. Honestly, if I had an extra $100, I could make the plunge. Easy. I actually wish I did have an extra $100 to do that!! But since I do not ;), I have to slowly add GFree items to my pantry. That is another point. Don’t just stop eating gluten and only eat salads. You have to replace your favorites with gluten free items. This way, your life is not deprived but just different. If you have a favorite cookie, find a way to make that cookie (or buy) in GFree form. Make sure to have GFree snacks and treats on hand so that you don’t impulsively eat a bag of Doritos (or just one chip! ;) because you simply are hungry or munchy and don’t have anything GFree to satisfy.
Anyway, I am sure you will see many many more posts about the GFree life: recipes, struggles, discoveries, etc. And I would be MORE THAN HAPPY to answer any questions you might have. If I don’t have the answer, I will direct you to a source that does. :) I am excited to be on a journey to making my body and life healthier and also excited to be sharing it with you. Pressure is off, curtain is thrown back, and I have exposed my struggle. Thanks for listening. :)