Why I went gluten free

Last Fall, I had a complete blood panel run during my annual physical. While most of my numbers came back fabulouso, a few in particular were cause for concern: a couple of high cholesterol numbers and a high C Reactive Protein (CRP).

Now the cholesterol has been an issue for my entire adult life. There is a genetic component that I’ll likely always deal with, but at the same time I am taking measures to bring it down (i.e. fish oil, more greens, less dairy and so on). That one, I expected. But the CRP? That sucker caught me off guard.

For anyone who’s unfamiliar, a CRP test screens for inflammation in the body. Chronic low grade inflammation has been linked to a number of diseases, including heart disease, cancer, many autoimmune conditions and more. Now I know that a diet high in sugar can cause inflammation. But I don’t eat much sugar, so naturally I assumed my CRP would be within normal range.

I assumed wrong.

What else could it be? I eat super healthy—I juice and blend, I don’t eat processed crap and I choose organic everything. So what gives?

Utterly frustrated, I scheduled an appointment with a nutritionist.

Prior to the meeting, I was asked to fill out a detailed health history form to give the nutrition chick some background information on moi. While I thought most of what I reported was pretty normal stuff, she identified an issue worthy of investigation.

For the past ten years, I’ve had a chronic stuffy nose with occasional ear and sinus infections. I can track it all back to my pregnancies. Prior to that, I don’t even remember taking a single antibiotic. (I’m sure I did, but I just don’t remember it, which means it must have been a rare occurrence). I’ve taken steroid nasal sprays, allergy meds and even tried using dust mite covers on my bed. None of those measures did much good. All that said, I never really thought it was a big deal. More of a nuisance, really.

But Anna, my nutritionist, immediately zeroed in on it. She explained that whatever was causing the inflammation in my sinuses was also likely causing inflammation elsewhere in my body—therefore spiking my CRP.

“Okay, what does this have to do with my diet?” I asked. I had no allergies to food, that I was aware of. So what now?

Then she dropped the bomb: “You need to give up gluten.”

“What?! Why?” I asked, as tears began to form from behind my eyes.

She explained that gluten, the way it’s processed today, can cause an overreactive immune response in some people. Based on my symptoms, she felt confident that I was one of those people. She said that in many, the sensitivity is triggered by a time when the body undergoes a stressful event. In my case, it was my pregnancies.

Okay, makes sense… I think. 

Gluten, she went on to explain, irritates the lining of the intestines, which allows unwanted food particles to escape into the bloodstream. When that happens, the immune system senses an unwelcome invader and launches an attack. This, in turn, causes inflammation in the body, which can manifest in a number of different ways. For me, its a stuffy nose. “Get rid of the congestion,” she told me, “and the other non-specific inflammation will also subside—and your CRP will plummet.”

Skeptical, I agreed to try it for six weeks. But if I didn’t notice a difference, sayonara gluten-free!

Everyone around me thought I was crazy: “You’re giving up what? Why on earth would you do that?”

But I tried it nonetheless. For the first week, I was discouraged; I noticed no change. Then gradually, I started to feel myself breathing more clearly—though not entirely. Some days I felt clear, others not so much. But the longer I stuck with it, the more consistency I was seeing in my desired results.

Then Christmas hit. Christmas parties. Christmas cookies. Christmas candy. So one day, I cheated. Let me just see what happens, I thought. Maybe I’m imaging in it. Maybe I was never really that congested to begin with and it’s all in my head. So I had rye bread, meatballs and a beer—all in one day. That night, no change. The next day, I became markedly congested. That’s when I knew it really was making a difference. Back off gluten I went. Within a day, I was clear again!

So this is me. I’m now gluten free. I’ve hopped on the bandwagon. Only, I don’t see this as some fly-by-night trend in the world of diet fads. It’s not a diet; it’s a way of life.

You’d think I’d be depressed not being able to eat gluten. But honestly, I’m not. I like the fact that I was able to make a noticeable change in my health through nutrition. I am fascinated by it, in fact. And that is what motivates me to keep going.

I have to say, it really isn’t all that hard. My family doesn’t even notice when I make gluten free pasta instead of the real deal. (I did it last night, in fact.) I eat gluten free breads and wraps, I make meatballs and meatloaf using gluten free oatmeal instead of breadcrumbs and I keep rice crackers in my cabinet for those times I just need a crunch of something. I eat lots of chicken and pork and grass fed beef. My mom has even started keeping gluten free breads and stuff in her house so she can tweak certain recipes for me.  I can still eat most of the things I love.

And restaurants are jumping on board, too. Lately, I’ve been asking my waiter or waitress for a gluten free menu. More times than not, they have one.

I’ve lost weight (unintentionally) and my congestion is almost entirely cleared up. I haven’t gotten my CRP rechecked yet, but I’m hoping for positive results there as well.

Is it the easiest thing in the world? No—but it’s not as bad as it seems either. I love how I feel when I’m off gluten, so for me it’s worth the minor inconvenience.

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photo: freedigitalphotos.net When we encounter or experience intense emotions from another individual, we feel those feelings as if they were http://essaysheaven.com/ our own

Comments

  1. Eileen Ilaria says:

    I am very impressed by this glutton free thing,I would like to try it also however I am not sure what things have glutton in them, but it will now investigate because of you, I love your story and admire your gumption. Keep up the good work, diet has helped with Pete’s hep c especially no sugar, when he went of sugar his liver was clear, people think it just alachol not true sugar is as bad. Thanks for the info. Love aunt eileen

    • It’s funny, so many people are so skeptical. I was one of them, too. But I really and truly have found my congestion to be almost gone. And now that I understand that it’s an immune response to something that my body is rejecting, it all makes sense. Anyway, thanks for the comment, Aunt Eileen!

      • Michelle Tachibana says:

        I was, too, until I lost 20lbs not eating gluten! And, yes, did I get grief from the family and friends…but they can’t say much. I lost a whole pant size and I haven’t even started working out yet! I always would laugh at those silly ads on Facebook claiming how people lost weight quickly. Now I’m not so judgmental! The 20lbs was really inflammation and not FAT. And, THAT is what is really scary. I had no idea that my C-reactive protein levels would skyrocket! Thanks for the info!! Knowledge is power!!!

  2. Starting to ease into trying this myself. With both kids having issues for which many following gluten free diets, and my always being exhausted, I figure it absolutely cannot hurt to try!

  3. My husband noticed his sensitivity to gluten around the time he was in residency and our twins were born – talk about stress there! I think going gluten-free these days is pretty easy given the availability of many GF options. I can’t believe all the restaurants and all of the well-known name brand foods that have GF options. I’m glad you’re feeling better, and I’m definitely pinning this to my GF board. Great info as usual Steph!

  4. I am still in the process of giving up gluten. I don’t even remember when I realized I was sensitive/allergic to it, but I’m glad I discovered it. I had CHRONIC digestive issues but was too scared to go to the doctor. Stupid, I know. I still haven’t gone for testing but I have nearly completely given up gluten. I don’t even buy that many substitutes. I tend to stick to whole foods. That came out of necessity. I didn’t like the price of the gluten free versions. My digestive system has leveled out significantly and I can tell when I’ve slipped up. It’s funny. The less I eat it, the less I want it. I can finally absorb the nutrients in my food!! So glad you are feeling better. The difference is amazing. And you’re right. It’s not it a diet. It’s a lifestyle. Good luck!

  5. It seriously changed my life. My son can see a differnece too. It does get easier and now, when I see foods with gluten, I see serious stomach aches, bloating, and so much pain. That helps too. I’m glad you see the difference.

    My newest saying is, “Trust me, I didn’t give up gluten to make YOUR life harder…”

  6. I’m going on my 14th year being gluten free, and although my symptoms were more gut related, the inflammation component was something I could feel in my joints. In fact, that’s one of the ways I can tell now if I’m sick from a virus or I’ve been “glutened.”

    It’s not an easy diet, although there are so many more options now with more brands offering GF options as well as restaurants like you mentioned.

    I’m glad to hear that you’re feeling well, I hope you see a normal range when you do your blood work again, and feel free to ask me any GF questions you have – I’ve been it at so long I like to pretend I’m an expert 😉

  7. Leah Berlin says:

    Grain Brain is a MUST READ for you! You’ll be so glad you’re gluten free. And shocked at the extensive effects of gluten to our bodies and most importantly, our brains.

  8. WoW! This is great news…I have been seeing a nutritionist for just over two weeks now, one of my major problems is itchy ears and nasal congestion. I too have tried every nose spray, ear drop there is I am due to start a gluten free and diary free month programme as advised by my nutritionist. I was feeling somewhat nervous as I had no clue where to start, what to swap for certain products etc and although my nutritionist helped, I turned to Pinterest for inspiration and that is exactly what I found! Thanks to your post I can’t wait to start my journey! Thanks so much 🙂 Cathy

    • Give it a try. The worst that can happen is you go through it for a few weeks and realize it doesn’t help. Chances are, however, that it will. And if you feel better off gluten, you won’t mind being gluten free. The only times I find it difficult is when I’m at a party or something. Otherwise, it’s pretty easy to navigate.

      Good luck, Cathy!

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