Giving Up Gluten

In October 2016, I wrote a post on Blogger about my struggles with plantar fasciitis and how that injury sidelined me from running for several weeks.  While I was dealing with plantar fasciitis, I dreaded putting my feet on our hardwood floors in the morning because I knew that the pain in my heel would send excruciating stabs all the way up my leg.  Resting helped to heal my injury, but I began to notice that my dread of our hardwood floors was not solely related to my heel.  Every morning when I woke up, my joints were swollen and achy.  My ring wouldn't fit over my knuckle for days at a time.  

I felt like an old woman in an active, 28-year-old's body.

Knowing that these feelings were not normal for me, I got tested for rheumatoid arthritis, which runs in my family.  

 CC Image courtesy of Librarian by Day on  Flickr

CC Image courtesy of Librarian by Day on Flickr

Negative.

Lupus.  

Negative.

Thyroid problems.  

Negative.

Scleroderma.  

Negative.

All of the lab results, thankfully, showed no major issues.  However, these negative results left one major problem:

I was a perfectly healthy woman with severe joint pain and swelling for no explainable reason.

I began to accept that all of this would just be my life for the next however many years that God gives me.

Enter my friend, Gretchen Clark.

"Have you ever thought that you might have a gluten sensitivity?  Your symptoms seem kind of similar to those of this other gal I know..."

A gluten intolerance had not once crossed my mind.

 But, concluding that the experiment could at least be worth a try, I decided to eliminate gluten from my diet for two weeks, not expecting to discover a solution to the weird health issues I was facing.

Wrong.

Okay, I have to be honest.  The first few days were horrible.  I was having gluten withdrawals!  Headaches plagued me, and I was constantly nauseated.  I had to fight the urge to eat all the bread and all the pasta all the time.  My skin looked worse than a teenager's.

If I am anything, though, I am stubborn, so I stuck with the plan, and then ... day 7-ish ...

This is a case of wishing that I would have taken before and after photos or kept a log of my symptoms or something because the changes have been so dramatic.  Not only do my joints feel normal again with no more swelling, but some pleasant unexpected changes occurred, as well.

I feel like a fog lifted out of my brain.  {This is impossible to explain really.}  I wake up rested every morning, and I am able to concentrate better throughout the day.  I didn't even know that I was living in a fog until one day when I wasn't anymore.

My skin looks the best that it has looked in years.  This has been the greatest surprise of my new diet.  After my daughter was born, I tried almost every kind of topical medication and face washing regimen that existed, all to no avail.  Even a maximum strength oral prescription didn't work to treat my hormonal acne.  However, giving up gluten did.  

I hadn't intended to lose weight, but I've lost four pounds in the last eight weeks.  (Mom, I know you're reading this, and I can hear you freaking out from Texas.  I'm not wasting away; it's okay.)  I've weighed the same amount for several years, not including pregnancy (obviously), so this was unexpected.  

I am not bloated.  Again, I got used to feeling a certain way and assumed that was normal.

A couple of things I should mention...

1.  This is not a fad diet.

Did you know that no one possesses the enzyme needed to process gluten naturally in the body?  Some people are completely unaffected by this fact, while others with Celiac disease have severe reactions when consuming even the tiniest amount of gluten.  I'm somewhere in between.  You might hear my success story and decide to go gluten-free and not notice any difference at all, because your body is not my body, and this is not a diet where everyone loses weight who follows it correctly.  

Or, you may be living in a bloated, achy, fog that you've believed to be typical, and eliminating gluten will rock your world.

2.  Giving up gluten is a lifestyle change, but it is not impossible.  

I love pasta.  And cake.  And bread.  Muffins.  Bagels.  Pie.  2017 is a beautiful year to be alive and gluten-free because there are affordable, tasty options for people like me who are choosing this lifestyle.  I've made gluten-free pasta three times in the last couple of weeks, and my whole family of picky eaters gobbled it up and never even knew that they were eating brown rice noodles instead of flour ones.  Also, my neighbor brought me a pan of gluten-free brownies, and guys, I ate that whole pan because they were good.  Pizza is definitely a big loss; that is one food that is not the same.  But, now that I see how much differently I feel without gluten in my life, I'll never go back to my old diet.

I know that there is a wealth of research about gluten and how it affects people and blah blah blah, but I also know that it sometimes helps to hear a real person's experience.  So, there's mine for you to take or leave.

Happy eating!