My Gluten Story
Hindsight can be a wonderful thing. In 2006 having just moved to Colorado I was 37 yrs old and living large. Moving to Colorado was a big step for me and my family and one that we thoroughly enjoyed and continue to enjoy today. Once we moved here I established a relationship with a chiropractor, went to the initial assessment, and he took an xray of my upper body. A side observation he made from evaluating the xray was that I had a dark mass presenting itself in my stomach area which he said was likely to be gas. That was the first time I can recall having the very first symptoms of an issue with food. Prior to 2006 I could eat nails and drink acid with no side affects. Between 2006 and 2009 a few things became clear. I was having trouble with constipation. I noticed I wasn’t digesting food normally or at least normally for me. After eating I was bloating, gaseous, and after some meals I was in minor pain/discomfort. However, having grown up as a normal young boy in a small coal town of Pennsylvania, I did what I was taught – tough it out, it’ll go away. I rarely if ever sought out medical attention, wasn’t on any medications, and planned on living my life never having visited a doctor. Always worked in the past so why would today be any different?! As 2009 rolled around a few additional symptoms became obvious – allergies had set in. I recognized that when I ate foods like bread or drank beer (a big ale fan here) my belly was very upset. I also noticed when I ate beef that my belly would be full for days (yes, days). The food was not breaking down, especially after consuming heavy proteins. By the middle of 2009 I had sinus infections (never had them before), severe allergies to everything outdoors, apparent food allergies, and I was experiencing a constant barrage of flu-like symptoms. Some weeks were worse, some better, but overall I found myself being constantly sick. Toward the end of 2009 and beginning of 2010 those flu-like symptoms simply turned into the flu that never ended. In January 2010, seemingly out of nowhere, I developed asthma. At that point I went to my regular doctor and explained all of the symptoms and history of my recent health. After about 15 minutes out came the prescription pad and I walked away with a prescription for advair to manage the asthma. My doctor indicated that the other symptoms were puzzling but should go away over time.
The advair helped to manage the asthma attacks. However, all of the other symptoms remained and continued. I visited several other doctors and consulted various specialist. Long story short, the best and most common answer I was receiving was “autoimmune disorder”. Wow, I thought. What the heck does that mean? Answer? It’s a catch-all title to anything a doctor can’t nail down to a prescription. I realize that last sentence will make some shake their heads in agreement, others will get angry. This is my personal experience and these are my conclusions. Take it for whatever it’s worth to you. Of course, the treatment for autoimmune disorders varies by a great deal and none of it is holistic in nature. Medications. Lots and lots of medications with an equal amount of side affects. Yuck!
By the end of 2010 I was beside myself. No real help from the established medical community and no real direction for treatment, I began to list all of my symptoms on a spreadsheet. After accumulating about 20 major symptoms, I ranked them from highest impact on my life to lowest. The top three, constipation, lack of digestion, and gas/bloating were the ones I selected to begin searching online for possible causes. If you google those three symptoms today, gluten intolerance pops up pretty quickly. Back in 2010, not so quick. What did show up though in my searching was a food sensivity/interolance. Ok, I thought about it and it made some sense. Armed with this info I went back to my doctor to discuss this direction I was researching. Her response after politely listening to me for about 10 minutes? I quote “I don’t practice eastern medicine”. That was the end of my relationship with that doctor. Frustrated, I went back home and continued my research/search. Long story short, I narrowed down three possibilities to explore. 1) food sensitivity/interolance, 2) allergic reaction to something in my environment, and 3) a serious condition such as crohns or similar disease. I figured I would start simple and work my way through the possibilities I could tackle. I started looking at the food I was consuming.
In hindsight, it’s all rather obvious. At the time, I didn’t’ know, my doctors were talking disease and medications, and I was confused and frustrated not to mention sick as a dog and getting worse. I took on the food allergy concept and ran with it. I researched the worst offenders including gluten, dairy, and nuts. I decided to eliminate gluten. What a scary and nerve racking endeavor. I had never paid that much attention to my food other than to eat relatively healthy, keep up on veggies and fruits, and drink enough water per day to keep hydrated. Now I was eliminating gluten and once I understood the impact of that decision on my food buying and eating habits, I nearly had a mental breakdown. On the spot I educated myself on what gluten was and which foods I had to eliminate from my eating habit. In addition, I created a list of foods I could eat, made a menu, went to the supermarket, and became immediately frustrated at the complexity of trying to shop given my restrictions. It was a waste! Frustration! My wife then encouraged me to try Whole Foods Markets, which I did. WFM has plenty of GF options. Success!
By the third day of going completely gluten free, neither me nor my wife could believe what was happening. It was unreal at the time. Could it have been this simple? The worse of my allergies cleared up immediately. My stomach settled down. My energy began to return with a vengeance. My foggy brain began to clear. Within a week I was back to playing with my children, laughing, on the move, energetic, lack of stomach pain/discomfort, lack of gas and bloating, and an overall improvement that just blew us both away. We simply couldn’t believe the results, but there it was. My wife still says that going gluten free saved my life, her life, and our marriage. She’s probably right. Since 2010 I’ve noticed a few major improvements being off of gluten. I’m no longer sick on any level. My asthma disappeared and I no longer need advair. I no longer suffer from ANY allergies. I haven’t suffered a cold or flu since 2010. My only problem now is weight control – I weighed about 200 pounds in 2010 and since being off gluten I’m down to 174 pounds. It’s tough to gain weight when you can’t eat wheat bread, drink wheat beer, eat junk foods, or consume most industrial food products most of which contain wheat (along with sugar, fat, and salt in very, very high levels – more on that later). I eat a simple diet of proteins and veg’s with rice, potato, and quinoa as my primary source for carbs. Keeping my diet simple and without all of the junk has saved my life. I apologize if this sounds like an infomercial. That’s not my intention. However, this is my story and I’m telling it like it happened. Maybe this information can help you or someone you know.
I will be posting specific details that fill out my journey from “sick as a dog” to almost a complete recovery. Turns out, gluten wasn’t my only food issue although it is definitely a major one that I absolutely needed to address. One major food item and one habit contributed to my health issues in addition to gluten. Stay tuned for more, and, be healthy!