Gluten-free? Isn't that just for my weird vegan crunchy-granola friends? Not if you identify with any of the following indications. If you or a close family member has experienced one of these symptoms or diseases, a gluten-free diet can be ameliorating or even curative.
As I said recently to a college friend diagnosed with an IBD that would cost him $20,000 a year for the rest of his life (hopefully 50+ more years) in medications,
"Hey, isn't it worth A MILLION DOLLARS to try it for ONE MONTH?"(This logic also somehow resolved his worry that "it's so expensive to go GF"! Go figure.) If it doesn't fix it, you're a month gluten-less. If it does, you're an entire lifetime richer.
Why haven't I heard about this before? Unfortunately, there is no prescription drug company lobbying for more studies about how people can stop taking their drug and save millions by changing their diet. Surprise.
So who says that it will help? The links that follow are a combination of Mayo Clinic publications, University studies, MDs and PhDs who have published on the topic as well as a sheer mass of anecdotal evidence. Please feel free to do more research and post anything you want to share as a comment.
Don't I have to wait for a diagnosis? Terina was once faced with a friend who had tried the GF diet and had immediate relief from her lifetime chronic pain. This result prompted her to get a test to find out "once and for all" if she was gluten-intolerant. She called Terina in tears the day of the test and asked, "What am I going to do if it's NEGATIVE?! Go back to being miserable?!" Terina replied, "ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! USE YOUR BRAIN!" Just kidding. But seriously: false negatives, along with yet un-test-for-able gluten sensitivity and gluten intolerance, are a huge problem in the medical world. This girl right here had a falsely negative skin biopsy, blood test and stomach scope before a fecal test (through EnteroLab) and cheek swab finally came back blatantly positive... 15 years of suffering later. Thanks, medicine. It's up to you, of course.
The twelve tell-tale signs:
12. "Addiction" to carbs. Higher gluten in wheat because of recent food processing changes (a la Wheat Belly's author, Dr. William Davis) makes modern wheat a completely different, highly addictive grain than what human digestion systems have been processing for thousands of years.
11. High blood sugar (pre-diabetic or diabetic) or hypertension or low blood sugar. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder, which we'll read more about further down.
10. Asthma, arthritis, hypertension, fibromyalgia, tension headaches and migraines or temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders: more autoimmune disorders, along with a few "garbage" diagnoses when doctors just give a name to a pain.
9. Chronic fatigue and/or anemia. So tired you fall asleep at stop lights and have to call a babysitter to watch your kids while you're home because you keep falling asleep in the middle of board games? Terina was before her diet change. Celiac disease affects your ability to absorb iron--so no matter how many supplements you take (or how many cans of spinach you gulp, Popeye-style, before you give blood) you can't increase your hematocrit levels.
8. Any other autoimmune disorders (Lupus, alopecia, rheumatoid arthritis, vitiligo, multiple sclerosis, autoimmune hepatitis, and about 30 others I can't pronounce). "I would suggest that if you have an autoimmune disease you get tested for gluten sensitivity, and if you're gluten intolerant, you should get screened for autoimmunity" says this article by MD Amy Myers (read the whole thing if you have time, it's really comprehensive).
7. ANY Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) symptoms (diarrhea, constipation, bloating, heartburn), and any Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD) including Crohn's and Colitis (detractor here disproved by 100+ posts of UC non-celiacs here). This is an obvious one, people, it's even on wikipedia.
6. Thyroid/ Graves' disease/ Hashimoto's (more autoimmune disorders that aren't usually lumped with the others). Thyroid disease is another that many doctors still refuse to connect to gluten. Give 'em a couple years.
5. Odd or uncontrollable weight loss OR gain, or inability to lose or gain weight despite diet and exercise changes. Your body is calculated to keep you alive, but it starts wigging out when you're poisoning your own digestive tract ("wigging out" being a technical term for losing or holding onto fat stores or muscle tone in response to nutritional deficiencies--ie, your body won't lose fat when it's essentially starving.)
4. Skin rashes, including eczema and psoriasis: ever had the itch to, you know, tear your skin off your body? When it seems like a Niagara Falls of lotion won't fix it? Been there. Think about how you could take the family to Disneyland just from the lotion savings if going off gluten fixes THIS problem!
3. Mental disease/disorders: schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, anorexia/bulimia. This connection is becoming better researched, but it's amazing how your own family tree and a little medical history can enlighten the subject. Is it just our family's curse that every adolescent girl gets anorexia? Might be connected to gluten.
2. Infertility (or here, including multiple miscarriage, especially before you try IVF) (try searching "go gluten free and get pregnant), missed/irregular or painful periods: "" "gluten can make your period absolutely miserable" and "adults may also have aforementioned symptoms but could also have unexplained pain, anemia, depression or anxiety, seizures, osteoporosis, infertility, canker sores, rash, migraines, irregular menstrual periods, poor teeth enamel or numbness in the hands or feet."
1. Understanding your friends/family: if you don't have gluten intolerance, yay. Chances (and statistics) are that your mom, friend, spouse, child, coworker or student will. Nothing shows support like co-suffering, and the amount of empathy you gain may change your experience a little bit next time you have to alter a birthday party or work gathering menu for the weird-GF-one-out.
So how do I do it? Please save yourself the pain and money and don't just go buy every alternative gf bread and pasta on the shelves. This doctor explains why, but the basic reason is that when your intestinal tract is already full of holes, other grains will fall "out" of it just as easily as gluten. To heal, you need to start over with an entirely natural (only food God made--veggies, un-messed-with meats, fruits, water) diet. Too much, you cry? It's only a month. Remember that time your buddies dared you to stay off facebook or walk a mile everyday for a month (no? maybe I have weird friends...)? Remember that time you kept a crazy weird New Years Resolution for a month? You can do it. Let us help! Post if you're thinking about taking the challenge.
Click on the "a newbie?" link on the side of the main page for easy starter foods, including 100 GF foods you can eat now.