Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Gluten - friend or foe?

There's been a lot of talk about gluten, gluten sensitivity, and wheat allergies among the people I know. In fact, two of my friends who have suffered from symptoms such as migraines, mood swings, fatigue, (one of whom with fibromyalgia) have changed over to a gluten-free diet in the past year, and have enjoyed wonderful results from the change in their diet.

I 've never been much of one to follow the trends of the day, though, so for a long time, I resisted the idea of trying a gluten free diet myself.  I didn't want to be doing it just for the sake of doing it, or to fit in with other people, and I didn't really see a need for it in my own life.

However, since going through weight loss on the shakes and then transitioning back to regular food for the past seven months, I've noticed a few important things about myself that have gotten me to thinking about what I'm eating and how it's affecting me.

Within a day of starting the shakes, I felt like a mental fog had lifted.  A fog I didn't even realize was there.  You can imagine how shocked (and slightly high) I felt when I "woke up" from the fog.  Needless to say I had no desire to go back to that feeling once I returned to regular food -- but despite my efforts to eat in a healthy and responsible manner (most of the time), I've noticed some fog creeping in around the edges.

Still thinking about my head, I have suffered headaches consistently and migraines occasionally.  But on the shakes, I hardly ever had a headache even though my stress levels were similar to where they had been the previous years.

Also, while I was on the shakes, my skin cleared up dramatically.  I have always struggled with acne, though less as an adult than as a teenager, and it has gotten better as I've learned more about proper skincare, but it was such a relief to have a year where I had few, if any, breakouts.  I also have a condition called Perioral Dermatits,a kind of inflammatory skin rash around the mouth, which is difficult to clear up and usually recurs about once a year.  Well, during the year that I was on the shakes, I didn't have a single episode of Perioral Dermatits -- but now that I'm back eating regular food, it has returned.

There are a few other things that were gone during the period I was on the shakes and have now returned... but those generally aren't mentioned in polite company, so I won't bore you with the details. :-)

Now you're thinking, what does this have to do with gluten, and trying a gluten-free diet?

I started thinking about it after realizing that my Perioral Dermatitis,which looked like it was healing, flared up again after a day when I went on a wheat bonanza.  I also started thinking about how whenever I have a wheat product, whether it's bread, pasta, or pretzels, I instantly want more of the same and can't get enough - even if I eat to the point where I feel sick.  My husband mentioned the idea of gluten possibly being a culprit in these two problems, and I started wondering...

Why was it that all these problems were gone while I was on the shakes?

You probably came to the same hypothesis I did.  I took a look at the box, and sure enough, the shakes are gluten-free.

Now, maybe gluten is the problem, and maybe it isn't.  The good news about a gluten-free diet is it doesn't hurt you to try it out for a while to see if it makes a difference.  And since the test available to detect celiac disease doesn't capture the majority of people who have gluten sensitivities, the only way to really see if it makes a difference is to give it a try.  (To cover my bases, I did have the celiac test done yesterday, but the results aren't back in yet.)

So... in a month or so, I'll be able to give you a better idea if gluten is my friend or enemy.  My mouth misses wheat bread, but the rest of me is feeling pretty good so far. :-D

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