Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Gluten Be Gone

I've been having a lot of digestive issues lately. In reality, I've been having problems for years, but the problems have been especially severe the last six months or so. After discussing my past attempts at remedies and other possible solutions with my doctor last week, she suggested I may want to try a gluten free diet to see if I have a gluten intolerance.

I must be honest...I kinda blew off her advice. It sounded so extreme. It would require so much work. And I figured since my symptoms come and go, that couldn't be what it was. Because wouldn't I be sick ALL the time, like every day?

Fast forward to today. When I finally decided to do some reading. And discovered that actually, it IS extreme, but it's also really important. Because if I have a gluten intolerance and continue to put gluten into my body, I could be doing a lot of damage to my body. Not just temporary damage, but long term damage. And not only that, but the symptoms can come and go, just as mine are. Some people don't even show a lot of obvious symptoms, while internally their body is really struggling.

What really caught my attention was when I filled out the following questionnaire:

Do any of the following apply to you?
Weight gain
Unexplained fatigue
Difficulty relaxing, feel tense frequently
Unexplained digestive problems
Female hormone imbalances, (PMS, menopausal symptoms)
Muscle or joint pain or stiffness of unknown cause
Migraine like headaches
Food allergies/sensitivities
Difficulty digesting dairy products
Tendency to over consume alcohol
Overly sensitive to physical and emotional pain, cry easily
Cravings for sweets, bread, carbohydrates
Tendency to overeat sweets, bread, carbohydrates
Abdominal pain or cramping
Abdominal bloating or distention
Intestinal gas
“Love” specific foods
Eat when upset, eat to relax
Constipation or diarrhea of no known cause
Unexplained skin problems/rashes
Difficulty gaining weight

Have you suffered from any of the following conditions?
Osteoporosis/bone loss
Iron deficiency/anemia
Chronic fatigue
Irritable bowel syndrome
Crohn’s disease
Ulcerative colitis
Lactose intolerance

I got a pretty high number of "Yes" responses, so I also had Dave fill out the questionnaire for me. I wanted to make sure I wasn't just getting hyped up and being a crazy self-diagnoser.

He counted 11.

Guess what the scoring sheet says.

Test Interpretation Guide (combine both sections)
Number of “Yes” Responses = Potential for Gluten Intolerance
4 or less = Not likely
5 – 8 = Suspected
9 or more = Very likely

Hm. Not what I wanted to read.

(Check out the full questionnaire and some very helpful information about gluten intolerance here: http://www.totalfitness.net/downloads/GLUTENQUESTIONNAIRE.pdf.)

I probably wouldn't have been as eager to jump on this bandwagon had I not already gone through all the other giant possibilities for my health issues.  None of the other big diagnoses fit.  Foods that should upset my stomach don't, foods that shouldn't do.  I was getting sick at times that it just made no sense.

So I've decided that I will be trying the gluten-free diet for a while.  One recommendation I read was two months.  (Ouch.)  If in fact I have a gluten intolerance, my intestine should be healed by that point and my symptoms should be alleviated.  If that's the case, then I'm to remain gluten-free for the rest of my life. (OUCH.)  And if I am gluten-intolerant and choose to ignore it and continue to just eat gluten?  Well, I could be facing a lot of digestive issues and also predisposing myself to muscle cramps, hormonal issues, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, lactose intolerance, fatigue, weight gain, and food allergies to just name a few.  That's a whole slew of stuff that is NOT worth having my Oreo cookie or bowl of Cheerios in the morning.

I'll try to provide updates on how the diet goes.  My digestive issues have actually been a lot better the last day or two, and I felt a mix of surprise, relief, and sadness when I realized that my diet has incidentally been very low in gluten over the last two days.  It would be great to have an answer, but I must be honest and admit that this is not the answer I wanted.  I was hoping for a quick fix, a medicine.  Not a permanent rest-of-my-life diet change.  If you know me, you know I like to eat.  Especially carbs and sugars.  What oh what is this girl gonna do??

I'll tell you what I'm gonna do.  I'm going to follow God's instruction to try this diet.  He's been throwing tidbits or reminders about this diet in my directions quite a bit lately, and I've been ignoring it until today.  But now it's time to listen.  And if this is His answer to my prayers to be healed, then this is His answer and I will accept it with a grateful and content heart.

But whew.  No Oreos??

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