I have been eating a gluten free diet since 2007. That is when my cousin sent me an email telling me he had been diagnosed with Celiac Disease. That was the first time I had heard about Celiac Disease, and because all of the symptoms he described in his email were what I myself had been experiencing, I decided to take gluten out of my diet. There are as many different opinions about whether to start a gluten free diet before being tested for gluten intolerance or not, but I don’t have health insurance so I did not get tested. I just knew that the symptoms I had were not something I could live with, and if not eating a certain thing would make those symptoms go away, then I would try it.
Now, if you are a squeamish person, you shouldn’t read this next sentence or two. I am going to tell you what some of my symptoms were: The main thing I had was chronic diarrhea–diarrhea so bad that I had pooped my pants in public several times, and was at 55 years old, considering buying some Depends adult diapers. I was soooooo embarrassed by that. I could not go out to eat unless I knew where the bathroom was, and was sitting near it. As soon as I started eating, I would have to go, and it was a struggle to get to the toilet in time.
This is no laughing matter–imagine how you would feel, as an adult, knowing you were going to have to walk back out to the table at a restaurant and tell your spouse that it was time to go home, even if he had just started eating his meal. Or if you were in a store, shopping, and had to leave. Can you imagine how emabarrassed you would be if you had to walk out to your vehicle with your own poop running down your legs? Well, I was THAT person. It only got worse the older I got. So, when that email came from my cousin, it was like a gift, the greatest gift I have ever gotten. And while no one wants to think there is something wrong with them, to find out that I could stop the embarrassing chronic diarrhea just by not eating gluten, that was just something that made me so happy!
I had other symptoms, too, but I had never connected them together. I had tingling and numbness in my feet, but I thought that it was because I have Type II Diabetes, and that it was inevitable that I would get Peripheral Neuropathy due to the diabetes. I had migraine like headaches; pain in my legs so bad I had to take pain relievers every night before going to bed; my teeth were breaking easily and I developed many cavities in them; I sometimes felt like I was in a “fog”, like I couldn’t focus my brain on something; anything I ate gave me gas; my ears itched inside. The list of symptoms goes on and on.
After eating a gluten free diet for only 4 days, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my trips to the bathroom were already decreasing. As time went on, I noticed that my feet didn’t tingle anymore, that my legs didn’t hurt at night, that I was able to think more clearly, and that I was no longer having debilitating headaches. Now, 5 years later, I am still amazed at how much better I feel just by not eating foods that contain gluten. The only time I get a headache now is when I knowingly or unknowingly eat something that has gluten in it. (Yes, every now and then I DO eat something on purpose, just because it tastes good. But that is only about once every four or five months).
I felt like Mother’s Day was an appropriate time to write about this, because I want my children and siblings to know and understand why I changed my diet. The long term results of a gluten intolerant person continuing to eat a diet that contains gluten can be very detrimental to that person’s health. Eating gluten causes inflammation of the intestines, which leads to disruption of the structure and function of the small bowel’s mucosal lining and causes malabsorption as it impairs the body’s ability to absorb nutrients, minerals and fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K from food. This means, that while you may be eating a balanced diet, you body is not absorbing the nutrients from it. You are starving your body for the nutrients it needs every time you eat gluten.
Other conditions that have been associated with gluten intolerance include anemia, bone disease, seizures, cerebellar ataxia, schizophrenia and autism. People who have Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance are more likely to develop intestinal or liver cancer.
Although I have never been tested, my body’s response to eliminating gluten from my diet tells me that I do have at the very least gluten intolerance, and maybe even Celiac Disease. Because it is a genetic, immune disorder, I will continue to pass on the information to my children and siblings, even if they turn a deaf ear to it. Another thing you should know about Celiac testing, is that you can test negative for it and still be gluten intolerant. And because I know there are my cousin, my daugher, a niece and myself who all have it, I think more of my family members could have it, and would benefit from eating a gluten free diet.
It’s all because I love you, my sister, my brothers, my cousins, my children, my grandchildren. I am asking you all to try eating a gluten free diet for a month, to see if you, too would feel better and benefit from a healthier way of life.
Some books I recommend reading:
The Gluten Connection: How Gluten Sensitivity May Be Sabotaging Your Health–And What You Can Do to Take Control Now