For the past few months, I have battled stomach issues. About an hour after eating, I experienced extreme nausea, and unpleasant though it is, I was often unable to digest my meals. In addition, my joint pain and fatigue were almost unbearable.
My health was spinning out of control, and I had too few answers. I had to do something.
First, I looked for patterns in my eating habits and symptoms. My stomach issues seemed slightly worse when I had a meal containing bread or pasta. Digging deeper, I found strong connections between gluten and autoimmune diseases. Celiac Disease is a serious autoimmune disorder, causing irreversible intestinal damage and nutrient malabsorption for sufferers that consume gluten. Gluten intolerances are also linked to other autoimmune diseases and conditions, including mine:
- Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
- Sjogren’s Syndrome (secondary as a result of RA)
- Alopecia Areata (something I had in childhood)
- Gallbladder malfunction (I had mine removed in 1996 as a result)
The evidence was mounting. Despite my love affair with bread (I have been known to eat half a loaf of good bakery bread as a meal :)), I started my own elimination diet experiment three weeks ago.
The first thing I learned is that going gluten-free is not easy. It seems that simply cutting out bread and pasta would do the trick. However, this sneaky little protein appears everywhere; as a food additive (ever heard of MSG?), in soy sauce, in beer, and even as a binder for medications and cosmetics. The good news is that more and more gluten-free alternatives are available, and there are a host of fabulous sites and blogs committed to sharing the most up-to-date information. I’ve added some favorites to my links page.
Ready for some early results? Drumroll please…
I. FEEL. AMAZING.
My stomach, joints, and energy levels are better than they’ve been in 18 months. I still have RA swelling and pain, but it’s nowhere near as constant or extreme. I’m no longer nauseous after eating, and I have enough energy to make it through most days. I hoped for a noticeable result, but what I got was nothing short of a miracle.
This short-lived experiment has quickly become my new lifestyle. The pantry is re-organized, recipes and menus are evolving, and the support I’ve received from family and friends has been overwhelming. Lora has joined me on the gluten-free adventure, so we’re discovering new foods together. Mom modified her recipe for scalloped potatoes, so I could still enjoy them at Easter dinner. To date, I have not made changes to my medications, but I’m hoping to reduce and/or eliminate some in the coming months. We’ll see what my rheumatologist has to say. 🙂
I would never suggest that diet changes can fully replace medications and other therapies, but food is another very powerful weapon in my daily battle with RA. Goodbye bread, and hello health!