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Lovin' that Gluten-Free Feeling


Image: CC--Franck Mahon

Celiac.com 12/23/2016 - Before my dog Amber's health started to fall apart, I had observed friends and family members on their gluten free journeys without ever considering this could be a solution for me. Years of periodic juice fasting, vegan and vegetarian diets, and then finally a GMO-free, semi-vegetarian lifestyle, had never led me to consider complete and total gluten free eating, until Amber.

At nine years old she began to have a chronic yeast and skin infection and she stunk. Her stools became bloody, she was fat, her walking was slow and labored, and the vet said that if we didn't find out what was wrong with her soon she'd be dead within a year. He referred me to a woman in Eugene, OR who worked with animals and might know what I could do.

The woman told me to immediately change her diet from dog food that contained grains, to gluten-free. She said that most retrievers and labs will carry on as if healthy for years with no issue, and then suddenly begin to fall apart when they reach senior ages. Their bodies can no longer tolerate gluten at that point, and a bundle of symptoms will appear.

We began shopping at Animal Crackers, a store in town that sells a variety of high quality animal foods. Amber began eating gluten-free Orijen dog food, and within three months her skin lesions and yeast infection had healed. Also, all stink was gone, her stools were normal, and she was suddenly bounding around the park with puppy energy again. No doubt a dietary change had healed her.

Soon afterward, at 47 years old, I suddenly decided to not eat anything with gluten in it. It wasn't even a plan or necessity, it was just like, one day I found myself buying gluten-free muffins and trying them. For some unexplainable reason I stuck to no gluten for a while, and by day three I noticed I was feeling happier.

A lack of longing for traditional bread surprised me, because I love baking, and eating homemade bread. To omit my beloved goodies seemed extreme, and I was always of the opinion that organic and GMO-free wheat and gluten was sufficient unto itself, if one didn't have celiac disease.

Yet here I was, day four and feeling fantastic. Actually, I wasn't sure what changes were occurring. I felt lighter, with an absence of discontent in my body. I experienced frequent bursts of 'anti-depression', akin to joyful energy rushes, which I never related to hyperactive sensations. Sleep became easy and relaxing. I would awaken with recharged emotional and physical well being. I began to crave junk food less, my stomach flattened, and all jitters went away. I found myself patiently standing in long lines, an unfamiliar feeling to me, and my mind cleared up, pleasurably.

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After about two weeks of observing these lovely 'feel-good' transformations, I discovered a divine intervention had occurred with bladder control. Years of frustration and concern, even discussions with a doctor about surgical intervention, had led me to believe that I was cursed with a life long issue of urinary stress incontinence. Yet, now I was noticing that a gluten-free change had all but dissolved my problem!

Even as a 'wheat bellied' child I'd had incontinence issues, and this only exacerbated after two natural child births. Months of yoga, kegal exercises, and daily trampoline jumping helped some, but it never entirely went away. With a gluten-free dietary change, bloating and mild incontinence are now absent. This calm, non jittery, focused, new me, experimented ever so cautiously with jogging around the block, and nothing happened!

About a month into it, I decided to eat a wheat bun with a hamburger, just to see if I would feel any different. After a couple hours, my mind went to dull and foggy mode, my body felt a little heavier and 'full', and what must have been a chronic urinary tract inflammation for years, returned again to nag at me. Minor leakage reared it's bothersome head again, but only for as long as it took to get gluten out of my system. The difference was like going from "Ah!" to "blah."

A surprising factor in my gluten-free experience is that I've always been a healthy and happy person. I never seriously considered taking beloved gluten filled foods out of my diet, because I love those foods and never got sick eating them, OR so I thought. Aches and pains I figured were genetic curses, and part of my natural aging.

Oh how wrong I was! After a year of gluten-free living, every organ in my body approves of this change, including bowels and nervous system. Best of all, I've experienced a seeming miraculous, non surgical intervention, with hardly any effort. And there's more to my story:

Before gluten-free my cholesterol was high. I'd tried diet and natural supplements to no avail, and finally went on a statin medication to control it. It remained high and challenging until I changed my diet to gluten-free. With virtually no decrease in my fat intake, this life style change has brought the cholesterol level down. My latest labs shows normal levels, and once I accomplish a goal of eating more vegetables (than all these darn delicious gluten-free baked goods), and staying on a clean, low fat diet, I will explore going off cholesterol medication, once and for all.

I continue to get caught up in all the numerous gluten-free pizza crust, pastry and bread recipes available. My salad creations are sorely neglected and I know this is my next challenge. But I won't beat myself up too much for enjoying this new exploration of 'all foods gluten free', (including beer- I recommend Omission).

As for ever going backward, I have zero desire whatsoever, to return to a gluten filled lifestyle. I LOVE the way I feel now. When tempted by gluten-filled foods, I think of how I can now jog as long as I want to, with no leakage, for the first time in over twenty years. And I remember how surgery is out of the picture when it was once in my future, which is fantastic! I'm aware now that the source of my incontinence was a chronic, low level inflammation caused by gluten. The inflammation attacked various organs and areas all over my body, especially the bladder and urinary tract. Gluten even effected my cholesterol level in negative ways. So no way to that whole wheat bread, because I feel terrific now and I want to stay this way.

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