I've only been completely Gluten Free since October 2010 (7 weeks as of this entry). I have finally made the connection that I have gluten intolerance and that is what I've been battling all of my adult life, from age 18 to, now, 42.
As a child I had various GI problems. I would throw up a lot after eating (didn't know why), was prone to stomach aches & had my tonsils out when I was 4. The GI issues lasted up to my early 20s but seemed lesser in my teen years. I was a good student, active & athletic.
In my early 20's I was tired a lot but kept pushing and functioning. I felt sick a lot at college but, as it is, with gradual changes, I didn't notice them. I was too busy Then after having my first child, at age 24, the issues seemed to escalate. I became susceptible to every cold & flu that went around then developed chronic fatigue-like symptoms, starting to struggle with weight and the doctor I went to kept telling me I was "stressed".
In my late 20's I got really sick during a particularly stressful period. My hormones were off...the specialist thought I had uteran cancer at one point..I missed 4 months of my monthly cycle & was very sick. I found later that I had developed a systemic yeast problem - Candida. In my search for alternative cures (the medical profession wasn't helping), I found a diet called "Body Ecology" that helped me feel better than I had in years. It was gluten-free, dairy-free & sugar-free. Three months into the diet I felt about 75% of normal & used the diet to self-correct for the next 2 years if I ever relapsed. I had no idea that gluten was the problem yet. While I felt a lot better I didn't realize that if I went back to bread products, I was never going to feel 100% better.
Two years later I wanted to lose 20 lbs so I find the Atkins diet. After 2 weeks of detox (I felt terrible during this time) I then felt like a million bucks. For the next 13 years I controlled any health issues that were really debilitating by using the Induction version of the diet (gluten, dairy & sugar-free) to feel better.
When I finally was pregnant with our 2nd child (took 8 years and lots of infertility problems along the way) I started eating gluten and miscarried at 3 months. Needless to say I was devastated. I went back on Atkins and had a successful pregnancy (now our DD is 9.5) but had high BP and was developing toxemia toward the end and was on bed rest.
In August of 2008, my mom had a severe stroke & the stress of being with her through 3 hospital stays & being the only person who could handle her affairs took it's toll. Within 6 months my body began breaking down so badly from not eating properly that I could no longer tolerate a low carb diet like Atkins. My body revolted. So for a total of 2 years I was glutening at a level I hadn't in 15 years. Within a year of mom's stroke I was so sick I almost couldn't function. I had trouble walking up stairs - it hurt so badly. My legs were swelling. My joints hurt everywhere. Blood pressure was high. Was gaining weight inexplicably. I had back pain and had trouble sleeping. No amount of "healthy eating" was working. Whole organic foods, with whole wheat, was making me sicker.
This goes on for another year, during which time I'm looking up symptoms...I'm showing signs of vitamin deficiency. Start taking vitamins but it's as though I'm not absorbing them. I develop heat intolerance this last summer and feel like I'm dying in direct sunlight over 80 degrees. This is a symptom of M.S. I'm so tired. The heart palpitations start. The tingling in the legs & hands. It's like I have bad circulation and arthritis. I'm thinking - how OLD am I??
So we go on vacation in late September this year and I see a friend whom I haven't seen since '07. She has Celiac. I am talking about the fact I think I have an iron deficiency. She said she's very iron deficient. The wheels start to turn. I come home and take iron. Hey, I feel a little better. She takes sublingual B. So I take a sublingual B-complex. Feel even better. Still suffering but better. Then it hits me...Body Ecology and Atkins are gluten-free diets. I go online and read everything I can about gluten intolerance and suddenly - like dominoes are falling -my entire medical history and the last 20 years of my life make sense. I had no idea that gluten intolerance could present as 100 different conditions and is an auto-immune disorder. I was starting to think I had Fibromyalgia among other maladies.
I immediately went on a gluten free diet and I felt that same detox I did with Atkins...hmmmm...interesting. Within a week I'm feeling a LOT better! Hooray. One week in, I eat a completely gluten-free ice cream bar and have intestinal pain within 2 hours and feelings of a raw & sore insides for the next 2 days. Guess I'm dairy intolerant, at least for the present. Then I notice soy is not being tolerated. Bye bye Soy. A month into the diet I'm convinced corn is a culprit too. Bye corn. I love you corn but bye.
So here I am, about 7 weeks into the diet and I'm feeling a TON better. I'm not 100% there yet as I still have occasional relapses of previous symptoms. I am trying to root out all cross-contamination and find the products I feel best on.
It's going to be journey but after 20 years of suffering off an on, and two particularly severe lapses of bad health 15 years apart, I am thankful and grateful to finally find the answer to the two decade mystery I called my life. I lost so much to being unwell. Here's to making the next 20 better!
Update 1/29/11: Milestone of 3.5 months on the diet. I can eat corn again. This just happened in the last two weeks. I can eat dairy products again too. Am I doing the happy dance or what? Soy, however, is my new enemy. I accidentally ate some salad dressing I made with mayo (1st ingredient soybean oil) and within 2 hours my right hand was so painful (joints) I couldn't close it past a claw-like formation. It's getting better but it's been a week and it's still only 50% better. Before this I'd had 2 weeks without hand pain - only occasional stiffness. The exciting thing is - I'm healing. Just before the 3 month mark I started to feel better about every 3-4 days. I'm still improving weekly. Hang in there everybody. I was in BAD shape in October and I'm about 65% better most days and some days I feel 85% better. It's not always just about the glutens. Secondary allergies are a problem too. I think I've always been allergic to soy and didn't know it.
Update 4/11/11: 6 months into the diet and life is looking up - way up! About 3 weeks ago I finally healed up enough to be able to tolerate a Paleo-type diet. My diet is primarily proteins, veggies, fruits and the occasional potato. I am dropping weight steadily again and my energy & clear-headedness is back. I felt much better on a gluten-free diet, alone, but I can feel the life returning to my body by returning to a lower carb, whole foods diet. I can't believe it's been 6 months already since this journey began. All the adjustments have been worth it to feel human again. The emotional detox & rollercoaster was gone by the beginning of month 4.
Update 6/14/11: 8 months in...what a difference. My stamina is coming back! I've been strictly gluten-free all 8 months and off soy since the above post. My health is good. I'm almost never sick now. I still have days now and then of feeling like I'm tired & my bones ache, but that's because of hormones I think as much as anything. My digestion is MUCH better and if I make an effort, I can lose some weight now. I just have to watch the carbs. 8 months ago I wondered if I'd ever feel this good again. I have days now of almost 90% and never slip below 75% any days except hormonal ones. I can literally feel the life seeping back into me week by week. If anyone out there is struggling & wondering if it'll ever get better. It will. It just takes time. Toodles.
Update 11/5/11: Over a year being gluten-free. Time flew! In the past year my health has really improved. I went back to work full-time in August (amazing that my health allowed it!) and have found that supplementation is the name of the game now. Being more active & having more stress, my body eats b-vitamins and others like candy. I had a slight relapse of muscle & joint pain over the past month and determined it was vitamin deficiency resurfacing. I am now supplementing with B complex, iron, cal/mag/zn, omega 3,6,9 and C and waiting to return to the high point of this past summer. Hoping to get back to my new "normal" very soon!
Yes, it can. Because this is auto-immune, it can break down different parts of your body. About 15 years ago when I had my first systemic break-down I caught every single cold & flu that went around even if no one else in my family succumbed. It was very frustrating. It took the right diet...
I'm adding my "nope" to the rest. My husband switches back and forth from gluten to gluten free and is fine...no difference whatsoever. I can tell you this...when I was controlling symptoms by doing gluten free without knowing it (Atkins & another diet) and I would heal for a while, I could...
Hi - I feel for you. I had a mild migraine the first week I was on gluten-free. I found that Ex Strength Tylenol or Excedrin Migraine knocked it out (well..at least enough to survive) The headache should go away soon. The one thing I would recommend that you do NOT take is Ibuprofen (Advil...