Last SOS Push and Going Gluten-Free

I’m working on pairs 17 & 18 for SOS, and hoping to get to 20 by Monday at 10PM, when the Most Socks contest closes. It will be tight. After that, well….hmmm…knitting shawls, reading, watching TV–normal life in other words! Or as normal as my life can be.

I was Plurking this morning about going gluten-free, and got too many questions to answer on Plurk, so here’s the quick run-down on that for Plurkbuds and anyone else who might find the info helpful.

First, let me say that I’ve been feeling bad. And I mean reeeaaaallly baaaaadddd for months. (And not the Isaac Hayes version of badness. I mean bad as in lousy, awful, wretched.) I’m not going for sympathy here, but I’m just saying that I’ve been pretty much non-functioning for a long time. I drag myself from bed and manage to make it to work and struggle through my three or four hours there, and that’s about it. Some days I don’t even have the energy to shower (I do spit-baths, as my mother calls them. Don’t freak–I’m clean, just not squeaky-clean!) I can’t even begin to describe the mind-numbing, bone-breaking fatigue I stagger around in all the time, and I’m fed up with it.

I’ve been blaming it on the fibromyalgia and lack of exercise, but I’ve had in the back of my mind that I’ve not been eating well, so yesterday I got a couple of books on FM and gluten-intolerence, and I am seriously convinced that I must go gluten-free.

Now, I’ve known for some years that I can’t tolerate wheat well. No, let me re-phrase that. When I eat wheat, my abdomen distends until I look five months pregnant, my eyes feel like they sink two inches into my head, and I start feeling too weak to breathe. The natural response to this would be to stop eating wheat, right? Alas, when you have a sensitivity, you tend to crave the very thing you’re sensitive to because as soon as you eat it, you feel better briefly–very briefly. It’s a vicious cycle. Add to that the fact that wheat and/or gluten is in almost every single processed food we eat, and it’s tough. (Last night I discovered that my herb tea contains barley, which contains gluten. Who knew?) Top it off with the problem of not feeling like shopping or cooking, and you end up eating processed junk food all the time, and the cycle continues.

So to answer a couple of questions from this morning: one way to figure out if you’re sensitive to a certain food is to think about how your gut feels. If you have any symptoms of irritable bowel, a food sensitivity is a possibility. Here’s how I would go about figuring it out (with the caveat that I’m not a medical professional in any way, but I have been through this.) If you find that you crave a certain food–say bread–eliminate it from your diet for a week (some pros say two weeks, but I suspect a week will do it.) That means eliminate completely. No bread, crackers, pasta, croutons, breaded foods, rye, barley, cookies, and so on. Avoid oatmeal as well, as it can be cross-contaminated because of growing or processing conditions. After going the week, fix up a nice dish of couscous or pasta or a couple of pieces of toast and chow down. (Same for any other suspected food; eliminate for a week, then have some and see how you feel.)

Here’s what happened the day the light bulb went on for me–I fixed a dish of couscous for lunch and wolfed it. Within twenty minutes I felt like I was dying. I could barely sit up on the sofa for the fatigue, and my heart was thumping–not racing, but thumping harder than usual, if that makes sense. Suddenly it clicked. All those years of bloating, pain, and fatigue could almost certainly be pegged to the fact that I lived on bagels and Raisin Bran. (Seriously, I used to eat Raisin Bran at least twice a day. I thought my body didn’t tolerate raisins well. Huh.) I did go to a food allergist and had some other tests to confirm it, but that day, I KNEW.

I’ve avoided wheat since then. Sort of. But it’s really, really hard. Especially when you’re a lazy cook, as I am. But I do know that when I buckled down and stocked the pantry with “safe” foods, I felt better. So I have to do that again, only more thoroughly this time, because I discovered from my books that there are more things that contain gluten than I thought. And I’ll have to go through a sort of withdrawal from the cravings for bread, and weirdly enough, beer. I don’t crave beer for the alcohol, it’s the taste, the mouth-feel, the stout yeasty flavor. But it’s essentially liquid bread.

According to the specialists, here are the most likely culprits for food sensitivity: dairy, soy, yeast, wheat, corn, and eggs. Most people who are lactose-intolerant know it, but the others are sneaky because they are in so much of our processed food. And, as much as I love my doctor, I have to say that this is one of those subjects that the mainstream medical community doesn’t deal with very much. In all the years I’ve been treated for FM, none of my doctors has suggested dietary changes or nutritional guidance.

I could go on and on about it, but if any of this raises a red flag in your mind for yourself or anyone in your family, there is a lot of information out there. You have to go looking for it, though, because you probably won’t hear it from your doctor. I say “probably” but I’m sure there are exceptions. BTW, although my sensitivity causes me to feel fatigued, in children it often comes out as hyperactivity and irritability.

Sensitivity is different from a true allergy. An allergy causes your body to release different hormones, or whatever it is that it releases (told you I’m not a medical expert!) When you’re talking about allergies, it’s usually stuff like shellfish or peanuts, where people have their tongues swell up and their throats close and can even go into anaphalactic shock. That’s one of the reasons food sensitivities are overlooked or underrated, IMO. If you don’t swell up and choke, you must not have a problem, right? Tell that to someone who’s lactose-intolerant.

I can’t be positive how much, or if I will feel better if I go gluten-free, but I strongly suspect that there will be an improvement. I know there was before, so I’m hanging on to that hope, because feeling this way is just impossible. For the record, let me say that I’ve had tests for everything from lupus to thyroid problems to heart disease. According to the tests, I’m in perfect health. That’s why I sit and cry at my desk at work from the effort of holding my head up. (My, wasn’t THAT a pathetic picture!)

On a brighter note: I’ve scored some Wollmeise! Ravelry was all abuzz the past week because of the Wollmeise releases at The Loopy Ewe. Some of the lovely people who managed to get more than one or two skeins generously offered to sell or trade, so I’ve got at least one coming, thanks to msknitsox. The nice thing about Ravelry is that for the most part, everyone gets along so well. Yes, there are disagreements, but apologies are freely offered and accepted, and the generosity and sharing spirit are wonderful.

I’m going to go have my last piece of Toll House Pie. If anyone knows of a nice gluten-free recipe for that, let me know, will ya?

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3 Responses to “Last SOS Push and Going Gluten-Free”

  1. Batty Says:

    Fortunately, there are plenty of gluten-free alternatives these days. My roommate was the poster child for Celiac, and back in the 90’s, food choices were rather… limited.

    Besides, you’ll never know if cutting out gluten would help you unless you try it. If it doesn’t work, you can always go back to eating wheat.

  2. Daniele Says:

    I’ve cut out (for over five years now) pork, shrimp, lobster and crab (and other stuff I can’t remember now). I love all that stuff, but I watched a video on all of the diseases that pigs have compared to cows and all of the vaccines and shots they get. Plus, there was a person who had multiple muscle problems who got completely well after cutting out pork. That did it for me. It was hard for the first couple of years, but now I don’t even think about it. There are too many “all beef” alternatives. Plus, how often do we get shrimp and lobster anyway? :)

  3. Melanie Says:

    You should think about doing a food intolerance test. You can check with a specialist or enterolabs offers a reasonable price for testing and then directly mails you your test results. You might find its gluten that’s bothering you, but it could be a variety of things. Hope this helps.


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