Much ado about gluten.

Food is a big deal in our family right now. Back in September, I started again having a whole host of autoimmune symptoms, such as fatigue, joint and muscle pain, nausea, headaches, heartburn, trouble sleeping, mental fog, and anxiety. For a little while I dismissed the symptoms as my body just freaking out during the postpartum stage, but since I had been diagnosed with several severe food intolerances a little over a year after I had my second child, I slowly realized this was diet-related. After someone suggested the book Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis, and I devoured it (no pun intended), I decided to eliminate gluten, sugar, and most carbs from my diet. (Seriously, y'all, if you have never read that book, you should. It's a real page-turner.)

After about three days, I was sure I was dying! I was dizzy, weak, breaking out into cold sweats, nauseous...I seriously thought I was experiencing death by gluten (or the lack of it). My body was crying out for bread, and doughnuts were crying out for me. I could barely make it through the day and slept as much as I could get by with and still take care of my kiddos. It was miserable! Have you ever wondered why you crave something sweet? Why bread is so satisfying? Because sugar and gluten both contain components that have the unique ability to pass through the blood-brain barrier and reach the opiate center of the brain. Just like, oh, I don't know, heroine. Which leaves you wanting more, and if you go several days without sugar or bread, you'll start having withdrawals.

But thankfully the withdrawal symptoms passed, and after two weeks going gluten-free I had lost four inches from my waist and eight pounds. (I NEVER lose weight like that!) I had more energy, I was sleeping better, my mood was lighter, the birds were chirping, the sun was shining...

I know, it's annoying, right, to hear someone slam gluten. Cue all the eye-rolling. Going gluten-free is just some hipster fad, right? We all just need to eat a sandwich and fuggitaboudit.

Tell that to someone whose body goes on the attack any time they eat a bagel, or who gets a severe headache from a sandwich. Or looks seven months pregnant after eating tortilla chips. For those who genuinely suffer from an intolerance, it's no joke. It's definitely not cool.

So, my husband, who doesn't have a gluten intolerance, jumped on the gluten-free bandwagon, and dropped five pounds the first week. He also had his first good night's sleep in years. Suddenly, our whole family was eating this way, eliminating grains and carbs. The kids actually loved the foods I was cooking out of the Wheat Belly 30-Minute (or Less!) cookbook.

A few weeks later, we had family pictures made, and when I looked back at them, for the first time I noticed just how bony and gaunt my son Liam's face looked. He had dark reddish circles under his eyes, dry cracked lips, his eye sockets were sunken in...he looked undernourished to say the least. I'd been noticing he'd looked very thin, but not to that extent. And I had been noticing that he was having some stomach upset almost every day. He was constantly hungry, constantly eating but never satisfied. From what I'd been reading on gluten's affects on the body, I felt I needed to have him tested for an intolerance.

Sure enough, his bloodwork confirmed he not only was intolerant of gluten, but he had Celiac Disease.

Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: "Give careful thought to your ways." Haggai 1:5

 

This has required a lifestyle change for our family, but it's been a blessing in disguise. I mentioned earlier this week that the Lord has been gently reminding me of Haggai 1:5: "Give careful thought to your ways." So many of the things I do, so many of the things I eat, I do out of habit, or because it's just the normal thing to do. I was choosing what was easiest for my family instead of what was best: grabbing a granola bar for breakfast because I didn't "have time" to make something that would benefit my body rather than harm it. When our third child came along, I made waffles in bulk batches and froze them to feed the older two breakfast; lunch was a PB&J. I had reduced mealtimes to a mindless system to save time and energy, but it was literally harming my child.

This verse has really been my theme verse for this year, but it is held so much significance for our diet. No more can we afford to eat whatever is available just because it's available. No more do I just eat because I'm bored or in the mood for something. No more eating sweet treats just because I'm craving them or because it's a special occasion. I have to give careful thought to our grocery list, our grocery budget (which has tripled since Liam's diagnosis, since we are also trying to help him gain some weight), and our mealtimes. I have to think ahead and plan out meals for the week and wake up earlier to cook a nutritious breakfast. We have to think about things like cross-contamination and whether something has wheat extract or dextrose and if natural flavoring means a food contains gluten. I have to comb through food labels and drill waiters at restaurants about food prep.

It's all a little extreme, but on the other hand, shouldn't we all be so careful about what we put into our bodies? If we put the wrong kind of gasoline in our cars, they won't run right. It's the same for us. How can we expect to maintain an optimal level of health if we are ingesting things our bodies can't use? Shouldn't we want to know where our food is coming from and what's in it, and how it will affect our bodies?

I will be writing a lot about our food journey coming up, and even posting some great recipes I've found that are consistent with a Celiac-friendly diet. Our health is so important, and our bodies are built to last a lifetime if we treat them the right way, so it's become a top priority in our home to pursue healthy eating choices.

What about you? Have you made any health changes recently? I'd love to hear what's working for you!