Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Book review and pieces coming together

I just finished reading the book 'Healthier without Wheat' by Dr. Stephen Wangen. It was informative and got me thinking about the symptoms and experiences I've had throughout my life. He does talk about celiac disease, but makes the point that not everyone with a gluten intolerance has celiac disease. On the other hand, celiac disease is a type of gluten intolerance.

Some of the symptoms he mentions:
*Short stature due to malabsorption of nutrients (maybe that's why I'm so much shorter than all my siblings)
*Mental fogginess (have had this for years)
*Infertility (check)
*Miscarriage (double check)
*Gas, bloating, etc (check)
*Fatigue (for a period of time it was so bad I couldn't do much of anything)
*Weight gain/inability to lose weight (check)
*Abdominal pain and nausea (had this off and on for years, currently being treated with Nexium, but we're just treating the symptoms, not the cause)

There's others as well, a lot of which I've experienced in one way or another, these are just the major ones that caught my attention.

With gluten intolerance, the body doesn't absorb nutrients properly and/or causes immune reactions (inflammations of the various body systems), both of which end up causing systemic problems. One thing gets damaged, which stresses other parts of the body, which causes more problems, and it just keeps going and going, getting worse and worse.

It's all about balance
Because the gut is out of whack, bacteria, parasites and yeast can all proliferate and get out of balance. When I saw that he mentioned yeast, I was so happy! So many doctors just don't believe that yeast can cause systemic problems, so anytime I find one who does it's almost a cause for celebration. A lot of the symptoms of yeast overgrowth parallel those of gluten intolerance, which causes further confusion. I've known for years that I have yeast problems, but have been unsuccessful in treating it on a long term basis. I can do it for short periods, but not for very long.

I need to read the other book by this author- it sounded like he talked more about bacteria, yeast and parasite overgrowths in his other book.

My symptoms
In any case, I feel validated about my yeast problems. I've been thinking about it all, and I think I may have come up with a timeline for it all.

*As a child, I didn't have intestinal problems or anything, though I did have ear problems and sinus problems and I am a good 4 or 5 inches shorter than my next shortest sibling. Not sure if I got the short end of the genetic stick, or if it's due to nutrition issues caused by gluten intolerance.

* 10 years ago, on my mission, I had two bouts of food poisoning fairly close together, and I think that's what compromised my system. The gluten intolerance became more active and started causing debilitating symptoms (horrible fatigue, muscle aches, gas and bloating, mental fogginess, etc).

*After my mission my body was able to rest, and, I think, gradually was able to cope with everything better. The fatigue became bearable, the muscle aches went away, the gas lessened, etc. The mental fogginess has always followed me, unfortunately (it's why I barely passed my intro to organic chem class my last semester of college- I had a really hard time understanding an already difficult subject because my brain was so fuzzy).

The pieces come together
I got used to dealing with the symptoms and got on with life. I had problems getting pregnant, and had my first miscarriage 5 years ago. A year later, I was on the Atkins diet to lose weight (finally managed to lose 10 pounds), and managed to get pregnant with our daughter. Two years ago I had another miscarriage. In thinking about it, I think the reason I was able to stay pregnant with our daughter was because I'd been doing Atkins, which means I wasn't eating any grains, gluten-containing or otherwise.

Another thing I read that stuck out was that gluten itself is addicting. When I thought about it, this too made sense. I've always considered myself a 'carb addict', but it was usually cookies, crackers, and bread that I wanted to eat (and chocolate, but we won't get into that...), not potato chips or corn chips. Except Doritos- I love Doritos. I was eating some this weekend, and after the 3rd handful stopped to read the ingredients list. There's wheat in Doritos. Now I know why I have such a hard time eating just a couple of them.

Lessening of cravings
As I've made an effort to stay away from gluten, my cravings for carbs have lessened, and so have my cravings for chocolate. In the past, I could eat a bag of Ghiradelli peanut butter chocolate squares (super yummy!) in one afternoon. Now, if I eat 2 Hershey's Kisses (inferior chocolate, I know), I'm good. I don't have that urge to keep eating more and more. My brother's birthday was Sunday, so I had a piece of German chocolate cake. It was good in the moment, but not in the long run. I felt blah on Monday, and noticed more cravings to eat food (even though I wasn't really hungry).

Now that we're home from Disneyland (where I did eat some gluten-containing food), I've gone back to eating gluten free, and have also eliminated yeast, so no bread. It's so much easier this time- in the past when I tried to eliminate yeast and sugar it was very hard. I still need to lower my sugar intake, but it's going so much better. LMS's annual check up is in a week and a half and I'm going to have them do a full panel to test for food allergies. I'd like to know for sure if she has any problems we need to be aware of. If not, I don't need to worry so much about what she is/isn't eating. If she does, then we'll have to adjust our diet accordingly. She's had problems with milk in the past. Hopefully she doesn't actually have an allergy to it. It will be difficult to eliminate dairy- we do love our cheese and yogurt.

I didn't take the time and effort to plan GF meals for our Disney trip, but I will have to plan out our meals for our family reunion in July. We'll probably be gone for at least a week and a half: traveling, staying with family, and camping. When it comes to eating bread or jeopardizing a possible pregnancy, I'll skip the bread. Put in that context, it's a lot easier to resist the foods I shouldn't be eating. And it's nice not to have the cravings that have plagued me for years.

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