Elimination Diet Part Two: Seven Years Later

Hippo quote

I have known for a very long time that I need to be completely gluten free, to the most minute degree. Although I was never diagnosed with Celiac disease, I have the same level of sensitivity. It now makes me obviously and incredibly sick, however for most of my life I had no idea that gluten was bad for me.

How is this possible? Well, according to some reading I’ve done, when you are first introduced to a substance that is bad for you then yes you get sick. But then you quickly climatize to it, although it is still doing a lot of damage. Like how cigarettes make you sick when you first start smoking them, but you get used to it, and although it is doing a ton of silent damage you don’t really notice. Symptoms gradually get worse and worse, until one day you body screams enough, and collapses. With cigarettes that may be increased sinus infections, allergies, headaches, leading eventually to emphysema and cancer.

With gluten, I had no idea the myriad of vague health issues I had was related to it. I thought everybody had headaches 4 or more days per week. I thought it wasn’t unusual to get migraines on a monthly or more basis, since there were several people in my family who had this. I was taking ibuprofin almost every day and had no idea that the chronic pain, mostly in my head, was not normal. A friend tried to tell me, but I just brushed them off and didn’t really think about it.

Although I could “write” on my skin, scratching with medium pressure would cause swollen red lines because of the high level of histamines in my system, I thought it was just some weird random fluke. I never connected it to the fact that it really hurt to get my teeth cleaned because they were so sensitive, nor to the fact that rain to me felt like little cold needles. Nor to the fact that I was always so cold, and that once cold it was in my bones and took forever to feel warm again. I thought it was just cold out or that other people didn’t like talking about how much teeth cleaning hurt.

I was tired all the time, but hey, I thought, who isn’t? I frequently got super cranky but I thought it was just because people were being especially stupid that day. I had a cold or the flu once or twice a month, which I knew was more than other people, but I thought I had just inherited a bad immune system from my mom who was also sick frequently. (Did I mention that food intolerances are hereditary?)

NONE of this is normal.

I know this because I finally got sick of being sick and was finally willing to do the elimination diet, found out that gluten is my kryptonite, and have been hypervigilant to keep it completely out of my life.

From what I have researched, the ONLY way to know for sure what you are allergic to is to do the elimination diet – it is the “gold standard” according to my doctor. The blood and skin scratch tests are not very accurate. I have read that they are now finding that there are antibodies (allergic response) that develop in the bowel that never make it into the blood. If you are serious about getting well, you must do an elimination diet. (And of course, consult your doctor first! And hopefully your doctor is one that actually understands elimination diets. If you don’t have one, get one)

I am doing much much MUCH better now that I have completely eliminated gluten, in even its tiniest forms (such as the evil maltodextrin and “natural flavors”). I only eat at places that understand celiacs and have strong protections in place against cross-contamination. And, of course, my own house! Most of the food I consume was prepared by me in my own house from scratch. No boxed food! Few canned or bottled either.

I NEVER get a headache or a migraine unless I have been “glutenized” (ingested some gluten). In a year, the three times I had a cold was when I was glutenized. My teeth don’t hurt now when they get cleaned! You can no longer write on my skin. Many other health problems have cleared up as well.

However, lately I have been feeling kinda tired and off. I know that I am also allergic to corn, sesame and chocolate (yes, chocolate). I have been wondering if there is something else that is slowly poisoning me. I have my suspicions about dairy and the nightshades, especially potatoes and tomatoes (sob!).

My spouse has been thinking that maybe she has allergies too and has been wanting to try the elimination diet. Her mom recently was confirmed with Crohn’s Disease and is thinking of doing one too.

So here we go, Elimination Diet round two!

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Spicy Eggplant with Miso

One of the most confounding things about moving to a gluten free diet is how to adjust old favorites. They are never going to taste the same. That is just a given. The delightful thing is when they taste even better. Continue reading

Using the Force

Speaking of hidden ninja gluten, did you know that gluten can be in toothpaste? In ibuprofen?? It’s insane.

I recently heard that gluten can be in toothpaste, so I tried to find a brand that doesn’t have gluten. It is remarkably hard! A lot say they don’t add gluten, but very few guarantee that the ingredients they use haven’t been contaminated. I found Auromere at my local PCC (like a co-op kinda). I was very unsure about the flavor (cardamom-fennel? Neem and peelu?), but it was the only guaranteed gluten free toothpaste they had. I was pleasantly surprised when I got it home that it tasted really good. Refreshing.

The other item I heard can have gluten is ibuprofen. I take a lot of ibuprofen.

If you read the labels of ibuprofen, you will see that there are a LOT of extra ingredients in there. Again, although they do not ADD gluten, they don’t guarantee that the ingredients they use haven’t been contaminated. In addition, they change their ingredients all the time. Even its ok this time, the next batch could be contaminated. Its enough to drive you crazy.

I heard from another blogger that it is best to buy the name brand because it is more likely that they will have higher standards for their basic ingredients. I have no idea if that is actually true or not, but since I switched to not only name brand ibuprofen but also to the gel caps (which have significantly fewer ingredients), my girlfriend says that I no longer smell “chemically”. And I’ve had fewer headaches.

Was my headache medicine giving me headaches?

This whole trying to live life without gluten contamination has so many vagaries and unknowns. So many things I can’t control.  A water filter sitting on the counter. A bottle of medicine. Things that shouldn’t have gluten, yet easily can have enough to take me down for an afternoon, or even a few days. It can feel enormously hopeless and overwhelming.

I think living gluten free successfully is like using “the force” (or my idea of it any way! Sorry Steven Spielberg). Trying to live each moment attuned to my surroundings, aware of energy both inside my body and around me. Recognizing that at any moment an enemy can ambush me, but not living in fear. Rather trying to live each moment to its fullest – in order to be prepared, yes, but more because having a full, rich, satisfying and enjoyable life is the greatest f-you I can give to the forces of gluten evil.

Glutenized! :(

It looks so innocuous doesn’t it?

Little water filter sitting on the counter. It cleans your water. It purifies. Oh and apparently it harbors poison ninja gluten.

We went on a kayak adventure this weekend in Bellingham with the girlfriend and her parents, and it was awesome. More on that another day. However, we stayed with her cousins, who are also awesome and who also eat a lot of bread and regularly use flour. I recently learned that flour can stay in the air for I think it was 36 hours. Yeah. And then it settles on all the surfaces that you think are clean and don’t look like they have anything on them, like a water filter sitting out on the counter that probably hasn’t been washed in awhile.

Poison ninja gluten.

I had one glass of water when we got there, so proud of myself for keeping all my food separate and only eating what I brought, not thinking at all of the dangers of water sitting on the counter. About 15-20 minutes later I started to feel tired. Then foggy in the brain. Then achy in my joints. It says something about how good I’ve started to feel that I noticed this, what used to be my regular daily existence. I was horrified and thought frantically of what on earth could it have been – I only ate what I prepared with my own hands from scratch! Then it dawned on me. The water. Sitting in the kitchen. Where I saw bread crumbs everywhere and large canisters of flour.

Oh my god.

I really am a full blown celiac.

But this is why I started this project in the first place. To figure this out. And to feel better.

It is remarkable that I was feeling better enough to notice the sudden change. And after a long nap, the rest of the weekend I was doing silly goofy stuff, like waving to the bald eagles and saying hi to the seals. I only do that when I am feeling good, and unfortunately it has been a long time since I have done that.

I am so thankful I am figuring this out, and I am so thankful to the awesome cousins who then went out of their way for the rest of the weekend to make sure that every glass, plate, or fork was freshly washed, that I got water directly from the tap, and that I had enough safe food to eat.

That is love.

Take that hidden ninja gluten!