August 15, 2013 at 9:46 pm #11527
I’ve been gluten-free for 2 1/2 years now. When I first read Diet Recovery 2, I sent an email to Rob telling him about being gluten-free for so long and asking whether I should jump right in and eat some wheat or wait until my metabolism is healed before trying that. He talked to Matt and told me Matt recommended that I wait until my metabolism had healed some, and that gluten intolerance IS A REAL THING. So, my question is this: How do I know whether or not I’m REALLY gluten-intolerant? In order for anyone to attempt to answer that, let me tell you what led me to stop eating gluten in the first place…
I’m 38 now, and the first time I dieted to lose weight was at age 14, when I stopped growing taller. I’ve dieted on and off since then. For many years, it was low fat, low sugar (using sugar substitutes like mad). After I got pregnant the first time (lost the baby at 5 months gestation), I was the heaviest I’ve ever been (155 at 5’3″), and I went on Weight Watchers in addition to working out 5-6 days per week to lose the weight. I got pregnant again, did WW again afterward having my first son. Got pregnant again, followed WW again after second son. Pregnant a third time, was MISERABLE, gained 46 pounds, and did WW again after 3rd son. I also nursed all three babies for a year or more. Between kids 2 and 3, I ran my first half marathon. When baby 3 was just a few months old, I was back to running a LOT, and started doing triathlons and long running events once he was a year or so. Throughout those years, I also fought depression, had problems with frequent/urgent urination, had gut issues, my hair was falling out, I couldn’t sleep well, and I was on a weight roller-coaster of 10-15 pounds up and down ever since my last child was born (6 years ago). Three years ago, wanting to lose weight (again), a friend introduced me to the Sugar Smackdown program by Functional Diagnostic Nutritionist Erin Huggins. I followed the 21-day program (next to zero sugar outside of only a few fruits and full-fat plain dairy, only sprouted grains, low glycemic veggies), felt fantastic and lost some weight. I even went off anti-depressants after being on them for 6 years. After the 21 days, I re-introduced some foods and immediately gained back all I’d lost and my belly was swollen and irritated. It felt different than I’d ever felt. I was puffy all over. I talked to Erin about it, as I was still working with her, and she consulted with some other FDNs and determined I was likely gluten and/or dairy intolerant. Judging by my symptoms, I felt like it was more likely gluten than dairy. So, I immediately cut it out…and read a ton of books and blogs and thought I’d found my Holy Grail. In all honesty, I DID feel MUCH better! But, in learning all about g-f, I came across the Paleo world. I read Mark Sisson’s book, Robb Wolf’s book, and became completely afraid of dairy, grains of any sort, and sugar. To no avail…I still struggled with weight maintenance (up, down, up, down), couldn’t sleep, cold hands/feet, clear pee every 10 minutes all day long and a couple times at night, hair falling out like crazy, etc, etc. This past May, I started having gb issues and had some tests run. My gb functions at a below normal level, but it does function. At that time, my mom introduced me to the Hypothyroid Revolution and I began to realize that my body needed SUGAR badly! In learning more about metabolism and sugar, I happened upon 180 and have been eating the food since mid-May. I did re-introduce gluten-free grains, but I’m still scared to try gluten. So, after my LONG story, back to my question…how do I know if my “gluten-intolerance” is REAL?August 15, 2013 at 9:50 pm #11528
Also would love to hear from others who have believed themselves to be gluten intolerant and now eat gluten without ill effects!August 16, 2013 at 9:54 am #11548The Real AmyModerator
I don’t have any personal experience with gluten intolerance, but I think probably just self-experimentation is going to be the only way to know. Why not stick with the gluten-free until you feel like your metabolism is in a good place, and then try to re-introduce gluten and see what happens. You should know quickly if you’re not feeling as well. You definitely don’t need gluten to heal.August 16, 2013 at 11:14 am #11550
Thanks for your thoughts, Amy. I realize I don’t *need* gluten to heal, but it sure would taste good! Gluten free pizza and beer is just not the same as the real thing. And, nothing could ever replace *real* cake! Gluten-free cake is dry and crumbly, as is gluten-free bread. When I believed that I’d never be able to eat gluten again, I didn’t miss gluten as much as I do now that I wonder if I WILL be able to eat it again. I wonder now that I know more about metabolism if my low metabolism was the cause of my gluten intolerance. In fact, it seems very likely to me that that was the case.August 16, 2013 at 12:31 pm #11552mighty mParticipant
I was moved to comment NOT because I know much about gluten stuff (except what I’ve read on the internet, sigh), but I was just moved by your story. That’s a lot you’ve been though … I could almost feel the exhaustion voyeruistically. :) So glad you’re taking it easier now.
“The internet told me” that most grains, except maybe white rice, have some gluten. Maybe you are already eating a little and tolerating it?
What Amy said sounds sensible — gluten isn’t an essential nutrient. :) And there’s no way to know objectively without experimenting.
On the other hand, if it’s really really bugging you, resisting the desire to try it might make me obsessive, if it were me. Depends on the risks vs rewards for you personally. How much is avoiding it bothering you? And if you do react, will it be really debilitating, or just a headache or something? Also depends on how close you think you are to metabolic recovery, naturally.
What does your intuition say? If you can get in touch with that, I bet that’s your answer, corny as it sounds.August 16, 2013 at 1:00 pm #11557ThomasSeayModerator
This is a really difficult question. It’s hard to sort out your intuition from noise (the noise of anti-gluten propaganda that is growing louder every day). I don’t know where you live, but here in the San Francisco Bay Area, it’s become ridiculously loud.
I agree that experimentation is the way to go, but before you do, get in the right psychological space. Steel yourself with the experience many of us have had (that we had been convinced we were gluten-intolerant but weren’t), then proceed GRADUALLY. Eat a tiny bit of glutinous food, and add a little more every few days. If there are still problems, then maybe you do have a problem with gluten.August 16, 2013 at 2:10 pm #11561
@mighty m, THANK YOU for helping me recognize how much my body has been through over the years! I know how incredibly my body has performed, birthing several kids, nursing, running ragged in races and being worked to death on not enough fuel! But, it’s easy to forget all of that when I look in the mirror and see the fat I’ve gained over the last 3 months (17 lbs, so far) and try to button the shorts I JUST bought only to find them too tight already. So…thank you for acknowledging that. :-) Thanks, also for reminding me to tap into my own intuition.
@Thomas Seay, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head when you said, “It’s hard to sort out your intuition from the noise.” YES!!! It is. The noise is very loud, but I’ve made it even louder by reading books, blogs, etc. I went through a time that I truly thought EVERYONE should stop eating evil, villanous gluten!
Part of the issue for me also the fact that I made my entire house gluten-free, so my family eats that way most of the time. My husband and our youngest son eat gluten at restaurants, but we took it out of our other 2 children’s diets 100%, just like momma. And, speaking of “momma,” my mother is also gluten-free. Upon removing gluten, pages of symptoms she was experiencing went away…at first. Then, she became more sensitive to grains in general and had to remove those. Then, she was still fatigued, hair was still falling out, etc, etc…she discovered hypothyroidism and started following a diet called the Hypothyroidism Revolution. Sorry so long-winded, but the web that gluten-freeism has woven in my life is a pretty big one!
My intuition tells me to give it a try when the time is right and see what happens. I don’t have debilitating symptoms when I accidentally ingest it…just abdominal discomfort and moodiness for a few days. Once my metabolism has healed some, I’ll be interested to see what happens…August 16, 2013 at 2:22 pm #11562MrsBMooParticipant
There is a medical test your dr can do to see if you are really are gluten intolerant. I know gluten free is sort of a fad now but there has always been celiac disease which can be tested for. I know someone who has it, 80 yr old lady who definitely is not into fad diets, great baker, her morning glory muffins are to die for. Runs in her family, her twin sister has it and at least one of her adult children. That might give you a definitive answer.August 16, 2013 at 2:51 pm #11563
@MrsBMoo, I have been tested for celiac, as has my mother. I only had the blood test, but my mom had the blood test, an endoscopy, and an intestinal biopsy. We both tested negative. I have also had an ALCAT Food and Chemical Sensitivity Test, and showed no sensitivity to gluten and only a slight sensitivity to wheat. I was SHOCKED at those results, but still believed I was gluten intolerant because all the gluten “propaganda” touts that any medical test for celiac or gluten sensitivity yields more false negatives than true positives. I sure wish I did have a definitive answer, but I wish even more that my intuition would tell me I don’t NEED a definitive answer. :-) I’d love to have your friend’s morning glory muffin recipe! That’s something I used to make before g-f, but I got so far into Paleo that I would never have made them while following Paleo…too much sugar! ;-)August 16, 2013 at 6:42 pm #11606mighty mParticipant
You’re welcome! The fact that you’ve survived all that so far is an indicator that you’re going to bounce back yet again. After all, the original Marathon guy dropped dead, so you’re already ahead of him.
When I put the grains back, including plenty of bread, I went slow at first but then went no hold barred when I noticed that they were really helping me with energy, concentration, exercise and just overall sense of well-being and normalcy. Not endorsing this, but it felt right for me. The “side effect” was more bloating and farting (yes!) on top of the expected weight gain. Uncomfortable. But not “intolerance.” After a couple months, that’s gone away.
So, I think my point is, in case you get just that particular symptom when you experiment, don’t necessarily be alarmed.
I *don’t* want to be all “gluten is great” because there’s always the slight chance someone has Celiac’s. But unless *you* do (and the tests don’t seem to indicate, although we know they aren’t perfect), it seemed unlikely you’d react as strongly as you did coming off that 21-day thing. Seems plausible that *that* was the health stressor, not the gluten that followed it.
Good luck, you’re doing awesome. Just having the mental space to start questioning this is a good thing.
@Thomas … Holy crap you are right about the Bay Area! Keeerazzy.August 17, 2013 at 3:36 pm #11633catieParticipant
I was gluten free for about 2 years as well. Got my mom on it (she’s still gluten free, much to my chagrin…) and my sister, for a time as well. I totally believed that everyone in the world should be gluten free as well, read wheat belly, etc.
I never got tested, but had plenty of “symptoms” I’d get every time I caved and ate something with gluten. REALLY bad diarrhea (sorry for the TMI) usually almost immediately afterward, within about 20 minutes to an hour. I’d continue having diarrhea for several days afterward as well. Headaches, digestive upset, extremely painful abdominal cramping for 3-5 days afterward, and usually some asthmatic symptoms as well. My lungs would feel like they were filling up with fluid or something. Also anxiety. I would get really bad anxiety within 6-12 hours of having eaten something with gluten. Needless to say, I was sold hook, like and sinker.
I’m not very patient, though, and by the time I started eating for heat, I was SO done with the gluten free thing that I just started eating. Anything and everything in sight. Sandwiches, pasta, pizza, pretzels, cookies. It had been so long since I’d been able to eat “normally” that it was actually difficult sometimes to think of things to eat, because I hardly remembered that the cookie aisle at the grocery store existed.
Anyway, I should definitely mention that I was taking digestive enzymes and betaine hydrochloride pretty regularly for the first 2-3 weeks, but I just kind of naturally tapered off of it once it didn’t seem like I needed it anymore.
I, and my husband as well, were both pretty uncomfortable for the first 1-2 weeks, with maybe some residual discomfort into week 3, but it was nothing like when I’d gone off my gluten free diet before. Honestly, I got such extreme hunger that I never let my stomach get empty at first, so I don’t know if that helped or not, but all of my symptoms ended up going away. No more asthma, ever. No more gluten-induced diarrhea, stomach upset (sometimes pepperoni pizza will still require me to take 1/2 a hydrochloride pill, but I think that’s more from the nature of pizza than gluten), or any of the other problems I suffered before.
I feel great. My periods have normalized, hypertension is gone, anxiety is way down, and the lifelong chronic constipation is gone, too.
Anyway, I would really encourage you to try gluten. Definitely do it at your own pace. I probably could have gone slower, but had been totally starving myself for so long that extreme hunger was INTENSE for me. I would also encourage enzymes and HCI. I don’t hear about them very often on here, and maybe it’s because supplements tend to be a little sketchy, but these two REALLY helped me make the transition. I don’t know if I would have stuck it out without them, they helped so much.
Well, I just wanted to share my GF experience. Sorry it turned into a book. This morning I ate a cannoli and a chocolate eclair for breakfast, though, and I feel not only fine, but great! So, I really think there’s hope for you! Just go with your gut (no pun intended) and move at a pace that feels comfortable for you, and seriously check out some digestive support to ease you through the transition.
– CatieAugust 17, 2013 at 4:49 pm #11640
@Catie, THANK YOU for sharing! No problem with the length of your response…I still have questions for you! 1) How long have you been back to eating gluten? 2) What do you think caused you to NOT have the same reaction to gluten this time that you had in the past? Maybe the fact that you were eating more than enough calories? 3) How did you know you needed HCl? I’ve never taken it, but I’ve heard of it and wondered if it would be helpful for me when my digestion has been at it’s worst. 4) I have some digestive enzymes called “Gluten Defense” and some general enzymes that aren’t specific to any one thing. What kind did you take when reintroducing gluten? 5) If you don’t mind, would you share a little more about your own history, what led you to 180DegreeHealth, etc? I love hearing about other peoples’ success, as it encourages me!
I rather doubt I AM gluten intolerant. I really do think I’ve had a crappy metabolism for most of my life. I did mention in my original post that the first time I went on a diet (Weight Watchers…my mom worked there most of my life and I worked there for a few years myself) was at age 14. Ironically, I weight only 3 pounds more today than I did at age 14 when I first went on a diet.
I have waited to re-introduce gluten until the time feels right for me. My kids start back to school next Wednesday (hallelujah!!!!!), so I will likely eat something with gluten (hmmm…let me think what would be the BEST thing to start with…hee-hee) in a couple weeks. In case I do experience negative symptoms, I want to wait until we’re back into a routine, rather than at a time full of transition (my oldest is starting middle school and I’m a little nervous!).
@mighty M, I hope you’re right that I’ll bounce back quickly! Right now, I feel FANTASTIC, even though I’m “fluffy” from the weight I’ve gained. I even have plenty of energy back and am enjoying some light weight lifting and yoga! So, if that’s any indication, I believe also that I will recover and be HEALTHY soon. :-)August 17, 2013 at 6:27 pm #11646catieParticipant
I’ve been back on gluten since early March, soo.. 6 months or so? I did have some of the same response as previous times I’d gone off a GF diet, but it didn’t seem anywhere near as extreme. I think there were several factors involved in that.
First, I’m actually eating on a regular basis for the first time in my life. I have Asperger’s and it sounds ridiculous, but I literally found eating to be kind of an irritating chore. There were so many, much more interesting things I would rather have been doing than finding, cooking, and eating food, or even going out to eat. And, with the dialogue in our society being that it’s perfectly normal and healthy to completely skip meals and starve yourself, I thought I was doing just fine. I figured it was akin to intermittent fasting or something. So, part of it (I think) was that I was making eating a priority and getting enough calories for the first time, pretty much, ever.
The second thing, and the biggest I think, was the HCI and enzymes. I’ve never gotten any fancy ones, just general HCI and digestive enzymes. I buy them off Amazon.
Enzymes: http://www.amazon.com/Source-Naturals-Essential-Enzymes-Capsules/dp/B000GFSVPU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1376775176&sr=8-1&keywords=digestive+enzymes (I’ve also gotten the NOW Foods brand. They call it Super Enzymes, I think.)
HCI: http://www.amazon.com/Betaine-Hydrochloride-Pepsin-250-Tablets/dp/B00068IY0O/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1376775273&sr=8-2&keywords=betaine+HCI+tablets (I like these ones specifically because they’re tablets and I can break them in half. Now that my digestion is really getting back on track, I never need a full tablet and almost always break one in half.)
I’m not sure how I knew I needed HCI. I was actually doing GAPS (ugh) when I heard about it, and from there I started taking it for heartburn (it worked wonders for my heartburn). I think my low metabolism was probably accompanied by low stomach acid, but I don’t really know. You’ll know if you don’t need it, or if you need less, if you get some mild heartburn after taking it. That had never happened to me when taking them (I was seriously about to take almost any amount and feel nothing in the way of heartburn. I might get gross diarrhea, but no heartburn) until I started raising my metabolism. Now I know I can only take half a pill, and even then sometimes I’ll get a little bit of a burning sensation since I just don’t seem to need it much anymore.
So, the supplements were probably the biggest thing in toning down my reaction, but I also think that learning to really listen to what I was hungry for helped, too. Especially in the beginning, I would find that it was difficult to tell what I was actually hungry for. I had been on such weird diets for so long that it was hard to think of what I *could* eat, and from there, I just didn’t have a really great ability to discern what my body wanted. But I do know that when I ate things that didn’t sound palatable to me, my body didn’t seem to want them and would let me know via my stomach feeling kind of weird and off.
More about my history, umm….
I grew up eating whatever I wanted. My mother dieted, apparently a lot, while I was growing up, but (maybe it was the Asperger’s?) I guess was oblivious, because when my sisters and I were having a conversation a few weeks back, I said something like, “I’m surprised how open Mom is to dieting now, it didn’t seem like she did any of that when we were kids.” And they looked at me like I was crazy and told me she’d been on every fad diet that came into vogue since the beginning of time. And now, she doesn’t have a uterus, gallbladder, or the thyroid they irradiated before removing.
BUT ANYWAY… I don’t remember a ton of unhealthy relationships with food. My friend’s parents were all heavily into dieting and I do remember my friends counting calories, but we were never told that we were fat or anything of that sort (two of my grandparents said it a couple times, but my mother jumped so far down their throats they never brought it up again). I never was rail thin. I remember being a size 12 at 13 (probably 5’5″ at the time?) and a size 12, really, from then until 21 or so when I gained a bunch of weight due to a serious bout of depression and ballooned up to asize 16.
I never felt awesome about my weight, always felt fat and overweight, but never did much to combat it. I ate whatever I wanted, literally whatever I wanted, I just never ate enough unless I was really depressed.
So, I continued like this, eating mostly fast food and whatever was in the day-old bin at the Starbucks I worked for (oops, don’t tell the manager…), cupcakes, pumkpin bread, lots and lots of breve lattes… until my husband and I moved to South Korea in 2009 and it suddenly fell to me to learn to cook.
It’s not easy to teach yourself to cook off the internet without being influenced by other people’s ideas of health, so I fell into the WAPF way of eating. Living *in* a fairly traditional culture at the time, with tons of kimchi everywhere (which I do genuinely looove and miss), it just seemed to make sense.
Then I read about GAPS and planned to do the Intro Diet as soon as we set foot back in America. I lasted four days. Epic fail and I’m so glad it was, can’t imagine what eating a diet consisting only of soup could have done to me at that point. I killed the GAPS diet with a Five Guys double cheeseburger. After GAPS, I cut out sugar. After sugar, I cut out grains completely, deciding to go for a completely grain free diet, ala the Full GAPS Diet. It improved a lot of things for me and it did REALLY clear up my husband’s allergies and my asthma. So, I’ll give it that. But it sucked. We eventually devolved into a low carb gluten free diet, consisting mainly of meat and vegetables since I’d started reading more about Paleo/Primal. Most breakfasts consisted of eggs and bacon. Two foods I never want to touch again with a ten foot pole. I hated eggs then, but ate them since they were supposed to be nature’s wonder food. Since March, I have neither cooked now eaten one. Best thing that ever happened to me. Ugh, eggs.
Anyway, so I was literally subsisting on primarily butter, eggs, bacon and cashews, some coconut milk, steak, and when I wanted to feel really guilty, mandarin oranges or dark chocolate.
Since I started eating for heat, it’s been a sort of slow journey of finding out how to listen to my body. In the beginning, I would regularly leave Whole Foods with a box of cupcakes that would be gone by the evening, pizza, potstickers, chocolate mousse, and full fat milk. After the extreme hunger subsided, I got really nauseous on a regular basis. I would eat, but 1-2 hours later, I’d feel sick. Thankfully, that phase has passed as well, and I’ve started craving a mostly low fat diet. To me, that is completely bizarre, as I’ve never eaten nor even wanted to eat a low fat diet. I’ve always loved deep fat fried…pretty much anything. But now french fries and cheeseburgers (my two top favorite foods before this) just make me feel kind of sick to think about. I definitely eat them when I do want them. I don’t abstain based on any negativity harbored against fat or french fries and cheeseburgers. I just don’t want them most of the time. Instead, I had a fruit and yogurt smoothie and a mozzarella and chicken quesadilla for lunch yesterday.
Although, the cannoli and eclair I ate for breakfast were hardly low fat… I guess I should say I’ve been craving most of my fat from dairy. Don’t know what that’s about.
Oh, my gosh. Talk about writing a book…
All of that to say, I NEVER thought I’d be where I am right now. I didn’t like milk and always craved steaks and cheeseburgers before. Now, I get most of my fat and protein from dairy and don’t generally care much for meat.
It’s such a cool process to go through. I seriously love watching my food preferences change and seeing how my body reacts when I just eat what it wants and give it enough calories.
Blah, blah, blah. In short, I think listening to your body is SO key in the process and that the body performs miracles on itself if you just pay attention. I hope any of that was cohesive/made sense. I don’t have time to read back through it because I have to go to dinner soon, but I am sorry I get so long winded… :DAugust 25, 2013 at 4:13 pm #12061
@catie, Thank you so much for sharing! I wanted to respond immediately after reading your “book,” but had a really busy week getting kids back to school and stuff. I appreciate your transparency and the details you shared.
I’m still struggling with recognizing my own intuition in the midst of the gluten-free craze surrounding us. I, also, feel guilty for even wanting to re-introduce gluten after having preached the evils of gluten for a couple years and leading several people down the road to gluten-free eating. For instance, my husband and I talked about letting our 2 gluten-free children try eating gluten again. I was going to let them eat a small amount at dinner Friday (so that if it bothered them, they had the weekend to feel bad, rather then feel bad during school), but we ended up going out to dinner with my parents. My mom is WAY more gluten-strict than I am today and is currently preaching the gluten-free sermon to anyone that she “diagnoses” with gluten intolerance (I used to do the SAME thing). She would have believed I was abusing my children if she saw me encourage them to take a bite of the rolls at the dinner table! So, I let what I assumed her response would be influence my decision to let them try it, or to try it myself. So…
I really wish Matt or someone here at 180 would write an in-depth article about the truths of gluten. I searched the site and only found one article that wasn’t very in-depth. Or, I wish I could find some reliable reading about re-introducing gluten, overcoming either actual or perceived intolerance, etc. I don’t trust my own judgement when reading about nutrition (especially gluten and wheat) anymore! “Wheat Belly” ruined me. ;-) If any of you have read some good stuff along those lines, please post links!August 25, 2013 at 5:51 pm #12070The Real AmyModerator
I definitely think gluten issues are real. My friend’s mom had issues with high blood pressure and allergies and high cholesterol, and gave up gluten and all of them totally resolved (she is not eating low-carb or anything; she just replaced the wheat with quinoa, rice and fruit, etc.). I can’t believe that’s all in her head. But at the same time, I think it’s important to remember that it’s a minority of the population that has an issue. Just because some people have problems doesn’t mean everyone should avoid it. There are whole populations that thrive on gluten-rich starches. You may fall into the minority that has issues, but it’s probably better to listen to your own biofeedback than read articles on it.
Did you read this post Matt did last year? http://180degreehealth.com/2012/12/the-gluten-free-diet-craze
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