It’s not all in your head. It could be gluten.

Posted on August 3rd, 2011 by Alison | Posted in Emotions, Gluten Intolerance, Symptoms | Read 12 Comments - Add Your Own »

“It’s all in your head” is the response more than one patient has received from a doctor after hearing about the patient’s health problems. I have heard this story from people who write to me looking for answers, and the fact that a doctor could be so dismissive of one’s health braincomplaints is frustrating and upsetting. Those that write me an email like the one I am sharing below have already taken the steps to find out what is wrong, and have discovered that by cutting out gluten, many if not all of their symptoms have resolved. I wonder how many others end up believing that it is in their heads, that there is no cure for their ailments, no hope to feel better. Gluten can indeed affect the head — with anxiety, depression, migraines, seizures, ADD and OCD, and even schizophrenia, but I doubt that’s what those doctors meant.

Here is an email I received recently:

“I’m sure you’re extremely busy, so I understand if you cannot respond to this email immediately, but I am desperate and would love your advice. I’m 27 years old.  I endured some abuse about a year into my marriage. I’ve been divorced about a year and a half, so my life is in a calm, peaceful place now. My body, on the other hand, has been rebelling.

I was suffering night sweats, joint pain, belly bloat, terrible gas, and recurrent mouth sores that absolutely cover my mouth making it impossible to eat. I went on a gluten free diet about 8 months ago, and I found relief from almost all of those symptoms. If I go back on wheat, the symptoms return. My doctor tested me for celiac disease and the results came back negative. I had been on a gluten-free diet for quite some time I thought it was possible that could’ve affected the outcome of the blood test, but my doctor refuses to look into the matter any further. She blames my problems on anxiety and post-traumatic stress. I agree that stress is a factor, but is it possible stress sparked the digestive issues? I’ve had problems with IBS, specifically constipation, since the day I was born, and have also been lactose intolerant all my life. So digestive complications are nothing new.

She acts like it’s all in my mind, which makes me feel so defeated. I don’t know where to go from here, but as someone with so much knowledge on the subject, I would value your advice more that I can tell you.”

In my answer to her, I told her that it is not in her mind, but rather her stomach! I also told her that her doctor sounds dismissive and ignorant and that she on the the other hand, sounds like she knows exactly what is going on. If she feels better off the gluten, that is her proof.

Celiac disease and gluten intolerance can indeed be triggered by stress, although it sounds like she already had symptoms long before. The stress could have turned it up a notch, or due to her radical lifestyle change she may have altered her diet to have more gluten in it, thereby making her symptoms worse.

“Where do I go from here?” she asked at the end of the email. Where do you go from here? You stay gluten-free if you feel better, you tell people you have a gluten intolerance or sensitivity or gluten allergy or whatever you want to call it, and you say it with confidence! It really doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about it — do what is right for you.

I wish this reader well, and I hope that her email touches someone else out there struggling with the same obstacles. If anyone else has advice for those that are wondering if it’s all in their heads, please add your comments!


The emotions of dining out gluten-free

Posted on June 15th, 2011 by Alison | Posted in Dining Out, Emotions, Restaurants/Stores | Read 23 Comments - Add Your Own »

Dining out on a gluten-free diet can be challenging because gluten is present in a lot of foods, but something that doesn’t often get addressed with the topic of dining out is what is happening before the gluten-free diner even walks into a restaurant. I’m talking about EMOTIONS.

eat1Our emotions are something that set us, the gluten-free diners, apart from other diners. While other customers are thinking about their dates, or admiring the art on the walls, or taking in the smell of fresh bread as they walk in the door, I’m hoping there’s something at the restaurant I can eat. I’m wondering whether or not this restaurant is going to understand what gluten-free means. If I’m with a group, I’m dreading having to once again explain that I can’t share dishes with everyone.

Gluten-free diners come in to the restaurant with a variety of emotions:

  • Anxiety – Will there be something I can eat?,
  • Nervousness and Fear – Will I get sick (again)?
  • Embarrassment – Will my friends think I’m a pain? Will they say sorry to me every time they eat a bite of something I can’t have?
  • Sadness or Anger or Resentment, depending on when they were diagnosed or how well they are dealing with their new diet — Why can’t I enjoy the freedom that everyone else can? Why can’t the restaurant make this easier for me? Why me?
  • And let’s not forget Hunger! The hungry gluten-free diner may have to wait even longer if everyone at the table is eating bread. There have been times when I am so hungry that by the time my dinner comes, I eat everything on my plate — and people look at me at the end of the meal as though I’ve eaten so much! They’ve forgotten that they’ve eaten a half a loaf of bread before the meal even started.

All these emotions just to go out to eat! While most people find it easier to go out to eat than cook at home, the gluten-free diner often chooses to stay at home because it is easier than dining out.

Our love of good food and dining and socializing can triumph, however, and when we do find restaurants we trust, restaurants that have a gluten-free menu, and restaurants that understand our needs, we can begin to let go of the anxiety and those other negative emotions, and truly enjoy our food and our entire dining experience. This is what we want restaurants to understand about us: If they can make us feel comfortable and can earn our trust, we will be there and we will be loyal, and we will bring our family and friends too, and we will spread the word.

What emotions do you have when dining out gluten-free?


The Body and Its Wisdom – Don’t Accept What’s “Normal”

Posted on June 9th, 2011 by Alison | Posted in Asthma, Emotions, Gluten Intolerance, Healthy Living | Comments Off on The Body and Its Wisdom – Don’t Accept What’s “Normal”

Our own physical body possesses a wisdom which we who inhabit the body lack.  We give it orders which make no sense. ~Henry Miller

attunefoodsbrandam_buttonWhen did we become a society of people who think it’s normal to have discomfort and pain? We take medications for everything, without questioning whether we are really solving the problem or simply masking the symptoms. It seems like the more that people are affected by daily health issues, the less likely we are as a society to figure out what’s really wrong.

For most of my 20s, I suffered from stomach problems. One night in Boston, after I enjoyed some clam chowder, I wound up in a stall of the restaurant’s bathroom clutching my stomach. My friend suggested that I was lactose intolerant. I had not heard that term before. I wasn’t a picky eater – in fact, I enjoyed just about any kind of food, and I had never done any dieting of any kind. This was the first time I considered that there might be something I could not eat. Lactose intolerance made sense because it was fairly common as I was to learn. After all, they sold Lactaid (lactose-free mik) in the stores. My friend was wrong about the lactose intolerance diagnosis, but I believed it for 10 years. My body continued to tell me that something was wrong, but I didn’t listen – lactose intolerance seemed normal so I stuck with that idea, avoiding a lot of dairy and taking Lactaid pills.

To read more about not accepting what’s considered normal, go to my post at Attune Foods.


What gluten-free means to me … a poem

Posted on May 12th, 2011 by Alison | Posted in Celiac Disease, Emotions | Comments Off on What gluten-free means to me … a poem

May is National Celiac Awareness Month, and this month’s Attune Foods theme is “What does gluten-free mean to me?”

For four years I have written articles about celiac disease and gluten sensitivity on this blog. I have told my story and I have shared my emotions. And somehow I still have something to say!

Inspired by my 1st grader’s homework assignment, I thought I’d take a different approach by writing an acrostic poem (yeah, new word for me too!) about what being gluten-free means to me:

To me, Gluten-Free means…

Getting my life back after years of fatigue, anemia, stomach aches, asthma and more

To read the rest of the poem for the letters L, U, T, E, N, F, R, E, E, visit Attune Foods and tell me what being gluten-free means to you!