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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!


What’s for gluten-free breakfast?

Posted on July 21st, 2011 by Alison | Posted in Celiac Disease, Food Ideas, Gluten Intolerance, Products | ADD A COMMENT »

Did you know that breakfast cereal was invented only a little over 100 years ago? What was intended as a health food has become, for most Americans, a meal of sugary processed grains devoid of real nutrition. Bright unnatural colors, marshmallow or chocolate bits and prizes are Happy Breakfastwhat define our boxed cereals of today. Even choosing healthy, natural cereals can mean a lot of gluten, as most cereals are made from wheat, and if you are one of the 7% of Americans who have celiac disease or are gluten intolerant (some doctors suspect the number is closer to 30%!), this big dose of gluten at the beginning of the day can really affect the rest of your day.

So, what are your breakfast options if you need to be on a gluten-free diet? Don’t worry – there are many! Head over to Attune Foods, the makers of Erewhon cereal, to read my list of gluten-free breakfast ideas, and add your own in the comments!


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 | ADD A COMMENT »

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.


How I react to gluten… what happens to you?

Posted on May 29th, 2011 by Alison | Posted in Celiac Disease, Gluten Intolerance, Symptoms | Read 351 Comments - Add Your Own »

Wonder what happens when a girl with celiac disease eats gluten? Read on!

There was actually a time that I wanted to eat gluten just to see what would happen to me. I had been gluten-free for many years, and I didn’t know how my body would react. I also thought it would make for a good blog post! Well, here it is, but not intentionally. I have been “glutened” three times in the past year. I’m not talking about a tiny bit of cross-contamination — I accidentally ate gluten. And paid for it.

First there was the muffin incident, and although there was no obvious gluten, there is no doubt in my mind that there was a significant amount of it in that muffin.

One bite of glutenMonths later came a lunch out with colleagues to an Italian restaurant. One of my colleagues ordered the “gluten-free pasta” that turned out to be not gluten-free. Oops. I found out after I had eaten one bite of her pasta. Just one bite.

And the last time was a few weeks ago, when I ate gluten at lunch. The owner of the restaurant believed something to be gluten-free, but it turned out to be an appetizer made of semolina (which is wheat). This time I ate with my colleague and nutritionist Sheila Wagner, who is gluten-intolerant, so it was interesting to note the differences in our reactions.

In all three instances I reacted almost the same way:

  • Anywhere from one to four hours after ingesting the gluten, I began to feel nauseous and my stomach started hurting.
  • The nausea got gradually worse until I ended up vomiting and having diarrhea.
  • After that I was practically comatose. I could barely walk and had an uncontrollable need to lay down and either zone out (I caught myself staring out the window and I had no idea how long I had been doing it), or go to sleep as though I have been drinking alcohol and need to pass out for a while until I sober up.
  • I fluctuated between feeling hot and clammy to feeling chilled and shivering. This combined with achy muscles made me feel as though I had the flu.
  • After sleeping, I came to and felt sober again, although one of the times I remained spacy for hours after, and even a little bit the next day.

Sheila reacted in a totally different way when we ate the same meal:

  • She had a headache by the time we left the restaurant and began to feel bloating that she has not felt in a decade.
  • She awoke at 3:30 am that night with a “blaring” headache, stomach ache, a little nausea and an elevated heart rate (like she drank a bottle of booze).
  • She couldn’t go back to sleep and the headache got much worse. Her brain felt very slow, her bowels were also slow, and she had a low back ache and left neck pain.
  • She also had phlegm in her throat and sinuses.
  • She continued to have soft tissue and joint pain the entire next day and her headache persisted for about 24 hours.

All this from gluten!

In a way I feel lucky that my body gets rid of the gluten right away, so my symptoms don’t persist into the next day like Sheila’s did. I have heard from some of you who feel it for days, even weeks. If you’ve been gluten-free for a while, it would be interesting to hear what happens to you if you accidentally (or on purpose!) eat gluten.

How do you react to gluten?







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