Why the Gluten Free Diet is not working.
I tried the Gluten Free diet and it didn't work. I felt good for a while but then I started to feel bad again. It's too hard to stick to it. I hate feeling like an outcast not being able to eat what everyone else is eating. It's too expensive. My Doctor said I don't have Celiac so why bother?
People will give excuse after excuse after excuse as to why the GF diet is NOT right for them, and the reality is, they are all just that - EXCUSES. I've used them all myself, or at least thought them to myself at one time or another. I started my gluten free journey back in 2007. I admit that it's been a rocky one. I've been on and off the diet many times, noting all of the "reasons" above. I can't believe it's been almost four years since I discovered Celiac disease in my search for answers as to why I've been sick for most of my life. I should be in tip top shape and feeling the best I've ever felt, right? Well, this has been the best year so far, so that's a plus. I'm getting there, slowly but surely.
Friends and family know that I haven't been 100% faithful to the diet over the years. I didn't talk too much about that on this blog because I didn't want to disappoint. Usually that meant I wasn't blogging much during those times because I didn't have anything to write about. I am happy to say that I have really stepped it up. I had to. I was getting sick again. I have officially been off medication for a year now. Wait, let me say that again. I HAVE OFFICIALLY BEEN OFF MEDICATION FOR A YEAR. Yaaaahoooooooooo!!
Early this year I was feeling so good and confident and then I started my new job. Which has a full service cafeteria. And new co-workers that didn't know anything about my issues. I slid down the slippery slope of a small cheat here and a tiny slip there... and then it happened. The rash. I have not had a rash since 2008. This was a major wake up call. My stomach was better than ever but still not perfect. I started to feel the brain fog, the headaches, the MAJOR fatigue. I was so tired that I could barely function and I'd immediately crawl into my PJs after work. The funny part is, I didn't realize how bad it had gotten because it was such a slow progression. Finally I woke up one day and realized that if I didn't stop it right then, I'd wake up someday in a recovery room after having a section of my intestines removed. Or worse.
What prompted this post, the title of this post, and the opening paragraph, is that even when I'm completely ON the diet, I've realized that I'm actually still not 100% clean. So when I get the rash or the headache or the brain fuzz and can't figure out why, I have to really look carefully at what I've been eating. An example of this - the other day I grabbed a fry off of someone else's plate at lunch. I have been eating the fries knowing that they are fried in a shared fryer. This is something I have always done and used the "Well I don't actually have Celiac" excuse. I'm not super sensitive to it so I can eat things that are fried in a shared fryer, right? Right? I never ever gave this a second thought until that one fry that I grabbed the other day. Shortly after eating the fry, another co-worker commented that the fries tasted like egg rolls. That particular day was Chinese Food day in the cafe and they had fried the egg rolls in the same fryers that the fries are cooked in. It was like someone poured a bucket of cold water over my head. HELLO! Wake up call from your intestines!
This little incident made me completely re-think my gluten free strategy. Sure when I'm gluten free I feel soooo much better but I think that I could feel even BETTER if I stopped ignoring those "little things" like crumbs in the toaster and shared fryers and foods that are manufactured on shared equipment. It also made me think twice about all of those people out there that cheat like me and then claim that the diet doesn't work.
You must stick to the diet 100% in order for it to truly work. Even if you don't have outward symptoms, the damage is being done and eventually you WILL feel it. If you are sticking to the diet 100% and feel that it is still not working, perhaps there's another intolerance at work. Many foods are not our friends! You just have to keep at it. Proper diet heals. I promise. I am living, breathing, un-constipated proof. :)
Re: feeling like an outcast, I totally know what you mean. I used to cheat a lot more on my gf diet, but lately I've just gotten so much more sensitive that I can't! I guess that's a good thing...but it is incredibly hard. More power to all of us who are able to do it!
One thing I'd like to add to your message of 100% commitment to Gluten Free: oftentimes there is more than one thing going on!
When the small intestine gets damaged by gluten, its damaged. This makes it ineffective at absorbing nutrients into the body. Also, lactase, the enzyme needed to process lactose, or milk sugar, is in the small intestinal villi. That is why its often more than one food that is triggering our reactions.
I've experimented with this myself and have been adding and subtracting foods to find the right equation for my body. I'd look into cutting dairy and refined sugar. That seems to have worked for me, I think there is still more going on. Still experimenting on myself! :) I'll keep you posted!
Good luck and thank you for your honesty and presence.
I get the rash on my abdomen, and when it gets bad, I get the rash on the outside of my breasts. It makes me so emotional like being pregnant. I don't realize it til after the fact. AND I don't EVER eat anything with gluten in it. I haven't cheated AT ALL. It is only ever by cross contamination. I even have my own toaster. I don't go out to eat anymore expect a grilled chicken garden salad from chic-fil-a and I have found that was even giving me a problem. I HATE it. It is so challenging. I can't eat anything from Frito-Lay at all. I used to want to travel, but I have the hardest time eating and traveling. The only restaurant I have found that I can eat at is Outback, and who can afford that too often?
It is nice to hear someone having the same inner-talk challenges. I get BAD migraines where I actually throw up. I get the rash, extreme emotional response, now I get the irritable bowl part, with such pressure that I throw up at the same time. This is only from getting cross contaminated. That is so bad. Just a CRUMB, can set me off. I so badly want to eat some oatmeal, but I can't even do gluten free oatmeal.
Thanks for blogging your challenge, it feels so good to see others having the same problem.
Gluten free life really is not that bad... well to me at least :) hugs
A note to those who mentioned it - I am also dairy free which may not be obvious from some posts. Dairy is a big problem for me. And sugar too. It's been a long process but I'm definitely figuring it out and happy to be STICKING TO IT from now on!!!
You have nothing to lose, eating healthier will only help, not hurt you. If you would like to talk in more detail, please feel free to email me directly at jen at alifeofsugarandspice dot com.