Thursday, August 26, 2010

Going Gluten Free

In June of this year, I started back to Weight Watchers in a life long effort to get thin.  Technically, it has only been half my life.  I realized this year that Kate was turning thirty and next year I would turn 60.  I got fat when I got pregnant with Kate and except for a few brief moments I have been grossly overweight ever since.  Half my life.  I decided that was long enough. 

At the same time, I decided that I would give up wheat and gluten.  It has not been as difficult as I imagined.  At first I simply got rid of the obvious stuff, breads, donuts, cakes, cookies, etc.  But the problem with gluten is that it is in everything.  At least in an awful lot of processed foods.  So now I am being very careful.  OK, yesterday I had a breakfast meeting and they served muffins, a breakfast burrito and a little bit of fruit.  I ate the fruit.  Dumped the muffin and unrolled the burrito.  I'm sure my eggs were contaminated but I was hungry.

So why am I going wheat and gluten free you ask.  Well for one thing it knocks out a lot of tempting foods right off the bat, making it easier to stay on my weight watcher's plan.  I can still eat a chocolate chip cookie, but I have to plan for it.  I can't just eat it because it is there.  And yes there are some pretty tasty gluten free cookies out there.  Giving up gluten also makes me stick to more basic foods that are naturally gluten free such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and meats and nuts.  They are making more and more gluten free packaged foods but I'm trying to stay away from those. 

The main reason I'm giving up wheat and gluten, however, is for health reasons.  Ever since getting pregnant the first time, I have had difficulty with swelling in my feet and legs.  My lymphatic system just doesn't work well.  A Naprapath once suggested I might have an allergy to wheat.  Every time I've eliminated it from my diet my swelling gets better.  There is also some evidence that wheat can cause inflammation and lead to autoimmune diseases. 

Celiac's disease is an intolerance to gluten.  Although the main symptoms are gastrointestinal it can manifest itself in lots of different ways.  I never had the test done to see if I have the disease.  I never had the typical symptoms.  I did have awful acid reflux which I could never quite attribute to anything specific.  I had finally decided it was caused by a high fat diet and simply overeating.  Now I am wondering if it was gluten or  wheat.  (By the way gluten is also found in rye and barley.  Some people have difficulty with oats but that may be due to cross contamination with wheat.)  My acid reflux  has completely disappeared and I am still eating fat, though not nearly as much and occasionally I over eat.  I had a touch acid reflux the other morning after the breakfast burrito incident.  Hum?

So otherwise how do I feel now that I've given up wheat and gluten in various amounts for 3 months?  Well, I use to have terrible feet pain brought on by standing too long or walking long distances.  It was the top of my feet not the bottom.  Lying in bed I would feel them get tighter and tighter and then the pain would start.  Some mornings trying to get out of bed was an adventure.  Some days walking to the train was torture.   My feet still have some swelling and stiffness but the pain is almost completely gone.  Because I believe the pain is due to arthritis and because arthritis has a habit of waxing and waning I am not 100% convinced it is the diet.  I'm going to wait and see.  But the other morning I was running for a train having to go down a flight of steps and then up another and I almost flew down the steps.  That hasn't happened in a long time.  My knees seem to be getting better as well.  Oh and you know how sometimes when something goes away you kind of forget you ever had it.  Neck and upper back pain gone.  Stay tuned to see if it is just all in my head or if there really is something to giving up gluten.

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