Welcome to Thoughty Thursday! This is the day of the week that y’all get to be privy to whatever thoughts are kicking around in my brain.
This week, I’m thinking about food and how it affects us.
I know we hear our nutritionist pal, August McLaughlin, talk about the importance of a good diet but I’d never experienced any big red dietary flags of my own (that I was aware of) until this year.
I keep a garden and eat mostly organic. I limit my sugar…blah-blah-blah. I’ve had migraines my entire life so my head has mostly kept my diet in line.
Even when I was pregnant, I felt fantastic. I lost a bunch of body fat in the process – seriously, my hubby gained more weight than I did.
Then I had my daughter. And I started gaining weight.
Then gaining some more.
After almost 40 unstoppable pounds, I was starting to lose any confidence in turning this around. It just seemed that I’d completely lost control of my body.
After my baby was born:
- The wicked anxiety came. Well beyond post-partum depression, though I had that too.
- I started catching colds more easily, and they hung on for longer.
- My left shoulder froze up – I simply could not raise my arm
- My thyroid functionality lowered.
- My cholesterol climbed. Fast.
I woke up every day feeling poorly. And old. And creaky.
I thought, “this is what happens when you have a baby at 41 years-old.” I should just accept it. Aren’t ALL new moms exhausted?
Frankly, I was too tired to delve into the issue.
Prescriptions started to creep into my life. And too much coffee, since I was freaking exhausted all the time. For the first time in my life, I started eating more sweets – what did it matter? I’d already thrown in the towel.
My big game-changing moment came last February during a phone conversation with Kristen Lamb. I was crying on her shoulder about the scale jumping 5 pounds after a Sunday when I drank a beer. Not three…ONE.
Kristen was the one who asked me the question that turned out to be the missing puzzle piece to my health: Have you ever thought you might be gluten intolerant?
I’ve gotta confess, I didn’t even know what that meant. But after speaking with her that night, and reading the list of symptoms (I had 10 out of 15), I gave up gluten cold turkey for Lent. My withdrawals were wicked, and lasted for about 8 days.
Holy cowbell, that pesky gluten is in everything.
Gluten makes you eat more, so I understand why the fast food industry mostly bathes in it. But the #2 ingredient in soy sauce??? Really, food people? Why the hell do you need to put a wheat protein in freaking soy sauce?
Note: Now I just take my own GF (tamarind) soy sauce to sushi restaurants. Easy peasy.
Fast forward to Easter…
I’d given up gluten and I wasn’t so puffy all of a sudden. I didn’t experience the massive weight-loss everyone talks about (dammit) but the number on the scale began going down. It fascinates me that the rate of loss has been about the same as the rate of gain – about half a pound to a pound a week.
Suddenly I had more energy, and I stopped getting heartburn all the time.
That crazy “Honey, are you having a gun fight in there?” gas after meals was GONE.
I stopped taking the half-dose of Prozac for the psychotic anxiety.
Fast forward to today…
Almost 6 months after cutting gluten out of my diet, I’m off all medication except vitamins.
All of them.
- No Glucosamine and ibuprofen for arthritis-like aches and pains
- NO thyroid medication
- No daily Pepcid AC
- No Beano with every meal (it has gluten in it by the way)
- No Vitamin D supplements
- No mid-month Prozac
- My cholesterol has dropped 50 points
Plus, I have full range of motion in both my arms. I haven’t even started exercising yet! And I still eat pretty much the same – I just substituted the gluten items for non-gluten.
Apparently, now that my intestinal tract isn’t inflamed, I’m absorbing my food better and my hormones and metabolism are getting back to normal. (To be fair, I’ve done some accupuncture for all this too.)
And I still haven’t told you the best part! I know, I know. What could possibly be more amazing than all that?
You remember I told y’all I’ve gotten migraines since I was 5 years old? One guess as to what my biggest migraine trigger is…
Um, yeah. That would be GLUTEN.
You could’ve knocked me over with a feather when we realized it this last month. In fact, I pooh-poohed Hubby when he put forth the idea. (I believe my exact words were, “You’re on crack!”)
So we started experimenting and, son-of-a-blindfolded-crackerjack, Hubby was right!!
I’ve even engaged in behavior that (in the past) would guarantee a wicked headache:
- Drinking red wine without taking Claritin
- Drinking alcohol of any type and eating chocolate.
- Mixing types of alcohol (are you noticing a trend??)
- Going a bit long without food
- Eating sugar before a meal.
- Not eating protein at lunch.
- Eating aged cheese.
- Having erratic sleep patterns.
It didn’t all make me feel fantastic, but none of it gave me the usual migraine. However, if I ingest even a smidge of gluten, the pain comes roaring in like a steel-toed step dancer on the back of my skull. (Apparently the occipital ridge is an “inflammation area” for the human body…who knew?)
The simple answer is no gluten for me. Ever, ever again.
Note: If you plan to eat out, you need to be ready for the “secret gluten” people give you because they don’t know any better. I always know when they’ve done it because I get the migraine.
I cannot describe to you the shout-from-the-rooftops joy of discovering the secret to my migraines. It’s right up there with “we’re having a baby” or “I sold my book.” Truly.
To be at the mercy of migraines for 38 years and then get a reprieve? It’s incandescent.
Do I recommend you run a test for food allergies if you suffer from vicious headaches or feel poorly over a long time period? Yes, yes, YES!!
August could probably tell you more about this, but here’s what worked for my pals (who have found they have intolerance to things like soy, dairy or chickpeas):
- Scale down to a pure “cave man”/hunter-gatherer diet for a month.
- Keep a food diary.
- Introduce ONE new food at a time back into your diet.
- Start with the big ones like dairy or soy.
- If you react, take it back out and add it to the no-no list to re-test later.
This link is hugely helpful: http://www.drcranton.com/elimination_diet.htm
Most of all, I’m shaking my head that I accepted feeling poorly for more than a year when there were steps I could have taken to feel better. I forgot that we’re each in charge of our own health. You can bet I won’t forget again.
The joy of my new able-to-control-headache existence is too amazing to give up.
What about you? Do you have any food issues or allergies? How have you treated them? Are there any links or resources you’d like to share? Enquiring minds LOVE to know these things here at More Cowbell!