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On being GLUTEN INTOLERANT
Bread maker flour is higher in gluten then any other flour
Boy was I bloated and confused
I am a senior citizen (65 years old to be exact) and for a good portion of my healthy life I have bragged that my stomach must be lined with lead because, I could eat anything without a digestive problem.
One evening about 7 months ago, I decided to have a bowl of instant oatmeal a couple of hours before going to bed. I consumed two packages because I was hungry and one is never enough for me, or at least it never was. By the time I was getting ready to crawl into bed I noticed my stomach growling and rumbling and I knew it was not from hunger. As I lie in bed the grumbling and churning became worse and worse. I take a sleep aide so eventually I fell asleep and awoke the next morning perfectly fine. Seemingly, so I thought. There was one remaining symptom but I was attributing it "only" to the roughage of the oatmeal. The symptom was, I had to rush to the commode and just barely made it in time. I was experiencing what my doctor calls "fast stools". Very loose and very very fast.
A few months after that incident and not having consumed any oats since, I decided to drag out my bread maker from the attic and make some homemade bread. It was wonderful. I love when It first comes out of the bread maker nice and hot and you put real organic salt free butter on it.
Within a matter of days after making the first loaf of bread I began suffering from horrible and very pronounced bloating. I would take antacids, pepto bismo, milk and even a piece of bread trying to neutralize or absorb the acid. I looked like I was nine months pregnant. As I recall the discomfort initially would start in the late afternoon to early evening and become increasingly worse. Nothing I took helped. I do take a sleep aide which made it possible for me to fall asleep or otherwise I probably would not have been able to due the discomfort I was in. For me lying on my side seemed to provide the most relief but I never was actually comfortable. When I'd awake the next morning I would feel fine. However, the bloating and discomfort kept coming on for several days and the next thing I knew it was well into several weeks now. I began keeping a diary of what I consumed and the time I consumed it each day. I was also being very very careful to not eat acidic foods but the problem continued to return daily. I would review the food diary, research the foods on the internet, find a few that could cause gas and eliminate them from my diet but the pronounced bloating and discomfort continued like clock work. This went on for two months.
Finally, one day I remembered I had bookmarked Mayo Clinic's symptom checker site on my computer and I went to that and keyed in my symptoms. I was beginning to become petrified that I had stomach cancer (seriously). The Mayo Clinic Symptom Check site would bring up several things that could be my problem but every time I would key the symptoms in it would inevitably bring up Celiac Disease at the top of the list meaning, that was the most likely cause. This for some reason I thought was absurd. My stomach had always been one of my toughest body parts. I began researching Celiac Disease and had "great" difficulty believing that could be my problem because essentially what the disease is, is an intolerance to wheat, soy, rye, barley and oats. Foods I loved and had eaten all my life.
Healthy Intestinal Villi
After reading several articles and blogs one evening about Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance I decided to break down and try going gluten free in order to "rule the condition OUT". Much to my surprise I felt 80% better the very first day I ceased eating foods with gluten in them. I think that some of discomfort that I was feeling on the first day was due to the trauma that my intestines had been experiencing from eating the home made bread daily for almost two months straight. When I was experiencing the bloating and gas I would compound the problem by eating a piece of bread thinking that it would absorb the acid and soothe the discomfort. Little did I know at the time that the bread WAS the culprit and that home made bread made from bread maker flour is the highest gluten flour there is.
When researching the disease/intolerance I learned that our stomach linings have these hair like follicles called Villi. If you are gluten intolerant the digestive problems you experience can and will wear those villi down and thus you begin to bloat and hurt. Additionally, those villi are what absorb the nutrients from our food. When they are worn down they are unable to absorb the nutrients well and can cause you to become malnourished. The GOOD NEWS is villi can be repaired. In order to repair them you have to go completely gluten free. You can not ride both sides of the fence and think you'll just cut back or stop eating only certain things. Gluten intolerance means you have developed an intolerance an "allergy" if you will to gluten. Gluten is in soy, wheat, rye, barley and oats. I hated giving up soy sauce on my infamous fried rice and thought that I'd be one of the rare ones that would be able to tolerate it. After all, I'd been eating it all of my life with no problem. Not today. If I consume the slightest bit of soy sauce or soy product my ankles and feet swell up very big and it takes two days for the swelling to go completely away. It is not an attractive sight.
Once you have determined or been diagnosed you are gluten intolerant you have to develop a whole new way of eating.
I have ceased shopping in regular grocery stores although, they have been putting more emphasis on gluten free products. I shop at whole food stores, farmer markets, and the bulk of my food is purchased at Trader Joe's. I find a large variety of gluten free foods there and they are marked so they are easily found. I have replaced wheat flour with rice flour that I have found that I like much better. I have ceased eating any processed foods unless I purchase it at Trader Joe's a name I personally trust and there are only a few recognizable ingredients on the labels. When I first switched to Trader Joe's in order to locate gluten free foods I couldn't help but notice that organic whole foods there had come down to a very affordable price. Thus, I began doing all my shopping there and within a week or so of going gluten free I also went totally whole food and organic.
WHOLE FOODS - what Dad grew in the backyard
Gluten Free Requires A Lifestyle Change and Commitment
Going gluten free requires you to understand and take seriously the dangers of remaining on gluten once you developed a gluten intolerance. Like I mentioned above, it damages and can completely destroy your intestinal villi. Villi are necessary follicles attached to your intestinal lining that cause you to absorb the vital nutrients in your diet. If they are wore down or worn out it can result in you becoming malnourished and not even know it until it is too late. You must make a lifestyle change when it comes to your diet so the villi will repair and remain that way. You cannot approach Celiac Disease or Gluten Intolerance thinking I'll repair the villi through appropriate diet and then resume to my "old" way when they are restored. In short that type of action and thinking would be insanity. I have eliminated gluten from my diet and did it easily because I recognized through quick research what the problem was and took seriously what I had to do in order to regain my health and keep it. I have not only regained it but I have improved certain things that I am positive is a result of ridding my diet of gluten. I lost weight for one thing but the oddest thing I noticed very quickly after getting it out of my diet was my sense of smell had returned. I had lost my sense of smell decades ago. That tells me that the intolerance had been with me for quite sometime but it just took years for it to finally wear my intestinal tract down.
A disease suffered by young and old
Make no mistake about it, Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance is not a disease of the elderly or senior citizens. There are many many children and young adults that suffer with it. Many people are going undiagnosed. If after reading this blog you think you may be gluten intolerant give it up for a week and your body will let you know. Our bodies are marvelous at letting us know when something is wrong and something is right. I believe that my intestinal tract was pretty strong and that it took until I reached my senior years for the effects of Celiac Disease to become evident. I feel much better and active, run 5Ks, workout at the gym and take my health very very seriously. I will doing a blog on eating organic soon so please check back in a few weeks to read that. I really hate the word organic it makes the food sound as if it were gourmet when in actuality all it is, is what my good ole dad grew in our backyard and we canned and froze to feed a family of six people. Just Food!
Get On A Good Probiotic
Another very beneficial thing I did to help restore my intestinal tract and aide it; I got myself immediately on a good probiotic. Probiotics are the good bacteria in your intestinal tract to help it remain or regain it's healthy state and aides in digestion.
There are several ways you can get probiotics into your system for instance, pickles, pickled beets, pepperoni, yogurt and other foods that you can search out on the internet.
I personally like taking it in tablet form because that helps to ensure that I am getting the correct daily dosage and do not have to rely on my intuition or own judgement.
You can purchase probiotics at most drug stores, Walmart, Target, many super markets. However, if you purchase a probiotic in those locations be sure to read the ingredients on the label to make sure they do not contain gluten (wheat, oats, barley, rye or soy). I purchase mine at Whole Foods and am very pleased with their performance in my system. Whole Foods carries several different brands to select from.
Once I ran out of my probiotics and was unable to go purchase more because my schedule did not allow me to get to Whole Foods for almost a week. I was able to tell I was off of them. I had very very faint feelings of discomfort that would come and go. Once back on the probiotic they ceased immediately. This also tells me that the villi in my intestinal tract is not entirely healed or restore quite yet. It has been 4 months since I've been on a probiotic and gone gluten free. I've read that it varies from person to person how long it takes for their villi to heal depending on their age, the amount of damage to the villi, and how they go about treating the damage. I believe I must be making great progress since I only feel very very faint discomfort. I believe that by the end of one year I my villi will be completely healed and restored. Naturally, I will be gluten free the rest of my life. Please get on a probiotic even if you aren't gluten intolerant.