I believe that food has the power to heal our bodies, just as I believe it has the power to harm our bodies. It's something I've been interested in for the past few years, and it's something I've even considered pursuing as a career at some point.
I don't think we can deny any longer the fact that so many of the health epidemics we face as a nation could be avoided with better nutrition. Obesity comes to mind first and foremost, simply for the diabetes, heart-disease and cancer it brings with it. I think it goes even further, though. A doctor I saw a few years ago told me that she was fairly certain that over half of her patients on depression medication could be cured with dietary changes and 15 minutes of exercise a day. The physician I saw until this past year tried to put me on a reflux medication that would have cost me over $100 a month and has serious side effects, never suggesting that all of my symptoms could and would disappear when I started eating smaller, whole foods based meals. I even decided I liked Dr. Oz a little more after reading an article about him in the AARP magazine with this quote:
"But it became progressively more frustrating to take people into the operating room when I knew they had created their own problems," Oz recalls. "If they'd known what to do differently, even a year or two earlier, they wouldn't have needed the operation."
While I certainly believe Dr. Oz is referring to more than just diet, I think he'd agree with me that it is a huge part of the problems he's talking about.
And I truly believe that my fibromyalgia symptoms can be exacerbated predominantly by two things: food and stress. Dealing with stress in a healthy manner is something that I'm going to be working on for a long time, but I've known for the last year that refined sugar and flour can't be part of my diet if I want to live with minimal symptoms and pain. I've also known that when I slip and eat that slice of bread, bowl of pasta or pile of cookies, my symptoms – all of the pain, swelling, fogginess, random fevers, abdominal pain, lack of energy, numbness, tingling - they all get worse. And continue to get worse as I continue to eat those foods.
After the pain of last week, I had to take an honest look at what I was eating (already well aware that the stress of the first week of school and new schedules was a contributing factor). I was eating a lot of breads and pastas and even though they were whole grain, I was still feeling horrible and getting worse each day. It was definitely more bread and pastas than I've been eating for the last nine months which I knew was a problem, but I just had this sense that there was more to it.
Last Monday, I finally made the decision to cut gluten out of my diet.
Gluten sensitivity been on my radar for at least the last two years, and it's been something I've considered for nearly as long. What has been my reluctance to even try it? Honestly, it just seems so darn trendy! I know – silly, but I tend to rebel against diseases that everyone has or diets that everyone tries. I have no idea why…must be some latent teenage rebellion I never fully got out of my system.
But Monday, I woke up with gluten on my mind and I did some more research, specifically looking at fibromyalgia and gluten senstivity. I was shocked to find so many symptoms in common. Not only that, I found so many blogs of women who had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia but have found either relief or healing in eating a gluten-free diet that I couldn't even count them all or keep track of them. So many, in fact, that I became rather annoyed that none of the doctors I have seen over the last year and a half have ever suggested I try removing gluten from my diet, much less have me tested for gluten sensitivity or Celiac in the myriad blood tests I've had done.
My decision was made, and since last Monday I've been completely gluten-free.
Monday and Tuesday, I was still tired but was at least able to do a short workout. I still fell asleep early and felt like I was in a coma by the time 7 pm rolled around.
Wednesday, I had energy. Not a lot, but enough to get me through a very busy day and keep me off the couch. The pain and tingling in my legs and feet were noticably less, but I was afraid to get my hopes up.
Thursday, I woke up and bounded out of bed. My feet didn't have that pins and needles feeling or the pain I wake up with every day. My head felt clear. I had energy and focus.
By Friday, nearly all of the pain was gone…and not just from the previous week's flare-up. Normally, I can tell if I've taken my fibromyalgia medication because certain pains near my knees and elbows come back daily. I forgot to take my morning pill and didn't realize it until bedtime. That pain never showed up! I had to count my pills to make sure, but I confirmed I had never taken the morning one.
I know it's not an overnight process to remove all of the gluten from my system, but with the results I've seen in just a few days I'm more than happy to continue. I will ask my doctor to be tested for gluten sensitivity at my next appointment but if I continue to feel better without it, I'm not sure how much a diagnosis either way would actually change things.
This is all anecdotal evidence, both my own and what I based my decision on. It's been difficult to find many, if any, real scientific studies on gluten intolerance and fibromyalgia. I find that surprising.
Right now, I feel like I'm in this insane learning phase. Trying to discover what I can eat and what I can't. Reading everything I can get my hands on. Realizing that a lot of what I eat is naturally gluten-free. Understanding that this is going to cause me to put the cooking and planning skills I've developed over the last few years to very good use. Knowing that my choices to live a more intentional life and eat a more whole foods based diet are decisions that will serve me well, now more than ever.
There are a lot of people that have been living gluten-free much longer than I have and have it figured out quite a bit more. I'm going to start a list of blogs in the sidebar with some of my favorites.
Is it going to be difficult to live gluten-free? Undoubtedly. It's a whole new level of conscious living and eating. Rather than focus on that question, I'm asking myself the following one:
Will it be worth the difficulties to live gluten-free?
If I continue to feel as well as I do today, and if I even begin to feel better than this – undoubtedly. I don't ever want to go back to the way I felt last week. I couldn't function as a wife, as a mother, as a homemaker. I don't want to simply survive this life…I want to live it with vitality. If learning how to cook, eat and live gluten-free can give me that opportunity, how could it not be worth it?