Tuesday, March 19, 2013

1 Year Gluten Free

It's been almost a year since I tried a gluten free diet based on doctor recommendation to address some eczema issues I was struggling with. I'd been to a dermatologist to have the flaking, itching, bubbled up and fissured skin analyzed and diagnosed as eczema. They sent me home with the appropriate creams and expensive lotions... yet the flare ups continued. There is almost nothing worse than waking in the middle of the night with an itchy hand! And the fissures were irritatingly painful.

A friend of mine recommended her natural-path doctor and I set up an appointment. The doctor recommended that I just try 21 days gluten free, add a little gluten back in for a weekend and then go off the gluten to see what happens. I was extremely skeptical, thinking there was no way bread was responsible for my eczema... yet I proceeded with her recommendation.

So, after returning from a bread laden FABULOUS cruise, I started the 21 day fast from all things gluten. Avoiding gluten wasn't as hard as I thought but there were cravings. The 21 day fast ended on Easter weekend and I gorged myself on all my favorites! No moderation despite the doctor's recommendation: cinnamon rolls, sweet breads and the likes were on the menu! After splurging on Saturday, I woke up Easter Sunday a crazy puffed-up mess. Barely able to get my wedding ring on over sausage fingers and swollen joints! The scale was also unkind as I was up 5 lbs over night. The picture in the blue dress shows my cute chipmunkie self on Easter Sunday after gorging on bready goodness. The picture in the pink shirt shows my not so puffy self.

The Monday after Easter, I happily removed gluten from my diet. A few days later in the week, the gluten showed up as eczema in my hands. It took me another few weeks to realize that the gluten-free oatmeal I was eating prior to my longer runs was also causing eczema breakouts and most importantly: migraines & 'the stupids'. (What are 'the stupids'? Fuzzy headed thinking - I would find myself sitting at work and completely unable to focus on my job or follow through on simple tasks). 

Worse, a few weeks after Easter (and probably because of the strain of going off gluten, on gluten and off gluten again) I ended up with a case of shingles!! At 38? I'm too young for shingles! Regardless, the miracles of modern medicine eased the horrible pain and I recovered at what felt like a snail's pace but was actually fairly quickly. 

Since then I am converted and continue to be gluten free... except for the occasional bite of brownie or cookie. However, in many cases, I end up paying for those cheats in my hands with eczema flare ups. But since I've been gluten free, I've noticed so many more positive changes!

  1. Eczema clears up
  2. No recurrences of 'the stupids'
  3. No migraines
  4. Less joint pain and swelling (Before being gluten free, a 7 mile run would result in inflamed swollen knees. After gluten free: no swelling!)
  5. Probably TMI: but someone may benefit from me sharing this. I have better bladder control: less leaky sneezes and better control when running!  (I still hate jump rope and trampolines though!)
  6. Another one for TMI but decreased recurrences of yeast infections. 
Because I train for triathlons and longer running races, I use potatoes, sweet potatoes, brown rice and quinoa as my staples for complex carbs. Thankfully my staple GU is gluten free and I will sometimes make my own 'power bars' for racing. And so: my gluten free journey continues