Wednesday, April 11, 2012

More on Gluten

Photo Source
Last week, I wrote a bit about celiac disease and thought this would be a good opportunity to share my own positive experience after going on a gluten free diet.  I was having lots of stomach problems – ones that were making things very difficult to leave the house, to put it politely.  Taking imodium became an almost daily necessity and I was spending why too much time in the bathroom (I promise no more details).  Around the same time, my joint pain had grown much more severe.  I needed help just crossing the street because my knees were so stiff, painful, and resistant to bending.  I was puzzled because my joint symptoms varied, and not with the time of day, the weather, or other external factors.

Working with my physician, I began to track if my symptoms were correlated to what foods I was eating.  I noticed that stomach symptoms were much worse after I ate pasta, pancakes, or bread.  My doctor ordered the antibody blood tests for celiac disease and the results were negative. While the next step usually would be to have an intestinal biopsy, my autoimmune condition and other health issues made it such that I was not a good candidate for additional invasive testing at that time. Instead my doctor suggested that we try to eliminate gluten for my diet and see if there would be any improvements.

Bingo!  Over the last five months there have been major changes!  While it did not happen literally overnight, within a few weeks my stomach had calmed and I was no longer often moving as fast as I could to the bathroom every time I ate.  My joints are now much more flexible again and I can move and bend without much pain and discomfort. I have even ridden a bicycle for the first time in years--albeit only once and briefly.  It's been a remarkable change for me that has made an enormous difference in my daily life. It has been well worth giving up some of my favorite foods. 

I am fortunate to live in a large city where gluten-free has become common if not quite pervasive.  I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of gluten free products available, though it did take some taste testing to find options I really enjoyed.  While my physician can't be sure whether I have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, the treatment is the same--elimination of gluten from my diet.

Does anyone else with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease have favorite foods which have been helpful replacements?  I found the gluten free breads and bagels better than I expected.

I have provided a brief description of the types of possible reactions to gluten below. The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness has a very comprehensive website with detailed information about celiac disease and gluten sensitivity.

Possible Reactions to Gluten  

  • Celiac Disease – A digestive disorder where an individual’s immune system responds to gluten (a protein found in rye, barley, and wheat) by damaging and destroying part of the small intestine, called the villi. Diagnosis is often made based upon positive antibody tests or a biopsy of the intestine. Symptoms of celiac disease can be wide ranging and varied from stomach pain, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, anemia, osteoporosis, and neuropathy.
    • Gluten Sensitivity— Although symptoms of gluten sensitivity and celiac disease are often similar, individuals with gluten sensitivity do not produce the antibodies that cause damage and inflammation to the intestine. Specific tests for gluten sensitivity do not currently exist and the determination is often made by using a gluten elimination diet in conjunction with your physician to see if symptoms improve. Recent studies have indicated that gluten sensitivity is caused by activation of an innate immune response.
    • Gluten Allergy – This is what many of us think of when allergies come to mind, a histamine reaction that can cause symptom such as hives, asthma, and anaphylaxis.

     




    6 comments:

    1. Hi, I too follow a gluten free diet even if I'm not positive to Celiac disease. It helps me a lot on joint pain and stomach issues.
      I hate gluten free bread, or maybe I have not find the good brand yet, but I keep trying lot of product. I like the brand "scharr", it's german. And my Brother send me a special flour for pancake from the US that is delicious !

      ReplyDelete
    2. Hi there, It definitely sounds like we had a similar experience stopping gluten. I really like the Scharr short bread cookies, but haven't been able to find their bread. In terms of bread, I have been eating Udi's -- not sure if they have it in France. I find it tastes better toasted. What is the pancake flour/mix that your brother found in the US? I would like to give it a try.

      ReplyDelete
    3. Love this post. I do not have Celiac but I decided to cut out gluten (along with dairy, soda, fast food, a lot of refined sugar, and some processed foods) after reading about other Sjogren's patients having success with this. I am glad to read that you have as well!

      It has been about 3 months and I am just starting to notice a difference. Granted I was pretty sick with some neuro issues when I changed my eating plan and was on large doses of steroids. However I have weaned down significantly on the steroids with more ease than usual in terms of joint pain. I am starting to get my energy back. A very noticeable difference has been in my lifelong chronic allergy and sinus issues, esp. given this time of year. I have none...at all!

      So I am going to keep at it. I have worked very hard with cookbooks and learning how to really cook and that has been helpful. i do a lot of planning. I try to stay away from a lot of the gluten-free bread products as I am already overweight and am trying to cut back on processed foods in general but when I do have bread, I tend to use Udi's for sandwich bread and I make my own pizza dough, muffins, etc. they taste so much better! it is tiring sometimes doing so much cooking but worth it in the end. My fiance also will only cook gluten and dairy-free for us so that helps!

      ReplyDelete
      Replies
      1. I am so glad you like the post and that you too are having positive effects from going gluten free! It has been easier than I thought to give up gluten -- partially because I already have a number of other pretty bad food allergies so I often have to cook for myself or bring food places. But I have not yet tried to make my own pizza dough or muffins and other gluten free foods. If you wouldn't mind sharing, it would be wonderful to find out some of your favorite recipes and give them a try. I too am a fan of the Udi's bread and hamburger rolls and use them for sandwiches!

        Delete
    4. Hi,
      The pancake mix is "Pamela's Products".
      Baking and Pancake Mix. Wheat and Gluten free.

      ReplyDelete