I've sometimes written about my health issues - my month of hell as I battled a particularly vicious flare of eczema, how fatigue often makes it hard for me to create, and make my dreams seem almost impossible to reach.
In 2016, I made a concerted effort to battle the brain fog, weight fluctuations and fatigue I keep having, and I did it by the skill I have: Research. I pored over books, blogs and podcasts constantly and by the end of last year, I've made significant progress, having discovered the wonders of intermittent fasting, the importance of a nutrient density diet, juicing and finally making that connection between gluten and the shifting joint and muscular pains in my body. That helped me kick my constant flirtation with gluten and dairy to the curb.
Yet, my journey actually began in 2010-2011 when I started having mysterious symptoms: alarming weight gain, hair loss, chronic fatigue, sharp pain on my scalp, eczema, dry skin, boils, dizzy spells for a month, and the corker: sudden onset of anxiety.
I hate to say this, but perhaps I'm just unlucky, but I didn't have the best of experience with doctors. I took tests that came back normal. Some blamed me for my symptoms ("you're not trying hard enough" - when I told one about my inability to lose weight), most slapped me with meds that only masked the symptoms and that at times made things worse. How quickly was I given Xanax and anti-depressants (I couldn't sleep for a week - yay)!
So, I used my skill as a researcher to find out WTF is going on with me. And after 5-7 years of intense research, everything has come together at last. I realise that nutrition is so intricately linked with health, and like Hippocrates said, "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food."
I realise now that I've always been intolerant to gluten and dairy since childhood. When I found out that I wasn't breastfed but fed formula, it made a lot of sense. My gut microbiome was compromised from day 1.
When I was a kid, I had tummy pains and diarrhoea every other day - and usually after eating something. I was so used to the pain that it was 'normal'. We discovered that I was lactose intolerant when I was nine when a doctor prescribed me milk for my tummy upsets. Well, guess what happened??
Removing milk was no biggie for me as it caused me such distress, but the tummy pains continued, albeit with less frequency and intensity.
It's only when I became a diet detective and started monitoring how I reacted to food that I realised, to my horror and deep sadness, that each time I ate anything with wheat, my tummy would suffer.
Later, in my thirties, my knuckles would turn red and swell up.
I totally forgot about the joint pain symptom until recently when I read that it's a common symptom of gluten intolerance!
A few months ago I began suffering strange back pain.
Strange because it was more of a bone-deep ache, and strange because it would disappear and come back inexplicably. And strange because my knee seemed to ache at the same time, and my thigh muscles! How is it that I can be completely pain-free one moment and then in deep ache the next?? And how odd that I always have tummy upsets at the same time?
So I've been on a very restricted diet recently, and it was more or less an Autoimmune Protocol and I've felt swell. No joint pain or tummy pain. And I thought, well, perhaps I shall reintroduce wheat to see if the joint pain came back. Then, I'll have proof that yes, my back pain and leg muscle pain is caused by gluten.
So on Christmas day, I munched on some seaweed snacks covered with a generous wheat batter and waited.
Tummy reacted almost immediately ... bloating, pain, nausea ... and the joint pain came on the 30th Dec.
Ouuuuuch. In came the ice packs at night.
Well. What more evidence do I need, really?
Friends always wondered why I keep eating wheat despite knowing I'm sensitive to it. I guess it's called bull-headedness. I wanted to be like everyone else and am stubbornly clinging to old ways. (I mean, I got away with it for decades!)
So, I'm sad that I can't be 80/20 gluten-free anymore. And I think I need to be on AIP from now on. At least strictly for a few months until my body heals.
A part of me is annoyed that I'm not like everyone else, but I thank God that my body reacts quickly to food I don't agree with. It makes it easier to pinpoint what food causes what trouble.
Anyhow, even if you don't have symptoms like me, please don't think that you can munch on gluten like mad. It's honestly destructive and your body may be damaged by it without you knowing it. (That's why I say I'm lucky that my body reacts quickly.)
So, please, get rid of gluten. Your future you will thank you!