The Gluten Mystery Continues

Elizabeth Roberts Health Guide March 17, 2011
  •  

    I can't wait for five years from now. Why? Because hopefully so much more will be known and understood why about 6% of the U.S. population is gluten-sensitive  and another 1% has celiac disease (CD).

     

    These numbers might not sound huge or astounding unless you are one of us who is either gluten-sensitive or has CD. The Wall Street Journal had an interesting article in the March 15, 2011 issue titled, Clues to Gluten Sensitivity (see it here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704893604576200393522456636.html)

     

    In this article, Dr. Alessio Fasano, the medical director of the University of Maryland's Center for Celiac Research, told reporter Melinda Beck that "for the first time, we have scientific evidence that indeed, gluten sensitivity not only exists, but is very different from celiac disease."

     

    To me, this is big news. If you're a regular reader of my Shareposts, then you know that I have been gluten-sensitive for the past two years. I got tested for celiac, was told I didn't have it, and was then offered an anti-depressant by my doctor. He felt that the gluten-free diet was difficult and thought the medication would be helpful. I read this as him not wanting to deal with me because it was all in my head.

     

    Having Inflammatory Bowel Disease I've changed my diet a lot. And, while removing gluten from my diet wasn't easy it has been worth it because gone is the constant bloated, gassy, painful feeling. I was fully 100% gluten-free for nearly two years. Then we went to Spain to three weeks this past October. Having lived in Italy and spent a good amount of time in Spain over the past 15 years the one thing I cannot resist is their bread. It is handmade daily and it is delicious. I told myself before we left I wasn't going to eat it, and for the first 4 days I resisted. Then we settled into a villa in a small town and met the baker and just the smell of his bread found me tearing a piece from the loaf and savoring every bite. I ate a quarter of a baguette. I waited for 30 minutes for the tell-tale bloating, gas, and pain to kick in. Then I waited 60 minutes. Then two hours. And, nothing. No bloat, no gas, no pain.

     

    Now, I didn't go hog wild and start eating every gluten-filled piece of food I could find after this experiment, but I will admit to eating a slice or two of Spanish pan (bread) for the rest of our trip. And when I got home to the States I contacted a friend of mine who was buying locally grown and ground wheat flour (in 50 lb. bags) and asked if I could by 5 pounds to experiment with making my own bread. And so, since October I've been eating a few slices of fresh, handmade bread every week but keeping everything else fully gluten-free.

     

    It was in the second week in our Spain travels that my wooziness hit. It that feeling you get on a boat where the world just won't quite sit still. I wasn't too alarmed because I have some damage to my vestibular nerve, which controls balance, and I've had bouts of vertigo and wooziness on-and-off for some seven years.

  •  

    But this time, it was pretty constant. It ebbed and flowed, some days it was worse, others not as bad, and some days not noticeable at all. But it lasted long enough and had become bothersome enough that in January I went to talk to my doctor about it. He recommended I see a vestibular rehab therapist to help retrain my brain to deal with the damage done to the nerve. Working with her has helped immensely. But I was still experiencing the wooziness more often than not. To her this was not typical of the vestibular damage and she suggested I might have silent migraines (basically all the symptoms of a migraine - vertigo/woozy feeling, light sensitivity, sound sensitivity, etc. - without the headache). So, she suggested I do an elimination diet to remove the potential migraine trigger foods from my diet - things like chocolate, caffeine, aged cheese, fresh made bread, etc.

     

    I've gone through my two weeks of eliminating these foods and am now starting to add back into my diet, one-by-one, those foods that I haven't eaten in two weeks. And guess what? Fresh baked bread makes me woozy! I'll continue on with the migraine trigger food add-ins, but I've come to realize that I am most definitely gluten-sensitive as one of the symptoms beyond bloating and gas is wooziness and balance issues.

     

    So, I'm curious as to why. Why is gluten having such a profound effect on people in what seems so all of a sudden. Starting next Monday I'll be taking a five month class in whole foods cooking with an emphasis on nutrition. I'm taking it partly to help me, but also to help all of you. I find it interesting and frustrating that so much of the food we eat is making us sick or at least, causing us not to feel well, or exacerbating our symptoms of illnesses like IBD.

     

    I plan to keep a blog about my experience in this school which will run through August and hope you'll join me on my journey. You can find it at: www.eatlivelocally.com

     

    In the meantime, if you think you have a problem with gluten, see your doctor and get tested for celiac disease before you embark on eating gluten-free. And if they tell you that you don't have CD, be grateful, but then try your own gluten-elimination diet and see how you feel after a month. (Read here about what an Elimination diet is: http://www.healthcentral.com/ibd/c/2623/92582/elimination-diet)