Sunday, February 3, 2013

An article, and a trip down memory lane

This article - a great read - was in today's New York Times Magazine:

The Boy with a Thorn in His Joints

It's about a little kid who was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis and assigned a battery of prescription drugs as treatment. When the pharmaceuticals didn't work, the boy's mom (who penned the piece) decided to take a more holistic approach and sought a supplemental, diet-based treatment. Six weeks after the little boy stopped consuming gluten and dairy products, his illness became inactive, and he was able to ditch the medication.

Of course, it's one kid. It's not proof that going GF cures autoimmune diseases. The author fully accepts this. But as she also points out, "Data on diet and supplements are lacking, at least partly because they are hard to get. It’s hard to design a great study around something with so many variables, like the food we eat. Pharmaceuticals, on the other hand, lend themselves easily to randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials."

With the exception of some brief and regrettable forays back into the world of wheat, I've been gluten free for three years now. To a significant extent, I'd forgotten why, exactly, I decided to alter my diet in the first place. So I went back and reviewed my journal entries from around that time. They helped me remember just how sick I felt (headaches, chest pain, acid reflux, sinus infections), and just how quickly relief followed the dietary modifications I made.

A few examples:

Dec. 15, 2009:
I told A. [a naturopathic physician] about my acid reflux issues and how I sometimes feel like my sinuses and throat get all swollen after I eat. She thinks I have a food allergy (maybe several food allergies). Apparently, GERD and food allergies are often related - though did my stupid doctor bother to tell me this during our 15 minute follow-up session this summer? No. (Not real happy with the general practitioners I've seen lately...) A. recommended that I try eliminating soy, wheat, dairy, eggs, and nuts for several weeks, then introducing them one by one. Blurrrrgh. She's right; I need to do it. But it's difficult, especially around the holidays.

I haven't been eating much wheat or soy recently, so I think I'll start with those. The food plan I was following at the end of November didn't include any wheat products, and I can easily substitute my soy milk with rice milk.

I'm pretty sure it IS an allergy, but it's so weird that it developed recently. I never had this issue when I was a kid.

Dec. 17, 2009:
I'm pretty sure I'm allergic or at least intolerant to wheat. I've been keeping track of what happens after I eat it, and usually my body responds in the following way (within 30 minutes or so of consuming wheat products):

-Sinus congestion
-Lump in throat/swelling of throat (isn't too bad, but of course this is a problem and I need to get it checked out!)
-Chest pain

I looked it up and - surprise! - wheat allergies CAN cause chest pain, which was the reason I went to the doc last summer in the first place.

You would think this would have been more obvious to me before now, but... nope. Once I was diagnosed with acid reflux, I just figured all of the above symptoms made sense.

I guess it could also be a dairy allergy (because I often consume cheese with wheat), so I need to experiment more. However, I've been eating cheese for breakfast on many days, and it doesn't seem to affect me.

I know I can give up wheat, so I'm kind of hoping I've pinpointed the problem. I'd rather change my diet than continue taking medicine that isn't helping. I guess I should contact my doctor and ask for a referral so that I can see an allergist in the new year.

Dec 20, 2009:
Eating has been a little tricky. I don't know what my deal is. I seem to be having weird reactions after I eat, but pinpointing what is causing them is tricky. T. made me an omelet yesterday morning before we left, and I felt HORRIBLE after eating it. I basically had an asthma attack. WTF. I've eaten eggs all my life and never had any problems with them. So... yeah. I'm limiting myself to fruits, veggies, and non-processed meat. And Enjoy Life snacks, which don't contain eggs, dairy, etc. I also tried some soy milk today to see if it affected me (didn't seem to, so maybe that's okay?). I don't understand why my body is freaking out on me. I know I need to see my doctor again - because what if it's not allergies? What if it's something else? - but she was such a butthead the last time that I don't really feel like giving her my business. She doesn't listen.

Jan 14, 2010:
Since right before Christmas, I've been avoiding wheat, corn, soy, and eggs. I'm almost certain I have a wheat intolerance. It's known to cause headaches and chest pain, both of which I often had before I changed my diet (I was diagnosed with GERD specifically because I had inexplicable chest pains). I haven't experienced either in the last few weeks. The post-meal throat inflammation is also gone. I had a really strange reaction after eating a couple of scrambled eggs right before we went to Chattanooga, so I'm off those, too. As for soy and corn, they're in so many processed foods that I decided to dump them as well. So far, I don't miss them - or any of them, really.

I am shocked at how easy it's been to give up pastries, cookies (well - except for the Enjoy Life gluten-free cookies, but they're kind of pricey so I can't eat a ton of them anyway), bread, waffles, cereal, etc. It's amazing. Keep in mind that I am not a very patient person. I don't do well with cravings. If I crave something, I eventually end up eating it. But I honestly have absolutely no desire to scarf down processed carbs.

We're doing a lot more of our own cooking using whole, natural ingredients. What I've been eating:

Breakfast: Rice grits cooked with apples, bananas, or other fruit and drizzled with honey. That might sound gross, but OMG, it is so good! I've always had trouble stomaching oatmeal, but rice grits are easy. Sometimes I have a piece of cheese, too.

Lunch: Usually dinner leftovers.

Dinner: Meat and veggies or rice and veggies. We have had homemade beef stew (which was actually really good, though so filling that I felt stuffed for hours afterward), rice pasta and sauce (rice pasta is awesome - it doesn't get as mushy as regular pasta), soup, and chicken and veggies. Tonight, we made baked chicken with potatoes, celery, carrots, and red onion. SO DELICIOUS - one of the best meals I've made in a long time, and the only extra ingredients I used were salt, pepper, and a daub of A-1 steak sauce (which, yes, does have some corn starch in it, but which otherwise has a straightforward ingredients list).

Dessert: I'm eating less dessert than I used to simply because the meals really fill me up. When I do need a snack, I go for the afore-mentioned gluten-free cookies, Enjoy Life chocolate, or dried papaya.

Oh, and? I haven't taken my GERD medicine in a week. I have had a little reflux, but that might be because I can eat like a linebacker. I should be able to quell that by going a bit easier at the dinner table. Since the chest pains and throat inflammation are gone, I just don't see a point in relying on a prescription.

*  *  *
Incidentally, as I was trawling for GF-related posts, I ended up digging through all my other journal entries, too. Just reading them exhausted me. I was an emotional wreck back then. Of course, sometimes I still am - but not the way I used to be. Now I have more good days than bad days. Three years ago? I didn't know what a good day really entailed.

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