Post-Gluten Armageddon: Day Three? It doesnt hurt after all

“Food is the path to healing … There is no pill we can take, no surgery we can endure, and in fact, no cure other than living on an entirely gluten-free diet. Some find that distressing. I find it a blessing.

In order to be well, I have to eat well. I have to feed myself. I have to live in food.

Yes.”

So here I sit (on the morning of day four), three full days after removing glutens from my diet. It hasn’t been perfect, I have a half- eaten package of chicken breasts in my fridge I’m fairly certain contain injected broth which of course is not gluten free, and  I may end up having to eat it before my next trip to the grocery store. Or maybe not, I’m hoping it can go sit in the icy confines of the freezer for someone else to devour. I’ll put a big ‘X’ on it so I remember not to feed it to myself. Honestly, I’d be feeling perfectly okay with understanding the gluten-is-in-that game if it weren’t for the fact that I eat chicken for almost every meal. (And for the time being I have an answer: eat pork. Or steak. Or eggs. Done.)

Jax has handled not drinking out of my cup while he’s digging into his buttered noodles like a champ, at least after the first moment of rejection he felt when I shrieked at him. I’ve been needing to break him from his little habit of not leaving other people’s drinks alone anyways- a five year old blowing bubbles into my lemon water with mac-n-cheese lips is not my idea of ‘yummy’, gluten sensitivities or not.

Here’s the amazing thing. I looked at this idea of me going gluten free as some sort of crazy idea that could work, or it couldn’t. I’ve always been the professional skeptic- show me the facts but then back it up with good, solid evidence and reasons the counter argument may not apply. So I held on to the chance that this couldn’t make a damn bit of a difference. And then I’d be the silly girl left with some great understanding of how going gluten free works wonders for some people but apparently, not me.

But, so far, that’s not the case for me. THREE DAYS into this and I am FEELING AMAZING. What the hell! No one told me about this sooner!? I was a skeptic, no matter how much research I read or how much I could post about it either. I didn’t think at all a change like this could make a difference. Remember Joe vs. the Volcano? I’ve been walking around with Brain Cloud. And luckily for me, I feel like it has lifted. I’m not terminally grouchy with Jax. I’m getting things done (err, unless I’m on Pinterest). I took the kiddos outside to play two days in a row. No, seriously. I haven’t had that sort of energy. in. a. long. time. And we’ll do it all over again today. I’m not waking up with headaches- they went away. (The daily dose of Kale has helped. Honestly, who the eff craves kale?! Me, that’s who.) My skin is still sand paper-dry, and the eczema is a lot less red but not GONE, but its not so uncomfortable that I feel like it could walk on its own.

Really. I didnt actually think it was possible to feel better so soon. Shauna James Ahearn says it well on her website, Gluten Free Girl:

“I stopped eating gluten. I have never gone back since. At the end of the first day without gluten, I felt some energy. My stomach didn’t hurt when I ate. On the second day, I didn’t need a five-hour nap. On the third day, my brain fog cleared, as though my contacts had been cleaned for the first time.”

(www.glutenfreegirl.com)

I may have hit a tiny bit of a low point yesterday afternoon lusting after sugary, chocolatey brownies. But I’m pretty sure thats a combo of all the pictures of brownies I’ve seen lately on gluten free websites, promising they can deliver deliciousness, and PMS. (Sorry if thats TMI, but really? Get over it… …All better?)

I will definitely concede that some of why I am feeling good is probably connected simply to the fact that I’m not subjecting my body to the never- ending crash cycle of carbohydrates and sugars of bread and pasta. But the bananas, yogurt (yes it is a hefty source of sugar), sweet potatoes, brown rice, etc- while not hovering too high on the scale of glycemic index offenders- still provide plenty of carbs for my body to contend with. The long and short of it is that I might be eating LESS carbs, but not ‘no- carb’, like with South Beach or Atkins (where people face some serious sugar withdrawals for the first few miserable days). Thankfully, I usually lack the sweet tooth so many people have, and my biggest daily source of sugar was The Dreaded Vanilla Coffee-Mate, so I’m not left jonesing for sugar like its a druggie’s crack fix. (I also had been slowly weaning myself off of coffee mate over the past few weeks because its a  source of nasty, gross calories my body didnt need, so I’ve been mixing it gradually with first fat free half and half, then almond milk, and I now have my daily decaf with just half and half or just almond milk. Full disclosure.)

The craziest thing is that a few weeks ago, I was actually adding more and more whole grains into my diet, in an effort to make sure I was eating the healthiest choices I could for my fat behind. Kashi cereals. Whole Wheat pasta EVERYTHING. And I was feeling worse and worse. Whole grains are good for you! They contribute a lot of benefits to the breastfeeding mom’s diet! Heart Health! But I was feeling even more like shit worse and worse.

The moral to the first chapter of this story is that after a solid three days of not eating gluten, I’m glad I dove in. And so far, I’ve lived to tell the tale. Its exciting to do a little nutrition research and come out on the other side not only unscathed but feeling great. Now onto tackling the frightening pantry full of pasta, and Jax’s not so great chicken nugget habit…

Gluten Free Who? Thyroid What?? I need to do what?!

A little while back, I talked about the cranky old lady who kept asking me whenever she saw me how much weight I’ve lost after having the baby. Her greeting never included a hello- this (senile?)bitch would jump right into “So? Well how much weight have you lost??!”…I fought back by giving myself time to lose the weight patiently, trusting my body would do its job and that maybe being just 10 weeks post partum, it truly was too early to worry about it. I knew most moms drop the weight like a dirty shirt when they’re breastfeeding, and was slowly coming to grips with the fact that I’m not one of them. Fast forward to where we are today, Bella being six months old, and the question would kill me if she asked today. Because I haven’t lost one. single. pound. And its not without having tried and tried and tried.

I used to have a metabolism that not only hummed, it cranked. About a year before I was pregnant with Bella, you could easily find me awake in the kitchen at 3AM because I couldn’t sleep through my hungry, growling stomach. If I dared miss or delay ‘a feeding’, I’d spend the day battling low blood sugar bad enough I wouldn’t be able to see. To make matters worse, the low blood sugar would still sneak up behind me and take hold faster than I would realize, despite haven eaten recently, leaving me literally walking away mid conversation to get something to eat- quick! I was one of those people who had to keep snacks in the car lest I get hungry on that 15 minute ride to work in the morning. I couldn’t stand being in a grocery store or restaurant in the summer without a sweater (and sometimes a jacket on top too) because of the air conditioning. I needed to sleep all. the. time. (and still do). Seriously, I’m the only person I’ve ever come across that would say “I cant go out to breakfast until I have something to eat.” (Otherwise the wait for a meal would set me back for the entire day). It started when I was pregnant with Jax, almost six (!!) years ago. I would complain to the doctors about ridiculously low blood sugar and they told me to eat. Well, duh! If it was that easy! Thanks for making me feel like a crazy, pregnant, moron. (In my defense also, those doctors seem to have been the group that graduated with less than stellar grades, but lousy OB GYN’s don’t belong in this post). Yes, I’ve seen other doctors, My thyroid levels have come back borderline abnormal several times, but since apparently most doctors these days see ‘borderline’ as ‘untreatable’, I’m stuck feeling miserable. At least I could eat though, and I was spared the dread of going to my 10 year high school reunion overweight.

SO here I am, wishing I could have the overdrive metabolism of days past- because now my body is stuck in full reverse. My hair is falling out, my skin is on fire with flaky, dry patches of eczema, and on some days my energy level is low to the point it feels like I’m walking through waist deep water just to get up the stairs. And its all new issues since having Bella. Ugh. Cant someone fix this for me!? Well, since I’ve already seen doctors and the ones that I’ve seen were not keeping up with their research, which leaves them stumped and me without a solution, I’ll be seeing a chiropractor in a few weeks who specializes in natural medicine and particularly, autoimmune disorders and thyroid disorders. Having done my research (meaning having spent a bunch of time on Google, which means I could be an unofficial expert *not really*), hypothyroidism and gluten intolerances (and full blown Celiac Disease), go hand in hand. And to treat hypothyroidism, you have to cut out glutens… Doh. To add to the fun, the most common form of hypothyroidism, is an autoimmune disorder. Chris Kresser, L. Ac says “hypothyroidism is an autoimmune disease in 90% of cases” and that “(o)ne of the biggest challenges facing those with hypothyroidism is that the standard of care for thyroid disorders in both conventional and alternative medicine is hopelessly inadequate.”
 

He goes on to say, “The link is so well-established that researchers suggest all people with AITD (autoimmune thyroid disorder) be screened for gluten intolerance, and vice versa. What explains the connection? It’s a case of mistaken identity. The molecular structure of gliadin, the protein portion of gluten, closely resembles that of the thyroid gland. When gliadin breaches the protective barrier of the gut, and enters the bloodstream, the immune system tags it for destruction. These antibodies to gliadin also cause the body to attack thyroid tissue. This means if you have AITD and you eat foods containing gluten, your immune system will attack your thyroid. Even worse, the immune response to gluten can last up to 6 months each time you eat it. This explains why it is critical to eliminate gluten completely from your diet if you have AITD. There’s no “80/20″ rule when it comes to gluten. Being “mostly” gluten-free isn’t going to cut it. If you’re gluten intolerant, you have to be 100% gluten-free to prevent immune destruction of your thyroid.”

Furthermore, the symptoms of both thyroid disorders and gluten sensitivities, intolerances, and full- blown “dont touch me with that gluten molecule” issues all mimic each other, especially when someone with gluten issues has ‘silent symptoms’- meaning they experience sluggishness, feel cold, have rashes and itchy dry skin,

 

Okay. So I read information like this about a week ago and have been milling it around in my head trying to come to terms with it. “An estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease. Up to 60 percent of these people are unaware of their condition. One in eight women will develop a thyroid disorder during her lifetime. Levothyroxine, a synthetic form of thyroid hormone, is the 4th highest selling drug in the U.S. 13 of the top 50 selling drugs are either directly or indirectly related to hypothyroidism. The number of people suffering from thyroid disorders continues to rise each year.”

Got it. I totally get it. All these hypothyroid articles were written about me. Yes, I get it. But Really?? What about my undying love for crusty, artisan style bread? What about the wonderful pizza Dean made which I devoured the other night having full knowledge the research says I wont be able to do that anymore?

And for ultimate insult added to injury, my beloved vanilla Coffee-Mate coffee creamer, with its lame vanilla flavoring, is probably off the list of foods I’ll be able to eat. I’ll get over it, eventually, since its not good for me at all anyways, but come on. The discovery of gluten sensitivities has achieved something no diet has ever accomplished with me before: STOPPING ME FROM having my vanilla flavored coffee. Damn the people that started sourcing vanilla flavor from barley. Damn them! (And if anyone knows for sure its Gluten Free let me know. I checked the website and it just lists artificial flavorings so I’ve said screw it. Its probably better for me NOT to be consuming that crap anyways.)

 

In the great words of my mom, when I was talking to her about all this hootenany, “well, now

you cant even have a beer!!” Thanks mom!

I’ve always understood how serious it is to avoid glutens for those with Celiac Disease. I get it. I just never thought I’d have to deal with it. On top of that, I DO believe some people say they need to eat gluten free because they think they are on a diet. I know these people arent really gluten free- eaters though because I would watch them devour all sorts of foods without even a glance at the ingredients. Hello!?!? Its a way to drive me crazy. I know food allergies and sensitivities are REAL, and I am a firm believer that NUTRITION HEALS. But the people that waltz into a restaurant saying they require a gluten free meal but then order the soup of the day (thickened with a flour roux), the grilled chicken with vegetables (the chicken is injected with broth solution and then marinated in who knows what), and the vanilla ice cream and a brownie to share (again, the dreaded vanilla flavor, the brownie is just stupidly gluten unfriendly) are full of shit and always have been.  

The long and the short of it is that I’m gonna have to bite the bullet and stick to this. I made it through Day ONE fairly easily, and am on day two. Its easier said than done in a house full of pasta and wonderfully fluffy white bread just baked in the wood stove. This will have to be a learning process. But at this point, anything I can do to feel human again must be a step in the right direction. Have you dealt with gluten allergies?Thyroid disorders? Did your whole family have to go gluten free? What are your favorite resources? Stay tuned for more of yet another crazy chapter …

 

 

 

 

Jax: Challenges that make a mom feel like she sucks…

I need to talk about some challenges we’re facing with Jax. I don’t have any trouble at all talking about these issues, I’m almost embarrassed to admit I’ve had a lot of trouble coming to terms with having to do something about them.

Jax has always been a vivacious, happy go lucky kiddo. His energy is never ending and he has the enthusiasm to match. I talk a lot about the great results I’ve gotten from integrating techniques from Attachment Parenting theories, and about changes we’ve had to make or try in order to adjust some of Jax’s behaviors. But what I haven’t talked openly about is the challenges we’re facing with Jax. We re-enrolled Jax into his preschool in Massachusetts. Jax and I were both so excited to have him back in his element with his school.

I walked Jax into the classroom for his third day back when I heard the dreaded words: “Kate, could you take a second and have a little talk with Inga? It won’t take a minute.” Awww, Crap. Its like getting sent to the Principal’s office. Sure, I’ll go outside with Inga and get my ‘You’re a bad mom bitch-slap’ from Inga. Does she have a whip!?

Inga’s ‘very concerned’ about Jax. He’s five, you know, she says. I give a gentle ‘I know what you mean smile’, but I’m thinking to myself ‘I’m not such a terrible mother that I don’t know how long ago I squeezed my son out’…and I resist the urge to tell her he’s only been five for three weeks, but I have to admit, she’s right. I’ve been a little worried too, I just have no clue where to start and how to help him. Or, I have a clue or two, and some ideas on where and how to help, but its an overwhelming can of worms to tackle.

Here’s the thing. A little while back, we took Jax in for a screening for some speech therapy. What started as a simple screening for a lisp and some letter replacements turned into a two hour meeting with an IEP (individualized education program) to address the fact that Jax didn’t want to stand on one foot on the Occupational Therapist’s ‘X’ mark on the floor and ended with them telling me if they enrolled my son, he’d be an easy case to get more funding from. (Incidentally, the assessments the occupational therapist was doing with my little guy oddly resembled a field sobriety test, minus the ‘recite the alphabet backwards’, and he would have failed. Miserably.)

When we were sitting in the meeting to discuss the many ways my poor little guy wasn’t measuring up, the director of the program said something along the lines of adding my son to their program, with his needs being ‘easy to address’, that they get the same funding for any child and our case is ‘great for funding’. Realistically, of course the funding would come to the programs per child, its done through the school system. But really? Who tells a parent they want their child to be enrolled in their school for easy funding?! Duh. Say it when we’ve left the office, please.

Jax needs a little extra help with his grip to hold a pencil, crayon, etc- apparently this will help his teachers’ issues with the fact that he doesn’t want to color in the lines. No Big Deal. (Although technically speaking the ability to color in the lines falls into the ability to write legibly.) He’s clutzy, and thinks its funny to slide into home on his knees on the playground, always wearing through the left knee of his pants. So randomly playing a lousy game of baseball when the other kids aren’t playing is out for this kid too. Heaven forbid. When the Occupational Therapist asked Jacob to balance on one leg, and then to walk on the straight line touching his toes to his heels, had Jax been capable as an almost 4 year old, he would have told her to shove it. (See? Just like a field sobriety test.) Sometimes kiddos just aren’t interested in what the teachers want them to be interested in. Other times, in teacher speak, they say the child isn’t ‘interested’ (fingers in air making quotes) because they can’t do it.

I’m grateful Jax’s needs are simple but need time with special treatments. We are fortunate we aren’t facing the uphill battle of special needs some families are. Some I hope he’ll grow out of or are just a phase, but my deepest worry is that they might be searching for underlying issues with the ones his teachers keep bringing up. It concerns me that parents and some teachers today may have the tendency to jump onto names and conditions and medications instead of relying on simple, gentle coaxing of a child’s natural need to be just that- a kid!!

Honestly I’m happier to keep us trudging along, with faith in our little guy to catch up on his own time, than to have him toe the lines of experts who say he is lacking fine motor skills. Don’t they see him build cars and assault vehicles out of legos!? Obviously we’ll get him whatever help Jax might need, but I love my Jax just the way he is.