My Glutenscapades – Going gluten free

2 AM.

Late night munchies. Cookies? Gluten intolerant. Chocolate? Lactose intolerant. Air? Sounds delicious… meh.

Ripe banana with spots

Ripe banana with spots

So here I am, snacking on a banana, ready to tell you about why I am gluten free.

By the way, did you know that the black spots on bananas are a good thing? That’s when the bananas are ripe and sweet and less starchy – perfect to eat. Also, eat them in between meals – at least an hour before and an hour after.

In 2011, a few months after I graduated from University, I started experiencing anxiety, brain fog, and gastrointestinal symptoms which included stomach cramps and bloating. I also suffered from horrible back aches. Imagine being 21 years old and groaning every time you sit down or get up because of a swelling ache in your back. Or not being able to hang out with a couple friends because your tummy wasn’t feeling too good.

Oh yeah, and imagine things like that happening almost every single day.

I had no idea what was going on. I was feeling so sick all the time, wouldn’t go out, and I was feeling so out of it.

I lost a LOT of weight. I used to weigh around 50-51 kgs on average. I was down to 46 kgs. I went to see a nutritionist, gained all the weight back, but I was still feeling sick.

A friend suggested I take a closer look at my diet. 3451 google searches later, I began to wonder if I was lactose intolerant.

Farewell, dear dairy, since I must needs be gone. 

That’s what Shakespeare would have said if he were talking to dairy.

Symptoms got better but I still wasn’t feeling that great. It’s like when you’re running a temperature of 103 and it comes down to 102.

I kept a food diary recording everything I ate, the times I ate them, and the symptoms that followed. 2065 more google searches and I found a post by someone who was experiencing similar symptoms say it had reduced by going gluten free.

Exit gluten stage left.

It was so hard. But it was worth it. It was then that I realized…

Gluten is my nemesis.

Barely 2-3 days had passed since having cut out the obvious gluten from my diet and my symptoms were starting to go away. I thought what if I was just gluten intolerant but able to have lactose? I brought the lactose back in. Bad move. Symptoms returned but they weren’t as bad as the symptoms gluten brought on.

A few gluten/lactose free months passed and I wasn’t feeling perfect, but I definitely was feeling better. Then I thought let me try having some gluten and dairy again. I re-introduced the foods. Felt okay for the first couple days. I thought maybe it was all in my head. Maybe I’m not intolerant to these foods. Fast forward 2-3 weeks and I was cancelling plans again, staying home all the time because I was feeling sick, and the anxiety returned. It all happened in such subtle ways that I didn’t even realize I was slowly getting sicker and sicker day by day. By the end of the month, I decided I just didn’t want to eat gluten and dairy anymore. I just couldn’t deal with how sick it was making me feel.

I didn’t know back then that I should have gotten tested for Celiac Disease first to get that ruled out. So I’d encourage you to get tested before you decide to eliminate gluten completely.

I’m still not feeling completely better. Does that happen to the rest of you who are gluten intolerant? I don’t feel as good as I used to before I ever started experiencing these symptoms. I definitely feel better off gluten/dairy but is it normal to not feel as good as I did maybe 5 years ago?  I still feel sick and also suffer from brain fog from time to time. The FODMAPs diet has been really helping me out with minimizing that. Look into that if you’re dealing with any tummy troubles. It’s worth a shot!

I met a doctor here in Dubai who didn’t seem convinced that my problems were food related. I told him I’m pretty certain it has something to do with gluten and dairy but he didn’t seem to believe me. He just prescribed some Fybogel. That was pretty helpful actually, but I don’t know why it was so hard for him to believe it was a food issue. On a holiday to India earlier this year, a family friend recommended an allergist in Mumbai. After the intraderm testing process, where they basically inject you to test your sensitivity to food items, I discovered that I was sensitive to the following:

  • Bengal gram
  • Black pepper
  • Cabbage
  • Red lentils/Masoor dal
  • Garlic
  • Green Peas
  • Mushrooms
  • Okra
  • Dairy
  • Gluten

FINALLY I HAD A DOCTOR’S REPORT SAYING I WAS SENSITIVE TO GLUTEN! For the longest time, no one believed me! Everyone kept saying it was in my head, and to slowly eat a little gluten/wheat every day and build up tolerance and I was just all NOOOOOOOOOOO!

The test results made so much sense. I realized that I had already eliminated almost all the foods on the list because I always had stomach aches after eating them. To be on the safe side, I have also eliminated corn and soy from my diet.

So what do I eat, you ask? Every day is a challenge really. On days I’m feeling off, I tend to stick to eating ‘safe’ foods. Yes I get bored doing that. But it’s just not worth risking the possibility of feeling sick. I eat rice, potatoes, rice pasta, quinoa, beans, vegetables, lentils and fruit. You’d be surprised at how versatile some of these items are!

Anyway, that’s about it for my glutenscapades. Cutting out gluten and dairy has been difficult, especially considering the fact that im a vegetarian. It’s been worth it though. As parting advice, I’d say just listen to your body. It always pays. If you’ve been feeling ill and can’t figure out why, it’s worth looking at your diet and changing things around a bit. If you suspect you might have some food sensitivities, it’s worth going spending some time trying to figure it out. You’ll just be so glad that you did!

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13 thoughts on “My Glutenscapades – Going gluten free

  1. Your story is very similar to my own.
    I have experienced anxiety, really terrible stomach pains and other issues related as well as bad back!

    A couple of years ago I had a non related blood test and they found I had extremely low Folic Acid levels. The doctor was amazed as I too am Vegetarian and eat a lot of vegetables! Apparently my levels should have been high. He suggested I may have Coeliac’s disease and suggested I get a specialised blood test to check for it.

    Now my friend told me about the process he went through to diagnose him. Here in the UK and I think most places test in 2 phase.

    1. Take the blood test, if that’s positive then..
    2. Have an endoscopy (camera down your throat) and then they do a biopsy by taking a sample of your stomach lining.

    He told me about how awful the endoscopy was and how he didn’t manage to swallow the tube with the camera.. it really, really scared me!

    I did some research and thought, ‘well there isn’t any cure so why put myself through the stress of having this procedure?’!

    I cut out Gluten for a month and then decided I was being silly and then went to get the blood test done.. it came out negative and I left it there.

    Looking back that was probably because I hadn’t eaten any Gluten in so long.

    So fast forward maybe 3 years now and I had still been suffering with such a bad stomach but just decided to live with it.

    Now I’ve decided to cut out the Gluten for real again, I feel so much better. Hardly any discomfort with my stomach. I could go and get the blood test done again and then the endoscopy but what would it really do apart from say, ‘yes you’re a coeliac’.

    I wish I could find somewhere to do the food sensitivity test like you.. I’m going to Google this!

    • Hii! Gosh, I’m so sorry to hear you’ve been dealing with these issues! It’s a right drag! I was stuck at home for days on end, refusing to go out because I just didn’t feel good. I was absolutely terrified of getting the tests done. I didn’t want any devices going inside my body! It would have been great to get tested to rule out Celiac Disease but I was far too scared.

      I even reintroduced gluten and thought I’d get tested. But I started feeling really sick and couldn’t eat it any longer. I think our bodies are one of our treated diagnostic tools. If you eat something that’s making you feel sick, your body’s trying to tell you something. If you can get tested, which I highly encourage, but are unable to, then an elimination diet should suffice. You and I both feel so much better off gluten so it makes perfect sense to keep it out of our diets!

      I would even suggest going to a nutritionist perhaps to start off a healing process with good foods. If you’re still experiencing some discomfort, a FODMAP diet and/or an elimination diet can help identify any other food sensitivities you might have. I hope you find somewhere to do the intraderm test that I did! In my case, it turned out pretty accurate. I wasn’t expecting it to! Keep a food diary as well. Really helps! 🙂

      • Hey,

        Yeah I was reading up about the FODMAP diet, I will have a good look into that.

        I’ve found some home tests you can get from the pharmacy but no idea how good they are. Apparently they’re pretty accurate. I think a general food sensitivity test would be best for me though!

      • Yeah actually, I remember hearing about some home tests too but I couldn’t find them anywhere. The saliva test seems to be the easiest lol. I wonder if you have to be eating gluten in order for these tests to work though. Intraderm didn’t require gluten consumption. Let me know though if you try out any home testing kits. Totally curious!

      • I’ll let you know, I think you do have to eat Gluten for them to pick it up, this isn’t something I want to do, especially if it then comes back negative. I’m sure I have a gluten sensitivity if not Coeliac’s disease!

        Intraderm sounds good I want to try it!

      • Yeah, same here! I knew for sure that I was reacting to gluten and I might not necessarily have Celiac!

        I got about 70 pricks for the intraderm test. Doesn’t hurt at all! Would have needed more, but I told the doctor I was a vegetarian so he didn’t bother testing with non vegetarian items. My test explained so many mysteries – I would always get stomach aches after eating Chinese food which contains cabbage and black pepper. I never even thought I’d be sensitive to those foods!

        Even so, if you’re feeling better gluten free, that’s all that really matters! Some of these tests can show false negatives as well. That’s what kind of discouraged me from getting tested.

      • Wow, seems really thorough! Testing for allergens and candida, and checking your vitamin and mineral levels… Sounds thorough! Quite affordable too! It’s also great that they do it without pricking! Wonder what the results have been like

      • I’ve emailed them to find out more! I’m excited. I wonder if I’d have to eat Gluten? Seems as though I may not as it’s how my body reacts to the metal?

      • Yeah, I’m thinking the same thing. I don’t think you’d have to eat gluten. Hooray if you don’t!

  2. Pingback: Red lentils Samosas (gluten free, dairy free, sugar free, soy free, nut free, vegetarian) | healthnutmumblog

  3. Thanks so much, Tanya, for this great post!! I swear I’ve been experiencing the same thing– first thought it was lactose, then gluten– now pretty sure it’s both. And this over the span of 15 years. I agree that the worst part is other people’s reactions: oh just tough it out! It’s in your head etc etc. They just don’t get it. My immune system has wreaked havoc on me– every little cold/bug that comes into the office manages to infiltrate my defenses and I’m feeling rundown and fatigued. After having seen several doctors and going through the arduous process of a sleep study I’ve finally self-diagnosed. Not a single doctor even mentioned gluten as a possibility the whole time!!

    Yet the DAY after I quit gluten 90% of my digestive issues cleared up. I’m still wrestling with getting the exact formula down– maybe I’m indeed allergic to other things too (definitely lactose). Your story about the allergist was inspiring and I’m determined to get tested too.

    Anyway, posts like yours definitely give me courage. It’s reassuring to see this stuff in writing when so many people around me (doctors included) seem to think it’s imagined.

    I also just saw a link to this magical device today:
    http://mashable.com/2013/11/26/tellspec/

    Unbelievable. I think technology like that could ultimately help those with food disorders know what they’re putting in their bodies. Frankly, given that we are what we eat, it’s horrifying that we currently know so little about what we send down the gullet.

    Wish you the best with your pursuit of health and safe eating!

    Sebastian

    • Hey Sebastian! Thanks for the comment! 🙂

      It’s been a long road, hasn’t it? Trial and error and then some more error! There’s just so much stress and pain involved with this whole issue. Kind of makes you wonder what the hell have they been adding to our foods all these years! I’ve been going to a new doctor – she says that I have a parasitic infection (from a case of food poisoning/stomach virus). I think that’s what makes it worse but I do think I will stay off gluten for good. After knowing how far the consumer-ready product is from its natural state, I’m better off without it.

      The tellspec device you linked me to looks amazing and would really help a lot of us!

      I wish you the best of health!

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