So I gave up gluten for two months and felt a dramatic difference in my wellness. Then two weeks ago I went to the doctor and while discussing a blood test for some other things, he suggested we do a blood test for an immune response to gluten. I didn’t really think I needed it, I was pretty convinced already. Then he said I’d have to eat gluten again until the test so that my body actually produced an immune response. The blood test has to be on a certain day of my cycle to test my reproductive hormones, which is tomorrow. So for the last 13 days I’ve been eating a lot of gluten again. And boy, does it suck.
I noticed a difference straight away. The first gluten filled thing I ate was some crackers, because I’ve always loved crackers and cheese. I felt sick to my stomach immediately. I am not sure if that was because I was really hungry at the time, or they were bad biscuits, or if it was just the shock to my system of highly processed, gluten-ous food that I hadn’t eaten in a while. For dinner that night I had baked beans on toast, another past favourite meal. I didn’t feel too bad after that so I thought that was a good sign.
Nevertheless, within 24 hours I noticed a difference, and my condition has continued to deteriorate with each passing day. Symptoms I had no idea even could be connected to gluten, and that I’d certainly never before connected to diet, reappeared with alarming immediacy. On top of the sinus congestion, bloating and fatigue (which I had expected), I have also had dry, itchy skin and eyes, constipation, brain fog, indigestion, cramps (which may be purely endometriosis, although some of my research suggests endo is also connected to gluten) body aches, sore throat, jaw pain, anxiety, difficulty swallowing food at times and a general worsening malaise. In particular, two things really stood out.
Firstly, within 48 hours of being back on a gluten diet I had a very familiar ache in my neck and shoulders. I hadn’t realised that I had been free of that pain for the previous 6 – 8 weeks since I’d been gluten-free. I used to get that ache all the time, and that was one of the reasons one of my new years resolutions was to get regular massages. Now I was able to connect this pain to gluten and it made so much sense. I have since heard/read about others who have similar experiences with body aches when they eat gluten. Who knew!?
Secondly, jaw pain and dry eyes. Both of these symptoms I suspected were connected with my sinus congestion, but I had not yet connected that 100% with gluten. I have struggled for years with dry itchy eyes, and frequently use eye drops to relieve symptoms. It’s a pretty minor ailment that I had basically totally accepted and thought little about. The jaw pain on the other hand has been a real difficulty for me, especially over the last 18 months. I had what we thought was a chronic sinus infection at Christmas last year, which I took a course of antibiotics for and have been on antihistamines ever since because that’s the only thing that really helped the jaw pain. Decongestants helped the sinus pain, but not the jaw. About 12 months ago it was so bad that I had an expensive ocular splint (like a plate/mouth guard) made for me to wear at night because the dentist thought perhaps I the cause of the pain was grinding my teeth in my sleep (even though my teeth didn’t show obvious signs of that). The splint and the antihistamines helped initially but over time became less and less effective. I also found that if I forgot to take the antihistamine one day, the jaw pain returned very quickly.
Anyway, since I’ve been gluten free I’ve been able to stop taking the anti-histamines and had been doing fine without them. I actually had forgotten about the jaw pain. Until last week when the jaw pain was back with a vengeance! Who knew gluten could be responsible for so many symptoms!?
Well, apparently lots of people on the internet. But I had only ever heard about full blown Coeliac symptoms like weight loss and diarrhoea, neither of which I experienced so I always ruled out any problem with gluten. This last two weeks has been a pretty uncomfortable experience for me. The headaches have gotten progressively worse each day (it took a few days for them to really start as I believe gluten is having a cumulative effect on my system). My sore throat is pretty bad this evening and the fatigue, malaise and brain fog has made it a very difficult week at work. Interestingly, I had said to my therapist the week before I went back on gluten that I was feeling the most calm and thinking more clearly than I had experienced in a long, long time. And within days of being back on gluten the brain fog and also the feelings of stress were back. Scary to think that this achey, fatigued, brain-foggy, constipated, anxious person is who I used to be all the time.
And what about all the supposedly delicious food I’ve been eating? At the start of this fortnight I viewed this as an opportunity to eat all my old favourite meals. Well, it hasn’t even been that delicious. I had a really good burger at a pub, a great burrito and a yummy piece of turkish bread at restaurants in Brisbane. But other than that? I haven’t even enjoyed it. All my old favourite foods are no longer favourites. I cooked everything exactly the way I used to, but I feel unwell enough after every meal that I’ve come to dread eating things I used to love. In fact, I have no worries about never eating any of them again. Before re-introducing gluten I felt a lot of meal envy for what others were eating. But I don’t think that will happen anymore. I am going to embrace this wholeheartedly and continue to tune into my body’s response to food.
So the blood test is tomorrow. At this point, I don’t even care what the results are. I am not eating gluten again after tomorrow. It has been an uncomfortable but very worth while experiment. Now I know I don’t have to feel like this all the time and I’m looking forward to feeling good again very soon! I’ll keep you posted! 🙂