The Gluten Thing

The Gluten Thing

For years, I openly scoffed at what I considered the wanna-be hippie religion of Gluten-Free eating. Living in Austin, TX, there are more health fads and varying degrees of natural, vegan, clean, paleo, carnivore, omnivore, soy-loving, soy-hating, garden planting foodies throughout our fair city. If you want to consider a specific food style, you will find something in this city that either caters to you specifically or can modify their dishes without complaint to accommodate your specific niche.

As a typical American omnivore, I held to the specific science that I’d read over and over again clearly stating that the only people who needed to concern themselves with gluten intake were those few people who actually had Celiac Disease. I had friends who were considering a gluten free lifestyle for reasons I couldn’t fathom and others who swore it was changing their lives. I didn’t believe any of them and, yes, openly worked to convince them it was a bad idea. I mean, why go through the torture of having to consider everything you eat when there’s no real benefit to doing so?

Why am I talking about gluten? This was the thing my nutritionist recommended I cut out of my diet first for a solid 90 days and then get a new blood test. This sounded absolutely impossible to me and there was a part of me that truly rebelled at the thought of it. Not to mention not wanting to be a member of the gluten-free crowd.

But, I was desperate, and in my research, her recommendation did not really surprise me as there is a growing mountain of research that links gluten to inflammation. So, begrudgingly, I agreed to this for 90 days fully convinced it would go nowhere and bummed that I would have to wait three months before I would actually know if this ridiculous experiment would yield any results, but I made the commitment and went with it.

Within just one month, I discovered something strange and surprising. I wasn’t using my inhaler as often and it seemed my migraines had lessened. I chalked this up to an oddity at the time thinking it was just a weather change or something else. But as time went forward, it became clear that my asthma was clearing up and, within a few more weeks, it was too much to ignore. I hadn’t needed my inhaler in the midst of what would normally be a fairly allergy-laden month and a half (January/February is cedar season in Austin – and it gives me fits every year).

By the time March had arrived, I’d been migraine free for two months and I stopped taking Symbicort as a test. No asthma, no migraines, no illness, and greatly reduced allergies. I had stopped eating gluten as a test for a blood marker only to discover that it was having other positive effects. Now, before anyone says this is some weird sort of placebo – remember that I only went down this road for a blood test, not to combat a specific ailment… so the placebo effect doesn’t apply here.

Then, I got comfortable. I went out to breakfast with my daughter and she wanted to go to a bagel shop and I figured one bagel couldn’t hurt and I had one without a thought. What I didn’t realize is that real bagels are usually made with something called high-gluten flour. Within three hours of finishing the bagel, I was laid up in bed with a migraine. At the time, I chalked this up to a coincidence and didn’t give it another thought.

On another day, I broke down and had some pizza… the same thing happened, but to a lesser degree. A migraine within three hours of eating. It wasn’t as severe, but I couldn’t discount the coincidence. This, of course, led to a clean break from gluten.

Nowadays, if I were to have a little gluten from time to time, it doesn’t have the same impact, but I’ve discovered that if I become too lax and introduce it back into my diet regularly, it has ill effects. I realized this because the last quarter of 2016, I had to travel almost constantly for work and I had a lot more gluten than usual just for the sake of convenience (and, if I’m honest, because it’s just so dang delicious).

By the end of December, I was sick. Constant cough. Respiratory issues daily. By January, I’d been bitten by the bronchitis bug for the first time in over a year. I was miserable and I knew what had caused it. My allergies had come back with ferocity and I had two migraines in just a few weeks. Ugh. It was time for a reset.