Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Deciding to Go Gluten-Free

A few months ago, in November 2013, I was diagnosed with Hypothyroidism. This diagnosis came as no surprise to me, considering both my grandmother and mother both have the same thing. Basically, my thyroid is underactive, which causes the hormones in my body to be released at a much higher rate than normal. (If you are not familiar with the thyroid, its underactivity causes too much hormone release and it's overactivity causes too little hormone release - it's the exact opposite of what you might think considering the normal use of underactive/overactive). Anyway, I was placed on thyroid supplements and started feeling slightly better. Some of my symptoms are still around, which is why I am going to go to a specialist to monitor my thyroid even further.

In January, I started getting pretty severe stomach aches. I've always had a "sensitive stomach" (as I'd call it) and felt that I got sick easily, for no apparent reason. After my thyroid diagnosis and 2-3 weeks of feeling miserable, every morning, all of the time, I decided to do a little research. Thankfully I stumbled upon an online forum for thyroid disorder patients, and read a lot. I mean, a lot. It's amazing what you learn from people who have been in the same situation as you, and know what they are talking about.

Many people had said that they started feeling better after they began a gluten-free diet. So, I did my own research and found that, indeed, gluten intolerance and thyroid disorders can be linked due to the fact that they are both autoimmune disorders. So I started my research on what it actually meant to go gluten-free, what it entailed, how it would work in my life, etc. Basically (there is more than this, trust me), no wheat, rye, barley, or oats. No traditional breads (the horror!), cakes, cookies, chips, anything and everything that included wheat, rye, barley (like beer), or oats. Ok, I told myself, I can try this. I can see if this makes me feel a little bit better.

I was anxious. I downloaded an app on my phone which allows me to scan almost every product in a grocery store to see if it has gluten, and if it does, the app tells me to avoid that item. On Saturday morning, after a particularly severe stomach attack (the pain is indescribable), I decided to just take the plunge. I took my app and started scanning everything in my pantry. 70% of it was ok, but I had to throw away many items like pastas or noodles (or label them "Javi only"). We went to the grocery store and bought some gluten-free products. Luckily, I am able to eat all meats, fruits, veggies, cheeses (I'm glad I'm not lactose intolerant), I just have to be careful with my consumption of grains. I seriously probably spent an hour and a half in the store, and bought maybe 20 items. It was exhausting at the moment. So now my pantry has gluten-free items, and I find myself being really conscious about what I eat.

I'm quite aware that I'm probably not intolerant to a little bit of gluten, but when consumed in high amounts, it gives me terrible pains. For example, we went to a restaurant and I really wanted a hamburger. Silly me, because after I ate (and I only ate a quarter of the bun because I knew it would make me feel bad), I felt those pains coming on. I knew that had to be the last time I ate a grain like that, because it was just too painful otherwise.

It has been a few days, and every single day since I've gone gluten-free, I have had NO stomach ache! Maybe this was the key. Only time will tell.

I'm not going gluten-free to lose weight. I'm not going gluten-free because it's 'healthier.' I'm going gluten-free because otherwise, I'd be in bed every morning feeling like my whole body was going to die. We still have products in our house with gluten because Javi eats them. I have to choose: do I want to feel good, or do I want to eat gluten? (Because, seriously, bread with gluten is SO much better...)

I know that if this is the reason and I remain gluten-free, eating out will be harder. I will have to bring my own food. I will have to tell people of my dietary restriction. I'm making changes in  my diet to eliminate being sick all of the time. It's not really by choice, it's by necessity.

Now, if I can only make a gluten-free bread that takes like bread with gluten, and I'll be happy.