After discovering that my husband has a severe gluten intolerance last year, we were forced to change the way we think about food. In hindsight, this has turned out to be a blessing for us all. For those unfamiliar with gluten, allow me to explain. Per Wikipedia; Gluten (from Latin gluten, “glue”) is a protein composite found in foods processed from wheat and related grain species, including barley and rye. Gluten gives elasticity to dough, helping it rise and keep its shape and often gives the final product a chewy texture. Gluten may also be found in some cosmetics, hair products, and other dermatological preparations. No, I haven’t gone through and gotten rid of my make-up and beauty products yet. I am certain that day is somewhere in my future. Since I am giving you a little gluten 101 please allow me to give you a definition of Celiac Disease. Per Wikipedia; Coeliac disease spelled celiac disease and often celiac sprue) is an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine that occurs in genetically predisposed people of all ages from middle infancy onward. Symptoms include chronic diarrhea, failure to thrive (in children), and fatigue, but these may be absent, and symptoms in other organ systems have been described. Now that we have covered the basics, let’s talk about how this has affected my family. Along with severe migraines my husband experienced stomach cramps, stabbing stomach pains, bloat, diarrhea and constipation (I’m sure he loves that I just shared that with the world!), but hey I am trying to educate someone here. It’s all for a good cause, right honey? These pains were not constant but occurred almost every day and varied in their severity. It was obvious to me that something he ate did not agree with him, but what was it? We cooked a lot, ate out at restaurants a lot, he would bring something home after work, so I had no idea where to even start. Once I read about gluten and was almost certain this was his issue, I began thinking of when he would complain of stomach pains and migraines. I wanted to be sure I was on the right track. While sitting there I began writing his meals and snacks on paper. It began with the most current meal and moved backward spanning key times that his symptoms were really bad over the years. My memory is terrible but some things are unforgettable. His health has been one of those issues I have made certain to keep mental tabs on. The previous night we had spaghetti and meatballs for dinner. Seems pretty basic but we were doing the “healthy” thing and eating whole wheat/whole grain pasta noodles. He spent the evening on the bed in the fetal position with stomach pains and a terrible headache. The day before we had eaten sandwiches for lunch and later that day he complained of the same issues. I began doing this for each meal that I could think of. The previous week we had ordered pizza and wings which turned out to be a really bad night for him! There was a time when he had one or two Octoberfest beers and wow, I thought he was going to need to be hospitalized. I knew that beer was made from wheat and barley so I looked up what was in Octoberfest that could have made him so sick and found that it contains five varieties of malted barley. Wow! Ok..this was really adding up. Anytime he had a hamburger, pizza, doughnut, bread, pasta, or beer he would get sick. Depending on the amount of gluten he consumed his reaction would vary. Sometimes it would be a mild headache or mild stomach cramps, but other times he would be in bed for twenty-four hours not wanting to move or even talk to me.
In addition, I have discovered that I too was being negatively affected by gluten. My diagnosis came later, in the past couple months. Carbohydrates have been a huge part of my diet as far back as I can remember. In high school my dinner was often macaroni and cheese, a slice of wheat bread with peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies. Good thing for me I learned how to cook! I ate the typical college diet of burgers, pizza, pastas, bagels, and any delicious pastry I could get my hands on. When I became a mother I knew to cut back on sugar and up the intake of fruits and veggies but the breads remained a staple. It’s a whole grain and the food pyramid says we should eat it so it must be healthy right?
A couple of months ago I had a pretty stressful day and just did not get around to making dinner. I called my husband at work and asked him to pick something up on his way home. He stopped by Costco and picked up one of their pizzas (which is so incredibly delicious, but we are not going to talk about that because it would be going against anything I have written thus far). He was sweet enough to bring me a grilled chicken salad. Well he was unaware I had a salad for lunch and with the smell of that pizza the salad was just not looking near as good as that gooey cheesy slice of heaven! Since he has gone gluten-free I have tried very hard to do it alongside him. I was never as strict as him because I didn’t have to be, or so I thought… I knew the minute I put that pizza in my mouth I was going to regret it. When you cut out breads and pastas to any degree you get used to feeling a lot less bloated and full after you eat. I have discovered that if I substitute sandwich bread with a lettuce wrap I am rarely ever stuffed. I am talking that “feel terrible” – “just blah” – “I need to take a nap” kind of stuffed. You can use lettuce leaves as a substitute for a hamburger bun or even a tortilla or burrito. My discovery over the next four days was gluten did not just affect the way my stomach felt but it affected my MOOD!
Now, obviously I am a girl and everyone knows that women are more moody and dramatic (in most areas except when it comes to being sick and men definitely take the cake on that one but we will talk about that later). I spent the next four days in the most irritable mood you can think of. If I did not know better I would have sworn I was pregnant (yeah, THAT kind of moody)! One minute I was crying feeling sorry for myself and thinking what a terrible mother I was. I got angry at myself and would obsess over whether or not I was reading enough to the kids. I would randomly think back and wonder did I sing them enough lullabies when they were babies….REALLY? As each of these days progressed I found myself furiously screaming at the kids for not combing their hair the right way or not knowing exactly what mommy was thinking at any given moment, because yes they should be able to read my mind! I also placed several phone calls to my husband over the course of those four days crying and feeling sorry for myself that I was not a good wife. I was very tired and had absolutely no motivation to really do much. Yeah…didn’t I sound peachy- Wanna be best friends!?! Finally, when I gathered myself and looked into the faces of my poor children who were staring back at me as if pineapples were growing out of my ears, it was obvious something was not right. There was absolutely no reason for me to feel the way I did. Everything was going well for us. My marriage, the kids and homeschool were all going great. Everyone is healthy and things were just good! And then it hit me, perhaps those two gooey delicious tasty pieces of pizza were the culprit! I had read many times about how gluten can affect your mood. There are countless articles, testimonies, books, and websites about people going on and on about how irritable, tired, angry, sad, depressed, anxious, in a brain fog of sorts due to how gluten made them feel. It was then, that I knew I too was intolerant to this little nasty protein. Finally relief and an answer for my crazy mood swings. Like many women I know, I just thought it was hormonal. Well, since then I have not consumed gluten and boy what a difference! I no longer need my natural anti-anxiety/stress supplements. Well, maybe on occasion. I do have four kids. Some days it is a necessity! My mood is MUCH more stable! Yes, I am no longer so snappy all the time. Now, before you raid the pantry and refrigerator thinking I have just given you the miracle cure for your crazy mommy moods and trash anything that even resembles bread allow me to say this. I am human. I am a mother to four young children that I homeschool which means they are home with me e…v…e…r…y…d…a…y. We do not live near family or have “the free” babysitter. With that said – I still get stressed. I still get angry and fly off the handle and later beg them to forgive me. I still yell and lose my temper. However when one, or any of the four are being disobedient, I now feel more in control and more calm, focused, and alert. I no longer feel the need to nap in the afternoon. I have a renewed energy of sorts… all by ridding gluten!
Chances are I have just described you or someone you know in some way. If you suffer from migraines, IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) / gastrointestinal issues, mood swings, joint pain (gluten is an inflammatory), fatigue, psoriasis, eczema, alopecia areata, hives, the list goes on and on you might want to think about what you are eating. Have I made you think?