Why I chose to go Gluten Free.

Should you go Gluten Free?

Disclaimer:

I’d like to start this by saying I am not a doctor. Far from it. I’m sharing my experience and research that I’ve done with my readers because of how going gluten free has helped me. Anyone who is thinking about going gluten free should really do their own research and consult their doctor. Is going gluten free for everyone? Absolutely not. It is a major life change that could be completely unneeded and a hassle that someone without Celiac’s or a gluten intolerance doesn’t have to take on. Anyone who is thinking about going gluten free should really do their own research and consult their doctor.

What is this word, gluten?

One of the first things I noticed when my doctor and I made the decision to try going gluten free in 2011, was that pretty much no one knew what gluten was. I learned very quickly to just ask what the ingredients were vs asking questions about the gluten. Even then, many would warn me, “Watch out! That has Soy in it!” or would mistake gluten for glucose (Man, if I ever have diabetes… just kill me – course I said the same thing about gluten at one point…) That being said, I have to applaud people for trying, because they really did want to keep me safe and healthy, regardless of whether or not they understood the intolerance/allergy.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat. Pretty much, it’s the sticky “glue” that holds your food together. Seriously, the word actually means glue. And because the people who manufacturer wheat, also manufacturer other types of grains (barley, oats, etc) and throw it all together into one big machine, other grains than just wheat end up on our no no list. We have to be careful of things like Malt, which is created from Barley, which contains gluten because it’s manufactured with wheat. And wheat? It’s in everything. Especially processed foods. It’s even in freaking Soy Sauce!!!

acd3n

To make things even trickier, it likes to hide itself in ingredients. For example – Modified Food Starch. What the heck is that?!?!??! Well, it could be cornstarch, or it could be rice flour, or it could be wheat. It all depends on whatever is cheaper at the time the item is made – hence the extremely generic name. It’s important to make sure when looking at the item that next to modified food starch it says (Corn) or something that isn’t (Wheat). Click on this link to find a variety of ingredients that are either gluten-free or have gluten hidden in them.

Why I went gluten-free.

So as I said before, unless you have a medical reason, going gluten free may not be for you and may not be something a doctor would recommend to you. I found out through trial and error. Since I don’t feel like going into full detail of my medical history, I’ll try to be brief.

I thought I had IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome. I avoided the foods that I was suppose to avoid as much as I could, though mainly I just avoided milk products.

When I was a kid, I had foot issues. Walked naturally on my tippy toes like a ballerina, super flat feet, etc. By five years old, I was being told to do some physical therapy and was getting orthotics. My feet hurt walking long distances making shopping in any fashion the most horrible experience ever (I mean, it was already boring but now add in my feet hurting)… Flash forward to 17, when I finally went to a doctor who told me that it needed to be corrected with surgery. Ok, no big deal right?

IMG_339791406346285

Out of 8 years of having surgeries, I spent a cumulative of 4 years riding this scooter and my foot looking like this.

Flash forward over the next 8 years where I had 8 different foot surgeries (including lengthening my Achilles’ tendon, bone fusions, breaking my heels and moving them forward to stabilize my feet, the insertion of pins, arch implants, screws – etc). My left foot only required two surgeries. My right foot decided, meh, I don’t want to heal. Six surgeries were dedicated to it. During these surgeries, my navicular bone just wouldn’t cooperate, never healed properly, and finally died (bone necrosis – gross). I had some cadiaver bone inserted which didn’t help and my foot rejected it.

IMG_339481360485724

Foot right after surgery on 01/27/2011 – the center piece between the two pins with gaps is the navicular bone that was suppose to knit together.

IMG_339499975969416

This is my foot a little over 4 months later on 06/01/2011. Originally, I was suppose to only be off my foot for 3 months. As you can see, I still have the external contraption on my foot and that bone in the middle is opaque and not like the other bones which are transparent. The gaps are very obvious and not knitting together. This is when it was determined that the bone had died.

 

IMG_339490074365826

The bone within the red square is what I’m talking about.

Finally, they took a chunk of bone from my right hip and stuck it in my right foot. Finally, FINALLY, my foot has healed and seems to be ok (knock on wood).  Look at what I can do now!

running

Before the last surgery where they replaced my navicular bone with a piece of my hip (filled with yummy yummy stem cells), my doctor looked at my entire medical history and together, we did some research and decided that I may have a gluten allergy/intolerance/Celiac’s Disease. Indications were the bone not healing and then dying, miscarriage, weird rashes that plagued me since I was a child (stress rashes they called them), bowel issues (do I need to say more), sharp stomach pain, constant UTIs, and kidney stones.

Funny. Of the top 8 symptoms noted by Mayo Clinic for Celiac’s, at the time, I had experienced 7. Even the pictures of the rash were pretty much identical to mine.

So I took a blood test and BINGO, it indicated antibodies in my system that suggested I had Celiac’s Disease.

But giving up gluten was kind of a big step. I mean, first off, I typically made fun of people who were gluten-free (I really do try not to judge, but the gluten-free people I knew were kinda snooty about it). So I figured I’d give it a week and if I didn’t see changes, I was going to buy a box of donuts and go nuts.

What it did for me.

Four days. FOUR GLORIOUS DAYS and my world literally turned around. It was 2011. No more stomach pain. No more frequent trips to the bathroom where I would be trapped for 30 minutes at least. I was pretty hooked with just that. Imagine not being able to walk and needing to be in the bathroom IMMEDIATELY. Not a good combo. So I decided to stick with it. To make it part of my lifestyle. Plus my doctor mentioned a bunch of scary things like intestinal cancer if I kept eating donuts.

This was May 2011. I had surgery previously in the year in January – and my bone had not healed and had died. I weighed 170lbs. By December of 2011, I had my last surgery, where they took the bone from my hip and put it in my foot.

By May of 2012, my foot had mostly healed, and I had dropped down to 126lbs.  And by June 2012, I found out I was expecting my son, who was born Feb 7th, 2013 – strong and healthy.

I cannot stress this enough – Please do not go gluten free to lose weight. Gluten free does not mean low carb – in fact, a lot of gluten free food is higher in fat and sugar to offset the lack of gluten. Something has to hold the food together and make it tasty. If you are looking to lose weight, check in next week for my post about Clean-Eating or hop on over to these blogs:

Sooner or Lighter by Jackie Conn

After The Couch by Pattie Reaves

Wait? How does gluten or Celiac’s Disease affect a bone?

Very simply, typically, when someone has Celiac’s or an intolerance to gluten, they have bowel issues.  Repeated bowel issues leads to damage of the villa in the intestine.  The villa in your intestine absorb nutrients such calcium.  So if the villa are damaged, and you’re avoiding milk products, your body can’t get the things it needs to repair itself after a major trauma, like after surgery.  To learn more and read all the science mumbo jumbo you can visit the Celiac Disease Center.

While I do send kudos out to my doctors who were incredibly knowledgable and supportive, I really do believe, as do they, that the removal of gluten and allowing my body to heal and absorb nutrients, is the reason I was able to make a full recovery.  When it comes down to it, without getting my body healthy and on the right track, no amount of surgery and medical expertise was going to heal the bone.  My last surgery was my last chance to try to heal this bone.  And I’m thankful that it was successful.

Jamie Webster

About Jamie Webster

Just your average blogger. Married 2 years with two wonderful children who are 6 years apart. Little about me: I’m turning 30 this year (yikes), have had 8 foot surgeries in 8 years and have spent a little over 4 years of my life in and out of a wheel chair (or scooter). And today, I am running 5ks. I attribute two major changes in my life to my healing: the power of goal setting and going gluten free.