A Gluten Free Journey

A Gluten Free Journey

How and why I go on a gluten free diet has always been an interesting topic.  It is definitely a conversation piece whenever I get invited to a dinner party.  Guests on a gluten free diet can be a nuisance because they require the party host to re-imagine their dinner menu to accommodate the gluten-intolerants.  Luckily, I do not have celiac disease, just merely gluten intolerance.  Nonetheless, the symptoms caused by gluten intolerance can be  crippling. 

If you ever wonder whether gluten intolerance is a trend or fad that will just go away.  Think again.  According to the statistics provided by the Mayo Clinic, % of Americans PWAG (People without Celiac Disease Avoiding Gluten) on a gluten free diet have risen from 44 % during 2009-2012 to 72% around 2013-2014.   The main reason could be that the wheat we consume today are a different type called hybridized wheat.    In U.K.,  one in 10 people now avoid gluten.   In fact, the progressive big chain grocery stores are adding more shelf spaces to Gluten free products. 

Here is the story of my gluten free journey.  About 5 years ago, I began experiencing tingling sensation in my arms and legs.  At first, they felt like ants crawling in my skin.  However, the feelings grew gradually to numbness.  The tingling and numbness were not confined to one area.  They moved around.    I would feel them at my upper back, left arm, right arm, legs.  At first I thought nothing of it, until the night when I fell on my way to the bathroom.  My right leg had suddenly gone all numb. Now I got scared.

tingling in hands and feet can be sign of gluten intolerance
Tingling in hands is a neurological symptom
Image by andreas160578 from Pixabay

The first thing the doctor told me was that my symptoms were of a neurological nature.  However, it was puzzling because they have to do with the brain, the tingling and the numbness would only happen on one side of the body, not both, and certainly not of the travelling type.  When he mentioned that a brain tumour can cause tingling and numbness, I asked for a brain scan immediately.  In Canada, we have universal health insurance, and a brain scan is free. However, I will need to wait six months before I can get my turn. Knowing that my health is more important than money, I chose to pay for the brain scan which costs Can $900 which is around US$700. Sure enough, the next day, I got a full brain scan.  24 hours later, I had the result.  No tumours, my brain looks good.

Brain Scan Machine Image by Nina Garman from Pixabay

Meanwhile, my symptoms got worse.  The tingling became so intense and widespread that it felt like pain.  This pain was confined mostly to my legs.  I would use a hot water bottle on my leg to counteract the pain sensation.  Every half hour, as the hot water bottle cooled,  I would replenish the hot water bottle with boiling water.

Many symptoms for gluten intolerance  such as indigestion, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pains, headache, fatigue are similar to auto-immune diseases.  I did not have any of those symptoms, except maybe for fatigue.  Yet, which overworked person does not hope for more energy after a 10 hour work day?   I went for blood tests, but it showed nothing of concern.  Finally, I went for a nerve conduction test, to check for damaged nerves.  Once again, the doctor congratulated me for having passed the test.   no damaged nerve. 

“No brain tumour, no damaged nerve, no multiple sclerosis, no lyme disease, no cancer, but we do not know why you have these symptoms”.  That was the conclusion after several tests and doctor visits.

Then one day, I started having skin rashes on my legs.  I took a Benadryl tablet, and surprisingly, all the tingling and numbness symptoms also went away.  At the same time, I read online that around 10% of gluten intolerants can have tingling and numbness sensations.  This is when I started to put things together, and wonder if I may have gluten intolerance.

So, I began my gluten free journey by eliminating all types of gluten in my diet.  After two weeks, I felt great, and the symptoms slowly disappeared.  Of course, once symptom-free, I remained skeptical and started eating gluten products, and YES, the symptoms began coming back.  It seems that there is a certain threshold when gluten start to accumulate in the body, then the symptoms would return.

Today, I am completely gluten free.  I carry digestive enzymes with me in case I accidentally ingest some gluten.  If ever I doubt whether my self diagnosis is right, I just need to eat wheat again and my body will tell me. 

gluten free journey with alternative flours
gluten free alternative flours

Ever since I became gluten free, my world has opened up to new possibilities.  I experiment with all types of flour and pasta substitutes.  I read food labels carefully when I shop.  I research restaurants with gluten free menus.  Here is a photo of my kitchen. I have learned to use recipes that call for alternative flours. I became aware of gluten as a hidden ingredient in many prepared sauces and foods. I learned to cook gluten free recipes, and am simply happy to be healthy and free of symptoms.

my gluten free journey means experiment with new recipes

27 thoughts on “A Gluten Free Journey”

  • I was diagnosed with Celiac’s Disease about 4 years ago but I’ve dealt with it my entire life. I really should be completely gluten free but admittedly I’m addicted to all things bread and pasta related. I’ve been slowly working towards cutting it out of my diet though.

  • Really close friend of mine has gluten intolerance. When we go to a restaurant she always has to ask the chef to be extra careful when preparing the food because once they gave her “gluten” free food which later turned out to contain gluten. It’s a struggle to live with something like this because many time when getting gluten free food people instantly sees you as a brat and play bad jokes on you sometimes…

  • To know your allergies is important. It’s a way the body tells you it’s like and dislikes. Respecting it is quite the natural.

  • Finally somewhere I can actually understand a bit about gluten free. Thank you and I’m sharing this

  • Reducing gluten intake has so many benefits even if you’re not intolerant. My husband is allergic to gluten, and I noticed feeling a lot better myself after cutting it out of our meals. Great post!

  • My brother is gluten intolerant so we at home try not to get anything with gluten in it. We too are going gluten free for a few years.

  • I have never known anything about gluten intolerance in such detail. Thanks for sharing! I can now have more empathy towards those on a gluten free diet.

  • It’s so helpful to avoid certain food groups. I am lactose intolerant and I felt so much better after I had eliminated dairy.

  • I know some of my friends who are gluten intolerant and I know how difficult it gets for them. Its great that you researched so much. Thanks for sharing your journey.

  • My colleague is also suffering from gluten intolerance and she gets allergy from having gluten so I can feel the struggle

  • Adjusting your food intake as per your body needs and sensitivities is really important. Its good you were able to discover the needs of your body and have the discipline to manage it ??

  • As someone who has celiac disease, I really appreciate this post! The cooking opportunities are ample if you invest the time and energy :). Thanks for this post!

  • I am glad that you shared your story and did your own research. I have a friend’s dad who is gluten-free too because he is allergic to gluten. It has been that case since h was young.

  • This is a great story of your journey and very informative. This would be of great help to other gluten intolerant and an inspiration of what they can do to manage their needs.

  • Thank you for sharing this information. i’ve always wondered why some people chose a gluten free lifestyle, apparently gluten chose to make enemies of certain people. ???.

  • I too have a gluten intolerance. It’s so hard though! There are days I cheat and pig out on real pizza…and then I feel so gross, bloated, and sick for days! You are doing a great job keeping on task. Well done.

  • This is awesome. Good for you for the self discovery journey and for making that lifestyle change. I wonder how many people are suffering because they were not able to make that discovery. It is really a type of food allergy

  • Listening to your body is important as well as the food you put in it. Thanks for sharing your story to a gluten free journey. Every journey is different.

  • This is awesome! I would love to get off Gluten asap but I’ve always been concerned about the availability of replacements which I know are now available.

  • Oh my! What a journey! Sometimes the body whisper, and if you do not listen, it will start to kick and scream. You finally figured out what was wrong. The doctors could not tell you. Thanks for sharing!

  • Thank you for sharing this! I had no first hand experience of gluten sensitivities. It certainly is becoming more common. Valuable information to have for sure!

  • There is so much food with gluten to give up on this diet. Someday,if ever i become gluten intolerant? I hope that I will be strong and disciplined enough to try this kind of diet. ?

  • I’ve always been intrigued by gluten free and vegan lifestyles. I may start incorporating more gluten free items into my daily routine

  • We do have to be participatory with our health care. Doctors do not have the time to babysit their patients Nice and amazing that you did all the research to help yourself.

  • I loved your story. It’s amazing you did your own research and figured it out when doctors couldn’t. Food can be both a medicine and poison. So right in your case.

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