Gluten was the biggest test of the 8Safe program that I was looking forward to. It was the culmination of the entire program and would either keep the door open to a bunch of delectable goodness or close it over for a while (or permanently). I had high hopes that I would be one of the few to suffer no ill effects; just as I had thought would be the case with eggs. Boy, was I wrong.
I know several people who are gluten-free due to diagnosed celiac disease. It is a true ailment and I’ve seen it affect those who suffer from it in huge ways.
On the flip side, I have been skeptical of others who say they are on a gluten-free diet because they hope to lose weight or for some other undiagnosed non-medical reason. I always thought if you can eat something, eat it in moderation. Moderation and a healthy lifestyle are my motto. Gluten-free seemed to be a diet trend much like paleo or low-carb dieting these days.
This brings me to my experience testing gluten. It was a week ago now, and it’s taken me that long to recover and process my experience.
Let’s go back to that fateful Friday morning when I decided to go to Whole Foods in search of a rye bread with few ingredients that did not include wheat. Kelly has you test gluten first, then wheat, to tease out if you have an issue with just gluten, or with wheat itself. I found a great rye bread, albeit very dry, to munch on throughout the day that only had about four ingredients.
I sat in my car and stared at the bag for a few minutes. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to consume it, and it felt like I was doing something devious. I eventually let out a deep breath and went to town on the slice of rye bread.
Following that slice, I had two more slices with my lunch, and by the evening I had no desire to eat more. I did eventually down another slice of bread before bedtime but after having dinner out with Monkey at Chipotle. My first time dining out in over a month!
Within the hour, I felt jittery, a bit stiff, and uncomfortably itchy. Sigh. Really? Come on. Pizza and baking a variety of doughs is my thing. Ugh.
Within the day, I had my eczema reaction right back in full force on my face and under my arm. After lunch, a colleague asked what I was testing as my face started to redden again. Oh, and I tried not to drop stink bombs in anyone’s vicinity because flatulence came on with a vengeance by midday, eeek!
Two of my colleagues had witnessed my obvious battle with eczema on my face since November and we discussed it often. They were so intrigued by my choice to try an elimination diet to see if it improved (which it improved completely before I started testing foods). Prior years, my eczema was on my arms where I could conceal it or on my eyelids where it was managed by creams.
The photo below was eczema the night of the fateful gluten testing day. I feel as though many people might think it’s all in my head, but nope, it’s on my head. Like right on my face for all to see. This picture doesn’t do the Rudolph-red justice using the mobile camera and tungsten lighting. I was um, tired, sorry.
The next morning, I slept until 9 am. I usually sleep until around 6 am when the boys wake up. I never even heard them, I was exhausted and Chris took care of them. When I tried to get out bed, I felt sluggish and dizzy. “I am getting a cold, because this can’t be happening,” I thought to myself. My skin was a little less red (less extreme than my egg reaction) but drier than ever.
As the rest of the weekend wore on, I felt extremely tired. I had plans to run and quickly dashed those thoughts from my mind. My body felt dry. Something was off. I just wasn’t myself. It took two more days to start to feel any level of energy back that I had had before testing gluten.
My mind felt foggier than it had been before I reached week three on the elimination diet. There was no reason to test wheat, but I ate two slices the next day figuring, “why not?!” They didn’t taste as good as I had dreamed about those first two weeks.
I wasn’t prepared for the energy drop, for the itchy skin, or the return of my eczema. I knew if I had a reaction it could take weeks to recover from yet again. This wasn’t supposed to be how it all turned out.
So, this entire week I’ve been organizing my thoughts on this entire experience. I definitely learned A LOT about my body and it’s relationship to food. I’ve lost about 10lbs without trying, by consuming at times chips and soda to get me through cravings. I was shocked at foods I reacted to, and others I did not. I am now formulating how or what I even want to work back into my nutritional experience.
In the end, I can’t say I’ll be gluten-free just yet, but I do know I feel FAR better without it. I’ve been researching A TON on gluten-free flours, baking, and gf yeast doughs. I am taking a course in a few weeks on homemade pizzas, calzones, and garlic knots that seems like cruel torture, but actually, I just want to learn more about working with doughs. I have no desire to eat pizza anymore. Yeah, I know, me… and no pizza desire?! I do however plan to re-try gluten/wheat at the cooking workshop and see if I have the same result.
I would love to find a balance incorporating less gluten/wheat into my diet, but not having to avoid it 100%. I am not sure that is possible considering my reaction. I am not sure I want to deal with the ups and downs, either. Though my frugal heart loves homemade bread and GF is quite a bit pricier. This could mean either more expenses for similar homemade goodness or consuming less baked/bread overall going forward (which isn’t really a bad thing).
In the end, my desire to do the 8Safe program stemmed from trying to find the source and eliminate my eczema and potentially understanding what foods might trigger Crab’s eczema. It’s a battle I’ve struggled with since high school and I always knew it was somehow connected to what I consumed or lotions on my skin. Now, I actually have direct foods that trigger it, even if it now complicates my life a bit more. Better eating and no eczema, joint swelling, or bloating is a complication I’d rather have.
More to come on my overall thoughts, plans going forward, and on my new experiments with gluten-free baking!