Suddenly Celiac: You Are What You Eat. Or Are You?

May 25, 2018

I was raised on good clean food. Back in the 70s the term "clean eating" wasn't really a mainstream thing yet, but that's exactly how my family ate. My mom baked hearty, whole grain bread which my brother and I referred to as Birdseed Bread on account of its super seeded crust. She made wholesome soups from scratch like creamy broccoli, beef barley, and vegetable minestrone - all of which were often served for breakfast along with open-faced grilled cheese sandwiches lightly sprinkled with garlic salt. The juicer was invariably running, streaming out healthful concoctions like carrot/apple/ginger and cucumber/parsley/pear with various other herbs and spices added. She even tried (unsuccessfully) to juice lettuce. My brother and I drank so much carrot juice we were too healthy. Our skin started to turn orange, and my mother, thinking we had turned jaundice, took us to the doctor who promptly told us to lay off the stuff.  White flour and sugar did not exist in our home - our cookies were made with whole wheat flour, honey, and carob chips (sorry, Mom, but Tollhouse still has you on this one). She'd even take us to the local health food store for raw milk kefir and homebrewed sarsparilla. Simply put, my dear mother could have written chapters for the Vegetarian Epicure, which was one of her kitchen bibles in the 70s.  Other than some lousy all-nighter pizza decisions made in college and the occasional visit to Mickey D's, I've continued the healthy eating trend throughout my adulthood (or at least 85% so, I am human after all).

When I was diagnosed with Celiac disease a few months ago, it occurred to me that much of the healthy and wholesome foods I had been eating for nearly my entire life were, in fact, damaging my body.  Hearty barley soups, farro grain bowls, those wonderful homemade breads, whole wheat pasta, sushi dipped in soy sauce. So I adjusted my diet and went gluten-free. But my belly and joints continue to hurt, I still often suffer from exhaustion, and my digestive system is still far from normal. What gives? So back to the doctors I went.  First came the Sjogren's syndrome diagnosis, then a few weeks later a double whammy. "You have both candida albicans (systemic yeast overgrowth) and SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth)," they told me. Whaaat? So I did what any normal food loving person would do upon receiving such news. I promptly chugged a gluten-free beer (yeast), followed by a glass of wine (more yeast) along with some stinky gooey French blue cheese (more yeast and a veritable Petri dish of probably numerous fermentable bacteria) - none of which are either candida or SIBO friendly, but they hit the opioid receptors in my brain enough to quell my freaking out.

For months I have been diligent at eliminating gluten from my diet, rarely eating out lest I be cross-contaminated, and working tirelessly on healing my gut. I've spent countless dollars on "gut healing" foods and supplements in an attempt to "restore gut mucosa", to help "close the junctures of the small intestine", "strengthen the gut lining", and so on. I am a research junkie. I research the research like an addict looking for the next score because I am so desperate to heal. So when I got the candida and SIBO diagnoses it spun me like a top. All that good food, all those healthy mushroom teas - reishi, chaga, lion's mane, Chioggia, shiitake, anything fungusy that grows in and on and under wet wooded parts, cauliflower in abundance (a healthier alternative to a gf pizza crust), copious quantities of whole vegetables. It turns out much of what I've been eating - normal healthy foods that properly ferment in a well-functioning gut - have been gas on my fire. And because the RMPs of the wheel have been going so fast new food sensitivities I never had before have popped up - cauliflower, potatoes, carrots (bye bye, carrot juice), cucumbers, cabbage, tomatoes, black pepper, lemons, lettuce. All the things I eat every day in large quantities; everything I just planted in my garden. All the while my insides are still screaming and breeding bacteria in areas of my body where they shouldn't be.

I am not what I eat: the picture of good health.

Here was my mistake:  I have been so outwardly focused on healing, so overly controlling of controlling my health that I failed, utterly and completely failed, to stop and listen. In my attempt to be nurturing to my body I lacked one integral element: mindfulness. I have not taken the precious moments to stop and just listen to my body after I eat, to "hear" how it affects me. Is it causing a stomachache, do I feel bloated, nauseous, headachy? How do I feel even the next morning? Instead, I have been robotically purchasing, cooking, ingesting every gut healing food, supplement, medicine all the books, doctors, scientific abstracts, and voodoo priestesses have espoused as healthy for me - without listening to what works for me.

Every BODY is different.

I've since learned that the healthiest "superfood" for one person may make another clutch the commode in agony. You do not need to have an autoimmune disease or even an allergy to react adversely to a food. A symptom may manifest itself in a way you may not normally associate with a food reaction: brain fog, irritability, depression, joint pain.  Unfortunately, our polluted environment, our food system, even our medical system with its flippancy in overprescribing antibiotics has caused many of us to acquire autoimmune diseases, food and environmental allergies, and food sensitivities at alarming numbers (and rates) compared to even 40 years ago.  I never knew anyone with a peanut allergy when I was a kid, did you?

The body has an amazing ability to detoxify and compensate for the damage we do (knowingly and unknowingly), but at some point, it will raise the white flag and say, "Enough!" 

After your next meal (and the next and the next), take a moment to listen to your body. Take it from me, that stomachache/headache/eczema
/diarrhea/constipation/brain fog/bloating you feel, even after that "healthy" meal, is not normal.

Simply listen.


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