Good morning! Sorry for the long, picture-less post today, but this is something that has been on my mind lately. Yesterday, I had a dentist appointment, where the hygienist looked at me funny when I told her I was sensitive to gluten. Maybe I am being overly sensitive, but I took it as she didn’t believe me. Like she thought I was saying I had a gluten sensitivity just because it’s a fad, or the latest diet. I was slightly offended.
Additionally, I’m not sure how many of you all have seen it, but there’s been an article floating around lately about how gluten sensitivity may not be a real thing. (There are tons of articles, decent ones here and here.) I am in complete agreement that gluten sensitivity isn’t a cure-all or a single identifier of food sensitivities, but on a spectrum of food sensitivities. Both these articles discuss how gluten is a FODMAP, essentially part of a group of foods that contain certain chains of carbohydrates that are difficult for the small intestine to absorb. People with FODMAP sensitivities tend to present symptoms like irritable bowel syndrome and gastrointestinal distress associated with consumption of these foods. And in most cases (me included), those with gluten sensitivity are also sensitive to a variety of other FODMAPs.
Just to give some background, I started experiencing frequent gastrointestinal distress in my early teens. I didn’t really know what was going on with my body, so I cut out dairy. At that point in my life, I was very uneducated about how food could affect my body. I would experience bloating, physical pains in my stomach after eating and some other GI symptoms that I will spare you. I would frequently have to lie down after meals, letting my body fully digest my food because I was too bloated and in pain to move. For years, my parents and I chalked up my symptoms to poor eating in high school and college. I tried to adopt better eating habits, but we also thought poor sleep schedules and stress could also be causing the symptoms, so I continued to live my life, just hoping things would get better on their own.
When I was 22, I finally came to a point where I felt like I needed to seek professional help. At that time, I was in a full time job, eating healthy foods, eating regularly and getting plenty of sleep. My stress levels were low and my healthy living habits were good, so why was I still having pain? After seeing my family doctor and a gastroenterologist, there was no obvious problem with my digestive system. I underwent a battery of tests, where they finally saw that my gallbladder was causing pain when functioning. There wasn’t a guarantee that my symptoms would get better, but they suggested I try removing my gallbladder. I got my gallbladder removed, and soon, my symptoms were starting to do a bit better.
By taking out one of my organs, my body’s ability to bloat and cause pain after eating was diminished. But, my symptoms still did not 100% disappear. I thought many of these symptoms were the result of some post-operative syndromes common of people without gallbladders. I went to graduate school and tried to move on with my life. Then, about 2 years ago, I stumbled upon an article talking about how the majority of people who have had their gallbladders removed actually have a misdiagnosed gluten sensitivity. I found it interesting, and decided there was no harm in taking gluten out of my diet for a few months and see how I felt.
Not to sound ridiculous, but taking gluten out of my diet was amazing. Almost immediately all the “residual” symptoms I had disappeared. I no longer started to fear vacations or traveling because I was given such better control of my body – I was starting to learn how foods would effect me, and realizing I could control how my body felt on a day to day basis. If you’ve never had that experience, I know it sound hokey, but for me, it really was so liberating. Since I’ve cut gluten out, I’ve also noticed that I experience symptoms with some other FODMAPs, including onions (especially raw), beans, artichokes, and cabbage. I can do some of these foods in small amounts, but I definitely know when I’ve had them.
So, sorry for the long-winded post, but I think it’s important to acknowledge that for some people (like myself), food sensitivities really are a serious thing. I completely acknowledge that there are some people out there that are using gluten free as a weight loss tool, but that doesn’t mean we should put everyone in that category. And in that same vein, I shouldn’t expect everyone to cater to my food sensitivities. Hubs eats gluten and I am totally OK with that. I even cook gluten-filled meals for him. I just know I have to do what’s best for myself and take care of my body.