Have you ever heard someone say, “I know (fill in the blank) isn’t good for me, but I’m going to do it anyway”? Whether it’s a nutritional, activity, or even a book choice, the comment is meant to point out an important fact.
Whether you agree or not, their declaration means – this is my choice.
And, that’s okay.
I’m all about making healthy choices and I do my best to encourage and educate others to do the same. But my responsibility (unless hired to do otherwise) ends there. I try to provide as much information as possible on a topic without overwhelming you, the reader. It’s my “job” to make sure that you have the information you need to make strong, confident, and educated decisions regarding your health and your body. After that, you get to choose.
The following chart lists some – not all – of the signs and symptoms that can be attributed to food sensitivities and a wheat/gluten sensitivity or intolerance. They are listed in no particular order of importance. Do any of the following symptoms look familiar to you? Are you experiencing any (or many) of them more often than you’d like?
Signs and symptoms of food sensitivities in general and wheat/ gluten specifically:
|Skin rashes/itchy||Skin redness||Skin dryness||Headaches||Migraines|
|Joint pain||Joint stiffness||Joint swelling||Food sensitivities||Dizziness|
|Balance Issues||Neuropathy||Extremity tingling||Muscle weakness||Muscle pain|
|Fatigue||Autoimmune issues||Hormone imbalances||Infertility||PMS|
|Inflammation||Unexplained swelling||Anemia||Rheumatoid arthritis||ADD|
|Brittle hair/nails||Depression||Anxiety||Mood swings||Diabetes|
|Flatulence||Hair loss||Hypoglycemia||Mouth ulcers||Osteoporosis|
|Sjogren’s disease||Dental cavities||Bleeding gums||Nutrient deficiencies||Hives|
|Lactose intolerance||Sleep disruption||Adrenal dysfunction||Heart palpitations||Fuzzy-thinking|
|Carb cravings||Sugar cravings||Periodic cravings||Food binging||Chronic hunger|
|Psoriasis||Eczema||Multiple Sclerosis||Polycystic Ovary Syndrome||Uterine fibroids|
|Whole body pain||Muscle cramping||Candida overgrowth||Yeast Overgrowth||Weakened vision|
|Inability to focus||Thrush||Slowed metabolism||Low libido||Sore throat/glands|
|Malabsorption||Insulin instability||Runny nose||Chronic cough||Hoarseness|
|Thyroid Dysfunction||Inability to detoxify||Asthma||Wheezing|
And there’s more. I’ve seen various lists that include many other symptoms that are lesser-known or more extraneous. Here’s a new one on me. I read that the rough, dry, and bumpy patches on the back of your upper arms has an official diagnostic name – Keratosis Pilaris. I’ve just heard it referred to as “chicken skin” (for obvious reasons). I’d known about its connection to yeast/candida overgrowth, but I found it interesting to see it specifically included on a MindBodyGreen.com list for wheat/gluten intolerances. Their explanation as to why said, “This tends be as a result of a fatty acid deficiency and vitamin A deficiency secondary to fat-malabsorption caused by gluten damaging the gut.
often listed as “symptoms” of wheat/gluten intolerance.
When looking at the other listed diagnoses such as lupus, MS, RA, Sjogren’s, etc. don’t misread the point. Having a wheat/gluten sensitivity does not, on its own, create those conditions. It’s never just one thing. Wheat/gluten intolerances and these conditions and syndromes go hand-in-hand. This is important to know so that you’re armed with information to improve your health. Wheat/gluten sensitivity is known to increase symptoms and interfere with healing. Neither of which is desirable.
Important note: Many of these symptoms, while attributable to wheat/gluten sensitivities, are more of an up-line or down-line challenge. For example, consuming foods that create an inflammatory response can lead to yeast/candida overgrowth. Many symptoms listed above are directly related to yeast/candida overgrowth and therefore also related to wheat/gluten sensitivity. Consuming foods that don’t biologically “agree with” you creates challenges in a chain reaction fashion.
For reasons that should now be obvious, ignoring food sensitivities and wheat/gluten intolerance issues can be a very dangerous thing. Symptoms are your body’s way of telling you that things are out of balance. Food sensitivities are not a minor concern. For this reason, I want to address the myths that I hear most often regarding fibromyalgia and wheat/gluten intolerance.
Top 10 Hazardous-to-Your Health Gluten Myths:
- My doctor (or other practitioner) says I don’t have celiac disease so wheat/gluten isn’t a problem for me.
- I had a blood test that came back negative, so I don’t have a problem with wheat/gluten.
- I stopped eating wheat/gluten for a long time and it didn’t make a difference so I don’t have a problem with wheat/gluten.
- I already tried that diet and it doesn’t work (which could refer to just about any diet).
- I don’t have any symptoms so I don’t have a problem with wheat/gluten.
- Fibromyalgia isn’t an autoimmune disease and only those with autoimmune disease are sensitive to wheat/gluten.
- I eat the foods at the store that say “gluten-free” because they’re healthy.
- I’m lactose intolerant so I can’t have a wheat/gluten intolerance, too.
- I can’t eliminate wheat/gluten from my diet because then there’d be nothing to eat.
- My mom (sister, brother, friend, co-worker, mailman, etc.) gave up wheat/gluten and it didn’t work for them, so it wouldn’t work for me either.
- I went gluten-free but then gave it up because I gained weight and felt worse.
- I can’t go gluten-free because those foods cost too much and I’m on a budget.
While this article would quickly turn into a book if I addressed every concern above, let me state that all of the above statements reflect a false belief. And the ramifications of these false beliefs can sabotage your intentions to create a healthier lifestyle.
I’ll quickly hit the highlights of some of these myths here, and others in future articles. Items #3, #4, and #11 all fall into a category defined by vague and ambiguous statements. My first question back to this person would be, what does “going gluten-free” mean to you? Switching from traditionally packaged and processed foods to gluten-free packaged foods is not that helpful. These foods – sometimes referred to as Bridge Foods – can be useful to begin as you shift your tastes and find new things to eat. However, many packaged gluten-free foods are simply junk foods in a box. If it has dozens of ingredients you don’t recognize, it’s likely your body won’t either (resulting in inflammation and worsened symptoms).
After the first question, I’d ask, what – exactly – are you eating? It’s surprising to hear the various answers to that question. People may give up wheat/gluten and then switch to eating a diet that’s predominantly made up of sugar or dairy. It’s a complex issue with complex answers. That’s why generalizations like “I went gluten-free” are potentially dangerous. It means something different to everyone who says it.
Another question I’d ask is, what does a long time mean to you? It can take weeks or months to truly approach the detoxification necessary to see if your body is reactive to wheat/gluten. An elimination diet is the most reliable way to make this judgment. I’ll share more tips on this below.
It’s very, very common to feel anxious or fearful about making nutritional changes. Resistance to change is a natural and even expected emotion. This resistance, or fear, is a fundamental feeling. It can either help you or hinder you. As a hindrance, your feelings of anxiety will naturally seek out reasons NOT to make the change. You’ll gravitate towards ideas and thoughts that support this feeling. In other words, you’ll find every reason in the book why do you NOT need to make a change.
The interesting way in which fear and anxiety can actually prove helpful is by providing motivation. This can be done with a simple word exchange. Here’s how to make the switch. As you find yourself worrying or fretting over your feelings of fear or anxiety, change your inner self-talk vocabulary from “afraid, anxious, or freaked out” to “excited.” Instead of thinking: I’m afraid of what this change may take from me or I’m freaked out over the fact that I may fail, switch to I’m so excited to see what this change will bring to my life and I’m excited to see how I succeed. This may seem awkward at first and it will take a bit of focus. As time goes on, however, you’ll find yourself naturally switching your inner chatter to use the word excited whenever you’re feeling apprehensive.
In summary, here are just a few quick tips to help you wade through defining your own relationship with wheat/gluten.
Begin by declaring an intention to experiment with new foods. There’s no judgment allowed here. No worries about failure. You’re simply stating a plan to try something new, and tell your inner-critic to take a break.
- Review the symptom list and mark the ones that you experience and/or have experienced. You may see a pattern that you had not previously noticed. You also may wish to review these with a health professional.
- Review books/resources on how to begin an elimination diet. There are many good ones out there. As a suggestion, J.J. Virgin’s – The Virgin Diet is a good place to begin.
- Familiarize yourself with this Safe Gluten-Free Food list from Celiac.com
- Familiarize yourself with this Unsafe Gluten-Free Food list from Celiac.com
- Follow this general rule when reading package labels – You gotta know what’s in it before it’s allowed in you.
- When reading labels, ideally look for foods that have fewer than 5 ingredients. (I personally love one ingredient foods, i.e., broccoli, cucumbers, celery, etc.).
- Remember to make the switch in your self-talk and create a sense of wonder, curiosity, and excitement about making new changes.
- Take note of and recognize improvements or changes in your sleep, energy, clarity of mind, gastric bloating, bowel movements (frequency and consistency), skin rashes, etc. as you begin your new program. Write them all down and track your progress.
- Be sure to celebrate your successes whether you feel they’re a big deal or not. Every small change is a big success.
So, now that you’re informed on the potential dangers of ignoring a wheat/gluten sensitivity or intolerance, you’re armed to make healthier choices. What’s right for you? You get to decide.
As always, there’s much more to learn, but this article, as well as THIS ONE should give you the fuel you need to propel you toward a healthier future!
Sue Ingebretson (www.RebuildingWellness.com) is an author, speaker, certified holistic health care practitioner and the director of program development for the Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Center at California State University, Fullerton. She is also a Patient Advocate/Fibromyalgia Expert for the Alliance Health website and a Fibromyalgia editor for the ProHealth website community.
Her #1 Amazon best-selling chronic illness book, FibroWHYalgia, details her own journey from chronic illness to chronic wellness. She is also the creator of the FibroFrog™– a therapeutic stress-relieving tool which provides powerful healing benefits with fun and whimsy.