Let’s put it plain and simple…
Lately I’ve felt like straight dog shit. I haven’t slept a full night in months. I am fatigued beyond belief. My mood goes from high to low in the blink of an eye. Focus and mental clarity is nonexistent. Itchy is an understatement when it comes to my skin. Despite consistent efforts to lose weight, my body rejects it. And my anxiety (that I always have in some shape or form) is at an all-time high.
It has gotten to the point where I struggle to function. It has affected my work, my relationships and my drive to stay healthy.
Since we all know western medicine is not my friend, I naturally (see what I did there) turned to other possible causes. I quickly discovered the ‘Gluten Free School,’ a place that gives you the not-so-talked about side of gluten sensitivity (versus the obvious side effects we read about time and time again).
Out of everything I learned, what shocked me the most was that gluten intolerance, according to a 2013 study conducted by Dr. Alessio Fasano, can be classified as an exclusively neurological disease (outside of the digestive tract). He said that psychiatric and neurologic manifestations can be the prime presentation of diseases such as Celiac and gluten rejection.
Wow. Can ya’ll believe that?
Before I show you what I checked off the list the school gave for gluten intolerance (I checked almost every single one), let’s dive into:
What is gluten?
Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat (wheatberries, durum, emmer, semolina, spelt, farina, farro, graham, KAMUT® khorasan wheat and einkorn), rye, barley and triticale – a cross between wheat and rye. Gluten helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together. Gluten can be found in many types of foods, even ones that would not be expected. ~Celiac Disease Foundation
What foods have gluten?
Wheat is commonly found in:
- baked goods
- salad dressings
Barley is commonly found in:
- malt (malted barley flour, malted milk and milkshakes, malt extract, malt syrup, malt flavoring, malt vinegar)
- food coloring
- beer (so unfortunate ;))
- Brewer’s Yeast
Rye is commonly found in:
- rye bread, such as pumpernickel
- rye beer
SIGNS YOU MIGHT BE GLUTEN INTOLERANT
- Depression and Anxiety
Research confirms that Celiac Disease and gluten sensitivity are linked to depression, anxiety and mood disorders. It has been proven that depression and anxiety can actually be completely resolved after gluten is cut for your diet. As far as anxiety is concerned, it can go hand in hand with depression which makes it very hard to relax and think clearly (ME!).
Most suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder don’t make the connection between their symptoms and diet. Alternative approaches address food sensitivities and intolerance as a rootcause of behavioral disorders. Many holistic doctors first look at the gut because neurotransmitters are produced directly by what’s broken down in the digestive system. It’s known that leaky gut can generate a variety of mental health issues given that gluten and other food proteins are sneaking into the body where they don’t belong.
- Brain Fog
When you feel disconnected or just plain “out of it”, it might not be all in your head. Gluten can cause what is known as “foggy brain.” Researchers in a 2002 study in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry found that there may be significant cross reactivity of IgG antibodies to gluten and other different antibodies that result in mental fogginess.
- Autoimmune Disease
The autoimmune diseases known to be related to gluten sensitivity: Celiac Disease, Hashimoto Thyroiditis, Graves Disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Vitiligo, Sjogren’s, Multiple Sclerosis, Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis, Dermatitis Herpetiformis, and Type 1 Diabetes.
- Low Immunity
Antibodies in your body that exist primarily in saliva, tears and in the gastrointestinal tract are your first line of defense when it comes to fighting a cold. When you have a gluten sensitivityor celiac disease, one sign is depressed levels of these antibodies. Therefore, you can’t properly defend yourself when illness comes knocking.
- Unexplained Weight Loss or Weight Gain
A sudden or even gradual change in weight when your diet remains pretty much unchanged can indicate a larger health problem. Gluten intolerance causes malabsorption and gut permeability which causes unwanted weight loss despite regular calorie intake. On the flip side, gluten can trigger systemic inflammation that promotes weight gain. Removing gluten for good and healing the gut with a healthy diet can restore weight to healthy normal levels.
- Skin Problems
From eczema and acne to psoriasis and dermatitis herpetiformis (DH), gluten can cause extremely uncomfortable skin issues. Inflammation under the top layers of skin can occur and cause eruptions of rashes, itchiness, burning, redness, and even painful blisters. (My ENTIRE back is one big itchy rash. I keep sharp bristle brushes by my bed and at my work desk to itch my back … sad I know.)
- Hormonal Imbalance and Adrenal Fatigue
Hormone imbalance manifests itself as irregular menstrual cycles, weight gain or loss (I’ve gained 30 pounds over the last 3 years), hot flashes (I have all the time), low energy levels (again, all the time), erratic sleep patterns (I have insomnia most of the time) and more. The adrenal glands respond to the stress of unstable blood sugar and gastrointestinal tract inflammation caused by gluten by increasing cortisol. This causes increased body fat, fatigue and unstable moods. (basically MY LIFE)
- Joint and Muscle Aches
Gluten’s damaging inflammation can cause flares and pain.
- Extreme Fatigue
Jennifer of Gluten Free School shared that the reason she sought medical help initially was because she could sleep up to 11 hours and still wake up exhausted (I slept 10 hours last night & by lunch I needed a nap). Since removing gluten, she can get up daily at 5:45 am without an alarm and no need for caffeine. So, even if you’re sleeping the recommended 8 hours, waking up feeling exhausted means something is up. Gluten causes feelings of sluggishness and tiredness in several different ways. When your body is in a state of inflammation and spending available energy stores to deal with gluten proteins, it causes feelings of sluggishness & tiredness.
Do any of these sound like you? Obviously, the above can be signs for a lot of different
ailments. But, if you think you could have some type of gluten intolerance, I’d recommend an elimination diet for at least 7 days to see how your body responds.
Up for it? Here’s a 7-Day Gluten-Free Meal Plan to make it easy.