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Reintro/What are the signs of Gluten problems?

Guest Abby

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Hi! I am 7 weeks into my Whole 30 experience - and so far, so great! I lost 15 lbs. in six weeks, have great energy and magically become a morning person (something that's been a problem my whole life!), fewer muscle aches, better hair (?!) better moods and no longer cranky and miserably hungry between meals - hooray! Re-introduction is scary, because I don't want to lose any of these benefits!

So I started a week ago with a big dairy day: light cream in my coffee and eggs, cheese and yogurt for lunch, ice cream after dinner. The cream at breakfast and in the ice cream made me gassy, bloated and miserable (and headachey, I think!) and it took a few days to get everything right again. I've always eaten a ton of dairy and loved it, and never thought I had a problem...but after reading Melissa's post here about how our body changes during the whole 30, I guess it could be that my body was just "coping" with it, just not that well. I'm going to re-test cheese, but otherwise big quantities of dairy are out - no matter how delicious that ice cream was, it wasn't worth the afteraffects. (And I've gotten to like coconut milk in my coffee. Frankly, that yogurt felt very strange too eat - almost tooo creamy!)

So yesterday I started doing gluten re-introduction - nervously, because of how miserable I was with the dairy. I had half a toasted bagel with my fried eggs, a dinner roll dipped in olive oil at lunch, and home-made pasta with (cheeseless) pesto for dinner. Everything was completely and amazingly delicious. I loved the crunch of the toasted bagel with my eggs, the dinner roll was warm and crusty (heavenly), and the pasta was just a great texture. I missed it all!

Strangest part is, I felt fine yesterday and I feel fine today! So my questions are....

1) what are the signs that glutenous foods are not sitting well with one? How would I know if I'm having a bad reaction? What should I watch for?

2) OK, if gluten doesn't really cause me any serious obvious problems, what are the downsides of incorporating it back into my diet? I noticed at breakfast that having toast filled me up kind of pushed my "breakfast salad" off my plate, so maybe just eating less nutrient dense foods? I really don't want to lose my Whole 30 benefits or gain back the weight, but it would be super duper awesome to be able to have toast with my eggs or pasta a few times a month!


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#1 I can only answer with my personal experience. Gluten, particularly wheat, is sneaky for me. When I eat it, I love it -- how could I have thought this could possibly be a problem? So I eat more. And more. At some point, usually when I'm depressed, laying on the couch and thinking I'm borderline narcoleptic, I wonder if the wheat had anything to do with it. I started thinking I had a problem with wheat years ago, before all the books came out, and I felt like a freak, which is one reason why I had to go through this cycle many many times before I knew the wheat did indeed have something to do with it. The other reason is that it takes a few weeks for me to fall into the wheat fog, so the cause and effect wasn't readily apparent.

#2 They' say that up to 83% of the American population could have a problem with wheat. (They genetically modified wheat in the 50s for quicker growth and higher yield. Some say that's where the trouble started.)

Wheat can cause leaky gut, white flour products are high on the glycemic index, and wheat causes fat that accumulates around the internal organs ('wheat belly'). There's also supposedly a molecule in wheat that is similar to morphine, which is what gives wheat its addictive and sedative properties.

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Hi Abby, when I eat gluten I get itchy skin, rashes, bloating and an upset stomach. I have been sensitive to wheat for twenty years though. I can't answer specifically why gluten grains are worse than other grains but I know that in general anytime you eat grains it contains less nutrients over all than what you would get if you ate paleo foods and therefore you aren't optimizing your health

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  • 4 weeks later...

Only you can decide if it's worth it to consume gluten. It's a tough one because bread is still considered "the staff of life" by many/most, yanno?

Here are my personal responses to your two questions:

#1 Symptoms/signs that gluten is bothering me: Lethargy, insidious depression, post-nasal drip, irritability, sleep apnea and/or snoring, mood swings, paranoia, achy joints (esp hips and knees), hyperactivity/restlessness in bed, panic, bloating, farts and burps, heartburn, ice-pick headaches, skin rashes and hypersensitivity, poor memory retention, confusion, rosacea flare-ups, sleep disturbances, elevated cortisol and insulin, nutritional deficiencies because of malabsorption, anxiety, restless leg syndrome, systemic pain (e.g., something like FMS), dizziness, brain fog, infertility, charley horse in calves and ankles (I'm talking rigor mortis legs!), exhustion, and so on. Symptoms can be very subtle and seemingly unrelated, and they can also sneak up on me so I don't make the necessary correlations between how I feel and what I ate.

#2 Downsides (if not hypersensitive): Gluten is pro-inflammatory and a major gut irritant that can directly or indirectly lead to other issues, like intestinal permeability, systemic inflammation, candidiasis, allergies, and autoimmune problems. I believe I once read that gluten interferes with absorption of the B vitamins, and I think gluten proteins mimic a similar protein in the thyroid, which is almost certainly how I ended up with Hashimoto's thyroiditis and also why the same antibodies went into remission when I stopped eating wheat/gluten.

My number one reason for abstaining from gluten is that ingesting it makes me stupid. This past July, I thought it might be a good idea to start consuming gluten regularly again. Not 3x a day, but it did end up being every day. At first I felt fine—I was handling it. And then I probably wasn't handling it so well, but by that time I had re-addicted myself and was in denial, not wanting to see what I knew was happening to my body. The nasty shock came when it became apparent that my ingestion of gluten (and dairy) had begun to negatively affected my job performance. I was underperforming and taking more time off, and my boss noticed. Maybe I could live with achy joints, but not being a rock star at work? Unacceptable.

I know it's hard to be different from everyone else around us. Sometimes you just want a damned sammich! Even worse, the foods themselves make them difficult to pass up, not just by their availability but by their makeup. Gluten releases opioid-like peptides during digestion, which is why people find it so calming. And so easy to go back to.

If you want to experiment, consider checking out Sally Fallon's cookbook, Nourishing Traditions. Some people do OK when they soak sprouted grains and then bake breads from scratch (e.g., using fermented sourdough starter). I believe this process helps break down the glutens. Not enough for me, though.

If reading the various paleo-related books aren't enough to help you form an informed opinion, you might also find Dangerous Grains an interesting read.

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When I reintroduced bread I had a similar experience....it tasted awesome and I didn't experience any bad consequences or weight gain. For that reason, post whole 30 I eat organic whole wheat bread occasionally because I like it and want it in my diet. So many people have problems with it like the other posters have mentioned, but it works for me and if I'm not doing a whole 30 I don't have a problem with eating it every once in a while...I guess that's what reintroduction is all about! Bread and chocolate are about the only non whole 30 things I ever eat :) Good luck!

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