Something was off…
I felt overwhelmingly irritated, and I didn’t know what was wrong with me. Not only that, but I felt unmotivated and depressed. I felt angry for no reason. If I had a table in front of me, I would flip it.
The only thing that was keeping me from getting under the covers and weeping were my deadlines. I gratefully worked on some slide designs for a client’s next course, while pondering what was wrong with me.
My muscles felt weak, and even using my mouse pad felt like a hugely tiring task.
What happened? Why was I feeling like an angry asshole?
My Decision To See A Naturopath
Though my regular family physician told me I’m a picture of health, last week I decided to finally see a Naturopath. This visit was something I wanted for a while. My recent interview with hormones expert, Giulietta Durante, taught me that normal tests are severely lacking…And regular physicians don’t really delve into real causes of symptoms, like lifestyle factors, when they examine you.
Though I’ve always been fairly healthy, I’ve been taking my health seriously for almost a year now, refining my diet for clear skin, optimal energy levels, and an awesome consistent mood. I was determined to understand my body, and why I was experiencing the following symptoms:
- Anemia (persistent iron deficiency despite supplementation)
- Recurring migraines
- Irregular bowel movements
- Some mild acne
My Naturopath, Dr. Lisa, decided to test a few things based on my symptoms after getting a detailed intake of my health, lifestyle, history.
- Number 1: Food Sensitivities + Celiac test
- Number 2: Comprehensive Hormone test
- Number 3: Iron Levels
Dr. Lisa told me that I’d have to eat some gluten within 3 days of the blood test in order to see how my body reacts to it – the test would see if I had an immune response to gluten. She actually suspected I was celiac because of my persistent iron deficiency, but the tests would show us conclusively.
NEW IN 2017!
Gluten (from Latin gluten, “glue“) is a mixture of proteins found in wheat and related grains, including barley, rye, oat, and all their species and hybrids (such as spelt, kamut, and triticale). Gluten is appreciated for its viscoelastic properties. It gives elasticity to dough, helping it rise and keep its shape and often gives the final product a chewy texture. (Wikipedia)
Apparently, gluten doesn’t get broken down through cooking NOR digestion, which is why it can cause a whole lotta trouble (Harvard Health Publications).
One day, my friend and I got some yummy seafood in a seaside restaurant in Sausalito called Salito’s Crab House. They brought us the most perfect, freshly-baked loaf of bread that we devoured. It tasted like the bread my grandmother bakes back in Ukraine. Mmmm…
Half an hour later, I felt different…
I was groggy, and could hardly function! I was basically a zombie. As you might have guessed, the only thing that was different in my diet was a LOAF of bread. I ate bread sparingly back in those days.
I had never experienced such a sudden onset of fatigue before, and I knew I didn’t want to live with gluten slowing me down.
This was the first time I became aware that I had a gluten-sensitivity.
My Grain-Free Month
I read It Starts With Food and Wheat Belly last year, and went on a The Whole 30, a 30-day grain-free diet (it was also dairy-free, sugar-free, legume-free, and soy-free). The Whole 30 was meant to reset my system, and that it did.
These books taught me that grains are a very cheap food source, and that’s really why we eat so much of them. Nutritionally, they don’t do much except spike our blood sugar, grow our butts, and get us to poo bigger. I said it.
Check out your plate the next time you’re at a restaurant. Notice how much rice/bread they serve versus actual vegetables and proteins.
It was difficult to imagine a grain-less life at first. But I was determined to try it if only to see if I’d see or feel a difference in my overall health.
The strict and healthy diet made me feel good, so I continued with it for a few more months with the addition of dark chocolate (my sweetest pleasure).
Later I introduced some rice and quinoa at a maximum of 1-2 times a week.
I integrated everything I learned about nutrition into my lifestyle and I loved getting most of my nutrients from raw and cooked veggies, healthy proteins and fats, nuts and seeds, and dark chocolate without relying on nutritionally bankrupt grains.
I’ve been fortunate enough to find a lot of delicious gluten-free alternatives for when I really crave things like pasta, bread, or cookies.
In fact, Whole Foods have the most amazing gluten-free, egg-free, grain-free, dairy-free chocolate chip cookies that you can bake at home (in the US only), 100% lentil pasta without any grains, and gluten-free and raw wraps…Recently I even found a place in Toronto that sells 100% pea protein pasta. There are even chocolatey and gooey brownies made of zucchini! But, I digress.
Being gluten-free (and mostly grain-free) wasn’t very difficult.
But why did I eliminate most grains instead of just gluten?
All grains contain gluten-like proteins, that haven’t been studied enough yet. They are very similar in structure to gluten – too similar. Based on the research in the book Wheat Belly, I made the decision to be better safe than sorry and eliminate all grains.
Rice is no safer than gluten, and I do notice a bit of fatigue after I eat it. My goal is to eliminate it fully too, but Asian food without rice is just a bit too dreary.
Freshly baked croissants have always been my weakness. I’d say croissants were Lord Weakness. I loved how the outside delicately crumbles while the inside is soft and a little gooey. During my stay at Prince Hotel in Hong Kong, I ate 3-5 freshlybaked croissants after breakfast in ONE sitting. They served them warm…I couldn’t stop after 1…
Alas, it’s impossible to find a good gluten-free croissant (so far) so I thought it made total sense then to choose a croissant as my indulgence to prepare my body for the celiac blood test.
After my workout this morning, I went to Delysees here in Toronto to buy the Cadillac of croissants to get some gluten in my system. I was weak and got talked into two: one plain butter croissant (my favourite) and one egg, ham, and tomato croissant.
I felt fine an hour or so after eating the croissants and forgot about them as I went on with my day.
Later, I had a really delicious piece of baked chicken for lunch with baked sweet potatoes and carrots, and a side salad (no dressing).
Then experienced the onset of the symptoms…
It was the GLUTEN!
It took about 4 hours for me to start feeling the effects of gluten, and that’s why the cause for my current weakness didn’t occur to me right away. Well, the timing and the fact that I was in a gluten mind fog contributed to my slow deducing…
But today, I really feel the shittiness associated with eating gluten, and it’s much worse than just pimples. I can’t stress enough how strongly gluten can affect you without you realizing it.
What Is A Gluten-Sensitivity
You’ve no doubt heard of celiacs, people who cannot have gluten at all because their body has an immune response to gluten, attacking the gluten and itself. What happens is that the body forms antibodies to gluten, and when gluten is ingested, the immune system attacks the villi (finger-like parts of the small-intestine that absorb nutrients). This process leads to severe nutrient malabsorption, no matter how much the person eats.
However, the rest of us generally experience what’s called a gluten-sensitivity, or gluten-intolerance.
Non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) or gluten sensitivity is defined as “a clinical entity induced by the ingestion of gluten leading to intestinal and/or extraintestinal symptoms that improve once the gluten-containing foodstuff is removed from the diet, and celiac disease and wheat allergy have been excluded”. (Wikipedia)
The important thing to note about a gluten-sensitivity is that with prolonged exposure, the sensitivity can turn into a full blown autoimmune disorder. I’ve exposed myself to gluten for 27 years of my life, so a resulting gluten-sensitivity is actually a good thing. It’s a sign that I need to stop what I’m doing – before it’s too late.
Some of my friends make fun of me for being gluten-free when I order at restaurants. They perceive my self-diagnosed gluten-sensitivity as only a preference instead of a real cause for concern. Hopefully, I’ve set the record straight here.
How To Find Out If You’re Gluten-Intolerant
You might not even be aware that gluten impacts you negatively because you’re so used to it. I used to wake up tired, and need a nap after lunch. My moods were super variable and unpredictable too. I thought this was normal until I eliminated gluten altogether.
The best way to truly feel the impact of gluten is to eliminate all wheat for at least a month, and then eat it again.
You might experience the following symptoms:
- Brain fog, fatigue, lack of focus
- Mood swings, anxiety, depression, ADD
- Digestive disorders such as gas, diarrhea, or constipation
- Migraine headaches
I experienced all of the above after those lovely croissants.
If you get any of the following after eating gluten, you might want to consider getting tested for celiac disease:
- depression and anxiety
- joint pain
- canker sores inside the mouth
- infertility or frequent miscarriages
- missed menstrual periods
- tingling in the hands and feet
My mood has become extremely important to me.
I’m consistently happy when I eat consistently healthy, and I know that consistent happiness is achievable. Consistent energy levels, joy, and a ton of energy is what should be considered normal – anything else means there’s something wrong (probably food-wise).
So when my mood drops for no reason, and I have trouble turning it around, it means that something else is up. This experience with gluten reminded me of something Dr. William Davis wrote in Wheat Belly…The divorce rate would plummet if people just gave up eating grains.
Gluten makes me no fun to be around, and I imagine that it has a similar effect on a huge part of the population that simply aren’t aware of this possibility. The good news is that my bad moods aren’t entirely my fault – I have the power to choose what I eat.
If gluten is able to rob me of my happiness and make me feel weak and sad or angry for no reason, then I want NO PART IN IT.
Fuck the croissants, fuck the pasta, fuck gluten – it’s just not worth it.
P.S. If you need help on your skin-clearing journey, sign up to get 28 of my BEST hacks for clear skin here!