Southern Girl Goes…Gluten Free?

So, I started this blog oh so long ago to write about harmful chemicals in our world that can affect our health in such a way to cause cancer, feminization in boys, weight issues, brain issues, etc…all kinds of things that are detrimental to the pursuit of happiness by way of endocrine disruptors. A lot of these chemicals are in our hygiene products like shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, deodorant, perfume, makeup, lotion, etc. Actually anything artificially fragranced should be suspected of containing phthalates. This includes cleaning products, candles, air fresheners, and the like.  Also, anything you consume that has been in a plastic or plastic-lined container is likely to contain some of these endocrine disruptors.  If you drink out of a plastic bottle, eat food out of cans, cook in plastic (a la microwaved meals at work), you are probably consuming these chemicals.

I’ve eliminated about as much as I can from my home in the pursuit of making my body healthier by omission of these endocrine disrupting chemicals.  I’d say, I’m about 95% successful at avoiding the main sources of ingestion of these chemicals.  I had really hoped that this would make a difference in my body’s ability to  shed weight.  But alas.  It did not.

So, being the scientifically-minded person that I am, I decided to start trying different ways to kick-start my weight loss.  Let me say that I am already an ovo-lacto vegetarian who occasionally eats fish or seafood–maybe once a month (which technically makes me a pescatarian, but everyone thinks that label is a religious one, so I avoid it).  I was inspired to become a vegetarian because of my life-long inability to digest certain foods.  No need to go into details here, but eating beef, chicken, or pork, in more than quantities of a bite or two, would just be rejected by my body.  What a waste, I thought.  It was not a happy experience, either.  So…long about turning 30, I started eliminating things from my diet that made me feel bad.  Cutting out meat, for the most part did the trick.  But sometimes my body would still reject food.  And I blamed myself for over-eating, for drinking too many liquids with my meal, for being too active after eating, or whatever seemed to apply.  I also blamed my thyroid for making me fat, although my clinical blood evaluations are in the normal range.

So…let’s fast forward 10 years to turning 40.  Three years after this “going green” experiment started.  I am still overweight.  I decided to look more closely at my diet, my food sources, my eating habits, and my exercise regimen.  I put myself on a 40-day challenge of eating vegan while also walking/running a 5k a day.  Even as I followed through on this challenge (give or take a few breaks from doing the 5k EVERY day), I did not cheat on being vegan, and I still got sick from time to time.  How could my body be rejecting a spinach salad and a flour tortilla smeared with hummus?  What was wrong with me?  I did not lose a single pound during this 40-day challenge, although I did lose a significant amount of inches around my middle.  Being vegan was not sustainable, for me, though…I celebrated on my birthday by having breakfast tacos with potatoes, eggs, and cheese.  So delicious.  And if I hadn’t just sat still for a while after eating them, they would have come right back up.

You are probably wondering at this point why I didn’t go to the doctor.  Well, I get tested annually for the thyroid stuff, but whenever I mention to a doctor that I have digestion issues, they just say “oh it’s probably GERD, let me write you a prescription” for some chemical I am supposed to take every day for the rest of my life.  To eat.  And they also say, “you really should eat meat–chicken at least.”  Now that I am 10 years down this road, I have realized that I don’t really WANT to eat animals–it seems so arbitrary that we eat some animals but laugh and play with others, that I just can’t abide the idea anymore, personally, of eating something I’d most likely treat like a pet if it was in my backyard.

So, I sort of gave up on losing weight, on eating “normally,” for about two or three months after my birthday.  Then, one day, I just happened to see a show on TV–one of those fluffy morning doctor shows–a segment about foods we think are healthy that can actually create problems with the thyroid.  These foods are unfermented soy products (like tofu and soymilk), cruciferous vegetables (especially raw ones), and gluten containing foods like wheat, barley, and rye.  I nearly fell over, standing there gape-mouthed, staring at the TV.  You can imagine that a person who doesn’t eat meat eats a significant portion of soy- and wheat-protein based products meant to replace meat.  The main problem with gluten is that, if your body is sensitive to it, it registers gluten as an invasive substance that needs to be destroyed.  However, the chemical structure of gluten is so similar to the structure of thyroid hormone, your body destroys this, too.  Damn. It.  I have been poisoning myself for my entire life.

I stopped eating gluten and tofu the next day.  This is a learning process, though, and I might have screwed up in the first few days thinking something was gluten free when it wasn’t, but I am happily shocked to report that I have not rejected any meal since going gluten free.  This is crazy.  I mean, I must have been “rejecting food” since I was something like 5.  Now I know why.

I’m still trying to figure out how to lose weight, but I know that I need to be patient with myself.  It takes a significant amount of time for the body to heal from the inflammatory reaction caused by eating gluten (when your body can’t handle it).  This is not a “challenge” for me like being vegan was, but a new lifestyle…a new life.  And I’m not saying that being gluten free is the solution for everyone, or even that this is the only thing I should do to try to balance my body’s system, but it’s a start.

If you’ve had GERD-like symptoms, are sick of taking pills to eat, or experience “food rejection” (a nice little euphemism for throwing up without trying to or wanting to), try going gluten free for a week or two and see if makes a difference.  I am utterly shocked.  And thankful I caught a fluff piece on daytime television, because it has sincerely changed my life.

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