Why I Stopped Eating Gluten
For the past year or so, I have eaten a gluten-free diet. Whenever someone hears this, the first thing they usually say is, “Oh, do you have Celiac?” Of course this is an understandable question. I used to be the same way. Why would someone give up eating bread, pasta - or PIZZA - if they didn’t have Celiac?
As a matter of fact, I do not have Celiac Disease, but I do have another auto-immune disease called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Now you are either saying, “Hey, I do, too!” Or you know someone who has it. Or, you’re saying “Hashi - who?” Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (HT) is an auto-immune disease that affects the thyroid. Essentially, my body sees my thyroid as an intruder and produces antibodies to attack it. Sounds fun right? This whole process can lead to a slew of problems including anemia, heart disease, arthritis, infertility, a weakened immune system - the list goes on and on…
But what does all of this have to do with gluten? In the fall of 2019, while I was taking my 200-hr Yoga Teacher Training, we had several lectures on anatomy. Our trusty anatomy instructor, Grant, was discussing working with clients and things we should watch out for. I will never forget his words…”If you have a client who isn’t showing signs of improvement, there might be something else going on. Keep an ear out for words with -“itis” or “inflammation” - this could be a sign of an auto-immune disease.” And then the lightbulb went off! I realized quickly that I have an auto-immune disease and I have been doing yoga every single day for the past 6 months and not getting any better. I was stronger, yes. But I was no more flexible than I had been the day I started. Flexibility was always something I prided myself on and one of the reasons I always loved yoga. But it was quite noticeable that my flexibility was not improving as it once did. Even worse, I was dealing with constant aches and pains in my joints. Up until that point, I had acquiesced to the idea that I would be popping Advil every day for the rest of my life.
I began to look for the culprit. I started researching HT and inflammation as potential causes. And what I found was that diet is a huge factor in chronic inflammation. The foods I was eating could be exacerbating my HT symptoms. Around the same time, I saw an interview with Michael Symon (formerly from The Chew). He was speaking about his own auto-immune diseases and promoting his new cookbook, “Fix It With Food”. In it, he talks about how what you eat affects how you look, feel and live. The book starts with an elimination diet - where you remove all the common trigger categories (flour, sugar, dairy, meat) - to determine what may be causing your issues. I immediately ordered it and read it cover to cover.
Not being one to be able to completely eliminate all of my favorite foods at once, I decided to take the long road - eliminating one group at a time to see how my body reacted. I started with gluten and…jackpot! Within a day or two, all of my aches and pains were gone. After only a few more yoga sessions, I began to notice that I could move easier and was more flexible. Even better - I didn’t HURT anymore!
I was lucky. Lucky that I found my trigger foods early. But I will say, I do not think I am done. I have noticed over time that sugar has an affect on my body in much the same way gluten did. Similarly, soy is also a trigger for me and I am taking steps to eliminate both and find natural substitutes that do not cause inflammation.
I wrote this story in hopes of helping anyone out there who is struggling but doesn’t know why. If you are having pain, inflammation, stomach issues, or other discomfort - absolutely speak to your doctor. But also take a look at your diet. This is especially true if you have any kind of auto-immune disease. But even if you don’t, your diet is a huge part of your health. And as much as the foods you eat can hurt you, the opposite is true as well. Eating for a healthy body can give you energy, stave off disease and increase longevity. Keeping in mind that everyone is different, focus on making healthy choices and be sure to tailor your diet towards your own specific needs.