Retrying Gluten

Mmm gluten for breakfast!
At half term, we took the three children camping in France. It was a seven hour drive from Calais to the campsite (although with stops it took us ten), and we stayed in the Dordogne region for 7 warm and wonderful nights.

I’ve been gluten free fairly consistently since I was diagnosed as coeliac in 2014. I relaxed things a bit after having baby F, and then in France, I relaxed things a lot. An awful lot. You know how it is in France – lovely croissants, lovely baguettes, lovely madeleines, lovely everything glutenful and lovely… mmmm.

So we had a very laid back holiday and I ate lots. And I felt fine! Which was great. But then when we got home, two weeks ago, I found myself buying croissants and eating bread again, simply because I had been eating it in France.

And then I started to notice some digestive problems. I don’t know if the bread in France, being mostly freshly made, is just better tolerated by me, or if there is a bit of delay between starting to eat gluten and actually feeling the effects in my body, but about 12 days after getting back I was really uncomfortable, bloated, miserable and in pain. The symptoms kind of crept up on me slowly, getting worse until I felt pretty diabolical. I started to get horrible stomach cramps on top of a sore, bloated stomach and it was only then that it occurred to me that it might be the daily consumption of bread/pastries that was the problem. 

I feel like a bit of an idiot for being so dismissive of what was a massive problem for me in the past. It was especially noticeable when I went running, because although I am carrying a bit of extra weight around my stomach, it started to feel like I had a bag of water strapped to my waist with the way everything was wobbling and sloshing around.

So, I’ve learnt an interesting lesson. Gluten really is absolutely awful for me. It really does make me feel horrible. Obviously I knew all of this, but I had kind of forgotten it. When you watch other people eating it all the time with no obvious problem it becomes easy to convince yourself that it can’t be that bad. But it really is. My body hates it. So I am recommitting to a 100% gluten free diet and hoping that my poor stomach settles down and stops being so uncomfortable.

I have also signed up for a 21 day healthy eating challenge, which is being run by a local nutritionist I met at a business breakfast meeting last month. I am really excited about it! It starts on 3rd July, so I’ll blog about how it goes.

Update: I wrote this over the weekend and I have stopped eating gluten again. I did a run this morning, Flatter stomach, no pain, and I took almost a minute off my current 5km time, bringing it to 33:22. Hurrah!

Vegan Challenge | Day 23 and The End

I gave up. I gave up!!

And I’m SO glad 🙂

At 16:30 on day 23, while preparing the kids tea, my anti-willpower reached critical mass.

I ate a milk chocolate bar (which I stole from the kids’ easter stash). Then I ate two Mini Moo organic cheese sticks and a piece of leftover sausage, and it felt great.

I instantly transformed from grumpy, miserable, and bloated, to bouncy, happy, smiley (and still bloated unfortunately).

My main reason for stopping was the awful stomach aches I was starting to experience every time I ate something. At the end of each day my stomach would be swollen up and hard like a balloon. I was getting pains under my ribs and feeling like I didn’t want to eat even when I was hungry because of how I would feel afterwards. I haven’t eaten such a gluten-heavy diet for probably 2+ years, so it was interesting to see how badly I reacted to it.

Retrospective

First, the numbers – over the 23 days:

I lost 900g (1.9lbs)
My body fat went from 19.1% to 18.4%

I took three measurements – my waist, hips and bust (the three areas most prone to change in my body).
There was no change in the sum of these measurements (i.e. my belly was slightly bigger and my hips were slightly smaller – that’s bloating for you).

My fasting glucose went from 5.6 to 5.3 (good!).

Finally, my resting blood pressure went from 103/53 to 94/52.

So the numbers seem pretty good. Shame about the pain and stomach aches!

Thoughts on the experience:

1. It was interesting to see how dependent I actually was on diary. I was eating a LOT of it, even though I thought I wasn’t.

2. It wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. If it hadn’t been for how tender and swollen my abdomen became I probably could have continued. In the end, it was the gluten that killed the challenge and I’m just not ready to try being a gluten-free vegan 😉

3. I didn’t supplement over the three weeks as it takes a while for a deficiency to develop, but I wouldn’t be happy about having to supplement my diet for life if that makes sense. I understand the reasons for having to supplement (poor quality soil, less exposure for B12, etc.) but I don’t like the idea of a balanced diet requiring something out of a pot. Omega 3 and B12 is a real concern for me. Our bodies need them and I would rather get them from quality dietary sources than from a lab.

4. I think, overall, veganism is less about health and more about ethics. For me personally, meat and dairy produced organically, locally and from farms that care about their livestock, is a positive addition to my diet.

Going forward

On day 24 I immediately quit gluten and started including small amounts of dairy, meat and fish in my diet. I knew it was the bread and pasta and endless wheat products that were causing the problem and I needed to stop. My vegan challenge has been a really, really positive experience because it has highlighted very clearly how badly my body reacts to gluten. It also gave me a reality check on just how much dairy I was consuming.

I’m going to post about going gluten-free separately, because I’m joining in with Atlanta Mom of Three’s Health and Fitness Challenge in May.

 

Vegan Challenge | Day 21 – 22

This point, three weeks in, has probably been the hardest so far.

I wanted to give up yesterday.

My stomach now seems to ache every time I eat, which is really worrying me. I am so bloated by the end of each day that I actually look pregnant (ha).

The husband doesn’t seem to be suffering any ill-effects (although he is a self-confessed bread junkie, so no real change for him).

I however, am still feeling worse than when I started.

Eczema itching constantly. Endless embarrassing wind and bloating.

Meh.

I also had a decaf cappuccino in Costa yesterday (with soy!), but there must be a fair amount of caffeine in a decaf (or it wasn’t a decaf) because I didn’t sleep until 2am last night. I was so restless I couldn’t stay still. In and out of bed. To and from the bathroom. I dropped off and then woke again at 3:30am with that horrible need to move around. Restless leg syndrome runs in my family, and people sometimes laugh at it as being a made up problem, but when you’re lying awake, exhausted, but your whole body is screaming move! move! move! it is just awful.

Anyway. Enough moaning.

I’ve already worked out what I’m going to do at the end of this challenge, which I’ll post more on soon.

Eight full days to go.

In the meantime, the obligatory food diary:

Day 21

Breakfast
Muesli, strawberries, bananas, coconut milk. White tea.
Snack
Handful raisins and nuts
Lunch
Ikea chips
Snack
Green smoothie: mango, lettuce, cucumber. Vegan choc bar.
Dinner
Lentil, spinach, chipotle paste, tinned tomatoes, with salad. Two handfuls pistachios, two glasses vegan red wine.
I am now so bloated my abdomen is actually feeling sore 🙁
Depressed, miserable and so fed up of eating the same things. Veg, beans and carbs 🙁
Very restless in night.
Eczema very red and itchy. Getting worse.

Day 22

Breakfast
Banana, muesli, coconut milk. White tea. Stomachache.
Mid-morning
Soy decaf cappuciono. Stomachache.
Lunch
Covent garden soup (tomato lentil vegetable), home made bread and vegan spread. Vegan choc bar. Decaf coffee with sugar and coconut milk. Bloated and stomachache.
Dinner
Tinned tomatoes, pasta, garlic, courgette, sundried tomatoes, whole home-roasted pepper, green olives. Leftover sweetcorn and broccoli from boys tea (they had organic sausages the lucky fellas). Yum!
Plus a lot of extra green olives from the jar while I was cooking.
Large glass red vegan wine.
More olives and pistachios.
Heart skipping a beat distinctly this evening. Olives??
Bizarrely, given how crap I’m feeling, my spots have finally cleared up.

Coeliac Disease Home Testing

coeliac

18 months ago, I bought a home blood test for Ceoliac Disease. The test result (positive) is pictured above.

I bought this test two months after my first miscarriage (when trying for baby no.3). I was suffering (and occasionally still do) from digestive complaints – wind, massive bloating, cramps and (TMI) even two occasions of leaking a bit of poo (how horrible!!!!! I can’t even believe I’ve written that down!!!!!).

Anyway, seeing the positive result, I went straight to the doctor and they ordered me a blood test.

Which came back negative.

I was stunned. Not only do I have many of the symptoms, but coeliac disease tends to run in families. My mother has suffered from IBS for years (she has never been tested, but coeliac is often mistaken for IBS) along with a whole host of other immune issues. And her mother suffered osteoporosis (which can be a result of coeliac disease).

Not only that, but coeliac disease is often linked to recurrent miscarriages. My count stands at seven (at no point has anyone suggested coeliac disease might be worth investigating, nor did the doctor I saw think it was relevant).

In fact, my doctor didn’t even want to see me – the receptionist gave me the results and said there was no need to come in and see her.

I guess my digestive problems weren’t considered serious enough to warrant any further action.

What did I do?

I cut right down (but not completely out) on gluten products. We switched pasta out of our meals (we used to eat a lot of it) and included more rice and potatoes. I cut down on bread.

I felt better.

And that’s how things have been for 18 months.

Eating vegan has prompted an increase in gluten and my skin and eczema are now really bad (could be the dark chocolate). I’m full of wind (could be the extra beans) I’m bloated as hell (could be my big ovarian cyst). I just feel so crappy all the time (no, that’s not a medical term, sadly).

But now I’m wondering again.

Why was the home test positive and the doctors test negative?

Is the home test just rubbish?

I’ve read as many reviews as I can on the home tests – many people have got a positive home test and gone on to get a positive test at the doctors.

What is happening in my case?

Why the discrepancy?

I decided to do some research.

The coeliac test I originally used is this one. It tests for:

  • IgA antibodies to tTG (ATA IgA)
  • IgG antibodies to tTG (ATA IgG)

ATA IgA is almost certainly an indicator of coeliac disease. However, coeliacs can be deficient in IgA and produce excessive IgG. The problem is, IgG is not as definitively linked to an immune response to gluten (as far as I understand).

So I was testing for two variables in one test. And I don’t know which was positive.

Maybe my blood test at the doctor only checked IgA?

The doctor is closed for the weekend, so I went out and bought a test for IgA only, so see what the result would be:

coeliac2

Negative!!

So I have no IgA antibodies to tTG.

Logic therefore dictates that I tested positive to IgG antibodies in the first test. This may also explain why the doctors test was negative (to be confirmed).

Next step:

Why would I have raised IgG?

Two possibilities:

  • I am a coeliac with IgA deficiency
  • I am a coeliac with normal IgA levels (some people have a positive biopsy despite a normal blood test)
  • I am not a coeliac. My body is producing an immune response to some other condition or issue (I have long suspected an immune issue, as I mentioned in the antihistamine protocol)

IgA Deficiency

From Medscape: Immunoglobulin A deficiency (IgAD) is defined as an undetectable serum IgA level. In the past, this was usually confirmed with the low-level radial immunodiffusion method (lower limit of detection is 50 mg/mL [5 mg/dL]). However, this test is rarely done in current practice, and results are usually reported as < 0.07 g/L or < 0.05 g/L.

And from coeliac.org.uk: When the laboratory is measuring your antibody level they should also check your total serum IgA to detect IgA deficiency. If you are IgA deficient your GP will need to test you differently for the condition.

So I need access to my blood test results from 18 months ago. That will have to wait until next week.

If I cannot obtain any further confirmation via my doctors, I will try an elimination diet and subsequent gluten challenge.

Gluten Free Day 11

pasta

Just wanted to post a quick update about how going gluten free is going for me.

It’s been 11 days now and to be perfectly honest, I’ve only really noticed on a couple of occasions that I’m not eating gluten.

I think this shows how well my general diet has progressed over the last 18 months.

Dietary transition

In December 2011 I made a resolution that the whole family would eat more vegetables (we were very carb heavy, and had been for years). We started getting an organic veg box delivery initially, but that didn’t work as I found there was too much wastage. Instead I upped the veg quantity that I bought each week at the supermarket and tried to add vegetables to every meal (with varying degrees of success).

Then I read Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint last summer and it had a big effect on me. We started eating meals that had double vegetable servings instead of pasta. It worked really well, we both enjoyed it and it just sort of stuck. We aren’t primal – the whole family (including me until 11 days ago) still eats bread (home made), but the book did adjust how I looked at a plate of food.

My quest to eat more raw has seen a further demise of gluten – I switched from sandwiches at lunchtime to salads and nuts, salmon, cheese and egg. This isn’t as convenient as a cheese sandwich, but I feel a lot better for eating more raw, so it’s almost become a habit now.

I cut right down on breakfast cereals quite a long time ago, after reading Eat Your Heart Out by Felicity Lawrence. I switched to muesli initially, but very occasionally found a rancid nut, which really disturbed me (if you ever eat a rancid nut, you will know about it).

From there I turned to chopping some nuts and seeds into a bowl with fruit and yoghurt, and that’s what I’ve eaten every morning for a long time.

At dinner time sometimes I make pasta, but I double up the veg for me (broccoli and cauliflower are great substitutes with tomatoey sauces). We’ve also become a big fan of organic roast potatoes (in their skins!) recently. So much easier to do than I thought, and they taste fantastic with a generous handful of rosemary.

So all in all, it’s been pretty easy.

And how do I feel?

Great!

My stomach is so, so much flatter.

I don’t have weird digestive cramps and bloating after eating.

I lost a big chunk of weight in the first few days, but none since.

Overall I think it’s the right thing for me. I’m not strict about cross-contamination and checking every little detail, but generally not eating bread, pasta, cakes and pastries is working really well.

I haven’t bothered with a single gluten free “substitute” as I am not convinced that bread, pasta, cakes, pastries, etc. are that great for you anyway.

For me I see it as more of a dietary choice than a dietary restriction.

And I can still eat poppadoms with curry, which is great 😉

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