Gluten Free in May

Super quick update as things are busy busy.

I haven’t touched gluten this month and two things:

1) My eczema is gone. GONE!

2) My stomach cramps, tenderness and bloating are gone too.

TOTALLY brilliant.

Just three weeks ago I was waking up at night because my body was itching so much. I was so uncomfortable and miserable. Now the skin is almost completely healed – no redness, no itching – just a little bit of dryness left if you run your hand across it.

Incredible.

As for giving up sugar as well…

I’m sitting here drinking a hot chocolate, so a big fat fail on that one. Ha!

We’re off on hols next week, then it’s half term, so it may be June before I’m back properly.

Keep up the good work challengers!

Gluten and Sugar Free Challenge

health-and-fitness

After some thought – and the gathering of willpower – I have decided to take part in Valerie’s Health and Fitness Challenge during the month of May. See her post for how to join in!

During May my challenge is to be gluten-free and to avoid all sugar (including fruit sugar).

Why?

This month, when I tried to do 30 days of being vegan, although I still ate lots of fruit and veg, the increase in carbs (specifically gluten, I suspect), gave me horrendous bloating, stomach aches and even pain by the end of three weeks. Not only that but my eczema got itchier and redder, and I found sleeping through the night became almost impossible. The last few days were a pretty miserable experience.

I have mentioned my previous suspicions of Coeliac Disease, which was officially ruled out despite a positive home test, so I was already thinking along the lines of going gluten free as a trial when the wonderful Rachael of Mummy Flying Solo mentioned a book called Grain Brain to me (by David Perlmutter MD).

Wow. I read this book cover to cover in a few days. It is essentially a fairly primal approach to eating (for those unfamiliar with primal or paleo it’s based on lots of veg, with meat, fish and eggs for protein, sparing dairy and fruit, and no grains). I’ve used a lot of primal recipes over the last 18 months as I have long suspected an issue with gluten, so it’s something I’m already comfortable with. This book, combined with my recent experience of eating a lot of grains has motivated me to completely cut them out for the month. I tried going gluten free once before and lasted just 11 days. A few days after I started eating wheat again I suffered a chemical pregnancy. Coincidence? Who knows.

This time I’ll be following along with lots of other May challengers and hopefully we can all support each other to get through the month with our new resolutions intact!

In addition to going gluten-free I’m also cutting out all sugar (including fruit sugar). This is specifically to see if being gluten and sugar free helps my skin, and it’s a long overdue experiment (despite heading towards 40 at breakneck speed I still suffer from spots and pimples, not to mention eczema on my body and small patches of rosacea around my nose and lips).

I have a few exceptions to the no-sugar policy: xylitol, stevia, raisins and honey are ok in small amounts.

No particular reason for choosing these other than I have them in the house and they will be my go-to products in the event of cravings.

So, the issues I’ll be hoping to see an improvement on, and will be tracking in my posts are:

  1. My skin
  2. My bloating
  3. My belly fat (I am a classic apple shape – the unhealthiest kind to be!)
  4. My eczema
  5. My sleep

I’ll be blogging at the end of each weekend (realistically it will probably be Monday, or even Tuesday morning for me), along with everyone else on the challenge.

Good luck all!

Vegan Challenge | Day 16 – 20

Two thirds of the way through the challenge and still going strong. This has been a better few days physically, but a harder few days psychologically.

CRAVINGS are back in full force.

Watching my children scoff easter chocolate, and eating with other people, has been hard. Not so much for meat, but oh for delicious dairy…

I am really tired of substitute milks now. Coconut is by far the best (and not too coconut-y, would you believe), but just some normal milk with cereal, or some yoghurt with my breakfast, or a lovely creamy decaf mocha, or something else creamy, or buttery, would be SO GOOD.

The problem is (I think) that most of the dairy stuff I would consume also contains sugar, so I think I’m actually craving sugar deep down.

Anyway, that aside, having the husband do this with me has kept us both on track, even though we’ve both admitted to craving all sorts of things over the last few days.

Physically my eczema seems a little less itchy, and the skin on my face is calming down. Thank goodness.

I’ve actually eaten less fruit and vegetables over the last few days. We’ve gotten lazy and repeated a lot of meals, and I haven’t been having my usual green smoothies.

Makes me wonder if what is aggravating my skin is sugar – not just refined, but also in fruit form (although after a fair amount of personal research the jury is still out on whether I believe fruit sugar is bad for you).

I’ve also been sleeping so much better since cutting out the black tea.

So, after today, just 10 more days to go.

Here’s the food diary:

Day 16

Breakfast
Strawberries, banana, almond milk, muesli. White tea. Half slice bread with vegan spread and marmalade.
Snack
White tea. About a million dark choc mint crisps 🙁
Lunch
Green smoothie (pineapple, spinach, cucumber, grape, strawberries). Slice of toast with vegan spread and marmalade. Pistachios. Grapes. Liquorice tea.
Dinner
Tortilla chips with home made guacamole. Pitta bread. Kidney beans, mushrooms, pepper, onion and fajita spice. Lettuce.

Day 17

Breakfast
Home made toasted bread with vegan spread and marmalde. White tea.
Snack
Carrot, cucumber, tomato, water melon, grape. Fruit tea.
Lunch
Two slices home made bread, vegan spread, marmalade. Banana. Pistachios. White tea.
Dinner
Oven chips and shop-bought mexican vegan burgers.
Eczema itching like crazy.

Day 18

Breakfast
Two slices home made bread toasted with marmalade. White tea.
Mid-morning
White tea.
Lunch
Covent garden soup (roasted tomato), bread with vegan spread. 1.5 vegan chocolate bars.
Dinner
Sundried tomato and spinach risotto with pine nuts. Two glasses vegan red wine.

Day 19

Breakfast
Muesli, strawberries, coconut milk. White tea.
Mid-morning
White tea.
Lunch
Peanut butter and raisin sandwich on home made bread, banana, grapes, pistachios. Fruit tea.
Dinner
Pitta bread. Rice. Home made guacamole with tortilla chips. Black beans, mushrooms, peppers, onions, fajita spice. Lettuce. 2 glasses vegan red wine.

Day 20

Breakfast
Two slices home made bread, toasted. Marmalade and vegan spread. White tea.
Mid-morning
Green tea.
Lunch
Covent garden soup (red lentil and tomato), slice home made bread with vegan spread. 3 home made olive oil biscuits (not great). White tea.
Dinner
Home made mushroom massala curry with rice.

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.

Vegan Challenge | Day 11 – 15

Half way!

I have found sticking to vegan to be a pretty straightforward process. Because I eat a mainly vegetarian diet anyway, I don’t miss or crave the meat. Eggs I have missed now and again. Butter has been replaced with vegan spread, and I don’t love either, so that was simple. I have given up yoghurt, which I miss. Soy yoghurt tastes like cardboard to me and the popular brands contain all sorts of weird additional ingredients. Finally there is milk. There is one simple place that I have missed my milk: tea.

In order to overcome that I’ve switched to drinking white tea, which is pretty nice to drink (it’s not a British cuppa, but it’ll do). And I have the bonus added side effect of less caffeine, which has definitely helped my restless leg syndrome at night.

So all in all, no problemo.

Now I’m half way through, here are some downsides:

I am not sure that I am really eating any healthier. In fact, I think I might be eating less healthily than I was.

This is because the program (which we have loosely followed) relies on lots of shop-bought items, such as oven chips, veggie burgers, all different kinds of breads, and all different kinds of vegan substitutes (fake meat, milk, butter, yoghurt, eggs, etc). I have an intense distrust of fake foods, so have avoided many of them simply because I find them distasteful and would, for example, rather not eat meat at all than have fake meat. The amount of bread and carbs in general that I eat has gone up hugely over the last two weeks, and I am not feeling great about it. Shop-bought tortillas, and other breads, contain many dubious ingredients that I think we should keep out of our bodies. Before eating vegan I would have made salads, or had lots of boiled veg with feta, goats cheese, or sometimes meat, but instead I am eating carb-heavy options such as chips and tortillas with beans. Salads (for me) need something protein-based to make them into a good meal, but beans (which I have never really liked that much) just don’t do it for me 🙁

I am definitely not looking or feeling any better than I was before I started

I’ve had some bad problems with my skin breaking out – which I’ve attributed to vast amounts of dark chocolate. Not only that, but my eczema has been getting progressively worse.

Despite lots of veg and green smoothies, I think the high carb load I’m eating is really affecting me in a negative way. My eczema itches so much at night it is driving me crazy and no amount of cream seems to help. My skin has just been terrible this month too. In fact, my skin is so bad that I haven’t told many people  I’m eating vegan because I’m worried they will look at me and think I am crazy because it is clearly not doing me any good!!

I haven’t weighed in, but I don’t think my weight has changed at all (unlike my husband who has lost almost 5lb since we started).

I am going to try to reduce the carbs over the next two weeks, but in all honesty I think it is carbohydrates that are keeping me full and on-track. Without them maybe I’d be turning to meat, eggs or cheese to fill me up.

So, overall, I’m really not in love with this way of eating.

The nitty-gritty food diary:

Day 11

Breakfast
Muesli, strawberries, oat milk. Tea w/oat milk.
Snack
Green smoothie: mango, spinach, grape.
Lunch
Peanut butter sandwich with vegan spread. Grapes. Tea w/oat milk
Dinner
Home made mushroom curry, poppadoms, homemade peshwari nan, mango chutney

Day 12

Breakfast
Muesli, banana, oat milk. Tea w/oat milk.
Snack
Banana. White tea.
Lunch
Covent garden soup (roasted tomato). Homemade bread with vegan spread. Grapes. Decaf coffee w/coconut cream.
Dinner
Pasta, jar of sauce, chilli powder, spinach, mushrooms, tofu.
Headache all day. Terrible.
Pains in abdomen (back and front of lower ribs). Skin looking slightly better now I’ve stopped dark choc. Eczema really itching.

Day 13

Breakfast
Green smoothie: spinach, cucumber, lime, pineapple, strawberries, water. White tea.
Snack
1.5 bananas, cashews and raisins
Lunch
Chips and pitta and humus at pub, J2O apple mango drink.
Snack
White tea. Large handful raisins.
Dinner
Courgette, mushroom, tofu, pepper, rice noodles, wagamama chilli stir fry sauce.
Headach mild today. Still pain at bottom of ribs all round. Eczema playing up in night, really itching.

Day 14

Slept a bit better last night. Less restless.
Breakfast
Green smoothie: Pineapple, spinach, lime, grapes. Wholemeal home made bread, vegan spread, marmalade. White tea.
Snack
Banana.
Lunch
Covent garden soup (tomato and  roasted pepper), Wholemeal home made bread, vegan spread. Large mango.
Snack
White tea. 2 dark choc mint crisps
Dinner
Mushroom, onion, pepper, black beans. Fajita spice. Pitta bread. Home made guacamole, tortilla chips.

Day 15

Last night best nights sleep in weeks.
Breakfast
Muesli, strawberries, banana, almond milk. White tea.
Snack
White tea. 2 x darkchoc mint crisps
Lunch
Covent garden soup (tomato and roasted red pepper), home made bread and vegan spread. Grapes. Granola bar. Berry tea.
Snack 
Extra large green smoothie: spinach, carrot, cucumber, 1/2 pineapple, water and almond milk. 4 crackers.
Dinner
A lovely sundried tomato and spinach risotto (no cheese or butter!).
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