Eight months ago, I went gluten-free. People often ask me why and how I manage, especially with all the treats that present themselves during the holidays.
First, I do not have celiac disease. I chose to avoid gluten on the advice of a nutritionist who I consulted because of thyroid issues. I have Hashimoto’s disease, a disorder of the thyroid. I learned that thyroid problems have been linked to gluten. Apparently, the molecular structure of gluten resembles that of the thyroid gland, so ingesting gluten may trigger an immune response that tells the body to attack the thyroid. Or so the theory goes.
So the nutritionist suggested I stop eating products with gluten and see whether my thyroid function improved. I honestly can't tell if avoiding gluten has had any impact on the thyroid, but I do know it has led to many other positive changes.
For one, my joints began to feel a lot better. Gluten is said to cause inflammation; in my gluten-free travels, I have met people with arthritis who told me their symptoms disappeared after they stopped ingesting gluten, as presumably the inflammation went away. I don’t have arthritis, but I do exercise regularly and used to have to take a day off in between workouts because my joints were sore. Now I don’t experience that — I can go to the gym every day and feel OK.
My digestion also improved. One of the symptoms of low thyroid is digestive problems, especially constipation. On my new gluten-free regimen, this is never a problem. I also noticed that when allergy season came around this year, I didn’t get the sniffles, as I usually do. And, I began to feel a lot more energetic.
How do I manage food-wise? Well, I discovered a whole new world of wonderful gluten-free products. And I check restaurant menus online before I go out to dinner to make sure there is something there I can eat. I bring my favorite gluten-free crackers, nuts and other snacks to parties just in case there’s nothing on the table for me. I have even brought Tamari, a gluten-free soy sauce, to Chinese restaurants, some of which will prepare gluten-free meals for me. I have to admit that the moments that challenge me most are at restaurants that serve delicious breads before the main meal; it's hard to stare those breads in the face when you’re hungry.
I’ve learned to avoid most desserts. I know I can always go home and eat a piece of chocolate or nibble on my favorite flour-free chocolate cake, which I often keep on hand for such emergencies. And honestly, I stick with this plan in part because it’s a great weight-control method. When presented with a vast array of gluten-filled tempting treats, I just look the other way. I just remind myself how good I feel.
Previously: Using your cell phone to test for food allergens, A discussion on going gluten-free, From frustration to foundation: Embracing a diagnosis of celiac disease and Guest post: Flying the friendly skies while navigating the challenges of eating gluten-free
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