On February 25, my family went out to Arni’s to celebrate my one year anniversary of when I went gluten-free. I’m sure that last year around this time I was probably thinking I would never eat pizza again, but just this past month one of my favorite restaurants started serving up a GFree Pizza that is actually pretty tasty. Frankly, I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate this life-changing event!
When I cut gluten out of my diet last year, my health improved significantly. While it was a difficult diet to follow in the beginning, the rewards of doing so were practically immediate. Withing three days of adhering to a strict gluten-free diet, the inflammation in my body began to recede and I had more energy than I’d experienced within the past four years. I remember crying in front of the butter at the grocery store, wondering if the “natural flavor” in the generic butter meant it might contain gluten. The possibility of something as simple as butter containing gluten was overwhelming to me at the time. I quickly found it easier to avoid processed foods altogether, with food labels that require a chemistry degree to decipher, and stick to whole foods that I cooked at home. I think by doing this that I also eliminated many chemicals and preservatives that my body was reacting to as well.
At one point I noticed that I was getting nauseous eating baby carrots. My doctor didn’t think I was allergic to carrots, and he suggested I try eating organic carrots to see if I had the same reaction. I tried the organic carrots and was able to eat them just fine. So from then on I started buying organic products whenever they were available. This also has helped eliminate my exposure to toxic chemicals and has reduced some of my symptoms.
About two years ago, even before I cut out the gluten, I swore off Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) and artificial sweeteners. Doing this really helped alleviate some awful migraine headaches. So I must say that it isn’t just through avoiding gluten-full foods that I have reduced my Fibromyalgia symptoms, but it has been a process of eliminating my exposure to variety of triggers. However, I believe that going gluten-free has had the most significant impact on the overall improvement of my health thus far.
Going gluten-free has certainly improved my health over this past year. I have lost about 45 pounds without counting calories. I didn’t concern myself with counting calories or tracking fat intake because it was such a challenge just to make sure that I wasn’t ingesting gluten. I’m not sure my body knew what to do with all the chemicals in the processed foods. Possibly my liver couldn’t process things fast enough, so maybe it just manufactured fat and shoved the chemicals into the fat cells thinking it would get to that later. Also, a skin rash I’ve had on my arms since my early teen years has almost completely vanished. How interesting that the rash originally appeared around the same time I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). I have fewer problems with my digestion now, although I still suffer from reflux. I cannot seem to stop taking the Protonix, a proton pump inhibitor, that I have been taking for over four years.
I am still having occasional flare-ups, and so I’m trying to figure out what some of my other triggers might possibly be. On my list of suspects are corn, soy, chocolate, cinnamon, nutmeg, and probably vinegar. The last four are known to be high in histamine or produce large amounts of histamine in the body. I have horrible reactions to cinnamon and nutmeg; my arms get stiff and heavy, with numbness and tingling in the mouth, accompanied by persistent coughing and fatigue. Chocolate seems to make my skin crawl, and I’ve always attributed this to the caffeine. Cinnamon and nutmeg are high in benzoates, and I know I have reacted to a salad dressing that has had sodium benzoate as a preservative.
I’ve been reading Dealing with Food Allergies by Janice Vickerstaff, and apparently it is possible to have an intolerance to benzoates. She also discusses the possibility of developing a histamine intolerance caused by a deficiency of two enzymes, diamin oxidase (DAO) and histamine methyltransferase (HMT). Histamine tolerance may also be reduced by autoimmune diseases and medications, such as antidepressants. Since histamine is responsible for triggering the immune response, it becomes difficult to distinguish between a reaction due to an allergy, or a reaction that has resulted from high levels of histamine in the system. Without the proper enzymes to break down histamine, it can build up in the body. One way to cope with reactions due to histamine toxicity is to modify your diet and eat foods that are naturally low in histamine, and foods that do not trigger a release of histamine to the body. Dr. Vickerstaff recommends trying a histamine-restricted diet for a period of four weeks to see if it will alleviate symptoms.
I think that it is worth a shot to see if my remaining symptoms will subside. I’ve seen many fibromates talking about how they avoid the deadly nightshades. I think that it is interesting that these are also high in histamine and should be avoided on this diet. I’ll make sure to post if this also makes a difference.