Friday, 28 March 2014

On Going Gluten-Free...ish

I am mere pages from the end of The Victorian City, and what a fascinating read it has been, but the time between posts has been far too long so this is my tidbit offering in the meantime.

Several months ago I shared my arduous and utterly frustrating experience with two frozen shoulders.  What I didn't disclose was that last summer, my juvenile arthritis that had gone into remission forty years ago seemed to rear its ugly head once again.  As swiftly as turning on a light switch I was fine one day and the next morning when I went to bend down to play with Deacon my knees felt as though they were swollen with fluid.  The pain that I thought was a case of stiff hamstrings was the lead-up to my hips becoming ever more stiff.  Great.  In a matter of days I had gone from having two dysfunctional joints to six and while I was a youthful and active fifty year old woman my body was acting as though it was ready for a nursing home....or had been hit by a massive truck.

Attitude is everything and thankfully I have always been a 'glass half full' sort of person.  I never missed a day of work and through months and months of pain and frustration I only welled-up three times with pity for myself in such a pathetic state.  Waking up a dozen times a night to get more comfortable forced me into the spare room before my husband got to be as sleep-deprived as I was.  My iPod got me through stages of sleeplessness and pain and I highly recommend podcasts for taking your mind off of pain in the middle of the night.  Things were looking rather bleak.  Then a case of serendipity played out.

Last September, a new employee was scheduled to work with with me at the library.  After the initial pleasantries she mentioned that she wasn't feeling all that well and had had a rough night...all down to one Smartie.  Victoria had been diagnosed as having celiac disease in childhood and was vigilant about keeping gluten out of her diet.  Trying one Smartie while out with friends was enough to cause stomach pain so it's a good thing she didn't overindulge but who knew there was gluten in Smarties?  I had always assumed gluten was something that was produced through kneading dough or in batters with vigorous beating.  Wrong....well, right and wrong.  Victoria told me about learning the hard way that it's in soya sauce as well as a man-made product.  We talked about the food industry off and on over the next few hours and when I mentioned my arthritis pain and how much I dreaded the powerful drugs to help control it she suggested I try eliminating gluten, or at least wheat, from my diet for one month before seeing my doctor.

I don't know about you but where I work there were a few women who seemed to always be trying the latest fad eating trend.  The rest of us playfully gave them a hard time as we ate brownies with abandon during our staff meetings and enjoyed seconds of cake brought into the staff room.  Now I was about to become one of them and it was sort of embarrassing.  That first evening, standing in front of the pantry with my hands on my head I was completely dumbfounded about what I could have for dinner and then the thought of no marmalade on toast the next morning was disappointing to say the least.  The want, no...desperation, to lessen my pain was far greater than the need for toast, or cinnamon wheat square cereal.  Oh, and I have to mention...in for a penny, in for a pound...I gave up dairy as well.  Once I started reading about foods with inflammatory properties it was a no-brainer.

My first cup of tea with almond milk was interesting but after a week the look of despair disappeared from my face after the first sip.  The soup pot was out constantly and my husband would help me ladle spoonfuls into freezer bags for down the road.  If the oven went on for a roast I would grab a couple of sweet potatoes to bake as well...and a squash, or anything other veggie that was handy.  My knees had swelled quite badly after enjoying some bruschetta at a restaurant so the nightshade foods were out as well.  No tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant; the list was getting longer.

So did the change help?  After one week of removing wheat and dairy from my diet the stiffness that had begun in my left hand disappeared.  My knees and hips were still sore but at least I was being proactive and the research distracted me from what I couldn't do, this change empowered me and kept me from going mad and losing hope.  My doctor is only a couple of years older than I am and while she was previously a bit too quick with the prescription pad she was very supportive of my endeavour to try and do what I could to heal, or at least help, myself through diet.  She even suggested adding curcumin supplements to my plan of action.  Beware though, when you take this your t-shirt will carry the musky scent of a leftover curry dinner should you work up a sweat!  We also chatted about what I had learned about menopause affecting connective tissue and could my troubles be connected with a drop in estrogen?  The body is a weird and wonderful thing but a little more wonderful would be nice.  She has given me until the end of May to decide what happens next.

My new physio-therapist has been heaven-sent.  After my initial assessment she is treating me as having two strained rotator cuffs and tight trapezius and is suspicious that bi-lateral frozen shoulder was ever the problem although the two diagnoses mimic each other in symptoms.  Whatever the case, she started me off with nine stretches and one month later has me doing fifteen different stretches with great success!  Each week Dorothy gets a kick out of my jubilant stories of being able to reach into the Tupperware cupboard and root around without pain, pull the car door shut without grimacing or reach behind my head to pull out the extra pillow.  Never take mobility for granted!  With Dorothy's help I am quite sure that my shoulders will be almost as good as new by the end of April.  If there has been any sort of link between the inflammation in my upper body causing my knnes and hips to act up then hopefully I will be seeing the backside of that as well.  But if I do have to face my future with arthritis then at least I am doing my utmost to hold its worst effects at bay and stay strong.  

Tying my health update up to include a book review I have to say that Gwyneth Paltrow's recipe book It's All Good  is absolutely fantastic if you are trying a gluten-free or vegan lifestyle.  After the fifth delicious recipe that worked out perfectly I returned my library copy and bought my own.  Cleo's Afternoon Shake tastes like a liquid Snicker's bar if you need something decadent but healthy in the late afternoon and her recipe for Japanese Meatballs was a hit the other night; my husband kept going on about how good they were the next day for lunch.  My lunch today is going to be Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpeas with Mustard and Parsley.  In a strange way, rather than being a challenge, eating gluten and dairy-free has opened up so many avenues and introduced me to all sorts of new foods.  My husband wasn't as thrilled about tempeh burgers from a local vegan restaurant as I was though but he's a good sport for trying.

The title of this post is On Going Gluten-Free...ish and I say 'ish' because while the elimination of wheat in my diet is a definite I have no doubt there is still gluten lurking in many of the products I use as condiments or dips but we're trying.  One last thing to add, and it's a big one, when you hear about the 'brain fog' that comes with eating wheat - it's a reality.  There is a clarity in my thinking now that wasn't quite there before and who knows, perhaps it's what I am putting into my body rather than what is being left out, all I know is that I have experienced it for myself and it's all good.

16 comments:

  1. What a fascinating post, Darlene, and it's good of you to be so open here and provide much 'food' for thought!
    By whatever means you achieve it, here's to increasing good health.

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    1. Thanks so much, Karen, that means a lot. I sound all brave and committed now but what ever shall I do when faced with a three-tiered cake tray full of finger sandwiches and scones during my next trip to London?! If you hear of anyone putting on a gluten-free cream tea, please let me know!

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  2. This is really fascinating... I can't even imagine going gluten AND dairy free or even ish, but the benefits seem very convincing. I think I'm going to try harder to reduce both (I'm worse with the gluten than with the dairy). In any case I'm SO glad this is working for you!

    I've been joking for weeks about a sign on our swankiest shopping street advertising cupcakes (so trendy!) with no sugar, carbs or fat. What the heck is left? Cauliflower? :) Imagine me falling over in hysterics when my 20-something colleague told me that "Johnny Cupcake" (store with said sign) is a clothing store.

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    1. You made me laugh, Audrey, with your 'ish'. I was ever so slightly insulted when my husband commented on the fact that he buys so much less bread now, as if I were consuming bags by the dozen. Rude!
      If someone uses the word 'cupcake' in their shop name they had better darn well sell some! You're a good sport and your colleague must have laughed as much as you did, what a hoot!

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  3. I know the feeling, there are sighs and grunts when I reach to the back of the Tupperware cupboard. Really glad to hear the new diet is working for you, Darlene - we need you stretching for bargain books again!

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    1. It makes my heart sing to know you struggle with the hell that is the Tupperware cupboard, Mary! Thank you for your kinship and support. I have been a complete troublemaker and one-liner Queen at work this past week so something tells me I am getting back to my old self and it does feel nice.
      Aha.....stretching for books, that's just the incentive I need for one my most hated stretches, it kills!

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  4. I'm glad the change in diet is helping you. I agree that trying changes in diet is preferable to starting with medication & it sounds as though it's been a positive thing for you. Fingers crossed that the improvement continues.

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    1. Thanks so much for you kind words, Lyn! Several years ago there was a story on the news about a woman living past her 100th birthday. When she was asked about her secret she said 'stay away from doctors!'. When you listen to the laundry list of side-effects from some of the medications out there you have to wonder if they're worth it.

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  5. Wow. Thanks so much for sharing this. I was diagnosed as gluten intolerant some years ago, and though I don't have such dramatic reactions if I eat it, I feel much better without. Ditto sugar and dairy. People think it sounds very boring but actually when you are on it it is fine. I just slide from time to time, but am being good at the moment. As for your pain -- goodness, I feel for you. I have just come out of hospital after a hip replacement operation 2 weeks ago. I had a rather miserable few months before the op, and hate taking painkillers though I had to at times. I found a TENS machine very helpful for localised pain. Now I'm having to learn to walk well again, and get my strength up. So I really hope you manage to knock all that bad stuff on the head and emerge totally fit and healthy -- its encouraging to see how week you are doing.

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    1. Oh, Harriet...you've been through the trenches too! You sound like me when it comes to pain relief, I will only take half of an Aleve tablet because I need something every day and don't want to risk irritating my stomach or kidneys. My physiotherapist has me taking muscle relaxants as well but I only take half of that as well...not a very good patient but I know my body.
      It's so interesting to know that you're on the same path when it comes to gluten and dairy...and yes, sugar too. My daughter and I have been making some really delicious drinks in the blender using spinach, kale, mango, berries...whatever we have on hand. So good and packed with nutrition!
      I really hope your new hip will make all the difference once you have recovered, Harriet. A fair few of my library customers have been through the process...I've learned you can't bend that joint past a certain point until the doctor gives the okay, so be careful! And thanks for sharing your story, knowing there are others getting on with their day through life's experiences we could do without really helps.

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    2. Thanks, Darlene. I have a great juicer -- I splashed on on an expensive one and can highly recommend juicing -- I start every day with apple, carrot, ginger, and beetroot when I can get hold of it. A real boost, I can tell you. As for the hip, it's doing pretty well and better every day.

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  6. Darlene! I was just thinking of you this morning and wondering how you were. I am so glad you are starting to feel better. Diet is such a huge part of keeping our bodies functioning. I have thought about going gluten, wheat, dairy, meat free etc for a long time but found the process of learning about how to find and cook the alternatives daunting. I think I'll take a look at Gwyneth's book for myself. I hope a healthier you will see a return to the blog world...we miss you! x

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    1. Howdy, stranger! Perhaps if you start off slowly by not having wheat or dairy after a certain point in the day it might be an easy way to glide into a new way of eating? Building from there just gets easier and there are so many excellent products out there at the moment. Robin Hood has a gluten-free flour so I've even been making muffins and chocolate chip cookies...this is no hardship at all! I have yet to muster the courage to try a pan of scones though.
      Perhaps you have a cast iron constitution but I have such a sensitive system...I get woozy on children's cough syrup, for goodness sake, so this just makes sense to me.
      Hope all is just super-duper with you, Rachel, and yes...now that I am feeling less like death warmed-over you'll be hearing from me a lot more. Enjoy the rest of your day...or weekend...or week....bye!

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  8. your work with food restriction is inspirational Darlene May this continue to restore to full blogging health

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  9. I am so pleased to hear that you have found something to help. (Not only help yourself, but your blog readers too) I know from experience that surgery is not necessarily the best cure for bilateral frozen shoulder.

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