Back in 2012, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. If you haven’t already read my crazy health journey over in the “About” section, you may want to start there to get yourself caught up on all the ugly details. During this challenging time, I often felt like I was lost in a sea of darkness and despair.
When you live with chronic pain conditions and fatigue, you are willing to try almost anything to change the trajectory of your health. Or at least that was my personal experience. There was water aerobics and physical therapy. Then taking malic acid and magnesium. I was constantly reading new articles about the treatment of fibromyalgia and running things by my Rheumatologist at Johns Hopkins. Most of the things that I asked about were scoffed at; this included my questioning about the impact of eating gluten.
Self empowered healing
By late 2012, I had pretty much stopped seeing doctors. There was nothing more they could do for me. My liver wouldn’t tolerate prescription medicines and that was the only treatment option they could provide. I found myself with my health and wellness firmly in my own hands. Honestly, it’s exactly where it belonged. Even when it makes sense to partner with doctors on a health concern, we are too quick to fully hand over the reins to the “experts” and forget that we are our own best health advocate. We are the only ones living in our bodies, which in many ways make us the most qualified to understand what is going on inside us.
So, that fall, I woke up one day and just decided that I would eliminate all gluten from my diet. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. I kept it as simple as possible. My diet consisted mostly of fresh whole foods that are naturally safe for anyone with a gluten intolerance. These foods include: meat, seafood, fruits, veggies, eggs, dairy, rice/quinoa and nuts/seeds. If I did eat something processed, I made sure that the food labeling indicated that it was gluten free. (Reading labels and avoiding exposure to gluten is critically important to people with celiac disease and I feel equally as vital for people with fibromyalgia.) I quickly discovered that I could eat this way without feeling deprived. But would it work?
The most remarkable thing happened just 5 days later. The debilitating widespread pain had been alleviated almost entirely. I felt like I had discovered the Holy Grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. I wanted to shout it from the rooftops to everyone that was suffering with various types of chronic pain. And so I did….
Some people choose to stay stuck
It’s funny though. When you start sharing your truth/experience, in an effort to be of service to others, you encounter some interesting responses. I found that some people were too content being a victim of their illness. They made excuses and founds “reasons” why they couldn’t eliminate gluten or why it wouldn’t work for them. Others had gone “mostly” gluten free and felt that was good enough. (I’ll circle back to this in a bit). Others still didn’t believe that you could reverse symptoms by eliminating gluten if you hadn’t tested positive for Celiac’s disease and/or didn’t have an actual gluten allergy. (More to come on this point, too).
The reality is that a gluten free diet is definitely worth a shot for anyone that is experiencing chronic pain or symptoms of fibromyalgia. It may take more than 5 days for your body to show you how it feels without gluten. I typically recommend a trial of about 90 days. The trick is that you really have to commit to being completely gluten free. If you consume gluten in a cracker the size of your thumb, it’s enough to trigger inflammatory processes in your body for up to 6 months. It is no joke! The only way to really know if being gluten free is the answer for you is to completely commit to the process.
What do you have to lose? Nothing!
It has been my personal experience, and the experience of countless friends and clients, that making the switch to gluten free food and gluten free products can be wildly beneficial. This is true even when you don’t test positive for an actual allergy. This is actually the category that I fall into. I do not have an allergy to gluten but I most definitely have a sensitivity to it based on the reversal of my symptoms after it was removed from my diet. Gluten actually doesn’t even show up as a food sensitivity for me on blood tests. I repeat; I do not have a wheat allergy according to conventional medicine. All that being said, I’m a bigger proponent of elimination diets than food sensitivity/allergy testing (in the context of chronic pain/illness) because for reasons outside of my understanding they do not show the full picture. The body is a miraculous organism full of these kinds of mysteries.
The decision to avoid gluten was just the first step in my healing journey. I’m a big believer that we have to fuel our bodies, with the best form of nutrition for our own constitution, before we can further enhance our health with supplementation, alternative healing modalities and lifestyle changes. When it comes to healing, nutrition comes first.
With love and gratitude,