Sunday, December 14, 2008


I haven’t eaten any gluten in two weeks. And after reading that sentence you’re probably asking yourself, what the heck is gluten?

Let’s begin at the beginning. After I met the massage therapist who said she controlled her RA with diet, I started looking into what kinds of diets are supposed to help with RA. There are all kinds of theories out there: vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, casein-free, etc. I couldn’t decide where to even start. So, amidst the chaos of my last Remicade infusion, I asked the rheumatologist what he thought about the diet theories. He said that he had seen the most results on a gluten-free diet. So I started looking into that.

As it turns out, pretty much every medical condition or symptom I have ever dealt with in my life is on the list of symptoms for gluten-sensitivity. To name a few:
• Fatigue/weakness
• Vitamin and/or mineral deficiencies
• Headaches, including migraines
• Joint/bone pain (Hello, RA?)
• Irritability
• “Fuzzy brain” or inability to concentrate
• Hashimoto’s disease (my other autoimmune disease!)
• Bruising easily
• Muscle cramping
• Swelling and inflammation

Now, I am totally aware that if you read a list of symptoms you can convince yourself you have any disease in the world. (In college one of my friends went on the internet and convinced herself she had toxic shock syndrome. It took us hours to talk her out of it) But still, I have to admit that there’s something uncanny about finding pretty much every health problem I have ever had on a list of a single syndrome. And if the rheumatologist says it could help with my RA, it seems worth a try to me.

So: two weeks, no gluten. And what is gluten? Gluten is a mixture of proteins found in wheat, rye, and barley. The obvious foods that contain gluten are those with flour in them: bagels, bread, most baked goods, crackers, pasta, pizza, pretzels, etc.

But gluten is also found in slightly less expected things, like: beer, licorice, and soy sauce. In fact, did you know that wheat is the second ingredient in soy sauce? It comes after water and before soy! So, the bad news is that gluten is in almost everything. But the good news is that there are a lot of gluten-free alternatives on the market today. Especially in a hippie town like Boulder! So I don’t really have to go without these food items. I just have to replace them with versions made with potato or rice flour. And my local supermarket has everything labeled with the cute little “no gluten” symbol. It’s awesome.

And, of course, the question that everyone wants to know the answer to (both with this and with my RA drugs): is it helping?

Honestly? I can’t say. I am in the middle of law exams. I took the first one last Monday (eight page fact pattern for a two credit class!!) and I have another this Monday followed by a third on Thursday. And since I’ve been struggling with my work all semester I have a lot of catching up to do before those exams. So I am in a state of so much mental and emotional stress that I really can’t properly evaluate how the changes in my diet are affecting me. So ask me again in another two weeks.

But, I can say two good things. First: I feel like my appetite has improved a bit. I used to feel pretty lethargic and I would just eat because someone reminded me it was time for a meal. But now I find myself hungry. Which is nice.

And, second, APL and RK have been total rock stars of support with my new diet enterprise. They’ve researched gluten-free options, brought me gluten-free snacks to study with, and cooked me delicious gluten-free meals. Tortilla soup and corn tortilla quesadillas. Rice and chicken curry. Chicken cordon blue. Chicken katsu made with rice cearal. Ok, a lot of chicken! But, the point is, the meals have been great and I don’t really miss the gluten at all!

APL and RK are the best. I’d never survive without them. APL even found a local restaurant that labels the gluten-free options on its menu! We’re going there after my exam on Monday, which is also our six-year anniversary (SIX?!?!). I’m really grateful that APL has been so enthusiastic about helping me figure out if this diet is for me. I think he likes being able to help me. And I’m down with that too.


A said...

Z, check out the Gluten Free Girl's blog. We work with her and I think she's pretty amazing.

Also, the TSS event-- hilarious! I was just thinking about that story the other day. We're on the same page. :)

~Mariah~ said...

Gluten Free Girl has already been added to my favorites. As soon as I finish with finals, I think I'm going to buy her book. ~;o)

Rebecca said...

Um, I just cruised through the about page on Gluten-Free Girl (because, let's face it, I'm completely apathetic about finals). She makes gluten-free sound like amazing. Seriously.


~kelly marie~ said...

How's the gluten free going? I hope well!!

I found this crockpot blog. I am not sure if you have a crockpot, but she used hers for 365 days straight with gluten free recipes! I have no idea if the recipes are any good or not, but it might be worth a try!

PS. Can I add your blog to my favorites list thingy?

~Mariah~ said...

The gluten-free thing is going really well - though I realize that I SERIOUSLY need to update my blog!! Perhaps tomorrow I'll write an update blog post!! But thank you for the crockpot blog - that looks totally awesome and I am going check it out. And of course you are welcome to add my blog to your list!!