As a pasta-loving Italian, eliminating gluten from my diet at the recommendation of my doctor seemed to leave me with extremely limited food options. However, compelled by my compounding fatigue and stomachaches, I waved the white (and red and green) flag, and embarked on my gluten-free adventure, eager for more energy and less pain.
I didn't realize that the benefits of a gluten-free diet would contribute to the improvement of other aspects of my life.
1) Feeling less chronically fatigued was one of the most noticeable improvements that resulted from my eating gluten-free. Prior to altering my diet, I would sleep sometimes as long as 15 hours per night, and would still be too tired to do much the following day. A likely result of intestinal damage causing malabsorption of nutrients.
A few months after I started eating gluten-free, I noticed that I needed less sleep to function properly and was able to think more clearly.
2) At the same time I was sleeping 15 hours a night and lazing around during the day, I was feeling down. I had little motivation to accomplish even small tasks.
What I didn't know was that 90 percent of the body's serotonin, which is responsible for mood elevation, and 50 percent of the body's dopamine, which is important for motivation and attention, lies in our gut. So if my digestive tract is damaged and off-kilter, my levels of serotonin and dopamine are off, which would directly affect my mood.
After I started eating gluten-free, I slowly regained my ability, and desire, to function properly.
3) Years before I stopped eating foods containing gluten, I nearly stopped eating everything. I recall one particular day during college when I ordered my favorite sandwich of tomato and fresh mozzarella on ciabatta. I was hungry after a long morning of classes, and while I was excited to have lunch with a group of friends, I may have been more excited about the sandwich that I was about to enjoy. But after one bite, I put it down.
Something about it wasn't right. I got the same feeling that I used to get as a child after eating too many doughnut holes at Halloween parties -- I couldn't even think about eating doughnuts for months without feeling sick.
I had, at that time, recently noticed that no matter how hungry I felt, I couldn't stomach certain foods. I never imagined that my beloved tomato mozzarella on ciabatta would be one of those foods.
I threw out the sandwich, my hunger replaced with nausea, and went to my next class.
That night, ravenous, I ate two slices of pizza. Long before I learned that nausea is a gastrointestinal symptom of Celiac disease.
4) Combining my newfound energy with my renewed ability to stomach the foods that I wanted to eat, socializing became a much easier and more regular part of my week. No longer was I too tired to go out when friends called, and no longer did I need to cut the night short because my stomach pains were too much to handle.
I'd always wondered how people would go out to dinner and then hit a club without feeling too full and bloated to dance. When I stopped eating foods containing gluten at dinner, I realized how.
If you're feeling like I felt before going gluten-free, you may want to check in with your doctor -- even if you don't feel like it -- and ask if it's possible that you have Celiac disease or are otherwise gluten-intolerant.
Copyright © 2014 Celia Kaye
All Rights Reserved
Celia Kaye is the name under which writer-filmmaker Kaitlin Puccio pens articles about her experience with gluten sensitivity. Kaitlin has written a forthcoming children's book on Celiac and gluten sensitivity for the Celia Kaye lifestyle brand, and has been a contributor to MindBodyGreen.com. Follow her on Twitter, like her on Facebook, and visit her at CeliaKaye.com.
Also on The Huffington Post:
You might think the condiment is just made from soybeans, but many soy sauces have wheat in the mix. Today, a number of brands offer gluten-free varieties, so make sure to check before you buy.
Certain pickles are off limits. Depending on the pickling process, malt vinegar may be inside that jar, and malt vinegar in turn is made from barley. Other brands may use corn-based vinegar for a gluten-free crunch.
Off course you know to skip the bun, but the meat itself? Sometimes, depending on the brand. Certain hot dogs -- and sausages -- may contain wheat gluten, so be sure to read the labels.
The chewy candy often lists wheat flour as one of the first few ingredients, although a number of brands now have a gluten-free option.
Some veggie burgers -- even some homemade patties -- contain wheat gluten, like hot dogs. Other faux meat products rely on gluten as well, since it can give a meat-y texture to these veggie replacements.
Your dressing of choice probably contains some kind of thickening agent, a number of which contain gluten. Look out for "modified food starch," since its name doesn't make its wheat derivation obvious.
Your basic chips (hopefully!) have a pretty simple ingredients list, but certain kinds can get their taste from processed flavorings that contain wheat, barley or rye.
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