06/30/2010 01:04 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Gluten-Free Made Me Smarter

Nearly my whole life has been spent in a fog. As far back as I can remember I felt fuzzy. From first grade all the way through my 30th birthday. It was hard to concentrate, I was always horrible at memorizing anything in school, and felt anxious and shaky a lot. I can't tell you how many times I was told, "try harder." Could that statement be any more vague to a young student? Maybe due to the prior, I was never a big fan of education.

As I was finishing my Ph.D. three years ago, I realized I was just accepting these fuzzy/anxiety filled traits as part of my life. But I did not have to. I finally became annoyed. I knew that these cloudy feelings were not derived exclusively in my head, regardless of the fact that I had visited over ten doctors to diagnose this problem throughout my life. And like clockwork, after listening to my symptoms and checking me out, the doctors, one by one, deemed me as: the most healthy person they had ever seen.

Not exactly what you want to hear when you feel like something is definitely wrong.

Finally, I discovered an end to the madness. When I was 30 years old, I got a phone call from my mother -- telling me, after perusing, that I should eliminate wheat and dairy from my diet. At the time I was halfway through completing my 250-page dissertation -- I submitted chapters to my adviser roughly once a month.

I gladly complied to eliminate gluten and dairy from my diet. Like clockwork, the fog quickly began to dissipate. I could think clearer. I didn't feel so damn anxious. I didn't have to squint through the clouds to stay focused. Then the kicker happened: after I submitted my next dissertation chapter to my adviser, I got a phone call a day later.

"Are you on some kind of chemical enhancement? What happened to you?" he asked.

"What do you mean?" I replied.

"Your writing just got so much more concise and flows way better," he told me. "It's like you are a whole new person."

From a small switch in my diet I was able to more clearly think my thoughts, which directly transcended to a better written dissertation. The change was so profound that it warranted a phone call from my adviser, who was extremely in-tune with my writing, to clarify just what had happened.

I don't even want to begin to think of how many countless lives have been hampered by a similar problem. Something as trivial as the food choices we make can directly correspond to our "smarts" and the amount of anxiety that is under the surface -- and, in turn, help determine how high we climb on the life accomplishment totem pole. The scary part is when we start to identity these problems as what it means to be "us." When we accept these problems (as I did for decades) we concede to just "deal," and that makes for a slanted playing field of life. No one deserves an uneven go at life in 2010.

Now I find myself as a communication professor in the Detroit area teaching group communication, interpersonal communication, professional communication and media classes. Sadly, every textbook shows techniques to overcome apprehension that didn't do a bit of good for me. I could have practiced all their exercises until I was blue in the face, and I would still have been a shaky, anxious mess grappling to keep my thoughts straight. Now, when I have a student who tells me they are dealing with a heavy burden of anxiety in relation to public situations -- I tell them not only to practice the book-assigned activities like visualization and repetition, but also to be aware of when they feel anxious, and see if there is an external trigger. I always instill in my courses the fact that we need to eat correctly -- so that our body ecosystem can support all the other endeavors we want to place on it like leadership, organization, and multitasking.

Gluten-free is not a fad -- or some crazy diet. It is just significantly easier on my body. I no longer have to break down whole wheat flour. Remember as a kid using flour as glue for construction paper projects? If wheat flour serves as an adhesive for craft projects, I do not want my body to have to deal with trying to digest that. Luckily for me, I am at the right place at the right time. Gluten-free is becoming increasingly popular. The costs associated with eating this way are negligibly more than the wheat counterpart -- and it is good for everyone. There are no drawbacks.

Now, I'm 33 and in the best shape of my life. I write clearly. I think clearly. And I finally enjoy the field of education. Gluten-free changed my life.