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Why I Love Being Gluten Free

As a Celiac, going gluten free was nothing less than a rebirth for me.  I did not realize the toll that Celiac Disease had taken on my body and mind until after my diagnosis and treatment with the gluten free diet began. For the first time in my life since childhood I began to feel “normal” and like I was lifted out of a fog. The overall improvement in my life has been incredible. In addition to a total resolution of my chronic GI distress and arthritis, I experienced several other unexpected benefits of being off of gluten.

One of the first things that occurred after removing gluten from my diet was that I had a rapid increase in my energy level.  Although I ran track in high school, and continued to run while in college for fitness, I had struggled to run more than 2 miles at a time in the years leading up to diagnosis.  Like most aspects of my life, I chalked my exercise intolerance up to stress. Looking back, my real problem had been untreated Celiac Disease. Within 8 weeks of being on the gluten free diet I was able to run a 10K and within 16 weeks I completed my first half marathon.

The second thing that was noticeable within weeks of starting my gluten free journey was a marked improvement in the integrity of my hair, skin, and nails.  All of the “gross” stuff that I had experienced for ages, like adult acne, dandruff, breaking nails, alopecia (hair loss), and easy bruising, disappeared.  My hair grew back in and I actually had to get it cut regularly. I started to have to trim my fingernails on a weekly basis again (prior to going gluten free I cut them maybe once a month).  As I write and reflect on this now, I realize how malnourished by body actually was.

My depression has dissipated and I feel a joy about life that I did not feel when I sick with diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and joint pains on a regular basis. There have been several studies showing that there is a higher incidence of depression in patients with Celiac Disease, and I believe them. In my case I think that the improvement in my mood is multifactorial. Once I removed gluten I began to physically feel better and eat in a more nutritious manner, which led me to get be able to run and exercise, which in turn led to a decrease in my stress level and an improvement in my overall well-being.  Although there have been stressful experiences in my life the last few years (deaths, a miscarriage, familial stress, a multiple sclerosis scare, etc.) I have not had my depression recur like it used to prior to my diagnosis.

Miscellaneous other things which improved or disappeared when I removed gluten include the following (some seem utterly bizarre and I still cannot figure out if or why they are connected with gluten and Celiac Disease):

  • gray hairs on my head
  • ringing in my ears
  • TMJ (temporomandibular joint) pain and clicking
  • difficulty seeing at night
  • mouth sores and ulcers
  • hay fever and seasonal allergy symptoms
  • bad menstrual cramps
  • sensitivity to sounds and loud noises
  • styes
  • having to pee all of the time (although my husband may debate this one!)
  • low white blood cell count

I hope that with increased awareness and diagnosis of Celiac Disease and gluten sensitivity that others will begin to experience the fabulous gluten free life. I can attest that it is much better than the alternative!

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10 thoughts on “Why I Love Being Gluten Free

  1. Amanda

    That’s great that you’ve seen so many positive changes! It makes me happy to see people finally get their lives back after feeling sick for so long! Those are some bizarre symptoms that have disappeared since going gluten-free! And it’s awesome that your depression has mostly gone away because that’s just the worst, to feel miserable on top of physically feeling miserable.

    For me, for the first few months of being gluten-free, I actually LOST so much energy and felt exhausted all the time. I felt like I normally did when my anemia was at its worst but I figured this would be a time when it would be getting better! My hair and nails seemingly got UNHEALTHIER — I developed weird bumps and ridges in my nails, my hair was breaking easily …

    Now, it’s all gone back to normal for the most part. My favorite symptom that has disappeared (aside from the regular GI stuff) is HEADACHES. Also, chronic nausea. I always thought my nausea was in my head and due to anxiety but since going gluten-free, it has stopped.

    Now, for my eczema, allergies and asthma to improve … it seems to for everyone else when they go gluten-free, but not me yet :(

    1. Jess Post author

      Hi Amanda,
      I never went through “withdrawal” after removing gluten like you describe, but I have talked to tons of people who did….who knows why some of us do and some of us don’t. I did used to suffer from seasonal allergies from May through Sept every year and those just about totally disappeared. It is strange…
      I am so glad to hear that your headaches and nausea improved. I was super nauseated in the weeks before I was diagnosed. I remember trying to eat a bowl of oatmeal with milk for breakfast in the morning and not being able to do it. I think that it was probably because I had developed lactose intolerance from the untreated celiac. Anyway, it reminded me a lot of what morning sickness feels like during pregnancy!
      Thanks for reading. I’ve been enjoying your writings too and your positive message and attitude about all of this definitely stands out in your posts!
      Jess

  2. Anne Fitzgerald

    The only tbhing I can say that improved, was my stomach aches, but that in itself was worth it! Ya I miss glutenous food, but not enough to cheat. Within 10 min. from eating my stomach will cramp up. Only happens now with contaminates. I still suffer from arthritis, fibromyalgia Reynauds + migraines. No one seems to know what to do with them + they can be very debilitating.

    1. Jess Post author

      Hi Anne,
      I’ve been so amazed by the differing experiences of all of us with Celiac Disease and gluten sensitivity. I recently came across the quote “My Celiac is not your Celiac” on another site, and it seems so true. I am sometimes envious of those who eat foods with no gluten ingredients, made on shared lines, without getting sick. Being less sensitive would make eating out of the house much easier!
      If I’m remembering right, you are also soy free and dairy, corn, and egg light…is that right? I am in the same boat with foods I have to avoid and minimize. I will tell you that my sulfite intolerance which developed last year really threw me for a loop. If I eat anything with sulfites now, even a raisin or two, I have full-fledged autoimmune symptoms and inflammation (kind of feels like fibromyalgia with whole body aches). Just bringing it up because there seem to be more and more of us with gluten issues who develop this problem after going GF. I’ve checked the medical literature and pubmed.gov and there’s not much on this outside of isolated case reports of sulfites causing asthma-like symptoms in the 1980s (most of the articles are in French too). I’ve came across others with this issue through the Celiac forums and Facebook.
      Anyway, I hope that you are feeling well right now. It is definitely nice to get to know you through here!
      Jess

  3. Gill

    I should start by apologizing … this was meant to be a short response to your miscellaneous symptoms list and look what happened : (

    I stumbled onto your wonderful blog via Gluten Dude, & via Celiac.com … where my journey towards healing began. Only five weeks gluten free I know that there is nothing that will ever tempt me or convince me to eat gluten ever again.

    When I was given the diagnosis of Dermatitis Herpetiformis on May 16th (Celiac Awareness Day?!) by first the Allergist and then the Dermatologist … I burst into tears of relief.

    I recently wrote this on the celiac.com site where I have been getting help and support:

    “Before finding this forum, there we are, all struggling along alone and wondering why no one else we know has constant headaches, ringing ears, bleeding noses, thin nails, tingling feet and nose, occasional blurry eyes, indigestion, dry skin, canker sores … and of course we don’t mention the fatty stools and the gut issues. Except maybe to our PCP/GPs … and if they don’t connect the dots we soldier on. We get tested unnecessarily for stomach ulcers, parasites, hepatitis, stress tests, etc. We begin to sound like hypochondriacs to anyone who is not afflicted by this condition so we mostly keep quiet about it … for years until things get serious like the appearance of DH with all its misery and it obvious seriousness … the suicidal itching, the agony, the profuse bleeding.

    Even a diagnosis of osteoporosis and the tests that were done at that time didn’t reveal my underlying condition and so I carried on poisoning myself for five more years. The last 15 months with DH was a real downward turn for me with my health and I really thought I was genetically fated to have a short life … that’s how unwell I felt. And this after living a healthy life ?? … I felt like my body was cheating me.

    To find out just a few short weeks ago that the “healthy” food I was eating was my poison was an emotional relief beyond words … my body wasn’t cheating me it was trying to get my attention … and I didn’t understand what it was trying to tell me!”
    http://www.celiac.com/gluten-free/topic/101694-dermatitis-herpetiformis-my-journey/

    By the time we get to this place we are worn out from the battle. How many specialists over 40 years …. even I can’t remember them all. Except the very first lovely dermatologist who was sure I had as she said, a rare condition, when she did the biopsies … but she didn’t divulge what that was. (Just found out her brother’s first-born was celiac and she diagnosed it back in the 1970s!) My tests came back negative. End of testing for DH. We have soldiered on for so long that we have no patience with the rolled eyes when gluten is mentioned (a derms reaction), or to comments from another specialist “Osteoporosis … just happens”. …………………!………………… Right now our focus has to be on healing and checking to make sure there is nothing ominous going on in our beat up bodies. No energy for solving the problems of the world right now. A lot of those “weird” symptoms that you listed above, that I also had, have also disappeared for me too and that in itself is incredible!

    But here in your blog, as in GDs and C.com we can find support and understanding and that is a huge part of the healing process!

    Thank you for the time you spend researching and sharing. You are giving us a gift beyond measure.

    1. Jess Post author

      Hi Gill,
      Thank you so much for your kind words. I have had many days when I question myself about whether or not it is worthwhile to have this blog and wonder if anyone is actually reading it…reading your comment helps to affirm what I am doing!
      I am glad that you finally have answers for your decades of symptoms. It is truly remarkable the effect that certain foods can have on one’s health, and I never in a million years would have guessed that I had Celiac Disease when I learned about it during my medical training. Now I see it in my patients’ family members all of the time.
      I’m looking forward to “seeing” you in this Celiac community from time to time. I post as The Patient Celiac, or Jess, and am called “Jebby” on celiac.com.
      All of the best to you!
      Jess

  4. Gill

    Jess
    You share from a place of understanding – an MD with CD – you are invaluable to this community : ) And I love your blog and have it in my bookmark bar along with GD and C.com … first places I go every day!
    Gill

  5. Adrian

    Thank You so much for your blog. I was just diagnosed as “borderline” celiac disease three days ago. As I prepare to make the adjustment to a gluten free diet it is wonderful knowing that things like my hair and nails will improve and are not a permanent side-effect. I only hope to grow into having as much of a positive attitude about it as you do!

    1. Jess Post author

      Hi Adrian,
      I am glad you found my page. Out of curiosity, how did you learn about it?
      The GF diet is a huge adjustment, but once your body starts to really feel better (hopefully), it will seem worth it.
      Please let me know if you have any questions on this journey and/or need any other resources. I’m trying to provide the info that I wish I had accessible when I was diagnosed.
      Jess

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