Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Evil Gluten

Sorry for the absence, oh devoted five followers! I am trying to enjoy summer and escape accountability..

Anyhow, its been a busy couple of weeks. Andrew, our friend Anthony and I completed the Philly Tri a few weeks back (we had a relay team). Yours truly got to be the runner and cross the finish line at the end (coolest thing EVER!). It was a lot of fun! Hot as hell, but fun! And we each got medal so big, you would have thought we won the thing (we definitely did NOT). Next year, I am going to do the whole tri myself. I figure that I can use the crappy winter weather to spend sometime inside at our gym's pool, working on my sweet swim strokes! I bike and run all year long so I think I really need to focus on my swimming.

Anyhow, the past few weeks I have been feeling really yucky. I know awhile back I posted about a b12 deficiency that I have that tends to wear me down pretty quickly. I haven't been taking my supplement as religiously as I am supposed to (gasp!) so I figured that was the problem. And I have been drinking copious amount of iced coffee (I love you, summer!) so I was sure that wasn't helping. But twice last week, I found myself doubled over in pain, fatigue and nausea (and other fun GI grossness). I am NOT pregnant (don't pretend the thought didn't cross your mind) so I knew there must be something else going on.
I love to self diagnose and experiment with myself so I made a list of everything I ate and drank that week and started to do some research on my symptoms.
I think I may have a gluten allergy. I'm not talking about Celiac's disease, which is essentially the inability to tolerate gluten at all. Just an allergy. As it turns out, about 1 in every 100 people has a gluten allergy and doesn't know it. In addition, gluten allergies are more prevalent than they were 50 years ago, thanks to the uber processing of the food that we eat. This article has some interesting findings:
Gluten Allergy Article

If you've ever read the Omnivore's Dilemma or seen Food, Inc. you know that this makes complete sense (and if you haven't, you REALLY should). For many reasons outlined in both book and film, the bulk of American food has become increasingly processed. Not only does our government heavily subsidize the corn and meat industries, but the creation of artificial preservatives and sweeteners (ahem, high fructose corn syrup) has resulted in foods that are, literally, fake. HFCS doesn't occur in nature, it is completely man made. And its in EVERYTHING. Michael Pollan, my God of food, suggests that just the mere listing of HFCS on a label is the sign of a highly processed food (and should be avoided).
I get how the food industry became this way; its symbiotic with the widespread use of cars, the collpase of manufacturing cities, the development of the federal highway system, and introduction of urban sprawl. Its all connected, my friends. As people moved out of cities, they had to go farther to get food, which cost more. Because fresh food isn't ridden with preservatives, it doesn't last as long. So rather than walking across the street to the city market, people had to drive (perhaps several times a month) to get fresh food. My god! What a PAIN!

Cities became cut off from the suburbs (pretty much on purpose, but that's a topic for another day). Now that people had cars, they could travel long distances much faster than ever before. Our country became obsessed with speed and efficiency, traveling farther and faster than they ever had before. How inefficient it was, then, to have food that went bad so quickly and didn't keep. And how expensive it became to feed this new generation of baby boomers with real, fresh food.
So the government says, hey farmers, why don't you increase production? We got a lot of people to feed and if you make more food, it will drive down the cost and you'll sell more. And the farmers say, but we can't. We don't have the means to increase production. Animals only grow so fast, and they need all of this ROOM to roam and eat. And the government says, we'll give you the money. You just make us as much of the cheapest meats and foods you can. Naturally, this meant cutting some major corners. And thus began half a century of BS. You can read more about the development of the fast food world (which is a HUGE contributor to the decomposition of American food) in Fast Food Nation.

I will spare you my play by play of the disgracing of America's food supply, but you get the idea. The government literally pays farmers to produce ridiculous amounts of corn, which is then fed to the livestock (a diet which makes them terribly sick and necessitates insane amounts of antibiotics to keep them alive), which is then sold to us. Cheap. And fast. And then the leftover corn is thrown into whatever other foods we happen to be making at the time.

Sooooo, it is no wonder that we are seeing a increase in not just obesity, but Autism, food intolerances, cancers and a whole slew of behavioral and developmental issues in kids. There is nothing natural about our food in America. At least not the stuff that you buy at the Acme/Superfresh/ShopRite.

The point of this whole, long winded post was to say that as of today, I am going gluten-free (for at least a couple weeks). I am probably going to be a super cranky bitch for awhile. But I am hoping that the switch improves my overall well being.

My friend Jill (Hi, Jill!) is experimenting with THIS diet. Which I think sounds super interesting, albeit a bit more restrictive. I like the idea of getting back to basics with food. If this gluten thing doesn't work out, you can expect that the Paleo Diet will be my next experiment.

Adios, gluten, for now. I cannot imagine a life without beer. Honestly. But if I must choose, I would prefer a life (or even a week) without diarrhea.

I'll keep you posted on how it goes. Expect some ranting and whining at first....


Jill said...

Hey! So maybe this is TMI, but a while back, I was diagnosed with IBS (which is basically doctor-speak for “we don’t know what the problem is. Just be cautious about what you eat.”). BUT I did discover, through reading about IBS, that if I eat fruit, veggies, or whole grains on an empty stomach, I will be miserable. Basically anything that’s high in insoluble fiber, I just can’t process it. So if I want to eat a sandwich of veggies on whole-wheat bread, I take some soluble fiber first. I know, it’s ridiculous -- I feel like a little old lady as I stir my dissolvable fiber into a glass of water. But it has helped me tremendously and has given me a mostly dependable solution to eating the things I want. Sometimes I still suffer if I go overboard on something, but those moments are also helpful in determining just what will trigger an attack. So if the gluten thing doesn’t solve your problem, soluble fiber might be another option. ;)

Sarah Pearce said...

Woot for crossing the finish line! If you train for a tri, you're going to be in ridiculously good shape.
I'm sorry about the gluten. I hope you feel better soon!