Yesterday I had for my first doctor’s check-up since I went gluten free (GF) back in October. You can read more about the reasons behind that decision in ’Coeliac Disease, ME and me’. I want to give some feedback about the effects of a gluten free diet on ME symptoms, in my case anyway and to talk about my health in general at this time. I’ll be going for more blood tests next week, therefore this isn’t a complete picture, but I still want to share some things with those who are considering making the changes that I have made. Please remember though, that if you have ME and decide to go gluten free, please speak to your own doctor first especially as any effects you experience may be very different from my own.
How Easy Has It Been to Go Gluten Free
The first month was probably the worst both for the withdrawal symptoms and finding food to eat. I felt so ill for about 2 weeks; I had a permanent headache, felt queasy and was irritable as hell. Also, it was difficult to go from having the run of the supermarket, to mostly shopping from just a few shelves in one aisle. I have a Tesco across the road from me, and this is where I usually shop as it is convenient. I did find that Whole Foods had more options for gluten free food, but it’s not always easy for me to get there.
Before going gluten free in October, I didn’t eat much bread, maybe once a week if that. The reason for this is that I found my IBS symptoms were much worse after eating bread. I did eat pasta (I live with an Italian) so I needed to be able to find a good alternative for that. I had tried gluten free bread many years ago and I absolutely hated it; horrible dry and tasted of rice. The bread options have improved A LOT! So that’s one thing I have been enjoying. As for the pasta; I don’t even like most of the normal pasta we get in the UK, and I used to get mine from Italy, so I was really worried about what I was going to do about that. The GF pasta is absolutely disgusting. I’ve tried so many brands, and the best of the batch is probably Dove’s Farm, but even that is not ideal. The biggest problem is that I don’t like rice, and I like my pasta al dente, so floppy, gummy pasta that tastes of rice is horrid.
Just when I thought I would never be able to enjoy pasta again, I discovered that Italy has some of the best gluten free food in Europe! I don’t know why that surprised me, but it did. I managed to get a few boxes and I’m happy to say it tastes as good as the original pasta.
Irritable Bowel Symptomatology
What I had noticed within about a month of going gluten free was that many of the irritable bowel symptomatology I had experienced for over a decade greatly improved. At the time of writing this I’ve not had any gluten for 4 months and I experience very little pain or any of the other embarrassing and annoying problems usually associated with IBS.
As I said, I still have a batch of blood tests to go through next week, but my doctor has said this is just my usual work up, and so I feel confident in giving this feedback before I get the results. The main thing the doctor did find was that I had lost 7lbs (3-4kgs) since I was weighed just before I began my gluten free diet. This may not sound like a lot over 4 months, but I have been the same weight for over 2yrs. No matter what diet I try, I just cannot budge any weight. Of course, weight gain/loss is very low on my list of priorities with all the other health problems. However, I do generally eat very healthily. I do not eat much sugar, nor do I eat much processed food. I generally eat a high protein diet with fresh vegetables and I rarely, if ever, have any alcohol. Still, I’m fat and there’s little I can do about it as I can’t exercise. I’ve talked more about my weight issues before, so you can read about that in ’The Issue of Weight and ME/CFS’
Fatigue and Pain
Unfortunately I don’t have much positive news to report when it comes to my other ME symptoms. I guess that’s not entirely true. Up until December I was feeling, relatively speaking, OK. This is one of the main reasons I made the decision to visit family over Christmas. However, I’ve been really ill since then. Perhaps I would have been more ill had I not been on a gluten free diet, it’s so hard to say, but as it stands I’m ill enough for much of my activities to be hampered.
I’ve had a really painful elbow since Christmas (I carried some heavy – for me- bags) and it is Tennis Elbow. My doctor has prescribed me some anti-inflammatory meds and told me not to use my arm. But it is near enough impossible for me to do anything without my right arm…I’m using it right now as I type! I have tried to reduce activities, and I’m hoping that will be enough. I do not want an injection in my elbow!
In general, I’m finding that any activity is leaving me in a lot of pain and very fatigued, so I’m trying really hard not to over-do it. I’ve also had at least 2 cold/flu-like bugs since the year begun, so that has not helped at all. I’m hoping once I’m over all this, I’ll have a better idea of how going gluten free has affected these ME symptoms.
Overall, I would say the gluten free diet has definitely been beneficial, especially when it comes to IBS type symptoms, but the one area where it has hit me hard is my wallet! Bread has suddenly become a luxury item in my household.