Gluten Challenge Recovery

Mama at The Liberated Kitchen

Mama with some home-canned goodness

I chronicled my downward spiral into ill health while on a gluten challenge… and now I’ll do the same on my way back out! Watch this page for updates!

So… A bit over a week ago I had a mental breakdown. Even though it had just been two months, I decided my challenge would be over as soon as I could get in to the lab for a blood draw.

This meant I had to keep eating gluten πŸ™ I kept it to the minimum. On Tuesday night I was offered some gluten-free treats that had all sorts of things I don’t normally eat in them (grains, sugar, and possibly things like xanthan or guar gum). I gave most of them away, but decided I might as well try a little bit because I already felt bad. I just had a couple bites and started feeling weird so I threw the rest out. I went to bed shortly after and woke up with vertigo, ringing ears, a stuffy head, and itchy eyelids. I guess there are good reasons to avoid that stuff, too.

Thursday was the day of my blood draw, and I’ve been gluten-free and back on GAPS ever since. I’ve been making sure to eat my soup, and probiotic foods. I’m not doing intro strictly, rather I’m going heavy on the broth and light on all the other foods allowed on stage 6.

The first couple days I continued to feel horrid. I was still having digestive issues, my brain was still foggy, and I kept getting “stuck” mentally, with the stuttering and whatnot.

Then, yesterday I woke up without a stomach ache, and actually felt like getting out of bed. My digestion seems to be, ahem, working more normally. I have a little twinge of lower right quadrant belly pain. This is something I forgot to mention in my challenge log, but it is a symptom I’ve had regularly in the past. I’ve ended up at the ER over it several times, in fact. Right now it’s very mild and just coming and going a bit.

I’ve had the mentally stuck and stuttering thing happen twice to me today, but it feels like it’s getting better. My emotions are on a more even keel. I actually was the target of some mean people yesterday, and I think I handled it pretty well, and didn’t get all defensive. TinyHands and I got a chance to talk about how hard my gluten challenge has been on her, too. She’ll correct me if I’m wrong, but I think I’m handling emotional stuff better already.

I’m looking forward to feeling even better soon!

Update: Tuesday, January 31, 2012
I had a bit of a stomach ache this morning, but it wasn’t anything like what I had been dealing with. I’m definitely on my way back. It’s amazing that just a few days back off gluten can make me feel so much better!

I’ve been having a harder time with disorder than I’d like – the trapped feeling and stuttering keeps kicking in. I think the damage to my brain took longer to set in and might take longer to get rid of than the physical signs. Despite getting stuck on things, my motivation is returning quickly, as is my ability to focus. That’s a good thing, because I’ve got lots to do.

The best part, though? My stinkiness is starting to subside. TinyHands says my breath in the morning is at a 4 out of 10. On my gluten challenge it had gotten so bad that it would wake me up at night! I still have BO, but it’s not as vile, either. I have high hopes that I’ll stop stinking soon.

Update: Tuesday, February 7, 2012
I’ve been feeling so much better. I wake up and actually want to get out of bed. I have motivation to do things. I feel happy, and I have energy. I don’t feel sick, I’m not nauseous. My digestion is working. My tummy is flat again.

I’m still having a lot of trouble with my need to line things up, my need for order. I’m still getting stuck on thoughts.

And… I got my lab results.

Update: Saturday, February 11, 2012
Well, I spoke too soon about that working digestion. Now it’s working a bit too… unexpectedly… which was one “fun” part of my gluten challenge (alternating with the, ahem, opposite symptom). I’ve been in denial that I really need to go back to soups. I had been feeling so good that I went ahead and started eating lots of raw veggies, roasted meats, fruit, and nuts, but not much broth. I think I’m not ready for that after all. I got all bloated. Missteps into too many sweet things have even brought back my stinkiness (but not as bad as it was on gluten).

My brain is also still getting stuck a couple times a day. I’m much better than I was at my worst, but just thinking about lining things up sends me into stutters. Getting flustered or rushed in any way brings it back, too. Aside from that, the mental benefits of being gluten-free do seem to be back for good. I have motivation, I’m able to get up in the morning, my disposition is much better.

A good sign… I think I’m experiencing candida die off. I’ve been eating lots of probiotic foods, the symptoms match what I experienced before, and it makes sense timing-wise. This is why I’m still up right now – I don’t want to lay down with my sore throat and find it in my ears halfway through the night. Oh, how it burns! It gets worse before it gets better. If I remember right, it does get better!

Update: Thursday, February 16, 2012
I’ve been sick the past few days, but I’m pretty sure it was just die off. It was all in my ears, throat, and nose. I seem to be on the mend, and have hit that ravenously hungry stage. I’m not doing a great job of sticking to early intro, since I’m cooking full GAPS style for everyone else. I have increased the soup, though.

The stuttering is still happening, sometimes even in public. That’s really unpleasant.

Update: Thursday, February 29, 2012
The die off seems to be gone and I am feeling much, much better. I have started getting better about drinking my juice in the morning and eating broth throughout the day, and that made a difference right away. I’m still cooking non-intro foods for the family, and am quickly learning my lesson about which I do better with than others. For instance, tomatoes in my clam chowder were totally fine, but lentils were a bad idea. Everyone else really appreciated those lentils, though!

My stuttering finally seems to have lifted over the past week. I can handle some disorder, (the housework is paying the price for that). I’m much happier and more relaxed. I’ve actually been able to face some frustrating paperwork and formerly-overwhelming information overload without a problem.

I’ve been having a really hard time sleeping lately. That doesn’t really have much to do with the gluten recovery, it’s more about the dramatic schedule change our family is trying to adjust to. However, something amazing happened this week. I went several nights where I stayed up way to late and got woken up early. I was terrified I would go manic, and fully believed that’s what would happen to me. But somehow, I’m not manic! I’m not hypomanic. Last night I went to bed, fell asleep, and got up at a reasonable hour. I’m not depressed or foggy. I feel productive and normal!

That’s a good thing, because with the buds on the bushes and crocuses coming up, my business is blooming, too. I have appointments, interviews, coaching sessions, workshops, landscape work… and of course all the cooking, cleaning, and homeschooling to handle. I’m so glad my brain is working again!

There are a couple negative physical changes, though. First, my skin has been horrid. It was really dry but that seems to be getting better now. I’m still broken out, and my skin just seems dull to me. My menstrual cycle has become more irregular. And now my fingernails are starting to be flimsy. They are tearing a lot. Most of my life I thought I just had weak fingernails, but over the past year they had become much stronger. I realized that what I’m seeing now at the top of my fingernails is what was at the base of them when I started my gluten challenge! Some of them are still strong, maybe those grew more slowly. I’ll have to see what happens over the next few months!

Update: March 30, 2012
Wow, I’ve now been back off gluten as long as I was on it! Overall I’m feeling much, much better. I’m sleeping really well, and am happy to get up in the morning. My digestion is great, and my mental health is as good as it’s ever been.

But I’m not yet healed. When I stick to GAPS intro style eating I’m fine. But slip a bit? That’s a different story. Granted even when I mess up I’m better off than I was on gluten, but I just can’t handle things I was able to before I started my challenge. For instance, last night I had red wine with dinner. I woke up with fuzzy teeth, terrible bad breath, horrid BO, diarrhea, and itchy skin. That’s the sugar talking, folks!

My skin is still broken out, maybe this is still a detox thing, too. When I did GAPS prior to the gluten challenge (but several months after initially going gluten-free), my skin got so much better. I’m waiting not so patiently for that healthy glow to return!

My mental symptoms are continually improving, I was even able to face the taxes (and the mess of paperwork in the office) without freaking out. I think that’s unprecedented. A weird thing is I’m back to somehow doubting that gluten really affected me. But you all were there, right? It wasn’t pretty. Thank goodness I wrote it all down.

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7 comments to Gluten Challenge Recovery

  • I’m really glad that you are starting to feel better πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ That’s really brave that you went through that gluten challenge. I’m not sure I would ever do that again…but when my dad was in the hospital, I did break down and eat quite a few croissants…chock full of gluten. I’m back on the gluten free wagon, but I still have croissant cravings…and also coffee. Mean people are mean…sorry you had to experience that ;( πŸ™ At least you were nice πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather πŸ™‚

  • I read all about your gluten challenge and am in awe of how long you could go and want to thank you for writing about it. There are fleeting moments where I doubt the validity of my gluten intolerance because I have never been diagnosed. I think, oh-go ahead eat that cake or sandwich or whatever but reading your posts reminds me that I would really suffer. So thanks.

  • Jen

    This is a great read. I am pretty much over with my coffee detoxing (I think — maybe some cranky left in me, will have to check in with the hubs). But it always seems to be the hardest on those around us when we are getting something out of our bodies that shouldn’t be there.

    I chuckled a little at the digestion comment. Too many gluten/grains will do that too me too. I also get the air full of belly. But in moderation, I have none of those issues. A little rice and a sourdough slice is all for me in a day.

    So glad you are getting better!

  • Tonja

    Over the holidays I too went off my diet and have been eating allergen senstive things. I’ve been struggling to get back on track and the more I read your blog the more inspired I am to except my symtoms are allergen related and get off my pitty pot, “why can’t I just eat like everyone else?” The mental fog, sinus, skin break outs, and digestive stuff should of done it for me, right? Thanks for sharing your journey.

    • Mama

      Hi Tonja,
      I know the feeling. I’m glad you are feeling inspired! I think for some of us, it’s hard to think of our symptoms as something that we shouldn’t have to live with. We’re also very conditioned to think that a normal diet is healthy and most people thrive on it. Actually, I think living with symptoms like these from eating a Standard American Diet *is* pretty normal… but it’s not good for anyone!

      When we decide we want to feel better there is a lot of resistance. Changing our habits and having to do things differently than we did before is hard! It’s also difficult to face the emotional side which can include all the stages of grief and then some.

      The resistance doesn’t just come from inside ourselves, but from the people around us, too. Some people really don’t have the same issues, so they lack understanding. Others may see a reflection of the problems they aren’t ready to face, and then feel attacked by our personal choices. Fewer people know how to be supportive.

      But change is doable. With every discovery you make about your own health, you’ll be one step closer to making sustainable changes that will improve your life! There is nothing like those slip ups to remind us why we are doing this!

  • Michelle

    Thank you Mama for your blogs. I admire your strength. I am going to intro the GAPS foods and slowly extinguish gluten etc so as to combat all the things your reply to Tonya just spoke of πŸ™‚

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