While spending a month away from home at 14, my skin broke out in a itchy red rash. All along my jaw line and the inside of my arm I had patches of skin that looked like it had been struck with a mild case of eczema.
I had experienced skin like this before, generally during summer, but when my mom saw me this time she lost it. I had lost weight and seemed lethargic. She scheduled an appointment with the infamous Dr. Hoffman, who quickly tested me for food allergies and intolerances. I remember the appointment well, mainly because I had just purchased a pair of fake leather pants. I had also cut my hair short. I looked like this weird black hybrid of Nancy from The Craft and Alanis Morissette.
Dr. Hoffman asked what I ate on a regular basis.
"Oh, I don’t know," I said. "I like cereal. You know, Special K? Hmm, pasta too. Lots of pasta, cereal."
"Do you eat any vegetables?"
"I like salad. And I eat broccoli when my mom makes it."
"And how often would you say you eat those things?"
"Maybe once or twice a month."
"How about protein?"
"I don’t eat meat, but I eat veggie meat."
After that Dr. Hoffman told me that I wasn’t eating enough protein, and was eating way to much grain-based carbs. My test results showed that I was sensitive to wheat and gluten, which is why I was having the rash. In the past month I had been eating a lot of frosted flakes, donuts, and corn chips. The summers where I had similar outbreaks were filled with pasta salad, sandwiches stuffed in a camp bag pack, and vegetarian meat (which is basically gluten mushed into a can).
When I was introduced to the whole “gluten free” lifestyle it wasn’t a fad. I didn’t know anyone-regular or famous-who had to avoid it. It was nearly impossible to find gluten free pasta or bread. That’s how I learned to live without them. It was that or live a life bloated, itchy and tired.
Now I can’t go down a food aisle without seeing those most asinine items marked ‘Gluten Free’. Canned vegetables, meat-I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw toothpaste labeled ‘Gluten Free’. According to a article in Science Daily, only 1 percent of the population has Celiac disease-a condition where anything containing gluten (a wheat protein) is a big no no. But thanks to celebs like Miley Cyrus, going gluten free is showing itself to be a diet trend on the Hollywood circuit. Now stars like Jessica Alba and Gweneth Paltrow are reportedly following a gluten free diet. Can you say annoying?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat and other grains, like spelt or kumat. People with Celiac disease react very poorly to it, often experiencing weight loss, nausea and digestive troubles. Those who are intolerant to gluten may experience similar problems, only their digestive tracks look unchanged when examined.
Many people, perhaps believing that nixing wheat will equal major weight loss, hop on the “no gluten for me” wagon. Today it’s more acceptable to cry allergy than admitting you’re following a newer version of Atkins. But contrary to popular belief, a gluten free diet isn’t necessarily going to bring weight loss. And according to experts, an unsupervised gluten free diet can be lacking in iron, vitamin B12, vitamin D, magnesium, fiber.
A gluten or wheat intolerance or sensitivity is not the same as being allergic. If I eat a piece of cake I won’t die. If I eat the cake, some cereal, and a box of garlic knots I’ll more than likely feel lethargic-like knock me out with an Ambian tired- and bloated. I may break out in hives or a rash. I probably won’t go to the bathroom for a few days , and I’ll 9 out of 10 times wake up puffy around the middle and face. I do not have to gorge on these foods to experience this. All I need to do is eat a little bit consistently for a few days. If I avoid these substances for months, which I generally do, I’ll experience hives or a rash almost immediately after ingesting them. Like I said, I won’t die. But I’ll look and feel like crap. Avoiding bread and products with gluten didn’t make me drop weight. All it did was help my skin rash clear up, boost my energy, and help my digestive issues. The brain fog I experienced on a regular basis lifted. I wasn’t as depressed or moody. But there’s so much food out there to eat with no gluten that I honestly don’t care if I never have another piece of bread again. I eat rice, potatoes, vegetables, plant based protein powders, tofu, nuts and lots of fruit. For the rare occasion I want pasta I make tofu noodles.
If weight loss is what you’re interested in, it’s a simple matter of calories in versus calories out. You want to be burning more energy than your diet provides. There are literally dozens of healthy options and plans to help you meet your goals. If you think you may have a food intolerance or allergy make an appointment with your doctor! They will be able to direct you to a specialist who can develop an eating plan to get you back on the road to healthy.