As part of the Gluten Free Health Challenge, Marie will be posting her journal entries on the first 3 Fridays of every month from now until December. She will also be receiving free health coaching during this time from Sarah Dochow of Nurture Nutrition and Iris Higgins of Your Fairy Angel.
Hello world! I have a feeling this post is going to be a bit scatterbrained today, so please bear with me as I try to collect my thoughts and reflect on what's been going on since I've officially gone gluten free.
Knowing that Saturday was the first official day of my GF journey, I decided that Friday would be a day of bagels. Bad choice. Since April I've had a lot of accidentally gluten free days. For the past month and a half, my diet had been mostly rice-based and repetitive with an abundance of instant white rice, beans, canned vegetables, and not too much else. While I'm not dissatisfied with such boring eating, I thought I should fit it one last wheat-filled hoorah while I still could. Let's just say that within hours of eating those lovely bagels on Friday, I was violently tossing my cookies. I've figured out that dairy makes me ill. Okay, I can accept that. But is it possible that my body is also rejecting gluten? How did I not know this? Is it all just a massive coincidence, or did reincorporating an abundance of gluteny goodness cause me to be sick? I found myself wondering if my diet has been unknowingly causing my gastrointestinal distress, and if so, what else will I have to eliminate just to feel like a normal functioning person again? When my stepfather was on dialysis with kidney failure, he had a long list of no-no foods and often joked that the only thing he was allowed to eat was apples. Would this be my fate? Is my body rebelling against me? Am I going to be the girl who can only eat apples or else risk getting violently ill? I can't even get fresh apples here in the desert!
As it turns out, my dietary intake is not the only thing that's conspiring against me; stress causes me to have violent and painful GI attacks. On Monday I discovered that my bank account had been hacked and all of my money is gone. They have initiated a fraud investigation, but told me my funds will not be returned to me for another 90 days. I had barely eaten on Monday, but the stress of it all had me running to the bathroom, writhing in pain, experiencing all of the yucky and unpleasant symptoms that I'd experienced before going vegan.
In a way I'm almost glad, really. Not glad that I've been robbed, of course, but glad to know that mental stress produces an extreme physical reaction in me. I now know for a fact that in addition to being mindful of what I put into my body, I must be vigilant in how I process stress or else I'll just be a weak-boweled mess who can't leave her bathroom. But it's okay. Because I can control these things. Because to the best of my knowledge I don't have a disease that causes this massive dumping; it's only when I don't eat right and/or my life goes crazy and I don't know how to handle it that my intestines decide to play hop scotch on crack. It's a nuisance with a huge learning curve but I'm convinced that I can fix this, or at least thwart these ghastly symptoms before they arise.
This afternoon I had my first phone consultation with my health coach, Sarah Dochow. Can I just take a moment to say she is simply amazing? Anyway, I was completely honest with her about my goals and my struggles, and to my utter amazement, she confirmed that I am not some freak of nature and that this stress-induced intestinal emptying is not abnormal. It was so nice to feel validated! I have an aunt who also experiences uncontrollable diarrhea when she is upset but I really thought she and I were the only two on this planet with some genetic mutation that causes us to become defective when the going gets tough. Maybe more people have this problem and are just too embarrassed to talk about it. Or maybe my aunt and I are just really hypersensitive (okay, I know for sure I am hypersensitive!) and that's why mental things affect me physically. But I'm not a freak! And most importantly, with a bit of practice I can manage this.
Sarah gave me some recommendations that should help me manage my stress and normalize my stomach acid. Here are the things that I am going to try incorporating this week, as per her recommendations:
- Have a bit of protein before bed. I'd told her how off my sleep schedule is and how I've been using alcohol as a sleep aid, which is obviously not the most healthy choice. Apparently low blood sugar from only eating one large meal in the afternoon may be causing a bit of anxiety at night, so I'll try having some peanuts or beans before bed and see if that will help me relax enough to sleep.
- Write out my fears and also my blessings. We've established that stress makes my gut go crazy. I don't want a crazy gut anymore. When I get repetitive negative thoughts, I'm to write them down and put them away to deal with in the morning. I've also found that making a gratitude list helps to put things into perspective and lessens my upset, so I'll try that as well. I feel like until I learn to teach my mind how to shut off, I'll never be able to teach my hyperactive intestines to shut off.
- I need to calm down before eating! Take a few deep breaths, clear my head, and let my body know that I'm about to eat, that I'm nourishing it, and that eating is a time for calm and to replenish what my body is lacking. Not go all willy-nilly crazy on me. Apparently there is a connection between the gut and the brain, and mine may be a little off. I need to look into this some more.
- Chew gum before meals. Even though I have pretty bad heartburn every single day, apparently I may not be producing enough stomach acid, which would explain a whole lot. I need to find a vegan brand of gum to enjoy; that should help keep my tummy doing what it needs to do.
- Drink apple cider vinegar in water half an hour before meals, and also refrain from drinking while eating. Again, this has to do with getting my stomach acid normal and not diluting it. I actually love the taste of ACV - I know, I'm a weirdo - but stopped drinking it a while ago. I'll be reincorporating it again and I'm really excited to see what it does to my body.
Speaking of stress, I thought I'd include a picture of me and my kitty cat, Nathan. He is the best boy in the whole world and he definitely helps to relieve my stress. A cuddle from him, and all is right in my world. While I figure out how to fix myself, at least I know of one strategy that always makes me feel calm and good: hug my boy and listen to him purr and know that no matter what else is going on in my life, we've got each other and we're going to be just fine.
Thanks for reading all of this. Until next time, be kind to yourself.