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By Mary Frances Pickett

When Gluten Free Isn't Enough


December 10, 2014

Going gluten free was amazing for my health. I was 26 years old and had chronic migraines, chronic back pain, and chronic digestive issues that combined were quite debilitating and necessitated multiple doctor’s visits every month. And all of that went away when I started eating a gluten free diet. I thought I was good to go; that I had all of my health problems figured out.

Not so.

Fast forward 8 years now. I’m 34 years old and have discovered that depression and fatigue are even more debilitating than the migraines, back pain, and digestive issues. I pushed through all of those things and kept working. I couldn’t keep pushing through the depression and fatigue and irritability and insomnia and sadness and flat out not being excited about life.

Over the past few months, I’ve read many books and consulted with various medical professionals and I’ve come to a few conclusions:

  1. The wheat allergy that I was diagnosed with at age 26 was a result of a deeper problem with my gut and immune system; it was not the problem itself.
  2. Removing gluten from my diet helped my health tremendously, but it did not heal my gut. The good results that I saw were likely from reduced inflammation.
  3. Because my gut has not healed, I’ve been unable to get the nutrients that my body needs and I’m malnourished.
  4. The physical stress of malnourishment and continued low-level inflammation, combined with a stressful lifestyle, have wreaked havoc on my hormones.
  5. Eliminating foods is just one step of the healing process; it must be combined with gut healing and detoxification, increased nutrition, and hormone balance.

How I Discovered Gluten Free Was Not Enough

A few months ago my father-in-law offered to take the children out for the afternoon, so that John, my husband, could get me out of the house for a while. Somehow, without anyone noticing, I’d been inside the house for 2 solid weeks and had worked myself into a big ball of anxiety and stress.  I hadn’t been sleeping well for months, but the insomnia for the past few nights had been awful. My body was so tired, but I could not turn the thoughts in my head off. They just ran back and forth frenetically unless I was reading, and even reading for hours wasn’t putting me to sleep like it usually did.

John decided to take me bowling and we decided to stop at the pharmacy first to buy some high-absorbency magnesium, which I hoped would help me sleep. A 5 minute stop turned into an hour long consultation as the pharmacist talked with us about adrenal fatigue, digestion, energy production, and numerous other topics.  At some point I mentioned that I was gluten free, but that I though I might still have some ongoing gut issues that were contributing to my ill health and the pharmacist replied, “Well, I could take a look at your tongue and tell you for sure.”   Sure enough, I had a crevice down the center back of my tongue, which he said indicated ongoing digestive issues. (I confirmed this with a bit of googling.) He also gave me instructions on how to ramp up my magnesium and Vitamin C doses to the correct amount and instructed me to take my B vitamin complex 4x a day instead of once.

I went home and followed his instructions, and received additional confirmation that I was malnourished! Just a few days of the higher level of supplements completely cleared up the redness in my complexion and the thoughts in my head slowed down significantly. It took days and days to get up to the appropriate levels of Vitamin C and magnesium, indicating that my body was sorely depleted.

Now that I was sleeping again and was feeling somewhat better due to getting vital nutrients into my body, it was time to move on to the next stage of healing. And I’ll write more on that tomorrow.

Meanwhile, has your experience with a gluten free diet been similar? Are you still suffering from auto-immune diseases, adrenal fatigue, depression, fatigue and mental fog after being on a gluten free diet?

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