Tuesday, April 12, 2016

It could be gluten--roll eyes, then read.

I didn't think I'd ever be one of those people.

For the over two years that I worked at Kate's Kitchen in San Francisco, I waited on those people who ordered the gluten-free biscuit, who asked what was in our gluten-free flour (as if we had the time to go back to the kitchen and look at the damn flour bag). You don't want gluten, don't order pancakes is what I thought. And my grad-school colleagues who ate gluten-free were just lucky that red beans and rice, which I made for them, is naturally wheat-and-barley-and-ryeless.

I love gluten, and would have made pecan pie for my classmates if dessert was needed. I am, it's true, a bit of a dessert freak. Have I mentioned that I used to make biscotti every year during the Christmas holidays? But the idea of lemon-pistachio biscotti made with gluten-free flour make me want to cry. Just a little.

As far as I have been concerned, the gluten-free rationale and lifestyle (for non-celiacs) is annoying at best.

But when strange things began to happen to me that don't necessary sum-up at the doctor's office, I changed my mind.

I have been so tired. No, it's not motherhood. Yes, I get about seven hours of sleep every day. It is not the kind of tiredness most people have understood. It has all been very isolating.

My fatigue comes on unexpected. In the middle of a given workday, when I am trying to enter formula(e) and check numbers in Excel or draft the company newsletter, I sometimes get so tired I feel like I need to nap immediately and for a long time. I have also begun to get puffy eyelidsm which has never happened to me before. This could be due to allergies--having been away for over ten years, New Orleans is a new flora-environment for me. I can deal with that type of allergy. But the fatigue and accompanying brain-fog are not things I care to just deal with, especially when there's little room for error at work. But most importantly, I want to sustain my energy and stay well so that I can be the best mother possible!

I finally went to the doctor the other day, and she wrote in my notes that she thought my fatigue was due to the various stressors in my life (for one, I haven't been writing). She also ran a few blood tests and found my Vitamin D levels insufficient, almost deficient. She put me on a weekly supplement for 8 weeks. I'm two-and-a-half weeks in and hopeful!

The fatigue is the the most upsetting factor but there are other weird things. My face has gotten much more oily in recent weeks. This could be due to the uptick in humidity here as compared to the Bay Area and Central Texas. Or, since the skin is an organ, maybe it's trying to communicate something about what I'm eating. I have also had random visual disturbances I've never had before, like walking into a dark room and taking longer than normal to adjust. Like looking at the clock and having it move when I am actually sitting still. I don't know if I have arrived at the correct and permanent answer. I just want to know what I can do to help myself.

I realize that I have been overdosing on gluten at work. During Mardi Gras season two months ago, I ate king cake several times a week for a month. The Fiber One Bars stashed in my desk contain barley. Peanut butter sandwiches which I was eating daily contain wheat, and my morning oatmeal likely contains barley, rye and wheat. All these things might be culprits since I have sometimes belched first thing in the morning--before I have eaten anything at all.

What I am getting at is that I have decided to go gluten-free as much as possible. Potatoes or rice instead instead of pasta, and so on. I love sweet potatoes more than bread, anyway.

If you're wondering where I got the idea that gluten has anything to do with my fatigue, you'll be interested to know that for those with celiac disease (again, I hope that's not me), ingestion of gluten results in an attack on the small intestine which is responsible for the vast majority of digestion and nutrient absorption. For normal people not allergic to gluten, the small intestine has villi which absorb nutrients. For celiacs, the wall of the small intestine can become smooth, which ultimately means that the cells located there cannot participate in the delivery of nutrients into the bloodstream.

I'm not looking for a disease diagnosis. In fact, I doubt the requisite tests that could pinpoint celiac disease are covered by my insurance--which could explain the many people eschewing gluten on their own. Finally, I say good for them for trying to get to the bottom of what's bothering them.

It could be a lot more than six weeks before I'm fully back to my old self--and maybe diet is only a small part of it. But it can't hurt me to eat more wholesome foods since they really will help me sustain energy.

I have been 95% gluten free since Friday and I haven't had a single instance of brain-fog. Of course, because of my new found energy at night, I am back to writing.

And we all know that writing can help with brain fog.

Still, it could be the gluten!

Anyway, stay tuned...

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