My family is gluten free not because it's trendy: Part 1
The above photo was taken moments after Noah was discharged from the hospital - just shortly after we were told they couldn't diagnose the symptoms that led him to being placed in the hospital.
This is the start of a three part blog series I am going to be writing about gluten. I am going to share my family's story (my husband's in particular), tell you what this mysterious stuff called gluten really is, and what gluten does to our bodies.
Before I started writing this article I was planning on sharing the story of our four year old and her gluten intolerance. I planned to share how my husband and I sought counseling to find a way to corral her outrageous tantrums she'd be having. I planned to tell how I then began researching the symptoms of gluten intolerance and discovered that her severe fits of uncontrolled rage could be linked to a gluten intolerance. I then planned to explain further how my husband and I saw fewer temper tantrums as we began removing gluten from her diet.
The symptoms of gluten intolerance
But as I began doing research for this post I inadvertently slipped into a rabbit whole of information involving the relationship between gluten and liver disease. My husband had a liver transplant when he was sixteen due to his autoimmune disease. Naturally the bit of research I stumbled upon peaked my interest.
Shortly after we were married, I was working at Starbucks. My husband, being the Starbucks fanboy that he is, made the most the opportunity and came to visit every chance he could. His coffee intake more than quadrupled during my employment at Starbucks. Along with his increased coffee consumption, he began regularly drinking the specialty drinks and many processed foods that were uncommon to our diet.
A couple months after I started working there, he began experiencing stomach pains. They were unique in that they always began on the right side of his abdomen and gradually moved up into his right shoulder - never the left. We had only been married a few months, I had just moved to California after our wedding, he hadn't been at his job long, and so we attributed it to stress. But the stomach pains began to increase with frequency and intensity. But my husband rarely mentioned them. Until one day he left work early to come home. He walked through the front door nearly doubled over, complaining it was the worst he'd experienced. After lying down in bed he began to experience chills that led to a fever. After calling the ER we were urged to come immediately.
After running several tests, the doctors decided to admit him overnight to monitor him. The next 48 hours were some of the scariest I've ever experienced. His health soon went from bad to worse. He began experiencing migraines so severe that his room had to be completely dark and voices kept to a whisper. I watched my husband, curled in a fetal position, as he became unresponsive. The doctors at our local hospital in Oxnard, California couldn't figure out what was happening. The next morning it was determined his worsening condition required the care of a larger facility. They transferred him by ambulance to Cedars Siani in Los Angeles.
Upon our arrival, my husband came under the watchful care of a large team of doctors. He remained in the hospital for a week hardly eating. The doctors continued to run test, but each outcome returned negative. Thankfully his symptoms began to fade throughout his stay. After one week, the doctor who was leading the team monitoring Noah told us they had run out of ideas. Every conceivable test had been run and they were left scratching their heads. With no other option, they reluctantly discharged him without a diagnosis.
Finding answers and making adjustments
For the next five years, Noah made adjustments to his diet and life style in hopes of discovering the cause. Although his symptoms have never returned with such severity, he has continued to have reoccurring stomach pains that would move up into his right shoulder. It wasn't until recently, as my husband was helping me research for this post that he'd ever heard of anyone else experiencing such symptoms. While reading through Dr. Peter Osborne's Gluten Free Society, he came across an article entitled Gluten Linked to Autoimmune Liver Disease. Three paragraphs into the article Dr. Osborne states that he commonly sees patients with liver disease who've been misdiagnosed. "Sometimes the only symptoms are abdominal and right shoulder pain." The sentenced seemed to jump off the screen. For several moments my husband sat stunned staring into the computer screen.
"I commonly see patients in my office who suffer with different forms of liver and gall bladder diseases. Sometimes the only symptoms are abdominal and right shoulder pain."
With his eyes still glued to the screen, he urgently exclaimed, "Babe...I have to read this to you." As he began reading the article my jaw fell to the floor. My mind immediately raced back to the moments I sat silently in the complete darkness of his hospital room five years before. Then I thought of the countless text messages he's sent throughout the years: "Babe, would you be praying? I'm getting another stomach pain." For years the only thing we could think of was that his week spent in the hospital was the result of a few too many cups of coffee, too much processed food, too much stress, or some combination there of. We were never certain of the cause, but it was the best explanation we could think of. But rather than stress or too much coffee, all these years his body has been responding to a severe gluten intolerance.
To his credit, I'd say my husband's eating habits are better than 90% of the men I know, but he's had a hard time getting behind our gluten free diet. His weaknesses are donuts, cake, and movie theater popcorn. You might say he's been a reluctant sideline observer of our gluten free diet. He's done a good job of eating gluten free around London as a show of support. But that's about as far as it's gone. But reading this article and the subsequent research has brought things a little closer to home.
It's not an easy choice to make. But as Tony Robbins explains in Awaken the Giant Within - change is sudden, not gradual. This isn't another trendy diet to try out for a couple weeks. Going gluten free is a lifestyle change. It gets easier with time, but it requires discipline. But once your body has been cleansed of gluten you will start to feel the rewards: more energy, healthier, and no more brain fog. I look forward to seeing the impact this has on my husband's health.