Could What You Eat Be Causing Your Pain?
I vividly remember a day in the spring of 2008. I was driving on University Parkway back to my job at USCA from having attended a meeting at USC Columbia. My head was pounding and my stomach was hurting. I was in such pain that I pulled over on the side of the road and tears streamed down the side of my face. I prayed, “Dear Lord, please help me. I don’t think I can stand this pain any longer. Help me find the cause of my pain so that I can be rid of it for good!” After praying I did not notice any physical difference, but I did sense a peace that somehow God would lead me to the cause of my pain and a solution.
That was not just an isolated day with a headache and intestinal pains. This had been happening on a constant basis for the previous year. I woke up with headaches and stomach aches and went to bed with them. When the headaches got too bad I took ibuprofen and that alleviated the pain for a while. The severity of my intestinal pains would wax and wane, but they never entirely abated. I had brain fog and often could not think clearly and also had other abdominal symptoms including gas, bloating and constipation. Although I had seen doctors a couple of times over the past year and had been given some prescriptions to reduce the symptoms, I had not gotten a definite diagnosis.
- Do you or a loved one live with any ongoing symptoms?
- Do you have headaches or pain and inflammation in your joints?
- Perhaps your symptoms are neurological or psychological, such as brain fog, reduced cognitive function, anxiety, depression, or hyperactivity.
- Do you have digestive problems such as pain, acid reflux, diarrhea, constipation, gas or bloating?
Perhaps you have skin conditions, rashes, or even an autoimmune disease.All of these symptoms can be related to a sensitivity or intolerance to one or more foods. That was the case for me.
After my experience in my car, I called my primary care physician for an appointment. When I told her my symptoms she asked me if I was sensitive to gluten. I asked, “What’s gluten?”
She explained that it is a protein found in the grains wheat, rye, and barley. She further explained that people who are allergic or sensitive to gluten often have many of the symptoms that I was describing. She suggested that I eliminate all gluten grains from my diet for a week or more to see if my symptoms changed.
Within a couple of days, I was amazingly better! My headaches were almost gone and my intestinal symptoms were greatly reduced. I had some additional tests done and found that I had the genetics that are associated with celiac disease. Although the celiac lab tests were negative at that time, I have since learned that there are often false- negatives, particularly at the early stages of the disease.
Once I found the cause of my pain, I did not initially want to accept it. I loved bread! A couple of weeks after my initial gluten elimination I was at lunch at the Green Boundary Club. They have the most magnificent popovers! I thought to myself, “Maybe I was imagining it. Surely eating one of these popovers will be fine.”
So I ate one.
On the drive back to work, my thinking began to get foggy. Then my head started to ache and within 30 minutes my tummy was aching as well. That was it for me. I knew that my desire to feel good was stronger than my desire for bread. Since that day I have not purposely eaten any gluten- containing food, and that was almost nine years ago. I have been “glutened” accidentally a few times since then, and all of my symptoms returned on those occasions. That has been enough for me to be vigilant about what I am eating.
Although I did not realize it at the time, I had been doing a version of an elimination diet and food re-challenge. I use elimination diets with my many of my private nutrition clients and also in my detoxification program. Prior to beginning the diet, the person should note all symptoms they are feeling on a regular basis. Then certain foods are strictly excluded for a period of two to four weeks. After the elimination, then the foods are added back one at a time in a purposeful way to test whether any symptoms return. If any symptoms return, then the food should be kept out of the diet for at least three months before testing it again. Gluten grains and dairy are the two most common foods to challenge on an elimination diet. Other foods that are commonly tested are soy, corn, sugar, peanuts, eggs and nuts.
The “Gold Standard” Food Test
Although various lab tests can be used to help diagnose food allergies or sensitivities, the elimination diet is considered the “gold standard” by most physicians and other health professionals. If an elimination diet identifies a problematic food, then it should be avoided regardless of the lab results.
If you have any of the symptoms mentioned in this article without a firm diagnosis of the cause, I encourage you to consider an elimination diet to discover if one or more foods could be contributing to them.
For more information and a free “Elimination Diet Quick Start Guide” go to my website at http://www.nutritionwithginger.net/elimination-diet- quick-start.
Ginger Hudock is a holistic nutrition consultant in Aiken, SC. Her business, Nutrition with Ginger, helps clients discover the power of personalized, whole foods nutrition to prevent and heal from many chronic health concerns, especially food allergies and sensitivities. She is a graduate of the Nutrition Consultant Program at Hawthorn University and is also a Certified Gluten Practitioner. Prior to beginning her career in nutrition, Ginger was an educator and college administrator for thirty years, most recently as the Vice Chancellor for Business and Finance at USC Aiken. To sign up for nutrition consultation sessions or her newsletter and blog where she gives more nutrition news and recipes, visit Ginger’s website at www.NutritionwithGinger.net, or call 803-640-4381.