Kathleen posted this enlightening comment to a recent Wheat Belly Blog post.
Her story highlights some of the incredible ways that the adverse health effects of wheat consumption are misdiagnosed and mislabeled.
My husband and I are long time, very fit, avid trail runners and cyclists in our mid 40’s. Neither of us have ever had a weight problem. We always have eaten a ‘healthy’ diet. Ahem. My cholesterol tended to just over the high normal range but my doc wasn’t concerned as the good cholesterol was high and the rest was attributed to ‘hereditary’.
Long story short – I started developing some intestinal issues – the typical – gas, bloating, cramping, etc. One added concern was blood in my stool. Not all the time but it became too frequent. I have had 2 colonoscopies, 1 endoscopy with biopsies, blood tests, stool samples, urine tests, the whole gamut. Nothing came back conclusive (thankfully) other than a bit of intestinal inflammation. No Celiac, either. The docs scratched their heads and said ‘Maybe your running is causing the bleeding.’ Problem is, the bleeding happened when I rode my bike, too.
So, after my last colonoscopy 18 months ago, I started experimenting with diet – beginning with eliminating most gluten. I called it a ‘gluten light’ diet. The docs (gastro and primary care) cautioned me about going ‘gluten light’ because I would become more sensitive when I did ingest gluten. My definition of gluten light was avoiding most/all gluten/wheat products when possible but I would allow myself a ‘spurge’ now and then – the Lemon Loaf at Starbucks post long trail run was a “treat” occasionally! Gradually, my symptoms improved, for the most part, to the point where I didn’t think about the cramping and blood because it didn’t happen anymore. I was still running and biking as hard as I ever had. And continued limiting my gluten/wheat.
Then, then in February of 2011, I was diagnosed with Graves Disease. There is absolutely no family history of thyroid disease. Dealing with the Graves, as an athlete, has been a challenge but am confident we are close to finally getting it well managed. BTW – when they did the bloodwork prior to the Graves dx – my total cholesterol came back down 75 points – way down in the lower normal range. My doc was impressed. The Graves may have had some affect on it but I think it has more to do with the gluten/wheat elimination. The Graves does affect intestinal function, as well, so that makes it a bit more difficult too.
Then your book came out. Wow. It just seemed to support everything we had been slowly discovering on our own but couldn’t really put a ‘label’ on. After reading it, my husband and I have gone completely Gluten Free! No ‘cheat’ days (good bye Lemon Loaf!). Actually, those days aren’t really cheat days as I’ve discovered I just don’t feel well for a few days afterward (emotional stuff, intestinal cramping, gurgling, etc) and a little blood in the stool returns. It’s almost like the gluten/wheat acts like a scouring pad on my intestines and inflicts physical damage. Have you heard any one else having that problem?
After my husband joined me on the gluten free diet, he ended up dropping about 7 pounds from around his middle – he was never able to drop those few pounds despite running and riding for 20 years and “eating healthfully.” He has always been trim but now he is lean – he dropped his cholesterol 40 points (he was never high – always well within the normal range) when he had his annual physical a month ago. The doc was impressed. Doc told him he doesn’t usually see a 45 year old man trim his waist and drop his cholesterol – usually it goes in the opposite direction. Hubby told him we had gone Gluten Free and the doc said “Well, if it works…..”
“Wheat Belly” finally gave us an ‘identity’ as to the journey we were traveling on but didn’t know what to call it. We do have a big family problem though – our brother-in-law and his dad and brother are WHEAT farmers!!!
Too many people refuse to believe that the angel of diet–the wheat of “healthy whole grains”–could be the culprit for something like intestinal bleeding. But it’s hard to dispute the on again, off again pattern of recurrence that we witness.