Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Removing Gluten to Heal Seasonal Allergies

I've been after Mike, my husband, for a while already to go off gluten to see if it'll help him with some issues that he has... but you know how men are. "Me? Health issues? I'm healthy as an ox!" When I pointed out certain health issues of his that might be taken care of by going off gluten, I didn't exactly get the most positive response. "Me? You're the one with the health issues and stomach aches. You fit the list of celiac symptoms exactly, but I don't have those symptoms. If you want to be off gluten, go ahead, but there's no reason for me to go off gluten."

Wait a second.
Back track.

Why have I been after my husband to go off gluten as well? Didn't I write a whole long post about how gluten isn't terrible, and was traditionally eaten around the globe, and just because some people are sensitive to it doesn't mean everyone should cut it out of their diet?

I changed my mind.
Sort of. Well, somewhat, after having learned a bit more about the science and history behind gluten. Like, did you know that the wheat used today has been bred within the past 100 years to contain higher amounts of gluten than there typically were in wheat? So even if people normally would have been able to eat wheat, the wheat today has so much more gluten in it that you can very likely overload on it and react, even if you'd been able to handle a smaller amount of gluten.
I also learned that a study was done in Europe that showed that when given specially fermented sourdough bread made with gluten, none of the true celiacs in the study had a negative reaction. Shocking, right? That means that there is a good chance that the reason that so many people today react badly to gluten when people have been traditionally eating gluten for thousands of years is because people today aren't eating gluten the traditional way- they aren't making it into sourdough bread! Add in the factor of the higher gluten content of today's wheat and you have a recipe for health issues and gluten sensitivity and reactions...
I still think many people can safely eat gluten, provided its not the bulk of their diet. Ideally it also should be made into sourdough as well...

But back to my husband.

Ever since I went off gluten, I've pretty much been stomach ache free. (Other than when I eat dairy or accidentally get my food contaminated with gluten.) Its ironic. My husband used to be the one with the iron stomach, while I was the one who was always moaning and groaning about my stomach aches.
Lately, it's been reversed.
Occasionally, after a meal, Mike will complain of a stomach ache. He'll look back to what he ate and try to figure out what was causing it. I'd look him in the eye, tell him "You ate the exact same thing I ate, and I feel fine. The only thing you ate differently than me is gluten. Maybe that's causing your stomach ache?"

My husband has had seasonal allergies for many, many, many years. So has his father and his brother.
Every time spring rolls around, while my kids and I are enjoying all the beautiful flowers and gorgeous weather, my husband is miserable. Runny nose, sneezing, itchy eyes, the works. He wants to do nothing more than hide in bed, under the covers, and escape the spring weather.
"I'm allergic to pollen" is what he says.
His father was like that for years.
His father used to take allergy shots for years, but they only helped somewhat.
Mike's taken all different medications for his allergies and tried so many different natural remedies- none of them made any difference for him.
And he was miserable in what is, in my opinion, the most beautiful season of all.
One thing, I have to note, did help. On days my husband ate raw honey, his allergy symptoms were lessened tremendously.

My father in law, though he suffered from allergies for years, this year hasn't had any issues with seasonal allergies. And no, he's not taking any antihistamines or natural remedies or allergy shots.
You know what he's doing differently?
He's on a grain free, sugar free diet. Oh, and he also eats raw honey.

Why am I sharing this?
Because when I  was trying to help my husband figure out something to do about his allergies, my friend Emily sent me a link to this article which made so much sense to me, entitled "Pollen is not the Problem."

From the article:
The truth is that seasonal allergies are much more than a nuisance. They are one of the mildest forms of autoimmune disease and a gentle warning by the body that more autoimmunity problems are on the way if the gut imbalance that is causing them is not dealt with effectively.[...]
When the gut is out of balance, opportunistic and pathogenic microbes overgrow and take over dominance. These pathogens produce toxic substances which are the by-products of their metabolism. Some of these toxins actually play an important role in the body when the pathogens in the gut are controlled and kept in check by good flora. But, when the good flora is absent or not playing a dominant role, these pathogens can overproduce these toxins.
One such toxin produced by several types of gut pathogens (Proteus, E. coli, Staphylococci and others) is histamine which is actually an important neurotransmitter in the body.
When these microbes grow unchecked in the gut due to a lack of beneficial flora, they overproduce histamine causing many functions in the body that react to histamine to go haywire as excessive amounts pour into the blood.
Is Benadryl your best friend? If so, you know you potentially suffer from an overgrowth of pathogens in your gut that are overproducing histamine!
Makes so much sense! I really do believe that bad gut health causes so many health problems; why should seasonal allergies be any different?

The article gives suggestions how to help the gut heal to deal with seasonal allergies, and said that many people have success minimizing their allergy symptoms by eliminating pasteurized dairy, removing grains- especially gluten, and removing sugar.

I showed that article to Mike, and for the first time ever, he actually was willing to toy with the idea of going off gluten. (He's also going to try to cut out pasteurized dairy- especially the ultra pasteurized powdered milk we bought in bulk that he loved- fortunately we just about finished it all up.)
Pointing out that his father pretty much is off gluten (he has 3 slices of whole wheat bread each week) and has no more allergies definitely made the argument more convincing.
But before my husband would cut out gluten, I told him to just pay attention when he eats gluten, and then see if his allergies are worse after that. For about a week, every time he'd eat gluten, I'd say "Take note of the fact that you're eating gluten", and not long after that, he'd complain about how much his allergies are bothering him, and I'd point out the gluten that he just had. He only complained about allergies- he only really suffered from his allergies- after eating gluten, and every time after.
He's convinced.
I didn't realize how much, until my neighbor came by today to offer him some pizza, and my husband turned him down, because he is cutting out the gluten.
According to him "I'm not going to be as strict as you and make sure that nothing that touched gluten will touch my food, but I am going to try to not eat things made from gluten."

I'm so proud of him, and I hope that finally, my husband will be able to enjoy this season as much as I do.

One other thing I'd love to see- perhaps with him being off gluten, Mike will finally be able to gain weight. He's skinny as a rail- no matter how much he eats, no matter how hard he's tried to gain weight, my husband has never been able to put on pounds- he's stayed extremely underweight. My guess is that without gluten in his life, his body will be able to absorb nutrients better and he'll finally gain that weight and be within the normal weight range for his height. (He's 2 inches taller than I am and 50 pounds lighter, and I'm not really overweight.)

Good luck Mike! I'm proud of you!
And thank you Emily for that article- it's going to be life changing.

As for frugality- is going off gluten to take care of allergies frugal?
Yes, in many ways. Because my husbands allergies are so debilitating, he's spent so much on natural and alopathic remedies that haven't helped, and hasn't been able to function at work or work as much because of it, so yes, even though him being gluten free might up our grocery costs a little bit (but not so much because I haven't made so much gluten for him anyhow because I'm off gluten), it's still worth it.
And even if it didn't save money, if it effects his quality of life that dramatically, then its certainly worth the money.

Do you have seasonal allergies? Do you eat gluten? Dairy?
Would you try to go off gluten and/or dairy to see if that would help your allergies, or do you not feel it would work?
If you have seasonal allergies, what remedies did work for you?

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