I've been toying with the thought of this blog post for almost a year. On one hand, I'm not one to write about "medical issues" or many personal subjects. I tend to write about home decor, hostess gifts and the occasional recipe. On the other hand, I've quite literally stumbled upon something that has changed my life for the better and wonder if this finding might be something others want to know about as well. We've all heard the saying, "If I can help just one other person..." That's where I'm coming from today. I do hope to help others, even if it's only one other.
Without going into full personal history, I will do my best to share the general reason for my drastic change in diet and overall lifestyle. A little over a year ago I went in for a gynecological exam. Although it was a routine check up, I needed to share new pains and symptoms with my doctor. Roughly 8 years ago I had a procedure called a "Endometrial Ablation". It was successful and I'd not had any symptoms for years. Now it seemed I was encountering new symptoms; pain, swelling, irregular bleeding. These are never good symptoms. After additional tests, my doctor suggested I have a partial hysterectomy (I would be keeping my ovaries). He didn't see anything life threatening from the test results, but in his words, "you're not using those parts any longer, so why let them bother you with pain." Sounded simple enough, right? So the operation was set. Pre-op tests were done. I was scheduled to have major body parts removed since I "wasn't using them any longer".
I want to take a moment to be clear about something. When we go into a partnership with a physician I believe it is both parties responsibility to ask questions and come up with solutions to possible problems. This is something that wasn't happening in the partnership between my doctor and myself. I didn't ask questions. He didn't ask many questions. This seemed like a routine removal of body organs. And for that I'm embarrassed with my own lack of initial effort. I'm also frustrated with the lack of options I was offered.
About 10 days before the surgery I was feeling uneasy. I only then decided to do research. Something I should have done well before agreeing to go under the knife (or laser as it was in my case). Upon researching the method that was to be used for my surgery (da Vinci Surgical method), I discovered many possible issues not discussed with me in my consultation. With this I decided to put the surgery on hold, take a deep breath and be a better advocate for my health.
At the same time this was happening, I was also experiencing significant joint pain (knees, shoulders, fingers, ankles, toes, hips). I'm not a teenager any longer, but I'm not ready to order a walker or use a cane! I enjoy tennis 2-3 times per week during much of the year. I hike with my family and take our dog for walks regularly. But all of this joint pain was starting to make being active, not so fun. Maybe I had arthritis, I began to wonder as I downed my 3 motrin (daily). I also had quite a few intestinal issues. Indigestion, bloating, discomfort to name a few. To top things off, the nodules on my thyroids were feeling larger than ever. My endocrinologist was telling me at one of my biannual visits that my numbers were starting to creep up again and that I might need to increase my medication again... or discuss removing my thyroid. (AGAIN with the removal of parts! Geesh!) Something had to change!! There must be a way to make positive changes in my health without removing things. And I'd really like to not take pain reliever everyday if possible. Too much to ask?
Those who know me well, know I'm a Christian. I'm married to a Jewish man and we're raising our children in the Jewish Faith, but I am a Christian. I really do believe in a G-d and I really do believe in divine intervention. I have no proof. I have no interest in proselytizing. But I have no other way of explaining what has happened in my life other than pointing to my faith. Take it or leave it.
When I have a problem I can't seem to solve, I pray about it. I was facing several health issues and I did what came natural to me... I prayed about it. And the only thought that came to my mind upon saying "amen", was "I need to give up grains". I'm not saying I heard the voice of G-d. It's not like that for me. It was more of an idea that came to me.
Why Grain Free?...
Prior to last August, I was a carb-lover. A grain-filled, sandwich-eating, cereal-crunching, pizza-making Carb-Lover! I can honestly say my daily diet was filled with grains. So when the thought of giving up all grains popped into my head I was confused, to say the least. But since it was the only thing I could come up with upon finishing my prayers, I decided to give it a try. I also decided to research grains, pros/cons, history of etc. I also spoke about it with a friend who I knew had some of the same gynecological issues I was having and I was surprised to hear her response. "My doctor told me to give up grains." What?? Why didn't my doctor tell me to give up grains? Is this a known treatment/option in the medical community??
Grain Free Living...
Within 2-3 weeks of giving up grains (I continued to eat corn chips for a while, but eventually gave that up as well) something amazing started happening. I started feeling good. No, I started feeling great! I noticed the swelling in my abdomen had gone down. My joints were feeling better. I wasn't taking motrin everyday. By 3 months of grain-free living I noticed I was feeling a little tired, so I decided to decrease my thyroid medication. [Note: I do NOT suggest you tinker with your prescription medications. I have other symptoms that help me gauge my current prescription intake as discussed with my doctor.] Again, I was feeling full of energy! I had zero gynecological pains. I repeat: ZERO. Strange bleeding had stopped. As for my joint pain, I realized one morning while walking down the stairs, that I was walking without pain with every step I was taking! Just three months prior, I was needing to take one step at a time, using the banister for significant support with each step. But now, I was just walking down the stairs like it was no big task at all! To go from waking up every morning with incredible pain, suffering to get down stairs, then realizing I'm freely walking down stairs without even a hint of pain? It literally feels like a miracle.
Six months into living without grains, I was in for blood work at my endocrinologists office. I told her I had given up grains and I had also adjusted my medication to every other day. She said, "Good for you! You know, they say grains cause inflammation. It makes sense that your thyroid nodules would shrink. Let's see what the blood work says." My blood work was great! The doctor called later that day to tell me to keep doing what I'm doing!
One Slice of Pizza...
Giving up grains is not easy, I'll be honest. We live in a world that seems to be wrapped in one form of bread or another. I am only human. I give in to temptation like the best of them. But it only took one moment of weakness to help me realize I just cannot go back to eating grains. Months ago I decided to test my theory and new-found eating regime. I was rushing to finish errands after a day of designing and packaging orders. I had to drive one son to rowing, return to the middle school and retrieve the younger son. Take him to tennis then rush back to pick up the first son from rowing. By then it was 7:00 pm and I'd not eaten lunch, let alone dinner. The boys wanted pizza and I'll admit, I DID TOO! So I did it. I ate a slice. It was delicious. Maybe the best tasting pizza I'd had ever. 30 minutes later I started feeling bloated. My stomach looked to be the size of a woman 6 months pregnant. By 9:00 pm my ankles were double in size. I felt terrible. A feeling that lasted about 3 days. Pain in joints, stomach ache, head ache... it was all back in full force. Lesson learned.
But Maybe it's Really Just Gluten I Need to Give Up? ...
I have quite a few friends online who are gluten intolerant. Maybe I, too, was just gluten intolerant! I decided to try some gluten free baked goods one day. Instantly, I was ill. Stomach pain and bloating. Nope! It's not gluten I have a problem with.
One Year Later...
It's been roughly a year since I gave up grains. I'm still pain-free in my joints. I've no gynecological pains nor unexpected bleeding and I take a Motrin when I have a headache or when I've over done it by hiking down the Austrian Alps for 4 hours. (that's another blog post, for another day!) I rarely have indigestion. Things are "regular" (if you know what I mean. sorry, TMI). I sleep better than ever. I rarely have swelling in my ankles; something I use to have daily! As a bonus, I've lost 15 pounds. That's not something I set out to do with this food change, but I do feel happy it happened. 15 pounds over the course of a year isn't drastic, so I'm fairly certain those are excess pounds I'll not see again. I can with all honesty say I'm feeling better than I have in years!
I'm Not a Doctor...
I've not shared my personal story to convince you that grains are evil. I have no reason for that. If I could enjoy eating foods made with grains I would! I'm not here to diagnose anyone or suggest this way of eating is for everyone. I'm a person who has suffered from terrible pain, was faced with major surgery and then found an easier and healthier way of dealing with those problems. If you think you have similar issues, I hope you're talking with your healthcare provider and getting answers you can live with. I am under the care of a physician. If my doctor(s) gave me reason to believe my way of eating was harmful, I would look for alternatives. But my doctor is happy with my results. I'm happy with my results.
There may come a day when I have to have my thyroid removed or have a hysterectomy. But that day isn't today. And it's not in the near future. If I can live pain free and keep all my body parts in exchange for giving up grains, I'll take it!
Thanks for reading. I hope I've struck a chord with at least one person.
Wishing you all health and happiness.