What’s causing my (pain, fatigue, heartburn, women’s issues, anxiety, allergies, etc.)?

Let me guess. If you’re like many of the people I see in my practice and store day in and day out, you’re probably more tired than you think you should be. You feel like you need more energy. Maybe you’ve even been diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. In addition to that, chances are you have stiff, swollen joints, muscle aches and pain, and feel “sore” all over. If you’ve expressed this to your doctor, they may have diagnosed you with arthritis or fibromyalgia. In addition to the above, maybe you have heartburn, a touch of anxiety or depression, chronic sinus problems and allergies, and frequent coughs and colds.

Sound familiar? What’s causing it?

To be honest, I don’t know. Everyone’s different and can suffer from different health issues or conditions leading to some or all of the symptoms above. However, there may be a simple solution to what appears to be a complex problem. Even if you only have one or two of the above, what I’m going to suggest can be tried by anyone. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Go on a wheat free, gluten-free diet.

I know that may sound odd, but stay with me here. A recent study showed that as many as 1 in every 133 people have celiac disease. Celiac is a severe form of wheat gluten intolerance or allergy. People with celiac disease must avoid wheat or risk severe damage to their intestines. Here’s the thing though, there are probably far more people who have a less severe, but almost as harmful, reaction to wheat called wheat intolerance.

Testing (blood and biopsy) for Celiac disease is shotty at best, and for simple wheat or gluten intolerance is even worse, so often the best test is to go a few weeks without any wheat in your diet and see how you feel. The proof will be in the pudding. Most people who have taken this advice feel much better. I’ve had reports of improved bowel movements, no more heartburn, much less joint pain, more energy, weight loss, and much more. Basically, any chronic symptoms you are experiencing could be attributed to the reaction your body is having to wheat and gluten.

Be careful too. Don’t dismiss this as a possible cause of your issues because you feel “fine” after eating something made with wheat. The reaction can be very insidious and you may not notice anything at all. Or you may have a reaction a day or two after consuming the wheat product. Or, if you’re eating wheat on a daily basis, you never give yourself a chance to feel what it’s like not to have a reaction to wheat. This is where those chronic health issues come into play. Day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, you’re making your body deal with something that doesn’t work well for it. This is when issues like chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, etc. start to cause problems. It can be such a slow process that one day you wake up and realize you’ve felt like crap for the past year.

Another important point is that this just does not include whole wheat products. It can be everything from white processed bread, cookies, cakes, pies, pasta, pizza, etc. Anything made with wheat and that lists “enriched flour” will contain gluten or other parts of wheat that can cause a reaction in your body.

If you try this experiment, and I suggest you do, if you feel good without wheat, it doesn’t mean you have to avoid wheat forever. One, there are wheat free gluten-free bread, pasta, cookies, etc. out there made from rice, potato, and other flours. Also, it is possible (as long as you don’t have celiac disease), that if you avoid wheat for a period of time (3-4 months), you can slowly introduce it back into your diet on occasion without causing your health problems to occur.

So, if you’re suffering from any health problems at all, but especially ones that have caused you to seek medical treatment, I strongly suggest to go wheat free gluten-free for a couple of weeks. If you’re like the 9 out of 10 people who tell me they’ve done this, you will not be disappointed. The effects can be profound.

Here’s just a few examples of health issues that people have all but overcome after trying a wheat free gluten-free diet — rheumatoid arthritis, sjogren’s disease, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, gastric reflux disease, migraines, female hormonal issues, depression, excessive gas/flatulence, chronic fatigue syndrome, allergies/sinus issues, and joint pain.

So, what do you eat if you need to keep out wheat and gluten? Quite a bit actually. People are almost near tears when I say to go without bread, pasta, and cereal for a few weeks, but rest assured, you will live. Going wheat and gluten-free is an entire post by itself (some have written books on the subject), but long story short, eat lots of greens, beans, nuts, seeds, fruits, some meat and some dairy, and if you need more starch, go for potatoes, rice, and non-wheat based grains like quinoa.

(Dr. Touchinsky is a chiropractor in Orwigsburg, Schuylkill County . In addition to treating people for neck pain and back pain, he focuses on helping people overcome a variety of health issues through healthy lifestyle and nutritional counseling. If you have an issue you’d like help with or would like a second opinion, call the office at 570-366-2613 to set up an appointment.)

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