Two women and an adolescent girl I’m currently working with have been experiencing a variety of uncomfortable symptoms. All three have painful skin rashes, swelling; two of the three have serious digestive upsets, fatigue. Although each person has improved slightly by removing dairy foods from their diets, two of the three want to try the next step: eliminating wheat and/or all gluten-containing grains and foods.
This doesn’t mean that they’ll eliminate gluten-containing foods forever. Experience shows that many people with gluten sensitivity (not those with gluten intolerance or celiac disease) can eat gluten occasionally in small amounts with no adverse effects.
Of course, since G-d arranges “coincidences”, at the same time, we finally got up and running with our Gluten-Free Challenge on our PsychCentral.com blog, Therapy Soup.*
Food intolerance and allergies don’t just contribute to physical symptoms but also impact mood and mental health. That’s why at the Therapy Soup blog we’re focusing on eliminating gluten in order to improve symptoms of anxiety, sadness, depression, and so on. We’ve invited nutritionist Trudy Scott to join us as she’s written a terrific book on the topic of food and mood. It’s called The Antianxiety Food Solution (read our review, here).
There is evidence that celiac disease, a serious allergy to gluten, and anxiety and/or depression, often co-occur. I’ve blogged about IBS (irritable bowel syndrome, which is a group of symptoms whose presence might indicate more serious disorders including celiac disease are present. You can read my posts Is There An IBS Personality? and IBS and Omega 3s.
But many people live with low-level anxiety, low level depression or fatigue or mood swings, which are what I’d call sub-pathological. They aren’t severe enough to warrant a diagnosis, but they do interfere with quality of life.
I posit that both the (deteriorating) nature of the food we eat, as well as our own psycho-physical natures, have changed over time, leading to what might be called, without hyperbole, a bad-diet epidemic. How did we get to the point that our most basic of foodstuffs, the staff of life, has become, for many, toxic? The fact that bread, the staff of life, is very nearly “poison” for so many people, suggests to me that we need to take a step back and ask ourselves: What is the purpose of eating? Why do we eat?
Keep in mind, it’s not just what we eat, but the way in which we eat, that has become a serious problem. We no longer eat to survive, gain strength, stay healthy; we eat to fulfill desires and cravings.* This has become the norm so much so that most people do not even realize that this is not what G-d intended. Gluttony is no longer considered a sin or even an aberration—we have entire industries (tourism, restaurants, television channels and shows, advertising, food product developers, manufacturers, and distributors, food magazines, food stylists, and so on) devoted to hyping up our cravings and stimulating the desire for constant innovation and pleasure.
Sure, some people do see the connection between this whole meshugah food picture and the many illnesses that plague us; but most people, including doctors, do not.
For example, two weeks ago, the girl I mentioned above, saw a leading dermatologist at the top dermatological practice in NYC.
The doctor examined her rashes, skin tested her, and dismissed reactions which didn’t meet standard reaction-requirements, though there were unusual reactions. She then handed her a stack of pre-printed prescriptions. These were for several skin creams, including one powerful cortisone cream, and told her to apply them daily to her face and body.
Think about it: This doctor sees so many similar skin problems (eczema and hive-like swelling) that she has a standardized hand-out pre-printed prescription forms prepared and ready to give to her patients, but doesn’t even attempt to get at the cause of the problem.
The mother of this girl came to me, concerned because the idea of changing her daughter’s diet seemed overwhelming but desperate to help her daughter find relief. My first, super low-impact suggestion was to begin by cleaning all bedding, protecting against dust mites (a new pillow was in order, as were special pillow and mattress covers), and switching to gentle, chemical-free soaps and shampoos. I like Aubrey Organics, which even has a gluten-free line—I’m not convinced that skin-absorption is a problem with gluten but some say it might be. There are many other excellent brands of natural toiletries out there.
Then we began the dairy elimination plan. Yes, there were minor improvements. However, now the girl herself is ready to try a wheat or gluten (she and her mom haven’t decided yet) elimination diet, like we’re doing over at PsychCentral. So get ready for the next post: Gluten Free Menu Suggestions.
If you want my take on one of the reasons why gluten has become such a problem for some people, please read Is It Gluten Intolerance?
*I’m also working with a different author on a related project. For inquiries about writing, editing, coaching services please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
oops! Nearly forgot: This post is sponsored by Batsheva for Shalom Mordechai Halevi ben Rivka. If you want to sponsor a post, please contact me! And yes, unless otherwise noted, I am the photographer.