I debated whether or not to share this online, but I thought my experience might help other women, so be warned that this is of a highly feminine and personal nature (men may want to just ignore this post).
This wasn’t my first time to eliminate a food from my diet. While nursing my first daughter (second child), I quit eating tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers (the nightshade family) because these foods in my breast milk irritated her stomach. If you know me at all, you will understand how difficult this was for me. I LOVE spicy foods. I add cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper, salsa, jalapeños, and/or Ro-tel to almost everything I eat. However, it was worth it to avoid the awful blowouts, ruined outfits, and smelly diapers.
After I had the twins, we quickly realized that one of them had an intolerance to dairy in my milk, so I eliminated dairy for several months. This was not as hard for me as the previous exclusions had been (except for the ice cream!). I learned how to cook with coconut oil, almond milk, coconut milk, etc., and it was completely beneficial for everyone. My baby was able to sleep and so were we.
Eliminating gluten came in a round-about way. A few years ago (while not consuming dairy and for awhile after), I had a weird, mild stomach pain that didn’t seem to be connected to anything I ate. I saw my physician who ordered an ultrasound to check my gallbladder, even though my symptoms weren’t consistent with gallstones (no sharp pains, no nausea, not occurring after eating fatty foods, etc.). The ultrasound showed two small stones, and my doctor wanted me to schedule surgery. I’m a firm believer in keeping the body parts God gave me unless absolutely necessary, so I opted to change my diet and not undergo surgery. The pain eventually stopped occurring, and I was glad I didn’t have surgery.
Ever since I had my first daughter, I have had very heavy menstrual cycles. So heavy on a couple of the days that I felt I couldn’t leave the house. I was in the restroom every thirty minutes, and even then I might have to change clothes. I discussed this with my OB/GYN, and my options were limited to some sort of birth control, which I did not want to use since I had my tubes tied after the twins were delivered. I just dealt with it each month. I tried various essential oils with mild effects. I returned to my OB/GYN to discuss ablation or any other option. She refused to perform an ablation on me because I’ve had multiple pregnancies, and the risks for me outweigh the benefits. She informed me that I needed to take action because I would end up in the hospital from losing too much blood one of these days. (My periods would last at least a week, and then I would have a couple of dry days before bleeding again for a couple of days.) My doctor prescribed the low dose pill for me to try for a few months, starting mid-February, and the pill definitely did lighten my cycles.
I spent all day on April 13th preparing food for our annual Easter egg hunt on Good Friday. I made a lot of foods that contain gluten, and I sampled them throughout the day. By that evening, I was having severe pain in my abdominal area and had trouble sleeping all night. The next day, the pain continued to increase until my back hurt as well. I was tempted to go to the ER, but the pain stopped by bedtime Friday night. I decided Friday morning that I would eat clean for a few days in case it was a gluten issue or a gallbladder issue. I did some research on both and discovered that birth control pills can contribute to gallbladder disease, so I quit taking those as soon as I finished the last two active pills. I also read that gluten can contribute to menstrual problems, so I decided to conduct an experiment. I would eliminate gluten for a few months and see if anything changed. I visited my physician on Monday to make sure I didn’t need to have any tests run or anything. He supported my decision to eliminate gluten.
Three months and four cycles later, I am pleased to report that my experiment has been successful. I figured the first two cycles would be lighter because I had been on the pill, so I continued to eliminate gluten to see what would happen. While I still have one heavy day during each cycle, I only need to visit the restroom every two hours on that day, which is a vast improvement for me. My cycle is also much shorter, lasting about five days, but the best thing is not having any bleeding between cycles. I am planning to continue to eat gluten-free indefinitely. I will visit with my OB/GYN on Monday and share my findings with her.
As I said when I began this post, I’m hoping my experiences will help other women who have similar issues. It is not easy to cook without gluten, certainly not for my family, but it is possible. Even though I struggled when I eliminated the nightshade family and later dairy, those were easier for me because I knew I only needed to do it for a short time (less than a year). Not having an end in sight makes this elimination more daunting. However, a friend told me that she allows her daughter to have gluten occasionally without her daughter experiencing symptoms. She said it takes five days to get it out of her system, so I allowed myself to eat some cheesecake last weekend when my husband and I had a rare date night. I don’t think the small amount of flour in the crust will have any adverse effects on my next cycle, but I guess that is to be determined.
Let me know if you have experienced similar issues or if you have some great gluten-free recipes. I’d love to hear from you! I have been experimenting with gluten-free flours and pastas, but I’m always willing to try something new.