Monthly Archives: February 2014

Gluten Free Adventure – Part 2

Like many things in life, plans morph into something unexpected. My overall pain and arthritis pain has greatly subsided on the weeks of avoiding wheat, barley and rye. However, my stomach was still very much bothering me. Always being the inquisitive one, I began seeking information as to why my digestion discomfort continues. On this information search, I discovered a short video as to the number one mistake people make on a gluten free diet. Well, of course, that piqued my interest. The mistake was to not avoid all grains. The doctor spoke of a condition called Leaky Gut, or more clinically, intestinal permeability. Since my gut was not feeling any better on the GF diet, I decided that I would go on a Grain Free (GrF) diet. So I am now making it a point to have no grains, no nightshade vegetables (potato, tomato, eggplant), no peppers, and very limited legumes. I am also cooking all vegetables so that they will be easier to digest.

My current goal is to eat no more than 100 grams of carbs per day, mostly from vegetables and consuming low glycemic index foods.

Is it working? I have been on this diet for two weeks and my stomach has calmed down a little. More time will be needed to see if this is the right path. In the meantime, my wife and I are having an interesting time preparing very low carb meals that are satisfying. What we have discovered though, is that our cravings have subsided. We are less hungry even though we are consuming less calories. A side benefit is that we are losing weight.

Losing weight was not the plan or purpose of this adventure. The plan was to feel better and gain more mobility as well as heal our guts. My wife has digestion issues as well, but not the very same issues. Her gut is actually reacting better to the diet more quickly than mine. I am so very glad for her.

I am becoming more and more convinced that inflammation is generating a large host of problems for individuals. I am glad that the science is beginning to accumulate to help people find the answers they need and are right for them.  Body chemistry differs so blanket answers are difficult to form. Just like persons react differently to medications, the same can be true for foods.

One group of professionals is telling me that they have no answers and yet I seem to be finding them.  The internet is a wonderful tool to seek out those who looked for answers before. Are they all right? No. What works for them might not work for me. What works for me, might not work for you. Each of our bodies is unique. Differing blood types, differing sensitivities, and metabolic profiles require differing approaches. I believe the best way to achieve success is to try these different approaches, paying close attention to what our bodies tell us. There are so many diet ideas out there. The A to Z Diet study compared four popular diets showed that the subjects reacted differently to the same diet. So far, on my current path, my body is reacting positively, so much so, I do not want to do anything to reverse the progress.

I will gladly listen to a hundred differing opinions and seek out a common thread and test it for truth then to listen to just one voice which has already proven to me that it just isn’t working. But even with that said, I want to give thanks to all the friends, family, professionals and internet contributors that are accompanying me on this journey. It isn’t over yet and just may last the rest of my life.

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My Gluten Free Adventure – Part 1

In late August of 2013, I suffered a terrible pain in my abdomen. It was on a Friday. I suppose that I will blame my gender for not having it checked out right away. I went to work, but didn’t last very long. I ended up going home sick. Resting during the weekend did not help because I asked my wife to take me to the urgent care center on Monday morning. Urgent care directed me to the emergency room of the hospital.

The doctors at the hospital and my own doctor could not determine what my issue was, but after taking an anti-spasmodic drug for a week, my stomach reached a tolerable plateau of pain. In December, I expressed to my cardiologist that I did not feel up to taking the scheduled stress test because of my stomach and arthritis pain. They did an echo-cardio instead. My cardiologist suggested I try a gluten free diet, just for a month, to see how I would feel. He had other patients that expressed improvement while on that diet.

On January 4, 2014, I began my gluten free adventure. I had decided that I would try the diet for two months instead of one. This is my fifth week on the diet. My stomach still bothers me, maybe relief will come later, maybe not. But, my arthritis pain has greatly subsided. The numbness in my right foot (neuropathy caused by statins) comes and goes instead of being constantly numb and painful. Overall, I am feeling much better.

I removed statins from my life a couple of years ago. Statins caused my entire body to ache and my joints almost too painful to move. It became a struggle to move. I was using a cane to walk around and thought that I would soon need a wheel chair. After reading anecdotal articles on the internet about statins, I announced to my doctor that I would no longer take them.  In 2 -3 weeks, my mobility returned, my pain levels dropped but still had evidence of arthritis. The numbness in my right foot never improved. I thought I had lost that forever.

The gluten free diet has changed even this. It is not an easy diet, especially when one such as I love the tempting treats at Dunkin Donuts. I am not a Celiac. I certainly appreciate how hard it is to avoid gluten completely. Celiacs have to avoid cross contamination, which is extremely difficult. It restricts where they can eat. Dining out is even more difficult. I can clearly see how this is a very real burden.

I am not even sure that I have a gluten sensitivity. But one thing I know for sure, is that eating gluten free for the last 5 weeks has drastically reduced my overall pain. I just saw my doctor. My cholesterol numbers, especially triglycerides has fallen and my good cholesterol HDL has gone up. I have no doubt at all that gluten raises cholesterol in my body.

My wife has joined me on this adventure, even though she did not have to do so. We have been experimenting with stir fried vegetables, fruit salads and parfaits, using meats as a flavoring and adding fresh fruits and vegetables to all our meals. Our Wegmans store has a Gluten Free (GF) section. It is quite nice. But I am not sure that gluten free necessarily means healthy. The GF items seem to be loaded with sugar and high in calories. I suppose they did that to make them taste as good as the gluten containing food.

When I started the diet, I actually gained weight. I believe that the gluten was inhibiting my body’s ability to take in nutrients. After three weeks, my weight had begun to plateau and now for the last two weeks my weight is beginning to fall slowly.

The other challenges are getting enough fiber and nutrients usually obtained from gluten foods such as enriched flour. I have been using supplements to make up the difference.

The pain reduction has convinced me that I want to stay on the GF wagon for the long haul. And my experience with statins is to never take them again. I am convinced that gluten and sugar cause inflammation throughout the body and raise cholesterol levels. The GF diet helps in areas that I would not have considered connected.

Wishing you well. Wishing you peace. Take care.

A Rose for a Butterfly

This Friday, February 7, 2014, I have a medical appointment that will put me near the grave of someone I love very much. Her name is Laura A. VerDow Santelli. She died on February 20, 2010. Like the previous years, I will put a single red rose at her grave.

I know that she is not there, not really, only the shell of her body that her soul left behind, but it is my way of remembering her. I do this for my parents as well. I buy a bouquet of flowers and spread them on their graves. I could not do it last year as I did not travel to the state of my birth. I will this year. My parents names are Virginia and William.

David Eagleman in his book, Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives, wrote “There are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.”

Mom, Dad and Laura, your third death has not come for I have not forgotten you and I promise to speak your names.

I look forward to placing a rose on Laura’s grave. She was my Butterfly. She loved life and was full spirited and fun loving. I do miss her and love her very much. Remember those that have passed on and say their names. Remember them for that is how they stay in our hearts. Because all of us, like my Butterfly, will have to fly off someday leaving our bodies behind.