Monday, January 9, 2012

Elimination, Part II: Grains. . .

About 2 years ago, I wrote about my giving up dairy.  I gave up dairy because I've had a life long battle with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.  After one particularly horrible episode, I went to the doctor and she tested me for various things, one being gluten.  She didn't test me for dairy allergy or intolerance.  However, I later decided that dairy was the culprit after another incident where I had cereal with fresh milk and sat on the toilet most of the day with severe gastric pain.

I tested my body by eliminating milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, ice cream from daily consumption.  Immediately, I felt better.  Long gone were the gastric pains and gas that plagued me daily.  It was utterly embarrassing to have to run to the bathroom when out in public.  It caused undue anxiety and stress to leave my home and go to places unknown where I wouldn't know where a bathroom would be within a 50 yard radius.  However, I never gave up gluten because I wasn't intolerant.

It was hard, but easy.  Easy because you know your body is happier and is functioning better.  Hard because dairy is in many things we Americans eat; from baked goods to processed food that was prepared with dairy or in facilities that use dairy in other preparation--contamination is present.  I had to be more diligent in reading labels.  I learned to substitute dairy products like almond, coconut or soy products.  I am okay with this.

Summer of 2011, I had an allergy test with a new physician (allergist).  He tested me for a milk allergy.  I tested positive.  I went from being intolerant to allergic.  That was news that relieved me.  That testing helped me give it up for good, for the rest of my life.

I had gluten testing after my horrible episode in 2010, but the result was negative for gluten intolerance.  I was okay with that.  I had tried to put my autistic son on a gluten free diet and found that completely impossible because the 3 things he cares to eat are comprised of gluten: pasta, mac and cheese, and tortillas.  Going gluten free, and going gluten alternative, is expensive.  Those chain supermarkets are thriving because of gluten, dairy alternatives and organic options.  I wasn't financially prepared to make such changes.  And let's face it, I don't have the mental or physical fortitude to eliminate something from my child's diet.

I decided to go Paleo for me because I just felt that the more gluten and sugary things I eat, the more I crave, the more I have to have, actually have in excess, and the more I gain.  Eliminating an ingredient that is in everything processed was hard at first.  However, reading blogs such as Mark's Daily Apple, Everyday Paleo, watching the documentaries Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead and Fat Head made me realize that there is a disconnect with our consumption of dairy and wheat and our true genetic makeup.  Most specifically, a video from Fat Head gave me a complete picture as to why I was fat.

The Paleo/Primal movement states that all of us should not eat grains because our bodies are not genetically capable of metabolizing grains, I say that in my case that is true.  [I am not pushing this as a lifestyle change for you, the reader, but these are my reasons for ME] My parents are from the Dominican Republic and Ecuador.  Both my grandparents were farmers.  I was raised by my mother.  When I was a kid, my mother had a diet high in saturated fats and lots of veggies and fruit.  My earliest memory was of both of us processing coconuts in the kitchen so we could use the oil for cooking and for skin care.  She saved the bacon grease for other meals.  Avocados were our favorite.  Still is to this day.  We had meat daily and we ate white rice (not so Paleo/Primal), root vegetables, stews, liver, coconut oil, etc because that was her diet growing up.  I didn't consume wheat from breads, cookies, cakes until I started elementary school and usually, I didn't eat it.

I would often skip lunch at school because my mother had leftovers for me at the babysitter's apartment. My family's diet did not consist of whole grains and sugar until my mom was introduced to the "American Diet" by her doctors and I consumed them at school.  My IBS became a really big problem in college where my diet went all grains, all the time.  I ate pizza, sandwiches, pasta.  Those were the things most readily available in college.  I was overloading on them.  Hindsight is 20/20, so I now can connect my IBS with an increased consumption of gluten.  I lived in fear of soiling myself when I went out with friends, so my first year of college, I didn't really go out and away from the dorms.

In the 80s, when my mother was diagnosed with high blood pressure and cholesterol, her diet was forced to change to be high fiber from whole grains and to take medication.  My mother gained weight and has been on cholesterol and high blood pressure medication for over 25 years.  We did everything that conventional medicine, medication, and diets required of us, yet, I am obese and my mother now has Alzheimer's.  And I can wholeheartedly say that I believe there is a connection to her medication and diet to the Alzheimer's she is suffering from now.  I am sure there is genetic issues too, but exacerbated by diet and medication.

Just recently when my mother's doctor diagnosed her with Alzheimer's, he told me that it is passed down from the mother.  He also said that Alzheimers is derived from diabetes that is affecting the Latino population in increased numbers, and is in essence considered Type III diabetes.  My mother does not have diabetes and has never been treated for it, but I can't get it out of my mind that her diabetes may have manifested into Alzheimer's.  Diet is a big factor to Type II diabetes.  Insulin is the connection with diabetes.  Insulin levels go up with sugar.  Grains, as carbohydrates, convert to sugar in our bodies (watch that video), so our bodies are working hard to metabolize that carb and essentially converts it to fat or spikes our insulin levels where our bodies are just not capable of catching up and healing.  Americans consume copious amounts of sugar from processed foods and drinks.  It is a cycle of nutritional abuse.

My goal is to give myself a fighting chance at staving off Alzheimer's for as long as possible.  I am eating significantly better.  I am exercising.  I am keeping my mind fit and active.  And if I can possibly and eternally stay off of grains and reap benefits, then I will do so.  However, I can't say that this is forever because grains and sugar are everywhere and highly tempting.  But the benefits I've had from foregoing grains and sugar, like clearer skin from adult acne, redness/inflammation on my face and reduction in asthma symptoms without use of medication, lead me to believe that I can maintain this elimination permanently.

Have you ever given up a food group, and if so, why and how did it change your life?


  1. I'm enjoying reading your 'journey'. Going grain free is something that I have been considering, but haven't been able to mentally wrap my head around, especially with two kids. I look forward to reading more thoughts and revelations you are experiencing. have you noticed your body transforming from eliminating wheat? A good read as well - Wheat Belly. That is what started my thinking about going grain free.

  2. I've also given up dairy. I didn't have nearly the severe issues you did, but I do feel MUCH better. I had one doctor say I was sensitive to gluten, dairy and corn. Saw a naturopath who retested me, said I was strong on wheat, but he recommends eliminating dairy to EVERYONE. He said that the issues with gluten are often caused by the sugar in that product and has a list of bad sweeteners to avoid. So I've done fine with healthy, whole grains. I do feel a definite affect when I eat corn, too. So I avoid that as well. It's a challenge since corn syrup is in almost EVERYTHING, but it just takes vigilance in reading labels. I totally believe many diseases have diet and nutrition at the root. People need to get educated! Good for you, looking into a lot of it for yourself. Most people think it's "too hard" or "too expensive" to eat healthy and avoid unhealthy stuff. My question is "what price do you put on your life and health?" Good for you!

  3. Oh, yes, I'm familiar with this!

    I was vegan for over a decade, and have been mostly vegetarian since 1993. At one stage, I tried giving up gluten too.

    Veganism didn't really work for me, until I learned that the classification doesn't always reflect how healthy a food is. Coke and fries are vegan, but definitely NOT healthy!

    These days I'm mostly vegetarian, and pretty much dairy-free, but I don't label myself or limit - it's through choice.

    So, for example, I'll happily eat a cake with dairy in it if I go out, but the thought of drinking cows milk gives me shudders *ugh* We eat our own animals (we live on a small farm, and keep chickens and sheep), but won't buy supermarket meat, or anything from a factory farm, because we know where it came from and what the animal went through.

    Do what works for you. Ignore the labels and the political groups and what your friends say and think. And good luck!


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