Whole30: 11 Days Down

Have you heard of the Whole30? Basically, it’s a healthy eating challenge in which you do not consume any grains (gluten-free or otherwise), dairy, legumes, alcohol, seed oils, or added sugar for 30 days. As a co-worker said to me, “So what DO you eat?” Fruits, veggies, healthy fats (except peanuts or peanut butter), and protein. He then said, “And WHY are you doing this?”

When I was first diagnosed with celiac disease, I started scouring the Internet for gluten-free recipes. While Pinning away, I noticed a lot of the GF recipes I was saving were from paleo blogs. If you have no idea what I am talking about, Paleo is a way of eating that follows the same rules as Whole30, though some people who follow a Paleo diet will eat certain dairy products (unpasteurized) or include honey in their meals, etc. When I clicked through to these blogs to explore even more paleo and therefore also gluten-free recipes, I read each blogger’s about page (my favorite thing to do when finding a new blog!). I started noticing a pattern: A LOT of Paleo bloggers follow a Paleo lifestyle due to digestive or autoimmune diseases (like this one, and this one, and this one, and this one, and this one…you get the idea).

I then started to read more and more about the Paleo diet and the people who use it to manage various health issues, which lead me to discovering both SCD and Whole30. Reading about both of those diets lead me to the conclusion that just cutting out gluten may not solve my issues, at least not at first. Since my intestines are damaged (particularly the villi which absorb nutrients and help with the digestion of food groups like dairy), more than just gluten could potentially cause me inflammation, pain, and the host of celiac symptoms I’ve been dealing with. Once my body has healed more, I could potentially reintroduce different food items or groups without negative effects (though never gluten again, gluten is forever a no!).

So, paired with my own research (at lot of which I pinned to my “Living With Celiac” board) and the reading of this book, I decided to complete a Whole30. Many people complete a Whole30 for the same reason as me – to see if changing their diet will change the way they physically feel. A lot of people also lose weight on this diet, since the only carbs you are really eating are fruits and veggies, but that’s honestly not my motivation (though it will be a welcome side effect, let’s be real!). I wanted to give my body a chance to heal to the best of its abilities. And though I did not specifically discuss completing a Whole30 challenge with a registered dietician or a nutritionist, when I saw a R.D. I did ask her about consuming dairy (because of that whole damaged villi thing). She replied to the effect of, “I would just see how you feel when you eat it. If you eat ice cream and your stomach is hurting after, then it could be the dairy and all the sugar. If it doesn’t hurt when you have cheese or yogurt, then you know you can tolerate that. Just see how you feel.”

That’s my aim with Whole30: see how I feel. Eliminate some potentially “harmful” foods for 30 days, then reintroduce each group of them one by one and see if my body experiences any negative effects. If it does, then I may choose to continue to avoid those food items for awhile and possibly reintroduce them again at a later time. If it doesn’t bother me, then I know I don’t need to worry about that consuming that food in addition to avoiding gluten.

I’m currently 11 days into my Whole30, and I am feeling pretty darn good! I haven’t had a headache since I started it, and I can’t remember the last time I went over a week without a headache, I really can’t. My stomach has only hurt once or twice. I’m not sure why that is – it could be just IBS acting up, triggered by stress or a poor night’s sleep, or it could be that due to celiac damage, even with a very limited diet my stomach can be irritated while trying to digest food. I have definitely had more energy, even though I am drinking less coffee and haven’t had any sugar. I have lost weight (I weighed myself, even though you’re “not supposed to” during Whole30) and my clothes are fitting differently.


And honestly, eating in a Whole30-compliant manner is NOT as difficult as I thought. I wouldn’t describe it as easy, per se, but it’s not as challenging as I thought it would be. Maybe it’s because my reason for doing it is very important to me. Or, maybe it’s because my body is feeling good so I’m not missing stuff. Or, it’s because it’s only been less than two weeks, haha.  In any case, it’s been easier willpower-wise and prep-wise than I thought it would be. “Meal prep” is easy – go to grocery store, buy lots of fresh, unprocessed food. When you make a meal, just combine a serving of each fruit, veggie, protein, and healthy fat. Boom, meal planning done. I’ve made sure our kitchen is well-stocked and to pack compliant snacks anytime I go out (work, baseball game, bridal shower, road trip, whatever). I also planned to start my Whole30 before major events that I knew I would not be able to stay compliant for or really hate trying to – annual family get together Memorial Day weekend, a wedding, my birthday, chaperoning a school trip to Washington, D.C., and family vacation (all occurring within a three week window! The end of May/beginning of June is going to be nuts!). I definitely think choosing the right 30 days is important and has helped, as well.

Have you ever completed a Whole30 or a paleo challenge? Would you ever consider it? I’m documenting my journey daily on my fitness Instagram, @kcd_fit, if you are interested in following along!

weekly gems (a bit late…again)

     

Had fun watching a FA Cup game last weekend!  

weekly gems (a little late)

 

Dan and I at our first Indians game of the season this weekend!     

read it: eleanor & park

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Title: Eleanor & Park

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Book Number: 13 out of 75 (as part of my 101 in 1001 journey)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆  (One star = couldn’t finish; two stars = didn’t like; three stars = enjoyable; four stars = great read; five stars = fantastic)

Summary: Park never expected for the new girl, with her red hair and unlikely fashion choices, to become his first love – but she did. Brought together by bus rides, comic books, and music, Eleanor and Park not only fell in love, but became best friends. It’s not a new concept, two teenagers falling madly in love, but what is unique about Eleanor and Park are the challenges they face. While Park’s parents are devoted to each other and their children, maintaining a safe and loving home, Eleanor’s family life is chaotic, full of poverty and fear. Pair that with bullies at school, and Park become Eleanor’s main source of stability and love – a role he gladly accepts, and his parents slowly start to share.

Thoughts: I enjoyed this book a great deal, and I’m glad I did – I picked it for my book club’s January meeting! First of all, it’s set in 1986, and I just have a thing for books that are set the past, but aren’t really “historical” novels (similar to Rainbow Rowell’s book, Attachments, which I LOVE). Rowell does a fantastic job of portraying the intensity and sincerity of teenage love. She also did a wonderful job of developing characters the reader can connect with and root for. The story is told in chapters that alternate between Eleanor and Park’s point of view, which I think really fleshed out both their characters and the depth of their love for each other. I didn’t give this book five stars because I wasn’t sure how I felt about the very end of the book. I keep going back and forth on whether I’m satisfied with it or if I wish there had been more. Nonetheless, I am pumped that this book will be a movie in the near future!

Have you read Eleanor and Park? What did you think? If I liked Eleanor and Park and other books by Rainbow Rowell, what else would you recommend?

Are you on GoodreadsI am. Let’s be friends!

(above image source)

weekly gems

Glad the weather is getting nice again for long walks with Madison!

weekly gems

  

    Cuddles on Saturday morning 

Why Being Diagnosed With Celiac Disease Was Great News

  

I was recently diagnosed with celiac disease, and I could not be happier about it.

I used to think celiac disease was simply an allergy to gluten. However, celiac disease is “an autoimmune disorder that can occur in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine.” Due to this damage, the body cannot properly absorb nutrients. When celiac disease is left untreated, it can lead to serious health issues.

So, what does this all mean? I need to stop eating anything that contains gluten – which is anything that contains wheat, rye, or barley. This was an upsetting idea at first. Bread? Pizza? Cake? Cookies? Cereal? Pretzels? BEER? All off limits now.

I got tested for celiac disease because my dad has it, and he has been bothering me for a couple years now to get tested because sometime celiac disease is misdiagnosed as IBS, which I have. I never had severe GI symptoms like he did (like, emergency room-level pain), so I didn’t think it was likely I had celiac. However, I went on a low-carb diet in December of 2014 and did not eat as much food with gluten in it. In January, when I increased my carb and consequently my gluten intake again, I noticed my stomach bothered me more than it had when I wasn’t consuming as much gluten. I figure I would get the blood test done, just in case. Both my doctor and I doubted it would come back positive.

But it did. And I was bitter. I have to stop eating gluten when I barely have symptoms? UGH. In the days leading up to my follow-up with the GI specialist, hoping to find answers, I started reading more about celiac disease.

That is when my attitude did a complete 180.

While my GI symptoms of celiac were minimal compared to people like my dad, I have a whole set of other symptoms that occur in adults who have celiac. I felt so free and victorious. YES.  I AM NOT A HYPOCHONDRIAC.  For years, I had a bunch of minor health issues that, when put all together, were at times difficult to deal with – more mentally than physically, though of course I wasn’t feeling 100%. I kept researching and trying to figure out what was wrong. I was convinced there had to be SOMETHING that connected all of these weird little issues. My family and friends were patient and supportive, but over time it just seemed like I was being dramatic. But with this diagnosis of celiac disease, all these little seemingly unconnected minor things that were heaped on top of me finally, collectively, had a name.

Finally getting this diagnosis of celiac disease took about 8 years (the average time it takes an individual to be diagnosed with celiac is 6-10 years).  It all began my freshman year of college, in 2007.  I had pretty moderate to intense GI issues on a regular basis. It seemed like it didn’t matter what I ate, my stomach was unpredictably set off. At the end of my freshmen year, I visited the doctor and got some blood work done to eliminate conditions like inflammatory bowel disease. The tests came back negative, and I was told I had irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS.

My sophomore year, my GI problems continued. I also began to have severe anxiety and irritability, sinus infections, and weight gain.

My junior year was better for GI symptoms. It felt like I had gotten my IBS under control. However, my anxiety continued, I had bronchitis, and I was constantly tired. Like, taking four hour naps, always needing some caffeine, having trouble concentrating, tired.

The summer between my junior and senior year, I saw a psychiatrist regarding my anxiety medication. I was worried it wasn’t the correct kind or dose because I felt so apathetic, unmotivated, and tired ALL THE TIME. She looked at my blood work that was on file and told me I was anemic. She was upset no one told me before that I was and explained that was why I was so tired.

My senior year was similar to my junior year, though I tried to fight the fatigue I constantly felt I was under by taking iron supplements. I got sick again during student teaching and had to miss an entire week of school. My first year of post-graduate work was very similar to my senior year. My symptoms didn’t change too much. Again, I experienced multiple sinus infections, and I noticed when I worked out sometimes my feet felt numb.

In the winter of 2012, in addition to all my past symptoms, I began to experience even weirder symptoms in my feet. My toes would swell around their knuckles, looking like sausages. They would change color and temperature when exposed to cold, and they felt numb often. Sometimes it was difficult to walk with a normal gait. I thought I had some sort of arthritis.

Over the course of the next few months, I had appointments with my primary care doctor, a podiatrist, a rheumatologist, and a vascular specialist. I had discussions of my complete medical history, panels of blood work done, inserts put in my shoes, my fingers examined under microscopes, X-rays taken, a treadmill stress test done, etc. My circulation was normal. I was told the color and temperature changing in my feet was from Raynaud’s phenomenon, and that the numbness could be from some sort of neuropathy, but that would require more tests.  Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and other autoimmune disorders were ruled out. However, my antinuclear antibodies, or ANAs, were slightly high. The rheumatologist said that could just be my individual baseline, or it could mean I would eventually develop an autoimmune disorder in the future. (Now, it seems like I had celiac disease even then, which is maybe why my ANAs were high, but the possibility of celiac was never discussed or tested.)

I accepted that I had Raynaud’s and chose not to undergo more tests for neuropathy. Dan and I were going to get married in a few weeks, and after months of frustrating symptoms, lots of tests, and little answers, I just wanted to concentrate on that and moving forward in our lives.

Since that time, there hasn’t been a major change in my symptoms. I kept experiencing it all – IBS, anxiety, fatigue, frequent headaches, numbness and tingling in my feet, joint pain, dizziness (especially if went too long without eating, as if my blood sugar was dropping), anemia, mental fogginess, muscle cramps, nausea, and sinus infections every few to several months. I just accepted I had a lot of weird little issues, that was just the way I was, and that was all there was to it. I couldn’t do anything about it except deal with it.

After my blood test for celiac disease came back positive, though, and I began reading about more in depth about it, I learned ALL OF MY LITTLE WEIRD SYMPTOMS WERE FROM CELIAC. Every. Last. One.

Suddenly, my diagnosis no longer felt like unfair news. It felt like the most freeing, positive, uplifting personal health news I had heard in years. I wasn’t crazy. All of the tiny issues I was convinced had a shared answer, did. And though eating gluten-free will be a challenge at times and of course requires sacrifice, I am thankful that the autoimmune disorder I have can be managed solely through diet. I know others are not so lucky. I also am extremely motivated to not cheat on my gluten-free diet or ignore my diagnosis. Because I was diagnosed after age 20, my risk of developing a second autoimmune disorder is 34%. Not only that, but failure to treat celiac can lead to other serious health conditions, such as cancer. With family history of both diabetes and colon cancer, I am extremely motivated to address celiac appropriately.

After following up with a GI specialist, I had an endoscopy and biopsy done to confirm the diagnosis of celiac that my positive blood test and list of myriad symptoms suggested. The endoscopy and biopsy both confirmed it. The damage to my small intestine was pretty extensive – my villi were almost completely blunted/flattened. That result is also something that motivates me and makes it easy to accept eating gluten-free. My body will heal, and my symptoms will go away, but that will only happen l if I do not consume gluten. I know it will be a journey – it may take up to a couple years for my body to heal, and it is a lifelong commitment to avoid further damage – but I am just relieved I have a solution to years of feeling crappy. I am also grateful I have a built-in support system and go-to for questions with my dad, who has already been living gluten-free for some time now.

I am sharing this story because I am sure there are others out there who have gone through similar frustrating health journeys, whether they lead to a diagnosis of celiac disease or not. I want others to know they are not alone, and I want people who haven’t found a diagnosis yet not to give up. If you have symptoms like I did, or have a family member who has celiac disease, and you haven’t been tested for it yet, I encourage you to ask your doctor for the blood test. Having an answer isn’t restrictive, its empowering.

A friend said a family member of hers had been diagnosed with celiac disease. After switching to a gluten-free diet, he said, “I didn’t realize how bad I felt until I started feeling good.”  I can’t wait to start feeling good.

 

 

weekly gems

  

So excited to be on spring break!  

weekly gems

Oh, life with this pup! 

weekly gems (a little late)

Out to lunch with Dan!

        

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