Giving up gluten … for now, at least

by Camille on July 22, 2011


Ah, gluten. I miss you already.

I’ve long known that I have a sensitivity to wheat. When I eat a lot of it—especially in yeasty foods (think pizza crust and delicious French bread)—I bloat up and my stomach doesn’t feel quite right. Still, although we’ve written about gluten (a protein compound found in many grains, including wheat) and gluten-free living here on Svelte, I never thought I would be in the position to have to give it up.

However, over the past couple of months, my psoriasis—a skin condition that I’ve had since I was a child—has become a lot worse. It’s always been manageable: a tiny patch here or there, nothing a little steroid cream couldn’t fix. Then, around February, it became more severe, with itchy, burning patches on many of my major joints (like elbows and ankles). Among other reasons, because I was breastfeeding, I didn’t want to take any of the super-heavy medications that are used to treat bad cases.

I waited it out for a while, hoping that it was linked to post-pregnancy hormone changes, and that taking more fish oil would help (several studies have shown that an increased consumption of omega-3 fatty acids can reduce symptoms). No dice. So I began searching medical research (by the way, PubMed is great for this) to uncover dietary changes that might help. Sadly, all of the newer studies suggested the same thing: give up gluten.

Turns out that individuals with psoriasis tend to have higher levels of gluten-related antibodies found in individuals with celiac disease (a condition in which eating gluten damages the body’s tissues and causes all kinds of less-than-pleasant symptoms). Other studies have shown that in addition to consuming more fish oil, reducing or eliminating gluten can help, often significantly, in treating psoriasis. Which brings me to my new diet.

Two weeks of not eating gluten and I’ve discovered that GF is not as hard as I thought. My mom bought me Bob’s Red Mill gluten free pancake mix, knowing my family likes to make pancakes on the weekend, and that yielded a tasty batch of pancakes. If I really want something bready, I have a GF waffle or gingersnap from Trader Joe’s. But for the most part, I’ve been eating more real, unprocessed food (fruits, veggies, beans, meat and nuts). Oh, and I discovered KIND bars, which are gluten-free and beyond delicious (although at roughly 200 calories each, should really be consumed in halves). Of course, I do have the advantage of not having celiac disease, which means I’m able to be less stringent about making sure what I eat doesn’t have a trace of gluten in it.

I lost a pound and a half in two weeks, but it has yet to be determined if my diet is to thank, or if it’s simply a byproduct of my new running regime. Regardless, my psoriasis is getting better. Even after such a short period of time, the spots on my joints have gone down significantly, and the tiny patches on other areas of my body are gone. I’ll be curious to see if the results continue to improve.

Have you given up gluten for psoriasis or another reason other than celiac disease? Any tips of the trade for this newbie?

—Camille

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{ 12 comments }

Taryn July 22, 2011 at 9:21 am

You may want to look into “yeast overgrowth” — it’s something I’ve been suspecting I might have and a lot of your symptoms including skin conditions sound very familiar to that of someone who has yeast overgrowth. (warning: a yeast free diet is even more limiting than gluten free!) Good luck!

Erin Smith July 22, 2011 at 10:12 am

Have you ever discussed for Dermatitus Heptaformis with your doctor? I believe this is similar to psoriasis but more related to gluten.

I think you will find being gluten-free gets easier, especially if you are a foodie. Most whole foods are naturally gluten-free. It is the carb-heavy things that people tend to miss when going gluten-free which aren’t the best for us anyway.

Good luck!

Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic July 22, 2011 at 10:21 am

I’m thankful I don’t have to give up gluten for health reasons so I wish you the best! I’m obviously not an expert but I do know a lot of people who are GF and eating so many healthy, nutritious things. There are also a lot more restaurants now that offer GF menus – I had a gluten free pizza a few weeks ago and it was delicious :) Good luck!

Camille July 22, 2011 at 2:11 pm

Hi guys! I’m sure this is psoriasis—I’ve been through the gamut of tests multiple times in my life, and mine is actually related to arthritis, too.

Bianca, GF pizza is next on my list!!

Lauren Slayton July 22, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Camille we have like twin food likes/issues. I gave up gluten to deal with skin issues as well. It’s really not too hard.

Cameo July 22, 2011 at 3:02 pm

I gave up gluten for digestive issues at the start of 2011 and after a couple weeks I didn’t miss it at all. I eat so much healthier as a result – I love quinoa, and make some interesting breadlike concoctions with coconut flour and brown rice flour. I also love Kind bars – though I thought 200 or less was a good calorie amount for a snack? No?

Camille July 22, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Lauren – I had the same thought!

Cameo, 200 can be good, but it really depends on how many calories you eat a day and how big your meals are. I’m a very small person – 5’1″ with a small bone structure – so unfortunately my overall calorie target is low and an ideal snack for me is really no more than 150 calories.

Jess July 25, 2011 at 7:17 am

Camille, one of the hardest adjustments I had going GF was adjusting with my love of cooking. If you are stumped for recipes, there’s an amazing blog for GF cooking. Check out http://realsustenance.com. You won’t be missing a thing and you’ll never want to go back! Good luck!

Camille July 25, 2011 at 10:37 am

Thanks so much for the link, Jess – looks amazing!!

Katie @ Healthnut Foodie July 28, 2011 at 11:23 am

Ha! We do have way to much in common. I am on day four of a 30-day gluten sensitivity challenge. Like you, I’ve known down deep that I am sensitive to gluten, even to the point that I went gluten-free for six months before doing fertility treatments for my 3-year-old. The sensitivity seems to be progressing, so I thought I would give it a try.

raymond sgregory October 5, 2011 at 4:45 am

Most whole foods are naturally gluten free one of the hardest adjustments yeast free diet is even more limiting than gluten free obviously not an expert but Good luck!

SK February 10, 2012 at 2:39 pm

I gave up gluten because I have lyme disease and lyme targets gluten. realsustenance.com looks amazing, can’t wait to try out some recipes! I’m still getting use to gluten free, but its been getting a bit easier for me too. Thanks for the advice!

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