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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Why a gluten- and dairy-free diet?

My guest blogger today is good friend Weldon Adams. He and his wife, Beth, have been gluten- and dairy-free for some time now. They began this diet for Weldon's health, but Beth has noticed a dramatic change in her well-being. They blog about their diet--and cooking experiments at

Weldon's story:

I have been a lot of things: a semi-professional clown and magician, a radio DJ, a mobile party DJ. I have managed several comic book shops. I am a published comic book historian. I was a ballroom dance instructor. I have been a game designer, a toy designer, and a sales rep for a comic book publishing company. And now I am a food detective.
I became a food detective because of my wife. She got me to start reading the labels on what we were buying. I began noticing patterns. Some of the same stuff kept turning up in almost everything. Even places where it didn’t really made sense for it to be. Specifically high fructose corn syrup. We changed our diets to be healthier and we were more conscious of what we were eating. Soon after that, my real food troubles began. September of 2009 we began to see the big picture. It took ten months to even begin to see how many diverse problems are interconnected.
Here’s a brief breakdown of those seemingly unconnected symptoms (I’ll be delicate about the gross stuff).
·         Developed a pretty bad dandruff problem by the age of eleven.
·         By high school, my eyes stayed red a lot of the time. I could appear to be high without being anywhere near anyone smoking anything at all.
·         In the mid ‘80s, I started to have symptoms of what my doctor and I would fifteen years later decide must be IBS.
·         By the mid ‘90s, my guts would churn so much that my roommate could hear them across the room.
·         At this same time, my dandruff had gotten so bad I was using the strongest shampoo you could buy in a store.
·         By 2001, I had to switch between two different shampoos each week to keep my dandruff in check. This was accompanied by occasional scaling of the skin on the ‘T’ zone of my face and in my hair line, eyebrows, and even my mustache and beard. It got so bad that Beth and I called it “corn flaking” because of the size of the scales.
·         When the dry skin came off my face, it would leave my face red and blotchy (sort of “radiation burned” looking) and sometimes it would even weep a clear fluid.
·         I had also developed an occasional skin condition on the tops of my feet that I thought at that time was athlete’s foot.
·         Around this time, Beth and I switched everything we could to “whole wheat” because we thought it would be healthier for us. (TV commercials all said it was.)
·         In the early 2000s my (still undiagnosed) IBS symptoms has gotten so bad that severe gut pains would occasionally double me over in pain.
·         By 2008 I had been officially diagnosed as having IBS. (This is done by a series of tests that rule OUT anything else it might be. This means that you don't actually have IBS, but you don’t have anything else we can find and you still have the same symptoms as IBS.)
·         In August 2009 I began to notice that my hands and feet were cold a lot of the time.
·         By this time, I had become quite grouchy and easily irritated. I snapped at Beth over the littlest things. Once I got annoyed or angry, it took a long time to calm down. I wrote that off to being unhappy with my job and being stressed.
·         By end of September 2009, my hands and feet were continually cold no matter the temperature of the room. I wore gloves all day in the house and had trouble typing because of them.
·         And then my right hand began to tingle as if it were about to fall asleep. All the time, non-stop. Every day.
·         In late fall of 2009, Beth sat me down for a talk. She had noticed my trouble focusing and that my short term memory was shot. She was worried stress getting to me. I almost broke down and cried when I confessed to her that I was scared because I was having so much trouble thinking and staying on track.
I found myself wandering from room to room in the house, unable to remember why I had come into any specific room.
      • I could not remember what I needed to do in a day.
      • If I made a list, I could not remember to keep checking the list for the next item.
      • I would find that I was in the middle of four or five different things (both work and chores) and still accomplish none by the end of the day.
      • I would forget to eat.
      • Days would go by that I didn’t even set foot outside the house.
      • I would forget to shave, shower, brush my teeth. . . I was a wreck.
We scheduled a trip to the doctor, thinking it was something that ADHD medication might be able to fix. He agreed it was a possibility (since none of us had put ALL the symptoms together yet). I took Adderall for a month and saw no improvements at all.
At the start of winter of 2009, it was cold, and my hands and feet were so cold that I was wearing gloves and socks to bed. And then they got even worse. I started using those chemical heat pouches in my gloves and sox at all times. Even in bed. They only seemed to help a little, but I didn’t know what else to do.
 At this point I said “There are just too many things going wrong with me all at once for this to not be connected in some way.” And since that sounded like the plot of almost any episode of one of our favorite TV shows, “Medical Mysteries,” we decided to solve it like they did. (You know how it goes. Eventually the wife/mother/girlfriend hits the Internet and comes up with a surprising clue that they take to a doctor and Presto! A diagnosis for something obscure that no one would have ever thought of otherwise!)
So we hit the Internet with the list of my symptoms and were overwhelmed by the number of hits we got that all pointed to a related series of ailments. Everything from candidiasis to celiac to Crohn’s disease. They are all very similar in many ways.
I was convinced I had candidiasis. So convinced , and desperate for relief, that I went on the candida diet, even before I’d seen the doctor. This diet meant no grains except for rice, no dairy, no sugar (even the sugar in fruit), nothing containing yeast, nothing containing mold, no nuts. There were so many restriction I can’t even remember them all. I ate vegetables, rice, and meat. During the three weeks on that diet, almost all my symptoms went away, or at least were improved greatly. My doctor agreed it could be a possibility. But the test for candidiasis came back negative.
But we knew that while I was on that diet, my symptoms went away. So to make what has become a very long story a bit shorter, we came to decide that it was some kind of gluten sensitivity. More trips to the doctor. More blood tests.
My IgA antibodies are 17x higher than “normal.” My DNA test is positive for celiac.
I was scheduled for an endoscopy and a colonoscopy at the same time. One trip, two procedures! I imagined they were going to string me like a pearl necklace. But as it turned out, they did one end first and then the other. (There is an ugly joke in there, don’t look for it…trust me.)
All results came back “negative.” My gastroenterologist says I have no damage from celiac. This is obviously good news. But I want a definitive answer. The closest I have is this: I am gluten sensitive. (This seems like an understatement, given what it does to me, but it’s all I’ve got.)
We decided to take me off gluten and dairy (casein), and it helps. It helps a lot. My wife says I’m a different person. It’s night and day. And we eat really well. So why would I even want to eat gluten now?
My name is Weldon Adams. And I'm Gluten-Free.

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