I’ve had irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea (IBS-D) for as long as I can remember. At times when it was particularly bothersome, and because of colon cancer in my family, I underwent all the usual testing — everything from blood work to sigmoidoscopies to colonoscopies. Fortunately, the results were always negative.
I’ve tried all the medications prescribed for this condition and suffered intolerable side effects from each one. My only options are ingesting probiotics regularly, taking Imodium (loperamide) when needed, and staying at home when all else fails.
Years ago, after another negative test result for celiac disease, my gastroenterologist admitted that several other of her non-celiac patients with IBS-D showed improvement when they removed wheat from their diets. Some people are gluten sensitive even without celiac disease. Because I’m sensitive to many other things — not only foods but also environmental factors — it made perfect sense that I would be gluten sensitive as well.
I made a half-hearted attempt at changing my diet but noticed no difference in symptoms. Honestly, I was hoping for no improvement. Life without pasta or sandwiches on crusty bread did not sound like living to me. After two weeks without wheat in my diet, I resumed eating everything I had eaten all my life.
With no improvement in my IBS and no help from conventional medicine, I eventually turned to acupuncture. At the suggestion of my gluten-free acupuncturist, I finally removed gluten from my diet. Contrary to what I previously believed, it’s not only wheat that contains gluten. In nature, you find gluten in barley, rye, triticale, malt, and brewer’s yeast. In processed foods, it’s everywhere.
What an education I received! It quickly became necessary to read every label of every product I purchased. Manufacturers have become experts in renaming the ingredients they use, so you’d never suspect their products contain gluten. Even additives that sound innocent, such as “flavoring,” “artificial colors,” and “ground spices” can all contain gluten. For the truly sensitive, the preparation of food is also a factor. A few crumbs of wheat from the inside of a toaster used for wheat bread can contaminate your gluten-free toast.
In reality, it’s nearly impossible to protect yourself against gluten if you eat in restaurants. The only safe meals are those you prepare at home in your gluten-free kitchen using only gluten-free ingredients. And the challenge is not limited to food. Did you know there’s gluten in lipstick and mascara?
Anyway, it’s been several years now since I last intentionally consumed gluten. Sadly, my IBS-D continues, though it has greatly improved. My guess is that the improvement is more the result of recognizing what particular foods are triggers and removing them from my cupboard. But my sacrifice has had a happy ending. The bonus I received from removing gluten from my diet was a huge reduction in my total body pain. Whether that is a direct result of my diet change is anybody’s guess. But, for now, at least, I’m not willing to test the theory. I’m still ordering my burgers in a lettuce wrap.
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