Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Finally, a reason good enough to make a difference!

I have been on and off the wagon, foodwise, a number of times. The list of things I shouldn't eat, for various reasons, is long and comprehensive. It is a true challenge to faithfully live according to the list. It makes my food world very very small and difficult.

Added to the challenge of the List is the fact that I have a very emotional response to food. I have long been an emotional eater. I've said many times, "I've yet to meet an emotion that didn't feel better with food."  On top of that, I have inherited an addictive tendency, which definitely comes into play with food.

This is the main reason I don't use any other potentially addictive substances (I don't drink, smoke or do drugs): Besides all of the other health and well-being reasons to not do these things, I know that if I had the relationship with anything else that I have with food, my life would be a complete mess!

A while back, I fell off the food wagon again, diving headlong into dairy, wheat, sugar, chocolate, etc. I still manage to stay away from the biggest "baddies"- eggs, soy, and almonds- even when I'm stuffing my face with everything else, but the rest of it is plenty. I often dabble in the forbidden foods, even when I'm being "good," because none of the consequences seemed that serious. I've done a lot of, "Yeah, that's a price I'm willing to pay, for the chance to eat that cupcake" kind of thinking.

Just recently, I finally came to a realization that has changed my tune. Dramatically.

I think I have figured out some of my random wheat symptoms, and this spooked me enough to yank my wheels back on track!

My wheat reactions have seemed sort of random and unconnected, so I didn't take them very seriously...If I eat wheat, the skin over my knuckles starts to crack and bleed, and I would get this cough at night. I couldn't figure it out. I used hand lotion and tried to drink more water. I spent a lot of nights sleeping on the couch, sitting up straight, since that was the only thing that seemed to help the cough. I had definitely made a connection between eating wheat and those two specific reactions, but it didn't make sense. I knew they were linked, but not why.

Here is what I've come to understand:

***The Bleeding hands: Refined wheat flour is an inflammatory food. I believe that when I eat wheat, it causes inflammation all through my digestive system. An inflamed system cannot absorb water well. I eat wheat, inflammation happens, my body can't properly process water, I dehydrate quickly, and it shows up in fragile skin that splits open and bleeds. This also means that my body isn't able to properly absorb nutrients from my food, so though I can't see it, I'm sure I go into nutritional decline as well.

***The Cough. This has been a problem for years, but I could never figure it out. I used to think it was caused by my dabbling in the dairy world. Nope. Then I wondered if there was some specific allergen in our bedroom that would cause me to start coughing within thirty minutes to an hour after going to bed. I finally made the connection that it happened reliably when I ate wheat- even a little bit. Just in the past two weeks, I think I've finally figured it out. A nagging, non-productive cough is one of the symptoms of acid reflux. I had never thought of that, since I wasn't having the pain I experienced with heartburn while pregnant. Then one recent day, all of the puzzle pieces suddenly fell into place.

Cough= acid reflux. Acid reflux leads to G.E.R.D. - GastroEsophageal Reflux Disease. Untreated G.E.R.D. dramatically increases the risk for esophageal cancer!!!!!! Oh. Okay.

Much as I love cupcakes, no cupcake in the world is worth cancer!!!!!!!!!

Suddenly cured of the desire to dabble.

Sad that it took the idea of cancer to make me finally take this seriously, but hopefully I've made the change in time to save myself from that fate!

I'm not sure why wheat causes such reliable acid reflux, but it does, and it doesn't take more than a tiny bit to start that chain reaction.

Oh! I just remembered- now there's a new suspicion I'm entertaining about the effects of wheat on my body. Sometime in the past year or two, my sister shared something on facebook about effects of wheat gluten on the body. It mentioned muscle weakness as one. That made a lot of sense to me. In the past, I've had times when, for as much as a week, one or both of my hands would be inexplicably weak. I would be holding things and just drop them for no reason. When I read that information, it made sense to me. As I've cut back on wheat in general, I have noticed an improvement in this.

Now I've started to make another connection along those lines.

***The Swallowing. For years, I have had some trouble with swallowing. Whenever I eat pretty much anything, but especially anything remotely starchy, I HAVE to have water to drink or the food quickly gets stuck in my throat. This is both scary and painful. It's an awful, choking sensation, and my diaphragm would start spasming, giving me very painful hiccups. I definitely make sure I have water on hand when I eat! I think half-melted ice cream is the only thing that doesn't cause this.

I've always just thought I had inefficient peristaltic action. Peristalsis is the muscle action that moves things through us, from swallowing all the way through the digestive process. For years, I've just though this didn't work well in me. I also know that my Grandma Jessie had a lot of trouble, for years and years, with food sticking in her throat and choking her, so I thought maybe it was a genetic thing.

I think I may be figuring this out, for myself at least. I wonder now if it is connected to that gluten=muscle weakness situation.  I wonder if the wheat I ate all these years was causing weakness in my swallowing muscles. I wonder if that's why I've had so much trouble. 

Ohhhhh. I wonder if the acid reflux could also be connected to muscle weakness. The sphincter muscle at the top of the stomach is what is supposed to contain stomach acids. If that muscle were weakened, acid would leak up into the esophagus. Ohhhh. I think I'm starting to see more of the pattern.

It is my hope, since I'm finally taking seriously the damage that wheat does to me, and the dire possibilities of continued dabbling, that as I truly cut wheat out of my diet altogether, I will see improvement in this whole choking issue.

It would be so awesome if, by just not eating wheat, I could solve this long-term and scary problem!

At long last, I have enough serious reasons to cut wheat completely out of my world.

Dehydration and bleeding hands? Yup.

Constant danger of choking? Oh yeah.

CANCER??!!! Most definitely!!!

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