How Going Gluten-Free Helps with Fibromyalgia

I know some of you probably rolled your eyes when you read the headline of this story. I know that because I used to do the same thing.

Since being diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I’ve heard countless people talk about how going gluten-free improved their symptoms.

Whenever I’d hear that, I’d always think the same thing: “Fibro can be a living hell of pain and fatigue and everything else. I’ve already given up part of my life because of this horrible condition. You want me to give up donuts and cake and yeast rolls too? Are you kidding me? My sweet treats are one of the only things that make life bearable!”

But then my new fibromyalgia doctor ordered me to go on a strict anti-inflammatory, gluten-free diet. During the first two months of the diet, I allowed myself one “cheat” meal a week, which usually involved emptying out the complimentary bread basket at my favorite restaurant or shoving half of a pizza down my throat.

My doctor wasn’t happy. He said I was just holding up my progress – that by reintroducing gluten every few days, my body didn’t have the opportunity to properly cleanse and heal – and that I would never feel the full effects of the anti-inflammatory diet until I cut out gluten for good.

In my gut, I knew he was right. I’d paid good money for his expertise, and here I was not following his protocol. So, on Thanksgiving, I concluded my meal with a slice of pumpkin pie, and I’ve been gluten free ever since.

After three weeks of no gluten, my daily pain levels had decreased. I was having more low pain days than usual, with my levels falling between 1-3 on the pain scale.

And then I messed up.

I was really tired one night and didn’t feel like cooking dinner. I asked my hubby if we could go out to eat at a new restaurant in town. It was the first time I’d dined out since becoming serious about going gluten free. I chose the salmon and veggies with a tarragon sauce. I thought I was making a good choice.

On the way home, I began having stomach cramps. I felt dizzy and nauseous. I knew I’d been exposed to gluten because I’d had these same gastrointestinal symptoms when I’d enjoyed my “cheat” meals previously.

The human body is so incredibly amazing to me. My doctor explained that when someone eats gluten every day, the body compensates as best it can. You may feel bloated or have acid reflux or feel extremely tired, but you’d never connect that to gluten exposure because it’s just part of your day-to-day existence. But when you detox from gluten for several weeks, and then reintroduce it, the body will often react strongly to gluten if you have sensitivity to it.

My reaction to that gluten-laden meal reminded me of when I quit smoking years ago. I quit several times before I was finally successful. Sometimes I’d go days without a cigarette, and when I’d resume my bad habit, those first couple of cigarettes would make me sick-as-a-dog nauseous. I recognized that it was my body’s way of telling me, “Stop it! I don’t like what you’re putting in me!”

And here I was, years later, with my body telling me again, “Stop it! I don’t like when you eat gluten!”

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