Gluten Sensitivity and Brain Function

There was an excellent article in the Huffington Post on Sunday: Gluten Sensitivity and the Effect on the Brain by David Perlmutter, MD . He profiled a 9-year old girl who struggled in school until discovering a gluten-sensitivity. Upon following a gluten-free diet, she showed dramatic cognitive improvement within 2 weeks. And by the end of the school year her academic testing went from below a 3rd grade level to a 5th-8th grade level.

Cognitive effects are just one of many ways a sensitivity to gluten can manifest. Contrary to what Dr. Perlmutter was taught in medical school (and what I was taught in my conventional nutrition education), gluten-sensitivity and/or celiac disease does not always involve classic gastrointestinal tract (GI) symptoms (no need to go into details). This is why I was so incredulous when I tested mildly positive for celiac disease through a blood test done through my acupuncturist (about a month after testing positive for rheumatoid arthritis). I didn’t have any of the classic GI symptoms. Instead, the morning after I ate any gluten/wheat,  I would (and still do) wake with very painful, burning and stiff joints, sometimes to the point where it was hard to walk because my feet were so cramped up. After I got moving the symptoms would drastically improve, but that is no way to start your day. Taking Aleve helped even more, but I knew those symptoms were a sign of something intrinsically wrong with my body and to achieve the level of wellness I desired was not going to be about slapping a pharmaceutical band-aid on it. Not to mention, I would soon learn that Aleve and other NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs – e.g. naproxen, ibuprofen, etc.) actually contribute to the true underlying issue I was experiencing —Leaky Gut Syndrome .

There is one thing I would like to point out in this article, which I think is the source of confusion for many: gluten-sensitivity does not always = celiac disease (and to add to the confusion, “gluten-sensitivity” can also be referred to as “gluten intolerance”). Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine which requires a small bowel biopsy to confirm the diagnosis (looking for damage to the lining of your small intestine). However, inconclusive or negative results in these tests do not necessarily mean you’re free from a wheat or gluten sensitivity of intolerance. In fact, most people experiencing legitimate and significant gluten sensitive symptoms have officially tested negative for celiac disease. These individuals are categorized as non-celiac gluten sensitive, or NCGS (again we’ll dive into gluten-testing later — so much good stuff to to cover, so little time). Personally, I have not had the biopsy. It is my opinion that whether I have celiac disease or just  a sensitivity to gluten, my body clearly isn’t a fan, so why subject myself to such an invasive procedure.  The treatment for both is the same — avoid gluten. Easy, right? Stay tuned for my top tips on getting started….its not as painful as you think.

Coming Clean

When I founded Clean Cravings my intention was to help as many people as I could experience the miraculous benefits I have received by following a clean, anti-inflammatory diet.  And while I’m delighted that so many people have adopted and benefited from our products, a girl can only help so much offering pizza and pizza crusts.

I have felt compelled for some time to start this blog as a more comprehensive and intimate view into my experience following this way of eating and addressing the many other steps I have taken in my pursuit for optimal wellness.  I’m not gonna lie — it wasn’t easy to get started. Without the strong motivation I had from debilitating joint pain and extreme fatigue I’m not sure I would’ve have been able to stick to it. Honestly, if you would have told me 3 years ago that one day I would never eat wheat or dairy (the mainstays of my former diet), I would have assured you that you were smoking something. But this diet has been remarkable and worth every pass of my gluten/dairy/corn/sugar/preservative-laden former faves. It has managed my symptoms from rheumatoid arthritis (without medication) and celiac disease, virtually eliminated migraines I commonly suffered from, reduced my depression and provided me with the long desired answer to effortless weight management.

Having been on the front lines trying to figure out exactly what it means to “eat clean” and how to do it– I’m here to be your guide. Even with a masters degree in Nutrition, I had to hit the books to figure this out. So whether you already know of food intolerances you have, suspect you might have some, or are just thinking of cleaning up your diet — hang with me. I’m here to be your guide offering you my story, my insights and my secrets to clean ways to satisfy cravings for all things starchy and sweet.

I’ll address the questions I’m constantly asked:  how did you discover these food intolerances? how do you live this diet in everyday life? what products do you recommend? can you eat out? does your family follow the same diet? what supplements do you  take?  what types of health practitioners do you see? what does it even mean to “eat clean”? and the ever common — what the hell DO you eat? I’ll also weave in information on all good, valid resources I find and offer my thoughts on the flood of nutrition and other health information coming through from the mainstream media  that  isn’t so legit (e.g. the recent claims of the “dangerous” gluten-free diet).  Just as I was frustrated with the gap in the market for clean, convenient food I’m just as annoyed with some of the skewed information we’re fed (no pun intended).

So here we go. I’m coming clean — laying it all on the line. For you.

-Shelly