When Anita (name changed) got her test results back, she was a little surprised. She had originally come to see me for help with digestive troubles, fatigue, and some extra body fat she couldn’t get rid of. She had been to the doctor, and even seen a GI specialist. They couldn’t find anything wrong with her, so they suggested that she try changing her diet. That was all the advice she got.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against our medical system. The truth is that specialists are under a great deal of time pressure, so when they can’t find something seriously wrong with a patient, they really don’t have the time to go through an extensive nutritional counseling session. Their job is to save the lives of patients with life threatening diseases, like cancer.
That’s one of the reasons why I see quite a few patients just like Anita: they have a history of chronic problems, have been to many doctors, and nothing serious was found. In Janet’s case, her symptoms included:
Frequent heartburn, Bloating, Gas, Gurgling noises, Headaches after eating. Annoying fatigue (as opposed to severe fatigue).
Janet had even had a stool test done to look for infections in her digestive tract, but it came back normal. I suspected that Janet was suffering from food intolerances. In particular, I was concerned about wheat (gluten) and milk (lactose).
I agreed to take her on as a patient, and she signed up for a 6-month program. I had her complete an Adrenal Stress Profile and the Body Scan, which prioritizes your healing path.
The Gluten Profile is a saliva lab test that looks for antibodies to the gliadin molecule, which is part of the gluten protein. People with a gluten intolerance lack the ability to digest the gluten protein. Their immune systems will attack these proteins with antibodies.
If the immune response is severe, the lining of the intestines can be damaged, leading to a wide array of symptoms. The treatment is simple – education and staying away from foods that contain gluten. At first, this can be a tough change to make. But most people who are gluten intolerant feel much better after getting off of it, so the change gets easier.
Anita ‘s saliva test indicated that her body was making antibodies to the gliadin molecule. I suggested that she see her medical doctor for follow-up blood testing to confirm the saliva test. Janet asked if we could just try the dietary changes for few months instead. I agreed. Her adrenals did show signs of fatigue, but that’s often secondary to chronic digestive problems. We decided to hold off on any adrenal treatment.
The information I was able to gather from Anita ‘s Starting Point assessment pointed to a few important changes we could make. These changes included:
Getting Anita off of the bread products. Anita indicated that she craved baked goods every day, and ate them frequently from morning until bed time. Since most baked goods are gluten-containing products, we had to get her off of those. It was going to be a challenge for her, but she was committed to feeling better. She substituted various fruits.
Helping Anita start exercising. While Anita was no couch potato, she didn’t get much exercise. We started her with a walking program, and added in a routine of bodyweight exercises. Janet had no interest in kettlebell training, but she was interested in Snowshoeing. Part of her program was to take a lesson with her husband, and start snowshoeing at least one weekend each month in the winter. In spring, she’d start hiking in the mountains.
Working with Janet to build a new set of eating habits without the gluten products. Make no mistake about it, this was a tough change both for Janet and her husband. Luckily her husband agreed to stick with Janet’s diet and stop eating gluten-containing foods in the house. So every two weeks during her coaching sessions, we spent most of our time planning her meals. She and her husband started doing more cooking together, and started eating more vegetables.
Taking Anita off of dairy products. Most patients with gluten intolerances also have trouble digesting lactose, which is the sugar in dairy products. Many adults lose the ability to produce the enzyme (lactase) that breaks down lactose. When these people consume dairy, they experience bloating, gas, and other digestive symptoms. She wasn’t a milk drinker, but she did like cheese (with gluten-containing crackers). We switched her to goat and sheep cheeses, and gluten-free crackers.
My biggest concern with Anita was allowing her digestive system to recover from years of gluten intolerance. So during the first two months, we kept her diet very simple (and kind of boring). It was tough for her at first, but with her husband’s support, she started really enjoying “eating more cleanly”, as she likes to say. She started her program with me in the fall, so we weathered the holidays together. We actually met weekly from Thanksgiving through New Year’s to help her stay focused.
After the first three months, Janet had lost 15 pounds of fat. She looked great and felt great. The few times that she cheated and ate gluten-containing products left her feeling lousy the next day, so this actually helped her stick to her diet. She loved the snowshoeing, which she and her husband started doing almost weekly (they own a second home in the mountains here in Colorado). Her husband also lost about 10 pounds without trying.
Anita’s digestive symptoms are basically gone now. She can tolerate small amounts of dairy & wheat, like a slice of pizza or an ice cream cone with her grandkids, but she knows her limits. We never really treated the fatigue directly, it got better as her diet got better, and soon she had normal energy levels all day long.
Anita’s case is pretty typical. Taking the time to look for underlying problems can help patients make a few changes that profoundly impact how they look, how they feel, and how they live. That’s the Stronger& Leaner philosophy.
What can you do? Try two weeks without gluten products. Basically, this means anything made with wheat. See how you feel after those two weeks. If you notice some annoying symptoms have started to go away, you may have a sub-clinical gluten intolerance.
The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only. Do not use this information for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. Have any symptoms evaluated by a licensed doctor in your state. Never start this or any other exercise, nutrition, supplementation, or stress-management program without consulting a licensed health are practitioner. Working out can cause injury and / or death. The author is in no way trying to do anything other than share information with you.