I read an interesting article on a celiac website called “Celiac Disease and Obesity – There is a Connection.” I’m glad to see it because I certainly didn’t fit the usual celiac mould, which is underweight and/or unable to keep on or gain weight. Puh-leez. Celiacs/gluten intolerants tend to have malabsorption issues, meaning gluten/gliadin (the protein in wheat) is interfering with the absorption of nutrients from their food; your body thinks you’re starving, no matter how much you eat. Throw in the fact that gliadin breaks down into an addictive opiate-like substance in the body and you have people like me, who experienced intense cravings and insatiable hunger…and of course, weight gain.
“Eat less and move more” doesn’t help in this situation. I wanted to eat less. I made a huge effort to eat less. Eating less took up about 85% of my mental energy each and every day. All I thought about was food: eating it, getting it, not eating it, eating “better” food, when I was going to eat, did I bring enough food with me, why am I so bloody hungry? I studied other people’s eating habits and wondered why I couldn’t eat slowly, or put my fork down between bites, or leave food on my plate, or NOT want chips or cake or crackers after a meal of spaghetti and garlic bread. I was overweight, but not obese – if I’d been obese, you bet I’d have taken a beating from friends, co-workers, family and health professionals for my behaviour, which would be (and still is) seen as gluttony, a lack of willpower, a character flaw.
Many people on the low-carb forum I frequent find that when they add wheat products back to their diet, they react badly: brain fog, fatigue, G.I. distress, aching joints, skin rashes, etc. I was the same. I suspected something was up, but it wasn’t until I’d removed all gluten from my diet for a while and then added it back that I really noticed how crappy I’d felt for most of my life…and how good I could feel instead. Then I got tested and found out for sure what the trouble was. It was so simple to do, and caused a dramatic improvement in my quality of life, not just physically but mentally/emotionally.
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So why don’t we test for this all the time? Why isn’t food tolerance/allergy testing a routine part of a medical workup? Why aren’t children tested when they start on solid foods…and then re-tested several times throughout childhood? Why does the medical community at large know so little about nutrition and food, about the effect food has on our bodies? Hippocrates said “Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food”…so what happened?
It is my theory that Overeaters Anonymous meetings are chock-full of people who, like me, have food intolerance issues that manifest, at least partially, as cravings and overeating as well as depression, anxiety and other emotional symptoms. And no-one – not their doctors, not their counsellors, not their sponsors, not their friends – is going to “let them off the hook” by suggesting that their actual problem could be bread or oatmeal or fettuccine. I do not believe that ANYONE has ever become obese because they just like to eat or have no willpower, whatever that is. I think obesity always has an underlying reason – meaning that obesity is a symptom of something else – and that reason can be treated. Unfortunately, we still treat obesity and overweight as something that requires penance and punishment. It’s a moral failing. A scarlet letter.
But the real failing is ours. We fail the obese by blaming them. We fail the overweight by giving them diet plans containing the very foods that may have led to their overweight. Would it be so difficult to just run a couple of tests? Or do we just not want to have to admit we’ve been wrong, judgemental, mean…and say sorry?
To read the article, “Celiac Disease and Obesity – There is a Connection”, visit http://www.celiac.com.
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