So many people are eating gluten free now days! For a few years, I wondered why people would choose to leave gluten out of their diets. Gluten is in so many foods that I knew it must severely limit their options–especially when eating out or buying quick packaged foods. I know junk foods and packaged foods aren’t very healthy, but most of us rely on them now and then even if not on a regular basis. I never seriously looked into gluten free eating myself, though, until about 2 1/2 years ago when my sister suggested that I might want to try it.
Since about age 16, I’d been having TMJ (temporomandibular joint–the jaw joint) problems. It very quickly turned into a serious problem, and I had to have TMJ surgery at age 20 because I was very often in pain. The surgery was successful, and I felt much better and was in far less pain for about 10 or 12 years after that. Then the pain began to get gradually worse and worse until, once again, I was in almost constant pain. But this time, the pain was so bad that it woke me up most nights and caused me to be very tired and miserable by early evening almost every day. I even began seeing a pain management doctor and had to take really strong pain meds every night in order to sleep.
About 1 1/2 years ago, I finally got desperate and decided to take my sister’s suggestion to try eating gluten free (GF). She explained that gluten causes inflammation in the body, so consuming gluten was very likely causing my TMJ to get worse since TMJ is very often caused by inflammation in the jaw joint. (It can also be caused by torn ligaments and other kinds of physical damage to the joint. I did have some joint damage, but most of my pain was from inflammation–kind of like arthritis).
I was in my 30s at that time, and I was afraid I’d have to spend the rest of my life in pain, so I was getting desperate for any kind of lasting help. I had seen lots (and lots…) of doctors and tried every treatment known to man (well…I had tried a lot of them!), and nothing had given me relief for more than a few hours. I was truly ready to try eating GF–even though I thought it was extreme and didn’t really believe it would help me. Thankfully, I was wrong.
When I started eating GF, I went cold turkey and stopped eating gluten completely. My sister had done the research, and even very small amounts of gluten can cause inflammation, so I knew it would have to be completely eliminated from my diet to find out if it really would help me or not.
It took about 2 weeks of eating completely GF to notice a difference. After that amount of time, I began having a few hours here and there when I didn’t feel any pain at all or when the pain was greatly reduced. I had occasionally had a day of less severe pain, though, so I couldn’t really be sure just yet. Then after about 3 or 4 weeks, I began having an entire day here and there when I was in much less pain. I even began having a day of no pain at all, and that hadn’t happened in years! At that point, I had to admit to myself that eating GF must have something to do with how much better I was feeling.
After about 6 or 8 weeks of eating GF, I began having far more good days (with little or no pain) than bad days. I was able to completely stop taking my prescription paid meds. and I felt better than I had in a long time! I was sleeping through the night and waking up feeling well-rested. I was amazed at how much better I felt and at how little pain I was in! In fact, I began having far more pain-free days than I’d had in as long as I could remember. It was wonderful!
It’s been about 1 1/2 years now since I went completely GF. About twice during that 1 1/2 years, I cheated. Once I went to a church event with my daughter, and everything they served had gluten. Pizza was for dinner, and there were cookies and cupcakes for dessert. I resisted for a long time, but finally I gave in and ate a cookie. I regretted it for about 3 days! For those 3 days, my TMJ flared up, and I was in pain day and night. I told myself it was just a coincidence.
Once more a few months after that, something similar happened and I cheated. Again, my TMJ flared up for several days. After that, I knew it was definitely the gluten causing the pain and that, if I cheated and ate gluten, it was always going to cause pain. Pain is a huge motivator for me, so I decided not to ever purposely eat it again.
No, I’m not 100% pain free. Yes, I do still have flare-ups now and then–especially when I’m under stress and unknowingly grind my teeth at night. I also have a few days of pain after I have my teeth cleaned (because of holding my mouth open for the dental technician to do the cleaning). Once in a while I have a flare-up and I’m not sure why. Over all, though, I have far more pain-free days than I have days in pain, and that hasn’t been the case in the last 10 years!
I’ll be writing another post soon with more information about how to eat GF. It’s not as hard as I had thought it would be! And if you try it, you may find, like I did, that gluten is just not worth the way it makes you feel whether you have chronic pain or not. So be sure to come back and take a look later this week or early next week!
In the mean time, I’d love to hear from you! Are you gluten free, or have you considered going GF? Why or why not?