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answers, at last

August 6, 2010

I’ve been struggling with my weight my whole life.  I have had little mysterious rashes on and off since I was a kid.  I’ve always been easily stressed.    I never got solid answers as to why there was so much “wrong” with me, and I never (until recently) considered these 3 issues to be connected.

When there are no external answers you turn the blame on yourself. At least, that’s what I do!  That blame turns to shame and it hurts.   I have been trying to work through this thick layer of shame throughout the past few years.  What happens, then, when concrete answers suddenly appear?

Relief.  Doubt.  Hope.  Grief.  Forgiveness?

I have felt for years that there was something weird going on with my body and I have tried in various ways to get various doctors to help.  As I mentioned before, I have talked to dermatologists to see if my rash was related to anything else, but no, they just see a rash and think about what heavy-duty drugs they can stick on it to make it relent.  I have convinced reluctant doctors to test my thyroid levels because that could help explain the stress and the weight, but the results were normal, so of course, rather than trying another angle that was just the end of the discussion.  And on and on.  No one ever took the time or effort to try a broader perspective & look at all of the different pieces to see how they were interacting.

But as I’ve been working on taking care of my body, I’ve been doing my own research and I’ve been listening to my whole body as a whole being.  In my last entry, hello august goodbye gluten, I laid out the time-line of events that lead to my hypothesis that I am allergic to gluten, a hypothesis that I was only able to make because of my attention to my whole body combined with research.  I didn’t completely trust or believe in my hypothesis, but I believed enough to test it out.

Now I’m a total believer.  I have been on a strict gluten-free diet since the beginning of the month and guess what?  I feel great — I have more energy and “bad” things that happen seem to wash over me more.  My rash is totally fading away.  And, most interesting of all, my skin has now become a gluten-detector!! Ever since I totally stopped eating gluten, every time I eat something with gluten hiding in its ingredients, the skin on my leg starts to feel tingly and prickly within just a few minutes!  When this happens I go to the ingredient list and 100% of the time there is some form of gluten there.  Every time.  It is undeniable.  I have figured out my allergy.

And yet, even as I declare myself a believer, I find it hard to accept:  it’s hard to accept that I am a person with an allergy, it’s hard to accept that no one ever figured this out, and it’s hard to accept that I was able to figure it out through simply paying attention to my whole body. I was raised in a family that values logic over experience, so even now I feel like I have to keep PROVING that this is true.  But whatever, it is true.  I have an allergy.  I have yet to see if it is related to my weight as well, but there are indicators that it is.  I have lost a few pounds, but I want to wait it out and make sure that’s not just typical fluctuations before declaring anything final.

Still, I am hopeful. And, if my wheat allergy really has been a primary source of my weight issues, I will be so relieved I might just cry.

Equally exciting is my new quest to regulate my cortisol levels and the process that helped me figure this out.  Actually, the process is exactly the same as the one that helped me determine my gluten allergy: listening to my body, reading about other people’s similar experiences, researching the different systems that could be interacting, and coming up with a hypothesis that connects the dots. Cortisol.  My cortisol regulation is out of whack.

People always say that the reason stress is linked with excess weight is that stress causes people to eat more.  This never rang true to me and I always had the sense that something was missing from the picture.  When I am really stressed out, I actually lose my appetite… if anything, it is depression that made me give up on my body and not eat healthy food, but that is more of a psychological pattern than a reaction to stress.  Plus, if you are regulating your food intake and it remains regular through periods of high and low stress, this simply doesn’t explain the link between stress and excess weight.  There are a lot of different ways to look at it.  You can look at the cultural pressures on overweight people and say that the stress is the result of being overweight.  This explanation is just as dissatisfying to me.  It never seemed to be a simple linear picture where one causes the other one.  Stress and weight interact, they connect on multiple levels, and they perpetuate each other. There had to be some connection.

So, a few months ago, I began researching the hormones that relate to weight and exercise, and one in particular caught my attention for various reasons.  Cortisol.  Increased cortisol levels and out-of-whack cortisol rhythms can stem from PTSD (which was my therapist’s assessment for me, if she has to put a label on things).  It it also associated with excess body fat in the abdominal area.  Hmmm.  Charming.

Do you know what else elevated cortisol is associated with?  Eczema.  Check!  So, a few days ago I started taking a natural supplement that is supposed to help regulate cortisol.

But here is the icing on the gluten-free cake!! Guess what,  GUESS WHAT!!?  There is a link between a gluten allergy and increased cortisol levels! This just keeps getting better and better.  The pieces are falling into place.  The chronic inflammation of the intestine from the gluten allergy stresses the body and causes it to increase its release of cortisol.  This must be why Omega-3s, with their anti-inflammatory effects, are said to help reduce cortisol levels.  And, best of all, this helps me understand the connection between so many of my challenges and experiences.  It’s allll connected.

Once I get gluten out of my system for a while, I may not even need the supplement to regulate cortisol.

Ahhhhh, answers, at last!  I’m starting to have hope that I will be able to truly heal and forgive myself.

❤ Diana Banana

3 Comments leave one →
  1. sandyjo permalink
    August 13, 2010 6:06 am

    Diana — I and so hopeful that you are right about this. What a wonderful discovery for you!

    For me, it’s not working so well. I’ve been working with a nutritionist about my weight issues and she suggested going gluten free for three weeks — for the reasons you discuss. Two weeks in and it has made no difference in how I feel. (It does mean that I must pass up the drive-thrus and my beloved pastries, so I guess it’s not all bad!) After another week, I’m to reintroduce gluten and see what happens. I’m not very optimistic at this point, but reading your post makes me happy for you and hop others can have similar success.

    • August 13, 2010 1:49 pm

      Ah, I’m sorry to hear that going gluten-free isn’t working out for you. It certainly isn’t for everyone, and I think because it is more common than people realized, the instinct now is to go too far in the other direction and think that practically everyone is gluten-intolerant. It may be that there is something else going on for you, though, so don’t stop searching for answers! I think Western medicine is very useful for some things, but issues relating to weight tend to be about the body as a whole. When looking at the body as a whole system, I believe we are better off listening to our bodies, gathering information, and maintaining a dialogue with people who have a more holistic approach. That’s my two cents 😉

  2. August 30, 2010 2:54 am

    Found your internet site via live search the other day and absolutely enjoy it. Continue the fantastic work.

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