gut

Why I don't eat gluten

This is a story of my face

On the left is my 20th birthday, on the right is now (I am 35 but you can just call me 29).

On the left is my 20th birthday, on the right is now (I am 35 but you can just call me 29).

I have many, many, many stories of how I came to be interested in nutrition, health, and healing from within - but - the story of my face is pretty much the origin story.

When I was 14 I saw my first dermatologist. She told me that what I eat does not affect my skin. She gave me retin-a, an astringent, and put me on an antibiotic. I took her word as gospel and began the regimen. Through the next few years she never took me off the antibiotic, she just changed what type I was on. 

Thinking back on it, my skin was pretty ok. Before seeing her I had never had cystic acne I just got the occasional breakout. 

Fast forward to me being 19. I am still on antibiotics - so for those of you counting - that is pretty much 5 years of non-stop antibiotic'ing. Which. Is. Crazy. I mean nuts. For the minimal problems I had, being on something so consistently for so long with so little benefit... it is horrifying. 

So there I am 19 years old and I head off to the Netherlands for my sophomore year of college. In the Netherlands I cannot get my prescription filled, so it is the first time in forever that I have no antibiotics in my system.  And I CAN DRINK BEER LEGALLY!!! And it is the NETHERLANDS! CHEESE!! BREAD!! ALL THE THINGS!!! WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE !!!!!!! !!! ! !

My face went nuts.

I got cystic acne that just wouldn't go away. It was painful literally and emotionally. I remember going to bed and wanting to wake up and have it all be a nightmare. That I would wake up and have clear skin. 

I drank (we all drank) a ton in the Netherlands. I drank to forget about my face, my body, my insecurities. 

I bought all the products I could find. All the masks. All the creams. All the astringents. Nothing helped. The one thing that seemed to help was the sun, so I got super duper tan. 

When I got back from the Netherlands I was happy to be in a land of healthcare once more. A place where I could once again tackle my acne, because - it was all about the drugs - it never occurred to me to think that what I was eating had an impact.

This blows my mind now.

So my junior year of college I got myself on Accutane. The saying with Accutane is that it gets worse before it gets better - and that is certainly true. My face became peely and dry. With Accutane I had to be on two forms of birth control because the medication can cause birth defects, I had to get my blood drawn every month, because they needed to make sure my liver was a-ok. Pretty serious stuff. But I didn't care. I just wanted my skin to be normal. And it worked... for a bit. 

I had a few good years.

And then everything came back with a VENGEANCE. At this time I was living in Seattle... and it got bad. Really, really, bad. Worse than it had been in the Netherlands.

It crushed me. 

The first thing people see is your skin. I remember thinking, well I can't go camping because if I go camping I wouldn't have make-up and that is JUST NOT OK. 

There was the time that a street bum shouted at me... shouted... "NOXZEMA!!!!"

Which sucked. I would do a lot of mental gymnastics to convince myself that people weren't seeing what I was seeing. That it wasn't that bad. And then Mr. Streetbum chirps up. Or that random stranger on the bus who tapped me lightly on the shoulder and wanted to talk about Proactive - AS IF I HADN'T TRIED PROACTIVE!!

I tried everything.

I went to a fancy spa that had special acne facial treatments and I bellied up money that I really couldn't afford. My first consultation I cried... I remember that I was in a show where I had to be on stage that night. The woman consulting with me told me how "brave" I was to be going on stage with a face that looked like mine.

GAH. Kill me. 

So I shelled out the money.

Got poked and prodded.

And occasionally things got a teeny tiny bit better. 

And then, one day I went to a different esthetician and she said to me "Annette, have you ever considered you might have an allergy?"

What.

No.

Because I am made of hearty midwest stock. We don't have allergies to things like dairy and gluten. PAH! BAH! A gluten allergy is soooo Seattle. And plus that one dermatologist SAID that what I eat doesn't affect my face! SO NO I HADN'T. 

So for the first time I actually considered it. 

And that was my first step. 

My first step to truly understanding how connected EVERYTHING is.

It seriously blows my mind that I ever thought what I consume had no impact. This includes all the antibiotics I had blindly taken for so long. They killed my happy gut flora. Which made my gut a sad place that couldn't, and still has problems, properly digesting food.

Wheat exacerbates this problem. Keeping it out of my life has helped me heal. And the great thing about healing is that the more you do it, the more you can get away with - 

I will never go back to eating much bread, but if I really want a piece of bread I am okay to have it a few times a year. That is a choice I get to make, but now I know the consequences. 

My face was a big motivator for change and though it really sucked - like really, really - I am also grateful. It helped me grow and learn and understand what health and nutrition actually look like.

There are a lot of people that don't have super obvious symptoms and only figure it out when the whole machine is broken.

I am happy I had a catalyst for change. 

 

What goes down, comes back up aka REFLUX

You know that feeling, that burning in your throat.

That feel of acid warming the base of your esophagus as if to say HI! HOW ARE YOU! I EXSIST!

mmmm... tasty nachos... 

mmmm... tasty nachos... 

You might chalk it up to some spicy food you overindulged in (nachos ARE delicious) or it might just be a pretty normal occurrence for you.

"I AM CURSED," you might think and just reach for some Pepto or Tums or some other type of calming agent. Calm the acid cure the symptom. Rinse repeat.

But did you know that burn is often because of TOO LITTLE stomach acid rather than TOO MUCH?

What? I know.

So here is the deal. Continuing from my post of CHEWING YOUR FOOD. The next step in digestion is the stomach.

The stomach is a powerhouse that crushes food into tiny food bits so that it can go through the rest of the system and be optimally digested and utlized. 

It is meant to be highly acidic in there so that it CAN break down your food. 

You chew your food, it goes down the esophagus where it encounters the esophageal sphincter which opens up to permit the food inside (I know, I know "sphincter" what a word).

The food is now in the stomach. The stomach goes into action releasing a ton of different gastric juices from tiny gastric glands in the its lining. This breaks down the food even more and turns everything into a paste we call chyme

When the chyme is acidic enough it triggers the pyloric sphincter to open up and allow the chyme through to the small intestines for further digestion (more on that later). 

When you have LOW stomach acid this whole process goes sideways. 

The food doesn't get fully digested from the acids so it sits in your stomach. What happens when you leave food in a warm place? Well. Not good things.

Proteins putrefy, fats go rancid, and carbs ferment.

This means that the mixture in your tummy starts to bubble up and though it IS NOT ACIDIC enough to trigger the lower sphincter to open it IS ACIDIC enough to burn your upper sphincter at the end of your esophagus.

Which is what you feel.

That burn. 

And then you take some sort of calming agent that DOES relieve the symptom, but doesn't help food to get to the level of acidity it needs to be to be in able to continue the digestive process.

This is bad news. The food eventually continues through the system, but not fully digested. Having protein putrefy produces acids that actually hurt the mucosal lining of your stomach which allows microorganisms such as h-pylori to exist.

This on a chronic level is terrible for your gut as h-pylori leads to ulcers. No one wants those.

Here is the thing. There are SOME people with legitimately too much stomach acid, but they are the anomaly. Much more common is to have too little.

I know! Crazy! But if you think about it, it really does make sense. You might want to check out this book "Why Stomach Acid is Good for You" if you are interested in learning more.