I Eat Gluten Free
I’ve only scratched the surface on discovering how different types of food effect our body and mind, and the overall effect which can occur especially when combined with yoga and other lifestyle changes.
In July 2017, I discovered that I have Graves’ Disease. Graves’ Disease is the most common cause for an overactive or hyper-active thyroid. When your thyroid gland is overactive, it makes too much thyroxine. Thyroxine is a much needed hormone, that keeps many cells and tissues going in the correct pace. When there is too much thyroxine, the cells and tissues are working in an elevated, speeded up manner. My primary and not much liked symptom was the heart palpitations, whereby in the calmest of situations, I would feel my heart jumping out of my chest. This was combined with a number of other symptoms, such as losing 6 kg in three weeks without any change in diet, shortness of breath, tremor of hands, sudden emotional ups and downs and eye problems (including weakened eye sight).
When you visit the NHS website and read about hyperthyroidism (see here), you’ll find the explanation that Graves’ Disease is the cause of hyperthyroidism in three out of four cases. It’s an autoimmune disease, meaning that your immune system mistakenly attacks the body - in this case, the thyroid; prompting the thyroid to produce more and more thyroxine. The treatments can vary and in 50% of the cases will not be effective.
When diagnosed, I was lucky enough to find an endocrinologist with a clear interest in getting me better. I have not previously verbalised the existence of functional medicine, but through my discussions with the doctor and further reading, I came to understand that standard medicine focuses on eliminating the symptoms and finding cures for the disease, whilst functional medicine looks to trying to identify the root cause on why the disease occurred in the first place, and through that, prevent recurrence of the disease.
I was recommended to read The Autoimmune Fix by Dr Tom O’Bryan (find it here). Don’t let the cover of the book discourage you - Dr O’Bryan’s writing is filled with stories and he explains medical terms in an easy-to-understand manner. There is a section of the book where Dr O’Bryan specifically talks about the thyroid and it’s relation to the immune system. Medical studies have found the connection between the thyroid and eating gluten (such as wheat, barley, rye and some oats). Humans do not have the enzymes to fully digest the proteins found in wheat, barley and rye; meaning that the pieces that the gut cannot fully process will be handled the same way as toxins. Each time these grains are eaten, they will cause inflammation and intestinal permeability (the gut allowing these toxins to flow through to the blood and circulate around the body). Some people eat these grains without ever developing an autoimmune disease.
In the second chapter, Dr O’Bryan also explains about molecular mimicry. When the molecular structure of a certain toxin (e.g. the non-digested pieces of gluten) resembles the molecular structure of our cells, our immune system may mix these two up; meaning that the antibodies produced to protect us from the toxins, may in fact destroy other molecules that look very similar to toxins. This is when molecular mimicry occurs: Your own immune system may attack your own cells, tissues, and eventually organs (if left unchecked). And for this reason it’s called an autoimmune disease.
Which tissues or which organs will be affected? It depends on a number of factors explained in the book, and for the sake of keeping simple: It depends on what your weakest link is genetically and what exposures your body had environmentally. My weakest link is my thyroid, which is why I developed Graves’ Disease.
I have now been completely gluten free for over a year, and I have stopped my medication around the same time too. I have given up my corporate job to become a yoga teacher and have moved to Bristol from the big smoke of London. I had a blood test done three weeks ago and my thyroid functions are now returned to normal. My body can breathe and heal itself again. So fascinating.
By the way, eating gluten free does not mean that you do not have interesting food anymore. Instead, my diet has transformed into a much richer, better way of eating. I still eat pasta and pizza and bread, created by the smart producers of our world with naturally gluten free ingredients. Outside of eating entirely gluten free, I immersed myself into Ashtanga yoga and touched the surface of Ayurveda and the science of food. I have been feeling stronger and healthier than ever, and I have no fears of ageing. I know that I am lucky to have found the best possible endocrinologist, and to have the full support of my amazing wife on this gluten free journey. For this, I will always be thankful.
I will be sure to share some ideas of tips and tricks of eating delicious gluten free foods via the blog, so follow us to keep track of them!