It’s amazing how food can play such a big role in not just your physical health, but your mental health as well. Food is fuel, plain and simple. When you eat pure, healthy, whole foods you are fueling your body with the best form of energy you can give it. But sometimes, even when you think you are eating healthy and doing the right thing for your body you might come across a roadblock.
Three years ago when I got help for my eating disorder we discovered that I have a problem with gluten. I talked about this in length in my post The Missing Puzzle Piece. Gluten not only was causing all my stomach issues and mysterious ailments I had suffered from for years, but also it was exacerbating my anxiety. When we cut out gluten entirely, it was amazing what a difference I felt both mentally and physically. But, that’s not to say it’s always smooth sailing.
I suffer from anxiety. It’s something I will always deal with. But in the past three years, since cutting out gluten, it’s been a lot more manageable. It hasn’t gotten to the point where I felt so out of control that all I wanted to do was go to the hospital… until a few weeks ago.
A few weeks ago my anxiety levels started getting unmanageable. Yes, there was and has been a lot going on in my life since September. And yes, my anxiety has been worse lately, but the past three weeks it was the worst it had been in three years. I felt completely and totally out of control. I couldn’t function. I was begging my husband daily to take me to the hospital. I felt like I was going crazy. No matter what I tried, nothing was working. I didn’t know what was wrong with me.
The last day I experienced that crippling anxiety was on Thursday, February 22nd when I had my “ah-ha” moment. I was feeling so out of control, and again was begging my husband to take me to the hospital. My anxiety was through the roof. Somehow, in a small moment of clarity, I remembered that this was exactly how I felt before I went completely gluten-free; that I hadn’t felt this bad in three years. But, I wasn’t eating gluten so what was causing this?
I started thinking backwards to what had changed in my daily routine. Was I eating anything different? Yes! The only thing I had added to my diet recently was quinoa, but that was gluten-free so that couldn’t have been causing my issues… or could it?
I quickly went on the computer, started researching, and was amazed at what I found.
“Technically speaking quinoa is gluten free based on the definition of gluten created for those with celiac disease. However; quinoa does have “gluten like” storage proteins that can mimic proteins found in wheat, barley, and rye. The obvious question is: are these storage proteins sufficiently similar to traditional glutens that they could cause an immune reaction in celiac patients or in patients with other forms of gluten sensitivity? According to new research, the answer is yes…
Some people with celiac disease are sensitive to grains in general, even those that are gluten-free.”
Quinoa has gluten-like properties? Was quinoa the reason why I had been feeling so out of control? As I thought more about it, it made sense. Three weeks previously I had started eating quinoa after reading about what an amazing, healthy protein source it was. It was naturally gluten-free and was a complete protein with tons of vitamins and minerals. When I bought quinoa I made sure it was labeled gluten-free, organic, and non-GMO. Before I had added quinoa to my diet, yes I had been feeling anxious, but not to the level that I was currently at. Was it possible that I was one of those people that couldn’t handle even gluten-free grains?
I told my husband what I was thinking, and he agreed that it made sense. So, on Thursday, February 22nd we decided to stop eating quinoa to see what happened. Slowly, as the days went on and my body detoxed, I started feeling less and less out of control. I started feeling like myself again, with my normal levels of anxiety. It took a good solid week, but I started to feel better each day.
Apparently, quinoa was causing a gluten-like response in my body! I was mad at myself for introducing this gluten-free grain into my diet, but like my husband pointed out to me, there was no way we would have known. It’s all an experiment and the only way you learn is by trying.
I’m still feeling depressed and anxious, but it’s more at a manageable level. The out-of-control feelings that I had experienced for three weeks during my failed quinoa experiment are now gone, which was a huge relief. Food is powerful. Food is fuel, but it can also affect you mentally and physically and sometimes it’s a matter of figuring out what the link is.
Living M.U.D. is all about making Mindful Unique Decisions every day. It’s also about experimenting and trying new things. And through experimenting you find what works for you. Through my quinoa experiment I learned that my body can’t process any grains, even if they are gluten-free. I wouldn’t have known that otherwise. Based on research, I made the Mindful Unique Decision to start eating quinoa because of it’s nutritional properties, but at the same time I made the Mindful Unique Decision to stop when I realized my body wasn’t reacting well to it.
Sometimes experiments fail. But, it’s all about what we learn and take away from those failed experiments that will further us on our journey towards living the best life that we can.