Hi! It’s Emily here from sparkleandshade.com - Clare asked me to write a Guest post for her blog on how changing my diet changed my life and I was more than happy to agree as I’m a firm believer that our diets are intrinsically linked to so many things to do with our bodies, especially our health! After all, it makes sense that the fuel we feed our bodies with affects the way that they run - anyone who has ever put diesel into a petrol tank will know that providing the wrong fuel can have disastrous effects. Let me give you a little background to my body. From age 12, I experienced a heck of a lot of muscle pain - initially it was shrugged off by Doctors as growing pains but when I was on a heady dose of extremely strong painkillers at age 13, they decided to send me to a specialist who then sent me on to physio every week for 3 years. During that time we discovered a few things - I have an extra set of ribs, my spine was fine but my pelvis is tilted at an odd angle and by 14 I had the flexibility of a 60 year old. My knees creaked, my hamstrings were so tight that when I sat on a chair and tried to lift my legs out in front of me, the best I could do was lift them a couple of centimetres. I was constantly exhausted and the smallest things would make me feel incredibly tired. When I went to sleep, I’d wake up feeling just as tired as I did when I went to bed. I’d have odd muscle spasms that caused me to drop my flute down the stairs and my phone down the toilet. My knees would buckle under me as I walked to school. When I was 14 I was told I’d be lucky to make it to 16 and not be in a wheelchair - and that I’d be very very lucky to not be in one permanently by 21. I was in pain and I was scared - no-one told me what was wrong and no-one told me how to make it better. Eventually, after a course of hydrotherapy that meant I had to take 2 days off school every week (1 for the hydro, 1 to recover) and a generally miserable teenage life, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. I was 16 and had just started college. They prescribed me anti-depressants to make me sleep and decided I could stop taking my painkillers because they didn’t really do anything to help anyway and that was it. That was the bulk of my help, advice and support. From then on, I was on my own. I took the anti-depressants for about 2 weeks before deciding I didn’t want to mess with the chemical structure of my brain for the sake of a good nights sleep and started researching what other things could make it better. For a few years I was vegan and this helped in part, but still didn’t provide the solution I’d hoped for and university life made it a difficult dietary choice to sustain so I went back to vegetarianism. I still stayed dairy free for the majority of the time though, and I still am as I think this does help my pain and fatigue levels a little and as the adverts say, every little helps! Nothing much changed between my 2 years at college and the 3rd year of university apart from the fact that I was still ill. Once every 3 months or so I would be bed bound for up to a month, sometimes more. I was daily in agony. I had huge muscle knots and would go for painful deep tissue massage once a month but this still didn’t stop the pain. I’d frequently walk with a stick, and in the end, it was a contributing factor towards my change of degree course (I’d initially started training as a Primary School Teacher but ended up graduating with a degree in English Language and Linguistics). Somewhere in my 3rd year of University, I met a girl who had M.E. and was trailing a gluten free diet to help her fatigue. I also got chatting to a woman at my church who said that going gluten free had relived her of her arthritis… Lent was coming up and I was fed up of feeling so ill all the time - a 21 year old girl shouldn’t feel this ill! I decided to trial going wheat free for the course of Lent in 2008 to see what happened. I was not hopeful - nothing else had worked so why should this. That was 2008 and I honestly haven’t looked back. It revolutionised my life - it gave me freedom from the pain that had held me captive and tried to destroy my life. I felt relatively normal most of the time and haven’t really had a flare up since. I sleep properly now, I’m rarely in anything like the pain I used to be in. Giving up wheat changed other things too - the vomit-inducing migraines I had 3 or 4 times a month disappeared, as did the huge, painful bruises that used to appear from no-where all over my body. I stopped getting quite as many chronic stomach pains and wasn’t throwing up 4 or 5 times a week. There’s other things I’ve discovered affect my body too - lots of refined sugar makes me tired, excessive amounts of tomatoes, raw red peppers and exotic mushrooms give me very painful stomach ache and make me sick… I’m learning new things all the time. I’m by no means the perfect wheat-free example - I have slips and it makes me cross that I can’t eat the things I want. I struggle with other parts of my diet too and I’m still working (with the help of the lovely Kate from http://www.embracenutrition.blogspot.com/ the wonderful Nutritional Therapist whose helping me get a healthier and less angry approach to eating) but whenever I’m doubting if it’s worth it and if it really makes a difference, I remember the words of that physiotherapist telling me I’d be in a wheelchair and then think about my running shoes and the half marathon I’m training for. My diet has changed my life and no matter how frustrating it might be, I’m never going back.
Thank you Emily, you have been a great help to me and hopefully we might help some one else! Emily writes for Sparkle and Shade - a blog all about beauty, exercise and living a healthy lifestyle. She loves cooking and is always coming up with interesting wheat free concoctions to get her through the dullness of being wheat-free. She’d love to chat with you if you’re thinking of going wheat free :)