Gluten---to Eat, or Not to Eat

**I blame Aria for this entire post, by the way.**

Four years ago, when I was nearing the end of my second trimester in my pregnancy, my feet and ankles started to swell.  And I don't just mean swell...I mean big fat puffy loaves of bread kind of swelling.  I could squeeze my foot and leave finger indentations that would stay for several minutes.  It was that bad.  Everybody kept telling me that it was a perfectly normal thing to have swollen feet during pregnancy and that they would go back to normal shortly after Aria was born.  I believed them.  Oops!

My feet, ankles, and lower legs have been swollen ever since.  It does not matter what the weather is doing.  It does not matter what kind of shoes I wear.  It does not matter if I've been at work all day or if I've been lounging on the couch all day.  They swell.  Sometimes they're not swollen...but only about one day a week (two if I'm lucky).

I've gotten several suggestions over the years as to what could be causing my swelling:
1.  Need different shoes >> tried that, didn't work
2.  You're not drinking enough water >> water is pretty much all that I drink (except for milk)
3.  Your blood pressure is too high >> I regular donate and my blood pressure is damn near perfect every time (so is my pulse)
4.  Your cholesterol is high >> I had a fasting lipid profile done last year and my levels were all WELL within the normal range
5.  You eat too much salt >> first I drink enough water to flush out all my salt.  Second, I don't eat NEARLY as much salt as I used to when I was living on fast food and ramen noodles.
6.  You're overweight >> What?!!  I had no idea!!!
7.  You've sprained your foot >> perhaps for a little maybe, but both feet...for four years straight?
8.  You have gout >> this is a possibility as it runs (rampant) in the family, though uncommon in women
9.  I have no idea why

So numbers 1-7 aren't really a possibility (aside from #6).  I've looked into #8 (not with a doctor yet).  My grandpa, dad, and brother have gout.  Gout is characterized by an excess level of uric acid built up around the toe joints, specifically the big toe.  Swelling is normally localized to toe joint areas and should only spread a little way up the foot.  Gout outbreaks are normally brought on by eating certain kinds of foods that are high in purines (such as seafood and animal organs).  Gout is most common in men and is quite rare in women, though not impossible.
---MY swelling, however, is from the tips of my toes all the way to my mid-calf (on both feet).  It is not more or less in any one area.  It doesn't matter if I eat salad all day or fast food, I'm still swollen.  In fact, I can wake up in the morning already swollen and it hurts to even put my feet on the floor upon getting out of bed.  Aria has a doctor appointment in April and I will check with the doctor (we have the same doctor) if she recommends testing for gout, just to be sure.

Something else I've been thinking of lately, however, is gluten.  Now, I'm not at all one of those people to buy into the whole "Gluten = poison" mentality.  I do not believe that all of these people are all of a sudden allergic to gluten.  I think it's a crock.  BUT...I've been reading up on gluten and it's effects on the body, and I've learned a few things.

First, what is gluten?  Simply put, gluten is the protein found in wheat and other wheat-like grains, such as barley, rye, and oats.  Gluten is probably in about 3/4 of the things you regularly eat (I can estimate this because I spent my entire grocery shopping trip reading the ingredients list of everything I picked up yesterday).  If it has wheat in it, it's got gluten.  So most cereals, bread, pasta, oatmeal, sauces with a thickening agent, anything with flour such as cookies and cakes, and a million other things.

not my image
Most people don't have a problem with gluten.  The body does what it's supposed to and nobody even cares about the gluten factor as they're eating.  But for some others, it can be quite a challenge.

There a few different things than can go on in your body with gluten.  First is a gluten allergy.  This is when you're actually allergic to the gluten.  Your body responds much in the same way as if you were allergic to any other kind of food...you have an allergic reaction (ranging from moderate to severe).  Next is Celiac disease.  This is when your body absolutely cannot process gluten and it makes you super sick when you eat it.  Lastly is gluten sensitivity.  This is when your body can handle gluten, but not in large amounts.  It can process it, but struggles a little.  Lets talk a little more about this one!

Gluten sensitivity...still sounds like a load of crap.  But, in reading about it, it's quite a common thing.  It's kind of like being lactose intolerant.  People who are lactose intolerant can drink milk and eat ice cream, but it's going to make them have tummy troubles later that day and into the next day.  They know it's going to give them tummy troubles, but they eat the ice cream anyway.  Gluten sensitivity is the same thing, but with a different outcome.  Gluten sensitivity tends to cause...drumroll please...extreme swelling in the extremities (along with other things such as bloating, feeling of fullness, and fatigue).  There's a lot of research all over online about the swelling involved with gluten sensitivity.

Why am I 30 and just now starting to have this problem?  Duh, because you're getting old!! Just kidding!  Actually, a gluten sensitivity is triggered by a life event:  stress, injury, viral illness, and.....pregnancy.  (Now do you understand why I blame Aria for this?!)

So...as I start to look back at everything I eat...I eat a lot of gluten.  No, scratch that...I eat a TON of gluten!  I buy whole wheat bread, eat lots of bagels, eat lots and lots and lots of pasta, I enjoy a pastry in the morning from the bread store next to  work, and eat a bunch of cereal and oatmeal.  All of those things are made of nothing but wheat.  So much wheat.

So this weekend, when I make my menu for next week, I'm going to make it as gluten-free as I can.  I want to see if my swelling will decrease if I decrease the amount of gluten I eat.

If I try this and it really does reduce my swelling, then I'll know that I should strive for less gluten.  I'm never going to cut out all gluten...mostly because I can't afford it.  I found gluten-free pasta at Kroger (for only $1 more than regular pasta). I've seen gluten-free bread and bagels, but they're like $6 for a half loaf (yikes).  And I did find a box of gluten-free all purpose "flour" for about $5 if I really feel like baking something.  My current grocery bill for my 3-person family is about $120/week.  If I had to switch to buying only the organic, gluten free options, my bill would double or triple...especially if I had to start doing all my shopping at Whole Foods.  There's no way I can afford that!

So maybe it'll just be that I should expect to swell if I decide to bake a cake.  And that's OK.  At this point, I really just want to find out WHY I'm always swollen.  It hurts and I'm done with it!

In the meantime, I really need one of these leg support cushions!  Putting my feet up at home hurts my knees (because they're ridiculous and hyper-extended) ... but this is contoured to the shape of a leg and wouldn't aggravate my knees at all!
The Pain Relieving Contoured Leg Support - Hammacher Schlemmer    I would seriously use this all of the time.
Hammacher Schlemmer Contoured Leg Support >> buy it here

(FYI:  Dinner tonight is a scrumptious skillet sausage pasta alfredo...made with turkey sausage, GF pasta, whipping cream, and tons of parmesan cheese...mmm )
Smoked Sausage Alfredo The robust taste of Smoked Sausage is perfectly blended into a pasta of heavy cream, Cajun seasoning, and Parmesan cheese in this hearty 15-minute twist on a classic dish. Start...

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