Gluten Free Diet for Chronic Fatigue

I’ve been eating on and off gluten free for about 2 years. It wasn’t when I stopped eating gluten that I noticed the biggest difference, but when I reintroduced gluten after not eating it for several months. When I woke up the next morning my muscles were stiff and sore and I felt bloated and slow. Had gluten been doing this to me all along? My gluten elimination coincided with a lot of other healthy diet moves, and I certainly felt better after it, but with gluten free diets being all the fad, and books like “wheat belly” making best seller lists; I often wonder how much effect gluten really has on us who are non-celiac gluten sensitive.

What I find most interesting, is that when I am feeling healthy and happy, eating a bit of gluten doesn’t have too much of an effect on me, but when I am already feeling over-tired or stressed out just a small amount of soy sauce or a sneaky bite of cake can make me feel terrible. While I have not been diagnosed with Celiac, only gluten intolerance, I have heard similar stories from those with Celiac.

Despite gluten free diets becoming more popular and thus creating a wealth of gluten free products, I often find it hard to eat well gluten free. Most gluten free breads and cakes are full of sugar, and much denser than your average piece of bread or cake. Further, it can be hard to get enough fiber and other nutrients without eating wheat, thus making it harder to feel full. My usual plan is to just cut out any ‘typical’ gluten foods, and opt for other grains like rice, corn, quinoa, and oats. But, especially eating out, it can prove more of a challenge to get a fully nutritious meal (ie. I can’t just make a vegetable sandwich and be done with it).

Why does gluten intolerance seem to be so common in CFS patients? Is it just something we are advised to try out and end up sticking to? Or is there a strong relation between the two?

I talked about general sensitivity in this post here and I suspect this may have something to do with it. I think it is the same reason that so many people with CFS and fibromyalgia find so much success with yoga and meditation. We are constantly overstimulated by our environments; what we eat, what we see, what we hear, what we breathe, and who we interact with. The same traits that help us sink a little deeper into a metta meditation than our friends, are the same traits that make us more likely to be gluten, or lactose intolerant. The good news is (not that eating gluten free is that terrible a fate) many people grow out of their food intolerance’s and sensitivities.  I hope that cutting out food groups, is something we need to do to heal a part of ourselves: our digestive system, and that once we are functioning more highly, processing different foods will be easier. However, I also think that as a society in general, we tend to mix too many foods together, eat too fast, and not very mindfully. We don’t digest very well as a group. So maybe it’s best to stick to simple and easy to digest meals- certainly during healing- but maybe in the long run as well.

Do you eat gluten free? What are your thoughts on gluten sensitivity? What foods do you miss the most?


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14 thoughts on “Gluten Free Diet for Chronic Fatigue

  1. Loved this and totally agreed with all that you said. I eat paleo, with slight tweaks for my body, and it’s completely transformed so many symptoms. I liked the bit about the sensitivity that makes us gluten intolerant also allows us to go deeper and connect more deeply with our surroundings – I find that with feelings too. I’m so mighty sensitive to feeling pain or grief or hurt, and the feelings come full force I’m often literally brought to my knees, but I feel beauty and joy sooo much more deeply and easily too. Simply just with nature or little things. And, my latest project is really really listening to my intuition and trusting it. HSP often have incredibly high intuition too, and I have SUCH strong physical reactions if I ignore my instinct, it’s intense. But slowly, slowly, I’m beginning to trust people who say its a gift, you just have to learn how to use it. Same goes for the other sensitivities too. Love!

    • I’ve heard a lot about paleo but haven’t given it a try yet! Think I will have to one day soon though. Being sensitive is definitely a mixed bag. I struggle watching the news because it is always so depressing, but hearing happy stories can affect me just as deeply. Sadly, being more sensitive tends to be viewed as being ‘weak’, but once you realize that is complete bollocks it can make events and relationships much more meaningful!

    • I’m right there with you. I’m mostly Paleo because it’s just so much simpler than trying to replace the foods I used to eat with their gluten-free subs. I try to treat the GF replacement items as a “treat” and have them just when I’m really craving them.

  2. Yes, wheat, barley and rye cause me problems but I’m ok with oats. I agree with avoiding gluten-free versions of things because of the sugar and also the preservatives and additives (plus they are so expensive). There is a great cafe near me where the chef is gluten intolerant so there is always a good selection of things I can eat, including cake!

    • I’ve basically found the same thing. I can’t do most grains as they bloat me. The only rice I can eat even in moderation is whatever rice PF Changs uses for their GF fried rice. I’m lucky that we now have a bakery locally that is totally gluten-free with many Paleo items. I try to avoid them to some degree though because I don’t need all those carbs and the replacement grains typically don’t digest well for me. She does make a few Paleo items that I really enjoy but it can get really expensive. Typically, at home I just stick with the basics, meat, veggies and fruit. I also juice a lot.

  3. I have tried to be gluten free and wheat free twice now and unfortunately both times have coincided with a relapse so I’ve been unable to carry on with it — I may try again when I’m much improved.

  4. Yep, I’m finding that not eating gluten is really helping my tummy. It’s a chicken or egg question – are we supersensitive, and then get over stimulated and intolerant, or is it the immune system going nutso (that’s a medical term, folks!) that makes us react to everything…
    And yes, eating both gluten and sugar free means making EVERYTHING from scratch…

  5. I’m gluten-free. I think it was easier for me because I’m a chronic low carb dieter (not lately but it’s been gluten-free all the same ;)). I initially discovered a difference the same way you did, by adding it back in. It took me a while but I did finally realize that in addition to contributing to my pain it was the culprit behind my daily GI issues. It is what causes my eczema to exacerbate, it causes the horrible bloating you describe, and worse.

    My first thought is that gluten has inflammatory properties and that is what was causing my problem but I’ve also read that because of genetic engineering that some wheat has 50% more gluten in it…..could that be the culprit? I don’t know, I do know that if I eat anything with gluten in it, I feel horrible soon after and so I don’t.

    I really miss it sometimes. 🙂

    • That’s really interesting- I hadn’t heard that before! That could certainly account for the recent rise in celiac and gluten intolerance. I miss it too! Not so much at home, but when going out with friends. The worst is when everyone is starving, and they helpfully but a fresh basket of bread on the table for you. Watching all your friends greedily eat away while you mus silently wait for your main course is the worst!

      • Yes, as plant scientists work on wheat breeds, they test the “stretchiness” in lab, the “stretchier” the better. The stretch comes from the gluten, so they are breeding wheat with more gluten to make bread fluffier. This is all wheat, not just the GM.

        Yesterday I was sniffing the bread, instead of eating, waiting for my food to arrive!

  6. I’m both gluten and dairy intolerant. Both of these increase my fatigue and cause stomach issues and an almost immediate rash in my elbows. I mostly miss home made products like puddings and calzones.
    I agree with difficulty getting food out and waiting while others are eating the bread.
    I do think it’s an inflammatory factor in gluten products.

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