Gigi Stewart, author of GlutenFreeGigi.com and guest blogger for Gluten Free Therapeutics.

Achieving optimal health for celiac patients may go beyond a gluten-free diet

Gluten Free Therapeutics is thrilled to welcome our newest guest blogger, Gigi Stewart, to the team. As Founder and CEO of Gluten Free Gigi, LLC, Gigi authors the popular website GlutenFreeGigi.com where she shares her signature “Smart Nutrition Backed by Science” insights and practical strategies about how anyone can transform their health via diet. Drawing from her professional background as a behavioral neuroscience researcher and her personal journey with Celiac disease and multiple food allergies, Gigi has a unique, fact-based approach to nutrition. Through her website, eNewsletter and gluten-free living magazine,Food Solutions, Gigi shows others how to keep gluten-free living simple, affordable, nutritious and fun! Knowing Gigi’s opinion on science-based nutrition, the team at GFT were thrilled when Gigi recommended Celi•Vites–in fact–it was the first supplement she has ever recommended to her readers. We couldn’t be more excited to welcome her unique voice and her approach to nutrition to the GFT team. Welcome Gigi!

Achieving optimal health for celiac patients may go beyond a gluten-free diet

By Gigi Stewart, contributing blogger

We often hear about what is healthy, nutritious or “good for us”. Maybe we even use these terms to refer to our own lifestyle  healthy livingnutritious eatingconsuming foods that are “good for us”  or in referring to a lifestyle to which we aspire. 

When we hear these terms, each of us has our own definition of what they mean.

That’s because healthy living is a unique concept for each individual. Nutrition, too, is very person-specific. And when it comes to eating foods that are “good for us”, that, too, must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

While science has shown us that more fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats are beneficial to overall health, and while our bodies are similarly designed, there are both external and internal factors that alter function, making what is “healthy” for each of us as unique as our own fingerprint.

Because our health the state of being free from disease or injury changes over time, our personal definition of healthy living does, too.

That is certainly the case in my life. Early on, family and friends labeled me a “health nut”. I discussed reducing the amount of additives in the diet, increasing the amount of locally-grown organic vegetables and fruits, and advocated natural, humanely grown meat and poultry long before any of those things were trendy. Optimal health was always important to me.

Sadly, for more than 25 years, I missed that mark.

All the healthy eating and exercise did not seem enough to save my body from chronic pain, frequent illness, severe anemia and a battered immune system.

Doctors were uncertain of the cause. Numerous tests revealed negative or inconclusive results. Tests were repeated. Pseudo-diagnoses were dispensed fibromyalgia, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Lyme disease, thyroid disease, hypoglycemia, and more.

As my pain increased, and my symptoms became more severe, I struggled to make sense of my “healthy” lifestyle. Why wasn’t it working for me? What was I doing wrong?

A believer that solutions lie within, I turned to myself, examining every aspect of my “healthy” regime there were very few processed foods, nothing difficult to digest, very pure ingredients, I was eating in-season, growing much of the fruits and vegetables I ate.

Over that 25-year period, I even spent eight years meat-free four years as a vegetarian and four as a vegan. I was willing to try anything for my health.

Because of this level of dedication to a healthy lifestyle, I could not understand why my body could not be healthy.

Eventually, I did find my answers and I attribute that to four defining events in my life.

 

4 Defining Events that Led to Optimal Health

Four events provided answers to health questions no physician was able to answer and subsequently shaped my philosophy of nutrition and healthy living, the one I stand behind and share with others today.

First, a series of 15 TIAs (transient ischemic attack, where blood flow to the brain ceases for a short time, causing symptoms of stroke) over a six-month period seemingly arrived from nowhere and had the best and brightest physicians baffled. This series of events also left me a near-invalid for the better part of a year. {Note: later, after I learned I have CD, I found research indicating TIAs and CD are related.}

Next, deciding to become a researcher in the field of neuroscience, specializing in chronic pain and analgesia led to my foray into natural products research, clearing a fresh path in my thinking about what goes into the body and how it affects each and every system. This training laid the foundation to my signature “Smart Nutrition Backed by Science” approach to gluten-free, allergen-free living.

The third defining event in my nutrition philosophy was going gluten-free at the urging of a long-time friend who happened to have Celiac disease (CD). He knew I had CD and he knew a gluten-free diet would reverse all the negative symptoms with which I lived for nearly three decades. As it turned out, my friend was correct. Three days after being on a completely gluten-free diet, I was pain-free. After seven years, I still marvel at this each day.

Of course, even after learning that I have CD and transforming my health via a whole-foods based gluten-free diet, there were health issues. They were serious and mysterious, nearly sending me into cardiac arrest one May afternoon in my backyard garden.

Fortunately, I had an informed physician who was very interested in research. After being rushed in and connected to various machines, he said, “Your anemia is out of control”.

Out of control was an understatement. I was told if my hemoglobin had been a half point lower, I would be dead. I was in the midst of a cardiac event and I was the healthiest person I knew. Or so it seemed.

Further testing revealed a genetic issue my bone marrow does not store iron. That means a constant influx of iron, in the right dosage for me, is a lifetime necessity. That meant a lifetime of iron supplementation.

So, the fourth defining event in my journey to optimal health was finding a physician willing to go the extra mile to determine the cause of my severe iron deficiency anemia (IDA) and my understanding that…

 

Sometimes We Need More than Food

While I am not an advocate of taking handfuls of vitamins and nutritional supplements at one’s own discretion, and I recommend having vitamin and mineral levels assessed by your physician, I do know, based on my personal experience, my professional background in natural products research and from current scientific research, that sometimes, food simply is not enough for our bodies to function as intended. 

The need for supplementation can be due to a genetic or health issue like mine described above, or due to other factors. For example, in those of us with CD, the lining of the small intestine is damaged, inhibiting nutrient absorption.

Many individuals with CD present with anemia, osteoporosis or other conditions resulting from nutrient deficiency. Once diagnosed, most are advised to add a quality supplement to their daily regimen to speed the healing process of the small intestine lining (which can take years, according to researchers) and to more quickly resolve other health issues due to the poor nutrient absorption.

Other factors, while they seem simple singularly, combined can significantly impact our nutrient intake. For example, eating foods grown in nutrient-depleted soils, consuming fruits and vegetables out of season when their nutrient levels are lowest, over-heating foods, digestive issues and stress are all factors that influence our nutrition.

If you feel you may be deficient in a particular nutrient(s), be sure to visit your health care provider and request blood tests to assess the levels of nutrients in question.

And, of course, continue to consume fresh, naturally gluten-free in-season fruits and vegetables along with plant- or animal-based lean protein and healthy fats as you journey along the path to optimal health!

Gigi is the creator of a publication, Food Solutions” for anyone living gluten free. Learn more about Gigi’s “Smart Nutrition Backed by Science” approach to special diets nutrition here. Connect with Gigi on FacebookTwitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

Comments ()

  1. Evon Burk says:

    Gigi, as always, you inspire me and many others I’m certain. I didn’t realize all of your struggles with your CD. So glad that you have taken such a pro-active role in helping others as myself. It’s a wonderful blog and you are one great writer! I wish you well in your future, your business and most of all your health! With much Admiration, Evon

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