Tag Archives: spring

Insomnia: A Sob Story (with Gluten?)

Yawwwwwwn. If I’ve seen you lately, I’ve probably graced you with one of those. It’s not that I’m bored or being rude. It’s just that sleep . . . hasn’t been happening lately.

I’ve written before about such light, possibly celiac-related topics as bloating and hair loss. After several low-sleep months, I felt it was time to address this new one. I’ve tried writing this post many times already but kept falling asleep in the middle of a

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just kidding. Honestly, if I could fall asleep so readily, I’d welcome it (and then complain about it). But, I can’t. So, with all of us alert, let’s talk insomnia.

In the past, I’ve occasionally gone up to a few days having trouble falling asleep. Lately, though, it’s been constant.

Insomnia, among other sleep disorders, is on the laundry list of conditions associated with celiac disease. Jane Anderson has written it up for About.com. That said, like bloating and hair loss, it’s also associated with a million other conditions and sometimes exists on its own. (The NIH can tell you all about it.)

So, where’d mine come from?

Because my insomnia started long after I went gluten-free, I have a feeling, for once, celiac’s not to blame. However, in the past, I did wonder if occasional insomnia meant I’d been glutened. (I’ve never “caught someone in the act” of glutening me, so it’s hard to be sure. Still, certain blech patterns appear.)

Thus, my first thought was: have I been eating something new and contaminated that I didn’t properly check? I don’t think so . . . though I did eat too much gluten-free junk this winter. A dietary spring cleaning is underway, and way needed.

Insomnia cookies

Not gluten-free. Probably for the best.
Photo © Robyn Lee | Flickr

My next thought was to blame a new medication. Insomnia’s not a known side effect, but I wouldn’t put it past my body to react in a unique, idiotic way. It’s slimly possible that the medication was contaminated; though I checked with the manufacturer, I received the standard “We can’t guarantee it” response, since they don’t test their final product. Having stopped taking it, I’m waiting for changes. So far, zilch.

Or maybe it’s stress? It is a possible trigger for roughly 75 percent of bad things. A colleague gave notice and I got promoted right around the time this started. Not bad, except that I feel even more buried than usual underneath a mound of work that never shrinks.

At night, as I try to make myself a willing vessel to oblivion, my mind jumps to multiple unchecked to-do list items. I’m not going to do any of them in the middle of the night, but I do shift position, refluff my pillow, and worry about it. (Mindfulness gurus would say to keep a notebook on my nightstand to jot these things down. Setting this up is something else I never manage to check off my list.)

Sprue Jr says labeling it “insomnia” is the problem: that by expecting it, I perpetuate it. But I disagree. It is . . . what it is. And insomnia by any other name would still suck.

While I’m not sure what is causing my insomnia, I can tell you one thing my insomnia has caused. Sleeplessness, you see, leads to bloglessness. For some time now, I’ve been down to one post a week. And it’s not for lack of ideas or time, I swear. It’s lack of sleep.

insomnia digital clock

Watching the clock is another insomnia no-no. Seriously. Don’t do it.
Photo © Fairy Heart | Flickr

Sleeplessness spawns laziness in more ways than one. It saps your energy, motivation, and attention. Sleep is incredibly (though still largely inexplicably) valuable to humankind’s ability to think, learn, and generally function.

Staying awake too late the night before encourages endless snoozing sessions (a horrible habit, and not actually restful at all, but tell that to my half-conscious brain) and skipped morning workouts. Bummer, because “regular exercise” is another top tip for insomnia prevention.

After feeling tired all day, it’s inescapably appealing to go to bed as early as possible. Plus, standard anti-insomnia advice preaches not to stare at backlit screens at night, so I’ve been trying to power down earlier, even if it means no post the next day—and even if I’m likely enough to simply lie in bed, unable to nod off, for hours, wishing I’d just stayed up to write.

Sluggishness and sleeplessness: two miserable conditions that reinforce one another nightly.

I’ve tried melatonin, chamomile tea, and valerian root, which I must tell you smells like death. None worked.

Still, I’m hopeful this’ll be the last time I complain to you about sleep. It’s spring: time for regeneration, spending time outdoors, being active, and maybe less stress at work. Somehow, I feel this must get better.

But for the time being, at least, my posts will continue to come about once a week, possibly sporadically, and I hope you’ll keep checking in despite that (subscribe, even—make my day!). At heart, this blog is about health; and right now, for me, that means getting back to zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz . . .

Do you struggle with insomnia, or have you ever? Does it seem to be linked to gluten? What works or doesn’t work for you? 

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Passover vs. Easter: A Gluten-Free Showdown

Much fuss is made about how gluten-free-friendly Passover is. Grain-free foods line the grocery shelves more at this than any other time of year. Macaroons and gluten-free matzo everywhere. It’s great.

But . . . the holiday story is all about bread. Sure, there’s some stuff about plague, tyrants, blood of lambs, eldest sons, escape from persecution, miraculous divisions of seas, and so forth, but at heart the holiday comes down to unleavened bread. And while, with its dry, crumbly, not-quite breadiness, matzo certainly calls to mind gluten-free bread, it does usually contain gluten—just no yeast, or enough time for gluten to do its thing (since, in the story, there was no time to wait for bread to rise before fleeing Egypt).

In fact, according to many authorities, matzo must be made from wheat, rye, barley, spelt, or oats, the “five grains” mentioned in the Torah, all of which contain gluten, besides oats (though that’s debatable). Some authorities don’t even believe gluten-free matzoh should be allowed at the Passover Seder! Not so friendly, after all.

Passover s'mores made with matzo

Pastel-colored matzo s’mores, though remarkable, are also not entirely canonical.
Photo © Jasmin Fine | Flickr

Easter, on the other hand—that’s a real gluten-free holiday, and I’ll tell you why: Jesus is well known to have been a big bread eater. He consumed so much of the stuff he actually considered his body to be made of it! The very night before his death, he broke bread with his disciples and told them he was giving it up. I won’t speculate on what symptoms may have led him to that decision, but no matter—it was too little, too late.

As the story goes, Jesus died because a bunch of angry people nailed him to a cross (and because it was foretold), not because he ate too much wheat. Fair. But then, after three days in a tomb with no bread, he regained his energy to the point that he actually came back to life! Miracle from god, or miraculous gluten detox?

Unfortunately, the moment the stone rolled back from his tomb, Jesus proved old habits die harder than deities’ sons. His proof to his disciples that it was really him, alive again, was, in fact, “in the breaking of the bread” (Luke 24:35).

the Last Supper - Jesus breaking the bread

“Don’t eat it, Jesus! The doctor said…!”
Sigh. No one ever listens to the apostles.
Photo courtesy Waiting for the Word | Flickr

Soon enough, all that bread weakened Jesus again, enough that he had to be carried up to heaven, where he planned to sit (at his father’s right hand) for eternity. That sounds like some serious fatigue!

So you see, though manufacturers may not exactly be rushing to produce egg- and bunny-shaped Easter treats on separate lines the way they’ve stepped up to the Kosher for Passover plate, the Easter story is way more sprue. And as celiac celebs go, it doesn’t get much better than Jesus.

Naturally, the entire argument falls apart if you consider that the Easter story contains a commandment to eat bread in memory, just like the Passover story, and how unlikely it is that God would have sent his only son to Earth and then saddled him with a not-yet-discovered autoimmune disease. Classic literary criticism.

By the way, for anyone wondering—based on my reduced posting of late—whether I too have died, fear not: I live, and my posts shall come again next week, provided neither the Old nor the New Testament God smites me for blaspheming first. I know what you’re thinking, so I’ll say it for you: hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah.

Regardless of which holiday you’re celebrating this year, I hope it’s a happy one! And if you’re celebrating neither, I’d wish you a happy spring, except that here in New York, it too seems to have died. Here’s hoping for a speedy resurrection.

happy Easter to our Christian friends, happy Passover to our Jewish friends, to our atheist friends...good luck

Thank you, Marsmettn Tallahassee of Flickr. You’re too kind.

For more blasphemy from me, read this oldie but goodie about sin. Alternatively, for more on why Passover actually is pretty cool for those with GRDs, try this article or this list of products to try, or just Google “Passover gluten-free,” because, seriously, the entire Internet has something to say about it. 

Do you stock up on Kosher for Passover gluten-free products? Will you be celebrating with friends or family this weekend? And what, in your opinion, is the best gluten-free holiday?

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Gluten-Free Astrology: Aries (born March 21 – April 19)

Photo © Jason Hill | Flickr

Photo © Jason Hill | Flickr

Yesterday was the first day of spring, and I totally missed out on marking it. Whoops! To demonstrate my awareness of the passing seasons, particularly at this time of new beginnings, I’m introducing a new monthly feature. That’s right, I’ve decided I’ve been at this Blogging Thing long enough to start having Features. I hope that you’ll find this only as presumptuous as unnecessary capital letters, and not more.

Now, for the preamble: there’s a hypothesis that celiac disease may be more common in those with spring and summer birthdays—especially spring. Yup, April baby showers bring May rice flour. The increased prevalence, so the hypothesis goes, has to do with the time of weaning (and, therefore, first gluten exposure) coinciding with the season of viral infections, which play a role in the development of some autoimmune diseases. For me, this brings a whole new meaning to family planning. If I’m ever in a position to conceive a child, I’ll be sure to do it in the spring. Or raise my child in a bubble, which just might be possible by the time I’m in a position to conceive a child.

But I digress. My point is, date of birth is a important piece of the celiac puzzle. And since we don’t know much of anything at all about non-celiac gluten-sensitivity, I’m happy enough to lump everyone in to the hypothesis and my New Feature. It’s called Gluten-Free Astrology and it will explain what else your date of birth means for your gluten-free status.

Photo © Manuel M. Almeida | Flickr

Aries’s symbol is the ram
Photo © Manuel M. Almeida | Flickr

Aries begins today, March 21st, and extends through April 19th. If your birthday falls in that span, here are my thoughts on what you can expect from the month ahead. (And by “my thoughts,” I of course mean “eternal and incontrovertible message from the stars.”)

The Gluten-Free Aries is ruled by the planet Mars, named for the god of war, aggression, and conflict. As a GF Aries, you likely have a conflicting relationship with your gluten-free diet and often argue with your doctors or yourself and lash out against others who question it.

You are a “me-first” type who should follow your natural impulse this month to put your gluten-free needs front and center in every encounter, whether it be at a friend’s home or at a restaurant, thereby increasing awareness for the rest of us. We will hope that a GF Libra, your polar opposite, comes along shortly thereafter to soothe any hurt feelings you may have caused, thereby increasing good will toward the rest of us.

However, this month you should also strive to overcome your innate tendency to be self-centered. One good way to do this, I’ve heard, is to comment on other people’s blogs, such as mine.

GF Aries stands for new beginningsoptimism, and change. This month, be open to new activities, friends, and channels for your boundless energy. You may find your life takes an unexpected direction (or you may not—this is astrology, after all). Perhaps your inborn desire to take the reins will encourage you to finally open your own business, and if so, I hope that it will be a gluten-free restaurant around the corner from my apartment.

Because of your extravagance, you may find yourself in debt this month of tax-paying, particularly if you’ve been pouring your extra money into that gluten-free restaurant. You’re a creative type who will always find your way out of such a bind, though, so please don’t let that stand in the way of your dreams. (Thai would be nice, or Mexican—hold the flour tortillas.)

The body part ruled by GF Aries is the head, so this month watch for migraines and facial injuries that may signal the start of a renewed battle with gluten.

And, if you’re interested in such things:

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou

A fellow celebrity with the sun in Aries is Maya Angelou. Though she has no trouble at all with gluten, so far as I’m aware, she’s still a great lady (and I turned up this great post about her from last year on Celiac and Allergy Adventures).

Russell Crowe

Russell Crowe

Russell Crowe is another celeb who apparently does fancy himself a GF Aries—though I think he did it to lose weight, and we all know that man does not lose by gluten-free bread alone. (Plus, the paparazzi caught him carrying a pizza—no, Russ, “thin crust” does not mean gluten-free.) Hey, no one ever said celebrities have to be good role models. (On that note, Hugh Hefner is also an Aries.)

As a GF Aries, you lack patience and therefore have probably not bothered to read to the end of this post. That’s okay, as long as you hit the part about the new restaurant you’re opening for me this month. Just let me know when you’re open—I may be a flighty GF Gemini, but I am committed to bringing my spring-birthday-and-therefore-celiac-having self in once you’ve got it together.

The “information,” such as it is, in this post has been largely ripped off from The Only Astrology Book You’ll Ever Need, by Joanna Martine Woolfolk, which is in fact the only astrology book you’ll ever need (need here being a relative term).

Let me know what you think of my New Feature, and what your sign is so I can get started consulting the stars about your destiny. 

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