Health & Wellness

Why I am gluten free series, Part One: The Panchakarma Impetus

If you have hung out with me the past three years, there’s a good chance you have learned that I’m gluten free.  It’s definitely not a choice; won’t get into what happens (although I usually tend to overshare… even during meals).

I thought I would get down on paper as to why I am GF though. After reading this, you may realize that you might be, too!

Many, many moons ago.

I literally fell asleep on an afternoon conference call after a sales rep brought in lasagna for lunch. My co-worker had to “ahem” and throw something at me (I believe he did; I was asleep at the time).  I used to say that eating bread, meat and cheese (so a sandwich… or lasagna) were like my kryptonite.  What I didn’t realize was that it was really the bread that was wiping me out. Ok, and the cheese. I’m lactose intolerant, too. (GF and LI tend to go hand in hand!)

If you ever feel sleepy after eating food, run away from it. This means that your body is using waaaaay too much energy to digest it because it’s having an epic battle in your stomach, even if you don’t have a tummy ache.  But did I run away from it? Not for a long time.

It wasn’t until I went to India (and why I went to India is another blog story unto itself), lived through the Panchakarma cleanse, and then almost died from eating Yak Lasagna (not yak meat, but yak cheese) (and ok, not maybe almost died, but I was definitely saved), did I start to think if I should stay away from the gluten and cheese entirely.

Let’s back up.

First, a Panchakarma cleanse? If you’d like to read more about the process, click here. But my TL;DR version is: Seven-day cleanse where you drink ghee in tulsi tea, get sesame oil massages almost every day (not Swedish… abhyanga), every orifice gets cleaned out (EVERY orifice), and you also sit a lot in a wooden sauna with your head sticking out. You can only eat fruit for breakfast, and eat whatever the Ashram provides for lunch and dinner.  And no meat or booze (those are banned in Rishikesh anyway).

But after doing the cleanse, we celebrated by eating at one of the local establishments. And I had to try the Yak Lasagna. #fail

My body was brand new again, so at that moment I learned my body didn’t have the enzymes to break down tomato sauce. After dinner, I thought I was suffering from heartburn instead of the gaseous fumes generating from my stomach being a compost heap and took one of the Bestie’s Tums. #mistake

I killed my peristalsis. And, as what happens when there is no enzyme production in one’s stomach, the noodles and the cheese didn’t digest properly. My stomach dumped the cheese and noodles too soon to get the lactose-filled cheese out of its chamber and then my intestines inflamed from the gluten. And so a large ball of yak lasagna got stuck at the left crook of my lower abdomen.

But I didn’t realize that until after I spent the next day being incredibly uncomfortable with my stomach expanding with gaseous toxins. It hurt to have pants on. Luckily, I was in a sari that evening, but that probably was why I could let the pain ride for longer than if pants happened. (Pic below was the day after I ate Yak Lasagna.)

Our guide had to give me a tummy rub to literally move the tight death ball around my intestinal track. I will not share what happened the next morning.

All the way back to Delhi I felt like a crumb of a person. I wasn’t allowed any dairy or bread. And my food had to be really spicy.

I bought a book a few days prior: “Ayurveda, The Science of Self-Healing,” by Dr. Vasant Lad. I had started to get curious about this ancient “let food be thy medicine” practice and I learned I was a particular Dosha that naturally didn’t have the enzymes to break down “cool” food. And after my “yak incident,” I went ahead and read the entire book on my way home (two nine-hour flights allowed me to go through each chapter twice and compare my Dosha to the Bestie’s).

And we have both been learning more about it ever since.

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