Is Your Gluten-Free Tummy Tied in Knots?

Is your gluten-free tummy tied in knots? You’ve given up your favorite Hawaiian bread, yeast rolls, biscuits & gravy, cake, crackers and doughnuts, but your tummy still feels like it’s tied in knots. That doesn’t seem fair! What’s going on?
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Before you grab a doughnut while pondering this question, keep in mind that gluten is not the source of all abdominal pain – even for a person with Celiac Disease.

In December, I contracted rotavirus (don’t believe anyone who says adults don’t get it). After a couple of miserable rounds of it, I could finally get off the couch and eat! The problem was, my system could no longer break down many foods. Almost two months down the road, I still have to avoid nuts and seeds, raw greens, and beef unless it’s shredded. I am slowly improving, but still often one food choice away from significant pain.

I have a friend who spent the bulk of 3 months on the bathroom floor after gall bladder surgery. Removing the source of the problem did not mean an instant end to her tummy troubles. She followed her doctor’s dietary recommendations, but her system adjusted much more slowly than anticipated.

One of my former employees has Crohn’s Disease that caused significant pain before she began a monthly regimen of chemotherapy. Now she has few restrictions and little pain.

There are many other medical conditions that cause stomach and abdominal pain – Inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, hiatal hernia, ulcer, kidney stone, endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, appendicitis, bowel blockage, hepatitis, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), parasitic infection, and urinary tract infection.

Sometimes the aftermath of another condition causes the stomach lining to become inflamed or swollen causing gastritis that results in abdominal pain.

The point is, you can be getting healthier after removing gluten from your diet and still experience tummy pain. I know, that sucks. And it makes things confusing. It’s one of those unfortunate, frustrating possibilities.

Another possibility is that you have learned through traumatic experiences to reroute emotions like terror, rage, horror, or helplessness to portions of your body where you then experience those emotions as physical pain. Most of us have experienced a sinking feeling in our gut as a result of fear or stress. Imagine if you multiplied that feeling in intensity, duration, and/or repetitiveness. The resulting feeling could be that your tummy is tied in knots.

The original response to a stress may have been emotional, but the resulting response to similar situation becomes physical pain. Untangling the messages of somatic experience can take time. Sometimes it is difficult to determine the origin of physical pain.

I’m aware that I’ve shared lots of words with you that are not definitive for determining why your tummy is tied in knots. Hopefully, something you read here will give you a starting point for describing your pain to your physician or therapist.

In the meantime, if you have Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance, I encourage you to stay the course with your gluten-free regimen. You may be getting better even if your tummy is tied in knots.

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