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Understanding the invisibly wounded soldier

On November 11 we observe Remembrance Day in Canada. In other countries it is known as Armistice Day. It commemorates the signing of the agreement that ended the First World War at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. That was supposed to be the “war to end all wars” and of course we know it wasn’t. Sadly there has been another World War and there have been many other conflicts in Korea, Eastern Europe, Afghanistan, the Middle East, and many other parts of the world. Too many young men and women have died; many more have been injured physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. They are still suffering with those invisible wounds, the ones that have gone by different names and most recently known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Too many have taken their own lives because they couldn’t bear the pain any longer.

Just before Remembrance Day in 2017 I had the honour to speak with a former member of Canada’s military Andrew Godin about his PTSD.  He told me that although things are getting better, there is still a long way to go to get soldiers the help they need. 

 From my conversation with Andrew I wrote an article for The Napanee Guide that I hope will help people to better understand the invisibly wounded soldier. Here is that article:

The Invisible Soldier: Many veterans living with the invisible wound, PTSD.

Published November 9, 2017: Napanee Guide, Postmedia Network

Napanee resident Andrew Godin was officially released from the Canadian military in 2006 but he lived with his invisible wounds from his years of service starting in 2003, and he still lives with those wounds. Godin, like many veterans, lives with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and by telling his story, he hopes he helps others living with it too.

“We are getting better at getting over the hurdle of talking about PTSD, and treatments are getting better too, but there is a lot of work to do, and some men and women will still not talk about it, because they don’t want to jeopardize their careers,” Godin said.

After his diagnosis, he said that he was offered a very different job than the one he’d had as the Office Production Manager and Warrant Officer with the Mapping and Charting division—a new job that he felt he could not do. So he opted to leave the military, and still holds some resentment against those who were not willing to help him continue with the job he loved.

“I was dead to them, and after 20 years of service, it was a difficult decision to leave, but I was being ‘retired’ to this other job very fast, and I couldn’t do it.”

Godin said that he thinks there is still a lack of education and understanding about PTSD and how it affects people. He added that things are a lot better now, but there are things to work on: one of them being a better level of health services and consistency of services.

“There have been some services available in the past that are no longer available, because many thought, or think, the problem is over, that we’ve dealt with it, so it’s time to move on,” Godin said. “Changes to the Veterans Charter [where vets get a lump sum payment rather than a monthly pension] does not work for people with PTSD.”

Godin explained that some choose to self-medicate the symptoms of PTSD—sleeplessness, anxiety, depression, mood swings, etc. with alcohol or drugs, and they become addicts. They need something to kill the pain. When they have access to a lot of money, they are not capable of making rational judgement as to the wise use of those funds, and soon burn through them. Some sufferers with PTSD get to the point where they cannot cope anymore, or they can’t wait for treatment, and they commit suicide.

“It’s not the PTSD that gets you—it’s the other stuff related to it. I know more people who’ve died by their own hands than were killed in rotation. They were just tired of fighting every day. I know families that have been devastated by PTSD, and its effects,” Godin said.

“There is still a real lack of help for family members dealing with a spouse or family member with PTSD.

They unfortunately bear the brunt of the disease and become the front line support for these people and they neither have the support, resources or expertise in which to do so. I’m lucky to have the support of my wife, but I’m also not going to let this [PTSD] get me, so I’m still fighting every day.”

Godin said he doesn’t know how we have the conversation to talk about this invisible wound that no one really wants to talk about, or deal with. Veterans groups have started their own support groups, and being able to get together with friends at the Legion branch helps.

“It’s hard because everyone is off on their own agenda, and there are not enough resources—money or people—to help,” he said. “This isn’t limited to the military; it’s widespread that mental illnesses are not as well serviced as some physical ones, but we [the military] have to keep our eye on the target: doing a better job of helping our men and women who are dealing with this.”

Some programs that are helping offer veterans the opportunity to play golf, go horseback riding, or enjoy other sports. Their teammates are all veterans, so they have some shared experiences.  Some of these programs are privately funded; others funded through Legion branches. Currently there aren’t any of these programs in this area, but that could change. The Invictus Games that were held in Toronto had many participants who are living with PTSD, as well as those who’ve been physically injured. Godin said this recognition of the physical and mental illnesses that soldiers deal with helped bring the PTSD to the forefront. He added that he hopes that when people are thinking of veterans on Remembrance Day, they will not only honour the war dead, but honour the living too—especially those living with the invisible wound of PTSD.

“Something like the Invictus Games is great because it gave people a new purpose; a new focus, and it brought attention to the strength that soldiers have—the physical and mental toughness. So that’s a positive change for the future. We’ve come a long way, but there’s still a long way to go.”

 

 

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My Eccentric Journey

Depending on how you pronounce it, the word “eccentric” has two meanings. I’ll let  you look it up, but you are either talking about a weird or off-beat character or characteristic, or you are talking about a type of movement. While either definition may be applicable to me, the  latter definitely is.  I am starting on a journey to become certified to teach Essentrics®. This is a fitness program designed to rebalance every part of the body through simultaneous stretching and strengthening of all 650 muscles. I’ll bet you didn’t know that you had that many muscles!  The program name uses the “soft c” pronunciation, with a different spelling: Essentrics®–tweaked by using part of the creator’s name: Miranda Esmonde White. Miranda is a former member of the National Ballet of Canada, and since developing this program, she has become a TV personality, author, much-sought after speaker, and of course, she is still teaching.

Miranda Esmonde White    

I’ve been following Miranda’s PBS program “Classical Stretch” for many years, and in the past five years, I’ve seen it change and become more popular. The PBS program seems to be geared more to Baby Boomers, but younger generations wanted this type of strength and stretch program, but maybe with a different name.  Miranda has written two books, and she and her team of instructors, which includes her daughter Sahra, have produced a number of DVDs and mini-videos, which are all available through the website.

Here is Sahra in an Introduction to Essentrics video:

I’ve introduced this program to friends, and now I’ve decided I will become a Level 1 Certified Essentrics® Instructor.  For now, I am an Apprentice Instructor. That’s where the “weird” or “offbeat” part of “eccentric” comes in.  If you’ve been following this blog, you know I have an eccentric form of humour. Telling myself that I could become a fitness instructor at age 65 might be the funniest joke yet. Yet, here’s the thing: I already have the support of family, friends,  a great group of Essentrics® instructors, and the Essentrics® training team, so I will do this. No joke.

This blog will become, in part, a record of this journey, which is just beginning. As with any journey, there will be bumps along the way, and there have already been some detours and delays. There is a lot of material for me to learn, and I have to [gasp] be filmed while teaching a class as part of my certification exam.

So why do this, and why now?

I love doing the exercises as they are a perfect antidote for my chronic pain and fatigue from fibromyalgia.  But who likes to work out alone? By becoming an instructor, I hope I will be able to help friends, family, and others improve their health by improving their posture, reduce or eliminate any pain they may have, tone their muscles, perhaps lose weight, and add an overall enjoyment to their life.  There are so many benefits to this program, which I hope they’ll appreciate and  understand from my teaching. At the very least, I’ll have company for my workouts! With the “milestone” birthday, I thought a new challenge was in order. I also want to, as Miranda and many others are  clearly doing, “age backwards.” (I think she’s 67, and I know there are many people,  including other instructors, who are doing this program well into their 70s and 80s, and beyond.)

Please join me on this eccentric/Essentrics® journey. I know it won’t be easy, but there will be some fun along the way. Who knows? Once I get my certification, you might like me to teach you!  So stay tuned.

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You Say You Want a Resolution?

Years ago, John Lennon sang “You say you want a revolution?” Well, as I’m prone to do, I’m playing with those words making this  “You say want a resolution”—referring of course to New Year’s Resolutions. Some people will say, “oh I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions,” but I think they’re lying. How can you not think about looking ahead to the new year with a resolve to make it better than the one just ended? Even if 2009 was a great year for you, there’s always room for improvement isn’t there?

Since everyone’s doing their “Best of…” or “Top…” lists, I thought I might as well join in the fun. Here are some thoughts on three of the most popular resolutions:

Popular Resolution #1: Lose weight. How many of us have, or have had this as one of our top New Year’s Resolutions? I don’t anymore, but did for many years. Obviously, if I had to repeat it, I didn’t do very well at keeping it. So, while I don’t resolve to lose a specific amount of weight, I do want to keep improving my health, and that’s bound to lead to some weight loss. The trick will be to have it happen while I’m not thinking about it. By choosing foods that are better for my body, and having a daily regimen of some kind of exercise, I am bound to be healthier, and perhaps get back into those skinny black jeans hanging in my closet.

I still follow some of the practices I learned when I was working with a  Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner in 2009 and 2010. I have a chart on my office wall called  “A Guide To The Energetics Of Food” that divides foods into categories such as meats, grains, vegetables, herbs, nuts and seeds, fish, fruit, etc., and then charts what effects these will have on your body.  There are also notes on qi (pronounced chee), blood, yin and yang, tonifying and regulating foods.Copies of the chart, and other related books are available from the Redwing Book Company. I will be referring to the chart more often as I try to get, or keep, my life in better balance.

Chocolate isn’t on the chart, but hey, as I hope you’ve realized, and as my friend Doreen Pendgracs, author of Chocolatour: A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate, always says: a day without chocolate is like a day without sunshine. I think we need plenty of both, especially during Canadian winters. So, ok, I do more exercise. (see below), and I am pretty careful with my diet, but as my dad used to say, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”

Diet is only one part of a healthier lifestyle. Exercise, which to me is essential for losing weight, is also a key factor, which is why it is a popular resolution.

Popular Resolution #2:  Get More Exercise This is one I plan to keep, not only for this year, but every year. I picked up my walking two years ago, and now have a Nordic Pole Walking Group that I meet with every week–twice a week in the nice weather. Using Nordic Poles makes a walk into a workout as you are using 90 percent of your muscles. The poles also help with stability and balance. I find they take pressure off of my joints, which makes the walk more enjoyable too. Here’s a link to an article  I wrote for a website called Parks Blogger Ontario about Nordic Walking, and one of my favourite places to walk: the Dunes Trail at Sandbanks Provincial Park, near Picton, Ontario.

Here’s a photo of some of our group at Sandbanks in November 2015:

nordic-walking-at-sandbanks-dunes-trail-200x150

In addition to the walking I also do something I call “Dynamic Stretching.” The exercises are based on a program called Essentrics, which was developed my Miranda Esmond-White. She has been teaching this program for many years and has a popular PBS program called Classical Stretch. I have some of Miranda’s DVDs, and one featuring her daughter Sahra. I regularly follow the website, where she posts mini-workouts. Those are great to do while I’m at my desk. As I often stand at my desk, I already have a nice pad to stand on for the exercises. I have Miranda’s first book, Aging Backwards, which features all of her Essentrics exercises, and I am looking forward to getting her newest book, Forever Painless. 

These exercises are gentle, and yet when you do them for 20 or 30 minutes, you know you have worked all of your muscles. My goal is to do at least that much every day, but I won’t call it a resolution.

Popular Resolution#3 : Quit Smoking. I smoked for a very short time when I was 16 years old, but it never became a habit. I really didn’t like the smell or taste, and more importantly to me, I had better things to do with my money.  Both of my parents smoked, and most of my relatives smoked too.  Some of them still do, in spite of the fact that heart disease and stroke, two illnesses that have been linked to smoking, have caused many premature deaths in our family. My mother died in 2000 [at the age of 68] of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), directly linked to her smoking. She’d had two strokes and many mini-strokes in the three years before she died. Her doctor advised that she quit smoking while she still had a chance to beat the COPD—advice she didn’t take. I think her philosophy was that she was here for a good time, not a long time (as the song goes). I’d like to be here for a long time, and have a good time.

It saddens me how much of our lives and her grandchildren’s lives, including their graduations, weddings, and now their children, that my mother has missed.  I’m happy to say that my Dad quit smoking when he was 60 and I believe that added years to his life. I am so happy that he was in our life for another 25 years. He died in May 2016 from congestive heart failure and kidney disease related to his long-term diabetes. His doctors were amazed how long he’d live with the illness, and how well he’d managed it. He said he never regretted quitting smoking.

So it is possible, but I know it’s hard to do.  More information and help is available from your local health unit or the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada . The tobacco companies have continuously made their product more addictive, so this is likely the hardest thing you’ll do, but your friends and family, especially your children and grandchildren, will thank you.

Of course, there are other resolutions that people make, but these are the ones that seem to top the list, and it’s no surprise they are all related to health. I figured out a long time ago that if you don’t have your health, it really doesn’t matter what else you have, or want, because you can’t enjoy it, or do it well.

I’m making plans for, and hope that I will be more productive with work, make more money doing what I love to do—write and teach—and do more travelling. All of those things will add up to a pretty terrific year. But I’ll settle for just being healthier. The rest will follow.

I wish you all a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year, and I’d love to hear about your resolutions, and whether you make them now or not.

Updated from December 31, 2009

Bigger, Brighter—and Better!

Bigger, Brighter—and Better!

Posted April 22, 2015

 

My third time visiting the Yoga Conference and Show was, as I predicted in my last post, definitely the charm. This year’s show, held April 9-12, 2015, was bigger, brighter, and …better.

From the moment I stepped into the halls booked for the show at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, I was impressed with the different layout, which was more spacious than in previous years. There also seemed to be a more positive energy, which you “yoga people” will understand, but one that’s difficult to put into words. The room seemed brighter too. Maybe it was because of the larger space.

The energy was evident in the Yoga Garden where continuous classes were offered, and I enjoyed doing some Pilates. (Yes, it’s called the Yoga Show, but many studios offer Pilates, and other movement therapy, which is all part of the show.) This was a chance to try a new movement style, or experience it in a new way with the addition of a prop. The Garden was definitely bigger so we all had more room to move.

“Ecstatic!” That was how Amanda Bond, the public relations director for Yoga Conference and Show summed up her feelings about this year’s event. Attendance was up—approximately 24,000 over the three days, almost 3,000 more than last year. There were more exhibitors—290 this year, 250 last year; and the feedback coming in, especially on the show’s Facebook page, has been very positive.

No wonder she was so excited when I chatted with Amanda a few days after the show. She told me that things would continue to grow every year and get better. Plans are already underway for next year.

“We’ll be at the Convention Centre and since we expanded our space this year, and plan to do so again next year, as that seems to make a lot of difference to our exhibitors. Everyone had more room to engage with visitors to their booths, and that seemed to lead to more discussion—and more sales, which of course made everyone happy.”

With the focus on health and wellness, the exhibitors offered a variety of products and services. What struck me more so this year was a lack of duplication. While there were some exhibitors offering similar products, there was still a bit of difference between them, giving visitors a lot of choice. There were familiar faces among the exhibitors and some newcomers. While you were certainly encouraged to buy from these vendors, and there was some pressure to do so, it wasn’t a high-pressure sales event as some trade shows become. Perhaps it was the larger space—visitors didn’t seem to feel rushed to move on to the next booth to make room for more visitors.

The trade show is, of course, a large part of the event, but it is the Yoga Conference that sets this show apart from others, according to Amanda.

“What we’ve been hearing is that the workshops we offer—everything from a two-hour to a full-day session with one of 60 international faculty—really add value to the show.” “Rather than these yoga practitioners having to go to see the faculty, they came to us, and there were opportunities to work one-on-one with them during the workshops, which everyone enjoyed.”

Sharing the day with my friend Lillie, who hadn’t attended a show before, was wonderful as I was trying to see it all for the first time as she was. Lillie shared her thoughts on the show on her blog.

As I only attended the event for one day, I didn’t take part in any workshops, but I will give serious consideration to doing so next year, which will mean that I will attend the 2016 Toronto Yoga Conference and Show for more than one day in order to take it all in. Lillie and I commented that you really do need more than one day to really enjoy all that is offered.

In a coming post I will give you more specific impressions about some of the exhibitors and faculty I was able to meet or talk to. The 2015 show was definitely Bigger, Brighter and …Better this year. I look forward to next year, already scheduled for March 31 to April 3, 2016.

I hope to once again attend with a friend, or perhaps a group of friends, as the experience is so much richer when shared. Amanda alluded to that in her comments about the sharing among the yoga community, which is a good wrap-up for this post.

“The Yoga Conference and Show brings so many people together, who are going deeper in their personal yoga practice combined with other core elements of spirituality and personal development. In the future, we will continue to focus on our brand and keep developing the Conference and Show portion to serve the needs of our community. By creating human connections, one-on-one, between Faculty, workshop attendees and other participants, our event offers something currently unprecedented in North America.”

 

 

 

 

 

Terry Fox’s Legacy of Hope lives on

On April 12, 1980, Terry Fox dipped his artificial leg into the Atlantic Ocean and began his Marathon of Hope from St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Two years later, pop star Michael Jackson released Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’, which Terry Fox definitely had. The lyrics of the chorus say it all. Terry ran—through rain, snow, and wind, up and down hills, and around obstacles—and he did it all with humour and hope even though his pain was “thunder.”

I Said You Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’
You Got To Be Startin’ Somethin’
I Said You Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’
You Got To Be Startin’ Somethin’
It’s Too High To Get Over (Yeah, Yeah)
Too Low To Get Under (Yeah, Yeah)
You’re Stuck In The Middle (Yeah, Yeah)
And The Pain Is Thunder (Yeah, Yeah)

(Video of “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” done by the cast of “Glee.” I like this version better than the videos I found of MJ.)

I’ve driven across Canada, and while you may not always be aware of them, there are some mighty hills in Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Quebec and Ontario, especially Northern Ontario. I cannot imagine tackling those on foot!

terry fox 2

To say that Terry was an inspiration is a huge understatement. A telethon held in his honour just after his death raised $10.5 million. The annual Terry Fox Run, started in September 1981, and other events held in Terry’s honour worldwide, have raised more than $700 million to continue fighting cancer. The cancer that originally befell Terry is now curable, according to researchers, and that’s thanks to funds received from the Terry Fox Foundation.

terry fox 3

There were many tears when Terry died, but as you’ll see in this clip, he left people with a sense of pride and hope too. Flags on federal and provincial government buildings flew at half-mast the week he died, an honour usually reserved for politicians and other dignitaries. Terry was a dignitary—having become the youngest person to be named to the Order of Canada. A stamp was also issued in his honour.

Terry’s plan was to run across Canada at a pace of approximately 50 km—yes, 50 km a day! and reach British Columbia, where he would dip his leg into the Pacific Ocean, in about four or five months. There were many days that he ran at least 42 km—that’s a full marathon! As we know, he had to give up his dream after 143 days running 5, 373 kilometres. While he may not have made it to BC, that distance is pretty close to the breadth of the country. I know because my husband cycled from Victoria, BC to Victoria, PEI, a distance of almost 5,500 km in 2005.

So yes, Terry, you did run across Canada!

In September 1980 Terry returned home to receive treatment for the cancer that had now invaded his lungs. That continued for the next nine months, but he couldn’t outrun the cancer anymore. Terry Fox died on June 28, 1981, one month before his 23rd birthday.

Terry’s initial goal when he started was to raise $10,000 for cancer research. When he reached Port Aux Basques, Newfoundland, he found out they’d raised his $10,000—one dollar for each citizen in town. Terry set his sights higher–$24.17 million—one dollar for every Canadian citizen—matching the population of the country at the time.

Now there’s a new goal: to raise $35 million for cancer research with the Terry Fox events—once again matching the country’s population.

While April is “designated” as the month to usually raise funds for cancer research, September is also an important time. The 35th Anniversary of the Terry Fox Run is set for September 20. There will be events across the country around that same time. Let’s remember Terry, and his family—and their courage.

This is what Terry said shortly before he died,

“Maybe now instead of being afraid and saying ‘Look how hard Terry tried and he still got cancer,’ instead people will say ‘look at the effort he put in and he died of cancer — we’re really going to have to try hard in order to beat it, harder than we ever have before.'”

Terry definitely started something. He would have been the first to run across Canada using an artificial leg. He inspired Steve Fonyo and Rick Hansen on their journeys. Terry’s shy smile, humbleness, and hop-along gait endeared him to everyone he met, and everyone who watched him.

Let’s start planning now to make the 35th anniversary event the biggest, and best one ever. Terry got the Marathon of Hope started, and he’s left a Legacy of Hope. It’s up to us to keep it going.

He deserves no less.

terry foxAll images courtesy of Terry Fox Foundation images page.

 

 

 

Third Time Charm at the Toronto Yoga Show

It started two years ago with my introduction to The Three Minute Egg. Now it will be a “third time charm” attending the Toronto Yoga Show and Conference.

namast-eggImage courtesy of 3ME Canada (Trillium Connection)

The Canadian distributor, Samara Zoetmulder, owner of Trillium Connection,  kindly sent me a set of the Namast-Eggs, pictured above.  She had been introduced to the Eggs at the Toronto Yoga Show and Conference in 2012 and was immediately hooked on the beauty of these yoga props. After using the Eggs, and attending the 2013 show to meet Samara, I was also hooked.

It might have been seeing this restorative pose, using the Three Minute Eggs.

restorative pose, SamaraImage courtesy of 3ME Canada (Trillium Connection)

I was also hooked on the Yoga show. This year’s show and conference, in the North Building of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, begins on Thursday, April 9, and runs until Sunday, April 12.  You can check out the full schedule here.

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, you’ll be sure to notice the Yoga Garden Area, where there’ll be continuous demonstrations for participants to join. There is something almost empowering to be with a group of more than 100 yogis. Even if you choose not to participate, it’s a wonder to watch. There is also the Cultural Arts Area where there are presentations on the various aspects of yoga.

Organizers describe the show as “A 3-day urban yoga retreat designed to galvanize, grow, educate and inspire your practice.” Some of the conference sessions are geared more towards yoga teachers than the “average” practitioner, but there is definitely something for everyone.

With more than 300 workshops, 60 master instructors, and 250 exhibitors, how could there not be something that will appeal to you?

In between or after the sessions, you can grab some lunch or dinner provided by one of the food vendors. Or you can explore the area after the show and visit one of many local restaurants.

I have to thank Samara for her generosity introducing me to the Three Minute Eggs. I use them frequently as they are extremely versatile—not only for yoga, but for Pilates, and stretching.

It will be a “third time charm” visit at the Toronto Yoga Show and Conference. You might even see me in the Garden trying out a new pose or prop.

The Toronto Yoga Show – 2015

“Spend time shopping amongst 250+ conscious minded organizations and companies offering products and services inline with your mindful attitudes. Participate in over 60 hours of Yoga, Cultural Arts and Lectures.”

 HOURS:

Friday, April 10, 2015 • 10:00 am – 8:00 pm

Saturday, April 11, 2015 • 10:00 am – 8:00 pm

Sunday, April 12, 2015 • 10:00 am – 6:00 pm

 LOCATION:

Metro Toronto Convention Centre, North Building
255 Front Street West, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

 ADMISSION and TICKET PURCHASE:

Show Floor Admission is $15 for ALL 3 days April 10-12, 2015

(Workshops are not included in this. See the website for more details)

$15 Show Floor Tickets can be purchased on site or online

Full details here

Living Well with “Gluten Freedom”

The Background Story:

There is no denying that the term “gluten free” can evoke very interesting, and sometimes combative, discussions. There are those who will insist that only those diagnosed with Celiac Disease (CD)—a relatively small percentage of the population—need to follow a gluten-free diet. That is difficult for the millions of others who will insist that they are healthier, both physically and mentally, by cutting gluten from their diet. I am one of them.

After a process of trial and error, and a lengthy “elimination diet” I cut out gluten-containing foods several years ago. Therefore I cannot go for a test that would definitively determine whether I have celiac disease but health professionals and I agree that I am likely Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitive (NCGS), and following a gluten-free diet has made an improvement in my health. I am always looking for ways to continue this healthful journey.

I’d read a review of Gluten Freedom by Dr. Alessio Fasano on the blog, The Patient Celiac,  and wanted to read it myself. While I was certainly aware that there was a “bandwagon” that many people have jumped on, this is not the situation for me. I’ve made changes to my diet before to help improve my health, and I never did so without doing some research. Changing to the gluten-free diet was no different. I researched it well before making the change, and I continue to read a great deal about all of this. So I was happy to receive this book.

The Book:

Gluten Freedom

Fasano, Alessio M.D. with Susie Flaherty

Wiley General Trade (Turner) 2014

ISBN 978-1-118-42310-3 (hardback)

312 pp

Gluten FreedomImage found on amazon.ca

 The Review

Gluten Freedom is divided into four sections, taking you from looking how gluten entered the world to looking towards the future with new therapies and new treatments that might make it easier for us to live gluten-free, and maybe even are able to better tolerate gluten. The layout of the book also allows you to choose where to start, depending on where you are in your life.

I started with the chapter Gluten in Your Golden Years, because I was in my 50s before I was diagnosed. I don’t know if your 50s are considered your “golden years”, but that seemed like a good place to start.  It was interesting for me to learn that while Celiac Disease is often diagnosed as a paediatric condition, it can come on later in life. Or, it may be that while the disease actually never goes away, the condition can improve due to diet changes—and then come back if those diet changes are not made permanent. It was also good to read stories from others who had a later-life diagnosis.

The personal stories are a definite asset to the book, but at times they are a bit too long. That said, it’s good to have them, so that reader knows he/she is not alone. By the same token, the research is a bit too detailed, which made me, and perhaps other readers skip over it at times, which is unfortunate, because it’s important research. We can learn from both the research and the stories.

The research comes from Fasano’s Center for Celiac Research & Treatment, which he founded in 1996. Since it’s definitely become easier to live gluten free, it is difficult to imagine dietary hardships and other problems faced by those with CD in the earlier years, or the need for a research facility dedicated to this. Clearly there is a need for the center*, and I for one, am grateful for the research done there.

There are still a lot of unanswered questions, and there is a need for more research (hence the Center) For example, why is CD diagnosed in some people as children, yet not until later in life for others? Why are there only intestinal problems for some while others experience symptoms affecting different systems in the body, including the brain?

Whether you are seeking Gluten Freedom for yourself, or you know someone who is, I urge you to read this book. You’ll understand more about what affects your gut health, and how important a healthy gut is to your overall health.  Then you can decide whether there is a need for a CD test, or whether you or someone in your family may have developed NCGS. I wish I’d known before I removed gluten from my diet the importance of the tests, so that I would have had a more accurate diagnosis.

Living with gluten sensitivity is not fun, but it is manageable, and there are more products available, which makes it easier. Information and research being done by Dr. Fasano and others is welcome.

Have you tried a gluten-free diet?  Is anyone in your family or circle of friends “gluten free”? What were the results? Share your experiences here.

Head over to my other blog, “Local Business Matters” where I talk about the importance of supporting local businesses. While there may be more choice of gluten-free products in larger centres, I can get what I need in my local stores, featured in this post.

*I am sticking with the “American” spelling of center, as the Center for Celiac Disease is located in Boston, Massachusetts. I would normally use the “Canadian” spelling of “centre.” Either is correct.