When I was a teenager I started getting eczema and dry eyes. As I got older, it got worse. My eczema spread over my body and face. My eyes were red and watery. During university, I started missing classes because the dry eyes were affecting me so much. Every little thing irritated them and made it worse including air conditioning, bright sunlight and heaters.
I went to doctors who referred me to an ophthalmologist. The eye specialist thought I might have blocked tear ducts and did a procedure to see if they were blocked. They were not. I went home disappointed without any answers for the cause.
I searched the internet for answers but could not find any.
I mentioned my symptoms to a pharmacist and she said it sounded like I had dry eyes and recommended eye drops. The drops helped a little but I had to put them in many times during the day to stop the watering. I found out that dry eyes is a result of the body not producing enough oily, moisturising tears so the eyes produce watery tears to compensate. I took fish oil to moisturise my body internally and followed a healthy diet but the dry eyes and eczema continued.
A doctor suggested I have a blood test for coeliac disease.
It showed that I had ‘wheat sensitivity’. I immediately cut out gluten from my diet. This was a big change for me as I had always eaten gluten-containing foods like bread and I loved baking with wheat flour but I soon got used to it. My eczema and dry eyes slowly improved and I didn’t need to use the eye drops anymore. Although at the time I didn’t realise the link. I felt better, less tired and the bloating and gas I used to get (that I thought was normal) also disappeared.
One day I was tempted to eat one of my sister’s biscuits in the cupboard. I didn’t get much bloating straight away so I thought I can eat wheat again! So I reintroduced some gluten-containing foods like wheat back into my diet again. Over the next year, my eyes became irritated again. As it was gradual, I didn’t know what was causing it. But then it clicked. I had begun eating wheat again! I immediately cut it from my diet and my symptoms disappeared. This time it was for good.
I couldn’t believe that all those years I had suffered and been to health professionals looking for complex causes when it was as simple as something I had been eating. Through my research, I have learnt that wheat including whole wheat is a hybridised food. It contains a higher gluten content than in the past and has been stripped of most nutrients through processing. It is very irritating to the gut and is highly allergenic.
Despite being able to tolerate small amounts now after healing my gut, I avoid wheat completely. I have found there are many wheat-free grain alternatives available like rice, millet, quinoa and amaranth that are much gentler on the digestive system.