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I’m a little past the halfway point in getting myself glutened up for my celiac blood tests. I’m starting to get a little tired of having to eat four slices of bread (or the equivalent in pasta) every single day. Besides, I don’t like the way it makes my insides feel (noticeably worse than spelt did). Even Hubby, the Blood Type Diet skeptic, says he’ll be glad when we can go back to eating rice pasta, because he had forgotten how much the wheat stuff messes him up.
I had another appointment with my nutritionist last week. A year ago (see my August 3, 2006 blog entry, “I Supplement, Therefore I Am”), I was taking 72 supplement “pills” per day (counting tablets, capsules, and the equivalent in liquid extracts). Four months ago, I counted again, and it was up to 85.
This time, my nutritionist commented on how much better I was doing. She paused, then added, “... everything except your gut; that’s worse.” I hadn’t told her about my suspicion/hope that I’m a celiac, nor had I mentioned that I’m back to eating real wheat – but I could have told her that my gut was worse! The bottom line is, I’m down to 75 “pills” per day.
Within a month, I expect to be diagnosed a celiac, and start a lifelong gluten-free diet. After that, I expect to feel better and better, and I expect to need fewer and fewer supplements, because my digestive system will be increasingly able to extract nutrients from the food I eat. But five years from now, if I were to present my greatly decreased need for supplements as evidence that the gluten-free diet is helping me, a cynic would be sure to point out that the decrease actually started a month before I went gluten-free, and in fact, while I was being careful to eat wheat every day.
This sort of thing has happened to me before – I hear about something that sounds likely to improve my health, and make up my mind to try it – and I feel a little better right away, before I actually make the change or start the treatment. I suspect these experiences have been due to two factors.
The obvious explanation is that merely deciding to take action relieves a good bit of tension and anxiety. So I feel better because I’m no longer fretting about what to do – on the contrary, I'm feeling optimistic.
But I think there’s a second explanation that accounts for at least half of the premature improvement, and that’s something akin to the well-known placebo effect. After all, if the placebo effect is due to the mind’s influence on the body, then why should it be restricted to reacting to things that have already happened? Why can’t the mind also react in anticipation of things that it expects to happen?
It may not be good Latin, but I think of this as the “Pre-Cebo Effect.”