The [short] Story

Joe Rignola is a Certified Functional Diagnostic Nutritionist and Holistic Health Coach who specializes in Gluten Sensitivity and other food intolerances. He also studied Ayurvedic nutrition and Reiki.

More importantly he’s a guy who, years ago, took control of his own health and overcame several ailments including metabolic disorders, digestive issues, depression and ADD. He transformed his diet and life to recover his health. His recovery from ADD however is questionable as he still gets distracted by shiny objects.

He lives on Long Island, NY with his wife, Marissa, son, Mason and their yellow lab, Bella.
The [long] Story.
Chapter One from The Definitive Way to go Gluten Free.

Chapter One

My Story: Just Your Typical Overweight, Insulin Resistant, Metabolically Challenged, Sleep Deprived, Depressed, Anxious, Bloated and Gassy American.

To be honest, ten years ago I would have been the most unlikely person in the world to be writing this book. Not only was I incredibly unhealthy, but I also was up to my eyeballs in the corporate world, chasing what I thought was the American dream. The only thing I cared about was driving the right car, wearing the right clothes, and living in a McMansion. On the surface it must have looked like I had the perfect life—and in many ways I did—but what I didn’t have was my health and I certainly wasn’t happy.
Let me rewind a little here and give you some background. I was raised in a very traditional Irish-Italian family. While I was growing up, we always ate as a family—all six kids, Mom and Dad, and the family dog. Every Sunday we gathered at Grandma’s house for dinner. Usually there would be about twenty-five of us sitting around the table—and by “table” I mean a table, a piece of plywood, another table, and the kids’ table. There may or may not have been an old door in the mix somewhere too when the extended-extended family showed up. Dinner always started around four o’clock and lasted into the night. It was an epic eating event with some of the most amazing food imaginable and with several courses, and wheat was in each and every one.
From a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease perspective, being both Irish and Italian is the double whammy. In fact, folks of Irish decent have some of the highest rates of gluten sensitivity and celiac disease in the world. That’s something I’ll talk more about later, and you’ll learn why that is. While less scientific, people of Italian descent particularly love to eat bread and, of course, pasta. Bread is a centerpiece of Italian meals. In my family, this was especially true when we had pasta with sauce, or as we called it “gravy.” It was also true whenever sausage and peppers were involved. Come to think of it, when any kind of sauce was involved, the act of soaking up said sauce with Italian bread was standard practice. If sauce wasn’t available, we’d dump a little olive oil on a plate with garlic and salt. We used real Italian bread, by the way; it was about nine feet long, and we let it sit out for a few hours so it got crusty. It also invariably had both ends ripped off it.
This type of eating, while I don’t regret it, did set the foundation for some gnarly health issues later in my life. Like most Americans, as I got older I gravitated toward highly processed foods. I was addicted to sugar and refined carbohydrates. Add a highly stressful corporate environment and poor sleep habits, and you end up with me about six years ago.
This brings us back to me in the midst of the rat race, suffering from a myriad of health issues. Like any reasonable American, I dutifully followed the recommendations of my doctor. I took drugs: Nexium for acid reflux; Strattera for adult ADD; Pepto-Bismol for IBS symptoms (it wasn’t uncommon for me to suck down an entire bottle in a day or even hours; it was like a Peptocchino); antibiotics for other digestive problems, including diverticulitis; and Paxil for depression. I was also forty-five pounds overweight and had serious blood sugar issues. I had hypoglycemia that was so severe that I passed out on a number of occasions. Landing on your face in the middle of a diner should be a wakeup call. It wasn’t. Waffles? Yes, please, and hell, yes, I want ice cream on that!
Surprisingly (at least at the time) the side effects of those medications were often worse than the symptoms they were supposed to treat. Coming off the meds was sometimes even more treacherous. Paxil, in particular, was nothing short of a withdrawal shit storm. After a couple of days of not taking it, I experienced a feeling of being shocked. This started as a short buzz in my hands and arms then progressed to the feeling of sticking my finger in a light socket. Finally, this shocking sensation was so severe that it felt like I could power Yankee Stadium with my thoughts. I remember being jolted to the ground from time to time. Rocking in the corner in the fetal position became my idea of a fun afternoon.
As I diligently began to try to Google-diagnose myself, I realized I wasn’t alone. I found out that countless other folks were having the same experience. I learned that some folks even died from this stuff. Even more shocking (no pun intended), when I spoke to my doctor about my symptoms, he hadn’t known about this issue. He recommended I slowly wean off the meds over the course of a couple of months. Ya think? In fact a couple of months wasn’t long enough, as the jolts of misery returned when I reduced my dose too quickly. It took me approximately eight months to completely titrate down without feeling like I could recharge a car battery.
Finally, after reading message boards and a few articles, I considered that the food I was eating might have something to do with how crappy I was feeling. Imagine that. You mean Pop-Tarts aren’t part of a complete breakfast?
It took a couple of more years of buying the organic or “natural” versions of all the shit food that got me into this mess to realize that there was part of the grocery store that I wasn’t familiar with—the produce section. Yes, it was true. Not all food comes in a box and gets cooked in a microwave. Cinnamon buns are not a food group, even if they are organic.
The driving force behind most of my dietary changes was my wife. A few years earlier, she had discovered, after a decade of suffering with severe migraines as well as some other issues, that she was sensitive to gluten. The effort of living a gluten-free lifestyle, during a time when it wasn’t as popular, forced us to learn more about the food we were eating. Reading labels and searching the fine print for hidden forms of gluten became mandatory. This was an eye-opening education regarding our food industry and led to other discoveries, such as hidden forms of MSG and what it really means when a food label states “natural flavors.” Going to restaurants or eating at the homes of friends or family was like running through a field of glutinous landmines. This shit is in everything! Gravy, soy sauce, effing Twizzlers? Really?
It wasn’t long before my wife and I found some interesting alternatives in health food stores—and by “interesting” I mean terrible. Really awful stuff. Some of these early gluten-free foods were like puffed cardboard treats sprinkled with cinnamon. If you’re just starting on this gluten-free journey, this is one more reason to rejoice. These days your choices for gluten-free junk food are now abundant and pretty darn tasty. However, therein lies a whole new problem, of course, and one I’ll talk more about later.
It took me a couple of more years before I officially went gluten-free, and this was yet another step in improving my health. Since there was still a fairly limited amount of decent options available, this inevitably led to my elimination of more and more prepackaged, shrink-wrapped foods. The more I stopped eating those pseudo-foods and the more I ate real foods, the better I felt. I dropped weight, my cognitive function improved, and I felt energized. Before I knew it, I was able to completely stop taking all medications. My wife was also largely free of the headaches that had plagued her for half of her life.
For the first time in years, stress, sleeplessness, fatigue, digestive disorders, and ADD no longer consumed me. I hadn’t even had my obligatory Pepto latte in quite some time. I felt amazing. I was so profoundly happy with how I was able to improve my health that I made one of the toughest decisions of my life. I walked away from the business I had built over the past decade and went back to school. I needed and wanted to help others do what I did. This was now my life’s purpose. Little did I know that I had a lot to learn, but as I did, my health continued to improve. I didn’t know how crappy I really had felt until I really felt great. Most of what I learned I learned outside of the classes I took. I learned by practicing on myself and helping others. I began to learn how to read and decipher scientific literature. I learned by listening to people who are way smarter than me. Most important, I learned how my body ticked and what it expected from me in order to run optimally.
My purpose for writing this book is to condense my last several years of learning and to boil it all down into something I believe will help not only folks with celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity but also anyone who wants to improve their health. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I know that if you follow the steps I lay out in these pages, it will very likely change your life.
I have to warn you that I still have a touch of ADD, but I’ll try to keep this train on the tracks and keep this ride short and exciting. Buckle up, folks, and keep your hands and feet inside the... Oh, look, a quarter.

Get the book here!