Gluten & Dyslexia

Gluten and Dyslexia - Frankie Jo Blooding's story on how she kicked gluten to the curb and regained her abilty to read.

When I was young, I was a great reader and loved reading, but over forty years later, I discovered that I had dyslexia thanks to a gluten sensitivity.

My sister and I were what we now know as hyperlexics, people who read at a very young age. I then turned that into an obsession as I grew older. I wanted to know how books were great. What made one story a best seller while another, better story flopped? I knew after my second daughter was born that I wanted to be an author.

But I’d wanted to be an astrobiophysicist and an actress before that, so I can’t say that I actually thought I had the raw talent. I wasn’t pretty enough to be an actress, and I wasn’t smart or rich enough to become an astrobiophysist. But I could write books and I’d been told I was an entertaining storyteller.

Reading Challenge

Along this path, however, I discovered that reading was getting harder for me and I didn’t know why. Some days I could read for long stretches, and other days I couldn’t make out anything or retain anything. There were days when the notes I wrote were backward or jumbled. My managers commented on this. It showed up in my performance reviews. Words would jumble. When my stress was high or I was tired, the letters would dance. I had dyslexia, and it was something I was so deeply ashamed of, I hid it with everything I had. Oddly, I hid my dyslexia by eating my feelings and what did I eat most? Gluten.

As I published books, my dyslexia showed up in my reviews. Even with editors and copious revisions at my back, there were still “a lot of grammatical mistakes” that made the reading “challenging.”

2019 was the hardest year since I’d lost my daughters. Shane and I had saved up and were ready to make the big move to Alaska where my husband had been born and raised. It was the roughest move I’d ever made.

And then we moved an additional two times to get everyone up here and into our it-had-damned-well-better-be forever home.

Changing My Diet

I had no idea that gluten was playing any part in my dyslexia, or in my overall health. I only knew I needed to do something drastic in order to get my life back. I was in pain. I was trying to plan my life and deadlines around migraines and shoulder and joint pain. I could barely move. Stairs were painful. Getting out of a chair hurt. Holding a pen required four ibuprofens and a whiskey. I couldn’t open jars. I couldn’t hold anything. And I couldn’t concentrate, or focus for long periods of time. I was falling further and further behind. Whistling Book Press and Real Indie Author were dying to my inability to work.

I needed a change.

I decided to go on a keto diet. Mostly because my sister and my sister-in-law were both dropping weight like crazy while having tons of energy, but also because I was tired of lugging all this weight around and hobbling through the ice fields of the driveway.

It was a big change. But there were things I discovered like… how much pain I was constantly in when I ate wheat, or how swollen and enflamed my entire body became when I ate bread.

Going keto was too much stress on the household, but I quickly came to the conclusion that this body needed to be gluten free. Transitioning to the point where that was a functioning reality was a lot harder, however. There were too many easy ways to cheat when you lived in a house with great bakers and an Italian who makes swoon worthy breads and pastas.

But in the fall of 2021, I decided to make a little extra money working the fair for Shane’s aunt.

And nearly died.

An Experience That Changed Me

She makes elephant ears which are made from flour. I sincerely thought that if I didn’t eat it, I’d be fine.

But I quickly found out I was wrong. The flour was in the air. I couldn’t move. Every joint in my body was swollen. I couldn’t bend or turn my head. I was taking pain medicine every 2-4 hours, which was bad. My immune system was hit hard. My energy tanked hard. And I finally had to quit after catching COVID and suffering from gluten poisoning.

It took me over a month to truly recover. During this time, I wasn’t reading. I wasn’t writing. I wasn’t doing anything that required words because it exhausted me. I might as well have been blind.

However, after that, I wasn’t tempted by anything gluten and I was super-hyper aware of any gluten that went into my body. When people were baking in the kitchen, I wasn’t in the house because just passing through would give me a reaction. I started paying attention to what was in sauces and soups. And when family members said, “there’s no gluten in here,” even if I watched them put it in, or they informed me that it “wasn’t a lot” and that I’d “be fine,” I didn’t eat what they made. It pissed a lot of people off.

But then a glorious thing happened six months later.

Something Miraculous

Shane was in the shower at the end of the day and I decided to check out a new book. I wasn’t going to read it. I hadn’t been able to read books at night for… years. I actually don’t remember how long. I was going to look at the cover, look at the author picture, and see how many chapters there were.

But then I read the blurb. And understood all the words, not just bits and pieces. And I retained them.

Then I read the first page.

Then the second.

And the third.

And by the time Shane made it out of the shower, I was well into Chapter 2.

And I’d read all of the words.

Reality Sinks In

I’m an author and a service provider. I edit books – I don’t proof because I couldn’t read enough of the words as words to be any good at that. I write outlines for author because you don’t have to be able to read to write those. I studied books. I understand how they’re made and what makes them tick, and that’s what’s needed when writing outlines.

I had never consciously understood just how bad it had gotten. Real Indie Author had been getting smaller and smaller as I took in fewer and fewer clients and I had thought it was because people couldn’t find me. I’m not a great marketer.

I realized it was due in large part because I couldn’t read for long stretches of the day so I’d stopped pursuing work and my authors had to have noticed the quality was decreasing as well. They had to have.

This wake up call showed me just how poorly I’d been living. Reading is my number one obsession and I hadn’t been able to do it for years. My “reading hours” had been invested in other authors. That was it. They had received all of my “reading hours” time and I had gotten all the left overs, the times when my fingers knew what to type, but my brain couldn’t comprehend what was going on.

I’m… ashamed? Feel terribly? Am horrified? of just how far I’d traveled down a road that was dumping me out of the field I absolutely love. Gluten invaded my joints, my spine, my muscles, my uterus, my moods, and my brain.

I’m never going back to eating gluten. Not ever.

And I’m going to cherish each moment I have getting back to the activity I love most!


I can read again and it’s amazing!

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