Tuesday, August 30, 2016

My Experience Going Gluten Free (So Far...)

This is a hard post for me to write because, in general, I am very very against fad diets.

If you want to Whole30, eat paleo, avoid peppers or load up on meat and protein, that's your call. Everyone has the right to do what they think is best for their health.

Personally, I've always believed in eating everything in moderation. I'm not a vegetarian, but I try to eat vegan a few days a week to load up on veggies. I don't follow the Whole30 cook book, but I practice some of what it preaches in my day to day life.

Eat well, cook your own food, avoid too much fat and sugar and enjoy your meal. These are the food standards I try to live by.

So it is with a LARGE helping of crow in my mouth that I admit to having gone gluten free for the last 4 weeks.

A bit of back story: I have localized abdomen pain. I've had it for years and it seems to center around my ascending large intestine (from what I can tell). A number of medical tests show that my blood is good, my organs look fine and there's no noticeable inflammation.

That's a pretty annoying thing to hear when you can push down on the same spot day after day after day and feel pain.

So, in a last ditch effort to feel better, I succumbed to trying to be gluten free.

Going gluten free is no easy task. You suddenly find yourself staring at your cupboard wondering what is safe. Eating at restaurants becomes a chore you would rather avoid, and you're constantly second guessing yourself. You spend a lot of time hungry while those around you start adjusting to your new food restrictions.

Here are my personal observations, week over week, on going gluten free. If you're considering this as an option, I would recommend speaking with your doctor before you start, or consulting a nutritionist so you can do it properly and safely.

I would also recommend picking up the "Pure Delicious" cookbook by Heather Christo which details how to properly cleanse your kitchen and has lots of incredible gluten (and other allergen) free recipes.

My Gluten Free Adventure

Week 1:

Breakfast. Once my favourite meal of the day has become the bane of my eating experience. 

When you go gluten free, Lunch and Dinner are easily managed meals, but boy oh boy is breakfast a chore. So many of our breakfast foods are, or are served with, gluten containing foods.

Most people think that by avoiding wheat they're avoiding gluten; no such luck my friends. Barley, oats (unless otherwise labeled) rye and spelt are also on that list. The acronym is."BROWS" and all must be avoided; if you thought your oatmeal was safe, you were wrong.

Breakfast is the only meal of the day for which I conceded to buying "gluten free" labeled products. I'd read horror stories of people gaining a bunch of weight going gluten free because most of those products are loaded with sugars to make them taste good (fun fact: sugar isn't gonna help your gut feel better!).

I found an oatmeal I liked, scoured over every gluten free bagel I could find until the packaging didn't make me queasy, and resigned myself to a life without toast and jam.

Another thing I noticed during week 1 was that I was really tired. Like REALLY tired. I was still eating plenty, but I just wasn't getting the same kind of energy I was used to. This led to a few more coffees than I generally drink to perk myself up.

Week 2:

Hunger. Week 2 I was getting into the groove more of gluten free cooking. I was getting used to breakfast and relying on the internet to check foods I was preparing ("Google, is THIS gluten free?")

But week 2 was my biggest test. I had a baby shower, a white party, a cottage weekend, a wedding and a family brunch to attend. Every one of these events had sandwiches, strata, crackers, baguettes, cake, pizza and wraps on the menu. 

I ate a lot of cheese SANS cracker this week. I had lettuce wraps instead of regular wraps or sandwiches. At a family brunch I ate only bacon and a small salad because everything else was cooked in bread.

I wasn't about to start asking for preferential food treatment only 2 weeks in to my diet, but boy oh boy was I hungry. When we got home the Sunday after the final event we went straight out for dinner and I all but cried when the waitress told me she could make my dinner gluten free. I don't think I even looked at Kris while I scarfed food down my throat.

Week 3:

Week 3 was probably my best. I was finally starting to feel some of the health benefits of my decision.

Some of the things I noticed included:

  • My stomach wasn't as bloated - previously I was bloating up to 2" a day, with all the discomfort that went along with it. So not only did I feel better but my stomach was flatter! Amazing.
  • Weight loss! I had a weight loss goal I carried over from last month, going gluten free seems to have tipped the scales in my favor toward reaching that goal much faster.
  • My energy was back and I was sleeping better through the night.
  • My skin was clearer - some of the redness I've had on the back of my arms for years was starting to disappear.
  • My pain, while still present, was diminishing.
Almost worth avoiding all my favourite foods

Week 4: 

I'm currently on week 4 and things are going well so far. Though frankly I'm craving pizza... and waffles. I would do just about anything for a waffle right now.

While I am enjoying some health benefits from this trial I'm not sure that it's worth being gluten free all the time. I still have pain and discomfort which was the point of this, so I may need to start exploring other options.

Through this process I've learned a lot about the way my body processes food. I don't think it's convinced me that I should live my life gluten free, but maybe like my twice-a-week-veganism I can incorporate some of the things I've learned into my day to day. 

I'm planning to start reintroducing gluten laden food into my diet after week 5, starting with sourdough recipes (which are easier to digest). Unless I have a noticeably adverse reaction I'll continue from there.

Not being celiac, gluten may cause me some discomfort and bloating, but won't send me to ER. I can risk a slice of pizza or some waffles from time to time.

Gluten free cooking is a good thing to have in your back pocket, and there are definitely a few things I've noticed for the better... but not enough to give up all the delicious foods I enjoy entirely.

Have you ever tried going gluten free or another elimination style diet? I'd love to hear about your experiences in the comment section below.