Monday, February 24, 2014

reluctantly gluten free

Last fall, I got tired of feeling crummy all the time. I'm sure the fatigue and the gastrointestinal issues were exacerbated by the round of antibiotics I'd had to go on after my surgery but I just wasn't getting better. I needed to give myself a chance to heal.

In the spring, a cousin and her spouse had been on the Brown Rice Diet. Laura also happens to be a naturopathic doctor, so I had asked her about it at the time and got her to send me the info. It's not a diet in the weight loss sense of the word but more of an elimination of all potential allergens. For three weeks, the only grain I ate was brown rice. I ate chicken, fish and a bit of lamb but no other red meat and no shellfish. Alcohol, dairy, sugar and all processed food were also verboten - but I could eat as much of anything as I wanted.

At the end of the first week, I was ready to chew off a limb. Despite consuming lots of food, I was hungry and irritable. I almost gave up. Instead, I increased my protein intake and two days later I felt flat out amazing. I had tons of energy, no cravings at all (I sat in front of a table full of wine, chocolate and cheese at book club and sipped sparkling water, not minding at all). I lost 10lbs, which I'm told was water weight, as I let go of sugar induced inflammation.

At the end of three weeks, I reintroduced grains, like quinoa that don't contain gluten. I was fine.

I introduced bread and got sick. My son was also ill, so I decided it might be a coincidence, and that I should take gluten out of my diet and reintroduce it later.

I had no reaction when I reintroduced yogurt. Or cheese. I re-introduced gluten and got sick again.

Over the holidays (Chanukah, Christmas, New Year's...) I ate pretty much whatever I wanted. I felt sluggish, bloated and irritable and by the new year, was ready to eliminate gluten again.

After a couple of weeks, I didn't feel fantastic but I didn't feel terrible. Mostly, I was irritated that I couldn't eat gluten. I missed Tim's home-made bread. I missed the chocolate cookies from the Wild Oat. I missed beer. I started to wonder if there was a point to all the deprivation.

Then came Tim's birthday and I decided to make Too Much Chocolate Cake. And, after three weeks without gluten, I had a giant slice. Then I had another one the next day. And the day after that, I was  a mess. My distress was not so much gastrointestinal as emotional. I was irritable angry furious. I was depressed. I was in despair. It was awful. And then, suddenly, it was over. I felt fine again.

So the gluten is gone for good (Tim says that the scientist in him would love to give me a slice of chocolate cake, just to see what happens but, out of self-preservation, he thinks that would be a bad idea).

I'm still figuring out what it means to be gluten free. Sometimes, I'm surprised by how easy it is. Other times, I feel frustrated that it feels complicated.

I don't feel amazing.. To do that, I guess I'd have to cut out the alcohol, sugar and processed stuff. Maybe that's next but for now, I'll just try and keep it to a minimum.


Catherine said...

I was so pissed off when I went gluten free. SO pissed off. And to be honest, I still occasionlly break that way. So your trials with Christmas and chocolate cake make a lot of sense. Good on you for noticing your reactions. It gets much easier as you learn new foodie habits. (though I do miss my bagles)

Cutting white sugar is easier than cutting all sugar. I've swithed out white for coconut, honey, etc. It's a good step without losing the sweet.

tccomments2013 said...

dear Laurie,

so glad you are feeling better, and that you took the time to keep testing yourself to see the gluten/gluten (almost free) responses. I wonder if there are degrees of gluten intolerance - maybe, if that's true your body will adjust to the changes you have become fairly comfortable with. hope springs eternal!

much love and light,

Karen, xoxo

laurie said...

A GP I saw recently told me that it's possible that, once my gut is healed, I will be able to tolerate some gluten. As for sweetener, I do try to avoid white sugar. I use stevia as my first choice and also honey and brown sugar.

Anonymous said...

Hi Laurie,
My husband has been gluten intolerant for 10 years-- it was a side effect to medication he was taking for chronic cystic acne. Just a teensy bit of gluten contamination from something, somewhere, and he gets sick.

He has been doing so well with a gluten free diet, and I have to say it's much easier now to find products then it was even two years ago. Barilla and Ronzoni make GF pasta and they're pretty good; I've pretty much switched to these two brands for family pasta meals too. I can find the Ronzoni GF at a local supermarket for $2/box... Much more affordable than going to Whole Foods, which we were pretty much limited to in the first several years. Betty Crocker has some GF mixes-- the choc chips cookies are pretty good.

How are the choices for GF products where you are?

More restaurants have GF food choices too, and there is a GF bakery in a neighboring town. Two months ago, we went out for his birthday and he ordered a GF eggplant parmagiana (sp?)-- it was really good and he was so happy! But he still hasn't found any GF fried dough.

laurie said...

Mamabunny! I answered this commented but somehow it has disappeared into the internet. Thanks for these tips. I have Catelli pasta now and it's not too bad (loads better than when we first bought GF pasta when my sister was diagnosed with celiac years ago) but will look for your brands. It is getting better and easier and there are certainly more choices now than there used to be (more shopping than eating out, although even that has improved). I have not found anything, though, that approximates fluffy bread. Tim is a baker and there is nothing that anyone has come up with that matches his. Sigh.