During the month of September, Mike and I challenged each other to go gluten free. Our goal was to see whether or not gluten contributed to our list of typical physical complaints. We're both fairly conscious about what we eat, generally. I've eaten vegetarian for nearly 11 years. Mike is an omnivore, but he eats mostly meat-free meals by proxy. We're both moderately active and consider ourselves to be "healthy". We're flawed. We snack on junk foods and eat our fair share of carry-out. There are also a number of environmental circumstances that contribute to our typical state: i.e. we both work 40+ hour work weeks, have long commute times, and exist in a constant state of mild exhaustion. Our biggest complaints are that we both have body and headaches more than we feel is acceptable, and often, struggle to get uninterrupted sleep. We consider all of these things to be our "normal", but we're certainly interested to learn ways we can improve our situations.
We know increasingly more people who have excluded gluten from their diets for a variety of reasons: wheat sensitivities, allergies, contributory side effects to other medical conditions, and volunteer exclusion, etc... The unanimous consensus has been the experience of an overall improvement in well-being. We definitely don't have a medical need to exclude gluten from our diet, but we wanted to see if there was any merit to this type of eating.
The beginning of the month was difficult. Most notably, almost all foods of convenience were suddenly off limits. I could no longer expect to grab a bagel on my way into the office. And, attempting to find menu items that are both gluten free and vegetarian proved to be a challenge at most grab-and-go restaurants. Meal planning became critical. We found ourselves waking up earlier to pack lunches and eat a couple slices of brown rice flour toast with Nutella on our way out the door.
Grocery shopping was far less challenging. We were amazed to find a large variety of gluten free products available. We found some wonderful blog resources and played with some new recipes. We easily substituted a gluten free flour blend into cookie recipes, and didn't notice much difference in preparation or taste.
After our first week of eating gluten free, I noticed that I felt less bloated. Also, Mike and I agreed that we both had decreased appetites. We were snacking less frequently between meals and eating smaller portions.
Aside from our initial responses, we had a hard time determining whether or not we experienced benefit. Unfortunately, our seasonal allergies and sinuses were active in full force during September. And, we have been experiencing unusually high volumes of stress while we continue the process of purchasing our new house. Both of these have contributed to the disruption of our sleep cycles and our stress levels.
As Mike and I continued our conversations regarding gluten throughout the month, we both agreed that the best test to determine what positive results we had experienced would be seeing whether or not we had any adverse reactions to reintroducing wheat once the month was over.
So, on September 30, when we sat down to indulge in our quinoa pasta and GF eggplant Parmesan (with from-scratch sauce, I might add) I initiated a conversation about what type of meal Mike wanted to end our fast. He dodged the question. He argued that we had already done our grocery shopping for the week and had ample supplies to make it to the weekend. He changed the pace of the conversation and mentioned what good habits we both demonstrated throughout the month by preparing and packing all our own meals. Then he pointed out all the unexpected variables that had possibly skewed our perceptions throughout the month. And, he sheepishly suggested that we might need another month of eating gluten free to gather information before we could make an educated decision regarding its benefits/detriments.
So, the conclusion is, we haven't made any conclusions. I'll let you know how October goes. Have you attempted to eat gluten free or make other dietary modifications to promote a positive response? I've linked my photos to all the recipes I used throughout the month, and I'd LOVE to hear your suggestions and resources for meal ideas!