Gluten Free Experiment
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!
10/2/2013 12:56:24 am
I just did this experiment as well! I went gluten free for a month to see if any of my niggly health issues went away. After a month I didn't see any difference, so I decided to base my decision on how I felt after I reintroduced gluten. So far, the only thing I think was affected was my bloating. I didn't know I had any, but it was obvious after not eating gluten for a month and then reintroducing it that the entire time I was gluten free I was not bloated and now I am again. I decided that bloating wasn't enough of a reason to go GF, so I am back to my regular diet.
Mmmmm I may need to go GF after seeing all of these delicious looking meals you made! I don't blame Mike for wanting another month to better assess.
Part of the reduction in bloating and snacking urges after going GF could be more related to a reduction in carb intake. If you were regularly eating very high-carb foods like bagels and pasta your insulin would've been spiking a lot, causing hunger issues.
My daughter has been gluten free for a decade now. She's not celiac but gluten intolerant, especially in the spring. We discovered years ago, when she was about 9, that things like Claritin etc. didn't alleviate her symptoms so the chiropractor suggested cutting out gluten (she did an energy test for it to determine that, a WHOLE other thing but super effective when it comes to food issues). First we'd cut out gluten in the spring, from around March to June. Then each year she'd stretch it out a little further until finally she's gluten free all the time.
First of all, wow! That food looks amazing!
10/2/2013 05:04:41 am
I'm on day 2 of no desserts/refined sugars. This time of year, I just eat too much candy, etc. so if I'm 30 days into no desserts by the time Halloween rolls around, it'll be easier on my waistline. I've done this before and I find that I'm happier overall, less stressed, and my skin is more clear. For me, eating no sugar is easier than just eating a little bit and it doesn't have any nutritional value, so there you go. I'm really looking forward to what ya'll think of no-gluten month 2!
10/2/2013 06:46:11 am
In our house, we have no reason to go GF but we've done a few GF items here and there, just out of either randomness or not paying attention to what we were buying. I also concur about Mariposa. It's quite good...but I can tell that something is different (I didn't know they were GF at first).
10/2/2013 07:25:11 am
Yay!! I scoffed at people who said going gluten free would give noticeable improvements to the way I felt, but after a few months, it was true. Cautionary tale about reintroduction, though. I started cheating just a little, and no change. That spurred me to go full on eating normally again, and no issue. Then after a time, the bloating and pain was horrendous. I learned that if you are intolerant, it will start building again and may take a while to fully impact you again. I'm totally regretting it and trying to re-cleanse. It is SO hard for the busy people who need the convenience food though. I need to do better meal planning. I do a good job of always bringing snacks and desserts to meeting lunches so I don't get tempted by the stuff that is ordered in.
10/2/2013 07:45:51 am
On the advice of a nutritionist, I went on a Low FODMAP diet earlier in the year which meant excluding gluten. One thing she really encouraged me to remember was that without the flour (in everything!) I might be missing out on my normal dose of fibre, so to try and introduce something like psyllium husk or other high-in-fibre foods. Either way my suggestion is talk to a professional (if you haven't already), because it's their job to think about things that we know nothing about!
Like many of the others here, I too follow a GF diet (I'm Paleo), not because of any pressing medical need but I discovered while doing it to try and lose weight, that it actually fixed a whole pile of other seemingly unrelated issues. The daily headache is now only here about once every two weeks and isn't as severe, the mid-afternoon slump is gone and I notice that by removing all grain, dairy and processed foods (which I don't digest well anyway so why force it) that I actually eat less. As you mentioned, it's a problem when I'm out so I do have to spend more time on meal planning and I prepare and pack breakfast-to-go on the weekend so I can just grab it as I'm heading out the door in the morning.
I think its great that you're experimenting with your food! BUT. I have a cautionary comment. Often people talk to me about going gluten free and tell me all about how much better they feel, how great they're getting along, and how much less bloated they are. I take real issue with this because most often when people go gluten free, they're forced to eat better, more wholesome meals, and make their own lunches and snacks (just as you have described) which often means less preservatives, less salt, more veggies. I would suggest that they're probably actually feeling better because they're eating better. Not because they're cutting out gluten. I think that people are drawing an incorrect correlation between gluten free eating and better health. I think they should be drawing the line of connection between healthier eating and better health. I have had all kinds of health problems (trust me, I know how it feels to HAVE to be GF), and I work in the health sciences (so I have a pretty good understanding of how our bodies work), and I don't think (unless you have a high allergy to something- an allergy, not an intolerance, or an associated condition that will benefit from GF- like RA) that cutting out all gluten is actually a healthy choice. I think we should be eating much less gluten as a society, but when you cut it out of your diet, your body loses a lot of its tolerance towards it, and so your intolerance becomes worse, and then if you reintroduce it, you'll become more unwell. Sorry, this is a bit of a bug bear of mine. Basically, I'm urging you to keep eating a little bit of gluten, but to also take note of the lesson you've been given- when you consciously make choices about what you make and eat, you're making better choices. But don't go hard line, have a bagel, but have one a week, not five. Eat some cake, just not every day. Eat more spinach, because leafy greens are the superman of the food world. Moderate your own 'easy' meal choices- freeze leftover for the nights when you'd normally buy take-out. It's important to look after your body, but do it in a safe way! Sorry- rant over! :)
10/2/2013 05:35:55 pm
I tried to go GF for a while - it had an effect on stomach pains during a certain time of the month. It was a bit of time ago now, and there weren't as many products as there are now. Like you I felt less bloated but I think it may be because I was eating less ready meals. We kept that part in our daily routine - I try to prepare food for us and the baby from scratch - he does not have processed food anymore either. It means experimenting with new food for him and us.. Good on you to carry on!
10/2/2013 11:45:31 pm
I am very impressed with the meals you have done, especially since you are just starting a gluten-free diet. I have been gluten-free for two years. I have ocular rosacea, and after a particularly bad bout of it scared me (I was afraid it was going to damage my vision), out of desperation I decided to try giving up gluten. It worked, and as a consequence I have stayed gluten-free. Now that we have moved to a new area, away from all the environmental allergy triggers where we used to live, I plan to try reintroducing a bit of gluten to see what happens. My theory is that now that I don't have so many allergens constantly challenging my immune system, I might be able to tolerate a bit of gluten. Good luck with your experiment!
I used to have bloating, stomach cramps and severe sinusitis. All of it went away when I read Live Right for your Type and followed the diet recommended for my blood type (I had nothing to lose) As a type A I eliminated wheat, red meat, and potatoes from my diet. The change was not instant, it took about three months but I am so much healthier now.
11/29/2013 08:01:19 am
These look lovely! Your point about sleep issues and chronic pain (head ache/neck problems) reminded me of <a href="http://youtu.be/xF24xmJQK1k">this video</a> by a GP on the relationship between vitamin D, sleep disorders and chronic pain. It's a tad long but well worth watching, especially if you end up fixing your issues! I definitely learned a lot from it.
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