Monday, February 11, 2013

Gluten-free: What I’ve Learned

I've been gluten-free now for a little over a month, so I thought I'd take a couple minutes to post about my experience as I know others are considering the lifestyle.  For some, it is a choice ... for others, it's not.  Thankfully, I fall into the first category.  I am not allergic to wheat, but I do have digestive issues, which compelled me to at least try ... and I'm here to tell you I would not go back.

Below are a few things I've learned along the way ... there's so much more, but this post would be a mile long, so I'll try to be concise ...

#1 - It’s not for the faint of heart.
That’s right … it’s hard.  Not just giving up bread or certain foods –that’s the easy part, and a matter that resolves itself when your energy starts to skyrocket and you feel great ... you don't want to sacrifice feeling crappy to eat a buttery roll.  No thanks. :)  It’s the social aspect that really got me down the first couple weeks.  Friends are not always accepting of your new lifestyle.  Some will even make jokes …and it is hurtful.  This is a huge effort on your part and to have someone make fun of your hard work is disheartening. Don't be discouraged though ... most people aren't disciplined enough to take gluten-free on, so kudos to you!

Another social aspect: dinner invites.  I have to admit, it’s awkward when people invite you over for dinner – what do you say? Thankfully, my experiences have been positive so far.  I just simply let them know that we are wheat-free due to my IBS or health issues. Then I pray that they actually know what wheat-free means.  So far, so good.  I try not to use the words "gluten-free" in conversation … it scares people and immediately they think everything they make needs to have that label.  What they don’t realize is many normal, everyday recipes have no gluten, it just depends on how you make them – like chili or tacos, etc.

#2 - Your body will go through withdrawals.
This part is not pretty.  Mine didn't last too long - just a couple hours one evening.  I felt crazy ... I wanted a huge gooey cinnamon roll - BAD.  I could feel it to my core.  I laid in bed and wanted to scream and kick my feet as hard as I could.  (I actually did a little ... because Matt was laughing at me.  Then we laughed together.)  I didn't give in, but instead forced myself to turn the light off and go to bed.  I woke up the next day feeling fine and haven't experienced anything like it since.  Matt had a withdrawal time as well, but his was different ... a couple days of running to the bathroom, but it passed and hasn't been an issue since.  I think how your body reacts is individual - each withdrawal experience is unique.

#3 - It’s not a diet.
If you think a gluten-free diet will help you lose weight, you are greatly mistaken.  It can reduce bloating, so you might lose a couple pounds, but it’s water.  You still can’t overeat or overindulge.  If you want to lose weight while eating gluten-free, you can effectively shed pounds by eliminating gluten and limiting other grains, replacing them fruit and veggies.  Honestly, that’s true of any good nutritious diet, wheat or no wheat.

#4 - It gets easier ... I promise.
At first it’s a label game.  You have to read everything and constantly reference the gluten-free safe ingredient list as well as the forbidden list. It’s easy to focus on what you can’t have … but instead, if you can focus on what you CAN have, you don’t lose out on much at all. Like with any habit or lifestyle change, it does get easier with time.  The first couple weeks are the hardest, then it starts to come naturally.  You still look at labels, but you know what you’re looking for.  You know right away what to buy at the store and what meals to plan.  You know your substitutions by heart.  Your go-to foods are established and you get excited about experimenting with new recipes and products.

#5 - It will pay off ... but it takes time.
My energy has exploded!!  I didn’t realize I lived in such a fog until it lifted.  My mind is clear and I can remember things.  I used to lose my train of thought all the time.  Every day mid-afternoon I had to lay down on the couch for a snooze.  I was so tired and I couldn't shake it.  Crazy thing is, I’m 34 … that shouldn’t be happening.  Going gluten-free woke me up.  I’m alive and ready for whatever the day brings … there’s no way I could nap! My moodiness is gone.  I used to have crazy anxiety - it’s gone.  I’ve slept better.  My IBS?  It’s still IBS … but it’s better.  No more stomach pain.  No more waiting days for my body to eliminate.  I’ve only been gluten-free for about 6 weeks and I have a feeling things will only get better as time passes.

I hope you are encouraged by what you read above.  Whether you want to try gluten-free, or just simply provide your family with healthy alternatives, it isn't easy ... but it's so worth the effort.

And if you need just a little more encouragement or want to know more about incorporating alternative ingredients and healthy meal ideas into your diet, look through my gluten-free and meatless recipes ... also visit my friends at Not Deprived and Clean 4 My King - two great ladies with awesome ideas and amazing resources to help you along your journey.


  1. So, excited for you, Wendy! We only did gluten free for a few months (our trial lead us to the actual culprit), but I remember what a difference it made. Not necessarily eliminating wheat but in opening our eyes to a better way to think about food. I love reading your blog and look forward to more inspiring posts.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Rachel! :) May I ask what your food culprit was? It's interesting to learn how food connects with our bodies ... in so many ways.

  2. Well, Jackson (my 6 year old) has had so much trouble with food his whole life, poor thing. The first issues were with milk, soy, and corn. We eliminated these from his diet and reintroduced milk and soy successfully when he was two. And we initially thought we had reintroduced corn successfully, too. However, after a couple weeks of carefully adding it back into his diet, we ended up with a violent reaction that sent us to the hospital. That was about the same time we had accepted the autism diagnosis and kept hearing about what a difference the gluten and casein free diet made in kids with autism. So, I thought it was a great time to try it. An older wiser mom told me, if you ever think, "well we couldn't go gluten free (or casein free or whatever) because my child only eats _______." Then it's time to take that 'blank' away and see what happens. Especially with things like dairy and wheat, there's an addictive factor to the toxins and chemicals produced when your body doesn't digest it properly. It was hard at first, especially with the autism issues, but absolutely AMAZING to see how his appetite and desire for other things changed during that time. We committed to six months, and since we were without dairy, we thought eggs were a good way to add protein without upping the meat content of his diet to unhealthy proportions. Well, that's when we discovered his sensitivity to eggs. Seriously. I was thinking, 'we've removed everything from his diet but rice and veggies. What is it now?' Turns out though, it's the massive amount of corn fed to chickens that caused his sensitivity. The proteins of what they eat gets passed into the egg. My parents got chickens and make their own corn free oat based feed for them and let them run free. He LOVES eggs. Corn will probably be a problem his whole life, but I've learned that those foods you feel like you can't live without (sugar for me) is the very food you should probably eliminate and see if it's a problem food. I try to eat 'clean' minimally processed food, but I'm not a nazi about it. Sugar is my addiction that robs me of energy, clarity of thought and digestive health. I've found a balance in making my own treats with healthier flours and less refined sugars, and I'm feeling so much better. I am no longer lactose intolerant. My husband (internist) can't explain how that just went away, but I'm convinced it's my new 'eat more of what you were created to eat' diet.

    Anyway, I wrote a book, and you asked for a simple question. I guess maybe I should blog about this, huh? Love your blog.

    1. You should blog about it! :) I'd love to read about your adventure "eating more of what we were created to eat"!!

  3. Love this. So happy you've seen/felt results! I felt so much better after a couple months of being gluten free! More energy, weight loss and one of the best things- no more cravings! I couldn't believe it... I've been gluten free for about a year now, and I'll never go back.

    I have discovered a few lactose intolerance-type symptoms lately so I'm experimenting with eliminating dairy and am going to try raw milk. We'll see.

    Thank you for sharing!

    1. Natalie - I really have you and Chris to thank for the inspiration. My mom and dad cut all grains last year and it had made a huge difference for them, but it's hard to take the plunge. Once I did though ... it changed my life.
      I hope to do a 6 month update as well celebrating success and healing. Yes, I do feel like cutting gluten has "healed" my body. I almost thing I was misdiagnosed with IBS (I was diagnosed at 17) because my symptoms are gone! Maybe I've had a mild case of celiac disease all along. I was also diagnosed with lactose intolerance, but again, it's almost completely gone! I did have to cut oats as well, but that's a small price to pay ...
      I thinking about cutting all refined sugar next ... but that's a tough one.
      Thank you again for your inspiration!