Like many people, I am interested in my health. This is particularly true when it comes to my nutrition, because that is a special interest of mine. So naturally, with the trending topic of gluten and its affects on our bodies, I was on board. I read Wheat Belly by Dr William Davis and The Beauty Detox by Kimberly Snyder (of whom I’d already been a long-time fan, and whose beliefs about gluten reinforced this decision for me).
A few facts about this. Gluten is a protein that is incredibly difficult for your body to digest. This is true whether you’re celiac, intolerant, or if you eat pasta twice a day. Doesn’t matter- the fact is, it’s harder on your system than some other food elements are. This part of the argument, no one denies. That’s actually what makes it inflammatory for your digestive system. To what degree it is inflammatory, and when that becomes a concern, is up for debate. Wheat is also one of the most pesticide-heavy crops that are out there. See “The Real Reason For Toxic Wheat (It’s Not Gluten).” (Some people believe this to be the real reason why people are so sensitive to it.)
It was difficult to go from my normal meals to gluten-free at first. There’s actually a LOT of gluten in the foods that we eat on a day-to-day basis. So the first step was to stock up on a lot of gluten-free alternatives in the form of chips, crackers, pizzas, and the like.
The first thing I noticed was a lack of bloating. I was so impressed by my flat stomach in the first three days that I was really convinced I’d found the miracle cure. Alas, like all miracles, after the first few days the normal flux of food-babies returned. I’m still curious whether this was related to cutting out gluten or not, as I had not been doing anything else differently at the time, nor was I eating any less than usual (or so I felt).
During these first few days I was also accompanied with a headache. It wasn’t massive and it wasn’t anything an aspirin or two couldn’t take care of, but it was constant and lasted a few solid days. According to Wheat Belly, this is a bit of a hangover, because gluten has an opium-like effect on your brain. I won’t disagree with this fact, because it sure felt like it.
The months went by and it became second nature for me to know which food choices were permissible, and it wasn’t at all hard for me to stick to. I noticed, however, that I felt ravenously hungry quite often, and I was gaining weight. I have always stayed around the same size, so this was unusual, but for a person who has now recovered from an eating disorder, I decided not to let myself worry much about this part. Around the same time I went gluten-free I had started a new job that requires 8 hours of desk-sitting, and I felt it was entirely possible this was the main culprit anyway.
Soon it became so easy for me to pick up a pack of these quick, gluten-free snacks that I wasn’t eating my salads or drinking my green smoothies nearly as much. This isn’t a rut that everyone falls into, of course, but for me, I felt no guilt doing so since I was sticking to the plan.
I was around 6-8 months in when I started looking into the importance of blood-sugar on your food cravings and food choices. It was then that I realized, my gluten-free crackers were less friend and more foe. I thought I was doing myself a great service in munching on rice crackers all day (not that I imagined they were “healthy” by any means), when in actuality, they were not as satiating and they just made me hungrier later. This would be 100% true of glutenous snacks as well- it is just important for me to point out that when going gluten-free, the processed junk is still processed junk, and you’re still not doing your body any good with this.
Once I came to this revelation, I cut out the gluten-free alternatives completely. My healthy choices and weight started to return to normal, and I felt pretty great. I could have carried on my entire life this way, were it not for the weekend I spent at my boyfriend’s father’s house. Understanding the importance of eating while drinking alcohol and not having any other options available, (poor planning on my part) I half-heartedly ate my fill of baguettes and artisan bread-sandwiches, already fearing what my body would do to me next.
Not being one for placebo effect, I like to be surprised by my body when I take supplements or try a new diet, so I brushed off the dilemma and carried on with my life that Monday, eating gluten-free as normal. To my surprise, the days went on and I started to think, “Wasn’t something supposed to have happened by now?” The fact was, nothing unusual happened at all.
From that point on, I trifled with gluten when I went out, or on dates with my boyfriend (a decision he was very happy about). Since then it has become apparent that there really is no difference; a fact that I am both pleased by, and also admittedly, slightly disappointed with.
In conclusion I do believe that gluten, in addition to ALL grains are somewhat irritating to the digestive system, so I think it would do a person good to do away with them altogether, rather than just going gluten-free. I would go so far as to say that people probably experience good results with a gluten-free diet simply because they are eating less grains in general. As you saw for me, it didn’t matter which grains I was eating- they were causing all sorts of cravings and weight gain. More on grain-free next time!