Fine, I’ll try gluten-free already!

by LindsayHill

It helps to get good at cooking quinoa!

I pushed back and pushed back against the gluten-free craze but curiosity finally got the best of me.  And as it always does for my son’s favorite cartoon character, curiosity led to a few really cool discoveries.  I had actually given up gluten for periods of two to three weeks before on low-carbohydrate weight-loss plans such as “The Fat Flush” and my own Inhabit Health E.A.T. Plan ©,  but I had done it in conjunction with giving up dairy and sugar so I wasn’t sure which of the positive effects I had experienced — weight-loss, less bloating, better skin, less fatigue — had been results of giving up gluten, especially since on these diets I had also given up most starchy carbohydrates including rice, corn and potatoes, none of which contain gluten.

For those that still aren’t sure exactly what gluten is, it is a protein found in wheat including kamut, barley, spelt and rye.  Gluten is what gives wheat flour its structure and that “dough” texture we all love, which is why it’s very hard to find decent gluten-free breads.  For someone who has Celiac’s disease (an intolerance to the protein) it is essential to avoid gluten in any form (including dextrose and other “thickeners” found in a lot of processed foods), but if one just wants to experiment with eating less gluten it should suffice to give up anything in which the primary ingredient is wheat such as breads, crackers, pasta, pastries — most of which you should eat less of anyway — as well as grains like bulgur, wheat berries, farro, cous cous and barley, all of which I recommend in moderation as part of a healthy diet.  Whether or not oats contain traces of gluten seems to be up for debate so best to buy gluten-free oats and granola for this experiment.

In addition to curiosity, something else spurred me to try the low-gluten life: I had been experiencing awful stomach aches after eating pasta.  I gave my husband a Kitchen Aid pasta making kit for Christmas and we had been enjoying homemade pasta and good wine on weekend nights when we didn’t have a babysitter but still wanted a special evening in. However, each time we did this I experienced awful stomach aches, regardless of the amount of sauce (I blamed that first) or wine (I limited myself to one or two glasses most evenings anyway).  I mentioned it to my son’s allergist and he said women can experience increased sensitivities to foods as a part of hormonal changes during and after pregnancy. I also mentioned it to my primary care doctor and she did a Celiac’s test (which was negative) but she acknowledged, in a rare moment of physician humility, that a lot of internists and gastroenterologists are coming around to the idea that food sensitivities, especially to wheat and dairy, are likely responsible for vague diagnoses like “IBS” and “Inflammation” in a lot of individuals. Hmmmm…does that mean doctors will finally start studying nutrition in med school???

So, the curiosity factor plus the stomach aches plus the fact that I still had a few lingering pregnancy pounds, gave me the motivation to try a mostly gluten-free diet for a few weeks. The results surprised me!

The biggest shock was that despite eating MORE potatoes (in the form of “oven fries” and my husband’s unbelievable pan fried potatoes with onions and cilantro), corn (in the form of fresh corn, my favorite healthy-ish tortilla chips made by Food Should Taste Good and corn tortillas) and brown rice (with chili or veggie stir-fries) I did lose a few pounds and my stomach was unbelievably flat compared to usual for the duration of the time I gave up wheat. I experienced NO bloating or stomach pains despite this being a frequent issue since the birth of my second child. This was very surprising because although I know that giving up carbohydrates other than fruits and vegetables is the quickest way to drop a few pounds, I was surprised to find I could get almost the same results and still enjoy brown rice, quinoa, potatoes and corn.  I should mention that I am nursing a baby right now and can get away with eating more than usual but the effect of no wheat was notable regardless.

So for now I have decided to live a “low-gluten” lifestyle meaning that I stay away from bread as much as possible, opt for gluten-free crackers (Mary’s Gone Crackers are the best), corn instead of flour tortillas and brown rice or quinoa instead of pasta.  Hence all the quinoa recipes on my Facebook page ( lately!  So far this has kept my weight a little lower simply because I don’t have as many options when I am at a party, but it’s not a diet plan per se. Just remember that since French fries are gluten-free and restaurants and bakeries now make all kinds of gluten-free treats, one still has to practice moderation and common sense when living gluten-free.







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