2.04.2014

A Gluten Free Lifestyle | February Series | Week 1


Each month this year my plan is to blog about a topic that is relevant to my life in some way or another in the form of a 4-week series. I want to share some insight & information related to each topic with the hope of blessing others whether in a big or small way. That being said, this month's series will be focused on living a gluten free lifestyle.* As some of you may know, I eat and live 99% gluten free by choice. It is not medically necessary, as I do not have celiac disease, but I feel so much better when I avoid gluten. I consider myself gluten intolerant; I experience a variety of symptoms affecting multiple body systems when I eat gluten on a regular basis.

*I am an RN (BSN) by degree and have completed extensive research on this topic throughout nursing school and in both my internships and externships; however, I am not a medical doctor and these opinions are solely my own, based on my personal experiences of reading, researching & living gluten free.

Here is the February Series Outline:
WEEK 1 | My Personal Story + What Gluten Is
WEEK 2 | How Gluten Affects Your Body + Related Health Information
WEEK 3 | My Diet & Food Philosophies + What I Eat (Meals & Snacks)
WEEK 4 | Tips for Transitioning to a GF Lifestyle + My Favorite Products

PART 1: MY PERSONAL STORY

I grew up as an only child, pretty much eating whatever I wanted. I wouldn’t have considered myself a picky eater, but I definitely was not a healthy eater. Around age 12 (2002), I began experiencing stomach issues and horrible migraines – migraines that felt endless and a stomach ache that lasted for days. I saw what felt like every neurologist in the entire state and multiple GI specialists and still nothing. Of course, no one in the medical field even suggested it may be my diet. That would have been too simple, too obvious. How could it possibly be that? Instead, I was put on various prescriptions, scheduled for MRIs and CT scans and referred to other neuro & GI specialists. Years later, nothing. Along with my parents, I was beyond discouraged. No medication had helped, and some even made it worse. My mom began digging deeper and connected with chiropractors, naturopaths, and nutritionists. I am a registered nurse by degree, and I think what modern medicine can do is amazing, but I also believe there is A LOT of information, we – as patients and consumers – are NOT given. Specifically, valid and truthful information about our diets.

 In 2008 (at age 18), I had done what is called Electrodermal Screening. Basically, it’s a noninvasive diagnostic tool in which the body responds to allergens as stimuli. Your body is not actually exposed to the stimuli (for example, I didn’t have to eat WHEAT), but when prompted, my body responded to the “WHEAT” stimuli, and reacted harshly. Long story short, there were over 40 foods that my body was reacting negatively to (shown by the energetic level of corresponding organs and systems). I was amazed at all the foods that my body "hated:" wheat, rye, malt, barley, pork, cow’s milk, etc. That day was a major eye-opener. From there, I went on a GLUTEN FREE-DAIRY FREE diet. As an 18 year old, it was definitely a challenge and it took a lot of hard work to commit fully to this new regimen.

It took about 6 weeks before I started noticing any difference, which made it even more difficult. I felt like NOTHING was changing, and I wanted to quit and give up and just eat a piece of bread! But around two months after I went completely gluten- and dairy-free, I started noticing how much better I felt. If you’ve experienced symptoms and then gone gluten free, you will understand what I am saying when I say that you will wonder how you were even living before, because your health and how you FEEL will be on a whole new level! I started experiencing days without migraines and stomach cramps. I had more energy, my skin was healthier, my digestive system was regulated, my joints felt better – head to toe, I felt like I was living in a new body.

In early 2009 (age 19), I began reintroducing some of the foods I had cut out – one at a time and slowly – much like you would when introducing new foods to a baby. I began with some dairy products (mild cheeses, yogurts, etc.). My body had no problem handling these. I did however reintroduce cow’s milk and while it didn’t make me sick, I just felt really crummy after drinking it. Since then, I have cut out cow’s milk entirely. I drink PureSilk Almond Milk (Unsweetened Original) exclusively – it is SO good in cereal! My husband and I have commited to raising our daughter, Olivia, on a gluten free and cow's milk-free diet also.

After dairy was established, I began reintroducing some products containing gluten. I noticed that some of my symptoms started coming back. I cut back again, and started fresh. For those of you who are health savvy, you may already know this, but this was something I learned in all my studying, reading, and researching: It takes approximately 21 days (3 weeks) – at a minimum – but typically up to 3-4 months for your body to COMPLETELY rid itself of gluten. The half-life of gluten antibodies is approximately 3 months. That is one reason that you may not notice all your symptoms disappearing right away (though some individuals experience some symptom relief within a few days depending on the severity of their symptoms and their overall health). 

EVERY TIME you reintroduce gluten, you are starting the cycle again, forcing your body to purge the gluten and rebuild your healthy gut. As I said before, I have NOT been diagnosed with CELIAC disease, so while I eat and live gluten free, I do not need to take extreme precautions to avoid it via cross contamination the way some people do. Bottom line, no test at my traditional doctor's office has or can diagnose my gluten intolerance, but all I needed to know years ago was that I was putting something into my body that was hurting it and all my symptoms are my body's way of getting me to notice and change my diet. Being that we only get one body in this life, I didn’t want to damage it any more than I already had in the 18 previous years of my life. 

The number one thing I base my choice to eat gluten free on? How I feel. When I eat a lot of gluten and feel icky, it reminds me that I make the right choice every day when I wake up and choose to turn down foods that contain gluten. It reminds me that my body is so smart. I know I need to follow how I feel physically, because the intuition our body has in knowing what helps and what harms is just incredible. 
I am continually amazed at the human body!

PART 2: WHAT IS GLUTEN?

Gluten is a protein found in WHEAT, RYE, and BARLEY/MALT. There has been significant debate as to whether OATS contain gluten or not; I always just purchase certified gluten free oats to be on the safe side.


Obviously, the major food source of gluten in the America diet is WHEAT, and wheat is in everything! (Check out the book Wheat Belly for a crazy-good eye-opening read!) Did you know the main ingredient in licorice is WHEAT? Gluten is also packed into many types of salad dressings, soups and soup stocks, marinades, sauces, gravies, candies, and even dietary supplements! You have to be aware of all the hidden sources of gluten in foods. 
Also remember that "WHEAT FREE" is NOT the same as "GLUTEN FREE"




Some Common Hidden Sources of Gluten:
 "Barley Malt" or "Malt" -- Found in rice krispies, cornflakes & Lindt truffles 
Soy Sauce -- Contains wheat unless made with GF "Tamari" soy sauce
Worcestershire Sauce -- contains wheat
Beer -- contains wheat (hops) + barley/malt
Soup bases - often made from a flour base (roux), as are many gravies and sauces
Ice cream -- wheat flour is often added to prevent ice from forming
Chocolate sauces -- contain food starches which can be wheat or malt
Smoke flavoring & liquid smoke -- barley/malt is often used to capture a "smoky" food flavor
BBQ sauce and BBQ-flavored items (including most BBQ-flavored chips)
*Many vitamins, dietary supplements and prescription medications are NOT gluten free & this should be addressed with your MD*

If you're interested in a detailed list of hidden sources of gluten, feel free to email me. Have other questions about gluten? Contact me anytime for support, advice or encouragement.  

Next week's post will address HOW GLUTEN AFFECTS YOUR BODY, including common symptoms by system, the effects on your intestines and long-term complications, the difference between celiac disease and a gluten intolerance, and other related health information. 

2 comments:

  1. I love this! Can't wait for the rest of the posts in the series! I'm taking notes to improve the eating in our house!

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  2. I've eaten gluten free for a year now.. With a few cheat days here and there. It's tough!!! And definitely a daily choice. Maybe I'll read wheat belly! My sis did.. Her and my mama are also Gfree. Bad tummies run in our family!

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