Naturally Healthy 4 Life's Blog

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The gluten-free life

I am now four weeks into my gluten-free life (see my February 5, 2012 post to see how this started).

Physical changes

Sleep!  I fall asleep easily and stay asleep through the night.  I now understand what it is like to sleep like the dead.

Energy!  I have consistent energy throughout the day.  I used to feel my energy dip every afternoon – I have not experienced that in weeks.  I have more energy during yoga (I attend a 75 minute hot yoga in the evening, after work).

Mental clarity!  In his book “Wheat Belly” (mentioned in my last post), Dr. Davis talks about “brain fog,” which he believes may be attributable to wheat consumption.  Prior to leaving gluten in the dust, I frequently experienced this.  I chalked it up to the aging process, but in the last several weeks, I have noticed that I think more clearly, I am more focused and my memory is sharper.

Tools

I found a few apps for my iPhone that have been very helpful:

  • Gluten Free Ingredients:  It includes a list of ingredients – gluten free and not – that you can quickly and easily check while you are at the grocery store.  It also offers search tools that let you do Google and Amazon searches with “gluten free” attached to the search.

  • Gluten Free Registry:  It helps you find gluten-free friendly businesses (restaurants, coffee houses, grocers, etc.) using GPS.  It provides location information, reviews and website links.

Lessons learned

I did not experience any additional weight loss beyond the first few pounds.  One big lesson learned is that gluten-free is not guilt-free/calorie-free!  You still have to check the other ingredients and make a healthy choice.  (I am at a very healthy, stable weight, and do not need to lose any weight.)

I do not miss bread as much as I thought I would.  I hardly think about it, but I do notice when I go out to eat that there are very few dishes that are not made with bread, that are not breaded or that do not come with bread.  I tried a few gluten-free breads and I am not impressed; they do not come close to the flavor and texture of bread made with wheat or rye.  Meh…not the end of the world.

I found some great gluten-free pasta!  I tried De Boles Multi Grain Spaghetti Style Pasta, made with rice, quinoa and amaranth.  It is really good (especially with my homemade sauce)!  Interestingly, pasta without gluten does not expand when you cook it, so the noodles are very thin, but very tasty.

Unfortunately, I think it is close to impossible to find gluten-free pasta in a restaurant, so I will likely be avoiding most Italian restaurants (however, Biaggi’s in the Twin Cities has a gluten-free menu – see image above from my iPhone).  I am finding that many, many restaurants have gluten-free options on their menus.  I visited Pizza Luce over the weekend.  I had a gluten-free margherita pizza that was delightful.  In fact, my very picky eater (my 16 year old stepdaughter) tried it and actually preferred it to her own pizza (which was made with a regular wheat crust)!

The most interesting thing I learned is that gluten is hidden in many foods that I would never suspect contained it.  I went to dinner with a friend who ordered edamame.  I am used to edamame being steamed, salted and served – there is no gluten in edamame, right?  However, they had a “gluten-free” edamame on the menu.  Well, I discovered that the restaurant adds a sauce to their edamame that contains gluten.  Additionally, a lot of candy contains gluten.  Another friend gave me a bag of candy for Valentine’s Day.  Since I am still in the learning process, I decided to check the ingredients of the various treats.  SweeTart Hearts Gummies contain wheat, as do a lot of chocolates – even those that appear to be just a straight piece of chocolate may contain malt (Hershie’s Miniatures, for instance).

Everything I have read thus far about giving up gluten stresses that it may be months before I see the full effects of being gluten-free.  But I must say – so far, it has all been good!

Angela, Gluten-free Goddess 🙂

References:

  1. “Wheat Belly,” William Davis, M.D.

February 21, 2012 Posted by | Health, Nutrition, Uncategorized | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Cutting out the wheat

“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.”   ~James Beard

“Gluten-free” is trending big right now in the U.S.  Those with gluten allergies/sensitivities or celiac disease are very familiar with the term.  However, most of the rest of us do not really have a good understanding of what gluten is or why we would or would not want it in our diet.

According to the dictionary, gluten [French, from Latin gluten, glue] is:

1. The mixture of proteins, including gliadins and glutelins, found in wheat grains, which are not soluble in water and which give wheat dough its elastic texture.

2. Any of the prolamins found in cereal grains, especially the prolamins in wheat, rye, barley, and possibly oats, that cause digestive disorders such as celiac disease.

In addition to wheat, gluten is found in rye, spelt, barley, triticale, bulgur and kamut – all less common than wheat.

I have been extremely curious about gluten for a few years now, but fear of living without bread and pizza (which has gluten in the crust), both of which I love, has kept me from venturing into the gluten-free world….until now.   A few weeks ago, I started reading a book, “Wheat Belly,” by William Davis, M.D. (a really interesting, enlightening book that I recommend reading).  Davis is a cardiologist who claims that a wheat-free diet is associated with:

  • Weight loss
  • Alleviation of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes
  • Recovery from intestinal issues (ulcerative colitis, celiac disease)
  • Improvement in overall cholesterol and LDL counts
  • Improvement in bone density and reversal of osteopenia
  • Cessation of skin conditions like psoriasis, oral ulcers, hair loss
  • Reduction of inflammation and rheumatoid arthritis pain

As he points out in his book, the wheat we eat now is very different than the wheat we consumed 40 years ago.  In the 60s, scientists started genetically modifying the wheat to make it grow faster and stronger, make it easier to harvest, better for baking, etc.  Davis claims that our bodies process the “new” wheat very differently than the old.

As those who read my blog know, I am a health nut (healthy diet of whole foods, organic, lean proteins and regular exercise), but I am always curious about new ways to improve my health and longevity.  Fortunately, I do not have celiac disease, but I do have some lingering health issues (nothing serious) that I would like to remedy and a family history of health issues that I would like to avoid altogether.

SO…I have taken the gluten-free plunge in a rather unscientific way – I am only tracking the changes I see and feel in my body.  I won’t be doing any blood tests, checking blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

I am now two weeks into the process.  Interestingly, other than doing without whole-grain bread and pizza, my diet has not changed much.  I thought about bread and pizza a LOT during the first week (like any addiction, you find yourself obsessed with what you can no longer have!).  However, by the second week, I did not think about it much.  Other changes:

  • Decreased appetite, decreased cravings for carbs
  • The painful twing that I have been feeling in my hip on and off for the last few months is gone
  • More energy, especially in the afternoon (when I usually have a little energy slump)
  • Better digestion
  • I am sleeping more deeply
  • I am less bloated, puffy
  • The keratosis pilaris (little bumps) on the backs of my arms have diminished
  • I lost 3 pounds (without any other changes to my diet and no change in the amount of exercise)!

My next step is testing new products and trying some new recipes for replacement of things that I miss, like sandwich bread, wraps and, of course, pizza crust!

I will post updates in the coming weeks…

Angela, Wheat-free Woman 🙂

References:

  1. “Wheat Belly,” William Davis, M.D.

February 7, 2012 Posted by | Health, Nutrition | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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