A few months ago, I had what I thought to be a brilliant idea. I decided to take a food allergy test. I thought it would be interesting to learn something new about myself, so I sent five vials of blood to a lab, where they exposed my blood to two hundred and fifty food items. From beef to broccoli to eggs and milk, I was going to find out which foods gave me trouble; and as a result, reach the next level of optimal wellness. Sounds great, right?
Not so much.
Two weeks later I received the results of my test. I was completely surprised. It turns out that I have minor sensitivity to several of my favorite food items (eggs, tomatoes, and broccoli) and a severe sensitivity to gluten.
In case you don’t know much about gluten, let me start by telling you that gluten is in just about everything. Bread, pasta, desserts, ketchup, soy sauce, soup, salad dressings, beer, candy, and anything considered fun or that falls into the category of comfort food.
After reading the report and analyzing what I should no longer eat, I was equal parts angry and sad. No more sushi? No more french fries dipped in ketchup? No more beer on a hot summer day? Life as I knew it was seemingly over.
What is Gluten and What Kind of Health Problems Does it Cause?
Gluten is a combination of two proteins found in wheat, barley, and rye. It is what makes dough elastic and chewy. One of out of every 141 people in the United States suffer from Celiac disease. People who have this disease experience diarrhea, vomiting and other intestinal issues when they consume gluten. They also suffer serious long-term effects because the gluten causes their bodies to trigger an immune response that destroys the lining of their intestines. This makes it nearly impossible for them to absorb vital nutrients.
In addition to people with Celiac disease, there is also another group of people, like me, who don’t have the disease, but suffer similar symptoms due to severe sensitivity to gluten. Before my allergy test, I experienced bloating, constipation, and brain fog. But the number one symptom I suffered was lethargy. Every afternoon between three and four o’clock, I was tired. And I mean tired. I’d want to shut my eyes and take a nap.
I was confused how I could feel so tired when I consider myself a healthy eater. I juice. I eat most vegetarian. I don’t eat many processed foods. But given the results of the test and how I had been feeling, I figured gluten must be sneaking it’s way into my diet and damaging my health.
My Gluten-Free Kitchen.
With or without gluten, a majority of my meals are organic and unprocessed. But there are times, especially on the weekends, when I want some comfort food. Pizza. Toast with jam. A cookie. Crackers and cheese.
For the past six weeks, I have turned my life and my kitchen upside down looking for my comfort food substitutes. I’ve read books and analyzed labels. I’ve scoured grocery stores and cleaned out my cupboards. And after weeks of trying new things, I no longer feel discouraged. Instead, I feel renewed and wise.
I’ve discovered delicious substitutes for all my old stand-bys. It is easier than you would think. Here are a few gluten free items that have made a new home in my kitchen.
- Daiya Mozzarella Cheese Alternative
- Anything from Udi’s , the makers of delicious breads and desserts. You can find them in your grocer’s freezer section.
- Glutino chocolate chip cookies and yogurt covered pretzels when you want something sweet.
- Omission beer in pale ale and lager. You won’t believe how good they taste.
- Mary’s Gone Crackers crackers. No soy, no wheat, and all organic.
- Love sushi? You can still enjoy it if you use San J tamari soy sauce. I love the travel packets, which make it easy to take them with you to your favorite Japanese restaurant.
What Are the Benefits of Going Gluten Free?
Even if do not suffer from Celiac disease or have a severe sensitivity to gluten, you too can benefit from living a gluten free lifestyle. The benefits of avoiding gluten include:
- Increased energy
- Clearer thinking, less brain fog
- Better sleep
- Improved digestion, less bloating
- Fewer aches and pains
- Lower bad cholesterol levels
- Weight loss
After six weeks of no gluten, I feel less bloated. I have more energy and less brain fog. And that afternoon fatigue? Gone. That’s a lot to be thankful for.
Speaking of being thankful…
Tune in later this month when I’ll tell you what I’m cooking up for Thanksgiving, a traditionally gluten-filled holiday. Hopefully, I’ll inspire you to change up a few of your old stand-bys.
Thinking about going gluten free? Here’s your fun, sexy, spiritual homework:
- Read the book, Wheat Belly, by William Davis, M.D.
- Get some great cookbooks that will inspire you. Here are a few that I love and use regularly. Gluten Free on a Shoestring , Against All Grain, The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook.