Going Gluten Free

Well, here I am again talking about healthy things and trying to change my ways, namely my ridiculous addiction to SUGAR and BREAD. Two of my favorite things. I love them when I'm happy. I love them when I'm sad. I love them when I'm _____(fill in the blank with any emotion). It's the overall experience of eating them, including the taste and texture, that takes me to my happy place. My happy place also keeps an extra 10 pounds on my hips and tummy, and that takes me to my sad place. So you see my dilemma.

Lately, my sad place has been getting many more visits. Especially in the mornings when I am looking for something to wear. I only have so many black outfits that will cover bulges and lumps and I'm tired of wearing the same thing. I do a lot of laundry! It's tiring. So, being pushed over the edge has brought me to the conclusion that I need to make some significant changes that don't feel significant. Does that make sense? I can't go to over the top or I won't stick with it. I know myself well enough to know that going cold turkey won't work either. It will just make me obsess about all the things I shouldn't have and therefore propel me to run for those exact items and eat them quickly (when no one is looking).

This summer, (bathing suit season seems to motivate me), I kept hearing about a condition called Gluten Sensitivity/Intolerance. Not only did I not like the way I looked in my suit, I was also feeling yucky. In researching, I learned that it's not the same as Celiac Disease which actually breaks down the small intestine. Unlike the devastating effects of Celiac, when people with gluten sensitivity eat gluten and products that contain wheat, they will feel bloated, fatigued, irritable, and may have achy joints and headaches. Also, they may suffer from Borborygmi. Have you heard of that? Neither had I. It's the fancy word for stomach rumbling. If you have this syndrome, you will feel gross after eating, say, a piece of pizza. That is me!

I was curious about why it seems that there are so many people suffering from this in 2013? It turns out, nutritionists believe that it's because of the way products containing wheat flour are processed now-a-days. Before the invention of mass produced items like Wonder Bread in the 1940's, wheat rolls and bread were made by letting dough rise. It took 12-18 hours for this process to be completed. During which, the yeast broke down the gluten part of the wheat so that our bodies could digest it more easily. In order to feed the masses, companies learned how to make bread quickly and the yeast didn't have time to break down the gluten. Gluten is not easily digested by our bodies and for some it causes problems as it builds up in our systems (yuck). So if this sounds like you too, try making your own bread and see what happens. I haven't tried that yet but I'd like to when Fall weather arrives for good (SOON I hope).

Because of what I have learned, I've started thinking more about the food I eat in order to gauge how my body may react. Is the cookie/French bread worth it? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. It has definitely changed my outlook. It has also given me a new project. I have slowly been researching and experimenting with gluten free items and here is what I have discovered so far:

It can be very expensive! It's definitely important to try different items to find one that is to your liking but when crackers are $6-$8 a box, it can make it unpleasant to continue eating them if you've found they taste like cardboard. Finding a brand you like and buying things made by that same company is usually the key. Luckily, there are SO many options now, even in restaurants. It takes away the anxiety if you love going out to eat but don't want to feel like you should crawl into bed right after dinner. So, moral of this story: it may take a little more out of your grocery budget for a few months, but your tummy will thank you!

Another issue is getting used to the taste. It can really take some getting used to! Gluten free Bisquick is awesome because its so easy but the pancakes and biscuits do not taste the same. It's not BAD, it's just different. So stick with it...when I made the decision to try this new way of eating, I went out and bought all the baking products I could because I really wanted to make a chocolate chip cookie that tasted the same as the one on the Nestle bag. After MANY tries it finally happened (kind of)! I can now eat a cookie and not feel like I gained 10 pounds of water weight and getting a stomach ache. It's definitely not the same but its not horrible either. Unless, of course, you use a vegetable derivative flour for cookies. Then the after taste is like anchovies. Fish and chocolate don't mix. It's a learning curve people...

The bottom line is that I feel SO much better! I can and do still eat a piece of pizza or a "normal" cookie here and there, but I noticed the difference in how my body reacts so I'm compelled to stay away from it more often. If you feel like this may be an issue for you, try a little test. Stop eating gluten/wheat products for a week and see if it makes you feel better. If so, go a little longer for a detox (a good month is recommended) before slowly introducing some things back into your diet. You may feel, like I did that when you limit those items, your body can tolerate them more easily, and you can eat a bagel for breakfast once a week and feel fine. Going gluten free isn't easy but it can make a huge difference in how you look and feel. Isn't that what our happy place is really all about after all? {H}

Holly and Jenn

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