Choosing to be Gluten Free

Okay, I know already that I have a lot of skeptical friends. And that’s why I love you. You aren’t jumping on the bandwagon, and if everyone jumps off of a bridge, you won’t be right behind them (unless its to laugh and point).

And I know that many of you might be rolling your eyes and sighing, “Gluten Free? That fad? Hasn’t that died out yet?!”

But you love me, so I know you will at least hear me out, right? 😉

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The “fad” is dying out a bit, but that’s because a lot of the people that choose to be gluten free for health purposes, have found the resources they need, and are just rocking and rolling along. And a lot of times, nobody is any the wiser. Did you know we’ve been gluten free for 2.5 years? That’s a while – half of our relationship now that I think about it! Whoa.

Neither of us are diagnosed with Celiac’s Disease, though neither of us were tested. My understanding is you have to have consumed wheat products within two weeks of testing, so I’m just going with, “No thanks!”

Okay, so the backstory: I decided to try going gluten free based on a conversation with a dear friend, who had done it for about a year. It helped her clear up a lot of issues, including some gut-related stuff, so I decided it was worth a shot. Dave decided to join me, I think mostly out of love and convenience.

At first, we didn’t really succeed at being gluten FREE. We were gluten REDUCED. And that just doesn’t cut it. So for about 6 months, we noticed nothing. Then we took a look at our diet, and realized just how many gluten products we were still consuming (namely beer). So we agreed that if we were going to take the Pepsi Challenge, we had to actually be all in. We buckled down. We became “label readers.” We discovered that gluten is snuck into so many products.

Some of the things that surprised us, or at the very least snuck up on us:

  • licorice/Red Vines/other gummy type candies
  • soy sauce/teriyaki sauces
  • mustards
  • lots of canned foods, like chili and soup (soup is less surprising)
  • lots of foods that have soy sauce as a part of their ingredient list, which you may not realize at first
  • probiotic yogurt smoothie drinks

I could continue, but it’d require more thinking than I feel like doing at the moment. It’s a warm day. Brain needs breaks.

Ultimately, once we actually checked all of our labels, and really had extended periods of time without gluten in our diets, we discovered we were feeling a lot better in a myriad of ways:

  • No more nightly antacids to attempt to alleviate the heartburn. I mean, this was so bad I thought I had an ulcer once! Now, I really only need to reach for Tums when I’ve cheated and eaten a bagel.
  • Reduced odor flatulence. No joke. I mean, we still fart. They just don’t make the cats leave the room.
  • No more injured wrist and back. I have arthritis in my wrists from old injuries. I used to need a wrist brace one or two weeks out of every month. Now, I’m not even sure where my wrist brace is. And Dave injured his back in car accidents back in the day, had to have surgery, and since then has had a sensitive back – to the point where it could go out just lifting a basket of laundry, and he’d be laid up in bed for a few days. Guess who doesn’t have a valid excuse to laze about anymore? 😉

We also see side effects when we sneak, knowingly or unknowingly, gluten into our diet:

  • Diarrhea. A couple of days.
  • Heart Burn. Almost instantly for me, but Dave gets it sometimes.
  • STINKY gas. I mean. EW.
  • Lethargy and Irritability, and a severe penchant for snapping at each other.
  • Bloating, massive huge belly bloat. Can you say uncomfortable?

See, gluten is a great thickening, binding agent, so it gets used in a lot of things as filler, or as a binder, or a thickener. It’s also an inflammatory. I don’t expect these products to change to meet my needs, but there are so many available products that naturally don’t utilize this cheap ingredient, so we just go with those. We avoid buying products that are processed specifically to be gluten free, but occasionally treat ourselves to some pasta, bread, crackers and the like. We’re only human. But honestly, for the most part, we just switched up our diet to include other sources of carbs, including more veggies. Actually, that’s recent. At first, we just switched up our diet to include ‘TATOS. Tons and tons of potatoes. I’m Irish ya’ll. That wasn’t that great for its own reasons. Like, 50 pounds worth of reasons, HA! Anyway, here’s some of the products we do dig, and might even eat if we weren’t gluten free. They’re THAT good:

  • Van’s Gluten Free Waffles
  • Tamari Soy Sauce
  • Koop’s Mustard
  • Annie’s Gluten Free Bunny Cookies
  • Mary’s crackers
  • Breton GF crackers
  • Glutino’s (lots of stuff, some better than others, but overall good)
  • Udi’s frozen thin pizza CRUST (they changed their recipe for their pizza and now it’s too soggy)
  • California Pizza Kitchen GF frozen pizzas

So if you are contemplating giving gluten free a go, I hope these resources are helpful. If you are experiencing IBS, heartburn, inflammation issues, it might be worth a shot. Give it a good two months before you discount it, and again you have to be diligent. But I see no turning back in our future. When you find something that alleviates so many symptoms that you have put up with for so long, you stick with it!