Going Gluten-free for a Month – a Personal Health Experiment, Part 2

Goodlifer: Going Gluten-free for a Month: Part 2

Two months ago, I wrote about my experiment of going without gluten; one month ago, I started eating gluten again. The month of gluten-free completed, I am sorry to report to you readers, that I didn’t notice any definite changes in my body. The headaches didn’t completely disappear, I didn’t immediately lose weight or begin to feel balance restored to my body.

Simply put: I did not get instant gratification from the experiment! Making a significant change in diet is hard at any stage of life, but I found it particularly challenging in the middle of a college pace. So, I switched back.

But, unfortunately, it was more than just “college life” that made me switch back: results came back from my Naturopath appointment earlier in the year that determined that I have pre-diabetic levels of glucose and insulin. Receiving this information was startling and frightening, since I consider myself to exercise healthy habits, but diabetes runs in my family and the numbers spoke for themselves: to avoid contracting diabetes later in life, I had to start eating differently. My doctor recommended another drastic switch in my diet that entailed strictly cutting back carbohydrates and fruit and beginning to eat meat again (when you don’t eat meat, you are more likely to supplement carbohydrates, which will in turn spike blood sugar). Making this diet change (which is hard—I really try to avoid meat, and I love fruit!) and still not eating gluten wouldn’t be feasible. Cutting out gluten completely again is a likely possibility down the road (my older sister is currently eliminating from her diet). There are many connections between gluten and diabetes, as gluten can spike insulin levels; for an individual worried about diabetes or heart disease, cutting back on gluten is a good idea to start with.

Try to make a gluten-free pizza with this recipe from glutenfreegirl.com.

Try to make a gluten-free pizza with this recipe from glutenfreegirl.com.

Despite the fact that I am now eating gluten (though infrequently) my experiment still leaves me with unanswered questions: why all these sudden health problems? Why are so many Americans having to turn to alternative diets and discovering new allergies later in life—and what exactly does this suggest about our bodies and the system in which we’re feeding them? First, let’s define Gluten, because it’s easy to confuse Gluten with the hundred thousand other labels in a health-food aisle (for example, I’m completely guilty of being seduced by labels in health food stores; it’s  very easy to look at a product that is labeled “gluten-free” and think “Oh great! This has got to be so healthy!”). But gluten isn’t a health label like “low calories.” What exactly is it? One online dictionary offers this definition:
Gluten: The mixture of proteins, including gliadins and glutelins, found in wheat grains, which are not soluble in water and which give wheat.

Goodlifer: Going Gluten-free for a Month: Part 2

Being sensitive or intolerant to Gluten, then, is not an allergy but a condition in your gut that doesn’t allow gluten to break down and this, in turn, doesn’t allow other nutrients in your body to break down. Despite the fact that all these things occur inside the small region of your gut, the repercussions are far-reaching and can cause everything from neurological disorders to chronic fatigue, to anemia. According to the blog Food Renegade, gluten intolerances were 1 in 2500 a decade ago; now, they stand at 1 in 133 of the general population. This rise is almost unbelievable. Scientists explain it one way by saying that the wheat we eat now simply isn’t the wheat “we” ate a century ago.

Gluten-free Breton Galette. Recipe from Foodrenegade.com.

Gluten-free Breton Galette. Recipe from Foodrenegade.com.

So, here are my parting words: experiment. It never hurts to try. We each have a unique body with unique reactions to what we put into it; gluten intolerances are plentiful in today’s world and can look different in every person. For this season of my life, I can’t complete commit to eliminating gluten, but I can commit to working until I find the right combination that makes me feel balanced and, hopefully, avoids serious conditions like Diabetes. You know your body. Find your balance.

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