Experimenting with a Gluten-Free Diet

A few of weeks ago I complained to Trainer Dave about how hard I workout and watch what I eat and yet I gain weight. It just didn't make sense to me. He suggested modifying by diet by going Gluten-Free. My initial reaction was, "Oh I don't have Celiac's Disease, I don't need to do it", followed by, "and I just can't give up Honey Bunches of Oats in the morning." He pointed out that it wouldn't hurt to try it and I shrugged off the suggestion. But really, I tucked it in the back of my brain. In the following days I decided to put a little more research into it to see if it's something that might be helpful. I was briefly familiar with a Gluten-Free eating because my cousin Jeff follows a strict GF diet to manage his autoimmune diseases, but I really didn't know a lot of details about it. I read a few online articles, and then took to Amazon to see what books were out there on it. I found the book called, "Wheat Belly" by Dr. William Davis.

The book description reads:

In Wheat Belly, Davis exposes the harmful effects of what is actually a product of genetic tinkering and agribusiness being sold to the American public as “wheat”—and provides readers with a user-friendly, step-by-step plan to navigate a new, wheat-free lifestyle. Informed by cutting-edge science and nutrition, along with case studies from men and women who have experienced life-changing transformations in their health after waving goodbye to wheat, Wheat Belly is an illuminating look at what is truly making Americans sick and an action plan to clear our plates of this seemingly benign ingredient.

To say this book fascinated me would be an understatement. In fact, it had the same affect on me that "Fast Food Nation" did. In other words, it made me never want to eat wheat or any other foods that contain gluten again.

What resonated with me the most was how people with diabetes and autoimmune diseases are more prone to suffer the bad effects of gluten. This was a big red flag for me because I am predisposed to both diseases. You see, not only does my cousin Jeff have an autoimmune disease, but so does my mother (Sjodren's Syndrome), and another cousin has MS. In addition, there are many, many other relatives who have Diabetes. And although I don't have Celiac's Disease, I've experienced different symptoms the book describes and do believe that I have some sort of intolerance or sensitivity to it. This was enough for me to make the decision to give it a try. Like Trainer Dave said, there's no harm in experimenting with it.

The first thing I did was clean out my cupboards with all the foods that contain gluten. It was basically left empty. Next, I poured over Gluten Free web sites and blogs to find GF recipes that sounded appealing and were simple to make. I made a menu for the week and then went to Whole Foods to stock up on the ingredients that I needed. Confession: I've been shopping at Whole Foods for well over 8 years and have NEVER noticed the "Gluten Free" labels on the shelves designating GF products. I was that oblivious to it. Now I think it's a god send. Seriously, this diet change has not been as difficult as I imagined it would be. I would even so as far to say that it's been fun!

I've found dozens and dozens of new blogs and magazines to read. It takes a little more effort, but I've enjoyed menu planning. I've found that I'm eating a lot more produce and have significantly diversified my diet, which is recommended. I've been ambitious in trying new recipes, and while I'm not in any way a baker, I am feeling inspired to try to bake some gluten free desserts. I'm reading ingredients labels and have become a lot more aware of what's in the foods I'm ingesting.

Nowadays there are a lot of GF products so making changes to my diet has been easy. Instead of Honey Bunches of Oats for breakfast I have Bob's Red Mill Steel Cut Oats (which I used to eat all the time). And for my mid-morning fried egg white sandwich I replaced Whole Wheat Bread with Udi's GF Bread (which I also have eaten before).

Dining out has been a bit more challenging, but I mostly go out for sushi, and rice is GF so it hasn't been that big of a deal. Soy sauce does have gluten so I just have to be more careful about the kinds of rolls that I eat. During the few times I've dined out I've had edamame, sushi rice and sashimi. Yum!

It's only been 10 days (started on Sunday, June 3rd) and I've gone through other changes (like no longer marathon training), so it's hard to say what kind of difference it's made so far. But I will say that I've observed the following thus far:

1. Although I'm running significantly less miles my body isn't as sore afterwards. I used to get painfully sore after just a short 5-miler. Now I realize that I may have had some inflammation going on in my body. I don't feel that very much anymore.

2. My sleep is deeper, more restful.

3. I've always have oily skin, and that hasn't changed, but I have noticed my skin isn't as oily as it usually is.

4. I used to feel very bloated after eating even if it was just a snack or small meal. I don't feel that anymore. In fact, my stomach issues have become almost non-existent.

Overall, I feel more energized and my mood swings have decreased. The dark cloud that always seemed to loom over me doesn't feel as dark anymore, the sun is starting to peek through. Whether it has anything to do with this diet change or not, I can't say for certain, but I like to think that it has.

So far this experiment has been nothing but a positive experience and one that I plan on sticking with. And I’ll keep monitoring things and continue to share if there are any other significant changes.

PS I created a Twitter list of Gluten-Free resources that I’ve discovered.