Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Going Gluten Free

Two months ago I discovered that I have a sensitivity to gluten. This realization came to me quite by accident. After two or more years of recurring digestive "issues," I was beginning to get used to living with them. Then in April I realized that for two days in a row I felt great. I went through a mental checklist of what had been different those two days, and after reviewing everything I had eaten, it dawned on me: I had not eaten anything with gluten in it. No cereal, no bread, no pasta. 

For the next two weeks I avoided all wheat-based foods, and ate no processed foods to be sure I wasn't consuming any "hidden" gluten. I felt wonderful! And I realized that what I had been feeling for so long was not normal. This was normal! 

I reported my findings to my doctor and she ordered a couple of tests: one for celiac disease and one for an overabundance of bacteria in the small intestine. Fortunately both tests were negative. However, that left me without a diagnosis. I had only a strong gut feeling (excuse the pun) that I have gluten intolerance.

For the first several weeks after this discovery, I was careful to avoid all gluten. The results were great. Then I began to experiment, having a bit of gluten here and there. Sometimes I would regret it, sometimes not. I had pizza at my favorite pizza place  (a big risk, but worth it) and felt fine afterward. The restaurant buys their flour from Naples ... I wonder if there's something about it that makes a difference? Another evening when dining out, I ate half a slice of cake and paid the price for it (it wasn't worth it). 

If you're wondering about the symptoms I had been experiencing for two or more years, I'll fill you in (if you feel this is too much information, just jump to the next paragraph). The most frequent symptom I was having was bloating and cramping -- and lots and lots of burping. To the point of ridiculousness. I was also having heartburn more frequently,  which at times was very painful, as well as acid reflux, which can damage the esophagus over time. On really bad days I had all of the above.

Since going gluten-free, these symptoms are gone. When I tell people that I've given up gluten, the response is usually, "Oh, I could never do that. I love bread and pasta too much." My response is, "You could do it if it meant feeling 100 times better." Plus, there are so many gluten-free products on the market now, some very good ones. Bread and pasta are still possible, they're just different. In a future post, I'll share some of the products I've tried and offer my personal review of each. 

I'll admit, it can be tough to avoid all gluten. Eating out is more challenging. And if you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you may know how much I love to bake. However, I bought a gluten-free flour called Cup 4 Cup, sold by Williams-Sonoma, and used it to make a favorite cake (the cardamom coffee cake below). The results were great! I plan to experiment and use it in more of my favorite recipes. Go here to learn more about Cup 4 Cup and watch a video about how it was developed.




Are you or someone you know avoiding gluten for health reasons? If so, please share your experiences! What gluten-free cooking tips or products do you recommend?

8 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for sharing! I have been through the exact same thing over the last few months. Can't wait to learn more about the products you like. I am going to buy the flour and test it. Have you ordered anything from "enjoy life eat freely?" I am crazy about their cocoa loco bars and chocolate granola.

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    1. Hello H,
      I'm sorry to hear you have the same issue, but fortunately you have discovered the problem. I am not familiar with Enjoy Life brand foods but will definitely check them out! Thanks for the tip. I'll be sharing some of my favorite gluten-free foods, so check back!
      Claudia

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  2. We buy gluten free food items at Aldi and Costco. The wheat produced now in the USA is not the same as it was years and years ago and that is why so many people have become gluten sensitive. I always look for pasta made in Italy and that doesn't bother me because they have higher standards in their wheat production.

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    1. Hi Anonymous, thanks for your comment. I will have to try pasta made in Italy to see how it affects (or doesn't affect) me. Many people question why so many are becoming gluten sensitive, and I think it must have something to do with production. That would make sense.
      Claudia

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  3. Hi Claudia: That is wonderful…not that you have to go gluten free, but that you really know what the problem is (all tests aside.) I have had digestion issues for years and years, but totally different and very sporadic. Tests, yes, all negative. And then I'll be fine for a year or two! I really and truly think, in my case, it is stress. So that's why I do the gym 3x week, swim 30 min. every other day, and walk 2 miles every other day. They all really help. Well, you know, we all have some kind of problem, or most of us do, and we have to be thankful they are not life-threatening and/or we have come to terms with them. I applaud your proactive attitude and new wellness!!

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    1. Thanks, Libby. You're right, eventually we all have some sort of health problem, serious or not. I am thankful to have identified the issue and grateful to be feeling better.
      Claudia

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  4. I used the process of elimination too. Years ago, after a colonoscopy and multiple tests for Crohn's disease, I was (mis) diagnosed (in my opinion) with IBS. I reluctantly took the medication for awhile but didn't see an overall improvement. This year I did the same thing as you: realizing how good I felt on certain days and how bad I felt on others. I started looking for the common denominators. Undeniably gluten! Once I eliminated gluten, I have more energy, improvements in my skin and overall body. People are constantly remarking that I look like I've lost a lot of weight and while I have lost some, I'm just not bloated like I was. I just feel so much better!

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  5. Hi Claudia! I just found your blog and am enjoying my visit! I read two books: "The Grain Brain" and "Wheat Belly" and both inspired me to go wheat free. I felt fantastic for the two months I was wheat free but fell back into my old bread, pasta habits. Now I feel like....you know!lol So it's back to wheat free. Thanks for the flour recommendation as the recipes in both books weren't that great using the flours they used - at least what I tried anyway. Take care - sincerely, jeannette

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