A Merry Farewell to Gluten

As you may recall, I recently took a month off of gluten, and discovered that it was helpful. (If you don’t recall this, then why aren’t you devoting more of your spare memory to my dietary habits? Jeez.)

When I last spoke with you, I was going back on gluten for two weeks, so that I could get the official test for celiac disease. Now that I have done so, here’s the upshot:

  • Luckily, I do not have celiac disease, so I don’t have to worry about stray gluten molecules destroying my health.
  • For over half of the two weeks that I was eating gluten again, I felt vaguely unwell. While this was bothersome, it’s actually a good thing: since there is no test for gluten intolerance, I had been doubting my dietary self-assessment, but the two weeks’ reunion with gluten convinced me: no, I really do feel best on a gluten-free diet.

After the two weeks were over and the test was done, I gratefully re-eliminated gluten products from my diet … and they all lived happily ever after. My plan for the foreseeable future is to continue eating gluten-free. If you offer me breads and cakes, I shall politely decline, and instead shall engulf myself in delicious gluten-free chocolate chip cookies.

Farewell, sweet tiramisu.

A Month Free From Gluten: The Reckoning

Are you yearning for an update on my dietary habits? If so, then (a) why? and (b) you’re in luck, since it’s that time again!

As you may recall, I decided to try cutting gluten entirely out of my diet for a month, as an experiment to see if/how it would help my Complainer Belly Syndrome (that is the technical medical name). It has now been a month.

Did it work?

As far as I can tell… yes. I did not have a single incidence of Whiny Ol’ Belly Disorder during the entire month. (This is all guesswork and correlation, rather than Clear Solid Scientific Facts, but unfortunately, with gluten sensitivity, that’s the best one can do.)

What next?

I’m actually going to start eating gluten again: at least one serving per day for the next two weeks. Then, I’m going to go tested for celiac disease, just to make sure that’s not on the table. (The test won’t work unless one has been eating gluten, as it relies on measuring the body’s antibody reaction.)

If the test is negative, I’ll still probably assume that I’m gluten sensitive, and will go back to a gluten-free diet after I’ve taken the test.* If, by some fluke of nature, the test is positive, then I will have to buy all new cookware, stare suspiciously at envelope rubber, etc.

*If I feel exactly as good with gluten back in my diet as I did without it, then I will question everything, worry incessantly, and ponder deeply.

It’s all very complicated.


Going Gluten-Free for a Month

As of last Sunday, 8/26, I’m attempting to take a month off of gluten products. Would you like to know more? Probably not. I’m going to tell you anyways.

What’s a gluten?

Your face is a gluten. A gluten is a protein thing that you find in wheat, barley, and rye. (Nifty etymology fact: It comes from the Latin word for “glue,” due to the fact that it creates the elasticity of dough and the structure of baked bread and goods. It’s like glue… for your mouth! Who wouldn’t want that?)

Why go gluten-free?

Roughly 10% of the population has a condition called gluten sensitivity (or intolerance), in which their body has issues digesting gluten. This may lead to bloating, abdominal discomfort and pain, and other fun stuff like fatigue and headaches. There’s also a rarer, much more serious condition called celiac disease, which is a lifelong autoimmune disease in which gluten intake can actually damage the intestine and cause many other health issues. The only treatment for both of these? A gluten-free diet.

Is the gluten-free diet healthier than a regular diet?

Nope! Not hardly. You’re essentially replacing one class of staple carbohydrates with other types of carbs that just happen not to contain a certain protein. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something.

What are the main gluten substitutes?

Pretty much any carbohydrate-esque thing that’s not wheat, barley, or rye. Some of the main ones include corn, rice, some oats, potatoes, and quinoa. As gluten sensitivity becomes more well-known, more stores are stocking fancy gluten-free alternatives to common products like bread, bagels, and rolls, meant to emulate the gluten-full equivalent in texture and taste. However, these are wicked expensive and not actually all that nutritious.

Why are you, Hermitina, trying this out?

I’ve had the lifelong pleasure of living with a stomach that is a world-class complainer, usually for completely baffling and invisible reasons. It’s not uncommon for people who were initially diagnosed with Whiny Stomach Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and other conditions to try cutting out gluten and discover their body becomes much happier without it. Also, there is currently no clear, definitive medical test for gluten intolerance, so the best way to diagnose it is to rule out other things (celiac, wheat allergy) and then see if your belly improves when you cut out gluten.

On a less systematic note, I’m also a little curious just to try it — gluten is in so many things that it’s a really interesting thought exercise consciously to avoid it. It’s in bread and pasta, of course, but it can show up in everything from ice cream to the sticky gum bits on envelopes. (My family: there’s even gluten in Good & Plenty licorice candy! Alas.)

Any questions, comments, or critiques?