Monday, October 1, 2012

The gluten free / dairy experiment

One month ago, I started a new experiment with my diet.  I dropped all gluten/wheat from my diet, as well as all dairy. The only exception was eggs, but I kinda classify that as its own food group. It's actually been a lot easier than I thought, and an interesting learning experience.
A note about the eggs: Eggs are an AMAZING source of protein, and one I have become quite dependent on.  Additionally, they are so mellow on my stomach, I can literally eat and egg and then run 5 miles with no problems.  Not all foods are so forgiving. Since I have had no issues after eating them, I decided not to include them in this experiment.

I decided to give myself a couple more weeks on the gluten experiment, as I think I may have gotten a little wheat when we were in San Diego (I had vegan sausage and I didn't realize that most of them contain wheat). So, to be safe, I decided on 6 weeks just in case (since it can take a month to get it out of your system entirely). So, two more to go.

Over the past 5 years, I have dramatically changed my diet and gotten progressively pickier about where I shop, what I buy, and what I eat.  Just ask Jay, after I drag him to three grocery stores seeking "all natural" or "wild caught" products rather than buying what is on sale or available in the freezer section.  I feel empowered by knowing what is in my food, and I truly believe I feel better by fueling myself with better ingredients, even if they are more expensive.  I also believe that we vote every time we grocery shop, and I will vote to keep these items available and accessible to the public.

When I stopped eating meat, I stopped eating fish and dairy. Everything was removed from my diet initially because of cruelty issues, and then remained that way for health reasons.  I never craved meat, so I never felt the need to put it back in.  In fact, I felt better without it.  I did eventually start to crave the fish again, but that took 3 years to resurface (and is still on occasion).  The dairy was tough for me, so I brought it back in pretty quickly. I've had a love affair with dairy my entire life, and it always seemed to bring me back to the same result: my body doesn't like it.  My stomach especially doesn't like it, especially when I have a lot.  It gets bad, I drop it back, I feel better, I bring it back, I feel crappy. And repeat.  You see, I appear to be an "all or nothing" girl when it comes to dairy, cheese especially. I can't just eat it once a month. So apparently, it's time to say good bye, or I will just keep battling the stomach pain, occasional nausea, bloating, etc.

Over the past couple of years, I've slowly been working it out. Rice milk instead of half and half in my coffee. Almond milk instead of yogurt in my smoothies.  Sorbet or soy ice cream instead of ice cream.  Cheese was my downfall, as I was opposed to the idea of "soy cheese." And then I started this ingredient and gave it a shot: made enchiladas and it was delicious!

So why gluten/wheat?

I know I am not "allergic" to anything. I've had blood work done to confirm it.
I know I am not "lactose intolerant." I don't have the same symptom every single time.
What I believe is I have a food intolerance to dairy, and the wheat symptoms are incredibly similar.

Here are some of the gluten intolerance symptoms:

  • weight gain
  • gastrointestinal problems (bloating, gas, pain, constipation, etc)
  • aching joints
  • exhaustion
  • head aches
Here are some of the wheat intolerance symptoms:
  • gastrointestinal problems
  • frequent headaches
  • inflammation (joints and muscles), allergies
  • chronic fatigue
  • skin rash
Here are some of the dairy intolerance symptoms:
  • gastrointestinal problems
  • weight gain
  • sinus pain and headache
  • fatigue
  • skin rash

Anyone who knows me knows I have always suffered headaches, I have really bad inflammation in my muscles (major knots from head to toe), I randomly get hives, I'm tired a lot. Gastrointestinal, check.  It all seems to add up.

Gluten intolerance is harder to pin point, unlike celiac disease. It can take days to feel the affects of it in your body.  That makes it really tough to diagnose.  It's also something that has consistently been in my diet since I was a child.  It may not be a huge problem, but I certainly eat too much of it. I started noticing all of the above symptoms, and it occurred to me that I hadn't had dairy in days. What I had eaten consistently was wheat.  The final straw was the week/weekend that we were moving and I felt nauseous after I ate any type of bread or dairy. My stomach was bloated, I felt very gassy, and I just felt terrible. And it was happening more often than not.

Since I started this experiment, I have been feeling so much better. I will be interested to see what happens when I start reintroducing food, but I am very undecided if I am going to reintroduce dairy at all. It might just be time to cut the cord. My family might kill me when it comes to the holidays this year, ha!

Not exactly sure how to classify myself now. I am a vegetarian that doesn't eat dairy or meat, but I eat eggs, and I have been craving fish a lot so I've been eating that pretty regularly (couple times a month) over the past year or two.

I guess I'm just Abby. :)

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