First things first, you guys should know one very important thing about me. I am not a band-wagoner, in any way, shape or form.
I don’t do trends (unless it’s chevron, because that pattern gives me life), I don’t go with the flow, and I don’t fit in (even when I try). So for anyone (*cough* family *cough*) who may think that my switch to a gluten-free lifestyle is to stay on the trendy path, well you couldn’t be more wrong. Plus, isn’t going gluten-free so 2013 anyway?
In all seriousness, this is a decision that I went back and forth on for a while. And by a while I actually mean years. My older sister and I have debated back and forth about our sensitivity to gluten for a long time. We also considered maybe a dairy allergy, seeing as her oldest Nugget has a pretty decent dairy allergy.
Some of my symptoms I was looking to alleviate:
- Insomnia / trouble sleeping
- Sluggishness / fogginess throughout the day
- Joint pain and inflammation
- Stomach discomfort / Cramping
- Painful menstrual cycles (I’m on birth control so I get them less throughout the year)
So that is actually where this journey began. In August I went dairy free – for all of two weeks. During those two weeks I tended to lean towards a paleo type of eating, simply because there was a lot of variety in terms of recipes to keep my taste buds satisfied without dairy. Consequently because of this, I was also not eating any bread, only brown rice, quinoa, and corn tortillas.
Then came the day that I had a sandwich on wheat bread – just turkey, spinach, onions, olives, bell peppers and avocado. It was sans cheese of course, but within 20 minutes of eating it my stomach cramped right up. Boom – there’s the answer.
And I’ve been gluten-free ever since!
So when I say this is a self diagnosis, I really mean it’s a self diagnosis. I’ve never approached a doctor about any of this, simply because they typically don’t give me any answers (they believe in the power of medicine, not the power of food as medicine!), so this new gluten-free lifestyle of mine is literally all learning on the fly. Thankfully I’m a little behind on the gluten-free train, so there are so many products out there now that I can pick and choose from. Food and products are clearly labeled, and even restaurants offer gluten free alternatives (you may just have to ask!).
That being said, being gluten-free in a non gluten-free family has it’s difficulties. I have to bring my own dishes to dinners,events, and holidays. I can’t (or guess I should say, won’t) have a piece of Mom #2’s birthday cake with the rest of the family. Those are the things that are really bumming me out, because of course I would never expect my family to completely adapt to my needs, but I do feel like I am “missing out” with things like that. Sure, I don’t have Celiac Disease and one slice of cake won’t destroy me, but why do something half way? I’m not that kind of person, and if I expect real results and healing for my body, then I need to be all in.
Since I don’t have Celiac Disease I’ve take a fairly simple approach to my gluten-free plan. I’m avoiding gluten as best I can, but by no means going to extremes. I’m also limiting dairy because it does cause adverse effects at times (too much = stomach cramps!), but again, I am not eliminating it completely. Basically what I’ve done is combine the paleo and gluten-free lifestyles, and taken some pointers from both of them.
1. My base is (and always will be!) whole, fresh foods first.
Not only does eating this way insure that I won’t be consuming gluten, but it also gives me the most nutrients possible. Cancers are prevalent in my family, as well as heart conditions, so eating fresh fruits and vegetables is really important to me (give me those antioxidants!). Eating fresh foods has always made me feel the best, so there’s no way I will ever change that!
2. I don’t buy a ton of processed gluten-free products, because they are just far too expensive for our budget.
Ninja is not gluten-free, but I am. This can lead to a lot of over spending when you have to buy two of everything (my husband never learned how to share properly). Companies are making bank off of those who have gluten-intolerance anyway, with jacked up prices by almost $1 on some products. I refuse to pay that (not a follower, remember?). This is where some of the paleo lifestyle comes in. Instead of pastas, I’ve switched over to zucchini or spaghetti squash noodles. I don’t buy breads, unless it’s a special occasion. I pretty much live off of corn tortillas (naturally gluten-free!). That’s not to say that this always happens, these are just some of the things I’ve done to save us money.
3. I’m always in the kitchen.
Granted, recipe creating is part of my job, but I also have to keep my stock of gluten-free snacks up. When Ninja is posted up on the couch inhaling his Nilla Wafers, I get a tad bit sad that I can’t just reach over and snatch a few. As long as I have prepped, delicious, gluten-free options available in the fridge or cupboard, I don’t have to yell at him for taunting me (not that that has ever happened or anything….).
4. I shop online.
Vitacost is my best friend. First, their customer service is outstanding. They literally ship in one day. ONE DAY PEOPLE. And it’s no extra charge. Lurve it.
But they also have decent prices on gluten-free options such as flours, baking mixes, coconut oil, nut butters, ect. And if you purchase their name brand products you get free shipping after just $25. I’ve found that by mixing and matching more name brand products with their products, I can get free shipping and quality foods. Vitacost is my #1 for sure!
5. I play with my food more!
Mixing and matching paleo foods and gluten-free foods is so gosh darn fun. I’m literally having so much fun coming up with new ideas, recipes and options for myself. Of course I also love the challenge of getting my non gluten-free family to love my gluten-free foods, but I’m not putting pressure on myself, which makes it that much more fun. This is a change for me – for my body and my health. I am more than happy to share my new foods with my family, but if they aren’t interested, no biggie. More for me!
6. I’ve had to figure out how to balance my macronutrients.
I still don’t count calories, or macronutrients, or micronutrients, or whatever else in the world you can count when it comes to food. One thing I’ve discovered however, is that gluten-free living makes Kat a hungry beast. The only thing I can think of is that I’m eating less carbs, with the no bread, minimum pasta and grains, and that my body just isn’t used to that. Of course I’m not doing it on purpose, I’m just still in the process of figuring it all out. That being said, I’m literally eating allll the time now. My body loves carbs, and doesn’t know how to run without them, so this ginger needs to find the right balance. It’s a work in progress for sure!
As for the way my body has responded to the changes? Well, it makes “missing out” well worth it. Gone is the sluggishness that hits me throughout the day after meals. I’m sleeping more soundly. I don’t deal with random stomach cramps. My skin, while by no means perfect, has seen a vast reduction in breakouts. And most importantly to me, I just feel all around healthier.
So like I said, I am totally new to this, and am learning as I go. Maybe one day I will get tested to see if I really am gluten intolerant, maybe I won’t. As for now, I like the results I’m seeing. I don’t need a doctor’s office to prove or justify what my body is telling me. I’ve spent far too many years ignoring it’s signals and signs, it’s time to shut up and listen up!
Have you ever had to re-analyze your diet and make some changes to better your health?