The Gluten-Free Switch.

My step-brother’s family found out yesterday that one of them has a gluten sensitivity, thus the family is making the difficult decision to eliminate wheat from their diet. It brings me back to when we made the switch to gluten-free eating three years ago and how tough it was at first. We have cheated a few times (definitely E more than me), but we’ve remained mostly true to it and as a result, we’ve seen improvements in various areas. The biggest improvement has been the fact that my thyroid no longer tries to eat itself and now acts like a healthy part of my body. That in and of itself makes it worth it.

There are a few different tests you can take to see if going gluten-free would be better for your health (though there are many theories going around that everyone would benefit from eliminating gluten from their diet…at least modern gluten):

  • Eliminating it for a certain amount of time to see if that makes a difference – usually a month, though this isn’t completely reliable as some individuals don’t have any obvious signs even when they consume gluten.
  • Taking a blood test –  also not very accurate but very popular as most people don’t want to do the other options.
  • Taking a stool sample – most people find this pretty gross. 🙂 But it’s the most accurate method.

We did the last option as our doctor feels that is the most accurate test and it gave us the answer we needed. Honestly, in the beginning the switch was difficult. We had just returned from a trip to Europe and the only thing I could think of was not being able to travel anymore unless there was a gluten-free-friendly restaurant or grocery store nearby. I thought of my favorite restaurant and how I would never be able to go there again (though they’ve since started accommodating those with gluten sensitivity!) and, of course, I thought of all the baked things I’d be missing out on. Facing the prospect of not eating bread or at least good bread after having spent my entire life consuming it pretty much every day wasn’t very encouraging to say the least. I embraced it, though, because I knew that if I didn’t want to be on thyroid medication for the rest of my life, I would need to.

My first attempt at GF bread.

This was my first attempt at gluten-free bread. I spent a small fortune on four different kinds of flour and starches and came up with this whale-shaped lump of carbs. The recipe advertised it as “Really Good Gluten Free Sandwich Bread!”, though it didn’t go so far as I’ve seen some do to claim that it tasted just like “real” bread.

It was awful.

Maybe part of it was that we had just started eating gluten-free and the taste of the bakery bread we had been buying at Whole Foods was still fresh in our mouths. Whatever the reason, we just really didn’t like this bread. Or any other gluten-free bread recipes. I even bought a bread machine so I could use mixes, but it all just tasted weird. We wanted bread and we were getting flavors of soy and corn and rice and potatoes and whatever myriad of flours happened to be in whatever mix or recipe I was trying.

We of course also started buying all of the gluten-free-marketed foods at the grocery store….GF cookies, GF macaroni & cheese, GF crackers, GF cereal, GF flours, etc. etc. And while they did at least provide alternatives to us, they were usually not very good and they were always a lot more expensive than their gluten-filled counterparts. Worse still, they usually contained a huge list of ingredients, including soy, as well as various things I couldn’t even pronounce let alone identify. As I got more conscious about what we were eating, buying pre-packaged foods was getting to be more and more not okay with me which made gluten-free eating more challenging.

When we made the switch to traditional foods, life got a little easier. There is an entire chapter in NT on breads and baked goods, but the majority of the book is about fruits and vegetables, meats, fish, good fats, and foods that aren’t “fillers” which is what I now see bread and grains to be. It was the first time I thought that maybe we could live without bread….and maybe even without grains completely. The Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) doesn’t advocate a grain-free diet, but the reliance that this country has on carbs to fill its bellies is also not condoned by WAPF and really shouldn’t be as it’s unhealthy on so many levels.

Traditional foods also led me to the world of Paleo/Primal and life got a whole lot easier from there as I suddenly had access to tons of grain-free recipes that used real food ingredients (we didn’t make the switch completely as we handle dairy just fine and do have grains occasionally when we eat out or make brown rice pasta). No pre-packaged cookies or crackers but instead recipes for nut-flour cookies and breads and whatever else my heart could desire. As with anything, you have to be careful never to overdo it with anything you eat and I’ve discovered that eating too many nut-flours is also not a good thing. But being able to have chocolate chip cookies or a piece of banana bread made from just coconut flour and not made from 18 different flours every once in a while, tastes good, and is nutrient dense is a fantastic thing.

 

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