Monday, February 6, 2012

'Should I Give Up Wheat?' or 'The Depressing Agony Over My Much Beloved Wheat'

It has been nearly 2 years when I first questioned whether I had a problem with wheat. I was then wrapping up a family vacation replete with bagels and muffins and (Oh! crime of crimes) Goldfish crackers. By the end of the vacation I was feeling sluggish, tired and over all yucky. But it wasn't eating real junk foods, which I'd blamed in previous years, so it stood out more. If it wasn't such easily blamed fast food and pizza making me sick then it had to be some other seemingly innocuous food.

I kept coming back to wheat for two reasons. First off leading up to that vacation, I had greatly reduced my wheat intake as a result of being on Weight Watchers. Bread is alot of unnecessary points for a girl on a 'budget'. But I also kept coming back to wheat because one of my oldest and dearest friends had recently been diagnosed with celiac disease. BUT, curiously enough her diagnosis came with the distinction of celiac tests with negative results. And how a doctor could diagnose a patient with a disease when all the tests came back negative was crazy to me. But giving up gluten made her feel better. Her whole experience sent me onto to Google for reading material, all of which was fresh in my mind as I coped with my bloated bubbling stomach that summer.

Upon returning home I limited wheat and concluded that my sensitivity was very slight. As long as I didn't eat pasta on the same day as a sandwich or toast, I felt okay.

Months passed and I didn't worry too much about it. I didn't think of it too often. A few times I'd have a bit too much and then I would scale back. I was nervous about identifying myself as gluten intolerant. Celiac and it's related disorders have become a bit of a fad these days. Diagnosis of celiac disease are up significantly in recent years. Many think that is because modern wheat has been overly bred and now is much harder to digest. Perhaps it is that we Americans eat more wheat now than we ever did. And of course when we notice so many people with IBS, Crohn's disease and other digestive ailments all feeling better after eliminating gluten it is easy to recommend this course of treatment for others. Physicians are more aware of celiac disease and its symptoms these days. And giving up gluten seems to work much more effectively than many of the drugs on the market.

Now don't get me wrong, if you have celiac disease, then your diagnosis isn't a fad. But I can be a bit hystrionic at times. And with me and my mild tummy aches, I didn't consider myself sick enough to get swept up in the gluten free craze. And in my opinion, most gluten free products are overly processed and many contain gums and stabilizers I wasn't willing to feed to my family. I mean what is the point of giving up gluten if you are going to swap it with a bunch of stuff you don't need? I figured I would just eat less stuff containing wheat.

However last Monday I started singing a different tune. I packed a salad with croutons and a piece of bread with homemade herbed cream cheese for lunch. But I was so hungry that before I ate my lunch, I nabbed a tiny sandwich from the available catering in my office. Once I ate my home packed lunch, the combination was awful. I felt sick and bloated for nearly an hour and a half. Later in the afternoon one small oatmeal cookie made me feel the same for another half an hour. I decided that maybe my situation was getting worse and required elimination.

But simply deciding to eliminate wheat isn't an easy thing to jump into. After all, if I was stranded on a desert island and could only bring one food (and don't consider this a nutritional challenge), it would probably be bread and butter. But not just any bread and butter-a fresh, but not hot, baguette with just under room temperature butter that spreads easily and can make a nice layer upon the bread. Not to mention that I have a trip to Paris coming up in a couple of weeks!! Paris is only the mecca of all things white flour, baguettes, croissants! Argh! Why on earth am I doing this! Wheat is a food of love for me. It is also a trigger food, one I can over eat, and one that talks to me. I can refuse chocolate, candies and other treats, but cake and especially a cookie gives my brain's pleasure center a one-two-punch. The thought of never having that again is...difficult. Food is personal. Food can be emotional. Food is cultural. It is so much more than nutrition.

I finally decided that I would give up wheat completely for at least two weeks. After the first two weeks I would try certain wheat/ gluten items like bread or my homemade pizza crust. I could then get a clearer picture of what I can tolerate and what I cannot.

Here I am almost a week wheat free and I do actually feel better. My tummy is less bubbly and squirmy. Even my brain seems more clear. And...err...some other problems that I don't really want to post on the internet have disappeared too. Overall I feel better. Best of all my wheat cravings have gone away. Also gone is my desire to overeat. Could that have possibly have been related to eating gluten?

But the best part was putting on my skinny jeans this morning and not feeling too bloated to zip them up. I have a ways to go before I can really say that those jeans fit, but a start is good.

Do you have any recommendations for me? Any helpful hints about living gluten free? I am all ears!


  1. We are virtually gluten free in our house and we don't miss it. The kids eat whole wheat sourdough, but that's it. I now use coconut and almond flour for all sweets and quick breads. I think the most challenging moments are when I'm out and about, but like you I feel so much better off of gluten....but don't think I'm not going to pass up a baguette in Paris! I'm happy to say I'm not celiac, so I have the option to take it or leave it. But, in just about totally giving it up I have found that I used to do a lot of unconscious eating of gluten filled food. Check out for great gluten free recipes- I love her recipes!

  2. I went GF 5 weeks ago as an attempt to help my Crohn's/MS symptoms. Honestly, I haven't really noticed much difference but I've been told that it can take 2-3 months to see changes? I haven't really explored many GF substitutes, but it isn't as hard as I anticipated. Still... I miss crackers. And sandwiches. And Chees Its (not that those are on my real food diet anyway).

  3. YES!!!! If you have wheat intolerance your desire to over eat is absolutely related to it. If you have wheat intolerance it is destroying your bowels which is why you have tummy and other “unmentionable” problems. You crave it because when you eat it your brain gives you a hit of dopamine because it knows you are going to need something for the pain to come. Your symptoms are almost identical to my own. You over eat because even though you are eating you can’t absorb the nutrients from your food properly if you have just eaten wheat so you are eating but you are starving just the same. I also had a celiac test (twice) both came back negative. The test is a test of damage more than anything so I haven’t done too much damage to myself yet thank goodness. I went gluten free about 5 years ago funny I thought wheat didn’t effect me that much. I thought it just made me tired and sometimes my tummy felt bad. When I went off wheat I realized I had been sick every day of my life and I just thought what I was feeling was normal. For the first time in my life I no longer had vitamin deficiencies, I would no longer bruise at the slightest touch, I never felt the need to over eat till I was stuffed the way I used to. I could exercise with out needing a nap afterward. Not to mention the tummy troubles went away hallaluah! I did cheat, when we went to Italy. I thought how can I be in Italy and not eat the pasta. So we picked a place close to the hotel, I ate as much as I could hold, then my husband had to half carry me back to the hotel. I slept for 12 hours and was sick for another 48. Not worth it. Never again.

    Oh and I find it interesting everyone started noticing gluten intollerance right after they put genetically modified wheat into our food supply. This makes me furious.



  4. If you decide to stay gluten-free, you'll have to decide what kinds of gluten containing foods you have to find substitutes for and what kinds you can not eat. I'm not gluten free but I changed my family's diet in many ways a few years ago and we do better when we avoid the kinds of foods we can't have instead of trying to find substitutes. For us it lessens cravings and has allowed us to find new foods that satisfy the psychological and cultural longings for certain kinds of foods.

  5. I have a wheat allergy, but I find that I can tolerate spelt flour. You might want to try using that to make homemade things (cause I agree, gluten free products are really over processed).

  6. My daughter has Celiac disease, she was diagnosed when she was about 18 months old which is very early. It was a difficult adjustment at first, but once we adjusted it became second nature and it's actually a much healthier way to eat. All those refined carbs aren't great for your body, and we always joke that when we travel she eats better than anyone else! It's a shift in mindset, but in the end it just comes down to eating more "real" (whole, unprocessed) foods and fewer processed foods, and there's definitely nothing wrong with that! I think if you stop eating gluten as an adult, it is easier to not fall into the trap of eating tons of GF convenience foods because they don't taste the same so they aren't very satisfying. For her, she never knew any different so she loves all the GF cookies and bread and pizzas....

  7. I posted this on your most recent blog too but I am wrapping up a program called the Whole 30 and I have learned sooooo much about my food sensitivities in the past 30 days. It has allowed my gut to heal and I feel amazing. I definitely recommend you check out Whole9's website and check it out. It will change your life.