I avoid gluten.
Writing those words is like inciting an immediate eye roll and often some harsh opinions about my diet, my motivations and my health (much of it mental).
Of all the things I do, not eating gluten has definitely been high on the 'most annoying' scale for many people in my life - people I know well and people I've just met.
I've had people tell me I'm being tedious, following a fad-diet, being difficult and creating problems where they simply don't exist.
I've had people host me for meals or overnights and become utterly vexed when I forgo products made with wheat. I had one woman throw her hands in the air (literally) and say, "I don't know what to feed you!"
I've also heard people talk about other people with dietary restrictions, so I know the sort of comments being made about people being difficult, about the general opinion of restrictive diets and about the overall feeling that people with restricted diets are high-maintenance, too sensitive and just looking for attention.
So why, in the face of upsetting other people, forgoing a whole host of foods and having to pay attention to one more thing in life, do I continue to eat gluten-free?
Readers.....it feels so much better!
I can't describe how much better I feel when I avoid gluten. The top benefits include:
1. Less bloating/stomach pain
2. Less joint pain (significant)
3. Less brain fog (especially in the afternoon)
4. More stable blood sugar (I can go from meal to meal without shaking)
5. Better sleep
That's a lot of benefit.
I first began avoiding gluten at the suggestion of my doctor. Having spent years unable to deal with constant stomach pain, he suggested a two-week trial of no gluten and then a two-week trial with no dairy. I did both. The gluten-free weeks were shockingly effective. Much of my stomach pain subsided. I had more energy and felt clearer in my thinking. I didn't feel like I was going to pass out every afternoon. I could go from breakfast to lunch without needing a snack.
When I added wheat back into my diet, I immediately felt sluggish, bloated and inflamed. It was incredibly distinct, the difference.
The dairy-free weeks didn't make any difference for me, and when I added dairy back into my diet, I saw no ill-effects, so I don't avoid dairy.
So, after many rounds of going back to wheat and then cutting it out again, I avoid gluten and eat a gluten-free diet. A few times each year I eat wheat. If I'm baking something I really do want to try/taste, I'll have some. If I go to eat at someone's house, and that person has made a meal where wheat is the main ingredient (quiche or pasta for example), I'll eat some. I try not to bring attention to my diet, and if someone has gone out of her way to make a meal for me, I do try to be gracious about it.
Also, I've been tested for Celiac, and I'm not truly allergic to gluten, so for me, the side-effects aren't horrendous. I have friends who are allergic to gluten, and for them, I understand avoiding it 100% of the time.
People ask me all the time if it's hard to avoid wheat, and the answer is no. It's like avoiding that third cocktail. I don't like the feeling of being hungover, so saying no to another drink is fairly easy. The same feeling applies to wheat. I don't like the feeling of a food hangover, so it's usually easy for me to pass. I can bake cookies for my kids and watch my family eat birthday cake and truly not feel a desire to partake because I don't want to be up all night with stomach pains or deal with swollen joints a few days later.
When I first started avoiding gluten, I wanted everyone to try it. I felt so much better that I thought everyone else would feel better was well. I put my husband on a gluten-free diet for 2 weeks, and he saw such an improvement he stuck to it for 2 years. But, when we moved, he said it was just too hard to stick to a restrictive diet, and for him, the positives aren't worth the hassle.
I now realize that everyone is different, that we all have varying degrees of tolerance for things like dietary restrictions and that not everyone wants to hear the tale of my dietary woes. I've become much more neutral about diet, not feeling like I need to explain it, defend it or adjust it based on anyone else's expectations or opinions. But that was a long road. I felt a lot of anxiety for a long time about being seen as 'sensitive' or 'high maintenance.' I didn't want to call attention to myself.
Now, I eat what I want and simply don't explain much. I might say, "I avoid gluten" but for the most part I just say, "No, thank you."
Nobody needs to hear the details, and I've come to realize people don't really care. Also, I don't need to justify what I eat, how I eat or anything at all related to my eating. Nobody does. Period.
Finally, a gluten-free diet is not a health panacea, at least not for me. I still struggle with stomach issues. I still have migraines. I still have insomnia. So, gluten-avoidance didn't 'cure' me of all my ailments. But it helps enough to make a noticeable difference, and you all know, I appreciate a noticeable difference.
I'm so curious if anyone else had dealt with a dietary restriction? Have you ever felt isolated or anxious about it? Or is everyone else able to let comments roll off your back?
I'm working on that one. :)
In terms of gluten-free eating, I just avoid gluten and don't try to substitute it with anything else. I don't eat gluten-free pasta or bread. I don't buy special foods. The only special ingredient I use is almond flour because I love the taste of it.
To that end, I made Keto Low Carb Blueberry Muffins (with Almond Flour) this weekend, from the blog Wholesome Yum, and they are really wonderful. I eat one every morning, and I feel full and satisfied, no shakes.
Here is the recipe, as I modified it. The link above will take you to the website's original recipe.
Lemon-Blueberry Muffins (Gluten-Free)
2.5 cups almond flour
1/2 cup sugar (the original recipe uses a sugar substitute, but I prefer regular sugar)
1.5 tsp. baking powder
1/3 cup ghee
1/3 cup yogurt drink (I used Siggy's vanilla)
3 large eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup blueberries (I used fresh - frozen is fine)
zest of 1 lemon
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
Mix wet ingredients together in another bowl, including the zest but not the blueberries.
Mix dry and wet ingredients together and then fold in blueberries.
Bake for roughly 25 minutes, until tops are golden. I baked mine for 30 minutes and felt it was perfect. The muffins are more delicate than a regular, wheat-based muffin, so I find the extra bake time helps hold it all together.
Remove from oven and let cool.
These muffins are a hit with myself, my husband and my son.
They're not the same texture as a regular muffin. People who try to sell you on gluten-free baked goods having the same texture and taste as wheat-based baked goods are either lying or don't have the sensitive texture issues this woman has.
Either way, just expect a lovely muffin, not an exact replica of what you may be used to.
I'm going to eat one right now, with a little bit of butter slathered on top.
I hope everyone is eating something really lovely, enjoying hot coffee and has something fabulous on the books for the day - an hour of reading, a lunch with friends or a hot bath.
I'm off to whip this house into shape, shop for an upcoming trip (more on that coming soon) and dig into several of the books still half-read that haunt me.