I went gluten free for a year. I didn’t have to, I don’t have celiac disease or gluten intolerance/sensitivity. I chose on my own to give up pastas, breads, crackers, most chocolate bars and condiments, soy sauce, and many other glutenous products. Why? Because I had a hunch.
Now I want to point out that I did this before gluten-free diets became a fad. At the time there weren’t very many substitution foods produced, and the few that did exist tasted like cardboard. It was miserable, at first.
I have always had a sensitive digestive system. My body reacts to any stress, anxiety, or change in routine by using the contents of my stomach to destroy my happiness. It was so bad that for an entire year everything I ate made me feel awful. I felt bloated, uncomfortable, exhausted, and miserable. None of my doctors knew why. First they thought I had IBS, then that I was lactose intolerant, and on, and on, and on. I was tested for celiac, the results were negative. However, I knew I had to make a change.
I firmly believe that we each know our own bodies better than any doctor, dietician, or specialist ever will. I had always been a carb-craver. My favorite food was (and still is) pasta. I love bread. I comfort myself with dough of any type. I had a love affair with carbs, not to an unhealthy extent, but “breads & grains” was my favorite food group :). It was 19 years old when I finally got fed up with feeling awful, and I figured I’ve never given up grains before, why don’t I try it?
The results were almost immediate. Within 3 days my stomach had stopped hurting, I wasn’t bloated, and I finally enjoyed mealtimes. But that wasn’t the only thing that improved. My acne cleared up, the keratosis pilaris on my arms and legs completely disappeared, I lost 5 pounds without trying and I had massive amounts of energy. To me it was obvious that gluten had been the problem, and yet, all the tests had shown that wasn’t the case.
For a full year I lived in gluten-free bliss. I have never felt, or looked better. However, after about a year I started to wonder what would happen if I reintroduced gluten into my diet. Given that I had no medical reason to avoid it I was having a hard time justifying all the extra work and money involved in maintaining my diet. So, I stopped trying to avoid gluten, and guess what. The symptoms that had once plagued me didn’t return.
For two whole years the effect of my gluten-free phase lasted. Unfortunately, the symptoms started again. So, I cut out gluten again, and the symptoms went away just as quickly as they had the first time. I had found the solution to my problem.
So, why am I sharing this with you? To explain that doctors don’t know everything, especially about diets. And to encourage you to go out and find what works for you and your body. At the moment I am not gluten free, but that could change tomorrow. Throughout this whole experience I have has people comment on how “unhealthy” avoiding gluten is, how “wrong” it is of me to go back and forth with an elimination diet, and how I can’t possibly know more than my doctors. It taught me that what I put into my body is my choice. Nobody else is allowed to decide what I eat. My body’s health and wellbeing is my responsibility, just as you are responsible for yours.
Think about this the next time you comment on someone else’s eating habits. Think about this the next time you’re tempted to eat something you know will make you feel sick. As always, do what works for you.