I’ve never been a fad dieter. When I became a vegetarian, it took me a year to transition (between 15 and 16), because I wanted to do research on ways to do it healthfully, figure out how to prepare some of the foods that were different from those my grandmother had been preparing for me (my parents didn’t raise me), and to see if I felt any different during those weeks that I ate meat and those that I didn’t. In the ensuing 20 years, I've found that vegetarianism has been a great choice for me, and while it stems from my personal moral beliefs about animals, the side health benefits are a great bonus.
So while I have been hearing about the benefits of a gluten-free diet for years now, I’m pretty suspicious of "trends" in eating, and this seemed to be one of those trends — until I kept reading and learning more. When my face broke out in a terrible psoriasis that wouldn’t go away, and more than a few (close to all) Internet searches and queries of alternative health professionals suggested I look at gluten in my diet, I figured, what the heck, I’ll try this gluten-free thing. Since removing gluten-free foods from the diet isn't like cutting out food groups (I can — and do — eat crackers, other grains and sweets) it didn't seem to have any down sides.
Three weeks later I wasn’t sure I had noticed many benefits. My digestion had dramatically improved, but I had been eating more veggies. My skin issue had calmed down, but the problem hadn’t gone away. I had more energy, but it was spring. My mood had improved, but I had been outside a lot more, which always makes me happy. I had lost three pounds, but I hadn't been as hungry recently (which I also attributed to the season).
Also on MNN: 5 gluten-free desserts to try
So I discounted the gluten-free thing as not relevant to my life. And last night my boyfriend made an amazing whole wheat macaroni and cheese with brie and pecorino, roasted figs and fresh rosemary, and smothered in breadcrumbs. I ate a good-sized portion and got lost in this week’s episode of "Mad Men." I read for a bit and then had trouble getting to sleep. I tossed and turned all night, and felt weirdly full, but also hungry. My digestion slowed to a halt and I woke up in a dark and miserable mood. As I write this on Monday morning, I feel kind of nauseous.
So I guess I’m done with gluten. While I didn’t have a dramatic reaction to not eating gluten, I didn’t realize how good I was feeling until I ate it again. And that result is unmistakable. I feel awful, both physically and mentally. Gluten sensitivities have been tied to depression and anxiety in sensitive people (you don't have to have full-on Celiac disease to be gluten-sensitive), which I didn't even know about until today when I looked it up (I was feeling that inexplicably crummy). It's so not worth it, especially with such great, gluten-free substitutes available.
So now that I know that I’m dedicated gluten-free, I’m going to keep exploring all those great gluten-free products out there (I’ve found a few I love already). I’ll be writing about those soon!
Also on MNN: What is gluten, anyway?