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Becoming Gluten Free

I have always had a love-love relationship with food.

Not so with body image.

For years, I was either “on a diet” (aka starving myself) or “not currently on a diet but definitely starting one after _______ (Christmas, Your Grad Party, My Birthday, etc.).” I knew that the “all-naturals” were restricted from eating what I considered the best foods (No Chinese food?! The horror!!); I couldn’t imagine having to give up so many of my favorites. In addition, there are SO many ways that foods can apparently be bad for you. Sure, some people give up gluten, dairy, and processed foods, but there are also GMOs, pesticides, the food that your cows/pigs/chickens are fed, nitrates, nightshades, and SO many others to consider!

So, when I first became interested in the unburdened lifestyle, I immediately sought the help of a nutritionist.

The first change my nutritionist advised was that I say goodbye to gluten (cue massive eye-roll). I begrudgingly followed her advice, gave up gluten for 30 days. I made sure I was still eating the same types of carbohydrates (bread, etc.) so that when I added gluten back in, I could be sure any reaction was caused by the gluten.

During this time, I learned three things:

  1. It is much easier to be gluten-free than I’d previously imagined. Now that GF is a “fad,” there are plenty of options in grocery stores and restaurants. I simply switched out my kitchen staples (bread, flour,* breadcrumbs, crackers, even beer) for GF alternatives and rarely got sentimental over the old kinds. I also have an amazing fiancee who ate GF with me for that month.
  2. My intestines were so grateful. I’d lived for years thinking that daily bloating, cramping, and constipation were normal. I didn’t notice they’d gone during the 30-day GF trial, but when I added gluten back in and these returned, I was shocked.
  3. I lost four pounds. Without trying. When I looked back over my GF month, I realized I’d made all these healthy changes without even trying. I’d bring an apple instead of pita chips to work. I’d say “no thanks” to the amazing brownies my coworker brought in. These little changes add up!

* for many recipes, you can’t just switch out GF flour for regular and expect it to taste the same. I recommend getting GF recipes from a book like this one. They make GF baking both a scientific study and an art form.

Here’s an amazing article by Dr. Amy Meyers on gluten that details all the different ways gluten can wreak havoc on your gut. She also explains that the wheat we eat today is a hybridized version and very different from wheats of the past (aka, GMO). My new philosophy is that, in order to become unburdened, natural is always better. I’ll tackle GMOs in another post, but I’m okay saying goodbye to gluten based on this fact alone.

Of course, you should only make these kinds of sweeping changes under the care of a professional. I did, I’m now one step closer to becoming unburdened, I feel better, and I’m liking my reflection in the mirror a little more these days, too.

Be back soon! Best wishes,

Ali

 

Introduction: Becoming Unburdened

Five days after my twenty-sixth birthday, my car got rear-ended. Hard.

One minute I was sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic on I-95, and the next I was in some driver’s-side version of the fetal position, screaming. My car was totaled. I’d find out the next day that my body was in pretty bad shape,too. I’d experienced what my physical therapist called “double whiplash,” which resulted from both being slammed from behind and from my car rear-ending the driver in front.

In the months following the accident, the impact of my injury on daily life shocked me. Normally I’m an active runner and cyclist, but now even sitting up for more than an hour without resting my head was too much. I’d get headaches all the time, and my sleep was fitful and restless. Of course, I pursued several medical avenues; finally, when one doctor shrugged and muttered, “I don’t think there’s anything I can do to help you” after weeks of care, I was miserable and out of ideas.

Here’s how our current health care system works for millenials like me: You live your life, maybe you see a physician for a yearly checkup, but you only bring in the doctors when things go south. Symptom, prescription, treatment, done. If you’ve got a medicine cabinet filled with a dozen old prescription bottles, you know what I mean. When did our health care system transition to this model? How can I make sure that my body is not just “not broken,” but actually operating to its greatest potential?

As a last resort, I sought the help of a naturopathic chiropractor. Within two months, I was cured, and a little curious about how so many medical professionals had deemed me “untreatable” when the solution was simple: treat the whole body, not just the symptom (in my case, the neck).

The more I looked around my world, the more chemicals I realized were in it. Household cleaners, food, makeup, and even the water from the faucet all have chemicals added to them. What’s worse, less than 1% of the chemicals permitted in the US actually require EPA testing! This all adds up to a “body burden” that can affect every body system.

I’m a twenty six year old biology teacher, and I’m becoming unburdened. I’ll do my best to share both my most natural finds and the science behind what makes them unburdening. If you’re on a similar journey, please share ideas, ask questions, or leave comments!

Welcome, and I’m so excited to begin!

-Ali