Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Why Try Gluten-Free?

I'm not into giving up foods without good reason. I've given up certain foods because, through trial and error, I've learned they make me feel lousy. Some people preach moderation, but I don't want to feel well in moderation. I want to feel fantastic, preferably all the time. For me, that's required giving up wheat, which contains gluten. When I gave up wheat, I lost weight, my appetite ratcheted way down, most of my bloating disappeared, I had more energy, and my chronic sinus congestion eventually went away, among other benefits.

Your own reaction to a food is a great reason to eat it or not, but there are some iffy reasons people more or less permanently give up or moderate certain foods:

  • An observational study stating A is associated with B isn't a good reason. (See this, this, this and this.)
  • "Because my doctor said so" isn't necessarily a good reason, either: doctors aren't required to know anything useful about nutrition. I'm related to two doctors--one with a specialty in nutrition--and neither one can control his own weight. When I asked a gastroenterologist how to relieve my bloating, he looked clueless and--I swear I'm not making this up--said a lot of ladies found relief by eating yogurt. (The link is to a TV ad for yogurt that was around at the time, stating the same thing.) Never mind that the lactose in yogurt gives some people bloating. Nor did he know a diet that would relieve my acid reflux.
  • Because a "health" organization said so isn't a good reason: "nonprofit" doesn't mean free from corruption. See this, this, this, and this.
  • Even other people's success on a certain eating plan isn't necessarily a good reason to follow that plan. Some people do well as vegetarians; for others, it's an epic fail. Some people feel great when they give up caffeine, dairy, or nightshades; that doesn't mean you or I would, too. I was on an eating plan that made me lose weight, and a few years later, gain it back.
  • Conventional wisdom: take a look around and see what it's done for the majority of people.

To my mind, the best reason to give up a food is because it makes you sick.

I gave up wheat and fruit permanently because fruit gave me acid reflux and wheat because it gave me a long list of ailments. Looking back at my blog entries on wheat, here's what happened when I stopped eating it:

...the bloating is gone. My clothes fit a little better. My belly is flatter. I immediately felt a little thinner. Much of the urge to snack [and] stuff myself [are gone].

  • My cravings for junk food have disappeared. I've stopped snacking on caramel corn, chocolate and diet soda on my non-free days. I eat two tiny pieces of chocolate per day, at most.
  • My hair stays clean longer.
  • Certain foods taste better. Coconut chai tea tastes like a candy bar in a cup (yes, I drink it straight) and even sardines taste better.
  • Since I got a scale ten days ago, I've lost two pounds. I even had to tighten the straps on my backpack today.
  • Three happy words: no menstrual pain.
  • I have more energy. If I were a horse, my name would be Secretariat.
Sunday, April 4, 2010, I wrote about falling off the wagon.

But eating that cookie [made with wheat] gave me a stomach ache, acid reflux for two days and painful nasal congestion--the viscous, sticky kind that won't move--for four days.

I didn't record this on my blog, but I recall it because it was remarkable. On February 7, 2010 (my birthday), a friend and I went out for lunch and shared a small piece of bread pudding. The next day, I was three pounds heavier. It was just water weight that went away the next day--but who wants to carry around three extra pounds of water?

I don't promise that giving up wheat in general or gluten in particular will do these things for you. But if you'd like to try eliminating gluten for, say, the month of January to see if your health, weight, congestion or energy improve, here is some food for thought:

  • There's no requirement for wheat in the human diet. We haven't consumed wheat for the vast majority of our existence.
  • Yes, we've been eating wheat for some 10,000 years or more, but the wheat that people eat now is very, very different from what was consumed in the days of old. See this. (Dr. Davis and some of his friends sampled some bread made of ancient wheat, and found it didn't provoke certain reactions like high blood sugar and stomach pain that modern wheat gives them. Posts are here; go to June 2010.)
  • Some wheat products are fortified with vitamins and minerals that are stripped out during processing, but you'll get even more nutrients from foods like meat, fish, eggs and non-starchy veg (think salads).
  • Wheat, unless it's prepared in a specific way, contains antinutrients that bind to iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc, preventing you from absorbing them. See this post.

In my next post, I'll share some strategies for avoiding wheat--and satisfying your appetite.

1 comment:

Dr. William Davis said...

HI, Lori--

Just wanted to be sure I somehow got to you. I'd love to share your story with my readers in my upcoming book, Wheat Belly.

If you'd agree to tell your compelling story to one of my editors at Rodale, please let me know at