Going gluten-free may sound simple, and it is, to some degree, you simply avoid gluten. However, some aspects will cause confusion and frustration. Going on a gluten-free diet plan is not just a diet you do for two weeks or three months. Going gluten-free, and getting on a gluten-free diet plan is an all or nothing deal.
If consuming gluten causes you to have a reaction or issues, then you either avoid gluten, or you continue to have those issues. It is a simple all or nothing deal. I know this sounds a bit cold-hearted, and I am sorry, but it is the facts. I have learned the hard way. I have let my self slip on purpose in the early days of being gluten-free, and I went right back to feeling terrible. Doing this is something I suggest you not try.
However, going gluten-free is not the end of living life. Yes, food is a significant part of our species, and meals are part of daily routine. There is a lot of social aspects that revolve around food, and you just have to learn to adjust and work with your limitations.
Going gluten-free does not mean you have to stop living your life. Going gluten-free does mean some changes are needed, but once you learn to make them and adjust, you will feel better. Some of the changes you may not like, but you will not feel sick all the time. On the bright side, one benefit of going gluten-free is that you start to focus more on your overall health a bit more. I would not say I am happy that I have to live a gluten-free life, but I am so glad that I now focus more on my overall. I know what I am eating every time I eat. I am not just eating to eat. I have learned to think about what I am putting in my mouth before I do.
When you go on a gluten-free lifestyle diet, you must understand you are not alone. Many people are gluten-free. For example, in 2017, instyle.com listed celebrities who were gluten-free. Many of these people are living a gluten-free lifestyle because they are affected negatively by consuming gluten. For example, Jessica Simpson, according to instyle.com, is gluten intolerant, Miley Cyrus is another one who is allergic to gluten, as well as Ryan Phillippe, who has issues digesting wheat and the list goes on and on.
The Stigma of a Gluten-Free Diet
There seems to be a negative stigma for those who are gluten-free. However, over just the last year or so, I have seen the stigma change. I think it is because I have changed my views of a gluten diet and stopped thinking of gluten-free as a trendy diet. I have realized that this is part of my life now. I am gluten-free because I have an issue with gluten, and it is what it is. I have taken the time to learn more about gluten and realized it is a lifestyle and not just a diet.
When I first started being gluten-free, in late 2018, I ran into a lot of skeptics, among my friends, as well as my family. I found many online sites that were just negative and that it was just a trendy diet and unhealthy to do. I also found as many, if not more, sites saying it works, and its the only way to go. But, that is online, and with any online blog or article, you have to know where it comes.
The reality of it is that when I avoid gluten, I feel better. Yes, I have to make adjustments to my life and think a bit more about when and what I will eat, but I feel better. Feeling better by being gluten-free is far more important to me, then the few things I have to give up.
This website and blog came into existence because of those people, those sites, and how I came to realize that I needed to be gluten-free. I realized that I am not alone, but also realized that going gluten-free and eating a gluten-free diet plan is something that each person who does it needs to develop for themselves. There is no specific diet to follow, yes, there are basic rules, but I realized it all depends on the person, and it is a process we all must go through.
I did have to make changes. Going gluten-free forced me to make some significant changes in how I eat when I eat, and of course, what I eat. Socially I have had to learn to express my gluten sensitivity and sometimes not to express it to others. I have learned to plan before a social work lunch, as well as what I pick up at the local convenience store. I call ahead to restaurants to see if they have a gluten menu and often pick out my meal before going. I have had to learn to speak up to a waiter making sure they know I have a gluten allergy. But I feel better, and I like that.
The purpose of this blog is to help others learn how I went gluten-free and, hopefully, learn from my mistakes and take what I have learned or observed and apply it to their gluten-free lifestyle. Going gluten-free is a process.
The process varies from person to person, and I hope you can take a few tips and tricks from my journey and apply it to yours.
Gluten? “Know your Enemy and Know your Self.” – Sun Tzu The Art of War.
Okay, so maybe Sun Tzu is a bit over the top, but in a way, this quote sums up how you must learn to look at your new gluten-free lifestyle. The full quote is, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” By knowing what gluten is and what it actually is, and by knowing yourself, you can comfortably live life gluten-free.
If you are going gluten-free because of medical reasons, then by knowing more about what gluten is and what things contain gluten, you can avoid them more successfully. The second part of knowing yourself is just as important. How you react to gluten physically is very important. By understanding the early symptoms of a gluten “Hit,” you can get started on your gluten hit process. When you are “nailed” with gluten, there are some things you can do that help you get through it faster or at least easier.
More importantly, knowing yourself can help you adjust easier. We all have cravings, that cheesecake, those oreo cookies, that popcorn at the movie theater, or even just that Starbucks refresher. Not all of these have gluten, but you can not assume you have to check before putting it in your mouth. These cravings can be frustrating and irritating at times when you can not have them. By knowing yourself, you can learn to find alternatives to those cravings or accept the limitations. Over time knowing yourself and being honest with yourself will help in adjusting to a gluten-free lifestyle far more comfortable then if you fight it.
Merriam-Websters dictionary online defines gluten as “a tenacious elastic protein substance especially of wheat flour that gives cohesiveness to dough.” There are a lot of other variations to this definition, but gluten is not just in bread. You will find gluten in a vast amount of other products. The nature of the gluten protein helps various foods be the way they are. Most gums contain gluten, soy sauce, granola bars, ice-cream, and the list goes on and on. Not every item has gluten, but you can not assume it does not. Even salads can have gluten, croutons, of course, but salad dressings can contain gluten. You have to learn to look out for gluten. You learn quickly to look for that gluten-free label.
Lessons learned, and facts.
I am not a dietitian nor a nutritionist and, for sure, not a doctor. This blog is my opinion and what I have observed, and what has worked for me. Please do your research, and please take away what I have come up with and apply it to your situation. One of the lessons I wish I had learned first, but did not, was that being gluten-free does not mean we all react the same or have the same level of reaction to gluten. Everyone who is gluten-free for medical reasons responds differently. Even those with the same diagnosis, reacts differently, some slightly and some majorly. Again knowing yourself is very important in living a gluten-free lifestyle.
People will talk about gluten in various ways and types of diagnoses. For example, Celiac Disease, Gluten Intolerance, Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity, Gluten Sensitive, and gluten allergy are some of the standard determinations. Some are determined by doctors and identified through biopsies or blood tests, and others are given based on observations of symptoms and reactions. Lastly, some are people who have self-diagnosed themselves. I am of the latter category. I have had the blood tests and seen a nutritionist and allergy specialist, but I would not have gotten all that done if it were not for my wonderful wife, who put the puzzle pieces together for me. I am considered Non-Celiac Gluten-Sensitive or gluten Sensitive or an allergy to gluten, according to my primary care doctor, my allergist, my gastroenterologist, my nutritionist, and, of course, what matters myself.
In my mid 40’s, I started having symptoms that varied from what I now know as brain-fog, neck pain, tension, headaches, nausea, and the list goes on. I was beginning to chock on foods, mouth sores, and I just kept feeling worse and worse, just felt terrible all the time. The symptoms had not pattern or reason as to why or when. I was not sick, and I would feel fine, then I would not. I started by eating better, salads, less fast food, but that did not work. I went to the doctors and had x-rays done of my neck, and blood panels were done and even saw a gastroenterologist.
Everything looked good, of course, minor, issues were found, I needed to lose a bit of weight and adjust some vitamins, but nothing that would explain why I just felt terrible all the time. I had an MRI and a variety of those scary procedures and tests done. However, the issues continued for almost a year. Then one day, my wife mentioned a friend of hers, her child had a disease called Celiac, and that she was eating a gluten-free diet. She said that the symptoms her friend talked about fit mine pretty close. They were not exact but close enough that she thought it was worth a try.
At that time, I thought gluten-free was just a trendy Hollywood diet, and gluten is a natural thing, and no way it could be my issue, but I also was tired of feeling terrible all the time, and it was worth a try. At least to prove I was right, and it was not the issue. Well, I tried it, and I was wrong, within that week I felt much better, still not perfect or excellent but better. The timing was right, I had another doctor visit coming up the following week, and I went in and told my doctor that I tried a gluten-free diet plan, and I felt better. She then put me in for an allergy test, and the results came back as a reaction to gluten. After the results came back, I was now gluten-free. Great, so what does that mean? Of course, I got online and looked up gluten-free diet plans, and going gluten-free and gluten-free diet for beginners and what was the best gluten-free diet.
As the next few months past, I started to realize being gluten-free was not a step 1, step 2, step 3, step 4, and so on I learned that being gluten-free was a lifestyle in the way that you have to find a balance between those cravings, and realizing that you are avoiding foods your body may require. So, you have to find ways to supplement other food choices. Living life gluten-free is just that, living your life while being gluten-free, learning to combine your daily life with the nutritional needs your body requires. Find a balance you can physically and mentally live with while being gluten-free.
Being gluten-free, being on a gluten-free diet plan, and living life are together, and not impossible. I hope you can learn from my lessons and observations on this site and blog and find a way to living life gluten-free.