Tuesday, February 12, 2013

final results of gluten and dairy free challenge~

After giving up gluten and dairy for an Elimination/Challenge period of two weeks I have my update ready for you! That link I just directed you to shows how to do a total elimination challenge---kind of a GAPS diet sort of thing but short term in order to identify food allergies. I want to point out that I only eliminated gluten and dairy, though. I already knew that I was sensitive to soy products (due to major hormonal imbalances that resulted in my cycles from the phytoestrogens in soy), but it would be interesting to do a full Elimination/Challenge in order to see if I had others than can be detected through the full 'test'. I was taking a short cut, I know, winkwink.
First, I want to say that I have a friend whose daughter has type 1 diabetes and celiac disease and she herself has celiac also. She informed me that in order to truly know if you have a gluten allergy you would have to eliminate gluten for at least 6 months---in order to be extra careful of cross-contamination possibilities (toasters, eating out, assuming a product is 'gluten free' when it may be processed with things that are not, etc). I just think you should know that if you really think you might be sensitive or completely intolerant to gluten so you might do yourself a favor and test that food properly. Although, of course, in that case you would want to get the antibody blood test, too, in order to confirm and just get that straightforward clarity from your M.D or even a licensed Naturopathic doctor (N.D).

In my case, I completely eliminated the two as best as I could by way of not eating obvious foods that held them (not even fermented ones like yogurt or even seitan---'wheat meat': made by rinsing away the starch in wheat, leaving behind the high-protein gluten---tricky, tricky!)
It was hard---the first three days I had such a hankering for both things. Oh.My.God. I seriously thought  I was going to start wringing my hands over it, haha. But the trick is to clear your house out of the stuff you're trying to avoid. If you don't even have it around and you have your substitutes ready and waiting you won't notice it (as much, haha) and you'll just get into a groove. 

Regarding dairy: 
  • I love cream in my coffee---I only have one cup (and decaf at that! Caffeine's rough on your blood sugar, so I weaned myself off it a long time ago...) and I use only pasture-raised, organic cream, but nonetheless, I cut it out and used unsweetened vanilla almond milk--not quite as creamy, but funnily enough, I found it to be just great after those first few days of craving-the-cream subsided. 
  • I love cheese! Oh my gosh do we love cheese in this house! There's really not much else to say about it. I didn't have it every day, but in some ways, it was a great source of protein too because we eat vegetarian at least 2x a week in our 'meal plan'(that I create every Sunday) in order to save cash on eating high-quality organic meat. I tried the Daiya brand cheese---a non-soy type of substitute cheese but was not really impressed. But I joked that I got desperate for some cheese around day 9 and man, was I. So it's best to find a way to squash that craving as best as you can rather than just feed into it. It certainly helped, even though I found it to be...chalky? Does chalky cheese even make sense? ;)


Regarding gluten: 
  • I mostly like crackers and toast. I bake all my baked goods in our house at this point with almond flour, so the wheat issue was not that hard for me---except for those times I reallyreallyreally wanted an 8pm piece of peanut butter toast, haha. So I substituted with some roasted almonds or just a spoonful of peanut butter. I suppose if you eat a lot of processed foods you'd find yourself really frustrated with the cutting out of gluten, but if you don't, you'll notice it's really only in bread and crackers and store-bought baked goods and the like. Don't get me wrong, I craved it, and badly at times. But the dairy issue was bigger for me. 

The biggest things I noticed was actually how subtle the changes are that you feel. You have to be on "alert" with your body and really pay attention during this challenge because I think we are all taught to just tolerate so many weird things we feel regarding the foods we consume. I've talked to a lot of people who have given up dairy and gluten (short of those who are truly actually allergic, mind you---they have violent reactions immediately upon consumption) and the biggest thing I noticed that most of them said to me was how sluggish, spaced-out, tired, foggy, achey, short-fused (are you seeing a trend here?) they felt. Subtle symptoms, eh? But man, when you aren't feeling these things, let me tell ya: do you notice it. I certainly did. 
I can honestly say I felt all those things I just stated above and worse: my blood sugars after gluten and dairy consumption are almost always bad. Always. They are difficult for me to process and get a good reading out of. Maybe it's because most of the foods that have gluten and dairy in them are not only usually high carb, high fat, but also are made with both gluten and dairy? It's like a double whammy on your BG. I'm not sure, but it was something I took note of in my experiment: that my BGs were much, much better. 
I noticed myself eating a lot healthier than I did---because I couldn't just grab a carby (glutenous and/or yummy dairy snack) I tended to reach for my fruit or my bag of almonds or some leftover sauteed veggies. Or that I was making more almond flour muffins or homemade flax crackers (these are an easy starter recipe) to stave off cravings. 

So the big deal is what happened when I challenged each food back in? Well, I started with dairy. I followed the directions on that link I sent you to in the beginning of this post of how to do the Elimination/Challenge. I had half and half in my coffee that morning, I had cheese on my lunch salad. I had a latte. And for fun, I had icecream. Um. wow. All day I felt bloated and gassy and sluggish and achey. All day, I kid you not. I even felt angry. Really angry. And I had nothing to be angry about so I knew where my short fuse was coming from (think about the ramifications of this: how many people are walking around acting like this?! And what does it mean for them---for all of us? We need to stop and think about this issue and start taking better care of ourselves and our food supply [Steps off soapbox] ;)
It says to give it a day in between so you can be sure of your symptoms in case they might surface the next day rather than the first (as if I needed any more convincing). But I went ahead and waited the day in-between. 
Then came gluten. I ate a regular sandwich, some pasta, some crackers. What I normally would've had. But I didn't notice anything major---except for the markedly sad/bad blood sugar readings. 

I mean, I kid you not, people: my BG average before I tried this challenge was not awful but not awesome (150---literally stuck at about a 7% A1c) and during the challenge my meter read my 14 day average as 130 (correlating to a 6.1% A1c). This is amazing. I have been struggling and struggling postpartum to figure out how to start getting my A1c back down to a better range (I know 7%'s not awful, but it's not great for wanting to get pregnant, which my partner and I would like to do again in the next year or so). It was so frustrating too because I am a really health-concious person, so it was like, what gives? 
So I'm here to tell you that you might want to look at eliminating or severely restricting gluten and dairy---the two biggest carb nightmares for so many of us to (I painfully admit this) process. Even when they're their healthiest version of themselves. Just try it out. It won't kill you. You might learn a lot about your eating habits, cravings, comfort foods, junk cravings, and most importantly: the foods that might be the very culprits in keeping you from reaching those more balanced, 'euglycemic' numbers that we'd all like to see more of. Because oh ya, I forgot to mention that: I was not penduluming as much! It was amazing! My BG excursions were truly more within that 'normal' range of 90-150 that often feels most comfortable to most of us...

Bottom line: 

I feel better restricting them both. I'm still going to eat some but be really careful. I eat healthier---definitely more veggies fill my plate, pastured eggs and greens, fruits and nuts for snacks...when I'm not allowing myself to just head to the pantry for 'junk food'---even if it is a whole wheat cracker. We kid ourselves into thinking so much of this stuff is 'healthy'. But it isn't. If we stick with a whole foods, traditionalist diet (old foods are real foods) we'll live much, much healthier lives with this disease---or anyone will, for that matter! Just remember two of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite food activists, Michael Pollan: 

If it came from a plant, eat it. If it was made in a plant, don't. 


There's no such thing as an organic Oreo.