Gluten-free Update

Elizabeth Roberts Health Guide
  • It is with a modest amount of trepidation that I am writing this Sharepost. While I'm not particularly superstitious, over the years I have found that talking (or writing) about my health and how good I'm feeling can cause a set-back or two. But, I have decided for the good of the group to take the risk, jump in with both feet, and write this post to discuss how I've been doing since our trip to Spain in October.


    If you read the Sharepost I wrote while we were in Spain then you know that I was eating bread, i.e. gluten, once each day. Since we've been home I have continued the practice - one slice of bread every day or so - it's a part of my breakfast that I truly treasure. And so far, there are no negative repercussions like in the past - no bloating, no gas, no nothing.

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    My theory is that the three weeks we spent in Spain somehow hit my body's "reset" button. As you've read from me before, I firmly believe that much of the food we eat in America is killing us. Our foods are highly processed, the meat we eat comes from animals that have been pumped full of antibiotics and processed, literally, to death so we can then eat them. Prepared foods are chocked full of preservatives, sugars, MSG, nitrates, and goodness knows what else. And even when we do search out organic foods, not all organic foods are created equally - you have to shop as locally and close to your home as possible so that you can meet the farmers, talk to them about how they are growing their food and meats, and only then can you hopefully come home with quality ingredients worthy of being put into your body.


    In general, this is what we found in Spain, good quality, whole ingredients. Spanish cooking is very regional and the Spanish culture revolves around socializing over food - a typical dinner meal is eaten at the table over a period of two or three hours. All of this means that each geographical area of Spain has its food specialties, from certain dishes, such as paella, that they are known for, to specific types of cheese, meat, and spices that make each regions food unique.


    For the three weeks we were in Spain, my husband and I spent two of them renting a house in a small area known as La Alpujarra. Situated at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains, we were located a mere 15 minute drive from mountain towns where we bought freshly made cheeses, sausage, jamon (cured ham), and meats from a butcher who knew the farmers who had grown the cows, lamb, and chickens. But, we were also a 30 minute drive from the Mediterranean's Costa del Sol, where there was an abundance of fresh fish and their feature dish of paella - a wonderful mélange of rice, paprika, saffron, and fresh from the sea seafood. These are the foods I ate for three weeks, plus bread, chocolate, fresh goat's milk, and properly made and cultured yogurt sans sweeteners.


    While I ate pretty closely to this at home in Colorado before we went to Spain, I have been even more diligent since returning home to make sure that everything I put into my mouth can be traced to its source. I have found a local mill 40 miles up the road where I can get freshly ground wheat flour for baking my own bread, goat's milk and cheese now comes from a farmer who stocks my local health food store twice a week, and a friend has helped me to source even better raised and cultivated meats - no grain-fed animals in my diet anymore.


    Many of you might be saying, "But it's so expensive." In reality, I have to say, the organic meats I am buying are no more expensive than what is on offer at my local grocery store. This wasn't true three years ago, but in the past two years my grocery store has raised their prices on meat and seafood, while the local farmers haven't. Plus, I now only take one digestive enzyme before each meal, rather than between 5 and 10 different daily supplements that were costing me $70+ each month.  


    It is now one full month since our return from Spain. I still eat gluten-free foods mixed in with my home baked bread. I realized in the past, before I went gluten-free two years ago, that used to eat a huge amount of gluten in a day. I could have a piece of toast with breakfast, a sandwich at lunch (which meant two more slices of bread), crackers with cheese for a snack, and oftentimes pasta for dinner. That could mean four or five servings of carbohydrate and gluten in a day! No wonder my body said, "Enough gluten, we're retaliating!"

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    I have also returned to eating more of a rotation-type diet where you try not to eat too much of one flour or grain or food in succession. If I eat rice or products made from rice one day I eat only one serving, then the next day I don't eat any rice or bread-type product, then the next I might eat a white sweet potato for starch and carbs., etc. The gist of it all, for me, anyway, is to eat as broad a variety of good quality food as possible.


    There are still foods I cannot eat. I have cut out most corn products, and there are still certain fruits and vegetables that are off limits, and all legumes (beans) are completely out. Even so, there are periods where I try a previously forbidden food and try to reintroduce it and see what happens. A few weeks ago I got a recipe from Living Without magazine for gluten-free black bean brownies and I whipped up a batch figuring it might be a good and tasty way to get some of the bean's fiber into my diet. Nope! Bad idea. My gut did not like the beans and let me know pretty quickly. And last week, my friend with the information on the organic meats gave me a pound of her well-sourced beef to try. I've not been a beef eater for years because I find it hard to digest. But, in the spirit of trying news things I thought the grass-fed, free-range beef might be easier on my gut. Again, I was wrong. Beef, no matter how it's been fed or ranged is a no-go for me. I wasn't sick as a dog, but I didn't feel well for two days and my gut let me know it.


    So, what to eat is still, and will always probably be, a moving target for me. But that's okay, it's not a bad thing. My body is an amazing and intricate thing. And it's not too much for it to change its needs every now and again. For right now, things are a little more what I consider "normal" and I am enjoying that. It's nice to know that I don't have to be 100% gluten-free and this knowledge has even made it possible for one of my friends to invite us to her home for Thanksgiving dinner. In the past, my "odd" eating habits have flummoxed her and she's never been quite sure what to feed me, so we would just keep our social interactions over food to meals I made. So, when she extended the invitation the other day we happily accepted and I offered to make a side dish and a dessert. This takes a little pressure off of her and I'll know for certain that there will be a few things I can surely eat.


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    Here's wishing all of you the best this holiday season! Happy Thanksgiving.  

Published On: November 23, 2010