Testing the Waters (Let the Gluten Go#1)

How food, diet, and dieting affected my writing and my life.  And maybe effects yours…

Here it is, the beginning of the New Year for the Western World.  Some people are barreling ahead with resolutions, grand plans for diet change, exercise, social makeovers, new jobs, new spouses, new lives, for heaven’s sake – and it all makes you tired.

You’ve done pretty much ALL of this – over and over.  And none of it has helped you gain energy, lose weight, find your enthusiasm or anything else that you’d like to find. Every attempt has smacked you down.

Well…on the way from recovering from an illness most don’t recover from, I discovered something.  It gave me back my energy, my higher reasoning faculties, and finally, my creativity and writing.  I am improving every single day.

What I discovered has to be shared now — I can’t wait for studies and science scattered over the Internet to catch up to me.  I can’t even wait for the tests to come back – that’s how HUGE the difference is for me.  Some of you – according to some estimates, perhaps as many as 42% of the US population – also need to know this now.

So I am proposing this – for 30 days, one month – can you do this:

* Give up one group of food?

* Carefully read labels on food packages?

* Ask questions about food in a restaurant – and be brave enough not to eat certain things, if they can’t answer your questions satisfactorily?

* Keep reminding yourself:   “This is an experiment.  It’s only for a month.  I can do this for a month!  I can always eat XXX after a month — or after however long I decide to try this — if I still want it.”

* No exercise if you don’t want to exercise now.

* No denying yourself dessert – with one restriction.

* You can even drink modestly – with one restriction.

* You don’t have to count calories – you just have to remember that food is like everything else.  It has a use and a price. Your body will use the food you give it – and that includes all liquids.  Your body will either burn the food or convert it to something it needs.  What your body needs may be brain cells or fat; it all depends on what you really need.

What if you can’t lose weight because your body actually thinks it’s starving, and is desperately holding on to calories to weather the famine?

The secret is simple, and yet a little scary, too.  I will give it to you like this:  If you think, I’ll bet you either know someone, or know of someone, who “stopped eating bread and lost 30 pounds in six months.”  Or “I just stopped eating bread and desserts!”  (That second person lost 70 pounds over one year.)

For some people, the magic bullet is wheat.  Your body may be overwhelmed by too much wheat, because wheat is in pretty much every packaged food available.  Or you may actually be a little wheat sensitive…or wheat intolerant.  You may be gluten sensitive or intolerant – and that includes wheat in all its guises, plus its relatives barley and rye.  (Unfortunately, that also includes oats, because around 80% of the oats available in the USA are cross-contaminated with wheat.)

I did this changeover slowly, as my system seemed unable to tolerate certain foods, on my way down into illness and the gut hell that is multiple medicines.  Eventually, I went macrobiotic, which slowly healed major systems of my body and mind.  But something was missing.  I’d even given up wheat several times, although I could see no great improvement with my gut or my joints when I gave it up.  And that’s what you hear about – gut (celiac disease) or joint pain from wheat.  My gut always hurt.  I figured it was medicines and damage, because I’d had blood tests and even biopsy for celiac, and although irritated, I wasn’t rotting away in my gut.

(Celiac is one of the rare diseases where they don’t tell you there’s a problem until they need to remove part of your bowel.  Interesting, eh?)

Then, one day, I casually asked a friend what her son’s symptoms were when he accidentally ate gluten. I’d never heard her mention joint pain, or gut issues for him. “Oh, his short term memory is shot – I’ll tell him something and it’s like he never heard me say it, over and over.  He’s ADD…”

I was dealing with no short term memory, ADD, fatigue, insomnia – the last dregs of my illness.  I had about decided that this was simply damage, and I was going to have to form a new life around being up three or four days in a row, writing down everything, and no longer able to create stories.  The only wheat I still ate was sprouted tortillas, or fermented (like soy sauce) – the most digestible forms of wheat.  But I also ate 100% whole grain rye bread and groats (whole oats).  Could gluten be my magic bullet?

Nine months into eating macrobiotically, I stopped eating tiny whole grain muffins every day as an energy snack, because something in them – spices? – was upsetting my gut.  And suddenly something kicked in, and the monstrous swelling of every cell in my body started to retreat.  I dropped in clothing size from a 1x/2x to a 10 in the next nine months.  Without doing anything else.

Is the secret for me not just wheat, but gluten?

Eight weeks ago, I stopped eating gluten knowingly.  My energy is increasing swiftly, my brain is coming back, my stories are flowing…and I continue to lose weight.

What if gluten is doing something to you?  What if the only tip of your iceberg is one thing — Fatigue?  Weight you can never lose, despite being toned and exercising a lot?  Joint and muscle pain?  IBS?  Pain and struggles with your GI tract?  Brain fog?  People asking if there’s Alzheimer’s in your family?

Will you play along with me for a month?  I’ll write about this at least six weeks, so you don’t have to start today.  I’m going to try and make this as easy as possible.  At the end of your month, at the least, you will have proved that you can stick to a plan and execute it.  You will be more familiar with what you’re eating, and can decide if you want wheat in your catsup, or only in your bread!  You will automatically cut calories, and may lose some weight.  Your stomach and lower GI system may stop hurting constantly.  You may be able to think clearly again.  You may feel energy returning to your body.

I think the question may not be: “What have you got to lose?”  The question is: “What might you gain?”

You might gain a wonderful life, with only one purposeful decision.

On Friday, right here at BVC, I’ll talk about a plan of attack.  There will be several levels to this plan, because if you feel pretty good, but can never find a diet that works for you, your system may just need to rest from wheat.  Or you may be addicted to wheat, and it’s upsetting your stomach – so there will be a backing-off plan.  Or you may fear it’s seriously damaging you, like it was me.  There will be a plan for that, too.

Depending on response, I might talk about personal struggles with diet change over at my own blog, http://alfreda89.livejournal.com.  That would be on Wednesday.  (I’ll reprint these essays and my macrobiotic essays over in my blog later on, too.)

Think about it.  Think about whether this is a worthwhile, month-long experiment for you.  Because there will be some simple homework on Friday.  Together, we are going to find out if removing one thing can give us almost everything we want.

What I want is a hopeful, healthy future.

Will you reach for it with me?

Let the gluten go!
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Katharine Eliska Kimbriel is currently working on a new Alfreda book, a contemporary fantasy series with dragons, and a few other things as well.

You can find her latest work at Book View Cafe, where her SF novels Fires Of Nuala and Hidden Fires are currently available for purchase.  Check out her bookshelf for free samples of both books.  Her bookshelf is here, her personal blog is here, and her web site over here.  (These books are slowly coming out on Kindle, so yes, you can get them in Kindle format – but the BVC editions will also work on Kindles!)

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Testing the Waters (Let the Gluten Go#1) — 6 Comments

  1. Bob’s Red Mill offers oats that are ELISA-tested GF (gluten free). And a whole variety of tasty GF mixes. The GF scones recipe from their sorghum flour is so good, I bet no one can tell the difference.

    My husband is strongly wheat-intolerant (not celiac, but bad enough so his doc insisted on the testing), so I’ve made various adjustments in cooking. It’s amazing how much variety and nutrition becomes available once you move away from wheat. We tend go easy on other grains, such as brown rice, millet and quinoa, and to substitute winter squash, sweet potatoes, sweet corn, peas, and root vegetables like carrots, beets and parsnips for starchy calories.

  2. @Deb — The concept here is so simple, I have to encourage everyone to at least give it a stab. Frankly, medicine has become complicated and very expensive. I can’t afford much more medical science, not in a “fix it after the fact” manner. So I’m looking into the ultimate preventative. Find the thing twisting the organism wrongly, and stop it in its tracks. I hope you’ll consider the experiment.

    @Deborah — I adore scones, am known for them. And I’d love that scones recipe! I am going to experiment with sorghum and a few other grains to make a pizza stone bread. I do eat much less grain now, mostly rices and some quinoa. What my next step will be, I’m nor sure, other than continuing the experiment of the past eight weeks. And I have found some good cookie recipes, and am enjoying baking again for the first time in years.

    But first — trying to come up with a simple plan a friend will try for a month!

  3. The Amazing GF Scones Recipe

    1 1/4 c sorghum flour
    1/2 c tapioca flour
    1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
    3/4 tsp baking soda
    1 tsp xanthan gum
    1/4 tsp salt
    4 Tbsp sugar
    4 Tbsp butter or margarine (if stick, cut into 1/2″ pieces)
    2/3 c plain yogurt or 1/2 c milk (cow, rice, almond…)
    1 egg, lightly beaten
    1/3 c currants (or raisins)

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease baking sheet or spray with non-stick spray.

    In a food processor, blend flours, cream of tartar, baking soda, xanthan gum, salt, sugar. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, about 15-20 times. Combine egg and yogurt (or milk) and process until mixture resembles large curds, about 10 sec. Scrape dough into bowl. Fold in currants. On baking sheet, pat into 8″ circle, 3/4″ thick (if it’s sticky, wet your hands). If desired, brush with 2 Tbsp milk. Bake 12-15 mins or until lightly brown. Cut into 6 or 8 wedges.

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