The gluten-free transition is not always an easy one. Before I took the time to educate myself about gluten (which is a string of proteins found in wheat, barley, and rye) and its effects on the human body, I casually shrugged off the term “gluten-free.” I was vegan and eating healthily, I thought, but something was still off with my digestion and energy levels. After doing some of my own research, I finally realized years of struggling with depression, anxiety, hormonal imbalances, joint pain, constipation, and mental fog were due to my serious gluten intolerance.
Dr. Kaslow explains that to those intolerant to the protein, gluten destroys the inner lining, or the finger like villa, of the intestine that takes in nourishment from food. In Western society we are over-eating, yet undernourished, and thus not getting the nutrients from food that help us get the juice out of life to feel happy.
So you throw out those organic wheat crackers, pour the soy sauce down the drain, and think now what?
How to start:
The best way is cold turkey. I am talking AA style, friend intervention cold turkey. You cannot be a little bit gluten intolerant just like you cannot be a little bit allergic to peanuts. Once that light bulb went off for me, I realized going gluten-free was more of a spiritual and empowering health journey than an uphill battle with inner demons. My biggest mistake the first month was removing gluten products from my diet, but sneaking a sip of my favorite beer. The next morning I could barely sit up in bed, my throat was itchy, my stomach returned to its old bloated self.
Even a taste of beer can really hinder the detoxification process and prolong the healing period. If you are gluten intolerant or celiac, even a crumb of gluten is going to cause an immune system reaction and you will experience negative effects within hours.
What to expect:
The first three days going gluten free, I immediately noticed a difference in bloating. For years I was told stress was behind my IBS like symptoms of constant discomfort after eating. Literally within days of removing gluten, I felt like someone had replaced my stomach for a new one! I became regular (eureka). Expect better digestion, faster metabolism, and that lingering digestive uneasiness to disappear.
Many people experience a complete clearing up of the skin within weeks of going gluten free, even if they have been suffering from serious acne for years. In my case, I developed some cystic acne near my jaw line and cheeks that I had never experienced before. This could happen as your body is working to get rid of some deeper toxins. I also experienced eczema on my arms and legs as my body detoxified in the first few months even though I had never had it before. I read up on blogs and realized other people were going through the same detox symptoms I was, and it made challenging days easier when I understood my experience was a shared one.
Although my skin related issues seemed uncomfortable at the time, not everyone will have the same experience. Months into my new lifestyle, I saw a brighter, happier, and more glowing person in the mirror than I had seen in over a decade.
At first, I focused too much on the physical symptoms of gluten intolerance. Sometimes people will not exhibit the physical signs of gluten intolerance, but rather be inflicted with the mental symptoms such as brain fog, anxiety, and the more serious issues like depression and schizophrenia. Gluten was the reason behind the heavy weight of depression I experienced years ago, but I had immediate mental and emotional relief within the first few days of going gluten free. Not only will brain fog dissipate, you will feel more focused and confident in your decisions.
The biggest surprise when going gluten free is personality change. The body will start absorbing vitamins and minerals and thus you will feel happier and hormones will become balanced. You will finally be able to follow your intuition. Your mind will be clearer and your inner self will shine. Things will start to happen naturally and feel genuinely connected to your bigger life plan. Today I am happy to say that I haven’t experienced a single day of depression for years.
Accidental encounters with gluten are an issue as you transition into this new lifestyle, whether it is due to cross contamination of gluten containing foods from cutting boards at a restaurant, or not checking all the ingredients on a condiment (ketchup hurts so good). The first year into my detoxification, eczema would reappear to alert me that I had eaten gluten. Now my throat begins to itch, my body begins to ache, my skin suffers a series of small breakouts, and I realize a storm is coming. At that point I run to the store, grab coconut waters, and some simple foods until the gluten passes through. Sometimes you may feel feverish and like you have the flu, other times your intestines will feel as if they are in knots. Some things you can do to speed up the detoxification process is take activated charcoal, drink water with apple cider vinegar, take quality probiotics, eat whole plant based foods, and get plenty of rest! The most important thing is to not be too hard on yourself if you accidentally backtrack. Eventually you will learn the right remedies that will help you heal faster, and become a pro at making sure foods and restaurants suite your gluten free eating habits.
Some really helpful links for your new journey into the gluten-free diet!
hidden sources of gluten: http://www.glutenfreehelp.info/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/TS-Hidden-Sources-of-Gluten1.pdf
gluten free alternatives: http://glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.com/2009/04/gluten-free-cheat-sheet-how-to-go-g.html
Are you gluten-free–or would you ever try it? Please share!
Photo: Kelly Garbato via Flickr