Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What is Gluten Free? Why am I Gluten Free?

Chances are you have probably heard the words 'gluten free'. 

Being on a gluten free diet is very trendy right now.  So what exactly does it mean and why would anyone choose to go gluten free?

I am no expert but sometimes an amateur's explanation is more understandable, so here goes.

Let's start with the basics.  Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and sometimes oats.  So anything bready or doughy probably has gluten in it.  Such as, cereals, pastas, bread, rolls, biscuits, cookies, brownies, cake, yep, all that good stuff is gluten filled.

This is a typical gluten free symbol.  Clearly letting the consumer know that gluten is bad and therefore not in said product.

Before it became trendy, people who were on a gluten free diet had probably been diagnosed with Celiac Disease.  Anyone who has this disease has a severe intolerance to gluten and must stay away from it completely.  Otherwise they can become extremely ill and possibly die, but don't quote me on that.  Read more about celiac disease here:   http://www.celiac.org/

Why would anyone willingly choose a gluten free diet unless they were diagnosed with Celiac Diease? 

Here's why I did.

Last July was the start of an extremely stressful time in my life.  Anyone who enjoys soap operas would be ringing their hands to hear that story.  I'll spare all of the dramatic details but I will tell you it involved serious and scary financial issues (You know I'm divorced?  Go ahead and imagine a few scenarios....) and my Lovey having a difficult (read traumatic) time adjusting to some changes (You know I'm divorced?  Go ahead and imagine a few scenarios....).

So as the above mentioned crises played out, my body went funky with major stomach issues, weight gain and a mess of a complexion.

When I say stomach issues I mean bloating, diarrhea, constipation, gas and pain. Everyday. ( I know, I know, TMI.)  You might wonder, as I did, how does one have diarrhea and constipation at the same time?  I'm not sure either.  It was misery.  Months and months of misery. 

When I say weight gain, well, I gained weight.  Mostly, I guess because I spent a lot of time at home.  Because of Scenario 1, I didn't have money to go out and because of Scenario 2, when the kids were not with me I was panic stricken and stayed home to worry and stress out.

No explanation needed about the mess of a complexion. 

So in addition to my mind racing with worry, my body was going to hell.  It sucked (understatement).

Let's fast forward to this past May.  By then much of the severe money stress had subsided so I was breathing a bit easier and Lovey was doing much better.  Thank God.

However, my stomach, the scale, and my face were not giving in.

So, I was advised by a doctor friend and a gluten free friend to try a gluten free diet and take a probiotic everyday for a few weeks and see if that might help.

So I did.  And guess what?  The bloating, diarrhea, constipation, gas and cramping began to fade.  My face was clearing up.  After 3 weeks, my stomach felt completely back to normal and my face was totally clear.

And I must have lost weight because I couldn't eat bread, pasta, cookies or cake, right? 

Not so much. 

You see wine and chocolate are naturally gluten free.  And so are chips and salsa and cheese and rice and potatoes and popcorn with butter and parmesan cheese.  Oh and ice cream, too.  Totally, naturally gluten free.

And Betty Crocker joined the trend and made a heavenly gluten free chocolate chip cookie mix.  They are really good.

At first I was excited about this new diet and perhaps this new way of life.  So after about 4 weeks of being gluten free, I was shopping and decided to buy my first officially gluten free labeled food. 

I was dying for a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup.  So I went to the gluten free section of Kroger and found a small loaf of rice bread, sounds yummy doesn't it?  It felt like a brick when I picked it up.  It also cost $6.00.  For a small loaf of rice bread.  Seriously?  A $6.00 loaf of bread does look good in the budget.

I felt a bit defeated but thought I would go ahead and just make the Cream of Tomato soup and dip some of my gluten free crackers in it.  That might feed the craving? 

So that night I got out the can of soup and just for 'fun' read the label.   Here comes the let down.....wheat flour.  Yep.  Gluten filled wheat flour is in my beloved Cream of Tomato soup.  And high fructose corn syrup, too.  Who knew?

"Screw this", I remember thinking.  I opened up that can of soup and made a grilled cheese sandwich on gluten filled glorious wheat bread.

I sat at the table and stared at my feast of gluten and then dug in.  I swallowed every drop of soup.  I ate every crumb of that grilled cheese sandwich.

And waited.


I went to bed that night feeling victorious.  Maybe I just needed a few weeks off of gluten to feel better.  I fell asleep happy.....dreaming of oatmeal for breakfast.

"Wakey, wakey", said the stomach cramps at 6:00 a.m. the next morning. 

"It's been awhile", smirked my bloated gut. 

"Don't worry, Mr. Constipation will be here later on today", they said in unison.

"Curses gluten!", I cried. 

Well, not really but you get the picture.  I woke up feeling like total crap.

So here I am today, still eating gluten free.  My stomach is good, all is working as it should.  My face is clear most of the time, so positive and positive.

But now I am that annoying woman who has to ask what ingredients are in the food. 

I am that annoying woman who travels with her own pasta, crackers, and gluten free cookies.

And I'm still trying to figure out how to work this insanely expensive diet into my budget.

Oh and my butt is still big.


  1. I had to do this when I was nursing my twins. One was sensitive to wheat. And guess what, it is one of his favorite things now. But boy did I lose a lot of baby weight fast!

  2. I'm that annoying woman too :-) its not a "trend", people who try going off realize that there is nothing nutritional in gluten and you really don't need it to have a healthy happy life and most likely if you could be an undiagosed celiac or gluten intolerant -- or its how they produce the wheat, rye, and barley now that causes all of us to be intolerant! its not the same seeds that were used 50 yeas ago!!!

    doesn't amtter anyway... proud of you!!!

  3. Your last sentence made me laugh! Sounds like going gluten-free was very successful for you. Sucks that it's pricey but hopefully it will come down in price as it becomes more mainstream.

  4. OK, so I just wrote you this great response and then it poofed!

    I am so glad you posted this - I cheat too and it's nice to know I'm not the only one. I can totally relate to the guts waking me up and the fun that comes next.

    I am also allergic to dairy and yeast, so that just adds to the fun.

    Hang in there! :)

  5. I can not imagine having to go through this. I hear so many people have to eat gluten-free - glad it seems to be helping!

    Thank you for linking up to our Blogher Pity Party!

  6. I, too, can't imagine having to go gluten-free. But I'm glad that it has made you feel better! Thanks again for the award!!! *hugs*

  7. Interesting. I think I need to learn more about gluten free - more and more people I meet seem to have adopted this way of eating with positive results. It would mean big changes for me. At the moment I have a fairly healthy diet but it definitely includes gluten. hmm I'll be looking into this one - thanks for posting.

    Oh yeah I just wanted to say I love the name and tag line for your blog - it's great and easy to remember too.