Delicious in-house made bread on an exceptional veggie sandwich at Essensia Miami.

February 2016

A Gluten-Free Experiment

THE START

 

I’ve mostly rolled my eyes at the trend of highlighting gluten status on...everything. Does my shampoo really need a gluten-free label? Can that many people actually have gluten sensitivity, all of a sudden? Centuries of humanity eating bread can’t be wrong...right?

 

I decided to do a little test and cut gluten out for a month to see if I noticed anything. A good friend recently did this and reported back that she felt un-bloated. Not that she noticed being bloated before but while off the stuff, if she did eat a wheat product, she felt a little bloated. She also said she dropped some weight during her gluten-free month. Hmmmm.

 

Now that I think about it, I’ve never been able to drink most beer. Especially heavier, darker beers. After half a pint, I blow up like a balloon and feel like I need to be rolled out of my location. Gluten is found in wheat, barley and rye. Which explains the dark beer thing.

 

Gluten is used as a thickening agent a lot. You can find it in unsuspecting places such as soy sauce but I didn't go hard core. Only someone with celiac disease should worry about trace amounts. For me, it mostly meant cutting out wheat flour pasta, baked goods (breads, treats) and flour tortillas. This wasn’t too difficult since I prefer corn tortillas and almost all asian noodles are made with beans, rice and such. 

 

From everything I’ve learned about food cultivation and production, I’d guess that wheat itself isn’t "evil." It’s more likely that through modification of seeds and  growing & processing methods to speed and ease production that the west has corrupted our wheat, barley and rye. Or it may be that, like a lot of food products, we simply eat too much of it so there are adverse effects. I have no actual data to back this up so I write this to you as a casual conversation. A hypothesis.

 

I will research philosophies, experiences and actual science on the topic and report back.

 

THE END...30 DAYS LATER

 

I ended my thirty day gluten-free trial five hours early with a veggie burger at a local dive bar. A place with din and low lighting was necessary because I didn’t know if anything uncontrollable would happen as I bit into that soft, fluffy bun. Fortunately, only a few food moans ensued. I don’t eat bread too often but after about ten days of my trial - boy! Did I miss it.

 

So, did I notice anything? Were there observable changes from cutting out wheat, rye and barley from my diet for 30 days? In short...not really. During the first week, I did get a couple of uncharacteristic deep, unfriendly zits but without another test it’s hard to say if that was gluten leaving my system or just a coincidence. Noticeably, blood sugar drops and spikes were not as dramatic. Meaning - when I accidentally would let myself wait too long to eat, I never hit a “must eat something, anything right now!” wall. But other than that, I didn’t have any reactions to cutting out gluten or bringing it back in.

 

Which means I’m lucky and have no gluten sensitivity and a healthy digestive system. Because I did hear from others during this trial. Several stories of people who recently developed sensitivity to gluten in adulthood. Bloating, depression, digestive issues, feeling sick after eating. Some who suddenly tested positive for celiac and others who didn’t but cutting out wheat solved their issues.

 

So, what’s the deal? Well, I read lots of gluten articles from doctors, scientists, news agencies, conspiracy theorists and random bloggers. As expected, our current methods of growing and processing grains have changed in modern times. The main wheat strain grown in the West is a high yield seed. It is milled in such a way that makes it less nutrient dense (which explains the blood sugar spikes and also why it’s unattractive to most pests). The good old days saw grains soaked, sprouted and fermented and bread was baked with slow rise yeast. Today most wheat product is grown as fast as possible, processed in a way that depletes nutrients and bleached.

 

In 2013, genetically modified wheat engineered by Monsanto showed up, inexplicably, on Oregon farmland. And then in 2014 in Montana. The company had created GMO wheat strains but supposedly never released any of them. The USDA has investigated, inconclusively.

 

Regardless of how we got to this place with glutenous grains, there is no question that lots of people’s bodies no longer agree with it. What a shame. We need to be careful about how we mess with our food. Advances in speed and yield can be at the cost of losses in other areas.

 

Stay informed, listen to your body and know your food. And if you do get to enjoy fresh breads, pastas or a frosty rye or barley beer without gluten repercussion - savor the experience! Appreciate it. Others are not so lucky.

 

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