In honor of my one year anniversary as a gluten-free-mother-fucking-goddess (Sorry, had to. I'm proud!), I'm posting a little hindsight of what I've learned in the last 365 days. So, here we go:
5 Things I've Learned After 365 Days Without Gluten:
1. It's not as hard as you think.
I was terrified. I figured I was putting myself in culinary exhile for the rest of my life (how dramatic). But honestly, I quickly learned to shop and cook differently and I barely notice the gluten is even gone. Instead, I've devoured gluten free bread, rice pasta, copious amounts of quinoa, fancy san-gluten Bisquick, flour, crackers, pretzels, bagel chips, cookies, brownies, muffins, etc. There is not one food that I find myself missing that I cannot find a gluten free replacement. So when you put it that way, what am I really giving up? The way I see it now, not much.
2. Cheating is acceptable and a must (if you're able).
I have not gone 365 days without gluten. My goal for the upcoming year is to cheat less while remaining sane. This year I probably (and this is a big generalization) had about 8 donuts, a dozen (or more) office cookies, one bowl of regular wheat-y pasta at my favorite italian restaurant, and traces of gluten in things you would not expect like soy sauce, among other things. This seems like a lot of gluten, but if you think about it in the span of a whole year, it's nothing. My rules for cheating are these: 1. "Will you regret it after?" and 2. "Does the occasion warrant it?" If the answers are "No" and "Yes," respectively, then by all means, go for it.
3. When I cheat, I feel it...
But I don't get a stomachache. Instead, my physical reaction may not be what you'd expect. I get a foggy brain, fatigue or drowsiness, tightness between my shoulder blades and a feeling similar to a caffeine withdrawal. When I think about it, I was always experiencing these things when I used to eat gluten all the time, now it's far more apparent how much better I feel without all these symptoms hanging around on a daily basis.
4. My RA flare ups have severely lessened.
In a previous post, I explain gluten and its relation to leaky gut syndrome, and leaky gut syndrome's relation to auto immune diseases. Well, I'll say it again and 100 more times, I fully believe that gluten is a cause (not the only, but a big one) of my RA. Two months ago my doctor did RA blood tests we hadn't done in two years. My RA factor is in the negative range (!!!! - that doesn't mean it's gone, but still! ... !!!!) and my inflammatory markers are weak positive down from moderate positive (again, !!!!). Sure, this could have to do with my medication working, but holy shit, do I notice the swollenness in my hands the morning after I've had gluten? YEP. Remember that cheat criteria, "Will you regret it?" Yeah, the more I see the obvious shift in decreased swelling, the more it is not worth indulging.
5. It's been totally worth it.
A year and a week ago, I rolled my eyes when someone told me they were gluten free by choice. I literally thought it was just a made up, bandwagon fad in food. I understood that those with Celiac do not get that choice and wow, do I admire what those who have it must do to eat safely! Having Celiac requires so much more restraint, attention and caution, when even trace amounts of gluten can cause upheaval in the gut. I am so lucky that I get to choose this diet and that I get to choose to cheat if I wish. But that's a whole other story. Overall, I see the difference. I no longer feel so bloated and tired after a big meal that I just want to sleep (apologies to those who I've made rub my belly after too much pasta — not kidding, wish I was). I no longer wake up with insanely puffy knuckles and inflamed feet. My knees hurt rarely. I don't have afternoon tiredness or brain fog and I feel more productive at work. My skin is clearer and more even. So is it worth the overhaul at the beginning and the extra effort, time, money to upkeep? Yep, every bit.