Grain free living
Why grain free you ask?
Well, considering that we have already discussed living without gluten and dairy, I can imagine how much you are probably not loving the idea of giving up all grains as well. Trust me, I know from experience! Since you found your way to this site, you are probably seeing help in embracing a grain free life, or perhaps you are looking for some supportive words for a loved one facing a grain free life. Or perhaps you’re doing some research to self-diagnose… There are many reasons to have brought you here, so let me first say, welcome!
Now that you’re here, I hope to be able to offer some insight into living grain free. It’s a change, yes. It requires discipline, dedication and at times, is not much fun. I won’t lie to you, however, I will tell you that once you start feeling the benefits from living grain free, you won’t hesitate to continue this new-found life of yours.
So to get back to my original question (Why grain free you ask?) there’s a lot of chatter of late about whether a gluten-free diet should automatically include all grains as well as gluten. It seems there are many people (myself included) who are resistant to all grains, whether or not they show up on your various allergy testing panels. I’ve had them all, from blood, stool and skin tests, and all came up fine for rice and corn, however, when I eat them I maintain a state of inflammation, causing immune triggers which aggravate my auto-immune thyroid condition. Now, that said, there are several grains which I’m not directly allergic to, but cause a cross-reactive response, meaning that my body essentially can’t tell the difference between gluten and quinoa or potatoes for example.
So here I am, learning to live grain-free. I eat many delicious amazing meals, and very rarely do I feel like I’m living without (unless it’s on the occasional trip to an Austin Tex Mex eatery where I have to skip the chips and salsa. I’m not always a happy girl on those trips!)
So how do I stay satisfied without grains?
Having been gluten-free for almost 1.5 years when I took my cross-reactive food test and realized I needed to avoid quinoa, millet and potatoes, I found that a big challenge as I had grown accustomed to substituting various gluten-free breads, pastries, pancake batters, etc with the many gluten-free options now available to us. Since I was still able to enjoy them (after growing used to different textures and flavors) I didn’t feel like I was living without as I expected to upon first being diagnosed. However, what I didn’t realize was that by simply replacing my gluten-laden traditions with their gluten-free counterparts, I was further irritating my symptoms and causing further intestinal damage, immune responses and other allergic reactions.
So after taking the Cyrex Labs test and being diagnosed with other cross-reactive food responses, I had to learn to eat without simply replacing my standard foods. In the end, I learned this to be a much healthier way of eating, but it did take some time to adjust to.
I learned to enjoy a diet rich in fresh fruits an veggies, lean protein, fish and nuts and nut butters. It seemed as though each day on my new grain-free diet had me feeling a little better, until one day I didn’t think about the fact that I was feeling better; I just felt better!
I know it’s not easy; I live it every day, so I can empathize with your feelings of frustration, sadness, anger and deprivation. I totally get it; I’m not a nutritionist or doctor here to tell you why it’s a healthier way of living. I don’t have a degree to help guide me along these life choices I’ve found myself having to make, and I was (at many times) just plain pissed off about my situation. I often wondered why I was having to endure such painful and debilitating health issues, why I wasn’t able to be like “everyone else” and just go out to eat without needing a manager to come to my table to guide me on what was allergen-free, or ask for a special menu. I felt the need to apologize to wait staff for being so high maintenance with my orders.
What I learned along the way is that I am stronger than I gave myself credit for. As my health started to improve, and my physical self was getting stronger, my emotional self was as well. What a great feeling to finally have my body, heart and mind all be in sync! I was no longer making excuses for having to run to the bathroom. Gone were the terrible headaches and body aches. Cramps, horribly heavy menstrual cycles and fatigue were dissipating. My skin was no longer dried and cracking. No more heartburn, tummy cramps, bouts of constipation and diarrhea. All in all, I quickly realized that avoiding grains was ABSOLUTELY worth it! The rewards of living grain-free far outweighed the inconveniences, and by learning to book and bake with alternative flours (think almond flour!) I was still able to enjoy foods and feel good. No, you won’t be able to cheat as you will quickly fall right back into a vicious cycle of symptoms. But I would be surprised if you chose to cheat once you realize how much better you feel.
It’s helpful to have a strong support system around you if you choose to go grain-free; again, there are many reasons to do so which I will dish on throughout this site. Living grain-free requires dedication, discipline and (is made easier with) a support system of family and friends that will help you embrace your new food choices. I will admit that living grain-free requires more prep time, and I find myself at the food market more often than I was before, as most of what I eat is now fresh (not pre-packaged). Not to say that you need to eat only fresh foods, but it will make your quest to be truly grain and gluten-free much easier to control.
Take a moment to breathe…
You will absolutely love your new life. Just take a moment to breathe through those moments where you feel overwhelmed, frustrated or sad. Take some time to develop new habits an traditions related to food and you will endure!