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Why I Stopped Being Gluten Free

After eating gluten-free for a few months, I realized that my body simply performed better without so many grain-centered carbohydrates.
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Since moving halfway across the country (and shortly before), I have loosened up on my stringent gluten-free lifestyle. I have plastered the posts on my blog with pictures of sandwiches, pizza, and donuts. Over a year ago, I did an elimination diet to see if gluten was the culprit behind my randomly distended stomach issues. After 4 weeks, I didn't notice a huge difference, but stuck with it just to be safe. When I reintroduced it to see how I reacted, I came to the conclusion that gluten didn't have a huge effect on me, but when I didn't have it I also was free from a puffy stomach.

Briefly, gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, barley, rye, and triticale (a newer grain). It acts as a binder that helps foods maintain their shape and elasticity. Before jumping into the why of my decision to devour gluten in all its forms, I want to clarify the difference between celiac disease and gluten sensitivity.

  • Celiac disease affects approximately one percent of the U.S. population and can be recognized by symptoms of bloating, diarrhea, malnutrition, osteoporosis, and even cancer. There are also genetic markers that confirm celiac disease.
  • Gluten sensitivity is more nebulous, but affects some six percent of the U.S. population. It involves some stomach issues, headaches, and balance problems among a list of others.
  • I do not have celiac disease, or my decision to eat gluten again would prove idiotic, but I did suspect that I had some type of gluten sensitivity. I had had this stomach issue for years and I couldn't pin point what was causing it. There never seemed to be a common denominator between when I would eat something and when it would look like I was a few months pregnant. I had seen pictures of people who were sensitive to gluten and after eating it, they looked like me.

    I think I wanted gluten to be the culprit so I found ways to convince myself that it was. I didn't experience any of the other symptoms of gluten sensitivity such as balance issues, brain fogginess, or headaches.

    I felt that the less I ate gluten, the less puffy I felt, but what I now attribute that to is finally eating the way that my body wanted me to. I ate a lot of quinoa, salads, fish, eggs, and very little carbs such as bread and pasta. After eating gluten-free for a few months, I realized that my body simply performed better without so many grain-centered carbohydrates. It wasn't particularly about the gluten in them. If I wanted to have some pizza, I would have pizza. If I had an occasional sandwich, I was fine. After awhile it seemed like too much work when I didn't medically need to avoid it.

    Since my realization I have had my fair share of bread products in all their delicious forms and my stomach has not revolted. The only thing that I know to cause it is milk, especially raw milk, and I have the pictures to prove it. So my game plan is just to limit the amount of carbs I have in general. No, I'm not going Atkins crazy, just shifting my proportions. Fueling during race training was interesting, but I made it through with a lot of baked potatoes and rice. Maybe this time around I will grab some more pizza.

    A version of this post originally appeared here on the blog Erin's Inside Job.