Last week I completed my second 30 day challenge, which was about eating gluten free.
The reason for doing the challenge
Gluten free diet is supposed to have many health benefits, even if you are not celiac or don’t have a known sensitivity to gluten. Eating gluten free for 30 days can improve how you feel, and I was curious to find out if this was the case for me.
The most common symptoms of gluten sensitivity include feeling bad after meals, bloating, wind, acid reflux, and even more severe symptoms such as joint ache, mood swings and brain fog. I have definitely some issues with my tummy, so I thought I’d give it a go.
Eating Gluten Free
Eating gluten free meant I stopped eating anything with wheat, which included bread, pasta, pastry, quiche, pizza and sausages. This meant that I had to rethink most of my staple meals. My husband is a vegetarian, so we eat a lot of pasta, pies and quiche. Tricky.
The first thing I changed was my bread. Most Gluten-free bread is pretty nasty, it’s powdery with little taste. However I found an amazing alternative called Genius bread, which has both a great taste and texture. You can find it in all large supermarkets, although it is a bit pricey compared with normal bread.
Apart from the genius bread I was sorely disappointed with other “gluten free alternatives”. Gluten free fish and chips? Cardboard. Gluten free quiche? Sawdust. Gluten free home made pizza? I could get used to it, but it doesn’t compare. Gluten free pasta? I didn’t even dare going there.
My conclusion is that substituting your usual foods with “free from”-alternatives is really not the best way to do it. Instead I tried to think of meals that didn’t require glutenous ingredients to start with.
The real problem is that there is gluten in many things that I didn’t really think about. I did eat gluten on several occasions during my challenge simply because I didn’t realise I did.
Sauces – all sauces – are usually thickened with wheat flour. Corn tortillas are often mixed with wheat. Also many meat products are made with wheat. So steer clear from meatballs, sausages, gravy and condiments. These were my biggest pitfalls.
Eating out was pretty easy. Most restaurants mark their meals with “GF” for gluten free, and often your meal can be made gluten free if you just ask for it.
Was it difficult?
I have to say the 30 day challenge formula works really well for me. I am really bad at following any special eating plans, and usually cave in after two weeks at the latest. I did stick with eating gluten free for almost the full 30 days. I did have several lapses during that time, even though they were mostly unintentional. I started a weekend late, and stopped a weekend early. The slow start was due to poor planning, the early finish was due to mince pies… Meal planning and stocking up with substitutes to start with help a lot in getting off to a good start.
Eating gluten free didn’t make me feel massively different, which is a relief. I’m glad I can go back to my glutenous favourites, without a big negative impact on how I feel. However I did notice a difference with some issues with my tummy, mostly less wind and belching after meals.
Curiously, one morning I had oats (which I thought were gluten free) and I felt pretty rubbish after that. I usually have eggs for breakfast anyway, so this was a big change. I have noticed that my tummy can be sensitive to a lot of things in the morning. For example I feel bad if I have a large serving of milk in the morning (a bowl of milk and cereal for example) although I’m not lactose intolerant. So gluten is something I’m also going to avoid in the mornings going forward.
Should you try it?
I do recommend giving gluten free diet a go. It’s not as hard as I thought, and knowing how many people might benefit from it, this could be something that really helps you too. I will definitely stick with my Genius bread and avoid gluten in the morning. I will not go gluten free for life, but these are the little changes that will make my tummy feel happier going forward.
Here are my top tips
- Get prepared. Go through your typical meal plan and think what needs changing.
- Shop in advance. Make sure you have substitutes or alternatives to your usual meals that do contain gluten
- Read labels, gluten is hiding in many unexpected items
- Give yourself 30 days and see how you feel. Make adjustments where needed. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.