I love all things gluten. Bread. Pizza. Pasta. Pastry. Cakes. You name it, I love it. And let’s face it, they’re the staples of a British diet. Who wouldn’t have some cereal and a slice of toast for breakfast, a sandwich or wrap for lunch and a pizza or pasta dish for dinner? Right?
Well, no more – of the gluten kind, anyway. And that was a pretty tough decision to make, I can tell you!
I stopped eating gluten for Lent in 2018, as a short-term decision to see if it would help to reduce my migraines. I had read about leaky gut and a possible link and I was desperate to find something that could help, so decided to give it a go.
It was a huge adjustment to my diet – not least because I also excluded dairy, corn and soy! It was a very memorable moment as I literally sobbed at the thought of giving up my favourite foods, even for such a short amount of time. It made me realise just how strong a hold food has on us!
But during the 6 weeks I kind of got into the swing and noticed an improvement in the frequency of my migraines – as well as reduced joint pain, increased energy and greater clarity of thinking – so decided to carry on.
Then in the summer we went on our annual family holiday to Germany and it was really hard to eat enough on the two-day car journey so I had the occasional bread roll, just to keep me going. It was then that I noticed that my guts really didn’t like gluten. You could have knocked me down with a feather! I would never have said I had an intolerance to gluten…
So now we are both on a gluten-free diet, as Liu Liu felt a benefit too, and eat all kinds of weird and wonderful gluten-free versions of those great British staples.
And gluten’s link with chronic inflammation?
- Gluten is actually incredibly difficult to digest so it can trigger an immune reaction which can damage the lining of the gut.
- Once the intestines get inflamed they can become leaky and allow food particles to escape into our bloodstream – and let’s face it, it’s not supposed to be there, so that triggers a further immune response.
- If the exposure to gluten then continues on a regular basis it can cause chronic inflammation, such as inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis and lots, lots more. Apparently there was a list published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 2002 with over 50 diseases that can be caused by eating gluten… Very sobering.
- Also today’s wheat is very different from ancient wheat, as it has been altered to contain far higher levels of gluten. And before the advent of the combine harvester, wheat would be cut and left to stand in the field for a week. During this time enzymes would start to break down the protein, which would make it easier for our bodies to digest. This is no longer the case today.
Do we still miss it? Sure. But our diet has also become a whole lot more varied and creative. And for us, we’d still prefer to reduce our pain naturally than eat our favourite gluten-based foods and rely on painkillers… Simple choice. Tough decision.
So how do we avoid gluten?
- We no longer eat wheat, spelt, rye or barley as gluten is present in all of them.
- We read ingredient labels – food and medicine. You’d be amazed what you find! Gluten is included in so many of them.
- Interestingly, as a result of reading labels we’ve decided not to eat gluten-free processed foods – the ingredient labels on those are quite shocking!
- We cook from scratch, for example if we want salad dressing, we make it…
- We use alternative flours, like almond, chickpea, buckwheat, brown rice. There are some amazingly creative recipes out there. I am also sharing some of our favourite recipes on this blog, which will all be gluten free.
Want to understand more?
Dr Josh Axe explains it way better than I can: Gluten Intolerance Symptoms & Treatment Methods
There are now loads of gluten free recipes out there. You can find lots on Instagram as well as in recipe books like those by Amelia Freer and Deliciously Ella, to name but two.