So, as it turns out, I did the no gluten/dairy thing for all of November. I mostly did no refined sugar (and did better than I thought I would with the no artificial sweeteners) and tried very hard to do no caffeine or alcohol…but that part didn’t work out quite as well. I did cut WAY back on the diet Coke, but looking back, I still had 2 or 3 bottles (591 ml) per week. I have to say that other than going out for dinner, or to someone’s house, after the first week or so, it was pretty easy! I was NEVER hungry. I had tons of food every day, and looked forward to meal times. I will say that it took a LOT more work, and was quite a bit more expensive. Every meal requires preparation. There is no opening a tin or a cellophane wrapper and just popping something in the microwave. There is a lot of chopping of vegetables, and preparing things in advance. The cost of fresh produce (I’ve harped on this so much in the past, I won’t even start now) still irks me. I can’t imagine how much everything would cost if I went the extra mile and bought ORGANIC!
I did discover a couple of things though. Going gluten free is not nearly as easy as you’d think. It’s way more than cutting out bread. There are hidden sources of gluten all over the place! I knew about things like beer and soya sauce. But in many of the premixed spices I had bought (like a mixed garlic & herb spice), included gluten as well as sugar! Another place I found gluten, that I never expected, was in TEA. Many of the specialty, flavored teas that I like in the winter (English toffee, Christmas spice, etc) use barley malt as a flavoring. This is only a trace amount, and as I am not actually allergic to gluten I didn’t worry about it too much. However, it has certainly opened my eyes even more to the importance of reading labels. (I’m already pretty strict about label-reading, as there are many hidden sources of animal products in food, gelatin being one of the most annoying).
Another thing that happened over the course of the month (and this is likely way too much information for anyone) is that I became unbelievably constipated! I was truly baffled by this. The amount of fruits & vegetables I was eating every day, not to mention all the extra fiber in beans & lentils, as well as increased water consumption, it would seem impossible for me to have such a problem. I started taking extra flax meal in the morning. I started at 1 tsp in a glass of water. Then I went up to 2 tsp…then 1 Tbsp. (this is in addition to the Tbsp I was already putting in my morning smoothie). No good. I resorted to having prunes daily. I simply could NOT figure it out! NOTHING was working!
Then one day I bought almond milk instead of soy milk…just to try it, to see if I liked it. Within a week…no more constipation problem. So..it seems that, for me at least, there is such a thing as too much soy! I already eat a fair amount of tofu, due to being vegetarian, but when I cut out dairy completely, I increased the amount of soy milk I was drinking to make sure I was getting enough calcium/vitamin D/vitamin B, etc. I was having a cup of soy milk in my smoothie in the morning, as well as another 1/2 cup in my tea.
One more thing that I had a problem with was yeast. I avoided all yeast breads. I tried several flat bread recipes (which were crap!), and tried a couple of gluten-free crepe recipes which worked pretty well for making wraps (I can NOT live without sammiches!), and while I made some fairly tasty gluten free, yeast free pizza dough, all my attempts at gluten-free soda biscuits were only so-so at best. Also, my beloved Marmite basically IS yeast. So…totally yeast free didn’t really happen. I can make a pretty tasty gluten free, vegetarian gravy, but not if you don’t let me have my Marmite.
So, through trial, error, and discovery, the month of November was pretty enlightening. I did feel much better, my thinking was clearer, and I had way more energy. I also lost 12 pounds in one month. Granted, that’s only a small fraction of what I still have to lose, but considering I didn’t increase my physical activity level at all, I’d say it’s pretty impressive.
While I have looked into vegan diets (which I am still aiming for), as well as raw food diets (which I don’t think I will even attempt), I do think a gluten/dairy/refined sugar-free diet is definitely something I want to pursue for the long term.