What going gluten and dairy-free has taught me about my body
You never stop learning about your body and what is good for it.
What we put into our bodies has a significant impact on the way we feel, yet how often do we actually sit and read about the ingredients in some of our favourite snacks or meals. While the idea of going gluten and dairy-free may seem to some (including the old me) as just a trend, it has many benefits which I have learned over the past two months. Before I get into the facts about what gluten can do to your body, let me tell you what pushed me to give it a try.
After stumbling across Tallene and her husband's Instagram page @pcos.weightloss and relating to Tallene previous experience, I decided to try going gluten and dairy-free. Tallene a PCOS dietitian who also has PCOS and her husband a personal trainer helped me understand my body for the first time in my life. It wasn't about just looking thinner, it was about creating a long term lifestyle that will help you feel your best.
What is gluten?
"Gluten is a protein naturally found in some grains including wheat, barley, and rye. It acts like a binder, holding food together and adding a “stretchy” quality—think of a pizza maker tossing and stretching out a ball of dough. Without gluten, the dough would rip easily. Other grains that contain gluten are wheat berries, spelt, durum, emmer, semolina, farina, farro, graham, khorasan wheat, einkorn, and triticale (a blend of wheat and rye)." - Harvard T.H. Chan
Interestingly enough there are some products like Soy sauce that you'd never think gluten actually do, which is why it's really important to take time to read food labels. There is also cross-contamination, which is when a naturally gluten-free product is being mass-produced among items containing gluten, oats are a good example of that.
Why can gluten be a problem?
"What’s not great about gluten is that it can cause serious side effects in certain individuals. Some people react differently to gluten, where the body senses it as a toxin, causing one’s immune cells to overreact and attack it. If an unknowingly sensitive person continues to eat gluten, this creates a kind of battle ground resulting in inflammation. The side effects can range from mild (fatigue, bloating, alternating constipation and diarrhea) to severe (unintentional weight loss, malnutrition, intestinal damage) as seen in the autoimmune disorder celiac disease." - Harvard T.H. Chan
For more information: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/gluten/#:~:text=When%20Gluten%20Is%20a%20Problem&text=The%20side%20effects%20can%20range,the%20autoimmune%20disorder%20celiac%20disease.
What is dairy?
"A simple definition of Dairy is any foods made from the milk products of animals or produced in the mammary glands. The most common of dairy products comes from Cows, they are often the prime producer of Dairy products, their milk also used in the production of creams, cheeses and desserts. Dairy products are not mutually exclusive to Cows though, we also take milk from Goats and Sheep, in other countries, you will also find use from many other mammals." - The Diet Plate
For more information on the impact, dairy can have on your body check out this blog Is dairy dangerous? We dive into the science.
Gluten and dairy-free were such foreign concepts to me, as I often ate what I wanted without a second thought, so it was only natural that I struggled at the beginning. The first few weeks I stuck to eggs, avocado, potatoes and salads. It was shocking to me the number of products I consumed daily that contained gluten and dairy, my previously short swift grocery trips now turned into long ones which included a lot of reading. With the help of gluten and dairy-free food blogs, I slowly started to find recipes that allowed me to enjoy my favourite snacks and meals once again. Here are a few sites I have checked out.
After a couple of weeks, this actually started to feel like a lifestyle rather than a diet, mainly because I didn't feel too restricted. Having always struggled with my weight I have done many diets, all ending in either rapid weight gain after hitting my target or just me giving up, this definitely felt different to those diets. The first month flew by but it had its challenges, as I now had to learn to say no when offered food containing both gluten or dairy. Many were surprised to see me this consistent, but the benefits outweighed my cravings for such foods. I was no longer tired, bloated and easily irritated instead I was sleeping better, felt light, internally clean and was much happier overall. So much so that my husband even noticed the absence of my mood swings.
Motivation and syncing your mind with your body are two key factors when changing a lifelong habit. Outside of just researching the impact of such ingredients, I tested it out physically. After almost two months I tested body by eating a small sweet bun, as I finished my meal and the day progressed, I felt horrible and really bloated. I also tried cheese on a different and while it didn't have a much of an impact, I decided I would remain dairy-free. My motivation was simply to not feel that bad due to my food choices again, no matter how much I loved certain types of food. The second point I made was syncing your mind with your body, being mindful of what you are eating and paying attention when you eat definitely plays a role. For me it was a matter of listening to my body when it told me it was hungry, drinking plenty of water consciously to avoid headaches and taking my vitamins.
Getting to know our bodies is a continuous thing, what works for someone may not work for you and vice versa but it's important to trial and error until you find what works for you. I hope this helps anyone looking for things they can implement to start feeling their best. If reading this was helpful, I’d appreciate it if you would share it.