Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Gluten Question

I've never been one to latch onto fads when it comes to food, diet, health (or much else, for that matter). It seems that over the years of my life there have been so many 'diseases du jour', and an equal number of 'magical cures du jour', all of which seem to fizzle out after awhile. How often have we seen the medical profession announce some major new discovery when it comes to diet, only to admit a few years later that they were mistaken, and that now they have an even newer discovery that's surely right this time? Too often. So, I read and study and try to take the middle road, not get caught up in extremes or fads.

The natural medicine doc I've been listening to for over a year now, and whose book I've read, pushes a gluten-free diet on everyone. For the most part, I've resisted this since I try not to eat a lot of grains anyway because they tend to put fat on this body.  However, in recent months I've opted to be more thoughtful about gluten, and have satisfied my summery need for pesto by using gluten-free pasta (made from rice), and avoiding grains otherwise.  Until last week.

The food at Bhavana offered lots of grains: oatmeal, breads, pasta, desserts, etc.  Now, nobody made me eat it -- there were always other options of healthy foods to fill my belly.  But hot oatmeal is such a delight, and who can resist a wonderful pasta accompanied by freshly-made garlic bread?  Not me! So I chose to eat these things and more and enjoyed every bite.

I knew that my digestive system was all out of whack while I was up there, and knew it had to be from some change in diet.  I even gave some mild thought to the gluten issue, but didn't really think too much about it until last night when I got my new issue of Bon Appetit magazine and read an article on gluten-free cooking.  According to them, devotees swear that eliminating gluten gives them "more energy, fewer aches and pains, less bloating and depression". Even physicians are "swearing that their own fatigue and brain-fog lifted".  Hello! Those are exactly the symptoms I had!

I'd noticed already that the bloating and other digestive issues had disappeared, and now that I've gone three gluten-free days I've awakened this morning for the first time with some actual energy, feeling more like what passes for normal for me. Certainly, the energy part could be coincidental, in that I've been resting so much, but all in all, considering all the symptoms, I'm beginning to think there may be something to this gluten thing. And I don't reach such conclusions lightly.

The funny/odd thing is that I hadn't really noticed a difference from not eating gluten for the previous couple of months, but I sure noticed a difference when I added large quantities of it back into my diet. I expect that's because even before I cut it out, I was eating very little of it to begin with and have been (or tried to be) grain-free for many years. I had lapses, but not large lapses that were concentrated over a period of a week.

Something to think about, and it certainly gives me more incentive to avoid gluten, see if the connection is real.

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