Friday, May 2, 2014

A Diary of Quitting Gluten (One Month Update)

It's been over a month since I gave up my beloved pasta and toast and pizza and...Ok, I admit it. I *may* have given into temptation once in the last month, but I've still got some pretty amazing feedback to report (including the consequences of my one slip-up.)

In the first week, my main observation was that I didn't feel bloated and didn't feel very hungry. I wondered if it may have been coincidence, and perhaps I had some kind of "stomach bug". But a month later, I'm convinced that the decrease in appetite is linked to quitting gluten.

Over the last month, I estimate my appetite has decreased by a whopping 30-40% and this despite getting back into my fitness routine. 

I simply don't have the urge to keep snacking during the day, and three meals per day (one of them being a "light" meal of fruits or a green smoothie) is more than enough. After the first few days, I no longer felt any cravings for bread or pasta, and although I cooked those things for my children, I found I could resist them easily.

Perhaps because of this, I continued to lose a few more pounds after the first week, and now seem to have settled somewhere around 62kgs (136 pounds), which seems to be my usual set-point which my body naturally reverts to when I'm looking after it properly. I'm 172cm tall, so this is a perfect healthy weight for me.

The other benefit was a wonderful sense of being "lean and light". I haven't felt heavy or lethargic or "creaky" at all. 

At least, until I had my one little slip-up. Let me tell you what happened!

Before I quit gluten, I had purchased a big packet of rolled oats, but after I quit it sat there and sat there, because, although I know that many people can tolerate oats where they can't tolerate wheat, I just wanted to stay "100% pure" for at least a few months, so I could really gauge my body's response.

Technically, oats are considered gluten-free, but because they are often grown in close proximity to wheat/processed on same equipment, they are not recommended for celiacs due to cross-contamination issues.

One morning, we a huge houseful of people (22 people!) to feed, so I took that big packet of rolled oats and cooked up a giant pot of porridge. That was where I come undone. See, I ate some of that porridge, and you know what happened? Well, for a little while, nothing happened. I thought I had managed to get away with that one!

But in less than hour, I was hungry again - no, not just hungry, I was ravenous - and I wasn't just hungry for anything. I wanted carbs! Lots of them. I wanted bread. I wanted pasta! After a month of minimum appetite, there I was ransacking through the fridge and hunting around the room for something to snack on. And that's how I really come undone, because a couple of hours later (still ravenously hungry) we were out and about in town, and I *may* have eaten two spring rolls. 

Within 15 minutes, I felt like the food I had just eaten was stuck in a big ball at the top of my stomach. I had that same feeling for the rest of the afternoon. Within an hour, I was overcome with a tremendous fatigue, the likes of which I haven't experienced in years (probably since before I quit sugar), and a vague twinge of headache around my forehead. I just wanted to lay down and sleep, but couldn't, because my children were livelier than ever. Or maybe I just imagined that part?!

That night, I fell asleep earlier than usual. The next morning, I had planned to be up at first light to exercise, but I felt so stiff and creaky and unmotivated when my alarm went off, I switched it off and fell back to sleep.

That little slip-up was four days ago, and I'm still experiencing increased appetite and decreased energy levels. 

This experience has really made me question what role gluten might be playing in our current obesity epidemic. It also makes me realize that many of us are eating far more than our bodies actually need, and the frequent desire to eat is not caused by hunger, but an addiction response (ie. withdrawal symptoms) to gluten, possibly coupled with nutritional deficiencies which make the body crave more food in hopes it will actually get the nutrients it really needs (rather than the empty calories we last fed it)...

I had read about gluten being addictive and fattening, and now my own experience has shown this to be true in a very dramatic way.

You Might Also Like:
I Quit Gluten (Week One Update)
10 Ways to Achieve Vibrant Health on a Shoestring Budget
10 Ways to Supercharge Your Energy Levels (No Caffeine Required)


Lizzy Allan said...

It was really interesting to read about your experience cutting gluten out of your diet. I'm gluten intollerant and cut gluten out 100% four and a half years ago. Over a 12 year period, it became increasingly obvious to me that I had extreme bloating and flatulence (I know, some very embarrassing moments there!). The pain I experienced after eating gluten also got worse as I got older. When I stopped eating it, I noticed all of those side effects that you mentioned. I felt lighter, hardly ever bloated any more and the flatulence decreased significantly - to everyone's relief, most of all my own! I also lost about 10kg over a six month period. I know several people who aren't actually gluten intollerant but who have cut out or cut down on the gluten and noticed they have much more energy and much less bloating. I've actually come to the conclusion that everyone would feel healthier if they at least reduced their gluten intake :)

Kate Punivai said...

I noticed on your blog that you don't eat gluten, Lizzy Allan.

Yes, I think you may be right, people in general would feel a lot better if they at least reduced the huge amounts they're eating. The average western diet contains gluten in virtually every meal.

The good news is that more and more people are gradually waking up the gluten-effect and this is leading to more options (not to mention delicious recipes all over the blogosphere!)

Kylie Ofiu said...

Yes, I have been gluten free for a few years and when I have occasionally slipped up, aside from the pain, I get very sluggish, tired and ravenous. It's crazy.

Kate Punivai said...

It is crazy! Who would have guessed that our "daily bread" is doing us no favors at all!

I honestly think with the current obesity epidemic, along with the rise of illnesses like CFS and auto-immune disorders, gluten needs to be under the spotlight a lot more, not to mention the underlying issues of our food system (eg genetic manipulation for higher yields/lower costs with little thought to the long-term impact and true costs of such actions).

But one person at a time, awareness is spreading!