We went Gluten free (yep the whole family) for 1 month. Here’s what we found…
Due to some postpartum issues I was advised by my Doctor and Surgeon to adjust my dietary habits and look into removing gluten (at least temporarily) as a means of surgery prevention. Before making any changes to your diet and daily routine always make sure to consult your GP first.
Right, lets get straight to the scientific stuff; what the hey is gluten any way? The word itself comes from the Latin for glue and is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and oats. It gives elasticity to dough and helps it to both rise and keep its shape. Most people are fine with gluten and can digest it easily without any side effects. However, Celiacs are severely allergic to gluten. In my case I am not a celiac but, was advised by my surgeon that going gluten free might aid the recovery of a postpartum trauma that I’d been suffering from. Having exhausted all other treatments unsuccessfully it was his opinion that I should seriously consider giving a gluten-free diet a go before opting for surgery.
So, how did I get the rest of the family on board? Well where I go the baby goes. Theon is 11 months old and although a breast fed baby, he also eats solids and follows my meal times between his feeds. Getting Mr.O on board was a slightly more arduous effort (but, I’ll get back to him in a moment).
When looking over our diet the surgeon pointed out that although we followed a Mediterranean diet, which from the outset looked very well balanced, we were also consuming a lot of bread and pasta; full of refined carbohydrates. Before I get into this I want to go over the issues I had been having.
- Slow wound recovery from a third degree episiotomy
- Complications with the functioning of my bowels
- Chronic pain
- Low energy
- Little to no postpartum weight loss
All these problems combined meant that trying for a second baby in close succession (as we had hoped) was out of the question. All three issues were also having a huge impact on one another. I needed to take action fast. I gained 3 stone (19kg) during my pregnancy-thats two times what my son weighs at almost a year old! I needed to be able to exercise in order to lose this weight and strengthen my body to help in my recovery. However, I couldn’t exercise until I had healed better and a lack of exercise combined with my weight gain meant that as more time passed the more out of shape and weak my entire body was becoming.
So, back to getting him in doors involved. Initially I cut bread and pasta from my diet completely, which was not only boring and difficult (especially with being on the go) it also meant that me and my husband had to prepare different meals. And I get it, being the sole wage earner in our family he works long hours to cover my loss in income while I look after the baby and for him eating an enjoyable meal is pretty much the only selfless act he has time for on a day to day basis-denying him his daily sub or weekly spag-bol was just too cut throat.
Inevitably I Failed to keep to an almost no carb diet; hands up, guilty of little to no will power but, (and I know its an excuse) with breast feeding some times I feel I barely manage to stay hydrated let alone suitably fed. So, I decided instead to try only eating whole grain, brown flour, bread, pasta, rice etc. The idea being that I would significantly reduce my *refined carbohydrate intake whilst also still being able to make the family favourites just in a slightly darker shade of beige. Although this did help to aid my digestion by increasing my fibre intake, I continued to maintain my weight, be constantly bloated, have ‘flare-ups’ and feel exhausted.
*Refined carbohydrates are grain products that have been processed by a food manufacturer so that the whole grain is no longer intact and almost completely stripped of all its fibre, needed for a healthy digestive system.
Now I don’t know if that by the time ‘gluten-free’ was raised as a possible solution I was at the end of my tether and willing to try anything or whether that word ‘possibility’ worked as a class A placebo. Whatever it was, I cracked on that very night researching what to buy and where to buy it. Within a week of giving it a go I had started to notice a real difference and so had Mr.O.
start weight: 11 stone 2 lbs
end weight: 10 stone 10 lb
other noticeable differences:
start weight:10 stone 10 lb
end weight: 10 stone 4lb
other noticeable differences:
- increased energy
- both myself and baby sleeping better
In 2 weeks I had lost 12 pounds (5.4kg), was sleeping better and feeling in much better spirits. Something my husband couldn’t argue with and so with that we went into week 3 as a family of gluten frees!
By Week 3 I really felt I had the swing of things and together with my husband we had managed to replace everything in our house with a gluten free alternative. It was here we encountered the first sleight of hand by the GF industry. “Gluten free everything!” As in the repackaging of products already naturally gluten free in order to charge a premium for making them a ‘specialist’ item. And it wasn’t just this, much of the gluten packed foods we consume are unnecessary junk foods, something the Gluten Free Market has largely cashed in on. They have been quick to understand that we as consumers relate certain tag words to different products i.e.
carbohydrates = fats, bad, weight gain
gluten free = specialist, good, weight loss.
However, crisps and chocolate are still crisps and chocolate no matter how little or much gluten they contain. It is very easy to convince yourself otherwise when the gluten free aisles are filled to bursting with a plethora of various crisps and snack foods, these foods may not contain wheat but are still processed foods and extremely high in fats and sugars so, be careful!
Now, when you’re on a diet of any kind all those edible restrictions can make a week seem like a life time. Skip to Week 4 where me and the B were down in London, helping my brother move into his new place and my husband who had had to stay back and work was managing his own calorie intake. Old Abe said it best I think and so, I’ll title week four: ‘United We Stand, Divided We Fall’. I hate making others responsible for my dietary requirements, and so this (yes more excuses) combined with being on the road and in ‘holiday’ mode (despite packing epic amounts of GF alternatives), caused me to ‘relapse’ (again) and with a smug amount of happiness I am glad to report I wasn’t the only one, Mr.O also dropped the gluten free baton and went all out on refined carbs!
As unfortunate as our GF crash was to our horror and intrigue it also taught us our next lesson of gluten free living: Never think you can just go non gluten free! *’For us’ Falling off the GF cart and eating all our non gluten free favourites after going gluten free (even for just a short period in my husbands case) caused some nasty side effects:
- Instant bloating
- Sore stomach and nausea
- Sore joints
- Upset stomach & wind
- Instant weight gain & water retention
- A flare up (for me) of all my previous problems
*I say ‘for us’ as it would seem everyone reacts differently to gluten although, a quick google search proved that what we experienced was very common.
By Week 5 we had had enough ups and downs to consider the whole idea of gluten free and what role it would play in our lives, as a family going forward.
- Gluten Free Sliced Bread
- Gluten Free Crisps
- Gluten Free flour and especially the blueberry pancake recipe we found
- We often felt like we had eaten cleaner and felt fuller for longer with a lot of the GF replacements
- Gluten Free Pasta (specifically made from split peas)
- Corn flour to replace wheat
- Crackers-like cardboard
- Bread is in everything and checking labels can be laborious!
- The price of anything with Gluten Free on it
What we decided going forward was to not be so intense about going Gluten free but to try and stay aware. Gluten free bread and flour has held its place in our pantry but for us the biggest win was how much going gluten free made us revert to fresher food sources, the labor intensive task of checking labels pushed us back to our favourite fruit and veg markets and making our favourite recipes from scratch rather than allowing those processed life aids dominate the dinner table after a hard days work. Both myself and Mr.O felt that although there were a lot of benefits to reducing gluten, going gluten free hadn’t been the sole saviour to our problems rather a good complimentary aid to readdressing and re-balancing our existing diet.
My problems are on going and slowly getting better and honestly the most effective changes have been increased water intake, increased light (not full out) exercise a long with a significant reduction of any processed foods. Fresh is ALWAYS best!
If you’re thinking of going gluten free and would like some advice on where to go, what to buy or if you have any advice for us please don’t hesitate to email us: firstname.lastname@example.org We’d also love to hear your thoughts in the comments box below. We can’t Booberrit if you don’y share it!