How to Go Green With Silv: A Grain-Free Experiment by Silvia Milanova, January 20 2016, 0 Comments

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The holidays are a time for indulgence—hearty pies, smoked meats, homemade pastries filled with sweet jams, glass after glass of a favorite beverage, you name it! And temptations are everywhere—work parties, family gatherings, holiday getaways. Yet, here I am sitting down for dinner and trying to skip—wait, not skip—trying to painfully avoid grains (any and all kinds), added or processed sugar (desserts and packaged, processed foods), and mostly all dairy (ugh, no cheese for me). So, you may be asking, WHY are you doing this and WHAT can you eat?? Well, as I discovered, I could eat more than I thought. Here’s a summary of my grain-free month of December!

Personal background

Thinking a few years back, I started developing uncomfortable indigestion symptoms such as cramping and bloating. Most symptoms would occur right after a meal, but often they lingered for hours after. Eventually, I felt bloated almost 100 percent of the time. I used to have abs and now I could never see them!

Note: I am lactose intolerant and for some time I thought that was the main reason for my bloated stomach. But even when I took Lactaid® pills or avoided dairy altogether, my stomach remained ‘puffy’. I also lacked consistent energy and felt drained at the end of each day.

So, after suffering for a couple of years, I juggled with the idea of going to a gastroenterologist, getting tested for food allergies and trying to diagnose my discomfort. I changed my mind, however, after I received advertising e-mails about a “grain-free life” and “grain detox”, and books such as The Grain Free Cure, No Grain No Pain and Wheat Belly. That’s when I decided to take my health into my own hands.

Reason behind the books

The idea behind these books and diet changes (or rather, lifestyle changes), is that bloating caused by wheat is due to a protein, gluten, to which approximately 3 million people in the United States are allergic—called celiac disease (CD). Human bodies do not fully digest gluten. Partially digested gluten particles can leak from the intestine into the bloodstream. Since some people’s bodies view gluten as a harmful substance, their immune systems create antibodies to attack the particles and trigger internal inflammation—much like histamine in the body of a person who is allergic to it (seasonal allergies). This can lead to poor absorption of nutrients, weight loss, anemia, osteoporosis, infertility issues, skin rashes, headaches, depression, fibromyalgia and joint pain.

However, many more people can be sensitive or intolerant to wheat and other grains without realizing it. The antibodies mentioned above are only produced by the immune systems of people who are allergic to gluten. People who are sensitive to gluten but don’t have a CD diagnosis can develop the symptoms of this reaction without making antibodies.

And don’t be mistaken. Grain free is not equivalent to wheat free. Even if you go wheat or gluten free, all grains, including gluten-free ones such as buckwheat, millet, quinoa and rice, as well as legumes, nuts and seeds, also contain phytic acid, a substance that reduces the absorption of minerals such as copper, calcium, iron, zinc, and magnesium. Additionally, modern grains are processed much differently than they were a few decades ago—including a milling process that reduces or eliminates nutrients, genetic alteration, irradiation and the use of chemicals/hormones/pesticides to resist diseases and insects.

Beware: if you choose “gluten-free” products to replace the common wheat foods you’ve been consuming, keep in mind that these products also contain many additives, fillers and chemicals to make up for the lack of wheat, gluten, simple carbohydrates and “flavor”, as well as added sugar and fats.

There is MUCH more information on wheat, gluten and grains, and much to learn if you’re interested in trying a grain-free lifestyle. Here are the results of my experiment, broken up by 1-week increments.

WEEK 1

The detox was underway. I got a food bug from restaurant food (noodles) the night before and felt very strongly about not eating any grains. And as with any detox, I felt a little worse before I started feeling better. For the first 3-4 days of the grain-free diet, I felt pretty sluggish and hungrier than usual throughout the day. But that began to change by the end of the week. My usual bloat had subsided and I felt more alert and energetic throughout the day. Overall, week one was bearable—and I didn't miss grains at all!

WEEK 2

By the beginning of this week, I started to feel better. I had even lost 2 pounds—not bad! I plunged into this grain-free experiment without proper meal planning. During week 2, I had more time to properly prepare and purchase ingredients to cook meals without grains. I focused on fresh, organic vegetables, organic chicken and wild-caught salmon, salads with roasted nuts and avocado, bean soups and stews, and potatoes cooked in many ways—roasted, boiled, mashed, sautéed. Some grain-free diets say to avoid potatoes as well (unless they’re sweet potatoes), but I LOVE potatoes, so I couldn’t do it. Oh well! I also still ate beans and legumes soaked in water overnight. By the end of this week, I did not miss grains, but I did find it a little harder to cook diverse meals without them. However, I was being a little lazy and did not research new recipes or alternatives.

WEEK 3

By the beginning of week 3, my stomach was barely bloated at all! I felt great! The only discomfort I felt was when I ‘cheated” a bit and had some (yummy) havarti cheese—oops. But it was sooooo good. Not good for my digestion though. I had some bloating that went away in a few hours. I also accidentally ate a bite of quinoa pasta I had cooked for my family without noticeable discomfort. During the week, I started to try new recipes and alternatives to grains. I made peanut butter cookies and pumpkin pancakes with coconut flour (pictured above), bread with almond flour and homemade dark chocolate, hummus and jam—so yummy, I highly recommend it! Week 3 was going extremely well. By the end of the week, I felt energetic, did not have bloating, lost 5 pounds and looked good as well :). 

WEEK 4

Well, this was it, the last week! For some reason though, I was not excited to start eating grains again. I felt extremely good at the beginning of the week. My skin looked a bit better, I had lost a total of 5/5.5 pounds (woo!), and most importantly, my stomach felt at ease—no bloating, no pains. I continued eating a lot of vegetables, fruits and lean meats and the occasional homemade sweet treat or dark chocolate. I also ate a lot of peanut butter and coconut derived products—coconut oil, flour, chips, sugar, etc. Final verdict—I loved how light and comfortable I felt! My tummy and my instinct told me to keep going with the grain-free lifestyle (smart move). But for the purpose of this experiment, I wanted to eat something with grains to see how I would feel and if these results were more than a myth. So after the month was up, I ate two slices of pizza with white dough. Immediately after, I felt…OK. I thought, “Ok, maybe I can handle gluten and wheat after all.” Oh boy was I wrong. For two, almost three full days after eating the pizza, I felt sick, my stomach was more bloated than ever before, I had constant cramps and felt excruciating discomfort, especially after meals.

Long story short, I decided to try and stick with the grain-free lifestyle change. I may miss regular bread and pasta some days, but nothing tastes as good as a non-bloated stomach feels! 

Keep in mind: once you go grain free, you should never go back. Read more about going grain-free and the reasons why not to ever cheat in Wheat Belly 10-Day Grain Detox.