When I was in college, I had a whole lotta stomach problems. I’d constantly feel bloated, and found it nearly impossible to lose weight although I was eating “healthy.” One night in particular comes to mind. All of our roommates were hanging out snacking on cheese and crackers, veggies ‘n’ dips and wine, when I felt a terrible pain in my stomach. It had felt like I’d eaten an entire Thanksgiving meal; I literally had to unbutton my jeans. Yes, it was that bad. My poor roommate and her boyfriend didn’t know what to do so they rushed me to the supermarket to get Tums and chocolate-flavored laxatives to ease the pain. And while my tummy started feeling a tad better, I knew it was time to look into what the hell was going on.
So the next time I was home, I took a trip to a nutritionist and decided to take the ALCAT, a food and chemical sensitivity/intolerance test that has helped patients with migraines, digestive disorders, skin conditions, obesity and other conditions for years. Note: this is not a food allergy test; rather it’s testing for sensitivities and intolerances. You can read about the differences here.
Anyway, when I got the results back I was completely overwhelmed and confused so I talked it over with my nutritionist. She explained to me that foods in the “green” column were a go (I could eat as much as I wanted of these), yellow was mild intolerance, orange moderate, and red severe. I was then told to avoid the reds and oranges completely for 6 months, slowly adding them back into my diet if my body allowed. Welp, guess what was in my red column? Baker’s yeast (pretty much all bread products), and Brewer’s yeast was in my orange (alcohol, vinegar, etc). Oh, not to mention cow’s milk, goat’s milk and sheep’s milk were all on the “look out ” list. Guess it’s bye-bye cheese. Shit, I’m completely screwed, I thought to myself. No bread, crackers, cheese, pizza, pasta for 6 months (among many other things)? But I have to be honest I was mostly upset about the no alcohol. I was a senior in college…did she really expect me to just cut it out of my life…for six long months? Fortunately, we found a solution: Tequila (my fave!) and Ciroc (a vodka made from grapes) were allowed. Phew.
Flash forward two years later, and I finally have control of my diet. No more constant bloating, discomfort, and unnecessary weight gain. My energy levels have sky-rocketed and I feel like a brand new woman. Oh, and in case you were wondering I now enjoy alcohol problem-free (hello, I’m a 20-something living in Boston) and have added cheese back into my life without any issues. However, one thing remained clear: wheat is something my body just can’t handle. And it’s definitely not worth all the bloat & tummy issues to splurge on pizza for no reason. So I’ve become wheat/gluten free for the past two years. I won’t lie: sometimes I sneak a brownie or have a bite of bread but I know my limits. After all, it’s an intolerance not an allergy so I know what’s going to put me over the edge/ what I can handle.
Whenever I tell anyone that I don’t eat wheat, they shriek and feel terrible for me. “You can’t eat anything! If I had to give up wheat and gluten my life would be ruined.” That’s far from true.While at first it was a bit shocking and overwhelming, I’ve grown accustomed to my new diet and I don’t feel deprived at all. Instead of focusing on what I can’t eat, I focus on what I can eat and that makes life a whole lot more enjoyable.
Some of my must-have staples:
- Ezekiel bread*: I’m sure you hear me raving about this bread quite often. While it does have traces of wheat in it, it’s made from freshly sprouted organic whole grains which don’t bother my stomach like other breads to *Note: I’m not recommending you eat this if you have wheat/gluten intolerance, but it works for me
- brown rice
- brown rice cakes (LOVE topping them with some fresh berry preserves for a snack)
- all natural peanut butter or almond butter (couldn’t go without these)
- raw nuts (walnuts & almonds are my favorite)
- eggs (make for a perfect GF breakfast scrambled, as omelets or just sunny side up)
- sweet potatoes (just ’cause they’re starchy doesn’t mean they have gluten)
- brown rice pasta (can’t even tell the difference!)
- organic soy milk (milk & soy milks are almost always GF)
- quinoa & quinoa flakes
- Bob’s Red Mill gluten free rolled oats
- tons of fresh veggies (including squash, zucchini, tomatoes, baby bella mushrooms, spinach and broccoli)
- tons of fresh fruit (apples, bananas, frozen berries, grapefruit & oranges to name a few)
- Flax seed oil & Sesame Seed oil* (great to make dressings and add into salads, fruit bowls, etc.) *Also great substitute for soy sauce because many have wheat in them
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil (I couldn’t cook without this gem)
- Garlic & loads of other spices
- dark chocolate chips (mmm the perfect post-dinner treat)
- Brown rice wraps* (perfect for quesadillas and roll-ups) *Find them at Trader Joe’s
- Gluten Free Waffles* (my family eats them sometimes and doesn’t even know the difference) *Again, find in the frozen section at Trader Joe’s
- Veggie burgers & mahi mahi burgers (Check the back of the box, but many of these don’t contain gluten as well)
- Larabars – my fave is cherry & apple pie. Banana bread is also very yummy!
These are just a few of my staples, but as you can see Gluten/Wheat free livin’ aint so bad after all. Lucky for me, many menus at restaurants and items at the grocery store are carefully labeled these days, making it super easy for girls like me to enjoy a meal.
Do you have any food allergies or intolerances? How do you modify your diet?