I wrote that in my sarcasm font you know. I realize that you probably weren’t sitting at your computer waiting for me to post this. I have debated a bit about whether or not to even write about it. Then I got a frantic call from my mom wanting to know where in the world to start with the whole gluten free thing. The next day I got a call from my dad wondering if there was any way to not spend so much on bread. There isn’t. So, here’s the gluten free saga as it pertains to me.
I apologize if you’ve read this before.
I was sick for over 9 years. There were many, many days that I couldn’t even get off the couch. I felt like the biggest slacker mom in the world and I was wracked with guilt at times. Doctors couldn’t tell me what was wrong so I quit asking them and I really wondered if I would ever feel well again. I was diagnosed with insulin resistance (a precursor to full-on diabetes), and hormone imbalance. My doctor put me on the highest dose of Metformin available expecting that the insulin resistance would reverse and it didn’t. But I felt horrible all the time because it kept my blood sugar so low. I was a literal wreck because of that and the hormone imbalance made me feel like I was losing it. I was so irritable but that seems so tame to say considering I felt like a ticking time bomb, and it was a constant struggle to not snap at my husband and kids. Travis said that he didn’t really notice. I’m going to give the Holy Spirit props on that one. I also strongly suspected adrenal fatigue due to chronic stress and my allergies were getting worse and worse. I was so tired all the time that it was often hard to breathe. I could sleep for 4 or 5 hours during the day at times and then sleep for 10-12 hours at night. It was debilitating fatigue. That’s the best way I can describe it.
My doctor was a pharmacist before she became an M.D. and was never hesitant to prescribe something. I don’t like having prescriptions for symptoms because I know there has to be a root cause somewhere. What’s the root cause? I had to find another way because even with meds I still felt sick. I told my Dr. that I felt sick all the time and she finally just looked at me and said, “I don’t know what’s wrong with you.” So, I decided to ditch the Metformin since it made me feel terrible and since I wasn’t actually diabetic. I read that Metformin was 30-ish percent effective for reversing insulin resistance and that diet and exercise were 50-ish percent effective. So I went for it.
That was over a year ago and I started eating low-carb which meant no bread. Then I found some research on gluten intolerance and how that could make someone insulin resistant and could also cause a hormone imbalance. It took months for me to figure out all the triggers and things that are hidden in food, like modified food starch. But slowly things started to really turn around.
I should probably say that I don’t eat gluten and that’s pretty much the extent of my dietary restrictions. I’m not egg free, casein free, nut free, dairy free, vegan, etc. I say that because a lot of websites and things devoted to gluten free are also all of the above. A friend of mine asked recently what websites and things I read for recipes and I told her that I didn’t. And later I checked out a website but the recipes call for egg substitutes and almond milk or coconut milk and a myriad of other ingredients that I’m not going to go out and buy. Eating gluten free has changed my health drastically but since I have no other health issues with food of which I’m aware, it seems like going to such great lengths to change other things puts me in a type of slavery to food. I realize that not everyone sees it that way but I do. I do realize that there are probable health benefits to eliminating other things but I question where it ends. I’m just a girl that can’t eat gluten. If that resonates with you then you might find some of this other information helpful. If not then there are dozens of other gluten free sites that will fit the bill.
I haven’t been much of a label reader in the past. If food on the shelf looked good I bought it. In the last year or so though I’ve turned into a full-on label reader. I have to and Travis does too. He’s actually saved me from eating something I shouldn’t have on a few occasions. And sometimes he takes it more seriously than I do. It was really hard for us as a couple when I was so sick and neither of us ever wants to go back to that. So here’s the nuts and bolts of things that I’ve found that I can and can’t eat.
Udi’s bread is by far the best. I tried other brands because Udi’s is a little pricey but they’re kind of gross. The texture was like sandy pound cake and fell apart when I tried to make a sandwich. I still don’t eat Udi’s bread without toasting it because it’s a bit dry but it holds together for a sandwich and I like it toasted with butter. Or butter and honey.
Pamela’s mixes are, in my opinion, the best out there. The cake just tastes like cake. And the chocolate cake is really to die for. I like to put chocolate chips in the mix. Her pancake mix is fabulous and you can make a lot of different things with it. I’ve used the scone recipe several times and it’s good but they don’t really have the texture of a scone. It’s more like muffins only kind of dry. They’re good with coffee though.
Bob’s Red Mill products are good too but I prefer Pamela’s. Bob’s is my go-to for gluten free oats though. Gluten free oats? Yep, these oats are grown away from wheat fields and so they aren’t contaminated. I made a gluten free blueberry crisp recently using them and it was really good.
And yes, these are all mixes. When Travis and I first got married I didn’t really cook or bake at all. And then we were really broke and a bag of flour is really cheap and you can make lots of things with it. As I started baking from scratch I found out that homemade treats taste a million times better than things that are boxed and full of preservatives. So I baked and learned and tried different things and achieved a level of baking that I was happy with. And now the wind has been taken out of my sails and I feel like I have to learn to bake and cook all over again. Quite honestly, I haven’t really felt like it. I mean, what soup can’t be turned into something spectacular when started with a roux? Homemade muffins are wonderful. But gluten-free baking is complicated by the different types of flours that you have to use to get a bread type product. I’m sure they have them all at Whole Foods but I’m just not up for it right now.
I have found though that gluten free mixes, even mainstream brands like Betty Crocker, don’t have things like hydrogenated oils. So in that regard I feel fine using mixes.
All-in-all I think that eating gluten free has made me eat healthier overall. How? Because nearly every junk food that I’m very fond of has gluten in it. My favorite BBQ chips, Doritos (the regular nacho cheese), Nestle Crunch bars, Whoppers (the candy and the burger), etc. Basically anything that’s malted I can’t eat. Malted barley flour is found in chips, Twizzlers has wheat flour (not that I liked those anyway), and I’ve found modified food starch in jelly beans. By law it’s supposed to be listed as wheat but even if it isn’t I stay away from it because I have a bad reaction to it. I do eat it if it is listed as modified corn starch or modified food starch (corn) or potato.
Oh, my friend Mary saved me too. She found wheat listed in crab that she was going to use for soup one night when Travis and I were visiting. It really means a lot to me that my friends really take it seriously too. They watched me struggle so much and I feel very fortunate that they see the difference and don’t want me to be sick again. I think that for anyone with food issues one of the worst feelings is to not be taken seriously.
So that’s a partial list. I don’t expect this to turn into a food blog. Mostly because I like to write about other things too. Occasionally though, I will probably blog about gluten free food…like cupcakes filled with custard and topped with buttercream.