It frustrates me when people say they are on a Gluten free diet (or diet in general). Diet, the way society has come to know the term, indicates a temporary alteration to ones normal food routine.
As Crohn’s lifers, we are always bombarded with finding the right “diet” in order to stay in remission or avoid exacerbating our flares. I have found that a “diet” is not the best outlook. It is much harder to stick with a diet when we keep it as a foot note to our lives. Defining what you eat as part of your lifestyle takes a lot of the pressure off. This is what I have come to know since I decided to go for the Gluten Free lifestyle.
My uncle (he is a doctor) was pressuring me for over a year to try it, and I was quite reluctant. Every single Gastroenterologist I encountered told me diet did not matter. I always questioned the docs and followed by my skepticism they began to cite research studies that show no causation. I like my doctors a lot, but this is a disconnect that I don’t understand. Through the years, this has kept me eating whatever I want and not thinking twice as my Crohn’s got worse and worse.
Although studies show that there is no shown causal effect of diet on Crohn’s, we can all agree that there is a substantial difference when we put garbage in our bodies compared to healthy and fresh food. I know we are all very different, but being conscious of what we eat is an important part of feeling better with Crohn’s. That is how I ended up starting and sticking with a Gluten Free Lifestyle.
The three books that influenced me most were Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Douglas Graham’s Grain Damage: Rethinking the High-Starch Diet, and most importantly Danna Korn’s Wheat-Free, Worry-Free: The Art of Happy, Healthy Gluten-Free Living.
Pollan’s book does not have anything to do with Gluten Free, but it is a good read about food in general. Graham’s book is small, quick and gives a simple yet intriguing perspective. Korn’s book was the game changer. Korn has a very simple way of explaining things, and she takes the reader on an excellent journey through understanding the lifestyle. Although it is framed in the context of Celiac Disease, I know Crohn’s people can relate.
So, I have been Gluten Free since March 2009. 8 months and has it helped me with my Crohn’s? Honestly, I don’t know. But it has had a substantial affect on the way I think, which in turn affects my physical state. I have went about most of my life just eating without thinking. If something looked good enough, I ate it and if it looked really good I was definitely going to eat it. I did not think twice. Unless I was in the middle of a flare, I was eating whatever I wanted.
Exit gluten and enter food consciousness. The greatest impact that the gluten free lifestyle has had is that now, prior to eating, I always ask myself: what am I about to put in my body? It is a quick mediation on your body and your life. This in and of itself forces me to make better decisions about what I eat. Making good decisions makes my stomach feel better. I feel less bloated, I belch less and I don’t have as much discomfort.
The question remains if I made healthy decisions while eating a glutinous diet, would it be the same. I don’t know, but that lifestyle did not work for me and this does.
Do I cheat?
Not on purpose. At home, I try to be meticulous and make sure every ingredient I cook with is in fact Gluten Free. It is a lot more challenging when I go out. I try to cook at home as much as possible otherwise I try to be careful when I am eating out. But it does not work. I assume marinades and dressings are gluten free, but I am often wrong. And I still do it. However, more and more places are starting to cater to a gluten free lifestyle.
The one problem I encounter with Gluten Free is that I end up eating more sweets. Since I can’t indulge in most desserts with friends, when I get an opportunity to have ice cream or a chocolate bar, I end up eating more than anyone should. This is a problem that I am really struggling with. I don’t know how to fight the urge.
I have more to say, but I will leave it for another post on Gluten Free. What about you? Are you Gluten Free? Do you have Crohn’s and has it helped you?