Millions of Americans are affected by food allergies and intolerances. While I feel lucky to not have many digestive issues, I know that the food we eat affects other parts of our well-being like mood, energy levels, and our appearance. While I learned about food allergies in college, and as a nutrition consultant helped clients handle their food allergies and autoimmune disorders like celiac disease, I was surprised when I revisited some of the statistics regarding the prevalence of food allergies in the United States. The eight most common food allergies in the U.S are as follows: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat. The following few paragraphs will explain more in detail why I have decided to set out on a 4-week journey of not eating gluten and dairy. While I am a health professional, I will state now that this diet may not be appropriate for everyone. I decided to try this experiment as just that- to see how if it would affect me and my personal well being. I will be checking in with a tweakfit.com post weekly, to share with you all my personal struggles with following this diet regimen, as well as the hopeful positive outcomes as it pertains to my mental and physical well-being. Also, if you are interested in trying out a gluten/dairy free diet, I will help you out in doing it the best possible nutritionally-sound way. Happy reading and happy eating!
To begin, let me explain to those of you who don’t know what gluten is. Gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley, is highly prevalent in the modern American diet. While you may identify gluten with your bread, pasta, cereal, and pastries, gluten is also commonly found in processed foods as thickeners and fillers. When gluten is digested in a person with celiac, the immune system responds by damaging or destroying the intestinal villi. The damaged villi, which normally allow nutrients to be absorbed into the bloodstream, are now unable to do so. For people with celiac disease, digesting gluten can cause painful immediate side effects such as gas, bloating, chronic diarrhea, and detrimental long term side effects, such as but limited to infertility, depression, anemia and arthritis. According to The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease (NIDDK), over two million Americans or 1 in 133 people have been diagnosed with celiac disease, with many still undiagnosed The only treatment for celiac disease is omitting gluten from the diet for a lifetime.
While celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder, many people have wheat or gluten intolerances. According to The University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research, the medical director indicates that anywhere between 5-10% of the population may suffer from gluten sensitivity in some form. Gluten sensitivities can still negatively affect the absorption of nutrients into the bloodstream, causing side effects similar to those who suffer from celiac. This is what brought me to my decision to try a gluten-free diet for just one month to see how I feel from following this diet. Again, this is a personal experiment but hopeful outcomes for me include weight loss, increased energy, and clearer skin.
According to the NIDDK, thirty to fifty million, yes million, people are lactose intolerant in the United States. This translates into one in six people being lactose intolerant….and that is A LOT! Lactose, the sugar found naturally in cow’s milk, requires the enzyme lactase to be broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream. The problem is that after age two, many people stop producing lactase, thus being unable to absorb lactose. The unabsorbed lactose is what causes the unpleasant side effects of lactose intolerance, such as diarrhea, bloating, abdominal pain, and nausea. Although I have not been diagnosed with lactose intolerance, I am beginning to wonder that if so many people are unable to digest cow’s milk after age two, if it is something that is vital to my diet. Again, this is just a personal experiment, and I am not giving medical advice to anyone who feels like they want to continue consuming dairy products. I am just curious how I will feel after four weeks dairy free.
So now that you know why I am choosing to go gluten and dairy free, I’ll let you in on my plan to get week one done painlessly and nutritiously. First thing I know I am going to have to do is stock up on the foods that I plan on eating for week one. While I usually include wheat bread, low-fat cottage cheese, wheat pasta, and part-skim mozzarella in my grocery cart, this week I am altering my list. For week one I am keeping it simple and my variety low to create a new routine. I also recommend that anyone trying this diet approach to take a multivitamin, as well as calcium and Vitamin D.
Here are a few ideas of the foods I will be including this week:
- natural peanut butter
- lots of veggies: celery, carrots, leafy greens, corn, string beans, frozen stir fry veggies
- fruit: frozen berries, bananas, apples, pineapple
- proteins: eggs, shrimp, tofu, salmon, chicken, steak, turkey bacon
- organic soy milk (since my grocery store doesn’t carry almond milk, my fav!)
- sweet potatoes/sweet potato fries (Alexia sweet potato fries are gluten-free!)
- brown rice (yup! it’s gluten free)
- black beans
In additions to what I already have in m cabinets/refrigerator, I plan to follow this plan loosely:
- egg/egg white omelet with turkey bacon
- Fruit smoothie with soy milk/berries
- Green salad with chicken or fish
- leftovers from dinner
- Brown rice, chicken/steak/tofu/shrimp and veggies stir fry
- salmon, sweet potato/fries, veggies
- veggies & hummus
- fruit & natural peanut butter
Anticipated struggles for week one:
- My boyfriend’s birthday is on my anticipated day one. Hmmm.,..where to take him for dinner and how to deal with a birthday dessert??
- I currently work at a restaurant/bar where the only gluten-free, dairy-free option is the salad, sans blue cheese crumbles….guess I’ll be packing snacks!
- My boyfriend’s mother is flying into Hawaii for two weeks and staying with us. That is going to mean more meals eaten out as part of entertaining. Maybe not good timing for this on my part, but I wanted to jump in head first and get started!
Wish me luck everyone and I will be checking in shortly to let you know how week one went. Please leave me some feedback or feel free to ask for advice if you are planning to try a similar venture~
“Celiac Information.” Gluten Intolerance Statistics. Web. 20 Apr. 2012. <http://www.celiac-association.ca/celiac-disease-symptoms/gluten-intolerance-statistics/>.
“National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC).” Celiac Disease. Web. 20 Apr. 2012. <http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/celiac/>.
“National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC).” Lactose Intolerance. Web. 20 Apr. 2012. <http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/lactoseintolerance/>.