gluten, vegans, and the axis of evil

by humanmama on March 6, 2013

Pretty much as long as you’ve known me I’ve had a faulty body. Now–don’t feel bad. It’s not as bad as all that. I’m fairly healthy, no cancer, no auto-immune disorders, just pretty much all the time my body hurts. My feet are terrible–it’s like walking on broken glass sometimes, and that began at age 20, right after I lived in Philadelphia for a while. My knees are worse, creaking and cracking like there’s no cartilage at all and that’s since I was about 14. Migraines started up with I was 7 or 8. You see? Not terrible, just faulty.

So recently, when I heard of three different friends trying a gluten-free diet I knew it was time to give something new a try. When I was a therapist working with kids with autism, then later behavioral and mental health disorders of all sorts, there were several parents into the gluten-free lifestyle. For their kids. I never considered an adult’s diet as needing to be gluten-free. Enter my friends, all from different areas, who said that trying to eat gluten-free had given them a new lease on life. “My chronic migraines have disappeared!” “My joint pains are almost non-existent now!” Well, I decided I needed to give it a try.

After one week of gluten-free I didn’t notice much. Joint pains? Check. Migraines? I did have one, actually. Neck still sore after sleeping. Lower back hurting. BUT WAIT! Something was happening. Something amazing that I didn’t know could ever change. Something to do with Maurice.

After three kids pooping just isn’t the same. Maybe not everyone feels this way, but it was difficult and unrewarding to try to drop a deuce. I thought, hey, this is normal. After all, three kids must’ve moved a lot of things around in there. Just because I didn’t actually push them out didn’t matter: being pregnant for approximately thirty months (oh. my.) had taken its toll.

Or had it? After a week of gluten-free living everything was pretty regular. At least, I was regular. And it was amazing to change from something a deer might excrete to something a normal adult human should excrete. I remembered pooping like this! A long time ago! Maybe in high school!!

Just for the record, gluten is a”tenacious elastic protein substance especially of wheat flour that gives cohesiveness to dough,” (Webster). Basically GLUEten. (Really! From Latin for “glue.”) It gives pizza dough that great stretchiness, bread dough that cohesive rise,  and is also in barley and rye. (Also triticale, a cross of wheat and rye.) Experts have theorized that since we’ve hijacked the rising process for bread and breadstuffs in order to process food faster in factories, the gluten doesn’t have the same chance to break down as it would’ve 100 years ago, and therefore becomes a toxic inflammatory in the digestive systems of some people. For me that seems to translate like this:

I’ll just let that image sit with you while you contemplate giving up gluten. And no, you don’t have to have Celiac disease to try it. Celiac disease strikes about 1% of the US, but gluten intolerance can occur in tenfold that many people–as high as 10% of the US, maybe even more ( There aren’t tests for it, either. You can be tested for Celiac (an extreme gluten intolerance) but gluten sensitivities are just measured by people feeling better when they don’t eat gluten.

Okay, you’re interested. Here’s what you do. Eat everything you want but no wheat, barley, and rye. No bread (BOO!). Goodbye pasta (HISS!). But all the fruits, veggies, meats, dairy, hard candies, chocolate, popcorn, etc. etc. etc. that you can get your hands on. Many ice creams (think Breyer’s with only cream, sugar, and flavorings) are totally gluten-free (beware of add-ins like candy bars). AND there’s even gluten-free bread and pasta (cookies, cakes, pretzels…) if you can afford it. Anything with ingredients you can read and understand is good. Anything with “fillers” you don’t know is probably not okay or you should just do some further research. And if you like it, you can always re-introduce bread and pasta into your diet in the forms of only WHOLE GRAINS to see if it was just the hyper-processed stuff that made you bloaty and strain-y.

If you want, you can try it. If you like how you feel, don’t. What’s next for me? Well, if you want to blow your mind you can watch the movie Forks Over Knives and then become a vegan. But for now I’ll just stick with getting rid of the glue; and I’ll let YOU know what happens for me!


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