Saturday, 29 May 2010

My life sans gluten

How has it been?
The first few days were great. My tum was very happy with me. Go forward a few days, and I'm constipated, uncomfortable and grumpy. I guess it's my fault for having coeliac-friendly chocolate kiddie cereal for breakfast most mornings...

I should have had loads of fruit or a bowl of quinoa or buckwheat. So that's what I'm going to do next week.

I feel really disappointed, and I'm feeling rather despondent about my IBS overall. Am I restricting my diet for no real benefit? If I ate crap would be tummy actually be any worse? I had to work hard this week to ignore that voice in my head. I'm remembering how much worse my tummy was last year. That said, my diet wasn't too bad. I still cooked a lot, but I ate more bought cake, biscuits, supermarket bread (albeit the "artisan" stuff, omg I can't believe they can get away with calling it that) and drank more alcohol (by this I mean a few beers and 1/2 bottle wine a week). Tummy aside, I've seen other benefits. I've never before been consciously happy about my body, suddenly, I'm perfect for me. Last time I was vegan I was probably this slim (maybe even more so), but I didn't really notice. I guess becoming flabbier since has made me more body conscious. My skin looks a great deal better, and my dysmenorrhea and PMS are almost non-existant. I turned to veganism for an IBS cure, and I found happiness in consuming according to my convictions. I guess I had put up a mental wall about the ethics of dairy.
So veganism is here to stay. What about gluten free?

Well, I'm pleased to say, sluggish colon aside, that it's been fun. I have found loads of great recipes using wonderful gluten free grains/pseudo cereals and their flours; teff, quinoa, buckwheat, sorghum, millet. I spent excessive amounts of online time trying to track down online suppliers. Best of all, I think gluten free grains are much probably much better for a vegan who likes running. The protein and mineral content of these pseudo cereals is much higher than wheat, rye or barley. So I'm embracing them wholeheartedly. I had already discovered buckwheat pancakes and socca, and preferred them over wheat-based flatbreads.
The only area where going wheat free will leave me a little bereft is bread baking. I've posted before about my sourdough loving ways. While my favourite book does have a fab gluten free section with instructions for a rice sourdough, I'm betting it's not quite the same. However, after eating all that bread in France, I'm kind of glad, for now, to do without it. Maybe by the time I start craving it again I'll have read enough gluten free bread recipes to feel confident about making some.

For now, thinking about my meals without wheat flour products can only do me good. As it's now early summer in Northern Ireland, my stomach is thinking more giant salad than pasta dish. Salad doesn't mean diet food; I've been adding toasted seeds, oils, hummus and brown rice or quinoa to mine. Plenty of tasty fats and enough protein. I'm currently obsessed with spinach- for a while I shunned it for kale or collards because most of the iron in spinach can't be absorbed. However, it's all put to rights with a generous helping of quinoa or amaranth. Drool.
So, while I may or may not have a problem with wheat and/or gluten, taking it out of my diet will definitely have me eating more wholegrains and probably increase my protein and mineral intakes. No bad thing.

All this wholegrain munching means being better prepared. The freezer is my friend. I cook big pots of brown rice after prolonged soaking and then stash it in the freezer for quick fixes. My shelled hemp seeds, flaxmeal and ground coffee live there too, it keeps them fresh. So do chopped up bananas for smoothies and bananascream as well as other frozen fruit- raspberries, blueberries, cherries, mangoes. Other prep is necessary for an easy life too, if I whip up hummus and pesto or some other tasty dressing, I can throw together a tasty lunch to take with me while the blender is making my breakfast. An hour or two's prep at the weekends makes a restricted diet wee buns*.

Finding great new sources of information is a big bonus, I love my nutrition book I picked up in Toulouse, lots of tasty healthy ideas, like chocolate cake with banana, rice flour and almond butter, "creme caramel" with rice cream and agar etc etc. I will be trying some of these out soon.

I also discovered a new blog this week, too: Gluten Free Goddess
This quinoa loving deity makes me drool like a teething baby. I have a list of her recipes as long as my arm to try out.

So there are things that make it seem easier. But I've come to the reluctant conclusion that curing IBS cannot be done by dietary restrictions alone. There must be some underlying cause, and until someone works out what that is, we IBSsers will only be rooting around in the dark. Sure, diet can make it a little more tolerable for a while. But I think we have to give up kidding ourselves that a cure can be found in the bottom of a supplement jar or by chucking out a couple of packets of flour. Unfortunately.
*wee buns= Northern Irish for easy


  1. The biggest prob - I think - with going gluten free is that easy gluten free food is severely lacking in fiber. That could be the reason for your IBS acting up again. There's also stress. There's also eating too much of one thing. You said you were really going at that cereal... maybe your bod got tired of it?

    Last night, I kicked half a pint of coconut milk ice cream - soy free, gluten free, made with beet sugar and agave - and I still got very sick. Because I ate too much fat and sugar. I stuck with the rules, but because I went a little overboard, I'm paying for it.

    What are the rules? It's so confusing with IBS. Everyone's different. Ever thought of going the food diary route?

    It's wonderful to hear that you are happy with your bod. I found, after nixing soy and fats and noticing the bloat deflating, that I dont' give a crap how skinny I am. I just wanna feel better! Glad to hear you are feeling good about how you look. Just sayin - I seen pics of you on fb. You do look good. :)

    Wee buns! :)

  2. I was aware of the low fibre problem for celiacs. I think that may be the issue for me atm. I only had the cereal a few times (like 4) but I think in general I didn't get enough fibre this week.
    I've kept food diaries a few times, first one when I was 16 to try to see if there was anything dietary making my PMS so bad. I went vegan a while after that, and kept another food diary. Then I did one in January and February this year when I went vegan again. I've been keeping one since I went GF last week. I suppose it's not strictly a food diary, but an in out diary. I write what goes in and what comes out (or doesn't, as is the case atm)
    This episode aside, I have, like you say, been less bloaty, which has made me feel more comfortable in my own skin. There's nothing like an IBS bloat to make you crawl inside a big sweater and banish all thoughts of wearing a bikini...skinny or not. My new found sense of sexiness has more to do with being fit (running, walking) rather than losing any inches.
    Don't you find, though, when you have so many rules (low fat, no sugar, high raw, no gluten etc) it's easier to go overboard on what you can have? That's what I find anyway!

  3. Hi Eimear,
    I can sympathize with your plight. I had many health problems for a long while that only completely resolved when I went off gluten, dairy, eggs and soy. I had very bad candida in my whole body (that's an overgrowth of yeast) and the only way I could get rid of it was to go completely off all sugars, (maple, honey etc and fruit and fruit juice)I was already off dairy and wheat which feeds the yeast and I resisted going off fruit but when I finally realized I had to it made a huge difference. There's a strong possibility you have candida along with your IBS, and because of the overgrowth of yeast there ends up being a deficit of natural probiotics in the intestines.

    So now I have eliminated gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, sugars, and yeast from my diet.

    Anyway, since every retail gluten free bread and recipe has something in it I don't want to eat I decided to learn to bake a bread I could eat.

    I have developed gluten free sourdough recipes around these food allergies. I have combined old fashioned sourdough techniques with gluten free seed and grain flours and have come up with excellent, delicious breads, muffins and pancakes.

    They are also free of dairy, eggs, soy, yeast, sweeteners, gums and baking powder. Very suitable for sensitive digestions.

    I have posted a free download of the starter recipe plus pancake recipe:

    This type of baking takes some time to understand and master so it will not be for everyone. With planning it doesn't have to be time consuming. For people able to take the time it's well worth it as the breads are tasty, easy to digest and have an extremely long shelf life!

    My complete, and continually growing recipe book, Art of Gluten Free Sourdough Baking, is available in pdf and print form on my website,

    You might like to also take a look at my blog, where I share how to make medicinal foods from your kitchen: old fashioned salt brine sauerkraut is a tasty way to repopulate the intestines with live probiotics. Here is the link:

    Good Luck with it all,
    sharon a. kane

  4. Hi Sharon, I will definitely check you your blog and sourdough baking book! I love slow baking and would love to experiment with gluten free sourdough.
    I don't think I have a candida issue as I've never had any oral or vaginal thrush or UTIs, or anything like that. And I take probiotics in some form most days, either as live non dairy yogurt or a straight up supplement. I made my own sauerkraut, but I didn't like it:(
    I could probably do with eating less sugar, but I find my tummy is a whole lot better when I eat a lot of fruit, especially on its own, and especially if I eat only fruit in the morning, and then move on to (raw) vegetables at lunch.
    Thanks for your informative comment and all the helpful links! :)

  5. Oh, I wish I had the answers! My heart (and my tummy) goes out to you... I know I feel a million times better since eliminating chemicals, preservatives, animal products (except fish and eggs), and then wheat and dairy from my diet, but there's always something, right? I don't have IBS, but I do understand the frustration of never really feeling like you've gotten to the bottom of what's going on with your body... I'll be posting some of my own lab results (plus related reflections) very soon. Maybe something of what the doc shared with me will speak to you?

    In the meantime, you've inspired me to freeze some fruit! I had a roommate who did that back in college, and I remember it being the perfect sweet treat on a hot summer day. And that sourdough baking book sounds like an excellent resource, Sharon, so thanks for sharing!

  6. Hi Saxifrage, yes there always seems to be a new discovery, something else that seems to do harm. I'm really excited about FartyGirl's whole food experiment, and have noticed other bloggers with IBS found the 30 days whole food really helpful for identifying triggers because you end up eating more simply. I've been eating almost exclusively wholefoods for a week now and things are getting better! Still keeping the gluten out.
    Looking forward to you lab results and your thoughts on that:)

  7. Karina (The Gluten Free Goddess) has some amazing bread recipes for when you're ready to start baking gluten free bread. But I'll admit, going gluten free initially solved many of my issues, but then they came back. I hear that a lot...I think partly because those of us with IBS and other digestive issues are more likely to develop food sensitivities than the average person. I'm now playing around with eliminating dairy and sugar from my diet, and plan on going on an anti-candida diet soon. Also, one thing that helps my stomach a ton is following the rules of food combining. I rarely do it, but when I limit my meals to a certain food group and don't mix all my foods, I handle it much better. Unfortunately, I love mixing all my food together!

  8. Her recipes look so good! I've got a list of the ones I really want to try out:)
    Food combining, food-rotating, small meals, no refined sugar, no gluten or other triggers without compromising on veganism, while all this would drastically reduce my IBS, I'm going to have to work hard to squeeze quality of life in there too!