Sometimes when I hear the stories of my Wellness Warriors, I’m so astounded by how alike we are, and marvel at the ways the universe brings us together. This week’s interview is with Hannah, who had the same symptoms I did before she went gluten-free. Hannah is busy working, planning a wedding and living a healthy lifestyle, so I appreciated her taking time out to chat with us!
What made you decide to go gluten-free?
Over the 6 month period prior to making the decision to go gluten-free, I’d started experiencing stomach aches. Well, they weren’t actually in my stomach but intestine aches sounds weird. It was a very specific spot that hurt: just to the right and above my belly button, and it hurt to poke too. They would happen after eating, not every time, but often enough that I had started to worry. Tums didn’t help at all: the only thing that made them go away was time. Then my boyfriend and I were visiting family and went skating after we had dinner at their house. Within an hour of dinner I was curled up in the fetal position on a bench in the skating rink, experiencing the worst stomach ache so far. Obviously something needed to be done. My mom and brother had been having digestive issues too (different from mine) and they had both decided to go gluten-free, and it helped them out immensely. On their advice I tried it and the stomach aches cleared up pretty much immediately. That was at least 4 or 5 years ago and I haven’t looked back since then!
Did you have to give up a favorite food by making the change? if so, have you found a gluten-free version?
I was in college when I went gluten-free and hadn’t discovered that I liked to cook yet, so at the time I was eating a lot of pasta. Very quickly I had to find non-pasta foods to eat! I spent a lot of time talking to my mom and getting recipes and advice from her. I have found some good gluten-free pastas (and even bread!), but over the past few years I’ve been moving away from finding replacements for the foods I can’t eat and towards a more healthy style of eating overall. I now focus on eating mainly meat, fruit, and vegetables and I’ve cut way down on my grain consumption, since I’ve found out that even without eating gluten, grains don’t treat me very nicely.
What health benefits have you noticed since you went gluten-free?
Well the most obvious benefit was that my stomach aches went away, and that happened almost immediately. I was already at a healthy weight and haven’t noticed any weight change, although my mom lost 10-20 pounds when she stopped eating gluten. I’ve noticed other…digestive distresses have cleared up as well – I’m a lot more “regular” on the whole. It’s been rather surprising, actually: I always thought I was a healthy person, but when I stopped eating gluten all these really minor issues cleared up and I realized I wasn’t nearly as healthy as I had thought.
How do you handle eating out or going to social events as a gluten-free eater?
It’s getting easier to find gluten-free foods when eating out. A lot of restaurants are offering gluten-free products or at least are marking their menus so I don’t have to play the guessing game. Mostly in restaurants I focus on meat-and-veggie entrees: steak is usually safe. Sometimes I’ll order a burger without the bun and just eat it with a knife and fork. You do have to be careful, though, because gluten can hide in a lot of unexpected places (like meatloaf or omelettes, anything with breading, soy sauce, beer…) and it can do some damage if you’re sensitive enough to it. It never hurts to ask, and often the staff at the restaurant are happy to help. I never order soup, for example, unless it’s marked gluten free, because so many soups are thickened with flour. Also, pizza places are usually useless, unless they actually have a gluten-free crust available; their salads are uniformly awful and boring. As for other social events, I’ve been in the habit of taking a snack for myself in case there’s nothing for me to eat
What tips/favorite products/recipes can you share?