The Great Gluten Free Experiment

March 18, 2016 at 6:44 pm | Posted in joint pai, Me, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 16 Comments
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So, I’ve finally jumped on the band wagon and I’m trying out gluten free. At first I thought, ‘Oh, it’s another fad like the Atkins diet, it’ll soon fade away, just as that did’ – and yes, before I get all the cries of outrage in the comments, I know some people still use it and find it good; I also know much of the ‘science’ behind it was debunked and that, like all fads, there are some people who find it useful but a lot of people just wanted to try out the latest thing, found it didn’t work for them, and it’s quietly disappeared out of the press etc.

I thought the same would happen with gluten free, even though a lot of people whose opinions I respect were trying it out and finding it useful. The tipping point was a couple of extra people I respect really swearing by it and a partial reading of Gut by Giulia Enders, a highly entertaining read (although only in small doses, which is why I’ve not finished it yet) about ‘the body’s most underrated organ’ – yes, it’s more than one organ but we’ll forgive her that as a translation error; the original is in German. She’s a ‘real scientist’ and points out the vital difference between gluten allergy and celiac disease (which are not the same thing, thanks Kate for pointing that out!), which I know I haven’t got, and gluten intolerance, which perhaps I have. She lists the possible symptoms for gluten intolerance: ‘digestive problems’, flatulence, headaches and painful joints. Without going into unnecessary detail, let’s just say I read that and thought ‘box ticked’ about everything there! So I ummed and urred about whether to give it a try and then put lots of unnecessary obstacles in my own way, because I didn’t really want to, and I especially didn’t want to find I actually had gluten intolerance. What?! No more cakes (except brownies of courses – everywhere loves to proudly advertise their gluten free brownies – not  a special effort; the basic brownie recipe has no flour in it!) Also no more bread, crackers, matzo? YIKES!

Then I read what Saint Giulia had to say a bit more carefully. ‘Gluten sensitivity […] is not a sentence to a life of gluten avoidance.’ HURRAH! So I got some excellent advice on what was available from my gluten-free aunt, and gave it a trial run last week. The trial run involved cutting out my beloved daily breakfast bran flakes (yes, I know I’m odd but I actually LOVE bran flakes) and eating as normal apart from that, but noting what foods I normally eat did have gluten in so I could find alternatives and cut them out. (While my aunt’s gluten free breakfast sounded amazing, you’d have to be retired to have time to prepare it!) So breakfast is now simply a gluten-free cereal, nowhere near as tasty as bran flakes IMO but not bad. I hardly ever eat bread anyway although I do enjoy it, so for the gluten free experiment I’m just not eating bread – easy. Same applies to matzo although I normally eat them a tad more often than bread. I’ve replaced noodles with rice noodles (which will take a bit of getting used to on the cooking front – a big, wobbly gelatinous mass for dinner last night. (‘And that was just hubby,’ says hubby!) I’ve replaced our standard (oh God, we’ve gone middle aged and have a standard dinner every week) southern fried chicken, with a non-bread-crumb coated, but just as easy to sling in the oven, chicken thing. Where we used to sometimes have jacket potato with fish cake, which I always thought was a bit of a potato overdose anyway, I will now have jacket potato with tuna; hubby can still have his potato overdose. And finally, pasta bake – happily there is a gluten free pasta made with rice flour – it’s a bit odd but once you throw all the other pasta bake ingredients at it, it’s fine.

So now I’ve been gluten fully gluten free for all of four days – obviously no startling effects yet but I have seen some effects which may or may not be related.

So far no big difference as far as the joint pain goes, and I had a migraine last night so I’m thinking the headaches haven’t dramatically improved yet either (although maybe migraines don’t count as they’re not ordinary headaches), but the stomach-related stuff, again without going into unpleasant detail, is definitely improved. It’s not perfect but there’s a clear improvement. Whether it’s related or not I wouldn’t like to say just yet, but it’s improved.

And another thing that’s improved is not mentioned as a possible symptom of gluten intolerance, although it is listed as a possible intolerance symptom for other things. I’ve suffered from really awful catarrh (post nasal drip) for years and years, and that has dramatically improved too. Coincidence? Perhaps. We’ll have to wait and see.

And the great thing is that if it does make a difference, I don’t have to avoid all those nice gluteny things for ever; I just have to be careful and sparing … and probably stay off those bran flakes!

I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.




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  1. Just one small correction: celiac disease (which I unfortunately have) isn’t an allergy. It’s an auto immune disease in which your body attacks itself in the presence of gluten and destroys the intestinal villi, which leads to a bunch of other problems. There IS a wheat allergy, but that’s a different thing too.
    I think gluten is evil, but I may be a tad biased 🙂 My GI doctor says almost everyone reports feeling better when they eliminate gluten. I never would have thought I had celiac disease until I was diagnosed through blood tests and biopsy, but now that I am gluten free, I can’t believe how good I feel!
    Good luck and good health to you!

  2. I really like bran flakes too although I was shocked by the amount of sugar in them! I’ve switched to home-made granola which is highly addictive and the recipe could almost certainly be tweaked to be gluten free as it’s mostly oat based.

  3. Thanks Kate – I’m off to amend my post just as soon as I’ve replied to you and Maggie! Of course, if you have celiac disease gluten IS evil! Doesn’t mean it is very everyone though. 🙂

  4. I too was shocked by the amount of sugar – absolutely gobsmacked! You gave me your granola recipe once a VERY long time ago (I think when I last visited, a very VERY long time ago!) and I thought ‘Gosh, what a lot of ingredients to have to remember to buy’ so I never did! I may have to revisit that decision though as shop-bought granola is also sugar loaded and I’m really not that keen on other gluten-free cereals apart from porridge with lashings of golden syrup – and that hardly helps on the sugar front!

  5. Get thee to (or a co-op or health food store) and buy some decent gf pasta– rice stick noodles are not your only option! Tinkyada is a great brand and so is Jovial.

    There are so many products and options out there that don’t suck and many that are actually quite tasty. Research the options available in your area.

  6. Hi Emily, I think I’d better get me to Amazon. Local options in rural UK are limited to say the least! I think I could get to like rice noodles … I just overcooked them last night, due to forgetting the time playing a silly on-line game! The pasta though – if there’s a good alternative to the one I’ve tried, that’s certainly worth finding!

  7. Hi. It’s definitely worth giving it a go I think. I was sceptical too, before I tried, but being Gluten free has dramatically improved the fatigue I experience – my energy levels are NEARLY that of a normal person, and my brain foggy write-off days happen much less often as well. Flares – I’m not sure about – but when I’ve had gluten by mistake, I’ve flared so there may be some relation. but I still flare even while being gluten free.
    If you would like a gluten free granola recipe – let me know. I make my own and it’s much nicer than anything you can buy, very easy to do and low in sugar because I hardly add any sugar (in the form of maple syrup) to it. Basically, just gluten free oats, nuts, seeds. melt some coconut oil (tastier than other oil I find) on the hob and add vanilla essence and cinnamon and then sweeten to taste (I don’t add much, just a squirt or two of maple syrup). Put on baking tray in oven (about 180 degrees I think) til toasted. I also add raw buckwheat to the oats but it’s not to everyone’s taste. Cook about 20 – 30 minutes.
    my partner was impressed by how much more energy I had since giving up, and two years later he has also cut it out and is really surprised at the difference to his digestion and stomach. he can really notice it when he has it.
    We eat lots of rice and quinoa, and also buckwheat. Buckwheat pasta is pretty nice as well.
    good luck!

  8. I got RA too and I tried going gluten free a couple of years ago to see if it helped (as kept being suggested to me). In my case it did nothing, however every body is different and I get why it might work for some people so definitely get why you want to try it out. Also if it does work I’m sure it makes up for any future food restrictions 🙂

  9. Thanks Ruth – that sounds delicious. Unfortunately it also sounds like cooking, which I try not to do very much! 🙂 This has nothing to do with RA – I just don’t like cooking. Then again, I don’t like the shop-bought cereal alternatives so I might give this a go! Thanks again – no more energy or RA improvement in my case but definite digestive improvements! I will investigate buckwheat too.

  10. Hi Lina, couldn’t agree more about if it does work it would make up for any future food restrictions! As yet it’s doing nothing for my RA either, but if it sorts out all the digestive problems I’ve had for years and years, I’ll be happy enough about that, even if it never impinges on RA. (And it’s also something I can smile sweetly and say, ‘Yes I’ve tried it, and no it isn’t’ when someone tells me it’s a magic cure their nephew/niece/aunt/cousin etc. has found. (That doesn’t mean I’m going to try all the crazy ‘cures’ I’ve come across though!) 🙂

  11. Try GF lasagna noodles. So far I like them the most. And I know what you mean about the rice noodles. oops. Another idea is to search for your favorite recipe and just put paleo in the search. example – paleo fried chicken. Some of the recipes out there are easy and few ingredients. I am sure you will find some you like.
    If I can keep my stomach issues down, I move more. If I move more my joints do better. My flares tend to hit all of me.
    Good luck.

  12. Hi Polly: Sent you an email about an upcoming trip to the UK. Haven’t heard back from you and just wanted to make sure you got it. Good luck with your great gluten experiment. You’re braver than I am!

  13. Hi Karen, I’m definitely not having an arthritis improvement even though the stomach issues are greatly improved – but hey, it’s worth it just for that. I’ve found some pasta I like now (yay!) and I’m going to have another go at rice noodles tonight and try not to overcook them!

  14. Hi Carla, silly Hotmail thought you were junk, but i have now rescued and replied to your email! I hope we can finally meet up!

  15. If you want a good gluten-free holiday destination – try Italy, especially the north! One of the biggest gluten-free manufacturers is up here and even village pizzerias often make gluten-free pizza on request! Buckwheat cake is standard in almost all cake shops and pretty much all restaurants know what they put in their food, good ones will comply with reasonable requests for special diets – and that includes the one in the village that serves workmen’s lunches!
    I used to eat gluten-free in the UK – because I have a wheat allergy, fine with all other gluten-containing grains and here it is easy to find rye, spelt and kamut which are all fine.
    Warning for the gluten-free pasta: it mostly doesn’t take as long to cook as it says on the label so start checking it well before. Then it won’t turn into a big dollop of squidge. My husband and most other people can’t tell the difference if it is really cooked al dente.

  16. Hi Eileen, Not sure Spain could have coped with gluten free on the whole so I didn’t bother while we were there, but more of that in the next post! Italy sounds great. 🙂

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