So for the past few months, I've noticed a change in the way I feel right after eating. Typically, that feeling is "crap on a cracker;" fatigue, headaches, and tummy cramps. Seeing as it wasn't completely disrupting my daily routine, I blamed it on the stresses of schoolworksorority and moved on. After doing a weekend-long "gluten cleanse" free of wheat, I returned to a vegan grilled cheese sammich for an evening meal. Sure enough, symptoms return. After a few experiments with different foods, I pegged it on what seemed to be every vegan's nightmare: I have a gluten intolerance.
If I didn't already get the "What do you even eat?!" reaction enough at vegan alone, imagine the reactions of my friends to the addition of the fabulous gluten tack-on. While it's a sad goodbye to my favorite vegan cookie dough milkshakes and late-night toast fests, I'm not altogether missing out, either.
But what exactly is gluten? Simple: wheat protein. Basically, gluten is the protein that is left when the starches of a cereal grain are removed. Those with celiac disease experience disruption in digestion in the small intestine, where instead of absorbing nutrients and vitamins, gluten harms the intestine's helpful digestive lining. From here, errthang gets crazy!
The truth is, gluten can cause a disruption in blood sugar levels and encourage weight gain. This is largely due to the spike in the body's fat-building hormone, insulin (yup - the same stuff diabetics are having trouble with!) caused by many grains and simple carbohydrates. While the low-carb craze encouraged many to drop carbs and grains, it is not always appropriate to do so...we'll get to this later.
But as for going gluten-free and keeping with veganism, it's not as hard as it sounds. The first thing I tell newby vegheads is "the first month is the hardest and then it becomes habit." So while I'm cringing at the sight of a veggie gyros at work, I'm starting to recognize all my options elsewhere. Love pasta? Try a corn- or rice-based noodle. I even found No Oodles, noodles made from yam flour...with no calories (needless to say, I bought two bags)! EnjoyLife, a favorite brand of mine because of it's vegan-friendly recipes, just happens to be devoid of the 7 major allergens, including gluten and soy. Gluten-free cinnamon raisin bagels? Yes, please!
While the gluten-free diet seemed super intimidating, my body's already thanking me for it. Because I've dropped typical convenience foods, I'm refocused on the good stuff -- lots of fruit, veggies, and nutrient-rich substitutes. I feel lighter on my feet and more aware and awake...always great for that terrible mid-day class! So while I thought I was set on label reading and encrypted messages, I guess it's time for another awesome adventure. :)