According to conventional wisdom I was eating well. My diet covered the five essential food groups:
(1) Grains – preferably Whole Grains (cereals) plus nuts and seeds
(2) Lean meats and poultry, fish and eggs
(3) Fresh vegetables – pumpkin, potatoes, onions, broccoli, kale, carrots etc.
(4) Fresh fruit in season – apples, oranges, bananas, kiwi, berries etc.
(5) Milk, yoghurt, cheese
And yet I was not well. Far from it in fact! The flab crept on stealthily and I began buying a larger size in jeans … Know the feeling?
Firstly, I had the misfortune to be born with weeping eczema on my face. Mother told me later she thought I'd be badly scarred always. I do have a scar but it's minor and not noticeably ugly.
Secondly, I was born in the country on a farm – sheep and wheat – and from an early age discovered I could not cope with being out on the tractor during the harvest – the air was thick with wheat chaff which produced itchy and watery eyes and made breathing difficult for me. Looking back I can now see the correlation between those sensitivities (sometimes referred to as allergies) to wheat chaff and my sensitivities to wheat in its other forms, delicious bread, pasta, pastries, cakes and so on. It (wheat) still produces the same reactions – ie Itchy red watery eyes, wheezing and I I suspect, constipation, bloating, and fatigue with the end result being an inherent to readily absorb the nutritious food I eat and a compromised immune system.
Have you tried bucking the system? For example: "I do not eat bread".
"What are you saying? Bread is the staff of life! – how can you live without bread?"
It has taken many years but I have found that Kicking the Wheat Habit and bucking conventional wisdom has worked beautifully for me. I just do not handle carbohydrates very well and I've learned to live with that, although I am not Celiac – rather I am Gluten Intolerant. Not recognizing or addressing this problem as a child may have led to me developing perceivable allergies later on.
Finally, I am living proof that living Wheat-free and Gluten-free plus reducing other forms of carbohydrates, ie processed foods and sugar, can produce extra results. Not only have I eliminated the bloating, constipation and fatigue, I have hugely increased my energy levels and my waistline is reappearing – woo-hoo! I've noticed other benefits too – for example I no longer wake up snuffling and sneezing well into each morning, my skin is clear and my feet no longer swell on long-haul flights. To say I'm over the moon and living gluten-free is no exaggeration.
I have spent many years trying and testing and reading and researching, suffering the range of minor irritations through to the horrendous experience of anaphylaxis and being rushed to casualty with minutes to spare! I must add here that there is one other factor at work in this scenario and that is as a woman I have lived for many years believing I was not enough, unexpectedly I have kept trying to be more, trying to be better and to not disappoint anyone ever. I felt I needed to prove my worth over and over again – that it was not enough to be a mother, wife and friend, I had to work outside the home in order to prove how efficient and how well I was – and how clever and successful !! All this while there was no thought of how this might be accomplished or what stress I was living with. There were times I knew I was living on adrenalin but was so caught up in my own busy life I could not or would not acknowledge this could only end badly … since the major health crisis – huge allergic reaction – anaphylaxis .. "To what?" people often ask. To my own stress-filled lifestyle – even though I imagined I was acting from the best possible motives. This, coupled with the inherent accessibility to digest and absorb essential nutrients, meant my body simply caved, and I knew my immune system was compromised. Since then I've learned how debilitating stress can be to our emotional, mental and physical health, whether the stress is of our own making or from outside influences. Learning to meditate, together with exercise and diaphragmatic breathing can bring great rewards.
I've accumulated a mountain of knowledge and had much help along the way, but I've finally arrived.
Here are 7 simple steps that work for me:
(1) I stay well clear of most grains. This has allowed my body to clear out the system, reduce infection, and in my case after only a few days I noticed there was no bloating and my stomach felt flat – there was no need to unbuckle my belt after dinner !! As I lay in bed at night I felt I had lost weight but it was simply my belly returning to normal rather than being inflated and bloated. It is hard to describe my excuse when I discovered this.
(2) Because I do not digest carbohydrates very well I have practically eliminated sugar from my diet. I do use some Stevia (plant-based sweetener and sufficient expensive) and buy the occasional 'sugar-free' product, but rarely. There is another product called "Perfect Sweet". However you will need to verify available information on this one.
(3) A plethora of greens companies each main chain – broccoli, kale and cabbage, or a variety of salad fixings. Plenty of red onion, parsley, and garlic are essential for me. I really enjoy growing my own lettuce and herbs and being able to bring them directly to the plate. Avocados are a wonderful natural package of nature's goodness – no carbohydrates there. An excellent olive oil and even a smidgen of superb quality balsamic, or sometimes just the oil and lemon juice, dress the salad. Pepper and sea salt to taste. Various pumpkins, potatoes, swedes and parsnips are staples and used to accompany fish, meat or chicken dishes. Eggs I use sparingly.
(4) Processed foods are non-negotiable. Beware of any packaged food, especially those labeled "Gluten-Free" as they are often loaded with salt and sugar. I do not eat pizza (from the store) and never eat pasta or store-bought cakes or pastries. My resolve has recently been tested however in France, where I admit to finding the Best Baguette In Paris and enjoying eating some of that. However by the time I arrived home I was craving fresh vegetables and fruit. I am learning to bake occasionally with 'gluten-free' flour, however I usually revert to baking a cake with almond meal instead.
(5) I have never cared for milk – and often felt guilty as I was told I needed it for strong bones! I do have almond milk in my chocolate drink that I make with pure cacao powder – full of nutrients and antioxidants. I eat cheese occasionally – preferably goats' cheese.
(6) Look for the Super-Foods which are full of antioxidants and essential nutrients. To name just a few, be sure to include: Goji Berries; Raw Cacao; Acai Berries; Blueberries and Chia seeds. Other wonderful fruits are readily available – especially new-season apples and navel oranges. Bananas, Kiwi fruit and pears are great too, not to mention all the stone fruit in season.
(7) I have learned that alcohol, however enjoyable – especially some organic red wine – is only for special occasions. If I break my own rules I then have to live with the results.
I've made up my own mind about the 5 so-called Essential Food Groups, and eat what works for me. I'm healthy, happier and exercise and meditation are part of my period. Living Gluten-Free and Stress-Free is do-able – I've made it work for me!