Monday, August 9, 2010

But I Thought Bread Was the Staff of Life!

by Kate

Bread has been a staple of the human diet for centuries, but for the past few years it’s been getting a bad rap, first for the excess calories of a simple carbohydrate, then for the gluten. Since I didn’t consume all that much bread anyway, it was of no consequence. But as more information about gluten sensitivities came out, my internal radar started blipping.

My husband is lactose intolerant. For years he ate yogurt, cheese, and the occasional bowl of ice cream -- and suffered. Then I did research for SLEEPING WITH ANEMONE about bovine hormones added to cow’s milk, and the resulting cancers – breast for women, prostate for men -- and we immediately cut out all cow’s milk products. His stomach felt so much better as a result, but he still suffered from IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). (And let’s not tell him I told you about it, okay?)

So I decided to use him as a test subject. (I love doing that). I stopped buying bread with gluten. I stopped buying pasta with gluten. I stopped buying wheat flour or any product that contained it. Instead, I found brown rice pasta that you would not know wasn’t regular old wheat pasta. I also found rice bran bread that was super delicious and crunchy when toasted. In fact, I found all kinds of gluten-free products, including many kinds of flours. We didn’t miss a thing, well, except when we’d go to a restaurant and the waiters would bring out that big bowl of bread. That was tough to pass up.

Still, two weeks later, my husband reported that his IBS was completely gone. It had plagued him for decades, but he’d never known the cause. And every doctor he saw just gave him pills for it, which didn’t address the underlying problem, and didn't even help the suffering.

Needless to say, he’s ecstatic. No more pain! As a bonus for me, since I cut out the gluten, I don’t get that annoying bloating after a meal.

The most dramatic result of going gluten and dairy free happened to a friend of ours. He had Crohn’s Disease, Type II diabetes, and had a huge belly. He was a mess. The doctor had him on so many medications for the Crohn’s that he couldn’t function at work. He moved to Florida, hoping he’d feel better there, but said he woke up each morning “feeling like crap.” I had mentioned to him about our diet changes, but he waved them off, saying he’d never been bothered by dairy or bread. Why would that be a factor?

Finally, he saw the light. After fifteen years of dealing with both diseases and feeling worse by the year, he finally said he’d had enough and went to see a nutritionist. Guess what she did? Got him off dairy and gluten. Put him on a veggie-rich diet. He lost 50 pounds, got rid of his belly, got off all meds, AND ----- get ready for this – no longer has Crohn’s disease or Type II diabetes. He is disease free! (BTW, his doctor refuses to believe a change in diet did the trick.)

It really isn’t a hardship to give up gluten. You can still enjoy the staff of life, just not in wheat form. And what I also learned about our modern day wheat is that it isn’t the same as the grain of old. It’s been hybridized to such an extent that it contains way more gluten than our ancestors ever had to digest. Plus, farmers often mixed grains instead of using only wheat. It was ground by hand, or at a grist mill, not in a factory. And it sure wasn’t sprayed with pesticides or was genetically modified.

Have you ever had to give up a favorite food? Do you feel deprived? Have you gone gluten-free? How did you kick the bread/cake/cookie habit?