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August 15, 2013

Should You Give Up Gluten?

wheatI gave up gluten about three years ago and it was an incredibly good choice for me. Though I have never been diagnosed with gluten allergy or celiac disease, this simple choice turned my health around.

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My actual diagnosis was Crohn’s disease, something which the doctors told me I’d have for life. For about ten years I had it extremely intensely, with almost ubiquitous, debilitating pain, and could only really take part in school by pure force of will.

At some point I got pissed off at the medical system and chose to give up my pills and to work on finding a cure on my own. And so I did.

I experimented with different diets: went and stayed vegan, struggled to be a raw foodist and gave up, experimented with excluding different foods. I tried energy healing and really too many different things to name. If you want to see my whole process explained, check out How To Cure Crohn’s Disease.

I had managed to get my symptoms down a lot, I’d say by 50% or more. But the last bit of healing proved elusive.

Giving Up Gluten

Until, that is, I tried giving up gluten, just as an experiment.

I honestly didn’t expect much. I had followed various other health fads, to no effect. This was really just an “OK, let’s see what happens” kind of thing.

And… wow. Within about a month I stopped having pretty much anything in the way of symptoms. From then on, I only had a few, very short episodes of one or two days, and almost nothing else in between. About half of those episodes were when I accidentally ate gluten or tried it again as an experiment. Some of the others I thought I could put down to fluoride. But well, the important thing was: my symptoms were down 99.5%.

I declared myself cured for a while. Now I’m going with “almost entirely cured”. Either way, the change was dramatic.

Feeling Better When You Give Up Gluten

So, what does this have to do with you?

Well, I’m writing this article because I seriously think other people might benefit from making the same experiment as me.

As I said, I had never been diagnosed with Celiac disease. So, at least judging from my case, gluten can affect more than just celiacs.

I have quite a few friends who find that they feel better when they give up gluten. I’ve even heard anecdotes of people who lost large amounts of weight or stopped having migraines when giving up gluten.

Actually, I was first inspired to give up gluten when I read stuff on the internet about it supposedly being bad for everyone. According to this theory, we all respond to gluten in different ways, some of us more radically than others, but it affects everyone badly.

I first tried just paying attention to how my body responded to gluten. I did notice that it tended to give me a very heavy digestion. Actually, firm, glutenous breads like pita were tough enough that they didn’t really break down into very small pieces when I chewed them (I’m a fast eater, I admit) and you could wonder how these big, dense lumps were ever going to be very well digested.


And, being vegan, I had eaten seitan a few times. This is a meat substitute based on refined gluten from wheat. There are different varieties of seitan, some containing some flour to soften it, others basically made of nothing but pure gluten and water.

And… damn, that stuff is like rubber. Seriously: I think you could make schoolroom erasers out of it. Perhaps you should try buying some pure-gluten seitan sometime so you get what I mean. I have no idea how this stuff is digested; it doesn’t dissolve in water, in fact it doesn’t even emulsify. It just chews down into hard, rubbery lumps.

What’s more, gluten – when it’s a bit more diluted, such as in wheat flour – has the tendency to form strings and clump together. It’s like some kind of gum. In fact, wheat flour has historically been used as a component of glue.

So you can just imagine that causing havoc in your intestines.

The Possibility That Gluten Is Bad For You

Well, there are scientifically-based arguments online which quote statistics at you to try and tell you that gluten is bad for everyone.

I won’t do that. I’m just sick of so many people trying to argue for their own universal diet theory, each twisting statistics to their own end.

You can do some Googling yourself if you’re interested in that sort of talk. But what I wanted to present to you was the idea: it is possible that gluten is unhealthy for everyone. Perhaps more importantly: it is possible that gluten is unhealthy for you, without you knowing it. Because honestly: who cares if it’s universally unhealthy or not – what matters is the question of if you should make the change or not.

I believe that the chance that gluten is a problem for you is high enough to make it genuinely worth it to do an experiment.

See How It Makes You Feel

All I suggest is to give up gluten for one month, and see how that makes you feel. (When I experimented with eating gluten, the symptoms would come about two weeks after eating it, so I do think it’s worth making this a longer trial than just a few days).

Worst case scenario, you will have wasted some time and perhaps learnt a few new interesting recipes.

Best case scenario, you will find your health and/or wellbeing considerably improved.

And note, I don’t think you have to be sick to try this. “Being more healthy” can be more than just being not sick; there is a whole world of improvements you can experience while still technically “healthy”. You can have more energy, an easier digestion, a clearer head, perhaps even better emotional health.

So, I really think it’s worth a try.

How To Give Up Gluten

Making a dietary change can be psychologically taxing, but I think it gets easier with time. After going vegan, the other dietary changes I’ve been through in my life have been much easier. I think you just learn to realise that your happiness really is not that much affected by whether you eat one food or another.

I can recommend Asian food for your gluten free trial; it is usually based on rice, a gluten free grain. In my current diet, I find myself going to Asian restaurants and vegan or vegetarian restaurants (which are very often conscious about having a gluten free option). Apart from that, you’ll probably need to cook at home.

Gluten free sources of starch (which IMO should be the caloric basis of your diet) include: maize, rice, potatoes, quinoa, and buckwheat.

I can recommend buckwheat flour for making excellent pancakes. Just mix it with soymilk until you have a batter consistency, and fry it in a pan. I honestly think these pancakes are better than wheat flour pancakes.

What I also often do is make a dough out of maize flour and cook it on a dry pan until crunchy. These – which I guess you’d call Mexican Tortillas – are quite versatile, going well with lots of great toppings. I usually do tomatoes and/or cucumbers, chopped into cubes, with salt, olive oil, and basil and/or oregano. Or try guacamole with it.

Fried potatoes are also a great and easy food. Try my Spanish tortilla recipe.

Finally, gluten free bread is a good staple – though it’s damn expensive if you buy it from a shop. I recommend making it at home. It’s a bit of a time investment to learn to make it and find all the ingredients (and a money investment if you get a breadmaker, which I recommend if you’re in this for the long haul), but it’s worth it, I think. Oh, I have a recipe for that too.

Other Tips

Other tips:

Potato chips are gluten free, making them a decent, if unhealthy, way of staying upright when caught outside your kitchen for long periods of time. In British pubs/Spanish restaurants/German restaurants, fried potatoes with salad works. (Though you won’t feel like it’s much of an occasion, sadly).

Normal noodles and pasta contain gluten. You can buy gluten free pasta, which is a bit expensive. I find the varieties that don’t contain some form of stabilizer tend to dissolve in the cooking water; you can improve that by using only as much water as the pasta will absorb, stirring frequently. (Start with less water than you think it needs and add some bit by bit).

Though it’s less like the pasta you used to know, you can also usually make do with rice noodles from an Asian store. These are both cheaper and less problematic to cook.

And get sushi and summer rolls sometimes, two gluten free foods which are absolutely delicious! Summer rolls are a staple of Vietnamese restaurants. You can also make them at home, but it’s so fiddly – it’s one recipe I normally can’t be bothered to do myself.

Good luck! And tell me how it goes, if you try this 🙂



Making Small Adjustments To Your Diet And Lifestyle

Fluoride Causing Crohn’s Disease And Just Being A Horrible Poison Generally


6 Foods And Drinks I Used To Exclude From My Diet And Now Don’t

The Raw Food Diet – 2 Years Later

A Spiritual Perspective on Veganism

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  1. susie mallow says:

    arbohydrates vs. Starches
    Often time’s starches and carbohydrates are considered the same, however there is a distinct difference.

    A starch is a carbohydrate that has low or no water content; i.e. breads and potatoes.
    All starches are carbohydrates but not all carbohydrates are starches.
    Foods like fruit are considered a carbohydrate because of their high sugar content but they are not a starch because of their high water content.
    The higher the water content in food the easier it is to digest.
    As long as the water is naturally present, not when foods have been “engineered” to artificially hold water by adding chemicals to foods solely for profit

    • Sophia Gubb says:

      Well, it’s extremely difficult to get enough calories from fruit. And I have actually tried. You need to eat 10 bananas or 20 apples to get a full meal’s worth of calories. It’s possible, but extreme, and I’m pretty sure that’s not what you are suggesting. If you don’t eat this sort of quantity, the normal amount people eat of fruit (say 3 pieces a day) is pretty much negligible in calorie terms.

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