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Why I Stopped Eating Gluten-Free

Why I stopped Eating Gluten Free

This post is from KS contributing writer Mary Voogt of Just Take A Bite.

Some people think eating gluten free is a fad. Some say you only need to avoid gluten if you have an allergy.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are the people that think all grains should be avoided by everyone for good health and for autoimmune conditions. The word “wheat” makes them cringe.

Then there are those in the middle that are eating gluten free due to celiac disease, hypothyroidism, allergies, digestive impairment and a host of other health ailments. Or simply to try to feel better.

Me? I fall in the middle.

How it all started.

I started eating gluten free when I was struggling with infertility and hypothyroidism.

All of my kids have allergies. So I cut out gluten as part of our effort to heal their bodies. We have all been eating gluten free for quite a few years now.

This decision has had a big impact on my children’s behavior and ability to focus. Once or twice a year I give them a small amount of gluten to see how their bodies are doing. So far they still react very strongly. My son literally goes crazy. My daughter seems like she is in another world.

I truly love gluten free living and enjoy cooking and baking gluten free foods.

Why I Stopped Eating Gluten Free

What went wrong.

Then along came baby number three last year.

When she was about a month old I cut out all dairy due to her reactions. No problem. Many babies are sensitive to dairy. My son was allergic to dairy for a while. We’ve done that before. There are plenty of substitutes.

When my daughter was about five months old things started to change.

She was refusing to nurse. She would scream in pain. Her body was all of a sudden in a hyper-reactive state. Something as simple as my husband kissing her cheek after eating peanut butter caused huge red spots on her skin. It seemed like everything bothered her.

“Coincidentally” this started just after something standard that happened at an infant well-child check-up.

I knew she had tongue and lip ties, so we got them clipped. I thought that would solve our nursing problems.

Unfortunately things continued to get worse.

Baby steps.

I finally figured out that the coconut I was consuming to replace dairy (coconut oil, coconut milk, coconut yogurt) was causing a strong reaction in her body when she nursed. My milk was causing her pain.

It took quite a while to figure this out and get all of the problem foods out. I had her tested for allergies at nine months old. Sure enough, a strong coconut allergy. Actually, an allergy to anything from a palm tree (palm, coconut and even dates!).

So we had that settled. She was starting to nurse better most days.

But we also still had a lot of bad days. Sometimes really bad.

At her nine-month check up she hadn’t gained any weight. Her tongue still felt restricted. Things just didn’t seem quite right.

She also had another shot at this check up. And within a week or two we had another laundry list of food reactions.

Let’s try again.

We had her tongue and lip ties clipped a second time. But we still didn’t see much improvement.

Finally through my own trial and error I figured out there were a LOT of foods causing her problems. Some foods caused reflux, others caused eczema, digestive upset and even tongue swelling!

One by one we cut out foods. Slowly but surely we noticed improvements in her nursing and overall health. The screaming stopped. The nursing strikes stopped. She started gaining weight.

The list.

Can you guess some of the foods on the bad list?

  • Rice
  • Tapioca
  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Amaranth
  • Sorghum
  • Quinoa
  • Oats

All of the gluten free foods I was eating while her body was in such a state of stress are now the foods that cause problems.

Can you guess something not on the bad list?

Wheat.

I am not a fan of eating low carb in general (I did that on GAPS and paid for it big time), but especially while nursing. A nursing (sleep-deprived) mom needs a lot of carbs and starch in her diet.

I had to take out all roots, all gluten free grains, all nuts, seeds, oats, coconut and beans.

So I was basically left with one option for getting starch in my diet.

Eat gluten.

That did not give me a free pass to eat junk food. Instead that meant it was time to get back to traditionally prepared whole grains.

I mostly eat sourdough bread. I use rye for the starter and spelt or wheat for the bread. Once in a while I eat corn as well. Lately I have been experimenting with einkorn, an ancient form of wheat.

Why I Stopped Eating Gluten Free

The silver lining.

Why does all of this matter?

There are some really important lessons I’ve learned from years of dealing with allergies and particularly from our journey back to gluten.

I see so many friends these days struggling as their children develop allergies and as they feel lost trying to figure out what food(s) is causing the problem and how to handle it. So here are five tips for preventing further problems and dealing with food allergies.

Do what works for you/your child.

Just because your best friend says a gluten free diet is working wonders for her kids that doesn’t mean it is best for yours. Stick with the foods your kids tolerate and don’t stress about eating what is “right” or “wrong.” What works now may not work later. Focus on what works right now.

Rotate your food.

This is the mistake I see so many people make. They find food their child likes and then feed it to them day after day. I’ve been there, done that…and gave my kids more allergies. Ideally you should be on a four day rotation with foods. But at the very least make sure there is variety and that you don’t serve the same foods two days in a row. This includes all food groups – fats, grains, vegetables, fruits, proteins.

Be careful about what you/your child is eating when in a reactive state.

This can be tricky. Often the reactive state starts before you realize it. Which is why eating rotationally is so important from the start/when introducing solids. This is especially important if your family has a history of allergies. When food reactions start your child’s body is having a big autoimmune response. Any foods consumed frequently during that time have a potential to become problem foods.

Make most of your food nutrient dense.

Nobody has a perfect diet. But do your best to make the majority of your diet nutrient dense. Things like egg yolks (if tolerated), sardines, liver, anchovies, broth (use a variety), healthy fats (lard, tallow, butter, coconut oil, olive oil), leafy greens, other vegetables and unrefined sea salt should be in your diet weekly. This will give you a lot of vitamins and minerals to help with repair work.

Find a good balance between energy and nutrients.

Nutrients are key. But you also need balance. If you just ate the above foods you’d probably feel sick. You also need plenty of starch/carbs for energy. Rice cooked in broth with spinach, liver and butter is a good example of balance. Though the rice itself does not really have any nutrients it does give energy. And it creates a good ratio of protein, carbohydrates and fat.

This last point is what put an end to my gluten free days for now. In order to get the balance and energy my body needs I have to have starch (especially while nursing a one year old day and night!). And the only “safe” starches right now are corn and gluten-containing grains. So that is what my little one and I eat.

We are still working on healing with broth, probiotics, and nutrient dense foods. We still rotate foods to avoid further allergies. But I don’t stress about eating traditionally prepared sourdough and whole wheat.

My other kids still eat gluten free because that is what works for their bodies. Sure, it makes cooking in my house a challenge (actually that is an understatement when you add in all of the other allergies we deal with. I only mentioned the grains here). But we do our best.

Why I Stopped Eating Gluten Free

Gluten free is not for everyone.

Keep in mind that not everyone needs to eat gluten free. It can be helpful for many. But there are also plenty of healthy individuals that eat a nourishing diet that includes properly prepared wheat. It actually contains quite a few vitamins and minerals.

Not to mention it is fun to bake with wheat!

In case you’re curious, my daughter is doing quite well right now. She is fourteen months old and still breastfeeds full time. Slowly but surely we’re figuring things out and helping her body heal and grow.

In this season of gratitude I look back on our journey over the last year and am so thankful for how far we’ve come. I’m also thankful that we still have enough food options. We may not be able to eat the “ideal” diet; but we are nourished and well fed. That is reason for giving thanks.

Have you ever followed dietary rules just because you thought you should? Are you dealing with food allergies for yourself or you kids?

Take the time to figure out what your needs are and go with it. Get variety, nutrients and balance in your diet.

If you are looking for more  information on healing allergies check out this post on why simply avoiding problem foods is not the solution and this post on ways to heal the gut.

Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

23 thoughts on “Why I Stopped Eating Gluten-Free”

  1. I have also gone back and forth as to whether my family *should* be eating gluten free. Fortunately, nobody has any food allergies so I already feel lucky that it’s a choice and not a necessity. However, the last time I tried gluten free, I lost too much weight (and I’m petite to begin with). So I’m thinking that it’s too hard for my body to get enough calories and energy without grains as a source of starch. It’s hard to wade through all of the “healthy eating” information when you’re a perfectionist, bc you want to do everything “perfectly” (whatever that means…). But the reality is like you say, that it’s going to be a little bit different for everybody, depending on your situation!

  2. Test you and your allergic child for mutations of the MTHFR gene. Everything you describe sounds like it … and related to the use of the synthetic folate, folic acid, during pregnancy, nursing and in foods. Go to methylated B vitamins … have a look at the new research (since 2003) on the MTHFR gene … my 10 children and 25+ grandchildren are making changes NOW! It’s a crime to use folic acid in pre-natals, and then eat foods with folic acid, because it turns into a toxin in the body – with the mutation, it doesn’t metabolize, it collects and poisons.

    1. I have actually been tested, Margo. And I do not have it. I actually had a ton of hormone, genetic, etc. testing done while going through fertility treatments before I got pregnant naturally with my youngest. Everything is completely normal. I did not use folic acid during pregnancy, only folate. And I don’t eat any processed food with folic acid. I have heard a lot about this mutation. I’m glad many people are getting help by understanding it. But it is not the source of our problems.

    2. whisperingsage

      the mistake comes by using fake folic acid which is well tolerated by rats, instead of real folate. When Dr. Wallach sued the FDA over things like this and got folic acid added to foods to prevent spina bifida, it wasn’t yet common for people to react to folic acid, but in the last 10 or so years, MTHFR has become a household word. AT first, they played it like it was a rare genetic defect. But now it is exploding and it may be connected to the mass use of RoundUp in our foods.
      Our bodies have been found to be inefficient at converting folic acid to methylfolate to take part in some very important methylation. Rats are fine at it. But we found we had to take a more advanced and expensive form of folate, methylfolate , for it to do it’s proper job. There are other screw ups in the system. But this one causes folic acid, the fake, to block up our metabolic pathways. I am supposedly double positive for this trait, but why did I have reasonable health when younger? Why suddenly now? Round Up, I think. Look up Dr Huber on the grassfed conference of 2014, a very good talk. Round Up causes profound damage from multiple angles.

      Also all this talk of gluten, I have always tested negative for gluten intolerance, in fact wholewheat bread would calm my diarrhea. At least temporarily. I don’t know if you are aware of farming practices to the use of Round-Up at the end of the growing season to speed up the harvest time as a desiccant? This leaves loads of Round-Up on the food. Which we eat. Tony Mitra has a great book on it called Poison Foods. Round Up destroy soil microbes, livestock gut microbes, human gut microbes. I think it’s why my gut perforated spontaneously for no apparent reason that the doctors could figure out. I live a clean life, no drinking, no smoking, no drugs, no carousing, real food, except I wasn’t too concerned about that food being organic. And now I am. Now I want my livestock to have organic food, because if it damages them, and I eat them, what’s it going to do to me? I have had a devil of a time, getting the ADD hubby to understand this as he complains about the price of feed. As you may guess, I can’t work right now so the bills are all on his paycheck.

  3. Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship

    So Mary…I keep thinking about this food rotating, because we eat the same foods a lot – eggs almost every day for breakfast because that’s the only easy option for my husband w/o gluten or oats, yogurt every day for everyone, plenty of cheese, the same raw veggies and dip every night at dinner, and then when I make a meal, of course we want to eat the leftovers! How do you deal with leftovers if you can’t eat them for 4 days, and then 4 days after that? I’d waste too much food I think and feel like I had to cook all the time … I’m worried you’ll say the only way is to cook all the time and stop eating apples for every snack. 🙁

    Thank you for this WONDERFUL, personal, thought-provoking post!
    Katie

    1. Katie,

      The “easiest” way to do it is to make your “day” go from dinner to lunch. That way you can eat dinner leftovers for lunch the next day. That is what I do. I also eat the leftovers for breakfast 🙂

      Here are some tips/suggestions.

      1. Make a meal plan. Start by making a list of foods you can rotate through (you can look at my meal plans to get an idea: http://justtakeabite.com/allergen-friendly-meal-plan-week-of-111515/). Then fill in the meals. You really can’t do a rotational diet without good planning.

      2. Aim for variety from one day to the next, not one meal to the next. Don’t try to serve five different vegetables in one day. Stick with two or three so you have enough to rotate through. If you like to eat raw veggies with dinner come up with at least 4 you can rotate through. I often eat the same thing for dinner/breakfast/lunch. I stick to my rotation and I don’t have to think about it too much. It’s fine to serve peas and carrots for a few meals in a row. Then don’t eat peas or carrots for a few days.

      3. Try other grains/porridges for breakfast. I do teff porridge every four days. It is super easy and tastes great. Eggs are easy to become sensitive to. I am extra cautious with rotating those. Keep them on the menu every four days. But try to find other options the other days. Yogurt, porridge, nuts, cheese, fruit, toast, granola. One of my tricks is serving lunch for breakfast. It depends on your child’s taste. My daughter is totally fine eating a pile of spinach and some crispy nuts or leftover chili for breakfast. Again, use those dinner leftovers for breakfast or lunch the next day.

      4. Freeze leftovers. If you know you won’t be using something up in the next day stick it in the freezer. Four days later you’ll have food already cooked 🙂 Again, more planning. If I roast a chicken one night I’ll freeze the leftovers and do some kind of chicken casserole or stir fry four days later. The meal prep is so easy because the meat is cooked.

      5. Yes, sometimes you do just have to cook more often. But remember you can eat the same foods for an entire day. So just cook a bunch the first time and then enjoy the leftovers for the next two meals.

      6. Don’t stress over it. Do your best to not serve the same foods two days in a row. I try to really stick to rotation with grains and vegetables since they tend to cause the most problems. Meat doesn’t usually cause too much trouble if you don’t totally rotate it. Fats don’t seem to be too much trouble either. Though I do try to make sure I use a variety (I was coo coo for coconut oil…and now we have this annoying coconut allergy!). There are a lot to choose from – butter, lard, tallow, coconut oil, evoo, avocado oil, goose fat, duck fat. Even if you don’t have allergies to any of them it’s good to use a variety of fats.

      I give my husband an apple in his lunch almost every day 😛 They are just so easy. And he doesn’t have food allergies. I keep telling myself I need to give him more variety too.

      Thank you, Katie! I love sharing my stories.

      How is the egg allergy going?

      1. It’s not! Meaning – we haven’t tried them again. We’ve done chicken which had been a possible offender, and no problem with that but he doesn’t seem to love it much so he didn’t eat many bites. We tried strawberries which I wondered about, no problem. Someday I’ll get back to eggs…but I’m always thinking “I’m too busy today to spend 24 hours with a sick kid!” We definitely eat too many eggs…ugh. I wonder how important rotating food is for people without sensitivities? Thank you for explaining though – you make it sound possible!!! 🙂 Katie

        1. It won’t hurt him to stay off eggs for a while. Especially so young. My tip for trying something new is to do it early in the day. I’d much rather have a reaction at 11 am than 11 at night!

          For those without any sensitivities rotation isn’t as critical. But it is still beneficial/important to get variety. I don’t have any actual allergies myself. But I am the kind of person that tends to eat the same things over and over. I could literally eat the same meal for B/L/D for an entire week and be fine. And now I have a ton of food sensitivities. I also notice that when I do make sure to rotate and get more variety I feel better. Your body just reacts better to not eating the same foods all the time. I feel less bloated, more energetic, etc. when I change up my foods every day.

  4. I forgot to ask, did removing gluten from your diet help your thyroid function at all? I’ve been gluten-free (well, there was that one bagel in early spring) since mid-January with no notable change to my thyroid-replacement needs.

    1. My sister was taking enough thyroid meds for a man twice her size. That was how her endocrinologist flagged her for malabsorbtion testing. She was diagnosed with celiac. It took about 1 1/2 -2 years for her gut to heal enough for her to be on a ‘normal’ dose.

      So maybe you don’t have gut absorbtion issues. if you do not see a difference gluten free.

      1. Wow, I’m glad your sister’s doctor was paying attention! Thank you for your response. Some say that because gluten and thyroid molecules are similar in structure, if one is eating gluten, and the body is prone to disliking gluten, than the body will also fight the thyroid, because of the similarity in shape and makeup. Some say they have improved their thyroid function dramatically by avoiding gluten. I have lost considerable weight though, and I was rather plush for myself as of late, so that’s a nice benefit.

  5. Have you checked to see how your children do on the einkorn, as opposed to modern wheat? Have you already confirmed that it’s the gluten, as opposed to wheat, say with letting them have barley, perhaps?
    This is a very interesting article. My own baby’s eczema got way worse when I stopped eating gluten (which I did to see if it helped my thyroid function) because I ate more eggs and dairy, which also caused his system an additional problem. I cut out the problem foods and, many thanks to God, his skin cleared up beautifully. I have been trying to eat more variety to benefit us both, while he’s still having mother’s milk as part of his diet. I’m getting ready (in my mind, mostly) to see what, if any, of the offending foods that have been removed, can be tolerated in small amounts to help his body avoid lifelong allergies. That’s a hot topic, food allergies.

    1. Coriander,

      My older kids don’t seem to handle any variety of wheat. I know some people handle einkorn and spelt better. I have not tried barley. I use rye for sourdough.

      The really crazy thing is that my youngest (the one I wrote about) now seems to react to einkorn, but not sourdough made with rye and regular wheat flour.

      Every person reacts differently.

      I am constantly wondering if my daughter is ready to try some of the old offenders. But it scares me to try them. As long as your chlid does not have life threatening allergies you just have to use your best judgement and start with very small amounts. And only one new thing a week to watch for reactions.

      I can’t say I noticed a huge improvement with my thyroid from being gluten free. But it’s hard to say. I too am on natural thyroid medication. So it’s hard to know what has the biggest impact.

  6. Forgive my ignorance, but, I’ve never heard of tongue and lip ties. How do you get them clipped? Sounds painful.

    1. Sharon,

      It is pretty much what it sounds like. There is extra tissue that connects the lip to the gums/the tongue to the bottom of your mouth. Some dentists use lasers. Some use scissors. The area is numbed and clipped. My youngest had both done twice. My older daughter just had her lip tie clipped a few weeks ago (age 7). Ties can impact speech, eating and the whole body. A tongue tie can make the rest of the body tight/rigid. It can also impact development.

  7. Don’t you love it when the thing that you think you should be doing is the complete opposite of what works?

    I can’t do any grains (corn, rice, oats) either, and tapioca is a problem. Luckily, I have been (mostly) good with potatoes, sweet potatoes, buckwheat, and quinoa. I also have multiple allergies and these are the basis of my diet.

    1. It is frustrating for sure, pdw! Each person is so unique and their bodies respond differently to foods. That is why I always say eat what works for you. Not what a specific diet tells you. I’m glad you have a few good options!

    1. It seems that way for me too. Vaccines contain formaldehyde releasers, aluminum adjuvants, antibiotics, egg proteins and neomycin. They also contain Monosodium glutamate (MSG) and 2-phenoxy-ethanol which are used as stabilizers in a few vaccines to help the vaccine remain unchanged when the vaccine is exposed to heat, light, acidity, or humidity.

      Aluminum is a neurotoxin, crossing the blood-brain barrier, causing confusion, memory loss and impairment.
      Adjuvant aluminum alone and in combination with other potentially toxic vaccine constituents (e.g., formaldehyde, formalin, mercury, phenoxyethanol, phenol, sodium borate, polysorbate 80, glutaraldehyde) are currently being studied.

      Given that multiple aluminum-adjuvanted vaccines are often given to very young children (i.e., 2 to 6 months of age), in a single day at individual vaccination sessions, concerns for potential impacts of total adjuvant-derived aluminum body burden may be significant.

      This is straight from the Vaccine Injury website and CDC. Do your research first – ask questions!

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