I wish I knew why my procrastination kicks in especially intensely on projects like this Test Your Grains Challenge. I should have been evaluating the responses over a month ago, but it was always the item on the list that I skipped for something else, even boring things like bringing some semblance of sanity to my email.
Now that I’m digging into folks’ results, it’s totally fascinating. Then again, it takes a long time to make heads or tails of anything, so maybe sometimes I just don’t want to use my brain so much.
I’ve analyzed 7 survey results, which is still less than half, but I’d love to share a little with you about what people learned about their relationship with grains.
The challenge entailed eating grains only prepared in a certain style for 7-10 days: all refined grains, all whole grains, soaked, sprouted, sourdough, gluten-free, or no grains were the choices.
People observed their energy, mental acuity, appetite, emotional stability, feeling in their gut after a meal, regular elimination of waste, gas, and weight gain or loss during the challenge. The results truly are fascinating!
Here are the subjects challenge participants tackled:
- refined white flour: 2
- whole grains, storebought: 3
- whole grains, homemade only: 1
- soaked whole grains using cultured medium (whey, buttermilk, yogurt, kefir): 1
- sprouted whole grains: 2
- no grains at all: 9
The majority of respondents saw no change in energy, mental acuity, emotional stability, sleep patterns or appetite, but about a third noticed improvement in each area.
Many people were hoping for an improvement in the frequency of bowel movements or constipation, but, as I myself was disappointed to see, many also found little to no change. My husband, who had the opposite problem of the majority of Americans (who are constipated), saw an immediate healing of his chronic diarrhea when he ate no grains at all. If no other lesson is learned from all this statistical analysis and anecdotal evidence, it’s that one really does need to pay attention to one’s own body to determine the best foods for them.
A number of participants did notice a drop in weight, especially those who cut grains altogether.
As we reintroduced grains to our diet, I was planning to try “only soaked” or “only sourdough” but in reality, those were harder than I expected to put into practice! Particularly the sourdough, since once we got rice and oats back, we didn’t want to lose them just because they couldn’t be “sourdoughed.” So I don’t blame most readers for watching from the sidelines, and if truth be told, I’m glad now I didn’t have 100 participants, or this project would take forever to evaluate.
At our house, we did of course start with gluten-free grains only once we reintroduced grains, and although I didn’t notice a significant difference compared to non-gluten-containing grains, I’m wondering about both my husband and son and whether they have some sensitivities there. Sometime, probably around Lent (appropriate!), we’ll probably go gluten-free for the whole family, since the kids didn’t participate fully this time.
The First Five Survey Responses
Since each person tested something different and started with different experiences, there’s almost no way to truly compile data and statistics beyond the generalities I presented above. Reading through each person’s “before and after” gives very interesting anecdotal evidence to add to our exploration of grains, however, so I am compiling each survey individually. Here is the first batch; I hope there are some science nerds out there who enjoy reading them as much as I did!
Each survey is simply broken down and the story told from the participants’ point of view with very little commentary or evaluation from me. My opinions aren’t necessary, I don’t think – the experiences speak for themselves!
- Ate white and whole grains previously
- Tried no grains: found some improvement in energy (rated “poor” before the challenge), sleep, and vast improvement in emotional stability.
- Was hoping for a reduction in constipation, but didn’t see any change. However, she “didn’t feel bloated or uncomfortable,” which was a “big improvement.”
- Another big improvement was a reduction in after meal gas, plus she lost weight!
- “The first meal I ate with bread – I noticed right away how “heavy” it felt – my tummy felt full/uncomfortable after a few bits but I had barely ate anything and had to continue to eat because I was still hungry.”
- Also tried only whole grains, storebought: Also found some improvement in energy and emotional stability. Constipation problems remained the same and only slight discomfort noticed in digesting, compared to none with no grains.
- “I was surprised to find out that if I stuck with my 1/2 cup of whole-grains that I didn’t notice much of a difference compared to the no grain week – however, I was only eating 1/2 cup and then just once a day (usually with dinner.) I think I would have noticed more of a dip from all the benefits I saw during the “no-grain” week if I would have ate more re-fined grains. I would’ve like to take it to the next step of soaking but I don’t do the cooking or planning thanks to my DH.”
- No weight was lost once grains were added in.
- “I notice I got dehydrated very quickly the more grains I eat.”
- Previously ate soaked or sprouted whole grains with a few white bread cheats.
- Ate only refined grains.
- Started with good energy, mental acuity, emotions, sleep and appetite, and all five got worse across the board, with insomnia being the worst negative change.
- “Interestingly, my bowel habits did not see much change, however, I had headaches more often, was more crabby and emotional, and have battled insomnia in a worse way than ever.”
- She already knew wheat was a minor trigger food for crankiness and gas.
- “I don’t think I did the soaked grains once (which is what I said I would do) I ate some “white” bread, regular brown rice, mixed up flours in pancakes and cakes and cookies – generally ate worse than usual. So, I had bloating, gas, headaches, poor sleep, crabby – ouch!” “M”‘s goal had been to test soaked grains and try all the recipes she’d accumulated, but a busy week led her to toss up her hands and just try the opposite. Life happens, and real food can be tricky!
- “I have a daughter who had to give up grains on a doctor’s advice. She actually was very successful even while away at college (although in an apartment). She reported success with intestinal problems and more energy. She is still battling a headache issue, but she was feeling quite ill every time she ate and that seems to have cleared up. Sufficiently that she is not willing to add grains other than brown rice and buckwheat (which she had only begun to eat after 4 weeks of grain free).”
- Typically eats all sorts of grains – whole wheat, homemade and storebought, white, soaked, sprouted, and sourdough!
- Tried white and storebought whole wheat: her energy and emotional stability, both starting out good, got worse, and her mental acuity drastically decreased.
- Constipation increased, particularly the feeling of having some unfinished business.
- Had more discomfort after meals with grains and more gas.
- Facsinating! “Eating commercial grains raised my weight, turned my skin ugly, made me prone to moodiness and and discomfort when hungry. I also needed more sleep and felt more tired during the day. The biggest annoyance is chapped lips. I’d forgotten how I used to have chapped lips all the time, but that had gone away when I switched to eating real foods all the time, and only small amounts of well-prepared grains.”
- She also gained weight, and is determined not to let such a week happen again!
- Also tried sprouted grains only: found an improvement in both energy levels and appropriate appetite. “I find sprouting grains to be a LOT more filling. I ate less than I normally would because I was only using sprouted.”
- Felt good in the gutafter eating sprouted grains, but still had some constipation according to the Bristol stool chart.
- She gained some weight, but was also very busy and struggling to drink enough liquids.
- “I’ve sprouted grains for a while, but I usually had them mixed with unsprouted grains or a lot of other foods – it was easy to not over-eat because the sprouted grains (legumes, etc.) are so much more filling! Sprouting improves the flavor and texture as well.”
- Previously ate all sorts of grains, soaked, sprouted, sourdough, white and wheat.
- Tried no grains: Found no change in energy, etc. except for appetite: I think I might have been a little bit hungrier without grains. But it could also be the psychological void of “no bread!”
- Was hoping to see more frequent bowel movements, but “Being off grains did not seem to make any change in my elimination frequency – much to my dismay.” Stools did get a bit more regular looking, but still felt constipation and didn’t go often enough. Being in the first trimester of pregnancy could have a huge effect.
- “This is the biggest difference I noticed being off grains – much less gas in general.”
- “I went grain free for 7 days. On the last night I dreamt about eating bread! Now that I’ve allowed myself grains again, I am giving into cravings for refined flour products (e.g. I made crepes one morning with white flour and ate a ton of them! I also bought cereal which I have not done in about a year and a half!) So far I’ve had mostly refined flour and home made sourdough whole wheat bread. I haven’t really felt different being back on grains. The morning after the crepes though, I had borderline diarrhea – which may have also been due to over eating a bit and a lot of sugar (in the jam and what not). Other than that, I am still battling pregnancy constipation.”
- Typically eats both white and whole grains.
- Tried no grains: noticed little change if any in energy, mental acuity, but her emotional stability became worse: “As far as appetite goes, at first I was able to go a lot longer without eating, because the protein stayed with me longer. But then the cravings got the better of me and I was noshing on everything to try to keep my mind off the cookies, donuts, and PBJ’s I wanted. It was REALLY HARD to stay away from those grains! I was also under a lot of stress (baby had a cold) and that made the cravings even worse. I guess I didn’t realize how often I eat because of stress.”
- “What used to be “normal” for me was once every several days. Since I had the baby six months ago, it’s been daily for some reason.” Then “While I was off grains, I didn’t poop for a week. As soon as I added them back in (sounds better than “gorged on free donuts at work”), I was able to go … but it was just as painful as ever. Perhaps I replaced grains with cheese a little too often? Even so, this is very unusual for me.”
- “I did digest quite easily without grains, no “heaviness” at all (though even with grains, I only sometimes felt that way). I did notice that I got an empty stomach when it was time to eat again — before, I would feel lightheaded from hunger before my stomach felt empty. I also felt thinner. It might be because I was eating less.”
- The main benefit was a decrease in gas, which used to send people flying from the room (including, she wishes, herself).
- “When I broke the diet at the end and had donuts, I did feel pretty lousy after. Donuts are pretty much the worst food for me because of their high sugar. My stomach was upset and my head was a bit achey. By the end of the day (after eating a PBJ on whole wheat bread) I felt fine again.”
- “Overall, I didn’t notice any differences big enough to warrant giving up one of my favorite food groups. I had hoped it would help with my painful bowel movements, but it actually made me MORE constipated than before! (I have since had success from eating a big bowl of lacto-fermented beets. Whatever works, I guess.) So I won’t be sticking with it.”
Was that cool or what? Not exactly Christmas week reading, so look forward to more of the same in January as we finish up the exploration of soaking grains…for good!
Even if you didn’t participate in the challenge officially, I hope you are inspired by the readers’ responses and perhaps consider testing your own grains to see if you have any individual improvements that you’d never even know about if you didn’t try something a little difficult. No grains is actually the easiest one to test!
UPDATE: Here are the rest of the survey results!