Sunday, August 14, 2011

Gluten-Free Meets Low-Carb

I was diagnosed with celiac disease (also called celiac sprue disease) in late 2009. This is a genetic auto-immune disease where my immune system reacts to the gluten in wheat, barley, rye and spelt and, as a result, destroys the lining of the small intestine. This leads to a whole host of miseries and has been linked to cancer as well.

This diagnosis changed my relationship with food quite a bit. No longer was food something I could just indulge in a quick sugar fix without care or concern. Gluten is in an incredible number of foods and most fast food was right out if it wasn't a salad. The penalty for not being careful was swift and severe - I would react within about twenty minutes with nausea, chills, then vomiting. It takes me about three days to get over being "glutened". I very quickly became very careful.

In a strange way, this really started my voyage. I was forced to change my eating habits if I didn't want to be miserable all the time. When I realized how much better I felt, like a new woman, I was easily able to resist gluten foods.

I thought I was doing so well. In retrospect, not so well, actually.

The growing number of people on gluten-free diets means that food manufacturers have quickly come out with a whole host of gluten-free substitutes. You can get cake, bread, pasta, etc. All sorts of things you would have otherwise never been able to have. And I did just that - substituted the gluten-free equivalents for the gluten-containing favorites. All seemed right in the world -- for a while.

In about June of 2011, I started to become concerned. Though I initially lost some weight after going gluten-free - probably because my edema or swelling went down throughout my system - I was gaining weight again and it was all in my belly. I was normally prone to gaining mostly in my hips, thighs and butt. Not this time. As is typical for me, I did a bunch of research and started to worry that I had the precursors to diabetes - metabolic syndrome.

After some home blood testing, then a visit to my doctor, it was confirmed. What I needed to do was to not only lose weight - a lot of weight - but to go on a low-carb diet.

I have issues, by the way, with the standard Diabetes Diet. I'll save that rant for another time but I devoured Dr. Bernstein's book, Diabetes Solution. In it he talks a lot about the difference it can make to get your glucose as close to normal as possible instead of within the wide (and generally too high) numbers touted by the medical establishment and how the prescribed Diabetes Diet is just plain wrong. But I digress....

I sat down and took a long look at what I'd been eating - and winced. A lot of my gluten-free substitute foods were extremely high carb and the carbs were highly digestible. Sugar was off my list, too. So it was time to make drastic changes to my diet. Good changes, in retrospect. With only 30g of carbs a day as my maximum limit, I don't eat many prepared foods anymore. Most gluten-free prepared foods are too high in carbs. Most low-carb specific things like pasta, etc., contain wheat.

Instead I eat a lot of meat, cheese, eggs and such and a ton of vegetable. I am almost completely grain-free. Thankfully, I like meat, eggs and cheese and I'm broadening my vegetable horizons regularly.

It does make me a bit of a drag as a companion for an impromptu meal out but, thankfully, my husband has also gone low-carb because of his own pre-diabetes (though he still eats some gluten) and he's a darned good cook.

Gluten-Free can co-exist with Low-Carb but you do have to do some careful reading and assess what will work for you. The biggest fear with a lot of low carb diets is kidney damage or cholesterol problems. I had blood work done for both and I'm doing extremely well.

No comments:

Post a Comment