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My First Week Without Gluten

To preface this article about my first gluten-free week, there’s more to my decision than impulsively following a health trend, or wanting to shed a few pounds. I’ve had issues with my stomach since I was a sophomore in high school, yet none of the doctors could figure out why I was in so much pain or experiencing my symptoms. I had blood drawn, tried medication, and even got a scan of my stomach to see if there was a larger issue, but nothing seemed to help. Looking back on it, I now wonder why none of my doctors or gastroenterologists had insisted I was intolerant to gluten. However, I was on the phone with my mother a little over a week ago, explaining to her that my bloating was so painful, even though I was avoiding foods that might induce acid reflux, since that was the most recent theory that my doctor had assigned to my stomach problems. While I was explaining my stomach pains and bloating and indigestion on the phone, I hadn’t realized that my roommate had brought a friend into our room who happens to have celiac disease (which means she is allergic to gluten). Once I hung up, she told me that a lot of symptoms I was describing sounded a lot like the symptoms she experiences when she eats gluten, and she asked me if I had ever tried going gluten-free. We had a long discussion that night which really opened my eyes to the possibility of a gluten intolerance, so this is where my journey began.

Anna Schultz-Girls Talking On A Bed Anna Schultz / Her Campus

The next day I drove to Walmart, since I had decided to buy myself a mini-fridge so I could eat cleaner while living on campus. I was excited to fill it with fruits, veggies, and healthy snacks, but I’ll admit it was super difficult for me at first to find other, processed snacks that didn’t have gluten in them. Being very new to all of this, I honestly didn’t even really know what gluten was, and I didn’t know what to avoid. So, I found a small shelf labelled “gluten-free” and found some crackers, pretzels, mac and cheese, and bread. However, I probably looked pretty ridiculous on Google every two minutes, searching “is _____ gluten free?” before I picked up anything else, like ice cream or peanut butter. 

a grocery store produce wall nrd | Unsplash

By just a few days into this lifestyle change, I was looking and feeling so much better. There was no more painful bloating and I was so glad that I tried this. Not only was I eating better naturally, since I would steer clear of things like bread, fried chicken tenders, cookies, and excessive carbs, but I was already so much more aware of what went into my body. I started to pay more attention to the food signs in the dining hall that alert students when food is gluten-sensitive, and I learned that gluten-free does not mean tasteless! I’ll be the first to admit, when I was younger and tried gluten-free food for the first time, I absolutely hated it. Oh boy, have things changed! Gluten-free alternatives have become so much tastier, and I never would have known that healthier foods could be just as good if I hadn’t taken the first step and took a break from gluten.

Now, as I have completed my first full week eating gluten-free, I have started to take note of what does and doesn’t bother my stomach. I had a bagel this past weekend (because I’m from Mass and I truly can’t live without my Dunkin’), and I was totally fine, but two french toast sticks in the dining hall and I’ll be super bloated for hours. So, I’ve learned a lot from this past week when I stopped my gluten intake. I can tolerate certain things better than others, but I really feel so much better when I avoid it altogether. I feel healthier and more aware of what could upset my stomach, which gives me a greater sense of control within my life since I had been unaware and hopeless for years in regard to my stomach pain. 

Dunkin'

It is important to note that so many things can cause gluten intolerance. You can develop this after undergoing a lot of stress, mentally or physically, which can affect the way your body reacts to and digests gluten. Some symptoms that can indicate gluten intolerance include bloating, headaches, nausea, as well as some other stomach discomfort, such as indigestion. If you have any of these symptoms, it may not mean you are intolerant, but it won’t hurt you to try it out! So, if any of you are in the same position as I was, in pain or bloated with no idea why, I strongly encourage you to try avoiding gluten for a week or two. Even those of you who just feel sluggish, or want to become more aware of what you’re feeding your body, give it a try! I promise, even if it isn’t a lifestyle that you decide to adopt forever, the experience will be one that you (and your body) will appreciate! Be well everybody!