Why I Chose a Gluten-Free Life: A Crohn’s Disease Perspective

It’s one of the most common questions people ask me: Why do you eat a gluten-free diet? I am not allergic to gluten, I am not non-celiac gluten sensitive, and doctors haven’t told me to follow a strict gluten-free diet. Yet, last year I chose to give up gluten completely. I am here to explain why I made this lifestyle change and how I believe it has benefited my Crohn’s Disease symptoms and overall health.

Let’s get a few things out of the way first.

  • According to science, the only people who truly need to eat a gluten-free diet in order to avoid sickness and maintain better health are patients with Celiac Disease.
  • There are also people who are not allergic to gluten, but experience unpleasant symptoms when they consume it. These people have been lumped into a category called non-celiac gluten sensitive and they also benefit from a gluten-free diet.
  • The rest of us have either joined in on a very well-crafted fad diet or have found benefits to the diet in other ways. I am in the latter group.

I made the decision to go gluten-free based on a popular reason: If gluten causes inflammation in some people, I should avoid it because I want to keep any possible added inflammation out of my body. Whether this was true or not, I wanted to test it out. So I consulted with my doctor who gave me the OK and I embarked on the gluten-free journey.

It is important to note that a gluten-free diet can prevent you from getting important nutrients your body needs. I eat alternative whole grain foods and take certain daily vitamins to maintain proper nutritional health. Make sure to consult with a doctor before trying any diet.

A gluten-free diet for me meant…

No more donuts, Oreo cookies, Goldfish crackers, Fruit Roll-Ups, pizza, and Chinese food. Oh yes, you read that correctly. Only a year ago this health blogger, yoga student, and Crohn’s Disease advocate was still eating all of those foods and I felt the negative effects. I would get stomach aches, joint pain, headaches, diarrhea, urging, heightened anxiety, depression, and low energy. And, I would react to these symptoms like so many other people do: shocked and confused. I was completely oblivious to the power that food had on my body.

What happened when I went gluten-free?

I was forced to avoid most all processed foods and junk food. I switched out the donut in the morning with a banana and Think Thin protein bar. Instead of snacks like Oreo cookies, Goldfish crackers, and Fruit Roll-Ups I began eating sesame crackers, vegetable chips, hummus, guacamole, oranges, and honey. Instead of pizza and Chinese food, I began cooking Buddha Bowls and Indian food at home while experimenting with tofu, tempeh, ginger, and turmeric. I stopped drinking mocha lattes and switched to black coffee and tea instead. And, I never had a cheat day. I didn’t eat healthy all week and give myself one day to splurge. I stuck to the diet 100% knowing that I had to rid my body of gluten completely to feel any effect.

I began to notice a shift in my body and Crohn’s Disease symptoms. After just one month of going gluten-free, I stopped having post-meal nausea and stomach aches, headaches, join pain, post-meal diarrhea, and urging. I had more energy, less anxiety, less post-meal depression, and more confidence in my health. These positive feelings encouraged me to start lifting weights and begin my yoga teacher journey.

Without a doubt, eating more whole foods and less processed foods is having a positive impact on my colon health.

Now that I am one year into the lifestyle, without being too dramatic or cheesy, I feel like a new person. Of course, I still have the occasional stomach ache and abdominal pain (I have Crohn’s Disease, after all) and I still struggle with PMS-induced anxiety and depression, but eating gluten-free forces me to make good health choices. These good choices trickle into making positive choices in other aspects of my life like exercise and personal development. So, my original hypothesis that the gluten-free diet could help ease inflammation in my body isn’t as important anymore. Whether it is actually having that effect or not, I feel great and that’s what matters.

Recently, I decided to test to see if I was actually gluten-intolerant.

Doctors will tell you that a simple way to test this it to get rid of gluten completely and then see how your body reacts by bringing it back. Through my test, I found out that gluten causes me no obvious symptoms. I probably could go back to eating gluten foods and be just fine. However, I will not.

Even though I am not gluten sensitive, the gluten-free diet works for me. It holds me accountable to make healthy food choices. It gets rid of temptations like junk food and processed food. It allows me to control a huge part of my health that Crohn’s Disease has taken away for so long.

This is why I live a gluten-free life.

P.S. Just because you see gluten-free on the label, doesn’t mean it is healthy. Always look at the ingredients before you buy a prepackaged food item.

You may also be interested in “So You Want to Try Tempeh, Eh?” and Happy Belly, Happy Mind: Buddha Bowls for Crohn’s Disease.”

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