A little over two years I got fed up (not a pun) with abdominal discomfort at every meal. After much nagging from family, I went to see a gastrointestinal doctor. The doctor ran every test and procedure related to digestive problems which gave me some idea what it might be like to be abducted by aliens.
After wasting tons of time and money; the doctor indicated everything was normal. With the final results in from the series of tests and procedures, the doctor basically said to quit whining. There was no sign of celiac, cancer, or any other disease. His parting advice was to just no eat things that upset me.
I left disappointed, because without a diagnosis I didn’t know how to fix the problem. After consulting with a cheaper and more familiar doctor, “Dr.” Google, I found my symptoms matched most closely with those who are gluten intolerant. So, I changed my diet to remove everything except raw fruits and vegetables.
This seemed to solve my problem, but was not a realistic diet for me. After a week, I started adding things back in and came to realize the issue was related to dairy and gluten.
It has now been one year since I removed all dairy and gluten from my diet and seems to be working. However, it is not fun, easy, or cheap.
Here are a few things I learned over the last year about how to live Gluten-Free (GF) and Dairy-Free(DF).
Gluten is in Everything
Eliminating dairy is fairly easy, but gluten is in everything. It was very challenging at first because I had no idea what I could and couldn’t eat. My first few times ordering at a restaurant I just ordered salad with no dressing because I didn’t know what else to order. Later, I started to look up items with my phone when reviewing menus. After a while, I learned what I could order at each restaurant.
Many restaurants have a gluten-free menu, but they are very limited in choice and flavor. They get even more limited when you remove the dairy related items as well. I learned to do my homework before you go to a restaurant if possible.
The most difficult places to eat are fast food restaurants. Gluten is in everything they serve and I am too picky to eat salad at a fast food restaurant. It makes traveling difficult and costly.
The easiest restaurants having a lot of gluten-free food and still have flavorful choices are BBQ, Indian, and Thai restaurants.
Cooking at home is not too bad. There are many gluten-free sauces, recipes and ingredients available to make a wide variety of tasty dishes. However, it is more expensive and takes some skill.
Ordering beverages (non-alcoholic) is not a problem from me since I have always ordered water anyway. So, I still don’t know what beverages are gluten-free or not.
Adult beverages are a different story. Before changing my diet I really enjoyed beer. My favorites were those with tons of wheat like Hefeweizens. Gluten-free beer is available. I have tried a dozen or so varieties and none are equal to “real” beer and found they are just not worth the calories. Some of the better tasting gluten-free beers have a process to remove the gluten. These types of beers still give me a bad reaction.
When out for social drinks, I tend to stick to the vodkas that are made from corn (Tito’s), potatoes(Chopin), or grapes(Cîroc). All three are good, but many restaurants and bars don’t carry them. If the establishment doesn’t serve one of those I turn to red wine or hard cider. Other alcoholic beverages are gluten-free like rum and tequila. I have never been able to stomach rum and drank too much tequila in my 20’s to get it down these days.
Dessert is almost non-existent at restaurants for me. There are few restaurants that have items which are gluten-free and dairy-free. I just skip it.
Regular grocery stores have very little in gluten-free options. I have found that Sprouts is best for my tastes. I also shop at Wholefoods often, but the produce tends to be far too expensive compared to Sprouts.
Grocery shopping for gluten-free is much more expensive. The gluten-free versions of most food items cost more.
One positive side effect of gluten-free eating is that I generally eat healthier. I eat a lot more raw fruits and vegetables. I drink less beer, eat less bread, and have less junk food. Also, most of the gluten-free food is made by health food companies and are also organic and non-GMO.
Another good thing about gluten-free is all that healthy eating and reduced beer and bread resulted in some weight loss without increased activity. I lost about 10 pounds in the first year and still slowly (very slowly) losing.
If I were to do it again, I would have done it sooner and would have hired a nutritionist to help. It completely fixed my discomfort, but threw my mood and energy levels into chaos at times.
Here are some sites I found useful