Dwell in Me

Seeking God in the Every Day


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Gluten-Minimized Diet

This week marks the start of our “gluten-minimized” diet. As I mentioned last week, infertility has really encouraged us to make some changes to our diets. Apparently gluten can be blamed for a whole host of problems, so we’ve been thinking about minimizing gluten anyway.

DH at Acupuncture

DH at Acupuncture

On Saturday, at an acupuncture appoinment, we asked the doctor (she is an MD–and used to be an OB/GYN practitioner) about gluten. Her thoughts:

  • Most Americans eat too much gluten.
  • No harm can come from minimizing the amount of gluten in our diets.
  • Being completely gluten-free isn’t necessary unless a disease or severe intolerance is present (such as celiac), but we may see benefits from cutting back on our gluten intake.

That last point was really what we wanted to know. Is gluten an all or nothing deal? A lot of people claim that it is, but we aren’t ready to be dietary extremists. The idea of getting rid of gluten when eating at home is a little overwhelming (DH loves his whole-wheat cereal, for example), but manageable. But getting rid of gluten in our diets when out to eat or at a friend’s house seemed too much. At least, more than we’re willing to commit to for now.

So, beginning with this week, I am no longer buying or making foods with gluten in them. To clarify, I’m not worried about trace amounts, like in some condiments. We are trying to make gluten-free choices where possible when we do go out to eat. And when we’re choosing the restaurant, we’re trying to go places that will have healthy options. But when we’re with others, our motto is flexibility.

So why gluten-minimized?

We’ve come to the decision gradually. We hemmed and hawed about it quite a bit before deciding officially (this weekend) to take the plunge. We’ve debated. And there are several reasons we decided to do this.

  1. I read this article discussing how gluten acts like glue. In bread, this is how it traps the air bubbles that yeast releases. For some reason the thought of what that meant gluten might be doing in my stomach and intestines suddenly seemed really repulsive. That may not have been a deciding factor, but it’s helped keep my desire for breads at bay.
  2. When I read through the symptoms of gluten intolerance (and celiac), I was alarmed at how many sounded familiar to me. If severely reducing gluten could get rid of or minimize my fatigue, near-daily headaches, occasional migraines, and unexplained muscle and joint pain, I’m in. So beyond worrying about the link between infertility and gluten (which is apparently actual for people with celiac and possible for people with gluten intolerance), maybe cutting back on gluten can help my health.
  3. I can’t find any downsides to significantly cutting back our gluten intake. The websites that caution against cutting gluten all talk about how gluten-free foods (as in processed foods that are made without gluten) may in some cases be less nutritive than their gluten-filled counterparts. They talk about the importance of getting the nutrients that we need–which means eating more whole foods, healthy meats, etc. But none of them have presented any convincing evidence that eating gluten is beneficial or necessary for a healthy diet.
  4. The real deciding factor is that we don’t want to get to the final steps of treatment and feel like there may have been something else we could have done. If cutting gluten has a chance to help relieve or lessen our infertility, we’re going to try it.

So that’s it. I may venture into the world of gluten-free baking at some point (been craving banana bread, so that will likely be first) and I am definitely not cooking with gluten. If I come across (or create) something especially delicious or disastrous, I may share in coming weeks.

*And, of course, a gluten-minimized or gluten-free diet may not be for you. If you are concerned, please consult a medical professional. I am not a medical professional.*

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Conscientious Eating

Now, a year into our official IF diagnosis, I can look back and see a few ways that we have actually benefited from infertility. Would I have chosen infertility as the mode for these benefits? Probably not. But it wasn’t my decision, and I’m trying to make the most of our circumstances.

One of the benefits of infertility for us has been the improvements in our diet. Well, I guess more than that, the improvements in how we think about food. If we ever do receive the blessing of children, I am confident that this knowledge and how we are incorporating that knowledge in our meals will be beneficial for their nutrition as well. And I doubt we would have cared very much about this subject had we not received our infertility diagnosis.

Cucumber and Avocado

As we dove into research about infertility, a few things kept coming up about the food we were eating. Recognizing that infertility is ultimately a health issue–that we are dealing on some level with an imbalance in hormone levels–we have embarked on a journey to try to improve our health. This includes exercise, going to bed at a reasonable hour, and, of course, eating better. To clarify, we’re not trying to improve our diets in an effort to lose weight (though, I must admit, there is a little extra hanging around my hips that I wouldn’t mind getting rid of).¬†

Lucky for me, DH will eat anything. (Seriously. If he doesn’t like a food but is convinced of its health benefits, he will eat it anyway.) And the foods I don’t particularly like, while bordering on un-American, tend not to be good for me (hot dogs, potato chips, lunch meat). So making adjustments to improve our diets isn’t so much of a problem of not liking nutritious foods as it is not knowing where to start.

As I started researching all things nutrition, I quickly found myself overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information. And it’s not straightforward and scientific: everybody seems to have their own opinion. Cut gluten. Cut dairy. To be healthy, eat more fats. Cut out all the fats. Follow a simple “calories in, calories out” equation. Don’t pay attention to calories, but eat whole, healthy, natural foods. Low carb. Paleo. No refined sugars. No sugars at all (maybe or maybe not including fruit). Take a teaspoon of [enter choice: honey, apple cider vinegar, cod liver oil, grass-fed cows’ butter, all of the above] daily. And on and on and on.

I haven’t figured this out yet. Not even close. But I thought I’d share what we are doing and what I am learning as I keep trying to distill the information I have and, where applicable, share some healthful (or maybe not, depending on your take on the theories alluded to above) recipes or meals we have enjoyed.

We’re considering some more drastic changes going forward. But we also want to be flexible. We’re not extremists, and that extends to our nutrition. If I’m at your house for dinner, I’m not going to be checking ingredients and debating whether to eat what you’re serving. I’m not going to choose not to go out with friends because the restaurant won’t have healthy options (and, sadly, most of the restaurants here in Katy are lacking nutritious food). But we are trying to make healthier decisions when we can.

The overarching theory we’re kind of following–if it can be boiled down to any overarching theory–is that whole, unprocessed foods are likely more healthful and nutritious than their processed counterparts. Of all the nutrition information I’ve read, that makes the most sense to me. I’ll go into more detail on what we are and are not eating in future posts.

If you’re trying to eat better, where did you start?

What advice would you share with someone trying to make improvements?

Is a gradual approach better than nothing, or do you need to go all or nothing to see health benefits?

What theories of nutrition do you absolutely buy into–or absolutely disagree with?