Why I Don't Eat Grain
I first started experiencing digestive discomfort (constipation and bloating) when I was a senior in high school. It made playing sports, spending time with friends and looking at myself in the mirror pretty uncomfortable sometimes, and I couldn’t pinpoint what was causing it so I would google search “constipation cures” and remedies for helping my discomfort. I tried my best to incorporate more fiber into my diet, drank a cup of coffee in the morning to ‘move things along’, and then I would chug water throughout the day hoping that my body would function better if I was extra hydrated. To be honest, it helped me manage my symptoms for a while, but it didn’t turn things around.
I continued to experience on-and-off flares of digestive issues throughout college, and it wasn’t until my junior year that I REALLY decided to take charge of my health and look to my diet for answers.
It was around this time that I started learning more about the effects of gluten on the gut and our bodies in general. I figured that because the protein was a gut irritant and a big culprit behind a plethora of symptoms like acne, psoriasis, constipation, bloat, brain fog and headaches, that I would absolutely benefit from eating a gluten-free diet. So, I decided to try it as best as I could as a college student.
I started drinking vodka sodas instead of bud light, purchased gluten-free oats, pastas and snacks, and ordered ‘gluten-free’ options at restaurants. It wasn’t incredibly hard, because (to my advantage) gluten-free options were so easy to come across – chips at Mexican restaurants were made from corn, gluten-free cookies still tasted like regular ones, hard cider was a perfect replacement when I wanted a beer, gluten-free pasta and pizza crusts were easy to find at the local grocery store, etc.
To my naïve surprise, I noticed zero difference in how I was feeling. Literally zero. At the time, I thought that I had made a “big change,” but in reality my diet was way too processed and full of toxic filler ingredients and sugars; and many of the foods that I was ingesting were cross-contaminated with gluten or had other inflammatory ingredients like dairy, preservatives, artificial flavors and colors, etc. I didn’t eat enough healthy fat, vegetables or low-glycemic fruits, and I definitely wasn’t leading the healthiest lifestyle outside of my diet either.
It took a while for me to self-educate and learn about the effects of gluten, dairy, sugar and processed foods on my health and all of the other pieces of lifestyle that affect your well-being (sleep, movement, relationship, etc). I’m still learning, but what I’ve found after doing the elimination diet and experimenting with myself and my body for the past couple of years is that grain isn’t something that my gut tolerates well, and it’s not a food group that I really advocate for in anyone’s diet.
- Modern grains aren’t what they originally used to be…a lot of manufacturers add synthetic vitamins and nutrients to grains because grain loses a lot of its nutrients during processing. This means that by consuming grain a lot of times, you’re also consuming artificial (synthetic) nutrients, which ain’t coo
- A lot of gluten-free protein bars, snacks or sauces replace gluten-containing ingredients with artificial, highly-processed alternatives (and sugar or salts) that your body might not recognize or like – which can lead to inflammatory responses
- Grains are technically the hard, edible seeds of plants; so, like some other seeds and nuts, they can be difficult for our bodies to digest, which means that if you are someone who is struggling with constipation – regularly consuming a bunch of grain, nuts and seeds it probably hard on your digestive system (I struggle with this because I LOVE nuts and seeds but I do notice a difference in my digestion if I’m careful with how much of them I’m eating during the week)
- Grain = carbohydrate, which can mean a spike in insulin levels. When your body is busy burning carbohydrate (glucose) for energy, it can’t focus on burning fat. By eliminating grain, my plate is filled with more healthy fats, vegetables and protein and my blood sugar stays more in balance, which also allows for my body to more readily enter a fat-burning state
- Typically, vegetables and produce contain much more nutrients than grains, so opting for them is going to be more beneficial for you
- Grains contain large amounts of a sticky protein called a ‘lectin,’ which our bodies are not able to properly digest. Many people establish antibodies to lectins and this triggers an inflammatory response – which leads to a variety of digestive and other symptoms (leaky gut, IBS, etc)
- A majority of grains contain a protein called gluten; and everyone knows that this protein causes an allergic reaction or inflammatory response in a lot of people, so I just stay away from anything that contains it
- If you're body isn't processing grain well, then you're probably going to start to experience brain fog, mood and skin issues, sleeping troubles, etc. because your gut is directly connected to everything else in your body. My brain fog is pretty much gone and my mood is so much better when I'm careful about what I'm eating - same with my skin!
When I avoid grain, I find that my digestion is a lot better and my bloat goes down; and I'm also more clear-headed and alert. My digestive symptoms aren't completely gone though, and I still am learning, researching and experimenting in order to find out what else my body doesn't really like at this moment in time (hellllloooo EverlyWell Food Sensitivity Test - more to come on this later!). It's a journey, but it's a journey that keeps me on my toes - always learning and continuing to grow in understanding of my body's needs.
Living a grain-free life doesn’t have to make you feel like an outsider. There are so many alternatives, and you will notice a huge difference in your energy and how you feel. Of course, there will still be times when you’re going to enjoy a really good cookie or slice of pizza and won’t regret it even for a second; BUT, you’ll always know how it will make you feel, and you’ll understand the consequences of consuming ingredients or foods that don’t make you feel your best (at least this is how it is for me).
Finding out that I am sensitive to grain has been tremendously beneficial for my understanding of my body and gut health, and I would suggest that if you are someone that is struggling with constipation or digestive issues – you consider going grain free for 2 weeks or so and see how your body feels! It’s made a big difference for me. If you’re unsure of good grain alternatives or trustworthy grain-free products, I’ve listed a bunch of my favorites below. If you have any recommendations too – please share in the comments!
- cauliflower rice instead or regular rice
- coconut, almond, walnut or hazelnut flour (Bob’s Red Mill is a great brand)
- sweet potato flour
- spaghetti squash or any vegetable spiralized into noodles
- sweet potato or beet chips
- arrowroot powder in place of cornstarch
- Siete Family Foods tortillas and chips
- Bulletproof Collagen Protein Bars
- Primal Kitchen Nut & Seed Bars
The elimination diet is another incredible step that you can take in your wellness journey to learn more about what your body does and doesn't align with. It's a diet that eliminates all potential "trigger" foods for 3-4 weeks, and then you slowly incorporate them back into your diet and see how you feel or react. You will truly notice a difference in how you feel on so many levels! I have used Whole Life Nutrition's protocol and it worked great for me. I would recommend buying the book on Amazon and then downloading the journal pages and food lists from WLN's website. If you have questions, there is a ton of information on their website and online, or you can always ask me and I will try my best to answer them!