Monthly Goal: Practicing Body Mindfulness (and my gluten problem)

At the beginning of February I set out to define several goals to work towards as the month progressed and so far so good! I have 1 week left, and one more goal to accomplish: making vegan yogurt, but we’ll get to that later.  One of the other things I wanted to accomplish this month was learning to practice body mindfulness by tuning in to my body sensations, emotions, and signals to listen to what my body was telling me- and when. This is just one small step toward achieving a wider goal that I set for myself at the beginning of the New Year. Over the course of 2012, I aim to feel more at one with my body and body mindfulness is just a step toward reaching that goal.

Listening to what my body has been telling me has had some surprising results, as well as some I hoped to see unfold.

1. All my parts

Not only have I become more aware of all of my physical parts, but my emotional parts too. Though I have been striving to become more aware of physical cues and sensations, I’ve ended up becoming more emotionally aware as well.

2. Food mindfulness

(This was one of the results I was hoping to see as I embarked on this trial.) I’ve taken care to notice what my body is telling me about food cravings: when I feel hungry, when I feel full, and what specific foods I crave when. I have become more aware of not only what I eat but also how those foods make me feel. Which brings me to…

3. Cutting down on gluten! 

I never thought I’d be gluten free, (well I guess there was a day when I thought I’d never be vegan, funny how that works, eh?) but going through the process of consciously practicing body mindfulness has taught me to pay attention to what my body is telling me after I eat particular foods, i.e. what physical reactions I have after I eat a slice of bread vs. a bowl of quinoa. And the verdict is this: my body gets angry at me when I over do the gluten. As I’ve mentioned on Veganland several times before, I’m no stranger to digestive issues. I’ve even gone so far as to go to the doctor over my indigestion. As typical Western doctor she completely threw my suggestion of candida (internal yeast infection) out the window and attributed my gas, immense bloating, and constipation, to stress and told me to keep a food journal to track the correlation between my indigestion and stress levels. She even suggested that my vegan diet had something to do with my digestive issues, blaming my “lack of protein and vitamins”. (all of my blood tests came up normal, I’ll have you know!)

This was in November. I tried, but nothing worked! I upped my kombucha consumption, and even made up my own “tummy tea” (peppermint tea with a squeeze of lemon, and a couple slices of ginger) I also tried to de-stress and manage my stress better through art, exercise, and of course cooking. Then (as I mentioned in this post) I heard a rebroadcast of this story on NPR about gluten intolerance and it really got me to thinking. All of my digestive maladies (and even some non digestion related symptoms like fatigue and irritability) all fit the bill of gluten sensitivity, for which there is no clinical test. I’d been tested for celiac disease, (the result was negative) but I still had many of the symptoms of this illness, all of which are caused by the body’s inability to breakdown gluten.

As a vegan, I’m familiar with the things a human body doesn’t need (i.e. animal products) to be not only healthy but also to thrive. (I’ve probably explained lactose intolerance and the elaborated on the fact that humans not only don’t need but physically are not able to break down dairy products to friends and family about a 100 times.) So I started putting the pieces together, just as I did when I began to adopt a vegan lifestyle. I realized that these processed and high gluten foods are not benefiting my body but are rather the sources of my some of the problems that have begun to bother me over the past several months.

So, the long and short of it: I’m cutting down on gluten.

This means I haven’t made whole wheat bread this past week, that I’m buying (delicious) gluten free beers made in small breweries, that we’re starting to juice every day, and that we used quinoa pasta in our mac and cheese this past weekend. All these simple means yield such a fruitful end: my digestion is better-almost completely alleviated.  Now, I say almost for a reason: I’ve cut down on gluten, not eliminated it. I’ve even done a couple of test runs to test for a placebo effect, eating gluten and seeing what happens. The verdict is this: I’m going to eat as few gluten based foods as possible to reap the maximum amount of foods containing gluten such as pasta, bread, and desserts and replace them with whole grains (like quinoa hooray!) and gluten free items (tamari instead of soy sauce, coconut ice cream rather than cake) instead.

So there you have it, my long winded description of my newest (gluten-free) dietary development.



Note: All the photos in this post are gluten free dishes I’ve made lately!

8 thoughts on “Monthly Goal: Practicing Body Mindfulness (and my gluten problem)

  1. Somehow giving up foods that contain gluten seems way harder to me than going vegan – but as you say, funny how things work out. I have my bouts of digestive issues and always wonder if it’s gluten intolerance, so I will be reading future posts with interest. PS typical “western” docs need to get educated!

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