I Tried a Gluten-Free Diet for 30 Days — Here’s What Happened
Here’s how eating gluten-free impacted my physical and mental health — energy levels, focus, digestion, bloating, and much more
I’ve been wondering about the best way to approach this topic because I am such a huge advocate of intuitive eating. At first, part of me felt like I was straying from my intuitive eating background by going gluten-free. But the more I thought about it, I started to realize that doing what feels best for my body (even if it means restricting a certain food/food group) is what intuitive eating is all about. So I’m here to share my story on what happened when I tried a gluten-free diet for the past month. :)
Why Did I Decide to go on a Gluten-Free Diet for 30 Days?
I started this challenge mid-September for a few reasons:
- I was having some digestive issues (that I won’t go into a ton of detail on because it’s TMI). But if you’re really wondering… You can always DM or email me! Lol
- For years, I’ve struggled with feeling tired way more often than I felt was normal. It would get especially bad after I ate meals (especially when those meals involved certain foods). The more I looked into the foods I was eating & when I felt the most tired — I realized there was a correlation between feeling tired and eating gluten-heavy meals/snacks.
- I’ve been getting bad headaches for years now as well. I thought it was due to drinking alcohol because they would often happen the day after I drank. But after giving up drinking for a couple of months and still dealing with headaches & fatigue — I realized it had to be due to something else. & I don’t know about you guys, but when I drink, I often don’t make the healthiest of eating choices afterward. Meaning I’ll often end up having pizza, fast food, etc. (easy to make & carb/fat-heavy meals). While I’m completely okay with eating like this when my body is craving it, I thought that it could have something to do with the gluten in these meals I was eating.
I had been skeptical of the gluten-free diet in the past because it seemed like a “fad diet” for a while. It seemed like everyone was doing it and for no real health-related reason. Even though I was skeptical, I decided to give it a try to see if it really could benefit my health.
Is a Gluten-Free Diet Healthier than a “Regular” Diet?
If you don’t have Celiac’s or a gluten-sensitivity, eating gluten-free will most likely do absolutely nothing for your health. If you have been experiencing symptoms like digestive issues, brain fog, fatigue, headaches, or anything else on this list… You may have non-celiac gluten-sensitivity (source).
I’m not a doctor or medical professional, so please consult with your doctor before assuming you have a gluten-intolerance or sensitivity.
Gluten-sensitivity is much harder to test for and diagnose than celiac disease (and also less serious). But if you are concerned that you might be dealing with either of these — consult with your doctor.
The thing is — these symptoms can be caused by a lot of different conditions (or simply lifestyle choices). So, don’t immediately think that because you’re tired every once in a while or get the occasional headache that you need to go gluten-free.
I tried out the gluten-free diet as somewhat of a last resort. If you know me, you know I LOVE my sweets & baked goods. Cookies, cake, brownies, pretty much anything involving chocolate… So I was nowhere near excited about having to give those up (or trying to make gluten-free versions).
If I hadn’t been dealing with the symptoms listed above for years, I would not have started eating gluten-free. It was a personal choice for my own health and you should 100% do what’s best for you. Don’t try out a certain diet just because you see other people eating that way. Eat what makes you feel your best!
I go into more detail on this topic near the end of this post. :)
How did Eating Gluten-Free for 30 Days Impact my Health?
I wanted to break this question down into 2 sections because this is a big one! I can’t jam the mental & physical health benefits all into one. I’ll say this: eating gluten-free for 30 days definitely improved both areas of my health.
Focus / Mental Clarity
My focus levels and mental clarity definitely improved. It feels similar to how intermittent fasting made me feel in the mornings (you can read all about that experience here). It’s easy to focus on any task I’m working on and I haven’t been dealing with as much “brain fog”.
Even at work, I’ve been more focused and productive. It just feels like I have more energy, in general, which is allowing me to concentrate more easily.
I also feel like my memory has been slightly better? I’m not sure if that’s due to the lack of gluten or something else entirely… But just noting what I noticed!
Due to my increased energy levels (which I go more in to below), I’d definitely say my mood has improved! This is in no way a cure-all for bad moods — I’ve still had my ups & downs throughout the month… But overall I feel way better!
I’m less reliant on snacks or sugary treats to give me energy. Which in turn, puts me in a better (and more stable) mood.
My energy levels improved quite a bit. I haven’t been crashing after meals anymore or hitting that 3 pm wall. I’ve had steady energy throughout the day that doesn’t seem to be impacted much by meals or snacks.
I also haven’t been getting as tired on days after I drink alcohol. I used to blame it on a “really bad hangover” but it seemed to be more than that. I think that cutting back on some of the less healthy things I would eat on nights I drank (most of them containing gluten) definitely helped.
So much better. The digestive problems I had been having = gone. *Knock on wood*
My stomach feels better in general and I haven’t been getting weird stomachaches as often. TMI, but I’ve also been very regular and my digestion is just better than it’s been in a while.
Impact on Exercise
I honestly felt so much better during my workouts during this challenge. I felt like I was eating foods that gave me lasting energy, so this definitely impacted my workouts. Also, I wasn’t crashing midway through them, which is a big plus!
I don’t think it had any impact on my strength/fitness levels. But if I stick with this and continue to have more energy for working out, I’m sure it will start to impact that eventually.
Impact on Hunger Levels
At first, my hunger was all over the place. My body was adjusting to eating differently and it made me more hungry at times and less hungry other times. I went for about a week hardly feeling hungry at all (but still eating semi-normally, of course).
After the first 2 weeks, my body adjusted and my hunger/fullness cues went back to normal.
The first week or two, I was feeling really bloated most of the time. I don’t normally get too bloated throughout the month, so it was weird for me to be bloated every night. I think it had a lot to do with the increased raw veggie consumption.
I normally try to eat pretty healthy and fit in fruits & veggies when I can. But since eating gluten-free cuts down on some of the types of meals I would normally eat, I ended up eating WAY more salads throughout this month.
I felt great the first few weeks (as you can see from the other sections). Just a little more bloated, which is completely okay with me. :)
Related: If you struggle with bloating/IBS symptoms regularly, check out Mary’s full article on how she dealt with her reoccurring bloating here!
Eating gluten-free had absolutely no impact on my weight. I don’t weigh myself or own a scale. But I went to the doctor near the end of the challenge and I weigh the same as I have for years.
Which goes to prove that you shouldn’t start a gluten-free diet for weight loss purposes.
I’ve dealt with bad headaches/migraines for a while and I don’t always know what causes them. Oftentimes, they’re hangover headaches and will last all day after I drink. But lately, I’ve hardly been drinking at all, so when I still get a bad headache it leads me to wonder what the cause is.
During my gluten-free 30 days, I only got a bad headache once. That was the day after I caved on my gluten-free diet and ate pizza and ice cream. I’m not positive that the change in diet caused the headache, it just happened to be the day after that.
We had also been moving all weekend (from Brandon to Ybor City) so I had been outside, moving, and lifting a lot all weekend. It could have been that or a combination of things, I don’t know.
Other than that one day, I am pleased to say that I didn’t have a headache the entire rest of the 30 days. :)
The Biggest Challenge of Eating Gluten-Free
The hardest part about eating gluten-free was finding foods to eat. The options are exponentially better now than they were 20 years ago, but it’s still not easy. Especially for someone who is new to the gluten-free diet, it’s definitely a learning experience.
For example, when I would go out to dinner somewhere, more often than not, my only option would be a salad. (This all obviously depends on what restaurants you go to. There are plenty of restaurants that have a solid gluten-free menu, it just didn’t happen to be a lot of the ones I went to.)
Even when I ordered a salad, I would have to make sure there were no croutons, pita strips, etc., on top, to make it fully gluten-free.
Trying to eat at a fast-food restaurant is especially challenging. We hit up Chick-fil-a the other day and even though they have a decent selection of gluten-free foods, a lot of my regular options were off the table. No spicy breaded chicken sandwich, dun dun dun.
You can’t have breaded foods, anything with a bun (so no spicy chicken sandwich) :(, etc., which ends up leaving a lot of their menu out. I ended up getting grilled chicken nuggets and fries, which was still really yummy!
One of the biggest things I learned was to always have gluten-free foods (& snacks!) on hand, so you don’t end up hangry. The first week or so, I was unprepared and had hardly bought any gluten-free options to have at home. I learned my lesson early when I felt like I never had enough food to eat, and ended up making a Trader Joe’s run for more gluten-free options!
A Couple Slip-Ups
Throughout the month, I slipped up and ate foods with gluten a couple of times.
Early on in the first week of the challenge, after we had just moved — we had pizza and ice cream. I was so hungry from moving all weekend and just gave up on the gluten-free challenge momentarily.
I felt okay the next day but had a headache most of the day. Not sure if that’s related, but that’s the only time I’ve had one of my bad all-day headaches this past month.
I slipped up again near the end of the challenge with tempura on sushi. I wasn’t thinking about it at the time, but tempura isn’t gluten-free. The next day I felt super tired all day with a lot of brain fog. (Again, not sure that the gluten caused that — just noting my observations.)
Other than that, it became easier & easier throughout the month to eat fully gluten-free. Heading to a store (like Trader Joe’s) that has a lot of free options makes it much easier. One I stocked up on gluten-free meals & snacks to have around, it was a no-brainer to grab those options.
Some of My Favorite Gluten-Free Foods I Tried Out!
All in all, I actually loved eating gluten-free most of the time, and a lot of the newer options are so good! I feel better eating gluten-free foods as opposed to the “regular versions” of the same foods. So I’m going to stick with a lot of these options in place of what I would normally be eating.
- Trader Joe’s gluten-free bread (whole grain or white are both good!)
- Trader Joe’s cauliflower crust pizza
- Baking with gluten-free flour (check out my gluten-free apple cinnamon banana bread & white chocolate chip pumpkin bread!)
- Clif Builders Protein Bars or ZBars Protein Bars (smaller “kids” version) *cookies n cream are the best!*
- Nut Thins almond crackers (the cheddar cheese flavor is so good)
- Good! Protein Bars (gluten-free & plant-based)
- Larabars (chocolate chip cookie dough is the best!)
- Annie’s gluten-free mac and cheese
- Justin’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups
- Trader Joe’s gluten-free crispy chocolate chip cookies
- Trader Joe’s gluten-free frozen waffles
Also, a few yummy drink options I’ve been loving!
- Liquid I.V. — great for hydration/electrolytes. I always drink these when I work out or after I’ve been in the sun for a while. I feel 10x better & more hydrated than with just regular water.
- So. Many. Sparkling waters! I’ve been obsessed with Bubly & La Croix this month. It’s just a more fun take on regular water and they help to switch things up when you’re trying to stay hydrated.
- Lots of smoothies! Smoothies are such a good option to pack in a ton of nutrients and protein. Since my options were slimmer for what I could eat this month, I turned to smoothies all the time. Try out my daily vegan protein (secretly green) smoothie!
- Obviously… ALL the iced coffee & iced lattes. Thank God coffee is gluten-free or else I might have died… I created my vegan pumpkin spice latte during this challenge too — so good!
Reminder — You Do NOT Need to Eat Gluten-Free to be “Healthier”
If you don’t have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten intolerance/sensitivity, please do not feel like you need to eat gluten-free to be “healthier”. I’m incredibly jealous of my friends/family members who can eat bread, drink beer, and eat other gluten-containing foods and not feel dead tired after. If I was able to eat like that and still feel good, I 100% would be eating bread every day.
I love the taste of bread and REALLY love baked goods. But sadly, my body doesn’t love them as much as my taste buds do. If I was able to eat foods containing gluten without experiencing fatigue, digestive issues, headaches, etc., I would.
If you don’t have any sort of gluten sensitivity or gluten intolerance, eating a gluten-free diet will probably not have health benefits for you. On the other hand, it won’t hurt anything either. It’s just not a magical diet that makes you healthy all of a sudden by eliminating gluten.
If eating bread and baked goods, and drinking beer, makes your body feel good, then please eat/drink those items! If you’re like me and experience negative physical/mental side effects from gluten, then maybe trying out a gluten-free diet for 30 days would be beneficial.
I had been experiencing fatigue and other problems after eating gluten-containing foods for years before trying a gluten-free diet. And I have not been diagnosed with celiac disease, so I don’t plan on eating a completely gluten-free diet forever.
Regarding my future eating plans… I’m going to choose gluten-free options when I’m able to and try to stick to eating gluten-free as often as I can.
If I’m on vacation or someone baked me cookies, I’m going to indulge in foods with gluten and deal with the consequences. I don’t have a medical condition (that I know of) causing me to eat completely gluten-free, so I’m not going to do that. I’m just going to do the best I can to make more choices that will feel good for my body.
What you eat is a personal choice and you shouldn’t base your diet on what anyone else is doing. Do what feels best for you. :)
If you liked this article and want to read more like this — check out all my work at vitality-vixens.com.
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