Gluten-Free AND Vegan? Good Gracious!


My dad was diagnosed with RA (rheumatoid arthritis) about three years ago.  Although he’s halted its degenerative effects on his joints with heavy-duty biologic drugs like Embrel, he’s always on the edge of deteriorating health. So, because I kind of like my dad and have read about the inflammatory effects of gluten in books such as Wheat Belly, I’ve been trying to get him to try a gluten-free diet to see if it helps.  Of course I told him I would also avoid gluten for a month – what do you think I am, some kind of monster-child?

During my recent visit, I cooked many gluten-free, vegan dishes for my parents, trying out several new recipes and reworking some traditional ones like ranch dressing, zucchini bread, and spaghetti marinara.  (I’ve become that member of the family, the one who eagerly hands loved ones a spoonful of something to taste, then says expectantly, “It’s vegan?!”– or the one people avoid when they’re trying to figure out directions to In-And-Out Burger. True Story.)  Anyway, my parents are on board. Lucky for them, they still eat dairy and can go whacky with Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free mixes for everything from crepes and cornbread to waffles and souffles. Meanwhile, here in Veganville, it’s almost impossible to find a dairy-free, gluten-free bread that doesn’t taste like cotton and sawdust.  I suppose I should try to make my own instead of torturing myself by walking down the bakery aisle, and maybe I will after Ryan returns this weekend and I have three minutes away from my children.

I grew up eating bread with every meal, which I am not overly proud of, I’m just saying we are a carb-lovin’ people.  (Spaghetti with corn, potatoes, and garlic bread? 4000 grams of carbohydrates? Yes, Ma’am!) And even though I don’t eat a lot of bread anymore, giving up bread altogether has been more difficult than I expected. All of my dreams involve sourdough. It’s been four days. (Think I’m being melodramatic? Yours truly is eating Environkidz Gluten-Free Frosted Flakes at the moment directly from the freaking box, I kid you not.)  Overall, eliminating gluten from my diet really should not prove too difficult, right? Beans, legumes, nuts, vegetables, and fruits are all naturally gluten-free, and these are certainly the backbone of what I eat.  Still, I would be lying if I didn’t admit how much I miss my whole grain toast and sourdough sandwiches. (Sniff.) 

Maybe it’s my toast-withdrawal, but I’m just feeling annoyed. Haven’t I restricted my diet enough by eliminating all animal products?  And is it really healthier for me to stop eating moderate amounts of gluten? Should all modern humans go gluten-free after consuming wheat for thousands of years, or is this simply the latest “it” diet?  What if I feel great most of the time and don’t have a “wheat belly”–am I still compromising my health by eating wheat?  If you aren’t feeling your best, how can you tell if your symptoms equal gluten-sensitivity or are instead related to Crohn’s Disease or IBS?      

For now, I’m waiting for the gluten-free-induced burst of energy and clearness of mind that is supposed to arrive soon.  In the meantime, I’ll send recipes to my dad, create new ones out of coconut and chickpea flour, and try not to procure an “envirokidz belly”! 😉  


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