I’ve only been gluten free for a few days now, but it didn’t take long at all for me to start feeling a bit weird. First, I just felt hungry all. the. time. Even if I had recently had a decent-sized meal, even if it had a lot of protein, within an hour I started to have faint hunger feelings. Then, the blahs kicked in full-force. I had already been feeling a bit down since I came back from Israel, and I assumed I was just more sad than I realized about giving up a lot of favorite foods. But the hunger thing was getting really annoying, so I asked my Facebook friends if anyone who had gone gluten free had experienced this. I got a ton of helpful answers from friends, including one who’s a doctor, and learned that making such a major diet change puts your body through quite a bit. Now that I know what’s going on, I thought I’d share so other people don’t get as concerned as I’ve been.
You have to re-learn how to be full. Your body is used to getting full from gluten, so when you’re suddenly not having it at any time, your body gets confused. Your system needs to learn what it means to get full without gluten, and that reset takes some time.
You probably are eating fewer calories. Chances are that a lot of the meals you eat once you start eating gluten free naturally have fewer calories than the ones you ate before (think: more salads, gluten-free bread slices being much smaller than regular ones, vegetables taking up more space on your plate, healthier grains, etc.), so you need to figure out how to make up for the calories that used to be filled by gluten. A friend from college recommended having more snacks and eating nuts, fruit, rice cakes, and (my favorite suggestion) ice cream.
You are a sugar addict going through withdrawal. No, not cane sugar and its cousins. Here’s what my doctor friend had to say: “Gluten is (almost) always processed and refined, so in addition to the allergenic/inflammatory properties, you have the insulin spike and subsequent sugar dip.” What this means is that your body is used to processing quite a bit of sugar each day, from when all the gluten things you eat break down. So when you go gluten free, even if you’re eating ice cream and (GF) baked goods in the same quantities that you used to, you’re still eating significantly less sugar than you did before, and your body is freaking out. (I assume this is like any addiction.)
My friend warned, “You may even go through 2 weeks of cloudiness, joint aches, headaches, fatigue, and depression before you breakthrough to enlightenment.” While the idea of feeling crappy for another week and a half sounds awful, it made me feel a lot better to know that all the weirdness I’ve been feeling is quite normal. I brought a gigantic bunch of grapes to help with the sugar today, but if I have to eat more ice cream and gluten-free cupcakes* (like the one above) to get through this period, so be it.
*Cupcake is from Tu-Lu’s Gluten-Free Bakery, a completely GF bakery a gloriously short walk from my apartment. Planning a full review of their treats once I’ve tried them all!