Gluten, Sugar, and Dairy-Free for 21 Days

I decided, quite randomly on a Monday, to go on a sugar, gluten, and dairy-free diet for 21 days. The reason for this is simple enough–I am extremely tired of feeling bloated, cranky, and exhausted.

Dairy has not been agreeing with me for about a year now, so I have been drinking almond milk. I can tolerate cheese in moderation, but I get bloated nonetheless. I have some lactase pills that allow me to enjoy things like ice cream, but they don’t always work as well as they should. So, I have decided to get rid of all dairy and see what happens.

I love sugar, but I’m not sure it loves me back. It makes me feel happy and energized for a little while, only to crash into a cranky, tired mess a bit later. I also suspect it is contributing to the bloating issue. I have gone on a sugar-free diet many times and feel great every time only to return to my demise a few weeks later. This diet does not exclude natural sugar such as fruit–only added sugar. I also do not plan to use things such as honey as it may give me cravings for sugary treats. I use Stevia in my morning tea and that’s about it.

Gluten… I do not believe I have a problem digesting gluten, but I have always been curious how it would be to live on a gluten-free diet. So, what better time to try it than now? I also thought some of my bloating could be from gluten, so I am curious to see how it goes. I am not going to be super strict on this aspect (such as not playing with Play-Doh because it contains gluten), but I am going to avoid ingesting it. After the 21 days are over, I will add gluten back into my diet to see how it effects my digestive system. If it bothers me, I will know I need to eat it in moderation.

Day One:

I ate some ice cream last night, and even though I took lactase with it, I woke up horribly bloated. I stepped on the scale and was seriously annoyed at the extra nine pounds I have gained since last year. I decided to change starting today and did an at-home workout. I was going to make chicken curry for dinner but was crushed to find out it uses wheat flour. I ended up having some amazing Amy’s Kitchen black bean enchiladas for dinner!

Day Two:

I am down a whole pound this morning! My stomach is a little less bloated than it usually is. I was almost out of egg protein powder (yes, that is a thing), and I didn’t really care for it much, so I looked into a plant-based protein. I decided to try Orgain and bought some probiotics as well to hopefully help with the bloating. I tried another meal from Amy’s Kitchen tonight which was “veggie loaf with mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables”. It wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever eaten, but I probably won’t be buying it again…

Day Three:

Down another 1.2 pounds for 2.2 pounds total! My stomach is almost flat this morning. I tried the Orgain protein today for the first time, and it’s definitely a keeper. My son’s birthday is tomorrow, but his father came over tonight to eat some burgers and fries. I wasn’t planning to eat any of the fries, but I found some that were gluten-free and relatively healthy as far as oven fries go, so I had some with my bunless turkey burger. They all had donuts for dessert which I blissfully ignored as I was full on protein and sugar-free peach tea.

Day Four:

Down another 1.4 pounds this morning for 3.6 pounds total! I used to dread getting out of bed in the morning, but now it’s exciting to see how my body is changing day by day. My stomach which usually feels uncomfortable and tight was flat and hungry this morning. As I was making my lunch, I happened to read the back of the peanut jar and was shocked to see the second ingredient was sugar! The same goes for my beloved Sriracha. It’s strange that the nutrition label on both claims, “Added sugar, 0mg”. To stay true to the diet, I will just have to find some “sugar-free” alternatives on my next shopping trip.  

Day Five:

Down 0.6 pounds today for 4.2 total. I’ve been feeling headachy and a little weak off and on since yesterday evening. Maybe it’s sugar withdrawal? My blood sugar dropped today, and I felt shaky and nauseous. I think I’m being so careful to avoid what not to eat that I’m not eating enough calories or something. I’m going to start tracking my meals to make sure I’m getting what my body needs.

Day Six:

Down 0.4 pounds today for 4.6 total in five days! I tried vegan, gluten-free pizza today. It was delicious, but I’m not a huge fan of the vegan “cheese”. No weakness or low blood sugar today, but my afternoon headache returned. My son’s birthday party was today, and I really wanted some of his lemon-filled cake! But I resisted, thankfully.

Day Seven:

Up 0.8 pounds from yesterday even though I didn’t slip up. That just goes to show how much body weight can fluctuate from day to day due to hormones, sodium, water intake, etc. My weight seems to be back to its “set point”, meaning all my bloating is gone and the rest is body fat; so now I know what I am truly working with. No headaches or other bad feelings today. I’m excited for the next two weeks!

Week Two:

I saw somewhere that vegan (dairy-free) chocolate was a thing. So today, I was on a mission to find a sugar-free version. Alas, the only one I could find was online and sold out. I saw a recipe to make my own, but I’ve never been good at candy making. I will see how I feel about it in the next 14 days…

I decided to get the kids take-out for dinner. They wanted Wendy’s, but it seemed the only thing I could have on the menu was salad–if that. So, I got them Wendy’s and I went to Taco Time. I looked at their nutrition information online beforehand to decide. They have tons of gluten-free options! I settled on a cup of white chicken chili which is not only filling but also low calorie, low fat, high protein, and high fiber.

Today is my halfway point! I have noticed that I’m in a bit of a “food rut” lately. I have been eating the same ten or so things over and over because I know they’re “safe”. That may be okay for a 21-day diet, but it’s definitely no way to live. So, today I will go to the store and seek out more variety for my kitchen. I have yet to try gluten-free bread due to its price, but I am craving a sugar-free PB&J, so it just might make it into my cart. *Update- I still could not bring myself to pay nearly six dollars for a ridiculously small loaf of bread, but I did find some juice-sweetened, gluten-free, vegan waffles that are delicious! So, a waffle PB&J sandwich was my lunch today.

My earlier run-in with gluten-free, dairy-free pizza made me want to create my own. This time, I used a prepared gluten-free crust, sautéed veggies, sausage, and no cheese. The flavors turned out great, but I wasn’t too fond of the gluten-free crust. No matter how long I cooked it, it didn’t get very crispy, and it stuck to my teeth more than a regular crust. Overall, the recipe was a success that I will definitely have to make again when my gluten-free phase is finished.

Gluten-free, dairy-free pizza

Week Three

I’m excited to be in my last week because, honestly, I miss chocolate. I’m so glad my bloating has stayed gone since day six. It will be interesting next week to see how gluten affects me, if at all. I am also eager to try some of the non-dairy ice cream I’ve been seeing in the grocery store. One of the big things I have come to realize through this diet is how expensive gluten-free products are. My heart goes out to those who truly have to avoid gluten.

I may have inadvertently cheated on my diet today. My kids and I went to Flaming Geyser State Park and did a little hiking. On the way home, I stopped to get them ice cream at an old-fashioned drive-in. I wasn’t very hungry, but I wanted a snack, so I opted for French fries. I had never been there before, so I didn’t know the fries were battered. I’m fairly sure there was some gluten in there, but I didn’t want to make a big deal about it, so I ate them. Only four more days to go!

Tonight, I tried chickpea pasta for the first time. I really enjoyed it! I added some marinara sauce, andouille sausage, and sweet peas. I also blended some strawberries into my chocolate protein shake; it was delicious. I have noticed I don’t really crave sugar anymore, but I have been wanting carbs more this week­–I blame PMS… I bought a bunch of fruit yesterday and have been snacking on it at will.

Tomorrow is my last day then I will add gluten back in to see how it goes. I have dairy-free pizza fixings ready to go. I have even decided to give vegan “cheese” another try, but I’m not too optimistic to be honest! I will not reincorporate added sugar or any dairy until after I know how gluten affects me. I will likely wait five days.

Adding Gluten Back

Today I can eat wheat again! I thought I would be excited, but since I have become so accustomed to eating a certain way, I am hesitant to change it now. Nevertheless, I will eat a regular pizza crust and maybe some whole wheat waffles to see how I feel.

As far as gluten goes, I ended up eating one whole wheat waffle and half of an 11” cheeseless pizza yesterday. I felt no discomfort whatsoever, but I was afraid I would be bloated this morning. However, I didn’t notice any bloat when I woke up and my weight actually came down 0.6 pounds! I don’t know what happened, but I’ll take it!

For the first time in twenty-four days, I had dessert! Sugar-free shortbread cookies. It felt weird to be eating cookies again, but they were delicious. I also had chicken-fried steak for dinner which was previously off limits due to the breading. I still can’t eat country gravy because of the milk, so that was a bummer. I wonder if I can find a dairy-free recipe for it…

I have reached day five of reincorporating gluten into my diet. I have not had any nausea, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, or weight gain in the last five days. I have concluded that I do not have a gluten sensitivity. Yay! I went to a graduation party tonight which had a ton of cake. I had no desire to eat any at all. Normally, I would have eaten two pieces easily.

What I’ve Learned

*Avoiding sugar and dairy can be hard, but avoiding gluten is downright difficult. Wheat is in almost everything these days, even in foods you wouldn’t expect such as lunch meat and salad dressing. To avoid gluten, I had to be sure to read the label on everything.

*It is challenging to eat at restaurants and avoid gluten. In twenty-one days, I only ate take-out one time (excluding the French fries incident) because I had to either look at the nutrition info online or ask for it in person.

*I got in a “food rut”, eating the same “safe” foods over and over because I knew they were trustworthy.

*On the other hand, when I finally got out of the rut, I got more creative and cooked more- trying new foods that I never would have eaten before like vegan pizza and chickpea pasta.

*Gluten-free food is often more expensive. Through the entire three weeks, I refused to pay nearly six dollars for a tiny loaf of gluten-free bread. Other items were the same price as their regular counterpart, such as pizza crust and crackers.

*Avoiding dairy can be tough as well, especially if you love cheese like I do. Vegan “cheese” just doesn’t pass for cheese in my book. Luckily, I am able to eat regular cheese in small amounts without much issue. I have become accustomed to almond milk and look forward to trying some dairy-free ice cream this summer.

Overall, I am so glad I completed this challenge. I am eating healthier without all the sugar and dairy which was causing me so many issues. I now know for sure that I don’t have an issue digesting gluten and can feel good about eating whole wheat breads and pasta again. I work with many students who have a gluten sensitivity or Celiac disease; and although my short three-week experiment pales in comparison to the diet they must live with, I can now be a little more sympathetic to their plight.

Published by

Yolanda Sommers

Single mother of four children living in Washington state. Received the precious Holy Ghost on June 7, 2011 and living the good life ever since!

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