This is the third and final part in a short series about my gluten-free experiment. In part one I talked about the more existential side of things, and in part two I described the success I’ve had so far in going gluten-free. This third and final part will lay out my next steps.
As I described yesterday, I had some seriously good results from going GF. I have many other friends who have had similar good results, and I bless them and wish them the best. But although my results were good, but I wouldn’t call them conclusive. Therefore I have good reason to try reintroducing gluten to see what happens. But I don’t see any reason to just jump right back into the world of refined, factory-farmed flours to see if I feel sick. With what I know about them now, I would almost definitely feel sick, even if it was just psychosomatic!
I am going to finally see my doctor in a week. I know, bad bad bad Rebecca making a major dietary change without consulting a doctor. I had reasons. (I was supposed to see her two days ago, and started this series in anticipation of getting her input, but she had a family emergency and had to cancel.) I expect my doctor to want me to take the official celiac test, biopsy and all. Whether I can do that depends on my insurance, and I think it also requires you to go back to eating gluten for a while first. So while I research the insurance side of things, I have another idea for an experiment.
Because, I have to be honest with you: For ethical and aesthetic reasons, I don’t want to be gluten free forever unless I absolutely have to. I am still very drawn toward traditional diets. Not paleo-type traditional – I don’t want to get all judgy-pants about it, but I just don’t buy the historical argument for paleo, and I don’t think the planet can afford us eating the quantity of meat that we would need to consume to get enough calories without any grain. I have more of an ideological affinity with in-recorded-history type traditions. And within my Anglo-Germanic heritage, at least, there is a very long history of subsisting largely off wheat bread. I am also not ethically comfortable with choosing a diet that is only possible because of my upper-middle class background. I think those of us interested in whole foods should be pioneering ways of wholly (holy?) eating that are accessible to everyone.
So, I am beginning to explore the whole Nourishing Traditions thing. Why? I’m not really convinced by the whole phytates argument. But, supposedly, there are actual traditions behind the whole grains-soaking practice, though that’s definitely debated. And, also, there is at least one promising (if very small) study that suggests gluten intolerance may be mitigated by soaking grains. (I can’t find the study again or I’d link to it, but I did find a reference to another small study on gluten intolerance being mitigated by fermented preparation (sourdough).)
On one level, this just feels like I’m walking into the next car on the crazy train. But I am going to fight the crazy with all the objective measurement at my disposal: by keeping a close eye on my basal body temperatures, and on my hands. There was one week in March when my psoriasis started to come back, and the only thing I could trace it to was that I had eaten Crispix for breakfast all that week. (Crispix has no glutenous ingredients, but is not labeled GF, and all such non-certified cereal-things are always a risk for cross-contamination.) I took the Crispix out, and a week later the psoriasis was gone again. A little weak for an objective measure, but it’s what I’ve got.
I bought some farro wheat berries and some hard white wheat berries, and I’m starting as crunchy-sprouty-earthy as you can get. Like, taking an ancient grain (modern grains are not GMO, but are mutanogenic – forced to mutate by exposing them to nasty things like radiation and toxic chemicals. This is probably worse than GMO), sprouting it, drying it, and grinding it myself. I figure I’ll make a loaf a week, eat a couple slices a day, and if at any point my psoriasis starts coming back or my temps drop for more than a couple days, I’ll back up a step. Certainly if I make it to the end of this regimen without any symptoms coming back, I’ll have enough gluten in my system to do a celiac test!
- Week 1: Sprouted ancient wheat berries (farro or einkorn are the most accessible; I got farro because it’s cheaper)
- Week 2: Sprouted modern wheat berries
- Week 3: Soaked ancient hand-ground wheat flour – sourdough
- Week 4: Soaked modern hand-ground wheat flour – sourdough
- Week 5: Soaked modern store-bought wheat flour – sourdough
- Week 5: Soaked ancient hand-ground wheat flour – regular
- Week 6: Soaked modern hand-ground wheat flour – regular
- Week 7: Soaked modern store-bought wheat flour – regular
- Week 8: Store-bought whole wheat bread
I think that accounts for most of the variables I can think of. I need to find someone to help me out in the sourdough starter department. Grinding is the diciest part of the equation, as my only grinding equipment is the little hand-crank grinder we use to grind our coffee in the morning. It’s very precise and capable, but it already takes me 3 minutes to grind 6 tablespoons of coffee beans in the morning. Grinding enough wheat for a loaf will take an hour! The upside is, that little grinder can easily be very thoroughly cleaned. If I do manage to keep it up for five of the above eight weeks, at least I’ll be motivated to buy a proper grinder if we decide to stick with fresh ground flour. The second diciest part of the equation will be dehydrating those poor sprouted wheat berries. We don’t have a functioning dehydrator, so it’ll be touch-and-go in our oven – which seems a very wasteful way to dehydrate, but it’s only two batches. If we decide we need to do this, we will definitely invest in a dehydrator. (Thank goodness I didn’t go to Maryland Sheep & Wool festival this year, so I still have my birthday money!)
So it’s a bit of a project. You’ll be hearing more about it as it progresses, and probably about other food issues as well, with my particular reflective/theological bent. And to the rest of the world, I will still be gluten free, unless my friends feel like buying Ezekiel 4:9 bread. But if there’s anything my enormous final project on food ethics has taught me, it’s that food is worth lingering over. Not obsessing, but investing in, for the glory of God and love of neighbor. So I’m doing it for the babies and the bread. For the history and the health. And just a little bit for the fun of it.