Anyway enough about me, lets get on to the blog post for today. During my recent disappearance, i went to Singapore and was chatting with my brother in law about the South Beach Diet which was created by Dr. Agatston. My brother in law has been on it for awhile and has seen amazing results. He bought this huge encyclopedia kind of book which details the South Beach Diet and how to go about it. During his reading, he came across the topic of gluten and he thought it would be beneficial to me.
As some of you may or may not know, i have a pretty sensitive stomach and i get bloated very easily. At first i thought it was lactose intolerance and avoided milk completely. Yes, it gets a lot worse when i consume too much milk. So i have been living a lactose free life for the longest time. Yup, spicy food upsets it as well. So though i can eat some amount, going overboard is never a good idea. One good habit i have developed from all this is is eating regular meals. If i skip meals, then my gas get really bad. There are times when my gas is so bad to the point where it looks like i swallowed a watermelon whole. But anyway, to cut the chit chat short, there are times when i eat sensibly and still get bloating - meaning, no milk, non spicy food, regular times but there is still tremendous amount of bloating. But i can't seem to put my finger on what seems to be causing it.
And then when my brother in law was reading about gluten and how many people have problems with digesting gluten, it looked like that could be the key to my bloating. Hence i thought i would try a gluten free diet. Sound familiar?
But what exactly is a gluten free diet? Well to understand that, lets first figure out what the heck gluten is. In short, gluten is a kind of protein found in wheat, barley and rye among other carbohydrates. Gluten is a sticky kind of substance which helps to give bread its nice soft and fluffy texture. Without gluten, your bread would be hard and stiff.
So to be gluten free, you need to avoid any foods that contain wheat, barley and rye. Now i am not concerned with barley and rye, because that is not something that most of us consume on a daily basis. So i can check that off my menu right now and there would be no difference. But wheat, yes, now there's a challenge. At first, avoiding wheat seemed simple enough, but then you realize that the modern world depends on wheat so much. Lets look at some of the foods that contain wheat:-
- Bread - That's a no brainer. This includes all kinds of bread and buns but sourdough. Will explain shortly. So no more sandwiches, no more Subway.
- Chappati & naan - One of my favourite foods.
- Tortillas - Yup... mexican food out the window
- Pizzas - Not that i eat it everyday, but hey, once in awhile is nice.
- Noodles - Yup... almost all noodles (kuey teow included) are made from wheat. Except mee hun, which of all the noodles are the ones i like the least. how ironic
- Batter - any food that is battered and fried is a no no. Why? because they use wheat for the batter
- Cakes - Yup, no more birthday cake. Unless its flourless cake
- Burgers - i love burgers. Its out for 2 reasons. 1 - the bun, 2 - the patty itself. People always mix the meat with some form of carbohydrate and it is usually wheat flour.
- Pastries - Curry puffs and such. Again, not that i eat it all the time, but hey, nice to have once in a while.
- Pasta - Yup. They use wheat for that too.
- Biscuits and cookies - Can you make cookies without flour?
- Muesli - This really depends on what they mix into the muesli. If they stir in wheat germ then its a definite no. Rye, out the window. Some people are even debating on whether oats is considered gluten free or not. To be safe, you should avoid it. And i was just beginning to enjoy these muesli bars that i like to snack on.
- Cereal - Yup. That's out too. Almost all cereal is made from wheat.
I am going to stop here, but the list goes on and on - and i am sure you get the picture. Its kinda hard to eat out, since i now have a very limited choice. Its really hard when we go for western food. So what can i consume? Safest and most readily available carbohydrate which is gluten free in Malaysia is - your guessed it. RICE. Here's the thing. I am not a big fan of rice and have never been. But to be safe i can only eat rice.
So i tried out the diet but would slip every once in awhile. 2 days and then accidentally eat something and realize ooops, that has gluten in it. I am still kinda new to this but getting a hang of it. The longest i managed was 4 days straight where i was very very careful with what i took. The results? Well the bloating is less, but its not 100% gone. On the 4th day of being gluten free, after dinner, i suddenly got a bad case of gas. Not sure why, when i was very careful with my food. So i am still not sure if i do in fact have a problem digesting gluten or not. According to the South Beach Diet, the first phase of the diet, you should only consume lean proteins, fruits and vegetables. Many people who tried the diet said that during the first phase of the diet, they had no symptoms of excessive gas or bloating. So i am now trying to see if i can run it through properly for 2 weeks. So far today, its been my 2nd straight day after the weekend. So lets hope i stick through the whole 2 weeks and then i shall decide if my gas is due to gluten or not.
So what kind of carbohydrates can you consume if you are on a gluten free diet? Well here are some of the popular ones which we can get anywhere.
Rice - Its Malaysia. So that's easy. Anything made with rice flour is a thumbs up.
Potatoes - Yup. Potatoes are gluten free too. Again, potato flour / starch is OK.
Corn - Corn flour and corn starch gets a thumbs up too.
Since i love chappatis and can't eat regular chapattis, i have been experimenting at home on making gluten free chappatis with rice flour mixed with corn flour. So far, they have all come out hard and stiff like an over sized papaddom. But i will keep trying and when i get the recipe right, i will post it up here. Sure, there are loads of recipes on line, but some of them ask for ingredients which cannot be found here in Malaysia.
Why is sourdough bread OK? Though sourdough is made from wheat, it goes through a fermentation process first (which gives it its unique sour taste) before it is baked. This fermentation process helps to break down more than 90% of the gluten and thus reducing the quantity of gluten so its safe to consume. However, you should buy sourdough from a reputable baker because some bakers today take a shortcut by making a normal loaf of bread and then just add in an acidic souring agent to give the taste before baking. No fermentation means its still high in gluten.
So now you know a little more about what gluten is and what a gluten free diet is all about. If you do suffer from gastric symptoms like me, do give it a try and see if it works for you. Having lived with my gastric problem for more than 12 years now, i know how irritating it can be sometimes. If it works for you, great. If not, the search continues. As usual, look forward to hearing your comments.
PS: I am helping to organize a "Charity Walk & Workout" in Lake Gardens, KL on April 15 at 6:30am to 9:30am. Will post up details soon. If you are free, please book your calendars and come along with your friends and family. It will be a fun event for all with lucky draws, healthy breakfast and tips on how to lose weight quickly.