Over the last few months, I’ve made a major shift in my diet—and (as I was surprised to discover) it actually changed my life. I wanted to share the story with you because it’s taken me on a health journey where I’m learning so much and feeling inspired to create and share so many new recipes with you. The big change? I’ve stopped eating grains. Yes, the girl who’s always been a pizza / sourdough / taco fanatic is no longer eating wheat, corn, quinoa, or any other type of grain at all. Let me explain.
Turns out, eating a grain-free diet healed the gut health issues that have affected me for the last decade. For years, I’ve been plagued with digestive issues that have sent me to countless doctors and practitioners, and surprisingly, simply removing grains from my diet eliminated all my symptoms within days. So today, I’m going to share the biggest changes I’ve seen in my health since going grain-free. My hope is that my story could help some of you on your own health journeys because I believe we all deserve to be living our most high-energy and vibrant lives.
First, watch the video below where I walk you through my journey—I also get into some of the “bonus” healthy habits I’ve been incorporating every day to feel the best I’ve felt in YEARS. Then, scroll on for some of my top grain-free diet and gut health learnings:
Grain-free diet and gut health
If you know me, you know that much of my life revolves around food. I’m a passionate cook, I love to eat, and I create recipe and food content for a living. I’ve always preached the philosophy that there’s room for everything in your diet—and I still believe that—unless those foods are preventing you from living your most vibrant and energized life.
The ONE thing I’ve learned in my years of research about nutrition is that there is no one-size fits all diet. I want to be very clear from the beginning: Grains are not “bad.” Pizza is not “bad.” Sourdough bread is not “bad.” This is all about how specific foods make you feel, and I for one want to be eating in a way that supports my overall health. For my particular digestive system — and I’m learning, a lot of other people’s too — grains can be very hard on the GI tract, and there are a lot of hidden intolerances. This is a little more all-encompassing than a gluten-free diet, and it’s different than having celiac disease or a gluten-intolerance. Eating “grain-free” means eliminating gluten and wheat, and also corn, oats, quinoa, rice, buckwheat, rye, amaranth, and barley.
Dr. William Davis says in his book Super Gut (which I highly recommend for anyone dealing with unresolved digestive issues):
“Wheat and grain elimination removes an extravagant source of intestinal inflammation and begins the process of healing your GI tract. ”
He goes on to explain:
Gliadin (a protein found in wheat) is directly toxic to the intestinal wall. Removing gliadin thereby removes a potent bowel toxin. Gliadin also breaks down normal intestinal barriers, allowing foreign substances, including gliadin itself, entry into the bloodstream…
Just as opioid drugs such as oxycodone and morphine cause constipation, so do gliadin-derived opioids slow intestinal peristalsis and cause constipation. Slowed peristalsis is a major issue in many cases of SIBO, and it can be reversed in the majority with wheat and grain elimination… Just by eliminating all wheat and grains, many people report complete relief or marked improvement of bowel urgency, acid reflux, heartburn, and constipation.”
My gut health history
One thing I haven’t shared a lot about on the internet (until now) is my long-standing gut health issues. Yes, talking about sluggish digestion and extreme bloating is personal, but statistics show that nearly half of women struggle with digestive issues, so I think it’s time we normalize these conversations.
I actually don’t know the cause of my digestive issues. After seeing functional doctors, GI doctors, and undergoing lots of testing—no one has ever been able to give me an actual diagnosis (which is the case for most people suffering from digestive issues.) So like so many of you, I’m left to act as my own guinea pig and keep searching for something to help me feel better. And let me tell you, I have tried some things, including:
- Basically every supplement and probiotic on the market
- Intermittent fasting
- Food combining
- At-home SIBO tests
- Making my own probiotic yogurt
- Hypnotherapy – yes, there is actually a school of hypnotherapy that claims to be able to heal the gut-brain axis and when you read about it, it makes a lot of sense, but it didn’t help me.
- Tons of different elimination diets to see if it was a food allergy (no gluten, dairy, lectins, meat, night shades—but never cutting out all grains altogether).
Even after all that, I still struggled with the same issues. I would sometimes think that I found a solution and then I would end up right back where I started, dealing with the same old issues for weeks on end.
What happened when I stopped eating grains
The solution came during one of my worst bouts of continuous bloating and sluggish digestion. I was re-reading Super Gut and came to the line where Dr. Davis said, “Removing wheat and grains yields substantial improvements in GI health that aid in your efforts to reverse dysbiosis, SIBO, and SIFO and regain overall health.”
Since I’d tried just about everything else, I figured, what did I have to lose? So, starting that very day, I didn’t eat any grains at all. It may sound restrictive, but thankfully I love so many things that aren’t in this category: fruits, vegetables, cheese, olive oil, avocados, meat, fish, pasta made with chickpeas.
I was still eating deliciously and abundantly, and here’s the part that is SO crazy I would not have believed it if I hadn’t experienced it personally: within 48 hours, my gut health issues that had plagued me for over a decade were completely resolved. And stayed that way. Over the next 3 months, I followed my grain-free diet and felt better than I had in years. My energy was sky high, I slept great, I had a normal appetite instead of feeling uncomfortably full all the time, and my stomach was flatter than I could ever remember (even though I hadn’t actually lost weight.) I felt amazing.
Will I ever eat grains again?
The truthful answer is: I don’t know. Being the food lover that I am, I have tried reincorporating some of my favorites. The first thing I tried was corn, because, living in Austin—tacos are life. Our family went out for Mexican, I ate some delicious corn tortillas, and… the next morning, my digestion was off. So I got back on the grain-free wagon and within about a day, I was back on track.
The next thing I tried—a few bites of pizza, which I’m gonna admit, is my favorite food. But again, I woke up the next morning feeling the old bloat and I realized that no matter how good a few bites of pizza tasted in the moment, it wasn’t worth it for me to feel sluggish and gross all day. I loved the new way that I was feeling SO MUCH, that giving up some foods, even foods that I loved, was 100% worth it to feel this good.
And that brings us to the present! I think that I’ll try reintroducing grains in the future to see what happens, but right now I feel so good, I’m gonna stay off grains for the foreseeable future. It’s important for me to transparently share my journey with you because, although going grain-free may not work for everyone, I hope it can help someone. If you have unresolved gut issues, why not try eliminating grains for a week and just see how you feel?
Our gut health has a massive impact on our mood and energy levels, so taking time to figure out what works for your body is WORTH IT. And if you’re one of the many people also struggling with gut health issues, I promise that you really can feel great again. Keep looking for answers and experimenting until you find what works for you.
Leave me a comment if this resonates—I’d love to hear about your struggles in this area, what’s worked for you, and if you’d like to hear more about my grain-free journey! I have so many recipes and meal planning tips for this way of eating that I would love to share.