Have you ever made a radical lifestyle change? I don’t think I ever have. Like most people, I’m not good at sustaining new habits. I never bother with New Years resolutions on the basis that I will never stick to them. But somehow, last week, I decided that I was going to give up white flour and, since then, I don’t think I’ve had any. This is a very strange state of affairs.
As you will know if you have read previous posts on this blog, I like to bake and I like to eat the results of my baking, see here, here and here. I’ve never been one to turn down cake, or scones, or a nice, freshly made sandwich. This week I have said “No thank you” to each of these and truthfully, it hasn’t felt like a hardship.
So what precipitated this change of diet? I had a bit of a ‘light bulb moment’ last week while doing my shopping, a ‘moment of clarity’ if you like. I decided that something had to be giving me the terrible stomach ache that I was suffering from. Not only that, I realised that only I could do something about it. It sounds simple doesn’t it? So many people swear by cutting out wheat and dairy that I thought it must be time to give it a try. I figured that I could do it as a late ‘give something up for Lent’ activity, as there are only a few weeks left.
As I mooched through the supermarket my plan changed. I would not be too radical to start with. Cutting out dairy would be a big challenge for me. I can’t explain why but I have a real aversion to the dairy substitutes that are on the market. I don’t mean that I don’t like the taste of them, I mean I can hardly even bring myself to try them! Nevertheless, I decided that I would buy some soya yoghurts and tell the Middle Miss they were a new treat for her. She would have no idea that she was being a guinea pig. If she took one mouthful and said “Yuk”, I wouldn’t have any, but if she approved it, I would just have one spoonful, to start me off.
Middle Miss tucked into her yoghurt so I said “Could I just have a little taste please….”
Of course, if you have ever tasted one of these yoghurts, you will know that I was mentally making a big fuss about nothing. If I had been doing a blind tasting, I don’t think I could have told the difference between soya yoghurt and regular, dairy yoghurt. I’m still not keen on the idea of them but at least now I know that it’s completely irrational. I can keep working on my ‘dairy substitute phobia’ by trying one now and again. I may eventually summon up the courage to try some sort of milk substitute, any recommendations gratefully accepted.
So, back to the supermarket….
These days it is reasonably easy to buy products that are free of gluten or wheat. I picked up a bag of own brand wheat free pasta (there’s no way I could survive without pasta) and continued into the home baking section. I wanted to get a bag of wheat free bread flour. If I was going to go wheat free, I would have to get back into the habit of using my bread making machine.
Unfortunately for me, Tesco had run out of wheat free bread flour so I went for the next best thing – spelt flour. I have heard lots of good things about spelt bread, specifically that it is sometimes easier for the gut to tolerate than modern wheat flour. A bag of organic spelt flour is not a cheap thing; 1kg costs £1.99. That translates into about two loaves. However, a loaf of standard, industrial sliced white bread costs over a pound. I bought a bag and later that day, I made my first loaf.
As you can see, I only made the dough in the bread machine, I baked it in the conventional oven. I was pleased with the result, though it wouldn’t have won any prizes; the middle was slightly underdone. When the children came home after school, the loaf was demolished fairly quickly. I was amazed. I didn’t think the ‘brown-ness’ of it would appeal to them at all.
Since then, spelt bread is the only bread I have eaten. Considering that I am a big fan of toast (see here), I think I have done well to stick to my intentions. If I have needed a quick snack I have taken to eating rice cakes instead. When I look back and think of the amount of processed white flour I would normally have eaten, I am quite shocked.
What is more, when I consider the number of cakes, scones, biscuits and pastries that I have turned down this week I realise how much sugar and fat I have also avoided consuming.
Now so far I’ve been eating my new diet for just over a week and a strange thing has happened. Normally I suffer with the most horrible, pre-menstrual headaches. Last month I had a nagging headache and a feeling of being cold and tired for at least five days. This month I have not had a single symptom. If this change of diet has cured me I will stick with it forever! These hormonal headaches have bothered most of the women of my family. I am the third generation (at least) to have suffered from them.
Last night I did a google search and came up with some interesting results.
According to www.womentowomen.com
“The mineral magnesium and vitamin B2 (riboflavin) have both likewise been demonstrated to decrease migraine frequency in people who normally have multiple migraines a month. By effective, we mean at least a 50% reduction in migraine frequency.”
So I checked out the nutritional value of spelt flour and guess what…
“Spelt is also a good source of calcium, magnesium, selenium, zinc, iron, and manganese. It has vitamin E and B-complex vitamins too (especially niacin)” For the source of this information see here
And then this came from www.migraine101.com
“If your blood sugar is not steady and goes extremely up and down, this will also trigger a migraine headache. The extreme varying of blood sugar causes a corresponding increase and decrese in blood insulin. The wide varying of blood insulin causes the release of epinephrine (adrenaline) and norephineprine (noradrenaline). The adrenaline and noradrenaline release causes the vessels in your brain to contract and expand. The vessels contracting and expanding is implicated in causing a migraine headache.
Here again, estrogen dominance has been shown to cause insulin resistance. Women taking estrogen had a 31 percent lower utilization rate of insulin compared to postmenopausal women not on estrogen replacement therapy.  In other words, excess estrogen causes your body to become less sensitive to insulin. Thus, for a given sugar load your body has to produce more insulin. More variation in insulin, more variation in adrenaline and noradrenaline, more vessel expansion and contraction gives rise to more migraine headache.
The link to estrogen dominance as a contributor to diabetes type II and insulin resistance is clearly seen in the side effects of birth control pills. Some diabetes type II women blood sugars are greatly affected by birth control pills. Also anecdotally, many women that I have treated with natural progesterone have been able to lower their requirements for their diabetes medication.”
If I understood that correctly, the kind of hormonal migraine that my family is prone to is potentially exacerbated by too much sugar in the diet.
Could it really be that cutting out this flour (or perhaps the attendant sugar) is having such an instant and positive effect on my health?
I suppose I will just have to stick with it and see what happens next month. After all, it’s not such a hardship, eating fresh, home-baked bread.