Perfect Health Diet: The Results Are In, Part II

Why We’re No Longer Going Gluten-free

Short version: Some improvements.  Not a panacea.  Not following it closely this year.  (You can read part 1 of this post here.)

Long version:

I want to preface this by very clearly stating that we did not follow the diet exactly, or even close to exactly.  

We started out being “good” even when eating out or eating at other people’s houses.  But that fell by the wayside real fast.  And even when eating at home, we had some weeks where we fell off the wagon completely.

But for the most part, I followed the Perfect Health Diet for the meals and snacks I prepared at home for Pat and me, which make up 80- 90% of our food consumption every week.

My main reason for trying this in the first place was to help tame my sugar cravings and food addiction tendencies.

  • Result: Improved.
    • Not surprisingly, the less I eat sugar and processed foods, the less I crave them.  But the problem has not gone away completely, not by a long shot.
    • If I eat balanced meals (protein and carbs), I experience fewer cravings.
      • Not enough protein –> hungry between meals;
      • Not enough carbohydrate –> sugar cravings between meals.
    • I did seem to experience less hunger and fewer cravings when taking all the supplements that the PHD recommends, but I haven’t been doing this long or consistently enough to tell for sure.  Taking all the supplements recommended–plus a few that I’ve added for various reasons–is just too much for me to keep up.
This isn't even all of them.

This isn’t even all of them.

  • Energy/ overall sense of wellbeing: Honestly, not a huge difference.
  • Weight: Pat lost ~ 12 pounds but has started to gain it back.  I did not lose any.

  • Plan going forward: Keep following most of the general principles but not the Perfect Health Diet per se, particularly, because . . .

We’re just not gluten intolerant.

(Double negatives . . . hmmm. “We’re gluten tolerant.”  Is that better?)

We eat a lot of meat and rice and potatoes and vegetables, and that’s all well and good.  But often enough I made pizza or pancakes or pasta or muffins, and used gluten-free ingredients for them.  This requires additional expense and effort.  I found myself thinking, “Why am I bothering with this when we tolerate gluten just fine?”  I can’t come up with a good enough answer here.

(For a while I thought Girl 2’s eczema was caused my wheat, but I’ve since concluded that it isn’t.  Also, Pat’s weight loss seemed possibly due to cutting out gluten.  But given that he shows no other signs of gluten intolerance, I’m not so sure.)

The Perfect Health Diet book is insistent that all grains and legumes, other than rice and a few less common ones, are bad for all of us, in general.  I found this one of the least convincing sections.  But then, I don’t have a scientific background, nor did I do much additional research on the issue.

Regardless, it’s a lot of effort to avoid grains without a specific health problem as motivation.  Going forward, I’m going to direct my energies elsewhere.

I want to keep up the following:

  • Avoiding processed sugar as much as possible, and using honey, maple syrup, etc. only sparingly.
  • Avoiding processed foods (chips, crackers, breakfast cereal, etc.)
  • Avoiding vegetable oils (corn, soybean, etc.) and instead using butter, coconut oil, and olive oil.
  • Keeping most of our meals meat-and-vegetable based, and not making many meals based on pasta, bread, or other grains.
  • Continuing to take supplements, but just the ones that most directly address my specific nutritional needs/concerns, rather the full panoply recommended by the PHD.

This past year brought into focus one issue very clearly: my food issues (and mood and energy levels and  overall well-being) are influenced very strongly by hormones.  I can be “good” for several weeks and then it comes to be that time of the month before that other time of the month and *bam*


So my priority for the coming year is to address this issue, and I’ll be blogging about it more in the coming weeks.

22 thoughts on “Perfect Health Diet: The Results Are In, Part II

  1. I’m interested to hear about your search for hormone balance. Here’s a book I’ve been meaning to read that sounds like one of the more intriguing “get your hormones in balance” books. I haven’t read it yet, but I’m hoping to soon. It’s The Woman Code, by Alisa Vitti

    There’s also the Hormone Cure, by Sarah Gottfried. Again, haven’t read it yet.

  2. Thanks for sharing your experience. I can relate a lot of what you said about not enough protein and you get hungry between meals and not enough carbs and you have sugar cravings between meals.

    As far as hormones go, there is a good book called Fertility, Cycles and Nutrition which I have found helpful. I found certian nutritional things (like lots of B vitamins and Mg) did help with things like PMS for me.

  3. You are reading my mind! I’ve had a lot of the same thoughts after about a year and half of doing a Paleo-ish diet. I don’t think I have a gluten or dairy allergy, and I think any weight I’ve lost has been more from avoiding processed food in general than from avoiding gluten or dairy specifically. I’m still looking for a diet to help me balance my hormones (and insulin in particular, which I was surprised to find that my Paloe-ish diet didn’t really help with). I’m interested to hear your follow up!

  4. Okay, so, confession time. I found your blog a couple months ago via some linky we had both participated in. (I am a slacker, though, and don’t blog nearly as often as I’d like to.) I felt like a stalker, but as I read through your recent posts and even some of your older posts, after alternately laughing and saying , yes! aloud in agreement to I don’t even remember what, I found myself wondering, “Why do I not know Laura better in real life? She is so funny and real and honest!”
    Anywho, about the topic at hand. The gluten-free movement is huge and very recent. From my limited nutritional research, as well as personal experience, most people do not need to be gluten free. Those who are gluten intolerant or gluten sensitive should endeavor to heal the gut with the long-term goal of being able to add gluten-containing foods back into their diet.
    One of the problems with simply going gluten-free is that all gluten-containing grains are then lost as a nutritional source, and substitutes often lack the nutritional depth of the grains they are replacing (is potato starch really better for us than whole grain flour?)
    That being said, improperly prepared grains comprise almost the totality of grains consumed in the typical American diet, and it takes a degree of research and work to learn about proper grain preparation as well as how and where to source these foods.
    We all should be eating properly prepared grains – typically, that means soaked, sprouted or fermented (i.e. sourdough breads, overnight soaked oatmeal, etc.) even if we seem to tolerate gluten just fine.
    The best source of nutritional/ dietary information I’ve found is (to start) is the very scientifically-based Weston A Price Foundation as well as the many great blogs from those who follow some combination of WAPF/ paleo / primal dietary guidelines, such as Healthy Home Economist, Food Renegade, Nourished Kitchen etc.
    It’s my goal to do a better job this year than last when it come s to my family’s diet. No matter our ideals, the nitty-gritty of daily meals and snacks for a family makes shortcuts more than just a temptation — sometimes, they seem necessary to save sanity. I hope this year to be able to plan ahead each week, make more nutritious meals and snacks every day, and also shower now and then.
    Best wishes for a happy, healthy 2014!

    • You know, I see what you’re saying, Maria. It’s frustrating to see a fad unnecessarily causing trouble and overspending. I’m delighted to hear that Laura can go back to gluten!

      But I disagree with you, Maria, that there’s something nutritionally wrong with a gluten-free diet. The fact is that you can eat well or poorly with gluten or well or poorly without it. Plenty of gluten-free flours are whole-grain based: brown rice flour, sorghum flour, garbanzo bean flour, cornmeal, etc. In fact, avoiding gluten (if you’re not eating gluten-free processed foods and starchy boxed mixes, which have the same problems as ordinary processed foods and mixes) often requires eating a greater variety of whole grains, rather than just wheat, which seems like a healthy thing to do.

      It’s also important to remember that some people are truly sensitive to or intolerant of gluten, and that that number seems to have increased over the past few decades (and not just in those people’s imaginations, but in reality), and that gluten-intolerance is not necessarily reversible. And of course, for people with celiac disease, it is imperative that they avoid gluten entirely for the rest of their lives. As a fad diet, eating gluten-free is just another gimmick, but it is also a way of eating that is demonstrably important for some people’s health. So count your lucky stars if you get to keep eating wheat, because it sure is hard having to avoid it!

      • You know, what you said about how gluten intolerance being on the rise is fascinating and troubling. Is it genetic modification? Environmental changes? Something else? And why do some people develop an intolerance later in life, as my mom did? Very curious. In sure there’s a lot written about it but, since its not an immediate issue for us, I’ve barely scratched the surface.

      • You know, it’s so fascinating: actually, most people don’t develop it until they are adults, and they develop it at a whole range of ages. That’s even true of celiac disease! Crazy.

  5. You know – I think I’ve gone through spurts of taking an ungodly amount of supplements because I’m afraid of not living long enough. Long enough? Not sure what “long enough” would be, though! LIVING right NOW is long enough, really. When I really think of it, LIVING and enjoying my life right now is what makes me happiest. Not weighing myself every morning and bemoaning how “fat” I am and then going to the bowl of M&M’s and grabbing a handful. Counting points in WW’s really began to depress me. I’d rather be counting out the seven-hundred twenty 2.5″ squares I have to cut out for my next quilt, thank you very much. And gluten? I don’t believe I’m intolerant anyhow. Sure, I have bursitis. I’m 56 years old – I’d be surprised if I didn’t have SOME slats falling out! I can’t and don’t read about nutritional trends – I’ve been tempted to, but am resisting, for instance, purchasing a book called “Sugar Busters” or something. I know I have a problem with sugar – but, like you I do okay if I just focus on eating good and balanced, traditional meals. Same with my family. But what kills me is how much effort and anxiety I put into feeding George (who was a very picky eater) and he’s almost 31 now and eating whatever s**t he wants to and paying for his own dental work – so it’s like I never existed. All that anxiety and food-nutrition consciousness didn’t pay off as far as my oldest was concerned. AND last but not least – I LOVE your writing/blog, Laura. Makes me feel like I never fully appreciated who you were [enough] when you were growing up. Love you!

  6. Thanks for the update! We haven’t committed to any of the currently popular diets (paleo, gluten-free, phd), because for one, I just love my dairy, legumes, and whole grains. We do try to do as much lean protein/veggies/whole grain as possible, and I’ve switched my dinner plans to try to be a lean protein, two veggies, and maybe a grain, maybe not, instead of my old habit of protein, veggie, and grain/starch. That has made a difference, I think.
    Anyway, thanks for sharing your findings. I also am learning more and more how much hormones influence EVERYTHING regardless of my eating/sleeping/exercise habits. Interesting all the things NFP can teach you.

  7. I just don’t understand why some of these books say legumes aren’t healthy? They’re a natural plant (peanuts, beans, etc.), and I’ve read so many other books that say beans are GREAT for you and very healthy?

    • In short, legumes have toxins, are hard for people to digest (as anyone knows), and are an inferior source of protein. They also have a lot of calories so it’s easy to overeat with them.

      Here’s the blurb on legume toxicity from the perfect health diet page on toxic foods and bowel disease (there are sources cited on that page, link below):

      “Legumes also contain an array of toxins which suspend digestion and damage the gut. Some examples:

      Phytohaemagglutinin, a kidney bean lectin, makes the gut leaky; blocks stomach acid production, promoting bacterial overgrowth of the small intestine; overpopulates the gut with immature cells that are easily colonized by E. coli and other pathogens; disturbs the mucus and shortens villi. [16]
      Alpha-amylase inhibitors in legumes prevent starch digestion and leads to gut bloating and multiplication of pathogenic gut bacteria. [17]
      Antibodies to soy proteins have been identified in duodenitis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and coeliac disease, and these diseases are sometimes cured when soy is removed from the diet. [18]
      It should be noted that peanut and soybean allergies are among the most common allergies. This testifies to the significant immune response legume toxins can generate.”

      that same page also discusses wheat toxicity, cereal grain toxicity, and omega-6 toxicity.

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