I’m embarking on a gluten and dairy elimination process and want to offer my research to you. Please note that this article and the accompanying spreadsheets are just sharing my personal research and plan; I am not a medical professional. Feel free to use what’s helpful to you, but please consult your doctor before making any decisions.
My health and weight history
In 2010 I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and started taking medication to treat it. For the following 10 years, I didn’t change my dosage and didn’t have issues with weight nor other symptoms. My weight fluctuated between 160-170lb which is pretty normal for my 5’11” height. When I got married in September of 2017, I was 155 pounds.
In January of 2019 I had started to gain weight (180lb), and that year I conceived my first pregnancy. In the aftermath of losing that pregnancy, my thyroid became imbalanced for the first time since starting the medication in 2010 and I started to have sudden symptoms (acne, digestive issues and hemorrhoids, 10lb weight gain, mood changes). In 2020 my thyroid leveled out and I got pregnant in April, at about 190 pounds. I was back to my original dosage of my thyroid medication and stayed there through pregnancy and the first 9 months of postpartum.
I gained a lot of weight when pregnant — I was 250 pounds the day my son was born in January 2021. A week postpartum, I dropped 30lb. By April I was down 20 more, to 200lb — almost my pre-pregnancy weight. But when I weaned from breastfeeding in September of 2021, I gained 25 pounds over the following 8 months. During this time, I was working out 3 times a week, regularly increasing my medication dosage, and fluctuated between eating really well and eating pretty well (trying to avoid dieting, but also trying really hard to make some lifestyle shifts). Overall I was doing more than I had done in the past to lose weight and it wasn't happening. Instead, I was gaining weight and my thyroid continued to be out of balance. I was diagnosed with Hashimotos (an autoimmune disease in which your body actively attacks your thyroid) in 2022 at age 34, about a year after my baby was born.
Back to present day, it has felt nearly impossible to have influence over my weight and other increasing symptoms, which has lead me to this: day 1 of my elimination diet.
Making the decision
I didn’t take my doctor’s advice to do an elimination diet right away. It took a few months. There were several things getting in my way. First, I was afraid that if it “worked,” I’d have to stop eating/drinking things I love for the rest of my life. I constantly called Hashimotos and living gluten-free and dairy-free a “life sentence.” It was also summer and I didn’t want to travel and host parties with restrictions. Finally, knowing I wanted to get pregnant again soon, I wanted to enjoy the food and drinks I wouldn’t enjoy while pregnant (mostly because of food aversions, but also, beer!)
The list of things that finally pushed me to start is long: volatile and uncontrollable weight gain, hair loss, brain fog (bad enough that I forget what I am about to say after I start talking), decreased tolerance for exercise, muscle fatigue, joint pain and swelling, way less motivation to hustle around the clock like I’m used to, fear of constantly increasing my medication dosage to chase down my TSH, and generally feeling bloated/swollen/crappy really often.
Testing the waters
I started to cope with the loss of my favorite foods and combat overwhelm with low-pressure exploration of more gluten-free and dairy-free products so that when I began my elimination diet, it wouldn’t be so daunting and defeating. I started experimenting with oat, almond, and coconut milk at coffee shops. I cooked with gluten free pasta (I really like chickpea from Banza). I tried dairy free ice cream and found that coconut milk is generally an amazing substitute for dairy. I bought soy sauce alternatives to start comparing — tamari, liquid aminos, coconut aminos. Bad news, I personally think they all suck compared to the real deal. But maybe I’ll whip up some kind of little dipping vinegar for my sashimi instead. I found some gluten free pizza crusts to try which I plan to top with olive oil, garlic, shrimp, and pine nuts, or, make it into a thai pizza with homemade gluten-free peanut sauce. Finally, I bought dairy free butter and even having it on a gluten-free toasted waffle is pretty not bad. All in all, I built my confidence. I filled my toolbelt.
I set my start date for just after a blowout party where I could indulge in beer and cheese and bread. My main summer obligations had passed and I had a month off from work with more flexibility to cook for myself. The conditions were prime.
First, I did as I always do and created a plan. I started with my DO eat list. These are the foods that will get me through this; things I love and can look forward to, like chicken, steak, fish, hummus, rice, chickpea pasta coconut cream, sashimi, wine, and mezcal. My plan is hinged around finding abundance in those rather than feeling limited by what I can’t have. I also listed out naturally anti-inflammatory foods to increase intake of. Next, I got pretty clear on DON’T eat foods. You’d be astounded by the number of seemingly GF/DF products that actually have one or the other hidden in them. As part of the DON’T exercise, I created a column to list alternatives to anything I didn’t want to give up, like chocolate and beer.
the DO eat list
the DON'T eat list
Then, I created a list of my favorite takeout dishes that I assumed to be GF/DF and will get into the habit of confirming upon ordering. And finally, I took photos of recipes from my cookbooks that are GF/DF and put them in a photo album together. Pro tip: include the image of the dish, not just the text, so it’s easy to flip through and see what sounds good!
the takeout options list
Since today is my first day, I assume I will be doing a lot of Googling ingredients until I get into a good habit.
Measuring the diet
The next step, after my 30 day elimination, is selecting my re-introduction method. My plan is to introduce gluten first, in a small amount, then a few hours later in a larger amount, then go back to the diet and wait 5 days. I want to repeat the same for sheep’s milk, goat’s milk and cow’s milk after that, which adds another 20 days. I’m also aware of a slight sensitivity to sesame and if I don’t see enough results through this phase of my elimination diet, I may choose to cut sesame, soy, sugar, and alcohol, to complete a more extensive test. All will be documented in a food journal.
the diet timeline and journal
I’ll share results once I have them, including:
- What was hardest food to give up?
- What were the best alternative foods?
- What were the worst alternative foods?
- How much weight did I lose?
- How soon did I feel better?
- What happened when I reintroduced dairy? Gluten?
- Will I give it up for good?
Let me know if you’d like to swap tips and recipes! Wish me luck.