Off sugar, gluten and caffeine

Oh my aching head. Oh my aching wallet.

This past week and a half we’ve gone sugar-free in an attempt to regulate moods around here and keep everyone in the green zone. We did have some sugar on Sunday and Monday at a couple of birthday parties (my little guy’s included!), but have mostly maintained our sugar-free status. Stevia is doing a good job in our smoothies but in anything else it lends a somewhat herbal or liquorice taste that isn’t always welcome.

The results of the experiment? It has actually really helped reduce the freak-outs. Everyone has been much more even-tempered except when sleep-deprived.

In addition to sugar, I have also been reducing grains, especially unsoaked grains. We still have our soaked oatmeal every morning, but I’ve had a couple of days without consuming any wheat. And what I’ve noticed is that when I do eat wheat, I get bloated.

So now I’m freaking out just a little. I mean, half this blog is dedicated to my love of bread. Is it possible that I’m gluten intolerant and have never realized it? I have many questions to ask, much soul-searching to do, and a whole ton of research to undertake.

The other thing I’ve realized is that caffeine predictably turns me into a cranky bitch about an hour after I have my morning coffee. All this adjustment of intake is aimed at making our days smoother and keeping everyone in the green zone . . . well, it looks like coffee is out for this mama.

So, here I am today battling carb cravings and a caffeine withdrawal headache, wondering what the hell I’m doing! I’m sure it’s all for the greater good (i.e. a less bloated more even-tempered mama), but it is not easy. It’s also been very expensive–I’ve been eating a whole whack of nuts, which are about 10x more expensive than grains.

Tune in next time to see where we’re at with our crazy mixed-up diet. And if you have any suggestions for going gluten-free the frugal way, please share!!


20 thoughts on “Off sugar, gluten and caffeine

  1. I feel for you. I decided to do a vegan cleanse this month (I’m already vegetarian), but turned up the heat a little by going without sugar, gluten or any refined grains.

    Early days. lol. But it feels great. I’m in a different situation, as I live alone and don’t have kids. I’m finding that the only way that works for me is to not attempt any sugar or gluten substitutes. I just eat a whole different way. Lots of raw, chopped veg salads. Lots of beans and lentils. Roasting some chickpeas as I type this…

    If it’s any help, I’m cheering you on from the sidelines!

    1. Oh Erin, it is helpful to know that someone else is going through this! I think the beans and lentils might be the key . . . I hear you on eating a different way. I always find “fake” things disappointing. Same goes for when I was vegetarian–never did like veggie “sausage” or anything like that!

  2. If it hurts too much, try weaning yourself off the coffee more gradually. Half a cup at a time. I know I get crippled with headaches if I can’t drink my 2 cups a day. And I can’t stay awake without it! Eventually, when my kids become great sleepers, it may no longer be necessary. I certainly didn’t drink it before they came along!

  3. Hello Frugal + Urban,

    I share a lot of your ideas about lifestyle and food, which is why you may see lots of comments from me!! I am mostly wheat free, by choice… I too feel VERY bloaty and uncomfortable when I have wheat frequently. I think that’s the key for me though – frequency….if I have a slice of birthday cake its not going to kill me… but if I have one everyday… I’ll feel it.

    I choose to enjoy natural fibre from veggies and fruit, and plenty of iron (especially since I’m breastfeeding) and calcium + protein. These are achieved through….

    – apples daily (organic or from the market),
    – pears,
    – lots of spinach (you can put it in anything!!)
    – liver (its CHEAP! and you can find lots of recipes online… I was advised to soak it in milk or cream… not sure why exactly, I think it keeps it soft when cooked),
    – other greens like bok choy, swiss chard,
    – lots of squash (I can’t get enough!),
    – green peas (high in fibre),
    – beans of all kinds,
    – lots of yogurt and
    – good cheese (no kraft, black diamond, or cracker barrel here),
    – eggs (I make quiche regularly – again, with spinach, peppers, cheese, ham)
    – don’t forget about garlic and onions, you can add these to everything and I seem to stay healthy – rarely have colds or any sickness here!

    I still enjoy a daily coffee – something I should eliminate, but its hard! And I’m a sucker for good ice cream.

    As for flours, I experiment with different types. The best breads are usually a mix of several types – quinoa, sorghum, brown rice, tapioca, corn etc…. I use rye too sometimes. You can always add grated zucchini to loaves or breads…. it moistens a dry dough very nicely! (and freezes well so you can grate it fresh and save it).

    I also notice that organic cake and pastry flour seems to agree with me a little better – someone once told me it has less gluten – but I’m a firm believer that its more the heavy processing of grains and dairy products rather than the gluten itself.

    Long comment, but I hope that you can take a nugget or two from it. As far as the $$$$ goes, I feel that when I invest in quality foods, I snack less, toss less, and feel much better… This is worth it in the end for me. Cheers, Rebecca

    1. Thanks for your comment Rebecca! I am going to try many of your suggestions–sounds like you’ve been at this for awhile. I agree with your point about investing in quality foods. I will keep that in my mind as a sort of mantra: “Invest in Quality Foods!” It is a shocker though to drastically reduce grains, which are cheap and filling.

      I’m currently reading the eBook “Real Food on a Real Budget” and will be trying to implement her suggestions for shopping smart, meal planning and whatever other tools she suggests for bringing the cost down while still eating well. It is certainly consuming much of my free time and mental energy these days . . .

  4. Hi! I’m so glad you dropped by my severely neglected blog! After my post about laying off the gluten I went back to eating like we always did. This included plenty of homemade bread. However…I’m having awful hormone issues and my doctor told me I have to stop eating gluten. I have also cut out coffee because of my adrenals. It’s been about 5 or 6 weeks and my approach this time isn’t really affecting the grocery budget too much. I’m not substituting g-free pasta and bread for the real thing, though because they cost an arm and a leg. The only thing I buy like that are g-free tortillas, which I use for wraps to take for lunch on homeschool group days. We also put out a garden every year, so I have lots of veggies right now, which is one less thing that I need to buy. Some things I do to keep the cost down are – I don’t buy cereal. I keep homemade soaked granola and homemade yogurt for breakfast, instead. I don’t buy hardly anything pre-packaged either, save for a couple Clif bars for my son as a snack on homeschool group days. If you’d like to talk some more about the things that we’re doing or share any tips that you’re finding helpful – feel free to e-mail me @ Hope it works out for you. I’m off to poke around your blog now!


  5. Trying to keep costs down and eating well is major challenging for sure. We try to buy seasonally and on sale. We’re also getting a small chest freezer so we can start buying better quality meat from a meatshare.

    With your coffee issue, I found that black coffee really threw my blood sugars out of whack but with a shot of heavy cream I can drink coffee without any mood or hunger issues. I also find that lemon green tea is a good alternative if you do want to kick the coffee habit but like something warm in the morning with a little kick.

  6. Sounds to me like maybe your body might be cranky from too many changes at once, I’d say try bread again after you are feeling a little more normal. 🙂

    Good luck, it sounds like your doing great but I know it’s not easy.

  7. I’ve been reducing grains now for about a year, mostly because when I became aware that gluten could cause reactions, I started to research it. I do weird things like that. Anyway, after the research I felt that I was eating too much wheat. It could be possible to eat wheat for every meal of the day! Wheat in the cereal, wheat bread at lunch, and pasta is wheat – that is an example of a wheatful day! How did it come to this?! So I occasionally sub with rice pasta – it goes on sale at YIG once in a blue moon, and then I STOCK UP. (Riztopia?) It’s yummy, and come on, it’s fun to eat pasta! Live a little! Potatoes can be a nice gluten free side for dinner. Can bake em, make homefries, and mashed potatoes, etc. And cheap! Can even make potato bread (tho I’ve never tried, but since you are the bread type, that might make a nice adventure!). I make my own granola bars for the kiddies, and there’s a bit of wheat, but I’m just cutting down, not eliminating, so that’s OK for me.
    As for the caffeine withdrawl – that’s foreign to me cuz I don’t do morning coffee!
    Hang in there chickie, we’re rooting for you!

  8. Hi there,

    I was looking through your old posts and came across your grocery comparison list posting. Do you still keep a comparison spreadsheet? I want to cut back on my grocery bill and keep track of prices in grocery stores in Ottawa. Would you be willing to share your list with me if it still exists?

    Thanks! I love your blog 🙂

    1. Hi Jennie, thanks so much! Unfortunately I haven’t kept up the list. At one time it got all messed up by someone adjusting it to their non-Ottawa location, and I couldn’t figure out how to keep it safe from such accidents. But I still recommend doing one for yourself to compare prices for the stores you normally frequent and the items you normally buy.

  9. Going GF is an exceptional challenge. I appreciate the challenges. My primary care physician instructed me almost two years ago to leave modern wheat and gluten behind. I also went off dairy and eggs for a few weeks. They have been reintroduced without problems, unless I have too easy access to too much cheddar!

    If you have managed to stay GF till now, the hardest part is over – as far as the cravings are concerned. The cravings are a symptom; most people have some degree of intolerance to wheat. The protein structure of gluten causes bowel irritation (hence your bloating), and there is compelling research that shows that the chemical stew produced in your gut from improperly handled gluten reacts with the opiate receptors in the human brain – the cravings are not psychological, but physiological. During my withdrawal period I was ill-tempered and insane with cravings. There were a couple of days I was ready to go grub hunting (grub here being the larval stage of some insects), I felt so deprived.

    It was my outrage at that imposed addiction that kept me going for the first six months or so. Wheat and its by-products are everywhere. Even careful shoppers cannot easily avoid it. Imagine the uproar if people found out that a little heroin was in the standard food chain. There’s little difference as far as our brains are concerned.

    I am also very fond of good bread, and it is insane how expensive gluten free alternatives are, especially premade products. So, I have had to adjust my eating patterns overall – fewer sandwiches and more stuff on a plate, more stews, salads, omelettes, and all that.

    I tried using Portabello mushroom caps as a hamburger bun – an online suggestion somewhere – but, as soon as I bit down, the meat flew out the other side. Made my dog happy…

    So, hang in there. I look forward to reading about your efforts and successes.

    1. Thanks for your support and your story! I’ve actually back-slid a bit (a lot), as it was making me far too grumpy!! I’m going to post about my newly coined “Nourishing November” approach . . . soon! But I’m glad to hear it’s possible to go off gluten for good . . . doesn’t seem possible at this stage! Argh!

  10. Do please give us an update on your eliminations (the gluten, caffeine, and sugar only please)! And are you ready to eliminate another?! Dairy might be the next thing.. it’s not supposed to be that great for the immune system! 😛

    1. Oh my. I actually was attempting to cut out dairy, but really, after a couple of weeks of all this cutting-out business, I was getting really depressed! So November is going to be about Nourishing myself! I’m going to attempt to “crowd out” the bad stuff with good stuff . . . a post I will write as soon as I get my house out of the disaster state it’s in and finish this food co-op paperwork I’ve got hanging over my head!!! Thanks for asking! Are you guys off dairy too?

      1. Hey again,

        I guess my philosophy is to not overdo any one thing. Just like I noticed that wheat can creep into every meal (and snacks), I noticed a similar thing with dairy. Milk in cereal, yogurt at snack, cheese at lunch, and possibly cheese or milk again at dinner.. it’s a dairyful day! So I replace some of my dairy with soy – specifically I replace some of the milk with soy milk. It’s actually the most minor reduction I do (sugar the most, then gluten, then dairy). I use Natura sweetened, keeps in the cupboard which is nice, because in case of power outage can still have milk. Also, I occasionally get the drink boxes (choco, strawberry, or vanilla) as a treat for the kids. It’s made with cane sugar instead of glucose, and they only use enough to make it taste good, which I think is good for the kids (so that they don’t get used to sweet things all the time).

      2. I did not experience any withdrawal symptoms when I left dairy behind. I have resumed use of cheeses (mmmm!) and yogurts, with no problems. I have, however, chosen to use almond milk instead of dairy milk, because I prefer its taste and mouth-feel. I prefer Almond Breeze over the others on the market, and I usually get the unsweetened versions.

        Many thousands of decades ago, I went macrobiotic. I did that for three of the eighteen years I was a vegetarian. It was during that time I learned about some of the downsides of using soy all the time. Many of my allergies became impossible to cope with. I developed a soy sensitivity which stepped up my histamine levels.

        Soy also has estrogen mimicking chemistry so it should be regarded carefully when substituted for other foods. Like fish, it is a healthy choice, but moderation is definitely advised.

  11. I feel for you! We cut out chemicals, gluten, dairy, and processed sugar also, but we did it a little more gradually than you. First no chemicals, then gluten free, then dairy free, then sugar free, so it wasnt all at once because that really is overwhelming. If you want suggestions how to do it frugally, I have lots of suggestions and recipes on my blog that can help.

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