What happened when I cut out alcohol, caffeine, gluten and dairy

It sounds crazy. Impossible even. But in fact, when I cut out alcohol, caffeine, gluten and dairy this summer, I actually found it pretty easy and it freed me from the constant bloating and other symptoms that had plagued my life for the past couple of years.
What happened when I cut out alcohol, caffeine, gluten and dairy
My story with food sensitivities is actually a recent one. I used to have no issues with food. I never really had skin or digestion problems. However, this all changed when I set up my own freelance business a couple of years ago. It was a stressful time for me, learning how to set my own schedule and finding my own way of earning money and paying my rent whilst living in central London. This manifested itself, rather frustratingly, in quite a few UTIs and, as a result, various courses of antibiotics.
Now, I didnt actually know that you should be taking probiotics to counteract the effects of antibiotics on the body. Yes, they do kill the infection, but they also kill any good bacteria in your gut, as well resulting in a lower immune system which means that not only are you more likely to get ill quicker, but your digestion will also be affected. After a five month-long on-offf relationship with antibiotics and my digestive system radically compromised, I was actually starting to develop a load of food sensitivities without actually realising that I was. One of the first things I reacted to was alcohol. I used to have a terrible stomach the day after drinking. It started with white wine, then slowly grew to be all alcohol, which started to put me off having it at all. I actually spoke to a couple of doctors and nurses in the family as well as my own doctor and I was told that it was probably alcohol-induced gastritis. At which point I thought that, sad but true, I just needed to avoid drinking as much as possible in order to feel better. I wasn’t best pleased with this life sentence but given the way I felt when I did drink, I was starting to come around to it.
But then I started to have reactions to foods that I hadn’t noticed that I had reacted to before. Greek yoghurt suddenly made me swell up and bloat when I used to eat it daily as part of a great protein-filled clean diet. I started to avoid it but couldn’t put my finger on why I had to. It finally clicked with me back in April of this year, when I heavily reacted to my boyfriend’s chocolate birthday cake and the next day, I realised that I needed to stop self-diagnosing and actually get tested. So I googled and found a nutritionist called Sophie Shand in Guernsey who could do a food sensitivity test for a great price and immediately booked in.
What happened when I cut out alcohol, caffeine, gluten and dairy

The results.

After having the test, I immediately came up as sensitive to the following: wheat, cow’s milk, cow’s cheese, yoghurt, pork, coffee, red wine, white wine, beer, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, almonds, apples, oranges, bananas and beetroot. I also showed sensitivity to MSG, mixed pollens, mixed moulds, cigarette smoke and house dust mite.

How did I feel after this?

Well, I’d say somewhat vindicated. Finally, somebody could tell me what was wrong! And also relieved, because Sophie assured me that gut health isn’t a static thing. I wouldn’t have to cut out all of these foods forever but I did need to work on healing my gut in order build my resistance back up again. We immediately put together a plan for an elimination diet. I was to cut all of the above things from my diet for 6 weeks and then see how I felt. I actually ended up rounding up to cutting all gluten instead of just wheat (I occasionally had oats that didn’t state ‘gluten free’ and had no issues), most dairy (I had very occasional sheep and goat cheeses, such as halloumi and feta towards the end) and all alcohol. The results were dramatic and almost immediate.

What happened when I cut out alcohol, caffeine, gluten and dairy - StefanieGrace.com

So, this is what happened when I cut out alcohol, caffeine, gluten and dairy:

Headaches

The first few days were not fun. AT ALL. I had horrific withdrawal headaches – mostly due to the lack of caffeine. I went from drinking a few cups of coffee every morning to none and I really felt it. In fact, I spent most of the week on the sofa with the blinds closed and trying to avoid screens. Not ideal when you run an online business, but I was determined to push on with it. I had a couple of green teas to try and ease the lack of coffee in my system and popped a paracetamol when it got too much. Why? Because I was determined that I said I was going to cut out coffee, then that was what I was going to do. It is very acidic that reacts badly to a weak gut and I decided that a paracetamol was easier than weaning myself off coffee once I’d heard from Sophie what was happening to my body when I drank it.

Improved Gut

Within a few days, all of the obvious ‘gut issues’ disappeared. I cannot even tell you how amazing it felt to be normal again after months of issues. I never realised that a week would make such a big difference. It was genuinely life-changing. Without putting too fine a point on it, I went from daily diarrhoea-like symptoms to a regular ‘movements’ in less than a week.

Clearer Skin

Within a few weeks, bar the occasional hormonal breakout, my skin was clearer and glowed so much more. This was probably a combination of the fact that I was naturally eating more salads both at home and when out to eat and also the fact that my body was healthier. It wasn’t working as hard to digest reactive foods and therefore was functioning more efficiently. I was also drinking a lot more water as I had had to give up so many of the other things that I used to drink. I had given up coffee and tea. I wasn’t drinking any alcohol. I had drastically cut down on herbal teas (from 5-6 a day to one if that) in favour of water as Sophie had educated me on the fact that they were acting as a diuretic in my body and therefore not hydrating me. Most shop-bought juices had apple or orange in which meant that often, the only choice I had was water or coconut water when out. Sparkling water with lemon became my BFF when out with family and friends.

Fewer Cravings

I stopped craving certain foods – mainly sugar – because I was eating much better. My body wasn’t tired or struggling and looking to feed a lack of energy or bring me back up after crashing down from a caffeine high. I didn’t need energy. I felt balance and satiated. When I did snack, it was often on nuts such as cashews or dried mango.

Mind & Body Intuition

I started to instinctively know what my body needed. I knew what kind of meal I needed to eat. I even knew the exact moment that my period was going to start and walked into the bathroom as it happened. I felt like my and and body were more connected because my body was calmer from not fighting the reactive foods that I was consuming before.

No More Bloating

This was life-changing. Being able to wear a fitted outfit or a pair of jeans all day without having to switch to something loose and baggy after a few hours due to bloating was fantastic. I used to have a huge blamed stomach by the end of the day. Often it was hard, if not it was just water retention. I lived in baggy jumpers and dresses in the evenings. I complained a lot about it as I had no idea how to stop it happening. This has been the single biggest change that I still think about every day and it still makes me smile every single time.

Improved Sleep

I slept so much more than before because my body wasn’t running on drugs like caffeine and alcohol. I was tired earlier in the evenings, which meant I went to bed earlier and every morning I woke up with an extra bounce in my step. I didn’t wake up craving coffee. And that has stayed with me to today.

More Emotions

I was more in touch with my emotions. This wasn’t always a good thing for me to be honest. I am very emotional and am very emotion-led. When my body wasn’t busy fighting foods in my gut, it had more time relax which I think made me more aware of how I felt. However, I embraced it and soon started to realise what I wanted in life, where I wanted to take my business and also noticed when I needed to rest.

No Struggles

Once the headaches subsided, I realised that it’s really not that difficult to eat like this. I eat pretty clean most of the time. And I still had things like curry and rice – without all of the naan and yoghurt and onion bhajis, I felt satisfied and happy without feeling full and blasted afterwards. I was convinced that this was how I wanted to continue eating.

Other Positives

The elimination diet cleared up a lot of my ‘other health things’ that I hadn’t really noticed. I have always had mucus in my throat. That was reduced a lot. I also stopped having a runny nose as often. I was told by my nutritionist that this was because my body was no longer needed to get all of the toxins out in any which way possible. If you have an increase in discharge like this in your body, then think about having a food sensitivity test. You’d be surprised at how much your gut affects the rest of your body.

And now?

I have slowly reintegrated the things that I cut and I have NOT reacted to them, which is amazing to me. As a general rule, I don’t eat wheat or dairy (from cow’s milk), because I feel better for it. I do eat goat’s cheese. I started eating chocolate again – but it tends to be dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa) which doesn’t have the milk content. I don’t feel like it affects my digestion at all, so I’m happy to treat myself every now and then (READ: multiple times a week).

I don’t drink very often. And I feel great for it. The biggest change is that I have stopped drinking at home. I do still drink when I go out – and no gastritis! I have coffee every now and then… usually with almond milk (because I now eat almonds!) in a cappuccino when at a cafe meeting. If I’m really honest, coffee has snuck back into my morning routine but I’m not really enjoying it and often don’t finish it. I don’t enjoy it first thing. I try to have water with lemon or this green drink first to cleanse my system. Or I have it after a smoothie – I have reintroduced bananas into my diet – so that it doesn’t enter my body on an empty stomach. I don’t often eat apples and oranges, but I didn’t much before but I don’t avoid foods with them in the ingredients.

In conclusion, I have managed to heal my gut! I can now eat a balanced diet. If we go for pizza, I’ll order a salad but have a couple of slices – no bloat, no reaction, no problem. I am so much happier for this.

I have shared this story, gut health and all, because I wanted to talk about things that not many do. It was never something I could bring up at the dinner table or talk about with friends but I’ve found that since I have, that others have considered checking out their similar issues and seeing if they can cure them through diet.

I plan to share more on this (if you are interested!), so please do drop your questions below and I will round them up in another instalment.

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2 Comments

  1. Vikki
    February 4, 2017 / 9:55 pm

    Hi there just been to see Sophie myself and starting my journey. Nice to know that u were able to reintroduce foods as one of mine is garlic which I am currently missing … my food doesn’t taste the same anymore.
    Had quite a few of the big ones – all wheat, all dairy, tea, garlic, peppers, almonds, prawns,potato, broccoli, lentils, oranges, both milk & dark chocolate 😢.
    Was dairy free before I was pregnant but during pregnancy it went away and in the last few months (my little one is 1) it’s come back with anger and worse then ever so good to know what I need to try and avoid to help me heal.
    Our bodies are amazing things!

    • Stefanie
      February 5, 2017 / 3:51 pm

      Hi Vikki! It feels like a bit of a shock to cut out so much but you’ll feel great for it and it will become easier! Plus, once your symptoms start to go away, it spurs you on to complete the elimination. Our bodies are amazing things! Please do come back and let me know how you get on! 🙂

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