sugar-free, flour-free diet?
November 13, 2010 10:27 PM   Subscribe

Do you have any experience with the sugar/flour-free diet esp. in relation to it aiding digestion problems?

After having some pretty bad stomachaches and digestion problems (got an endoscopy and according to that my stomach was healthy but the doctor said my "digestive ability was not that good" and I should avoid overly sweet, oily, spicy, etc, foods) I decided to try and cut added sugar (not cutting out fruits, etc) and white flour from my diet.

I am wondering if anyone has done this/is doing this, and if it has improved your digestion? Anything I should be aware of? Is it wise to look at this as a long-term thing, or have you found it too restrictive? I know a lot of people do this to lose weight too, so experiences about that are also welcome (I certainly won't be disappointed if I wind up losing weight).

I decided to do this because I know I eat to much sugar. As for flour, I have a hunch that bread is hard for me to digest and causing the stomachaches. It's only been a few days on the diet, but I feel good so far.

I know that consulting with a physician about this question would be optimal, and I will consider that, but I live in China and it's difficult to get that kind of consultation here (doctors offices are run more like huge clinics).
posted by bearette to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Many people have sugar-free or gluten-free diets and nowadays there are many blogs and cookbooks devoted to this. Keep a careful food diary and include the time, duration, and intensity of symptoms, including stuff like bloating or bathroom trips. If I were you I would cut out either bread or sugar, one or the other, so you'll know what the real culprit is. If symptoms resolve themselves, eat a big sandwich or something to see if they return.

If probiotic yogurt bottles are as popular in China as they are in Taiwan and Korea, resist the temptation to drink them as they're full of sugar. However, yogurt can be very good for your digestion. Get yourself to a Xinjiang restaurant or bar where they will have amazing, 100% unsweetened yogurt. You can even smuggle some out and start making your own yogurt.
posted by acidic at 10:51 PM on November 13, 2010

"Gluten-free Girl" is a blog by a woman with Celiac's disease, who spends a lot of time writing about recipes that don't contain gluten.

If you're living in China, I wouldn't think you'd have any trouble coming up with all kinds of things to eat that don't have wheat or sugar in them, in as much as neither of those were used in traditional cooking.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:57 PM on November 13, 2010

Also educate yourself on the nutritional content of the Chinese food you like to eat. For example, soy sauce contains gluten (there are gluten-free brands, but I wouldn't expect the average restaurant in China to use them).

Another thing to consider, especially if your symptoms worsened in China, is a soy intolerance. If the sugar and bread/gluten diets don't work, try that next.
posted by acidic at 11:15 PM on November 13, 2010

This is very much in line with the Paleolithic perspective of diet, which advocates eating new foods with caution. New, meaning foods that humans have only started eating over the last 10,000 years or so. Most people within that crowd consume almost no grains, sugars, or processed vegetable oils, claiming (justifiably so, IMO) that they are the causes of the diseases of civilization.

I highly recommend the Whole Health Source blog, written by a fellow with a Ph.D in Neurobiology who studies its relation to obesity. I find his articles to be very well written and sourced, and he is paleo-friendly but bends the rules when there is evidence for it. Check out his labels "gluten", "phytic acid" and "lectins" for some articles you may find helpful regarding wheat and your condition.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 11:32 PM on November 13, 2010

I cut out sugar, flour, and pretty much all other carbohydrates from my diet about 4 months ago. Since then I have noticed my frequent bouts of heartburn have totally disappeared, as have my stomachaches, gas and bloating. The one week those ailments came back also happened to be the one week I was on vacation and indulged in breads and desserts. As soon as I stopped eating them, the problems disappeared again.

As for your other questions, I have not had any problems sticking to the diet but it does require you to be firm and resourceful in relearning what you can eat. (I have lots of low-carb websites and books I refer to frequently.) Also, I've lost 15 pounds in that time span, so added bonus!
posted by platinum at 11:50 PM on November 13, 2010

Very low-carb diets in my opinion and experience are good for weight loss and people with diabetes, but it seems pretty healthful to me to eat a fair amount of non-grain carbohydrates (primarily fruits, vegetables, and tubers). Healthy hunter-gatherer societies tend to eat a pretty decent amount of carbs. If your activity level is low or you are sensitive to them, then by all means experiment with cutting them, but they do carry some benefits. For me, my short-term memory tends to be better when I am maintaining a moderate level of carb intake (20%?). Some of this will probably improve with adaptation over more than the month I've done it, but parts of the brain do need glucose.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 12:10 AM on November 14, 2010

After having stomach issues for years, my doctor suggested I keep a food diary and after reviewing what I ate...I wondered if I had a gluten allergy. I took everything gluten-related off my diet for 4 months and not only did I not have a single asthma attack during the horrible humid months, but I was no longer waking up with stomach aches. I found myself wondering why I was no longer in pain. I suggest you try the gluten-free option as well because I have never felt better since and was not even aware that it was an issue. Also, I have a Yakult probiotic drink every day.
posted by penguingrl at 12:40 AM on November 14, 2010

Certain fibers like inulin and fructooligosaccharide have been shown to be helpful as prebiotics - food for the good microflora in the gut. They might also help with stomach and intestinal issues, and may even have a role in preventing obesity.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 1:01 AM on November 14, 2010

Seconding the experience that cutting down on sugar (I'm on a teaspoonful of honey, an apple, and a few bits of 70% chocolate per day as we speak), bread, potatoes, pasta, and rice got my occasional heartburn issues, stomach cramps, and some troublesome chronic inner discomfort pretty much out of the picture. And I actually used to bake my own healthy whole grain bread and did all the other 'healthy' things.
(Rye and oats seem less of a problem, so in my case there's definitely something more going on than merely high-carb versus low carb. Or so I think at this moment. Also: if I only occasionally eat all that stuff, there are no problems)

Fats, however. A typical thing that used to trigger some nasty heartburn was pork fat. Turns out that it does this only in combination with high-carb accompaniments, especially yummy gravy-soaking potatoes. Pork fat solo, even in French quantities, turns out not to be a problem at all. We're easily fooled; often it's the combination that doesn't work.
posted by Namlit at 4:30 AM on November 14, 2010

We cut out sugar and flour about two months ago. The sugar cravings lasted for about 10 days. We ate LOTS of fruit in those first three weeks, which did help a lot. Then we tried to re-train our taste buds to just do without any sweet tasting fruit during the day. We don't have much honey, either, because I've found that it does trigger my sweet tooth. Every meal does not need to end with dessert! We do still eat whole grains and don't have any problems there. My husband and I have lost about 10 pounds each in about eight weeks, not by plan and with not much other effort. The biggest adjustment is having to plan meals, I think. You can't rely on processed or fast food, and finding sugar-free food is hard in the US. BUT, the benefits really make up for any of the initial work, and after a while it's just become habitual. We sleep better. No gas, no heartburn, higher energy levels. We plan to eat this way forever.
posted by raisingsand at 7:20 AM on November 14, 2010

My digestion went from so-so to exceptional when I started taking acidophilous pills which are found in the vitamin section. You may want to give it a shot. Of course, eliminating wheat and sugar will be a big plus for your overall health.
posted by MsKim at 8:30 AM on November 14, 2010

I have Crohn's disease, which is a whole bunch of unpleasantness in the digestive tract. Years ago, I decided to try the Atkins diet to lose weight. Surprise, not only did I drop 80 pounds in a year, but my Crohn's was much, much better.

After a couple of years, I slowly stopped being vigilant about carbs. Not only did I regain some weight, but my Crohn's flared back up. So now I'm much more dedicated to it -- no wheat at all, no sugars, no seed or vegetable oils. And my Crohn's is in total remission. I don't even flare up if I have a huge salad or other fiber-rich veggies, which used to upset things greatly.

I personally don't have problems with small amounts of some grains, like rice or corn. But any wheat makes me bloaty, gassy, and miserable.

As for any worries about removing carbs: my diet is around 65% fat, 25% protein, 10% carbs (from veggies and other non-wheat, non-sugar sources). I just got my cholesterol checked the other day: total 153, HDL 79, triglycerides 43, LDL 74. The cardiologist who read the results called me a rock star.
posted by themissy at 3:32 PM on November 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

Adding my voice to the chorus - eliminating wheat from my diet made an enormous change in how I feel. I had first eliminated sugar, and I did feel somewhat better after that, but it's wheat that made the huge difference.

My personal thought is that humans aren't meant to eat grains. I figure anything we wouldn't eat raw is something we wouldn't have eaten as cavemen, so that's my guide. Also, we're not cows - we don't have an extra stomach nor do we chew our cud.

In any case, eliminating wheat makes me feel less tired, eliminates bloating and brain fog, my skin clears up, I sleep better, I heal faster, my other allergies (and there are many) lessen or just disappear, etc. Oh, and then there's the weight loss, yay!
posted by MexicanYenta at 2:48 AM on November 15, 2010

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