Week One: 28 Day Grain-Free Challenge

gluten free, wheat free, grain free

So it’s the end of the first week of the 28 day grain-free challenge. How are things going with those of you participating? Are you successful in your intention to eat grain-free? You may be experiencing some cravings and moments of feeling like you can’t do this…

All of that is normal and part of the process. In fact, many people have cravings for carbohydrates, particularly sugar, because of an imbalance in their gut flora. The intestine is normally populated with trillions of microbes: bacteria, yeast, fungi, and viruses. All of these intestinal flora live together harmoniously in a healthy gut. When the gut is not healthy, which can happen for a variety of reasons due to our modern lifestyles, imbalances in the flora occurs and symptoms and disease processes can follow. This called dysbiosis.

A person with an unhealthy digestive tract (dysbiosis) will have trouble digesting certain foods. Of the three macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates and fats), carbohydrates are actually the hardest to digest. Carbohydrates are also the main food for the intestinal flora. When they are not digested properly, they stay in the intestines and become food for the pathogenic bacteria and yeast. These pathogens can then proliferate and overpower the numbers of beneficial bacteria and yeast in the gut. When this happens, a vicious cycle begins.

Undigested carbohydrates  become food for pathogens, and these pathogens multiply and take a strong residence in the gut. These pathogens give off toxic acidic byproducts which can damage the delicate lining of the intestinal tract and cause symptoms such as, excess mucous, excess gas, diarrhea, constipation, blood in the stools, etc.

Any damage to the lining of the digestive tract also causes a loss of the digestive enzymes that are embedded in the lining. Therefore, digestion is further compromised. This can eventually develop into a disease process. If the carbohydrates are continuously eaten, it drives the cycle, and the symptoms as well as the intestinal damage gets worse and worse.

Some people can have this vicious cycle going on and not even know it because their symptoms are not related to the digestive tract. For example, sinus problems and migraines can be related to this vicious cycle of undigested carbohydrates feeding the pathogenic organisms. Skin problems, learning problems, joint problems, can also be related to this problem in the digestive tract.

Removing the offending food from the diet is the key to healing. The medical approach is to manage the symptoms with medications. The holistic approach is to tackle to root cause of the problem.

Many people can have an overgrowth of Candida Albicans (a yeast) and this may be a cause of strong cravings. Candida Albicans is also implicated in sinus problems and of course vaginal yeast infections in women.These yeasts feed upon sugar and undigested carbohydrates.

The solution is to follow a grain-free diet and some people even need to follow a starch and sugar-free diet like SCD or GAPS.

I find eating something sour like a real fermented pickle, sauerkraut or other fermented foods will help quell the cravings for carbohydrates. Alternatively, eating some good fat like full fat milk, yogurt, or butter will stop it as well. After a few days of eating low starches and sugars, the cravings start to go away, as the bad microflora start to die off.  You just need to get over the hump so to speak.

What do you do the help fight the cravings? Please leave a comment and share your strategy!

Be sure to visit the Grain-Free Linky Carnival for recipe ideas! There are some great suggestions there!

The 28 Day Grain-Free Challenge is still open for signing up if you still want to join in!

This post is linked to: Pennywise Platter, Fresh Bites Friday, Fight back Friday, Monday Mania

  • Sharon Burress

    I am doing perfectly fine without grains and am doing low carb, moderate protein, high fat as well. I am thriving!

  • Neveen

    I have one question: Quinoa is something that’s avoided on a grain-free diet, but isn’t Quinoa a seed? It’s grain-like but isn’t actually a grain. If this is right, then why avoid Quinoa on the grain-free diet?

  • http://realfoodforager.com Jill

    HI Sharron,
    Thanks for your comments!

  • http://realfoodforager.com Jill

    Hi Neveen,
    This question has come up before. It is listed as a grain in some places, so for our purposes we are avoiding it for the 28 days. However, if you want to stay grain-free but feel that you tolerate it well, go right ahead and add it back into your diet afterwards!

  • Molly

    Thank you Jill.  This was very imformative for me.  I changed my entire eating habits in January after a very gross yeast infection because I was not taking control of my eating and my blood sugar was out of control.  It was so bad that I just couldn’t take it anymore and completely stopped and went the other direction in the way of Low Carb eating.  That lead my health food to introduce me to Eat Fat, Lose Fat and now I drink water kefir every day.  But I have been having carb cravings lately and I didn’t know if  it was the sugar free candy I’ve been craving lately.  I didn’t join the 28 day grain free but I could have.  I very rarely eat any grains except maybe one piece of sprouted sourdough bread on Sunday with eggs and bacon.  No rice, no pasta, nothing.  But it is very frustrating to be craving carbs when I have been doing this for 10 months now.  I have just started reading the GAP book.  But I learned a lot today.  We have been very lax in eating our pickles and saurkraut every day.  And I thank you for reminding me how important this piece of the puzzle is. 

  • http://realfoodforager.com Jill

    Hi Molly,
    Thanks so much for your comments. I would suggest you join the challenge — just to get the newletters (about once a week) that may help with any issues like this!

  • Natasha

    Sharon, would you please share what your diet looks like on a good day? I’m trying to strive for similar ratio but have a hard time.  Yesterday I did 50% fat, 21% carbs and 29% protein.  Today it was worse, meaning I had almost 200 grams of carbs, and not from grains either, but like banana or a fruit smoothie, chocolate and etc.  Small bits of carbs does add up!  I am looking for ideas and your balance seems perfect for me, please share what you diet looks like to get the balance you have!!! :)

  • Ashley

    i noticed day 4 in the morning that i had the “withdrawal headache”, took a motrin and got rid of it. The next day i noticed that my appetite had went down a good bit.  Day 8 i noticed how clear my skin looked all of the sudden! Now i have an even smaller appetite. I don’t feel like i have lost much weight in the 2 weeks as i have not weighed yet but i do feel a lot of water weight is gone. Not going to weigh until the 28th day (my plan)! I also don’t feel that stuffed blah feeling after i eat. I started taking liver tablets for b12 and maybe they have helped with energy. Seems like baby (4 1/2m) messed up my hormones or something! Great thing is that i don’t miss grains and this has forced me to use more coconut flour. Made coconut brownies with coconut palm sugar, yum yum. I’m so excited and in December, i may try a sugar free challenge. I am just afraid of losing to much weight at once as i am breastfeeding. I hear toxins go straight to my milk. I need to loose about 70 pounds to be the right weight for my body. I am so glad to be doing this and succeeding!

  • http://realfoodforager.com Jill

    Hi Ashley,
    Thanks so much for sharing. Sounds like you are on the right tract!

  • http://realfoodforager.com/2011/10/28-day-grain-free-challenge-week-two/ 28 Day Grain-Free Challenge: Week Two — Real Food Forager

    [...] When trying to restrict foods in a diet it is important to face the cravings you may have. Since this grain-free challenge is restricting most starches, you can’t just replace wheat with rice. This is a lot harder than going gluten-free, and more effective for healing for the reasons outlined in my previous post from week one. [...]

  • JanaC2

    I want to participate (and get my highly allergenic kids involved), but I have noticed in the past few weeks on a grain-free diet that my digestive symptoms have actually INCREASED after an initial “honeymoon” period.
    I am noticing the grain-free diets are very heavy in nuts and eggs… both are known allergens in my family. Wondering if this is the issue. If so, there’s really no alternative.

  • JIll

    Hi JanaC2,
    Grain-free diets usually are higher in nuts and eggs. However the early stages of GAPS has no nuts or eggs and may actually help heal the gut and decrease allergies. You may want to check it out.


  • http://realfoodforager.com/2011/10/week-three-grain-free-challenge-inflammation/ Week Three Grain-Free Challenge: Inflammation — Real Food Forager

    [...] acid. Another problem is that grains are hard to digest for many people, especially people with damage to the gut lining which is more common than you would think. But perhaps the most pressing problem is the [...]