Bread. Life.  It’s hard to imagine life without bread.  Nearly every culture is strongly rooted in some sort of bread. Manna. Lavash. Pita. Baguette. Tortilla. Whether whole grain or white, wheat or corn, bread has served humanity as a staple food for thousands of years.  Whole grains were crushed to form a delectable powder, easily combined with water or yeast to create a crusty but soft masterpiece.

Bread is life for so many. Our cultural sayings reinforce its importance. Give us this day our daily bread. The bread winner. “You are the butter to my bread and the breath to my life.” – Julia Child. “Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.” ― James Beard

But for many, myself included, the bread paradigm is shifting. No longer does bread serve us in the way it had for many years. Bread has changed. Grain has changed. And to many, our daily bread is best left in the figurative spiritual sense, as our flour creations can do more harm than good.

As the granddaughter of a baker, the wife of an artisanal bread maker, and a mother of two bread lovers, bread runs “in the family” so to speak, and I’ve enjoyed my share. But when I was recently diagnosed on the autoimmune spectrum, I knew I had to find something else to dip in my soup.

Bread and butter just go together. And without them, well life doesn’t seem complete. The idea of eliminating gluten, and thus bread, from my life was disheartening. Would I have the willpower? Is it really necessary? How much of this gluten intolerant stuff is really true? Just a few of the questions I mulled over before deciding to give it a try.

Despite the temptations of freshly baked bread every weekend, the aroma filling my house with almost a sneer and smirk, I persevered. One week went by, it was rough. Two weeks – I started losing weight and going through withdrawal. I craved it all the time. Meals didn’t seem complete without it. I didn’t think I could do it. But I persisted.

After a few weeks, my cravings subsided, I began to feel satisfied after meals (even moreso than before), I felt more energized and I noticed my fatigue, inflammation and temper subsided. (Yes gluten, it turns out, was contributing to anger, frustration, and feelings of defeat!)

Of course I couldn’t do it without shifting my diet as a whole. To eliminate a food group you were once so reliant on, you have to make sure to add enough nutrient dense foods to your plate. Lots of veggies, soups, meats (adding in meat is a whole other article).  Through the process I read as much as I could about autoimmune disorders, gluten intolerance, & well, gluten in general.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to have learned so much.

Autoimmune disorders and gluten don’t mix. If you’ve been diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder or on the spectrum (meaning you’re at risk for one), please consider removing gluten from your diet. Plenty of medical experts agree that this is step one. (For more on autoimmunity please check out Dr. Amy Myers and Dr Mark Hyman).

Of course I did other things to adjust my diet, but gluten was the big one. I still salivate at the sight of warm olive bread or wince as I watch my husband takes a freshly baked artisanal loaf from the oven – steam rising atop the crust. I get jealous as I watch my kids dip their soft bread into a warm bowl of soup (and I pray they will always be able to!) But I know how I feel without it. Better, less inflamed, less irritable, less angry, less bloated, etc. And so I take comfort in my new path, knowing it’s based on self-respect and a deep love for my body.

Being gluten free comes with many challenges. You have to plan your food more, you have to cook more, and you have to be prepared to encounter resistance when eating out or with others.  However, the effort you put in pays off in the end. I feel better. I have more energy. I can play with my kids. I can wear my skinny jeans again. I have been able to get a hold of my autoimmune issues, clearing the way for healing. Bread? I love you. I truly do. But I have to cut you loose. I am sorry, we must part. I will always hold you close to my heart, in my memories. But butter? You can still dress my vegetables and cook my eggs. I love you dearly, and with me you will stay.