Gluten-free Experiment – Month One

Just say no to gluten?
Thanks for the image!

“It’s just a half of a brownie, Heather. What harm could it do?” I was sitting in Starbucks with my daughter after her ballet class, flipping through magazines. I’d gotten her a blondie with M&Ms as a treat. It had been three weeks since I’d eaten anything with gluten in it. That morning, we’d slept in and had to rush around to make it to my daughter’s ballet class in time. I had missed breakfast and was starving, and let’s face it, the brownie looked really good. I caved. I caved and I ate half of it.

In my post Using Food as Medicine, I talked a little bit about my motivation for eliminating gluten from my diet. After reading about people with narcolepsy who have seen improvements after making this one dietary change, I figured there was no harm in giving it a shot myself. After all, it would force me to make better decisions about what I fed myself and my family since there is no choice but to eat fresh foods with no preservatives.

The brownie was ingested about three weeks into my foray into gluten-free eating. I had noticed that my stomach was feeling much better. I still had reflux on occasion, but the cramps, bloating, and other unpleasant digestive issues had diminished greatly. Still, I didn’t expect anything to happen after eating half of a little brownie. I was wrong. So very wrong.

After having our Starbucks treat, my daughter and I headed out to do some shopping and then went to story time the bookstore. About thirty minutes after eating that evil delicacy, my stomach began to cramp. We had to take a forced intermission between books so that I could use the restroom. For the rest of the day, I wanted to just lay in the floor in the fetal position. Surely it was coincidence, right?

I went the next week with no gluten in my diet. For a few days, I was still feeling quite sluggish. I had a couple of symptomatic days, taking extra naps and wanting to go to bed earlier and earlier. I just figured I was starting to become too used to the stimulants again. But my reflux was also back in full force, keeping me awake at night, which is NOT what someone with narcolepsy needs. And then it happened again this past Saturday. I ate a simple salad at a restaurant, not giving much attention to the ingredients in the dressing. Maybe it was another coincidence, but I got sick again, less than a half hour after finishing my lunch. Like, run-to-the-bathroom-quickly-so-as-not-to-shit-myself sick. Looking up the ingredients to some popular brands of Ranch dressing later, I found that I very well could have had some gluten again.

There are a couple more theories about why I’ve had two rough weekends in a row. One theory is the increased reflux. (Excess stomach acid can cause IBS-like symptoms.) Another theory is that both of those items – the brownie and the dressing – contained dairy. All I know is that my interest in investigating my diet’s impact on my health has piqued.

As far as sleepiness, I can’t yet determine the effects that diet plays. It seems like consuming fewer carbohydrates, whether they contain gluten or not, during the day helps reduce the excessive daytime sleepiness to point. I still have the urge to nap at the regular times, but I feel like the time in between has been spent doing things I need to be doing instead of navigating through brain fog.

Initially, I thought I’d have answers in just thirty short days, but I really don’t. I need more time, and I need to be more diligent about making sure I don’t have a speck of gluten for the next several weeks. The good news is that the food has been delicious. I do not miss bread, pasta, or pastries as much as I had anticipated. (I will say that I have tried a gluten-free brownie and it was nowhere near as good!)

The experiment continues…and if anyone knows of any GOOD gluten-free brownies, shoot me a note! :)

Have you ever tried a gluten-free diet? What tips do you have to stick to a particular diet?


  1. type1momma says:

    ok, I have a GF brownie recipe for you! I just made it today and I am BLOWN AWAY at how good these are!

    it sounds weird but trust me on this one:

    In a large bowl combine:

    1 cup mini chocolate chips (use gluten free ones)
    1/4 c honey
    2 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder
    1 cup almond butter or peanut butter
    1 tsp cinnamon
    1/2 tsp nutmeg
    1 tsp baking soda
    1 tsp vanilla
    1 egg
    2 cups zucchini, shredded or food processed into really fine pieces
    I also used 1 dropper of liquid stevia but I think you could omit this and be OK

    Combine into a batter and pour into greased 8×13 baking pan. Bake for about 55 minutes.

    OMG HEAVEN. I cut the pan into 24 servings and each brownie is about 125 cals and 10 carbs.

  2. Christina says:

    Hi Heather!

    Happy to find another gluten-free narco on board! I’m a 24F, and have been diagnosed since 2008, and gluten free since 2010. I noticed improvement on GF after 1 month, and after 6 months of strict gluten free, I stopped ALL of my mediation, and haven’t taken any medication for my narco since then.
    I run a (recently started) at, where I talk a lot about the current literature supporting GF diets and narcolepsy. Good luck on your journey, and I hope to connect with you!

    I’m jealous of type1momma’s culinary skills – my recommendation would have been the Betty Crocker box! After 2 years GF, these taste pretty incredible to me! :)

    Anyway, keep us posted! I’m excited to hear about your journey.

    p.s. – if you are taking Provigil/Modafinil, you may want to consider switching stimulants while gluten free. The last time I checked it was made with food starch from a gluten source, and it really messed me up for about a month when I tried to take it while GF.

    • Heather says:

      Hi, Christina! You have some great reading on your site! I also checked out Madcap MissAdventures of a Narcoleptic, and I’m super excited to continue reading her blog. Thank you!

      Thanks for the heads up on the meds. Luckily, I’m not on Provigil! One question for you… How long did it take to notice improvement in your nighttime sleep? I am still not sleeping well at night – at all. I actually went on Xyrem a couple of weeks ago because I’m desperate.

  3. Renee Taylor says:

    Hi Heather – I’m reading this before work while munching on a rice cake with peanut butter for breakfast. Figured out my narcolepsy was caused by gluten almost three years ago. As a bonus I also figured out that dairy/casein caused my depression and anxiety. Recently am made aware that anything with caffeine after around 11am WILL mess with my sleep so am enjoying my morning coffee but that’s it. A decaf coffee in the afternoon has enough to keep me awake til 2am. Meh! Good luck and Godspeed.

    • Heather says:

      Thanks, Renee! I’m still gluten-free and loving it. It helps with the brain fog so much, and my stomach is much happier. I will never go back to eating that crap.

Speak Your Mind