THE BLOG
04/10/2014 03:46 pm ET | Updated Jun 10, 2014

The Gluten-Free Challenge -- Are You With Me?

There's no easy way to say this, so I'm just going to come right out with it.

You look a bit bloated.

At least if you're an average American. Twenty-three pounds overweight, to be exact. Twenty-three pounds might be hard to visualize, so let's turn the number into something tangible. Something you can picture. How about 92 sticks of butter? Yup, if you're an average American, you're walking around with, basically, an extra 92 sticks of butter slathered all over your body.

Not only are you -- if you're an average American -- a bit broad in the beam, but you're also feeling sluggish and possibly depressed. Oh, and one more thing. You seem constipated.

Now, hold on. Don't feel bad. All of this isn't actually your fault. Not exactly. According to Dr. William Davis and his wildly popular Wheat Belly, it's the bagel you had at breakfast, the sandwich at lunch, the muffin at 3 p.m., the fried chicken you had for dinner, and the cookies before bed.

In his New York Times bestseller, Davis documents patients who, after giving up wheat, lose 20 to 50 pounds in the first few months. Not only that, but to his surprise, they also experience relief from or even a complete cure to their depression, anxiety, fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, arthritis, asthma, headaches, diabetes, and psoriasis.

There's only one downside that he mentions. Once you have completely given up wheat for a while, when you do eat it, your body thinks you've just eaten something inedible, like a toxin, and you might experience bloating, diarrhea, or even vomiting. The same symptoms you'd get from eating old chicken or fecally-contaminated sausage.

Still, I'm game. I've been feeling depressed, and I'd like to shake things up, inject some life into my writing and into my life. So here's my experiment. I'll give up wheat for one month. No more bread, cookies, fish n' chips, or even beer. I'll excise these from my diet. It will be difficult, but I suspect I can survive. I'll check back in a few days.

I'm three days into my wheat-free month, and I'm feeling great. Yes, I feel hungry all the time, but I feel clear-headed and light. I have more energy and sex drive. You know, I think my back is aching less.

Eight days in, and I miss beer. But I must report that I feel a marked increase in my sense of well-being. This is no double-blind study, but I'm fairly certain that this improvement in my mood is from dropping the gluten. No other recent changes in my life would particularly explain my sudden optimism and contentment. In fact, a few things in my life are worse. The article that I wrote last week that I was sure would go viral received only six likes. And with only a month to go until my new book launches, my publicist has gone on vacation for a week. I could be a neurotic, anxious wreck pacing my office and texting her in Maui. Yet, I feel happy and optimistic and have emailed her only once.

I plan to keep up my gluten-free diet for the month and to keep you posted as I go. And when it's over and I crack a beer, I even promise to let you know whether I experience the promised flatulence and diarrhea.

In the meantime, while you wait, try your own experiment. Try going a week without bread, bagels, muffins, and beer. Substitute in meat, vegetables, nuts, gluten-fee baked goods, rice, corn on the cob, fruit, whatever you feel like. I bet you'll feel happier and more energetic. Are you with me?

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