Category Archives: Gluten-Free

Hypoallergenic Food

Listen, you’ve heard the term hypoallergenic as it relates to your jewelry, your skin care products, and your laundry detergent, but have you ever thought about the food you eat? Have you ever thought about if what you eat is hypoallergenic? No, no. NOT sterile. Hypoallergenic doesn’t mean sterile!

You don’t blink an eye when a friend says, “Oh, I can’t wear cheap earrings. My ears get sore.” You get that! We can all relate to people needing hypoallergenic jewelry or skin products. But have you ever thought about the food you eat and whether or not it’s hypoallergenic to your system?

Yes, indeed! Just like these external substances can lead to immune reactions, so can the food you eat! However, the food you eat leads to a chain reaction of internal immune system activation that doesn’t just sit right there at the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

You have immune cells lining the intestines which sample the foods you eat and decide whether or not they like it. Whether you like the food doesn’t matter. Whether the food you eat is healthy or not doesn’t matter. If the immune cells sample it and don’t like it, they are going to send out signals (histamines, prostaglandins, interleukins, interferons, and other cytokine signals) in the blood stream which can affect any organ system in your body: you stomach, your brain, your skin, your reproductive system, your lungs, your connective tissue (joints, as an example), your thyroid.

My Oligoantigenic (What!?!?) Diet

When I first started down this fascinating nutrition avenue a little over four years ago (from a classic diet of cereal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, and pizza or pasta for supper), one of the first things I learned about and tried was an “oligoantigenic diet.” I had read that some people with the same gastrointestinal malady that I suffered from had been treated in a medical research study with an oligoantigenic diet!

What in tarnation is an oligoantigenic diet? I’d never heard of that! Basically, it is a strict, hypoallergenic diet that allows only foods which are accepted to be very mild on the body’s immune system. Once I figured out that I could think of an oligoantigenic diet as a type of “hypoallergenic” diet, I got it! Choose foods which cause the least known reactions! For those of you familiar with a strict elimination diet, you know what I’m talking about here too.

So I started on a (miserable) diet consisting of three foods which don’t seem to rile up people’s immune systems too much: lamb (I didn’t even like lamb), plain sweet potato (I had only ever eaten those as fries), and white rice (which I had never eaten plain). Did I mention it tasted miserable? But persistence led me on a food journey of a lifetime (for a lifetime).  And as I’ve heard it said, “I didn’t know I was feeling so bad till I started feeling so good!”

An oligoantigenic diet (or hypoallergenic diet) is NOT meant to be a long-term diet. A person starts with a small group of 3-5 foods and builds from there, learning to observe signs and symptoms that tell him or her that a particular food category raises immune reactions (by observing for headaches, GI changes, spikes in fatigue, skin rashes, and other clues).

The Pesky Foods

Never once going through pharmacy school, medical school, residency, and hundreds of hours of continuing education did I ever hear about a hypoallergenic, oligoantigenic diet or even an anti-inflammatory diet. (I was served plenty of donuts, bagels with cream cheese, and pizza, though.) It took me going after my own health to learn about nutrition.

Since my oligoantigenic diet, I’ve done a lot more reading. What I’ve found is that the same foods that doctors KNOW are immune provoking because they cause true, life- threatening food allergies, are the same foods that can be removed to lighten the load of a body stressed by health problems. By removing known immune-provoking, inflammmatory-producing foods, the body gets a rest from the prostaglandins, histamine, interleukins, interferons, and other cytokines that it makes in response to something it thinks is harmful.

Although any food can cause allergic and sensitivity issues, there are eight foods that are medically known to cause the majority of the reactions. Why? These foods have what I call “pesky proteins.” They have proteins in them that have very, very strong bonds, making them difficult for our digestive tracts to break down. The better food is broken down into its smallest parts in our intestinal tracts, the less inflammatory it is to us.

The pesky eight foods are:

Peanuts
Tree nuts
Milk products
Egg
Wheat
Soy
Fish
Shellfish

These are the common drop-dead if you eat them allergenic foods. But I’m not talking about drop-dead allergies here. I’m talking about you and me and Mr. Smith walking around with headaches, bloating, fussy guts, allergies, asthma, psoriasis, eczema, depression, fatigue, puffy eyelids, puffy faces, coronary artery disease, increasing forgetfulness, dry and itchy eyes, chronic sinus problems, joint pain–do I HAVE to keep going? I sure can. Sometimes by simply eliminating the above food categories (with NO cheating), a person can gauge how much food is affecting their health.

Enter Anti-Inflammatory Diets

Since trying my three ingredient, hypoallergenic diet, I’ve discovered a whole world of anti-inflammatory type diets, which aren’t as strict as an oligoantigenic (hypoallergenic) diet. I find it fascinating that these diets often eliminate the Pesky Eight foods, capitalizing on what we know about the immune system and health! However, anti-inflammatory type diets incorporate and expand further on the idea of the immune system and inflammation in the role of health problems.

Each named anti-inflammatory diet (sometimes called autoimmune diets) has its own unique quirks. In general, though, these diets do three things.

  1. Eliminate most of the Pesky Eight foods (although seafood is usually encouraged if a person knows they are not truly allergic) and a few other problematic foods which don’t make the top eight. (Things like corn, any gluten grains, beef, chocolate, citrus, tomato, and beans)
  2. Eliminate processed foods, refined foods, including sugars.
  3. Include abundant vegetables and fruits.

Anti-inflammatory diets (autoimmune diets) seek to eliminate the most common food problem causers and also try to bring in food problem solvers.

Conclusion

Diets in general can be overwhelming, and when they talk about restricting food groups, diets can be downright terror-provoking. As I’ve journeyed away from an oligoantigenic elimination diet, my own diet landed very similarly to many of these anti-inflammatory type diets. It wasn’t by choice and planning. That’s just how it fell. I can’t eat many of the Pesky Eight foods and feel good doing so. My body likes hypoallergenic food best.

I hear a lot of people say that no good diet restricts food groups. I really, really understand what they’re saying. However, LOOK AT THE PESKY EIGHT! They are good, healthy foods!!!!! But if the GI tract immune system triggers a cascade that sets the rest of the body on edge, you’re not going to feel good.

So please, when someone says they can’t eat dairy or wheat, give them a break. When they say they can’t eat eggs or beef, give them a nod. It’s just as frustrating for them as it is you. And if you have any nagging health problems, talk with your doctor about a dietary referral to see if an oligoantigenic food trial helps you gain control of any of your issues.

Don’t use anything on my site as medical guidance or instruction. I hope it sparks curiosity to help you want to learn more. And, oh yes, I like to think that for most people, autoimmune type diets can be expanded with a whole health approach.

Be well. Be curious.

Terri

Roasted Sweet Potatoes With Red Onion, Tahini, Pine Nuts, and Parsley

A good friend attended the birthday party of a centenarian who was asked, “How do you live to be 100 [and healthy]?”

Centenarian’s answer: “Eat only what you prepare.”

IMG_3132On that real food note, I have a delectable sweet potato recipe featuring tahini, pine nuts, and parsley. A real POP for the taste buds. The flavors seriously seem to come at you from all directions, first from one way and then another. It is soooooooo, sooooooo good! The ingredients sound exotic, but I can usually find them in most supermarkets.

My recipe is adapted from The Amateur Gourmet’s Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Onion with Tahini and Za’atar, and I’m pretty sure one of you made my life better by sharing the link with me! When I don’t have enough sweet potatoes on hand, I’ll mix in some humble potato. I’m pretty sure the recipe would be delicious substituted with potato entirely, too. (The original recipe used unpeeled butternut squash! Do check it out!) When I don’t have pine nuts, I’ll use blanched, sliced almonds. The original recipe also calls for za’atar, which is a Middle Eastern spice blend. If I have it, I use it.

Life is about adaptability.

 

Roasted Sweet Potatoes With Red Onion, Tahini, Pine Nuts, And Parsley

  • 3 pounds sweet potatoes (approximately 3-4 sweet potatoes, depending on the size), peeled and cut into 16ths or 18ths (or use potato or squash)
  • 2 red onions, cut into 1-2 inch wedges
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1/2 tablespoon olive oil (divided usage)
  • 2 teaspoons plus 1/2 teaspoon plus a sprinkle of salt (divided usage)
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup tahini (ground up sesame seeds, found in ethnic aisle–I used Krinos– or grind your own if you’re good)
  • Juice of 1 lemon (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 small clove of garlic, minced
  • Water to thin tahini sauce (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/3 cup of pine nuts (also called pignoli–or sustibute blanched, sliced almonds)
  • Flat leaf parsley (or curly will do), anywhere from 1/4 cup to over 1/2 cup, depending on preference
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (218 C).
  2. In a large mixing bowl, toss the chopped sweet potatoes and onion wedges with 3 tablespoons olive oil and 2 teaspoons salt and some pepper to taste. Then spread on a large, rimmed cookie sheet (line with parchment paper for easier clean-up). Roast in oven, stirring once to prevent burning, until the sweet potatoes are very fork tender (approximately 30 minutes). Remove from oven and place in your desired serving dish.
  3. In a small bowl, make the tahini sauce by mixing the tahini, lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and minced garlic. Add just enough water to thin to a pourable cream-like sauce. Set aside.
  4. Roast the pine nuts by placing the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil in a small frying pan and heat over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and a little sprinkle of salt. Watch closely, stirring frequently until lightly browned. (I burn the first batch nearly EVERY time.) Remove from pan and set aside.
  5. To assemble the dish, drizzle the tahini sauce over the top of the sweet potatoes. (You may not use all of the sauce, depending on if you were under 3 pounds or over 3 pounds of potatoes or if you just don’t like that much sauce! Save it to make a salad dressing or to serve on top of a baked potato like sour cream and top with parsley!) Sprinkle the pine nuts on, and lastly garnish with parsley. If you like parsley, use a lot. (I used 3/4 cup.) If you don’t, just use enough to make it pretty.

Family “gustar” report: The baby (2 y/o) likes the sweet potatoes with the tahini sauce fine enough, but she picks off everything else. The rest of the family really, really likes this dish, even the one who doesn’t like sweet potatoes. So I’m going to have to give it a 5.5/6. My husband always comes home from work the next day and says, “Where’s the leftover sweet potato dish?”  It’s always gone.

Please, enjoy! And strive to eat and serve real food. I know it’s not easy. What is?

Terri

Eleven Reasons THAT Won’t Work For You

Xiao_er_lun_-_Confucius_and_childrenIt’s so easy to let jealousy torment you when your husband loses 30 pounds eating very low carb (while sneaking in Snicker bars)–and you only lose 5 and swear it makes you manic. Why does it work this way?

It’s so easy to cry and wallow in yourself when you try everything for your multiple sclerosis (MS) and nothing seems to make it budge–well, not like it did for Terry Wahls, who changed her diet and lifestyle and went from a zero-gravity recline wheelchair to riding a bike. What does she have that you don’t?

And how about these people with cancer? The people who go to Mexico and get coffee enemas? Why does one come back glowing and cured and the other one we remember with love and frustration, saying, “Tsk, tsk. She wouldn’t take chemotherapy and look what happened to her. Goes to show. . . ”

I could go on and on. He dropped gluten and his arthritis went away. She started coconut oil and frankincense for her dementia and now she recognizes her family again. He gave up dairy, started some aloe, and his constipation is gone for good. Going raw, vegan cured her chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. Dropping all grains and all dairy and all sugar and starting physiologic folate helped his autism. Fish oil cured her depression.

Can I stop? Do you get the idea? Is this you?

Shocker. Spoil alert.

Stop reading if you’re completely sold on a new diet or have just spent big money on a new supplement because I have some bad news.

It may not work for you. (Gasp. Shocker.)

But I have some good news too! It MAY work!

Today I want to help you understand maybe why you’re not getting better doing the good things you’re doing. Why each person’s health plan (diet, supplement, exercise, sleep, etc.) must be tailored individually. It sounds overwhelming to think you actually have to formulate your own health plan, that it’s not written out there for you in some book, but isn’t that really the journey of our whole life? Finding out what makes us tick? What brings us peace? Coming to terms with our limitations and expanding our strengths?

“I Don’t Have MS, Terri.”

Medical doctors group symptoms and tests together to arrive at a diagnosis. A label. A name. The name helps us to know what to expect for a patient’s outcome. What we’ve tried before that has helped or not helped.

Dementia. Psoriasis. Ulcerative colitis. Multiple sclerosis. Migraines. Crohn’s Disease. These are labels. They are necessary labels! For example, we know that the group of people who have ulcerative colitis symptoms and tests will need monitored for colon cancer, and that many celiac patients can be symptom-free following gluten-free diets. Having a label helps!

But there are tough cases. Cases which don’t fit, and sadly, they’re more common than medical doctors want to admit or even know about. These patients doctor shop, so often a doctor isn’t given the chance to even know that refractory cases are as rampant as they are. There are diagnoses that don’t have good treatments, like irritable bowel syndrome and fibromyalgia.

These patients, these refractory cases, are like a nebulous cloud which floats around looking for answers. Why can’t they get their answers?

I have a friend (actually I have many friends with MS, sad to say) with classic multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms and diagnostic tests. She repeatedly tells me, “Terri, I don’t have MS. I’ve never believed I have MS.”

You’d think as a medical doctor, I’d laugh my head off silly.

Maybe you, as a vociferous alternative health proponent are thinking, “She must not be doing it right. She needs to do this [insert your desired diet or supplement]. She needs to try harder. She needs to try longer. . .”

Now, my friend is a little frustrated. She has had MS for years, and sometimes it’s better. Sometimes it’s worse. She has tried nearly everything.

What I want you to think about for people–is the possibility that our labels group similar health cases together which may stem from different causes. And when that is the case, when the underlying cause of presentations which LOOK the same is NOT the same, a person can bang her head into a wall (this is one of my favorite images because I’m so prone to doing this if I’m not careful) wondering, “Why not me? Why can’t I? Why did it work for her?” Except in a highly motivated individual who says, “I’m moving on. I can do this. That failure taught me something,” this can be counterproductive and harmful.

One Leukemia: 11 Diseases

And now I get to the crux of my post. When I was in medical school, I learned about acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). I learned it as ONE disease entity. ONE (a bad disease entity at that). New research shows that this AML that I learned about as one disease, is actually 11 diseases, with 11 different causes–which show up looking the same! This helped explain why some people responded so well to treatment and some people tragically did not. We weren’t treating ONE disease, we were treating ELEVEN!

See: Genomic Classification and Prognosis in Acute Myeloid Leukemia

I think that most of our clinically diagnosed diseases will ultimately be found to be caused and/or impacted in different ways. Until that day that you know exactly what the cause of your illness is–your obesity, your thyroid problem, your irritable bowel, your IBD, your arthritis, your insomnia, your depression, your constipation, your MS, and so on–until that day, you’re just going to have to take a flat-out comprehensive approach to have the best outcome.

So…

  • Should you eat low carb?
  • Should you eat high fat?
  • Should you eat dairy?
  • Should you eat meat?
  • Should you eat grains?
  • Should you take calcium?
  • Should you supplement with CoQ?
  • Should you take iodine?

And so on and so forth. Whether you should or shouldn’t may depend on your genes, how they are expressed, your gut microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, viruses), and how your environment (sun, exercise, sleep, diet, daily doses of inadvertent toxins) interacts with those.

There is no ONE diet. There is no ONE lifestyle. In fact, there’s probably no one dementia. No one MS. No one IBS. There may be 11.  So find a platform which resonates with you. Try it. Be willing to modify it. Don’t abandon what works. Keep what works and build your plan. Don’t despair. Don’t give up. Start with absolutely real food if you have a problem you really need to tackle. And move forward, tweaking as your body tells you.

(And, of course, seek medical advice and always be safe.)

Terri

Photo credit: By An unknown Chinese artist [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Strawberry Spinach Salad With Maple Glazed Pecans

Adaptability.  It’s all about adaptability.  Take this sweet, crunchy and showy salad, perfect for any get-together, originally from my mother-in-law’s recipe book.  Awesome salad, but originally quite refined.   Substitute maple syrup for white sugar and olive oil for vegetable oil, and voila!  You’ve thrown refinement to the wind!  And retained good taste and stunning looks.  Lookin’ good, girl.  Lookin’ good.  Love the makeover.

The steps, when written out, look a little long, but I hate to leave anything to chance.  The salad is delicious, always goes over well at potlucks, and isn’t hard to make.

Don’t be afraid to adapt.  Don’t be afraid to adapt recipes.  Eat real.  Eat well.  Live well.

P.S.  Salad shown without the delicious poppy seed dressing.  Can’t remember why.

strawberry pecan salad 3

INGREDIENTS

For the salad:

1 pound of fresh baby spinach or spinach chopped into bite sized pieces

1 cup of celery, diced small

1 quart of fresh strawberries, sliced or quartered

For the glazed pecans:

½ cup maple syrup

1 ½ cup whole pecans

For the poppy seed dressing:

⅔ cup white apple cider vinegar

½ cup maple syrup (you may like a little more than I do)

3-4 green onions (with tops), chopped

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons dry mustard

2 cups olive oil

3 tablespoons poppy seeds

INSTRUCTIONS

First, place the spinach, diced celery, and fresh-sliced strawberries in your prettiest glass serving bowl.  Set aside.  You can even do this the day before for convenience.

Second, glaze the pecans:

  1. Lay out a large sheet of waxed paper, about the size of a cookie sheet, and grease it well with a little coconut oil or olive oil.  Alternatively, you may use a silicone baking mat which will not need greased.
  2. Put the maple syrup and pecans in a large, heavy skillet. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, for about 7-8 minutes.  Time will vary, but cook the pecans until the syrup caramelizes and gets sticky and bubbly.  Err on the side of overcooking (but do not burn).
  3. Remove the pecans with a slotted spoon to the greased waxed paper or silicone sheet.
  4. Allow to cool.
  5. Break up into pieces to sprinkle onto the salad.  Set aside.  You may also do this the day before and store separately.

Third, make the poppy seed dressing:

  1. Combine the first 5 ingredients in a food processor or blender. (Do not yet add the olive oil or poppy seeds.)  Blend until smooth.
  2. With the food processor still running, add the 2 cups of oil in a slow, steady stream until smooth and thick. The dressing will be a light green color.
  3. Fold in the poppy seeds.
  4. Chill.  (You may have extra dressing.  The dressing will keep in the refrigerator for about ten days, although it will thicken due to the cold.  Allow it to come to room temperature for a thinner consistency.)

Finally, put the salad all together:

  1. Top the salad mix in the pretty bowl with the glazed pecans.
  2. Drizzle on the poppy seed dressing just before serving, using only as much dressing as you desire.
  3. Toss the salad to mix.  Serve.  (Alternatively, serve the dressing on the side, and any leftovers will keep better.)

Family “gustar” report:  The whole family votes thumbs up for this salad.

I hope you try this recipe and love it as much as we all do!  Please, give real food a try!

Terri

NINE Fantastic Tips to Get and Keep Your (Stubborn) Family Eating Whole, Real Food

MG Diet Disgust Photo 1

Originally, my family initially cut out all processed foods, grains, and dairy for my health, but the unexpected improvements to each family member that followed were eye-opening!

My family wasn’t exactly clapping or panting eagerly like bushy-tailed puppies to eat in this new way. Pant. Pant. Pant. “What’s for supper tonight, Mom? We’re so excited to eat cut apples and oranges for dessert again.” Pant, pant.

Uh, no.

Instead of cute puppies, think Jurassic Park—where that little, deadly dinosaur, the dilophosaurus, would stare, posture, and then spit and attack swiftly. That’s more like it…

So how can you keep the dilophosauruses from spitting in your face and killing your efforts? How can you get panting puppies drooling over dinner?

Sheer tenacity. Don’t give up and use every tactic in the book. Listen to me. Insulin pumps and bypass grafts aren’t pretty. Your family can dig in their heels in denial till they’re knee deep in China, but the fact of the matter is that diet matters

Check out my NINE TIPS to get and keep your family eating good, real, whole foods by clicking here to go to the full article, “Does Your Family Have Diet Disgust?” It’s in Molly Green Magazine, and they display it with such nice graphics.  Below, I’ve given teasers from each of the methods.  So, if you have a moment, click on over and read them in their entirety!  All the photos here come from Molly Green Magazine (click here to see the magazine cover).

(As always, you know I care about people feeling good and functioning well so they can live their lives with fullness, richness, and contentment.  And I’d write no matter what, but from Molly Green Magazine, I do get a free membership for contributing.)

1.  The Cry-and-Speak Method

If you’ve stood with your head bowed, scraping what you thought was a perfectly good meal (which required effort to make!) into the trash while the cupboards are raided for some immediate post-dinner potato chips… (more)

2.  The Raised-Voice Method

…Sometimes, don’t ask me why, people just don’t think you’re serious until you raise your voice… (more)

3.  The Long-Route Method

What about eating out… (more)

4.  The Hiding Method

People like familiarity, and hey, we should have the comfort we expect in our own homes… (more)

5.  The Out-of-Groceries Method

…You’ll be reminded ten times when you’re out of crackers, and you just say, “Okay. Thanks for telling me.” You don’t need to say more. And you don’t need to buy any more either… (more)

6.  The Don’t-Mention-It Method

My kids informed me that they wished I hadn’t told them we were changing our diet. They suggested that if I had done it slowly and methodically, they probably would not have noticed… (more)

7.  The Involvement Method

If your husband doesn’t normally eat fruit, before you head to the store, ask him, “Which fruit do you want me to get for you…You’ll be surprised what a pointed question like that does to the psychology… (more)

8.  The Recognizing-Needs Method

It’s normal to have some food absolutes. Foods you can’t live without. (And foods you can’t live with!) Identify those for each family member, and allow for those, especially at first… (more)

9.  The Familiar Method

Make familiar recipes that require no or only subtle changes to be healthy. Some recipes are super easy to adapt! The recipes that don’t taste the same when adapted? Skip those for a few months or more. Come back to them later and try them again; you’ll be surprised how taste buds adapt. Some people just need familiar foods, not exotic experiments… (more)

 

What do you think?  Do you use these methods?  What I’d leave out?

Eat well.  Be well.  And if you were following the last few posts, you know I have to say, “Think well.”

Warmest wishes.

Whole Grain Copycat Muffin

Grain-free gluten-free flax muffinsThis hearty muffin goes great with eggs for breakfast or with your soup for lunch!  It reminds me of a bran muffin, and the chia and sunflower seeds give it a whole grain like crunch!  It is not a sweet muffin, but the recipe can easily be adapted (omit the chia and sunflower seeds) to make this into a lemon poppy seed or orange-walnut cranberry muffin if you’re adventurous!  All yummy!

Sometimes when recipes I try from the internet don’t work out, I wonder what gives!  So I like to try to be clear in my directions; I want you to get the same results I do.  When I measured the dry ingredients, I was very particular for this recipe.  I gently tapped the measuring cups on the kitchen counter to get the flax and arrowroot powder to settle down.  Then I filled the cups again to the top and tapped again, leveling off if needed with a flat knife.  I have made this muffin with maple syrup, almond milk, and palm shortening substitutions.  I prefer to make this in our blender, but I’ve also made it with an electric hand mixer.  All of these variations work (the palm shortening requires lots of immersion), but the recipe as typed up below is what we prefer best and is the most tasty.

Whole Grain Copycat Muffin

Makes 10-12 muffins

1 cup of finely ground golden flax
1/2 cup arrowroot powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 T whole chia seeds
2 T chopped sunflower seeds
3 eggs
1/4 cup full fat coconut milk
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup of olive oil

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Mix the dry ingredients in a small bowl.
  3. In the blender, blend together all of the wet ingredients.  (This may alternatively be done with an electric hand mixer or immersion stick blender.  Mix until the wet ingredients are well-blended and bubbly.)
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in the blender and blend until well mixed.
  5. Pour into lined muffin tins.  I fill the muffin cups about 3/4 full.  I get 10-12 muffins.
  6. Bake for approximately 15 minutes.  Ovens vary greatly so monitor and check for doneness with a toothpick or knife inserted in the center.

Family “gustar” report:  6/6.  I was happy the now finicky toddler ate them!  My husband liked them drizzled with a little honey.  The older kids liked them plain.

I hope you have a wonderful day today!  I hope it is filled with peace that comes from inside!  Listen to the clues your body and mind give you to make changes to develop a life full of gratitude and joy!

Signing off,

Terri

What Could Joint Pain Have in Common with ADHD?

wpid-IMAG0804.jpgOne of my daughters is sensitive to gluten.  I knew it made her seasonal allergies worse, but I didn’t realize some of its other effects until she shared them with me.  When she did, it tore my heart out.  She said, “Mom, when I eat that stuff, it makes me really sad.  I cry and I can’t fall to sleep at night.”  Whoa.

Research indicates that one in 133 people have celiac disease (a serious, destructive autoimmune disorder to gluten) in the USA and 6% have gluten-sensitivity (The exact mechanism is still being determined but it does not appear to be destructive like celiac disease–but symptoms may be just as uncomfortable!).  The proteins in gluten are very, very, very difficult proteins for our bodies to digest.  So what?  Haven’t they always been?  Well, this has become more problematic in our current time as the bacteria we humans rely on to guard our gut linings have been terrorized by antibiotics, food preservatives, and reliance on processed foods.  When the proteins are not broken down properly, our immune systems can be triggered in different ways.  Some people’s bodies handle this in stride.  Others do not, and each person will have his own unique response resulting in different symptoms.

Please remember, my articles are never intended for medical advice.  I observe.  I study.  I read.  I write up what I think is interesting and others may benefit from reading.  It’s your job to be safe, talk to your doctor, and be a diligent bulldog for your health.

Three Reasons Doctors Shun the Gluten-Free Idea 

If gluten is such an issue, why doesn’t your doctor tell you about it?  There are a few reasons.  One, it is easy to dismiss a gluten-free diet because research on atypical celiac presentation and gluten-sensitivity is slow to trickle down to doctors practicing in the community.  They aren’t going to jump on the bandwagon simply for some article that shows up in your USA Today.  However, research studies and case reports abound on the negative effects of gluten and other wheat proteins and the changing face of celiac disease.  Alessio Fasano, MD and colleagues have made amazing discoveries about celiac disease, gluten-sensitivity, wheat allergy, and gluten in general.  Your decision on wheat would be remiss if you didn’t consider Dr. Fasano’s work.  On the other hand, he is fairly conservative, but I think that is what has allowed his ideas to surface so quickly and to be well-received by the stubborn medical community.

Secondly, gluten problems can appear so differently from person to person!  Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity can cause diverse symptoms, and frustratingly there is no objective test for gluten sensitivity.  Nowadays, celiac disease is presenting with strange, atypical symptoms which doctors are not prepared to identify!  It’s a tough gluten-disorder diagnostic world!  I have a friend whose mother was diagnosed with celiac disease a couple of years ago–and her mom is in her 70s!  No doctor was thinking of this until the poor woman drove to the Mayo ER and said, “I’m not leaving this hospital till you figure out what’s wrong with me!”

And thirdly, the glut of gluten-free processed food products on the market targeting susceptible consumers is preposterous and attack-worthy.  People associate gluten-free with healthy.  No.  Gluten-free oranges are healthy.  Gluten-free broccoli is healthy.  Gluten-free shrimp are healthy.  But gluten-free bread and gluten-free cookies are not.

And lastly (I know I said “a few,” but I just thought of this one.), most patients and most doctors think a gluten-free lifestyle is too hard.

What Symptoms Would I Look for to Consider a Gluten-Disorder?

What kind of symptoms would a gluten-sensitive person experience?  I’ve listed some.  Maybe you’ll see something here on your health record or that of a loved one.  My list is not conclusive.  I realize now I left off skin disorders, like eczema.

    • Joint pain and swelling: Gluten-sensitive people may present with pain and swelling in one or more joints. The understanding of how and why this happens is not clear yet. The symptoms may not occur right away after gluten is eaten (It can take several days.), and this delayed onset can make diagnosis confusing. Besides causing joints to become painful and swollen, gluten can also make known arthritis more painful, including rheumatoid arthritis.
    • Stomach troubles: Some people will have irritable bowel symptoms with stomach pain, bloating, and diarrhea. Others will simply have stubborn constipation. It is not understood why some people get diarrhea and others get constipation, but recent studies show that a gluten-free diet can help these digestive symptoms.
    • Fibromyalgia and fatigue symptoms: Sometimes people develop painful muscles as a negative response to gluten. The severe muscle aches can be debilitating and receive a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, usually accompanied by chronic fatigue. Gluten-removal for some people helps eliminate or reduce this chronic pain and fatigue. Severe fatigue and tiredness can occur, too, without the muscle aches, and again, gluten removal wonderfully helps some people regain their vitality.
    • Headaches: Some people will get headaches with gluten exposure, but in addition, they may also have dizziness and a “fogginess” in their head that they cannot shake no matter how much sleep or caffeine they get. Imagine their satisfaction when they wake up headache-free and clear-headed for the first time in years.
    • ADHD and autism symptoms: Removing gluten from a child’s diet is challenging in today’s world, but studies do suggest that removal can help ADHD and autism symptoms. However, in autism, the studies are done most often with a combination of gluten and dairy removal, and so it is hard to attribute the improvement to gluten over dairy.
    • Depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and obsessive compulsive disorder: There is no doubt that the diagnosis of mental illness is tragically on the rise. Amazingly, some people find relief from these mental illnesses with simple dietary changes such as gluten removal. But how many people with depression or anxiety are prescribed dietary changes such as a gluten-free diet? Not many. Depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder (a disease which alternates between high, energetic, sometimes delusional symptoms and extreme depression), schizophrenia, and obsessive compulsive disorder (a disease where a person has repetitive thoughts and actions they cannot remove from their minds) may be the prime symptoms for some gluten-sensitive individuals.  Personally, I know a bipolar patient who told me, “I am NOT giving up my morning toast, Terri.”  Okay then.

If you have chronic, troubling symptoms, don’t wait for your doctor to tell you that you have gluten-sensitivity or atypical celiac disease.  Ask your doctor to please evaluate you or your child for celiac disease and then ask if it is safe for you to proceed to a gluten-free diet.  Don’t be deterred if your doctor dismisses your concern and belittles your endeavors.  Your doctor may think going gluten-free will not work–and maybe it will not–but there is plenty of research to support your trial.  But first make sure there is not celiac disease!  A celiac patient should not even use the same toaster that has toasted gluten-containing products!  A celiac patient must know where “maltodextrin” came from.

Closing

What questions do you have?  I know this diet stuff is confusing and immensely complex.  And I know that’s a part of what makes people throw their hands up and go eat whatever their little, ol’ tongues desire.  I understand that.  I get it.  But I also know the statistics, and I know that gluten affects some of my own family members.  So does my daughter ever eat gluten?  She does, usually on vacation or at birthdays or potlucks.  She acknowledges an unusual passion for gluten products, and she has asked me (I did not suggest it.  I lead by example and try to teach my kids information and good observation so they can make good decisions their whole lives through.  I hope my daughters never have eating disorders and intend to do all I can to promote a positive relationship to food.) to help her moderate portions and to not order certain things on vacation or special dinners out.  She is becoming her own health advocate.  Please become yours.

Terri

PS:  My take on gluten and grains is much, much more complex than these mere 1000 words allow.  But I hope this article raises awareness that gluten can definitely be a problem!  (Of course, so can other foods as well.  And this leads us to leaky gut.  And so on.  This stuff is so fascinating.)

Sources:

  1. Non-Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity and Autoimmunity: A Case Report.  Isasi C, Colmenero I, Casco F, et al.  European Journal of Case Reports in Internal Medicine.   EJCRIM.  2014;1
  2. Spectrum of gluten-related disorders: consensus on new nomenclature and classification.  Sapone A, Bai JC, Ciacci C, et al.  BMC Medicine.  2012. 10:13.
  3. Neurologic and Psychiatric Manifestations of Celiac Disease and Gluten-Sensitivity. Jackson JR, Eaton WW, Cascella NG, et al.  Psychiatric Quarterly.  March 2012, Volume 83, Issue 1, pp91-102.
  4. Fibromyalgia and non-gluten sensitivity: a description with remission of fibromyalgia.  Isasi C, Colmenero I, Casco F, et al.  Rheumatology International.  2014; 34 (11):  1607-1612.
  5. Fasano, Alessio and Susie Flaherty.  Gluten Freedom.  Wiley, 2014.