Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Beginners Guide to Living Gluten Free

I am honored to do a Wednesday guest post for A Moderate Life this week. Thanks Alex!  She and I have teamed up this week to make a "Beginners Guide to Living Gluten Free". For those of you that don't know me, I am Jason, the host of Alternative Health & Nutrition News and I have been involved with natural health remedies for many years. I see and visit with people all over the US and many other countries about their health issues and sell all natural products for many conditions ranging from Lyme disease and migraines to depression.

With that said, one of my favorite topics is Celiac disease, a much misunderstood condition that is gaining widespread attention as you the public, and also the medical community become more aware and gain understanding of this auto-immune disorder. Celiac disease is a chronic hereditary condition characterized by the body's inability to absorb gluten. Celiacs have an inability to digest gluten, and to put it simply when gluten is ingested, it causes inflammation of the intestine or "gut". The villi of the small intestine in a healthy person resemble shag carpet if you will and in a Celiac, looks more like Berber. This inflammation and thus the truncation of the villi cause the body to be unable to absorb nutrients, vitamins and minerals that it needs to be healthy. Because of this truncation or flattening of the villi, Celiacs only absorb approximately 10% of their nutrients.

It can affect very young children, or can also be "triggered" later in life as an adult by a stressful event. It is known that Celiac disease is directly linked to many other diseases / disorders such as Failure to Thrive in infants, Anemia and Depression to name a few. While Celiac disease can be challenging, there are many things you can do to make your life much better. The first step is eliminating gluten from your diet. With this post, I want to help you with the first steps that you and your family would take in dealing with Celiac disease.

The questions that we will answer today are:

1. What is gluten?

2. What foods can you keep?

3. What must you throw out?

4. What do you need to do to eliminate gluten from your life and your home?

Many families have struggled with multiple "diets" in which one person eats gluten free and other members do not. Often times, when one person has Celiac disease, the entire family goes gluten free to ensure the health of the affected member.

To answer the 1st question: What is gluten?

Gluten (Latin meaning "glue") - is composed of two proteins, gliadin and glutenin. Together with starch, gluten makes up a large percentage of the protein in wheat seeds. It is naturally present in all grains such as wheat, barley and rye. Since it lives up to its Latin definition of "glue", it is widely used as a binder in many foods and gives bread dough its elasticity and workability. As mentioned above, Celiacs have an inability to digest gluten, and to put it simply when gluten is absorbed, it causes inflammation of the intestine or "gut" and thus the truncation of the villi and malabsorbtion of nutrients. This reaction / inflammation to gluten is often painful and many Celiacs can become very sick if they have an accidental ingestion.

In answer to the 2nd question: What foods can you keep?

The question all Celiacs want to know..... “Can I keep my favorite foods? Oh my goodness I love this or that sooo much!” I understand completely! I have so many favorite foods that it shows! If I was stranded on a deserted island with only coconut milk and water to drink, I could go a week + and my wardrobe would thank me. The question you have to ask yourself is.....Will I miss my favorite food when I feel so much better after removing the gluten from my life? The answer is not much.....When you discover your health again, removing certain foods will be a very small price to pay. Let’s get to the foods you can keep!

Note: I am not getting into the issues of casein, dairy, nuts, and other related food allergies with this post. Since this is a beginners guide to celiac, I will deal only with the gluten issues. If you wish, we can get into more detail in future posts.

Natural / Unpackaged, Unprocessed (ex. not lasagnas, frozen dinners)

Meats - Beef, Fish, Pork, Chicken, Shrimp, etc....

Fruits - Watermelon, Apples, Pears, Bananas, etc.....

Vegetables - Peppers, Spinach, Broccoli, Potatoes etc.....

Nuts - Almonds, Pecans, Cashews, Peanuts, Pine nuts (except wheat, barley, rye)

Sweeteners - Agar, Agave, Sugar, Honey, Sorghum, Xylitol

Starches - Rice, Enriched rice, potatoes

Seasonings - All natural sea salt, fresh ground pepper, thyme, basil, etc. (Beware of packaged shakes, rubs, flavorings or even natural ground products as they may have gluten or wheat as a binder / filler. They could also have been processed in a wheat containing facility so it is very important to read labels on these products.)

Beans - White, Black, Navy, Kidney, Green, etc....

Cheese - Cream cheese, aged cheeses (Except Bleu cheese)

Farm or Dairy - milk, eggs, sour cream, (Do not keep your ice cream until you look at the label!)

If I listed every product / ingredient you could keep, this list would be 3 pages long with verrrrry small type. My goal is not to list every single one in this post but instead to give you a good baseline and allow you to work from there. We can expand at a later date. :)

Now that you have a basic understanding of the naturally gluten free foods, we will move on to the foods that you MUST get rid of to lose the gluten. These items contain gluten naturally or in some cases will, with rare exception, have gluten in them as an additive.

In answer to the 3rd question: What foods must I throw out? (Or give to hungry neighbors)

Grains - wheat, barley, rye, spelt, etc...Anything that names wheat is to be avoided (wheat germ, wheat grass, wheat berries, etc......Buckwheat is unrelated and safe) Also any version of the word barley or rye is to be avoided.

White Flour, Enriched Flour, etc - contains wheat in most all cases unless it specifically says Gluten Free or is made from Rice, Potato, Millet, Quinoa etc....(These are safe)

Pasta - This one makes a LOT of people sad but it is almost always made with Durham wheat or Semolina so it's a no no. (There are some GF versions on the market such as rice and buckwheat pastas, look carefully!!)

Hot & Cold Cereals - again most are made with the forbidden grains. (You can buy GF versions in some popular brands but make sure you look closely. They will often advertise Gluten Free on the package.)

Dairy - Ice creams are often made with gluten as a binder / thickener. Look closely at the label or make your own.

Soups / Sauces - Packaged and canned soups / sauces almost always have flour as a thickener. (Many packaged foods will initially look safe but often have a sauce containing gluten which will cause problems. Check labels carefully!) Soy sauce is a definite danger item. There are some gluten free versions but you can have an accidental ingestion with many brands of soy.

Breads – For the most part will contain wheat and therefore gluten. There are some very good gluten free alternatives from companies such as Bob’s Red Mill. Also keep in mind that many brands of various mixes can be misleading. Many Celiacs might buy the prepackaged cornbread mix that calls for egg and milk and pop it in the oven not realizing it can contain a large amount of flour even though it is a cornbread mix. Be vigilant in reading labels. It cannot be stressed enough!!

Shampoos, Conditioners and Hairsprays – This is a stealth item that many people don’t consider. Dependant upon the sensitivity of the person, many will have reactions as these they can contain gluten or wheat. Not all brands will contain gluten but you again must check the labels.

In answer to the last question: What do you need to do to eliminate gluten from your life and home?

The answer sounds deceptively simple and is very necessary. You must become extremely aware of all the ingredients in your home and life.  People often go out to eat or rush to the local drive-thru without a second thought and if they have that ability, good for them.  Celiacs, however, must be hyper-aware of all things around them and develop a love for reading labels on the foods they purchase.  Your food package will not have in large, bold, letters I HAVE GLUTEN! on the front so you know to avoid that product.  It is much more passive than that.  You will have to read the labels thoroughly and have an understanding of the main sources and also "hidden" sources of gluten in your life. 

For many years, the medical community has stressed a gluten free lifestyle as the only solution to Celiac disease and for many years this was the case.  However in the past few years there has been an exciting breakthrough in the natural health field concerning celiac disease.  A product, Gluten Sensitivity Formula, has treated over 700 patients and been through a double blind medical study conducted by a renowned Tulsa internist, Dr. Jerome Block MD FACP.  Visit my blog and read Wise Formula Wednesday to learn about the creator, Dr. Wise, and the ingredients of the formula.

I hope this guest post has been as fun for you as it has for me. I urge you to read, be vigilant, and above all, have fun.  Any day that you are on the green side of the grass is a good day.  If you would like to find some great Gluten Free recipes as well as health information and more information on Celiac disease, please visit my blog, Alternative Health & Nutrition News.

Many thanks to the incomparable Alex of A Moderate Life for the opportunity to be a guest host as I have had more fun than is possible for a Wednesday…. Enjoy!!


Alex@amoderatelife said...

Hi Jason! Thanks so much for guest posting on my blog! This information will help so many people. Be well! Alex

J L Health 918-836-0565 said...

It was my pleasure Alex. I hope that it can help people start on their journey to a healthier, happier lifestyle.

Juliana said...

Very informative post...I know many people that need to be on gluten free diet.

J L Health 918-836-0565 said...

Thanks Juliana! You're sooo right about that. I know a lot of people as well but they don't realize that the healing doesn't happen overnight.