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The Gluten-Free Eating Plan

Many people are sensitive to wheat and/or gluten, and this profoundly affecting sensitivity affects different people differently. Some may experience digestive problems like gas or bloating, while others may have mental symptoms like irritability, depression, foggy thinking or even panic attacks. Or you could be like me as I, too, am gluten intolerant and my main symptom has always been fibromyalgia, or my body aches all over in a non-specific way with pain which travels and jumps around. A secondary symptom for me has been agitation which at times (pre-GF) exploded into the compulsion to move and then right on into panic attacks if I couldn’t (or shouldn’t) move as in being “trapped” in a classroom, church, a concert, sitting at dinner etc. Does this remind you of an ADHD child?

Gluten intolerance often runs in families and also in ancestral lines. Wheat was first domesticated in the Middle East and gradually spread northward, reaching Nordic areas and the British Isles relatively late in terms of human evolution. As a result, people of Northern European and Nordic ancestry have the highest rates of gluten intolerance. We just haven’t developed the gene which processes the gliaden (the chemical component in gluten) appropriately.

Although I can’t be sure, I think that my father had undiagnosed gluten intolerance. He suffered from lifelong ataxia which means that he stumbled and was very clumsy and walked like he was drunk even though he was a teetotaler. Ataxia is yet another symptom of gluten intolerance. When he died of a stroke at an early age (74), we did an autopsy which showed a very shriveled cerebellum which is where posture, balance and movement originate. I personally think that his cerebellar dystrophy was in part due to a gluten sensitivity. That, and his occupation as a chemical engineer which exposed him to a constant barrage of chemicals and heavy metals which tend to hang out in brain tissue. You, dear reader, be careful of all of the above, please, because neurodegenerative diseases are on the rise in our very toxic world.

Gluten or gliaden and any food sensitivity can distress any and every system of the body. Most of us are keyed into expecting some sort of stomach distress to signal us when we eat foods we are “allergic” to, but this is not always the case. In fact, it’s usually not the case. Gluten can affect your joints, your heart, your liver, your pancreas and your brain. While the brain can’t get arthritis or feel pain, it sure can get foggy, depressed, panic-y and senile – all possible sequelae of eating your food sensitivities, - especially gluten – on a daily basis. Get this: One hundred percent (!) of schizophrenics have been shown to have severe gluten sensitivity and when gluten is removed from their diet, their symptoms improve. My cousin Johnny (my father’s side) was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia at the age of 17 and spent years in mental institutions - this was before the advent of Thorazine which mobilized many heretofore completely disabled schizophrenics - and I have always wondered how much of his mental disorder could have been ameliorated with a GF diet. I have found gluten intolerance in ADHD kids as well as gluten intolerance in recurrent ear infections and chronic sinusitis.

I’m sure you have heard of celiac disease. Well, this is an extreme form of gluten intolerance which has become so bad that it now interferes with the absorption of food. Your immune system actually starts attacking the gluten. The small intestine will become inflamed and stomach aches are rampant; you don’t digest well and if you keep eating gluten, you will increase your risk factor for getting osteoporosis, anemia and lymphoma.

Did you know that 13% of celiacs have only brain symptoms (ataxia, schizophrenia, ADHD, shakiness) and no gut issues at all? Celiac disease can now be diagnosed via a blood test, rather than the invasive endoscopy of old. But celiac disease is quite rare and occurs in only 1% of the population, while gluten intolerance or sensitivity is quite common. But don’t think that mere sensitivity isn’t problematic as well: Gluten intolerance can cause exactly the same symptoms and discomfort as celiac disease. It’s just not an autoimmune disorder.

Do you crave bread? Pastas? Do you get angry if I suggest that you give up these foods? Because if you do, then there is a good chance that you are sensitive to these foods. Think of your very favorite foods. The ones you could eat all day every day. I hate to tell you this, but you are probably sensitive to these foods. There is a connection between addiction and allergy. Just look at alcoholics. They are probably exquisitely sensitive to their particular “grain” of choice: rye, corn, wheat.

Did you know that a good 90% of us have difficulty digesting gluten? Grains – especially wheat - are now shadows of their former selves, adulterated into I don’t know what, thanks to Monsanto et al. They pump crappy chemicals into the soil and the crops and when they are harvested, the grains sit around in huge silos for months where they get moldy. Then the grain is ground for our breads, mold and all. Sometimes, it’s hard to know for sure whether a person is sensitive to the gluten in the grain or to the molds, preservative and/or additives in the grain. If we are this person who has trouble digesting gluten and if we continue to eat gluten, then we are opening ourselves up for heaps of ill health.

If your gut is compromised from eating gluten when you are sensitive, then you can easily develop dysbiosis and leaky gut. Dysbiosis is a word that refers to opportunistic oftimes commensual bugs in your gut that have overgrown and are now out of control and don’t belong there anymore. Because digestion is now so poor (because we continue to eat gluten and other foods we are sensitive to) we are unable to muster up the appropriate acids and enzymes to kill exogenous bugs anymore, like parasites, molds, giardia and 100’s of other critter that can enter our orifices and make us miserable.

I will enumerate other disturbing news about Gluten Intolerance. 1) Being on a GF diet does not appear to normalize microflora levels. We need extra help for a long time. 2) There is a very long healing process of the inflammation caused by GI, which involves being very, very good about avoiding gluten. 3) Introducing pre and probiotics is essential. 4) Someone who has GI may also have an increased chance of being lactose and casein intolerant, so there goes milk and milk products. 5) Because our guts are a mess, we allow interlopers in and soon we are overrun with bugs and feeling pretty awful much of the time because our gut is leaking.

Leaky gut is the end result of this havoc created by 1) continuing to eat gluten when we are intolerant 2) developing, over a period of time, poor digestion 3) not having the appropriate digestive fire and therefore, 4) developing an inflamed gut. This is a hallmark of leaky gut. By now, in your leaky gut, the matrices of your gut are so huge that they allow the escape of large protein molecules which then migrate all over your body via the blood stream creating disparate illnesses such as arthritis, eye disease, tinnitus, bladder infections, you name it.

If you have leaky gut, you will express the end result in your own individual way, but if you don’t feel well a lot of the time and find yourself grabbing your stomach to self-soothe and purchasing and eating TUMS on a regular basis, you probably have leaky gut. We are supposed to feel well, pain-free, reasonably happy and content and in addition, we should be able to digest our food completely. Do you ever see undigested food in your stool? That’s another hallmark of poor digestion and leaky gut.

Did you know that over 75% of your immune system is in your gut? So, what do you think happens when you have compromised digestion? Yep. Your immunity goes to straight to hell. Let’s fix your gut before the next flu season.

Then there are the known sequelae of celiac disease and gluten intolerance: There is a very long list of what could appear, from alopecia to vasculitis with epilepsy, MS and scleroderma falling somewhere in the middle of the alphabet, but here are a few of the more common: GERD, iron deficiency anemia, B12 anemia, vitamin D malabsorption, calcium malabsorption with resulting bone disorders like osteoporosis and arthritis, thyroiditis and depression.

To treat your GI, you must avoid most packaged foods like cookies, crackers, cakes, bagels, sourdough breads, English muffins, Triscuits, Ritz crackers, Saltines, Wheat Thins etc. and most desserts, especially those purchased at non-organic chains like Safeway. Everything is made with wheat there. You are better off shopping at the GF aisles in Whole Foods. In order to successfully avoid wheat, you will have to go through your cupboards and get rid of everything with wheat in it. Read labels scrupulously. Then go to Whole Foods and buy your self some substitutes. There is no reason why you can’t eat mostly like you ate pre-GF with just a little tweaking of products. What’s hard is going out to eat. So far, most restaurants do not cater to GF patrons, but I can see that coming, especially in Boulder. Until then, say no to the bread basket and order meat, salad, and veggies.

Pastas: The best I have found and more “to the tooth” than any other is Tinkyada brand. I usually buy their penne.

Crackers: Anything in the GF aisle, plus rice crackers, rice cakes, nut thins.

For your sweet tooth: Learn how to and make the time to bake! Go on www.elanspantry.com and check out her recipes. Her baked goods are mostly made with almond flour, and are delicious and healthy. I routinely make her muffins and breads. There are also Pamela’s products, but they are so full of sugar, use judiciously.

Cereals: Please see my amaranth-millet cereal recipe. It’s a winner and full of protein. Go to Hot News, then scroll down until you reach Osteoarthritis, Part II. At the end of this Hot News is the recipe for Yummy Hot Cereal. Then there are lots of store-bought GF cereals. Don’t be fooled by Cheerios, which is prob. the most famous oat cereal out there. It is made with wheat. However, Oatio’s doesn’t have wheat in it. By the way, GF patients can sometimes eat oats. The jury is out on oats and whether it has gluten, so I take that on a case by case basis. Then there is Nature’s Path, Mesa Sunrise, which is made with flax, amaranth and corn. Bob’s Red Mill also has an 8-grain wheat-less (but not oat-less) hot cereal.

Breads: Whole Food’s has an entire frozen case devoted to GF bakery products, including bread. I find them too sweet, but they are fine for GF purposes. I send away for my bread to a place in Fla. Their website is www.samisbakery.com. I get their millet-flax products: bread, bagels, lavash and croutons – 6 at a time - and freeze until use. Great Harvest has GF bread on Wednesdays. I find it pretty dense and sweet, but again, it’s GF. Breadworks has an occasional GF muffin, too and Rudi’s has come out with a GF bread, too.

Learn how to cook acceptable grains:

1) Short grain organic brown rice: Rinse 2 C. of rice in a saucepan, squeezing and swirling the rice with your hands, adding fresh water until the water loses its milky color. Pour off all milky water and Bring 3 ½ C. new water to a boil. Add the 2 C. rice and simmer on the lowest possible heat – covered (no peeking), for about 50 minutes. I use a non-stick 3 quart saucepan dedicated to grain cooking.

2) Quinoa and Millet: Quinoa is 1 C. to 2 C. water, like rice. Be sure and rinse well, or you will have a bitter end product. Cook quinoa for 15 minutes or maybe more. Peek after 15 minutes. Millet: 1 C. to 3 C. water. Cook for about ½ hour or until fluffy.

And, don’t forget potatoes, polenta and yams in addition to all of the acceptable grains.

From, Kris, a G-effer in Denver: First of all, when you go to any restaurant ask if they have a Gluten Free menu. Some restaurants have them, but you have to ask for it.

Udi’s Restautant in Stapleton has great GF bread, and the breads are also sold in WF’s
Root Down restaurant in Highlands has a great GF menu
Brasserie Ten Ten in Boulder has good GF options
Laudisio’s in Boulder has a full GF menu
PJ Chang’s GF menu is expanding and really is great
Pei Wei also has a great GF menu. You have to ask for it.
BeauJo’s Pizza has several really good but pricy GF pizzas
Bagalli’s Piaaz also has great and pricy GF pizzas
Carelli’s in Boulder has GF options
Sushi Tora in Boulder has a GF menu
Zolo in Boulder has a GF menu
Asti d’Italia in Westminster has a GF menu
Avenue Bar and Grill in Denver has a GF menu
Izakaya Denver has a GF menu
Le Central, Denver has a GF menu
Parallel Seventeen, Denver has a GF menu
Panzano in Denver has a GF menu
Samba Room, Larimer Square is GF “friendly” (i.e. can make if asked)
Sushi Den in Denver has a GF menu
Great Northern Tavern in the Tech Center is GF “friendly”
Ghin Sushi in Lakewood is GF “friendly”

Store purchases:

Pamela’s Corn Bread is fantastic but most of her stuff is way too sweet
Gluten Free Pantry has fantastic mixes, my favorite is the Dark Truffle Brownies
GF Pantry pie crust is great and pretty easy
GF Pantry flour works really well for almost everything. It’s made from starches and rice flours and is a bit sweeter and denser than regular flour. If making breads, use about a quarter less sweetener in recipe. Really great for substitutions in regular recipes.
Crave makes a good cheesecake (sold at WF’s in the freezer section). Crusts are made with almonds and are fantastic.
Udi’s whole grain and sandwich breads and bagels and pizza crusts are the best I’ve come across so far. Sold at WF’s and at many other grocery stores in the Denver/Boulder area.
Kind bars are nut and fruit bars that are great granola substitutes and are GF.
Pacific Brand has the best beef broth (not just “flavored”) that is GF.
Namaste GF brand is good but pretty dry.
Betty Crocker has three GF boxes: Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Chip cookies and Brownies. They are OK.
Sold at Safeway.

Beware Beef Broth. May have wheat.
Beware the WF's GF brand. It has nearly 3X the fat and calories of most other brands.
Beware recipes that say glucose syrup as most are made with wheat.

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