People don’t eat grass…cows do!!

I am not a scientist, or a nutritionist, or a doctor; so I cannot tell you hard and fast facts about why gluten is bad.  I can only tell you why I think it is bad!

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye.  It is what makes pizza dough stretchy, gives bread is sponginess, and is what thickens soups and sauces.  You can’t see it; you can’t even find a picture of it on the internet.  It is just there! It is hidden in pizza, pasta, bread, wraps, rolls and most processed foods.  Gluten truly is a staple of the American diet.

Two reasons why we are so sensitive to gluten are:

1. The lack of genetic adaption to eat grasses, humans are not meant to eat grass, cows are!  Wheat was introduced in the middle ages in Europe and about 30 percent of people of European descent carry the gene for Celiac disease.  I guess I won the genetic lottery, being of Irish and English descent and all (NOT!!).

2. American strains of wheat are genetically modified to have a much higher gluten content.  That is why the bread we eat is so moist and fresh.  This “Super” Gluten is now part nearly all wheat strains grown in the United States.

The inability to digest wheat is an auto immune reaction - in some it may cause stomach issues, in others it may cause more serious auto immune diseases.  You can find plenty of research studies on the internet which link sensitivity to gluten to many things.  I am not going to list them all here but you can find a great list in the Elisabeth Hasselbeck book that I reviewed before.

For others, like myself, it is much more serious.  Our body looks at gluten like a foreign agent trying to invade the body.   When it invades, it flattens the villi in our small intestines causing malabsorbtion of nutrients.  This malabsorbtion can cause a load of other problems.  In my case in particular, all of my internal systems started to malfuction due to the fact I was so malnourished.

My internist said that when he looked at my vitamin D levels, he thought it had to be a mistake.  It is supposed to be in the hundreds…mine was 4!!  So as you can see in some cases it can be a little bad and in others like mine it can be very bad in some cases even deadly!!

But the reason I decided to write this post is far more personal.  My youngest son has had some of the same problems as me – he gets canker sores; he has some stomach issues; he can be quite pale; he has not grown as much as his brother did at his age, and he’s GROUCHY all the time.  So naturally we thought it was best to have him tested.

While we were waiting for the results, which take a while to return, we switched him to a gluten free diet.  Within a week he was not getting many, if any, cankers.  The color had come back into his face, and he was a pleasure to be around.  We were convinced that the test was going to come back positive.  Well we were wrong – all the tests came back negative; we know that there are false negatives and want to try to get a little more info from a gastroenterologist who understands the disease better than his regular pediatrician.  So for now he will stay on the diet…

But what is most confusing is the change in his health, if he is in fact not allergic, why is all this stuff getting better.  Which brought me to the conclusion that maybe gluten is just BAD for anyone.  After all “People don’t eat grass, cows do!”

Maybe everyone should cut down or cut gluten out of their diets to see if maybe, just maybe, what ails them may go away.

As I said, this is one yoda’s opinion, I am not a scientist or a doctor.   I do know, however, that cutting down or cutting out gluten is not easy and extremely frustrating.  I also know it can cause other problems due to the nutrional things that are missing in gluten free foods.  As avid readers of our blog know, I had a little problem caused by lack of fiber.

So I am not saying “do this now, throw out every bit of food with gluten in it”.  What I am saying is if you have an unexplained illness or are just feeling lousy all the time, maybe this may be an option that you want to explore.  But if you do decide to explore this option, do your research first and never do anything this extreme without checking with your healthcare provider first.

So, if you are looking for me, I will be celebrating Celiac awareness month by registering my new trademark – “People don’t eat grass … cows do!!”  Moo!

Gluten Free Tool Kit

In my family every Saturday is “gluten free shopping day.”  This usually consists of a trip to several different places to stock up on food for the week.  This week we had a special appearance by my 13 year old son Evan who is also now starting on a gluten free diet as we wait for results of his Celiac panel blood test (I will write more about this in a future post.)  We usually hit a local health food store called Good Health, which for a small store has a very large selection of gluten free products.  Sometimes it includes a trip to Whole Foods, but not always, as their selection of gluten free products is not as extensive as Good Health.  The one place that we always go is Allcaneat Bakery, this place has the greatest gluten free prepared meals and baked goods.

What does this have to do with a GF Tool Kit?  Let me tell you.  It never fails that when we are on our shopping trip we always seem to run into someone who is just starting on their own gluten free diet journey.  Getting a gluten insensitivity or Celiac diagnosis can bring on a lot of stress since it is such a major change in your life, and most newbies are just looking for someone to throw them a lifer preserver;  this life preserver comes in the form of information.  I met a young women named Megan on Saturday who had just gotten her diagnosis and was looking for someone to give her some assistance.  So what is a Yoda to do?  This Yoda provided a brain dump of all the information in “his” GF Tool Kit.

Here’s what is inside!!

1. It is great if you have someone who can tell you what products tastes good and what doesn’t.  We have provided that in an earlier post that Jason wrote.

2. Knowledge is power, and the more you understand about your diagnosis and diet the better.  Here are a couple of good books that I think provide a lot of useful information:

3. I also found a few good iPod/iPad apps for eating out:

  • The Gluten Free Registry – finds all the restaurants, bakeries and grocery stores near your location
  • Gluten Freed – has a decent list of places to eat by state
  • Is that Gluten Free - a little expensive but gives you a list of most products in grocery stores and whether they are gluten free

4. The Gluten Free Guide- my nutritionist told me about this book and I could not live without it.  It is called the Gluten Free Shopping Guide.  It has an extensive list of things that are gluten free and includes most local super market chains.  They also update it if products are added or taken off the list.  It can be found here…

5. The Web – there are way too many great sites out there about gluten free living and Celiac disease to list so I will just give the most important one below:

6. I have found that the magazine Living Without has some great articles along with gluten free recipes and resources.

7. Most grocery chains that cater to the gluten free crowd have product lists of all their gluten free products.  Two chains that I know that have them are:

  • Whole Foods
  • Trader Joes (read throughly, some of their things are made in the same plants, cross contamination may happen)

8. A list of Gluten Free Medications, most of us take something even if it is ibuprofen, it is always better to know that you are not going to react to it.

9. A couple of standby restaurants that you know you can go to and get a safe gluten free meal.  Use the The Gluten Free Registry to find local places.  Even though restaurants may not advertise GF, they may have GF – call and ask – you never know.  Mine are:

10. A support system:  this is probably the most important.  Having good friends and family who will help you through this transition make it so much easier to get through.

This is by far not a complete list and there are so many more things that you can have in your tool kit but I thought I would tell you what has helped me.

Hopefully this will help a few more “Megans” come to grips with their new lifestyles…

Shhh!, please don’t tell anyone that I am reading the Elisabeth Hasselbeck book!!

So you’re not sure who Elisabeth Hasselbeck is…well I will tell you. She was on Survivor, Australian Outback, went to Boston College where she met her husband, retired quarterback Tim Hasselbeck. But she is best known for her hosting duties on the daily talk show the View, where she has had numerous spats with many guests. I am not going to tell you them all here, but go ahead and YouTube them and you will find them all.

So when I was diagnosed I wanted a good book, well there are many, many, many books pertaining to Celiac Disease, Gluten Free cooking and Gluten Free Living. So you ask how did I end up with the Elisabeth Hasselbeck book, I blame my mother. She mentioned it to me and being a little bit of a momma’s boy (which guy isn’t) I told her I would look at it. Well when I did I found that it was pretty good and answered a bunch of questions that I had.

The G-Free Diet, A Gluten Free Survival Guide is written by Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Dr. Peter Green is a great book for someone who has no idea what gluten even is. Through her own story she talks about how she found out about her diagnosis and how she was not listened to at first until she found someone who dug deep enough to find the correct diagnosis (which I can sympathize with because the same thing happened to me).

I like the way that the authors explain what the allergy is and let people know that it is not a death sentence, even with the fact that you can’t eat bread, and that there are many great things to make and eat. The book calls itself a survival guide and it is just that - with information about, traveling, going to parties, living with a family that is not gluten free among other topics. The one part of the book that was a little lost on me, was a whole chapter on makeup (not sure this Yoda needs makeup, could use some hair but a good foundation…not so much). The book also contains recipes for some easy to make dishes, I have not made anything yet, I am still negotiating a second Gluten Free shelf in the kitchen cabinets.

So if you are newly diagnosed or just want to know a little bit more about Celiac Disease of living a Gluten Free the G-Free Diet is a pretty great book. So you know what, tell everyone that I am reading the Elisabeth Hasselbeck book and in fact go buy one for yourself.

Copyright 2011 © Gluten Free Yodas