Healthy Food Advocate Takes Back Name Gluten-Free

Gluten-Free Fad is officially OVER!

I’m sure you read my title and are asking yourself, what the heck is a Healthy Food Advocate?  I know the first time I saw that title, I said the same thing.  But, when I read those words, something rang in my head and said…This is YOU!

In case you were wondering, a Healthy Food Advocate is someone who “Votes with their fork.”  Meaning, they make food choices with a conscience by supporting local businesses and farmers, shopping locally, buying and eating according to what they believe is right as well as speaking out about laws and legislation that could affect the foods they eat.  All of those are really who I am and want to be when it comes to making healthy food choices for myself and my family.  But, I had to take food advocacy to the next level when I started to see articles written about how unhealthy gluten-free eating is.

Over seven years ago when I started on my gluten-free journey, no one knew what the term gluten-free meant.  I had to explain to everyone I came in contact with (including my friends and family) what it entailed and why I had to be so strict about what I ate.  Then the book Wheat Belly, by Dr. William Davis, came on the market and people started to hear the term gluten-free in magazines and in the news.  It went from being a medical necessity to a weight loss fad diet in a very short period of time.  With all the press, the gluten-free pre-packaged food market surged and new products came on the grocery store shelves daily.   It was a double-edged sword for people like me who needed to eat this way to stay healthy.  On one hand, there were so many convenient food replacements available to choose from, but on the other hand the fad took the name gluten-free and made it less medically serious.

Now that the fad is dying out, and people are moving on to a more Paleo way of eating (a diet based on the types of foods presumed to have been eaten by early humans, consisting chiefly of meat, fish, vegetables, and fruit, and excluding dairy or grain products and processed food[1]), articles are now being written that say gluten-free foods are not healthy.  To be clear, I agree that eating a diet consisting of only pre-packaged products (gluten-free or not) is not a healthy way for anyone to eat.   My goal as a Gluten-Free Healthy Food Advocate is to take back the name gluten-free as a term only used for people who medically require it and educate people that gluten-free eating is not an unhealthy fad, but rather a way for people to safely consume naturally gluten-free foods to heal their damaged digestive system.

I’m always amazed at people’s reaction when I tell them that I am gluten-free now compared to seven years ago.  Lots of people roll their eyes in disbelief and many others uncomfortably explain that they’ve been meaning to go gluten-free or that they eat gluten-free some of the time (probably to keep up with the fad).  Eating gluten-free only becomes necessary if you categorize yourself into one of the three medical designations below.

Wheat Allergy Sufferer: This reaction happens very fast (within minutes to a few hours) and can involve a range of symptoms from nausea, abdominal pain, itching, swelling of the lips and tongue, to trouble breathing, or anaphylaxis (a life-threatening reaction). [2]

 Celiac Disease: Is a genetic, autoimmune disorder that occurs in reaction to the ingestion of gluten in genetically susceptible individuals. The reaction to gluten causes villous atrophy or flattening of the cells lining the small intestine, which can lead to malabsorption of nutrients with wide-reaching symptoms. [2]

Non-Celiac Gluten-Sensitive: Reactions can begin up to 48 hours after ingesting gluten and last for much longer? [2]

No one should give-up eating gluten without first being tested for Celiac as you cannot get an accurate blood test result unless you are actively eating gluten.  I made that mistake and gave-up eating gluten after years of being sick (intestinal bleeding, focus and attention problems, anxiety, bladder infections, chronic sore throats, infertility, weight fluctuations, migraines, depression, arthritic pain, various autoimmune conditions, etc.) that no one associated with the food I was eating.  Years of antibiotics and overuse of NSAID’s [3] probably ruined my gut flora, but all I knew when I started to feel better after removing gluten, was that I wasn’t going to start eating it again to get the blood test.  So sadly I will never know if I have Celiac Disease.

Now my goal is to be an advocate for other gluten-free food eaters.  I wrote my book 3 Steps to Gluten-Free Living to save people time and money after diagnosis of a gluten related disorder.  By understanding what needs to be eliminated from the diet, how to transition emotionally and physically away from gluten and names of convenient pre-packaged gluten-free items to substitute back into your pantry, anyone can adapt a healthy gluten-free diet quickly and easily.  The book stresses keeping balance in your life by choosing fresh ingredients to eat alongside convenient products.  By choosing whole, clean, local, seasonal and organic foods (fruits, vegetables, dairy and meats), and combining them with convenient pre-packaged products, anyone required to eat gluten-free can find balance and enjoy a healthy gluten-free diet.  For example, eating a brown rice and quinoa cracker with some local cheese or buying some red pepper hummus with some fresh seasonal vegetables is a perfect way to achieve that healthy balance.

My Gluten-Free Food Advocacy has taken me all over to do food demonstrations and talks about how to adapt a healthy gluten-free diet.  I am passionate about the subject of eating locally and seasonally and seek out reporters who try to debunk gluten-free eating as a fad and unhealthy.  I’m here to announce to the world that the Gluten-Free fad is OVER and gluten-free is now back with the people who medically need it.

To learn more about my book go to http://www.glutenfreebebe.com or http://www.3stepstoglutenfreeliving.com.

[1] “Google.” Google search. 25 July 2016. Web search. 25 July 2016.

[2] “Celiac Disease, Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity or Wheat Allergy:  What is the Difference? – The Gluten Intolerance Group of North America.”  Web; 25 July 2016.  <https://www.gluten.org/resources/getting-started/celiac-disease-non-celiac-sensitivity-or-wheat-allergy-what-is-the-difference/&gt;.

[3] Fugo, Jennifer. “How Ibuprofen (and Other NSAIDs) Lead to Gluten Sensitivity.”Gluten Free School. N.p., 17 Mar. 2014. Web. 25 July 2016. <http://www.glutenfreeschool.com/2014/03/17/ibuprofen-gluten-sensitivity-nsaid-drugs/&gt;.

 

Gluten-Free Labeling

Today I went to a talk sponsored by our local GIG (Gluten Intolerance Group) Group.

Gluten Intolerance Group

It was presented by Cynthia Kupper, Executive Director of GIG.  If you haven’t joined a GIG Group or attended a GIG meeting, you really should.  You leave the meeting with great information.  Today they had a raffle and snacks, so you left with a full belly, and lucky for me a gift certificate to a local restaurant (I won the raffle!). My favorite part is talking with people at the end of the meeting to hear about their journeys.  There is always comfort in hearing what other people have experienced.

Here are a few good points that I walked away with about reading labels…

  1. Make sure it says “Gluten-Free.”
  2. Look through the ingredients list to make sure it doesn’t include; wheat, barley, rye, malt, oats or brewers yeast.
  3. Be aware of hidden words on USDA stamped foods like; dextrin, food starch, modified food starch .
  4. Don’t trust the Voluntary Advisory Statement.  Not all companies use it correctly.  It’s more to cover them from liability and may not pertain to the product itself.

When in doubt…call the company and ask them about their processing plant, or don’t buy it.  See you at the next GIG meeting!

Eating gluten-free doesn’t mean it’s healthy…

When most people think about a gluten-free diet, they immediately think it’s for weight loss.  I myself lost 8 pounds when I first eliminated wheat products from my diet.  But, after about a year, I started to notice that the 8 pounds returned…in “new” places (Grrrrr!).  It all started when I got really hungry and needed something quick.  Needless to say, I ate potato chips and prepackaged gluten-free product (hence the 8 pounds around my middle).  Matter of fact, most people on a gluten-free diet gain an average of 22 pounds.  Probably because gluten-free products contain an average of 1/3 more calories and fat than regular products and their portion size is much smaller.

Thankfully, for flavors sake, gluten-free manufacturers are on a “mission”  to produce products that replace or at least come close to those familiar tastes of what sufferers used to eat.  I’ve met so many small gluten-free business owners that started because they were diagnosed with celiac and wanted to make a product that tasted like what they missed.  More fats and sugars usually help consumers get past new textures and unfamiliar flavors.

Gluten-free grains are not required to be fortified like standard bread products in America.  This add’s to problems for gluten intolerance sufferers who are already vitamin deficient.  Gluten protein causes the tiny villi that line the intestines to lay flat in celiac patients.  The villi are there to aid in nutrition absorption, so without healthy villi, celiac sufferers starve nutritionally from the inside out.  No healthy villi, no vitamin absorption.  This is what causes the multitude of symptoms for sufferers.  For example, vitamin B is necessary for red blood cells (to prevent anemia), healthy skin, hair and muscles.  That’s just one common vitamin deficiency, sadly there are lots more.

What the answer?  SUBSTITUTION!  Newly diagnosed suffers usually consume the three most recognizable ingredients;  rice, potato and corn.  This works great until they get used to what is safe to eat.  But, by switching to alternative grains, the protein, fiber, iron and vitamins go up…naturally.

Here’s some alternative grains to choose from…

  • Amaranth – Protein, fiber, iron, magnesium, zinc, calcium, B vitamins
  • Buckwheat – Protein, fiber, B6, niacin, thiamin, iron, zinc
  • Millet – Protein, fiber
  • Oats – Fiber, B vitamins
  • Quinoa – High quality protein, fiber, calcium, magnesium, iron, B vitamins
  • Teff – Protein, calcium, iron, B vitamins
  • Wild rice – If enriched B vitamins
  • Wild rice – Protein, fiber, potassium, zinc

The key to staying healthy on a gluten-free diet is to incorporate a wide variety of grains, watch portion sizes of prepackaged gluten-free products and exercise.  Lord knows, I need to work on that 3rd one if I want to get these 8 pounds off!!!

If you aren’t sure where to begin, talk with a registered dietitian to help you on your way.

You are NOT Crazy…

Last week I attended a talk at our local hospital on gluten-free food manufacturing.  One of the doctors, from the hospital’s largest gastroenterology group, co-sponsored the talk and has a been a huge advocate to the gluten-intolerance community, especially celiac suffers.

During the question and answer period, I directed a question to the doctor about why more doctors, outside gastroenterology, aren’t aware of the benefits a gluten-free diet can provide.  I briefly explained that I had been to at least 20 doctors over the last 7 years looking for explanations to my various symptoms (i.e. infertility, joint pain, depression, migraines, etc.).  I explained that I am non-celiac gluten-intolerant, and I have been symptom free since going gluten-free almost 2 years ago and my recovery would’ve been much quicker if one of the doctors had suggested a gluten sensitivity.  He assured me that our local hospital was “trying to get the word out”.

Through the remainder of the presentation, I came to the conclusion that if you aren’t diagnosed with a medical condition like celiac, than in the medical world, there would be little or no support.  My observation was solidified when I was approached by a lovely woman at the end of the talk.  She explained to me that she had been to 22 different doctors, including the co-sponsor of the talk, and after a barrage of tests, she was diagnosed with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and prescribed narcotics for her pain.  As a last resort, she attended the talk to learn if eliminating gluten was a viable option for her.

Her smile spoke a thousand words when I told her, “You are NOT nuts!”.  I told her how my symptoms had been eliminated by changing my diet, and she could do it too.

No wonder the co-sponsor of the talk said they were trying…how can you convince the medical world that 250 different symptoms can be caused by gluten.  Who would believe it, but when you find yourself going to a gastroenterologist one week, then a neurologist the next, and an endocrinologist the next, you may want to consider trying a gluten-free diet.

Here are just a few of the 250 symptoms that vary from person to person…

  • Abdominal Distention
  • Abdominal Pain and Cramping
  • Alternating Bouts of Diarrhea and Constipation
  • Anemia
  • Arthritis
  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
  • Bloating
  • Bone Density Loss
  • Borborygmi (stomach rumbling)
  • Constipation
  • Stunted Growth and Failure to Thrive
  • Depression, Anxiety and Irritability
  • Diabetes
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Low Ferritin Symptoms
  • Malodorous Flatulence
  • Malodorous Stools
  • Gluten Ataxia
  • Grayish Stools
  • Hair Loss (Alopecia)
  • Headaches and Migraines
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Infertility
  • Joint pain
  • Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Mouth sores or mouth ulcers
  • Nausea
  • Numbness or tingling in the patient’s hands and feet
  • Osteoporosis
  • Peripheral Neuropathy (including either a tingling or sensation of swelling your toes and fingers)
  • Sjogren’s Disease
  • Steatorrhea (high lipids in the stool, which may cause the stool to float)
  • Teeth and Gum Problems
  • Vitamin and Mineral deficiencies
  • Vomiting
  • Unexplained Weight loss

Link

The Nitty Gritty of Gluten-Free Food Manufacturing

The Celiac Center of Paoli Hospital presents this talk on Food Manufacturing and Production.  Anne Rold Lee from Schar USA, will be the guest speaker.  RSVP by October 9th for either the live or online event.  Seats are limited.  1.866.CALL.MLH

See you there!

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WOW – It was a night PACKED with information!!!  Anne Roland Lee, Director of Nutritional Services at Schar USA, filled our brains with so much to think about!  She started her talk with a slide showing that eating gluten-free isn’t the healthiest way to eat.  Matter of fact, she noted that people on a g.f. diet end up gaining about 22 lbs. and are usually deficient in fiber, vitamin B or iron.  This is because wheat products are fortified with some form of these vitamins and minerals, compared with the g.f. products, which are not required to be fortified.  Not to mention, most g.f. products are high in fat and sugar.

Her suggestion was to incorporate some alternative grains into your diet.  Grains like, buckwheat, quinoa, millet and teff were great examples of grains that are packed full of iron, fiber, B’s and protein.  Compared to rice, potato and corn, they contain more nutrients and fiber and contain a lower glycemic index.

Schar is VERY concerned about cross-contamination and go to great lengths to prevent it in their factories.  Since it only takes 50 mg (1/8 tsp.) to trigger an auto immune reaction to celiac sufferers (that’s 1/2 of a cruton or 1/4 of a holy communion), Schar will quarantine their outside ingredients to allow them to be tested over a period of time to ensure their products maintain less than 20 ppm (parts per million) of gluten.  AMAZING!

Schar has set the bar high for other manufacturers.  They built a state of the art facility in New Jersey that is a designated gluten-free facility.  Anne did mention that other stores brands are very good as well (Wegman’s & Trader Joe’s specifically).  I felt better knowing that Schar consulted for them while they were developing their gluten-free lines.

My head will be “spinning” all night thinking of what new grains I can try in my recipes!

20 Things to have in your kitchen when starting your journey…

The decision to go gluten-free is a huge decision.  Sometimes without the support of family and friends who don’t know what a huge undertaking it is.  When you finally make the decision, you need to be prepared.  There is nothing worse than being hungry while detoxing, it’s easy to forget what you need to eliminate.  I keep a container in my pantry with quick-pick items that I can grab when I’m on the go or hungry.

One thing to note is that everyone has different levels of tolerance.  Some people can’t eat anything that is processed in a plant with wheat.  It’s kind of trial and error on products that don’t contain wheat, but are not listed as gluten-free (GF).  Each products label contains a listing of allergens.  This is a great thing, but it doesn’t prevent cross-contamination of ingredients that are processed in non gluten-free ingredients.  Buying gluten-free is very expensive, so it’s great when you can find off the shelf items that are not labeled gluten-free, but do not contain wheat that you can tolerate (i.e. Bugles, Corn Chips, etc.)

  1. Gluten Free Crackers (i.e. Rice, Corn, Quinoa)
  2. Corn Tortilla’s (Tostito’s)
  3. Chex Cereals (Rice, Corn and Honey Nut)
  4. Rice Cakes (Lundberg is my favorite)
  5. Peanut Butter
  6. Gluten Free Pretzels (Snyders or Glutino)
  7. Lundberg Brand Rice
  8. Gluten Free Bread Crumbs (Panko and Regular)
  9. Canned Beans (Black Beans are Great on Cornchips with Cheese)
  10. Nuts and Seeds (Almonds and Pumpkin Seed are a must in my house)
  11. Fruit (Apples, Grapes, Pears, etc.)
  12. Cut-up Veggies (Carrots, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Peppers, etc.)
  13. Hummus
  14. Yogurt
  15. Gluten-Free Oats (Great for homemade granola or breakfast)
  16. Cheese
  17. Popcorn
  18. Gluten-free bread (Udi’s, Rudi’s)
  19. Egg’s
  20. Gluten-free Protein bars