To Eat Gluten or not to Eat Gluten…is that the Question?

So what is all the fuss about gluten…and why would anyone want to “go gluten free?” I work with many people who ask me that question as they try to understand what exactly constitutes a gluten free diet. Many people now are wondering if they might want to consider eliminating gluten from their diet, but the messages in the public’s eye are often confusing leaving us unsure.

Image

Fortunately, there is a lot of information now about the benefits of a gluten free diet. In addition, the availability of real, whole foods that we can eat and not feel deprived is very encouraging. I emphasize real whole foods because there is a ton of processed gluten free foods out there that are not healthy so buyer beware. It is much better to avoid those processed products as it is challenging to truly know whether they contain gluten or not and in many cases they offer little to no nutritional value.

The question about who should consider removing gluten from their diet is not one that can be easily answered without knowing where people are on the spectrum of gluten sensitivity. There is a difference between wanting to eliminate gluten for improved energy and being gluten intolerant or having Celiac Disease. The spectrum regarding gluten below can help to show how many types of people are benefitting from removing gluten from their diets and some of the reasons they have chosen to do so:Image

For people electing to eliminate gluten they often find that they have better energy, their thinking is clearer as is their attention. They also find the added benefit of weight loss if they are looking to shed pounds. These folks have the option of “choosing” to eliminate gluten. For others who suffer from the health risks related to consuming gluten it is not a choice. For people on the higher end of the scale, who are allergic or intolerant it is not an option. These individuals often can develop the most severe gluten issues such as Celiac Disease. Now recognized as a major health issue, people with Celiac Disease struggle with diet and health related issues exacerbated by gluten.

Celiac Disease is an immune system reaction to gluten which affects about 1 in 140 people in the United States alone. It is a digestive disease that damages the lining of the small intestines (the villi) where much of our nutrients are absorbed into the body causing one to not be able to absorb needed nutrients. Celiac is a complicated disease as it not only a digestive disorder it is also an autoimmune disorder. It is genetic and so the likelihood you will have it increases dramatically if a family member is diagnosed with it or if there is a family history of autoimmune disease. For people in this situation it is important to know whether you have the disease and to take action to eliminate all gluten from your diet immediately. I advise people with symptoms related to gluten sensitivity to ask their doctor about how to get tested make sure, and to eliminate gluten as a precaution while they await test results. A typical course of testing may involve an endoscopy but there are many screening blood tests for celiac disease as well. The most sensitive and commonly used, whether symptoms are present or not, is the tTG-IgA test. Tissue Transglutaminase Antibodies (tTG-IgA) – The tTG-IgA test will be positive in about 98% of patients with celiac disease who are on a gluten- containing diet.

Common symptoms related to Celiac Disease are unexplained iron-deficiency anemia, fatigue, bone or joint pain, arthritis, bone loss or osteoporosis, depression or anxiety, tingling numbness in the hands and feet, seizures, missed menstrual periods, infertility or recurrent miscarriage, canker sores inside the mouth, an itchy skin rash called dermatitis herpetiformis to name a few. Symptoms vary with each case making it challenging to identify. If you experience these symptoms and are not sure why speak with you doctor about whether you should be screened.

For those people in the optional low risk category who like to bake there are some good alternatives to regular flours on the market now so fear not. I love to bake and have found several good quality ingredients that are consistently certified GF.

Image

A favorite recipe of mine now available on my website is a bread made with brown rice flour, millet, quinoa and flax meal and it is super simple, http://leanne-yinger.healthcoach.integrativenutrition.com/recipes. I have also added some good resources to determine if you want to seek medical support to address your gluten related issues.

http://www.celiac.nih.gov

http://www.cureceliacdisease.org

http://www.gluten.net offers information and recipes

Books:

Gluten Free Diet: A Comprehensive Guide by Shelley Case – http://www.glutenfreediet.ca

The Gluten Free Nutrition Guide by Tricia Thompson – http://www.glutenfreedietician.com/

Real Life with Celiac Disease by Melinda Dennis – http://www.deletethewheat.com

Hope you found this helpful. If it is sunny outside where you live get out in it for at least 30 minutes to absorb some that that vitamin D we all need for our immune systems function.

Be Well

Winter Blessings

I love waking to a snow covered landscape which was the case this morning. I’m not sure what it is that makes me so happy when it snows but I do know it brings the kid out in me. I couldn’t wait to get outside with the dogs and play. Thankfully, my daughter came to help shovel so that task also became fun!

Image

We could hear others in the neighborhood talking as they were shoveling. In the distance someone had a snow blower running and it sounded like it was in a box because the snow covered ground absorbed the harshness of the machine. It was time for lunch when we finished and I realized there was nothing quick to make so I had some hummus while planning what to make for dinner. Kristen came in and had some of the gluten free ginger cookies I had and checked out my nearly completed kitchen renovation that is awaiting the counter top and appliances!

I can’t wait to be cooking in my kitchen again. When preparing meals these past few months I have gathered ingredients from my storage jars in the upstairs bedroom, brought them to the small table in my living room where I prepared them for cooking and once prepped brought everything to the range we moved into the basement. I have certainly got my exercise running up and down the stairs while cooking. it will seem so easy to make meals when it is all in one space on one floor.

Image

The gas range will fit into this space

Image 

AND the refrigerator will go here.

Those ginger cookies were really good but I ate too much sugar today so I made a wonderful Shiitake Mushroom Soup for dinner to help rid my body of all the sugar. It was delightful and a perfect way to end this very busy winter day full of blessings.

Shiitake Mushroom Soup

 1 bunch scallions, sliced thin, white and green parts separated

1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

8 cups water

2 inch piece kombu

1/4 cup bonito flakes

3 oz dried shiitake, rinsed and soaked for 5 minutes or 10-12 fresh shiitake

½ cup sweet white miso

1 pound baby bok choy, cut in quarters
8 oz firm tofu cut into small cubes

 1)      In a large soup pot over medium heat add the scallion white parts, ginger, garlic, and sesame oil.

2)      Cook for 1 minute and add 8 cups water.

3)      Rinse the kombu and soak it for 5 minutes, add it to the pot along with the bonito flakes.

4)      Bring it to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes – do not let it boil.

5)      Remove the kombu and set it aside.

6)      Add the shiitake mushrooms and miso to the pot and let it simmer gently for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the mushrooms are hydrated and tender.

7)      Add the bok choy and simmer until it is tender, about 10 minutes.

8)      Add the tofu and cook for another 5 minutes.

9)      Ladle into bowls and garnish with the reserved green parts of scallions.

I am counting my many blessings this evening including my wonderful children, my warm home in this beautiful part of the world and my health.

That’s all for this week.

Brightest Blessings