Gluten Free For Good


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Archive for September, 2011

Wheat Belly

Well, what do you think? Will this glob of dough migrate straight to your belly?

I haven’t eaten wheat in years, so I’m not worried about a “wheat” belly, but I understand my own physiology well enough to know that overloading on high-carb, baked goods (gluten-free or not) will make for wild blood sugar loop-de-loops, not to mention extra pounds.

Have you heard of the new book, Wheat Belly, by gluten-free medical doctor, William Davis? If you haven’t, you will soon. It made its way up to #5 on the New York Time’s best seller list (hardcover advice and miscellaneous category) and is generating lots of controversial chatter along the way.

I’m not sure why, but Dr. Davis’s publicist sent me a copy of the book (thanks, Olivia). I hadn’t heard of it, and to be honest, I rolled my eyes when I saw the title. I figured it was just another weight loss book, in what has become a bazillion dollar industry—this time using “gluten-free” as the hook.

After my eye-rolling subsided long enough to focus on the fact that the book was written by a preventive cardiologist, I was intrigued. Preventive being the key word when it comes to heart health. I like exercise science, which tends to revolve around cardiac function in one way or another. My thesis paper for my degree (way back when) was a long-winded question about whether exercise training promotes coronary collateralization in people with heart disease. And, if so, do these vessels enhance myocardial perfusion? I went on to do an internship in cardiac rehab, help start an out-patient program, and neurotically fuss about whether my cholesterol and/or my HDLs were too high. Yes, freakishly high HDLs, which are half my cholesterol and my cholesterol isn’t low.

So—Wheat Belly was written by a preventive cardiologist who advocates no gluten, less drug use, balancing blood sugar, and is focused on real food?

I’m in.

I read the book and spent an hour last weekend interviewing Dr. Davis for this blog post.

He’s delightful, has a good sense of humor, and is on a mission to find better solutions to the deluge of health problems we face in this country. He wants to help people. Many docs practice flow-chart medicine.

Oh, you have this symptom? Then you need this drug.

I didn’t get that feeling from Dr. Davis, and that’s unusual in cardiology. He won’t immediately hand you a prescription for a statin drug, but he might offer you a recipe for low-carb, grain-free pumpkin spice muffins. My Paleo friends will love him.

While I don’t agree with everything in the book and I find his food philosophy a bit animal-product-heavy for me, his “eat real food” approach to health makes perfect sense. He does use artificial/non-nutritive sweeteners (which I avoid), but he admits that’s a compromise. I understand his reasoning, as I do my own version of compromising when it comes to a few select, gluten-free products that I recommend to clients and that I occasionally use myself.

I also know, from a health standpoint, that trading gluten-containing products for gluten-free products isn’t the answer. Dr. Davis is on that bandwagon as well.

Excuse me while I step onto my soapbox for a moment.

I repeat. Switching from one overly-processed “food” to another is not the answer, and much of the time, the new gluten-free version has no more nutritional value than ground styrofoam.

Gluten-free baking often relies on refined starches and sugar to recreate a wheat-like texture and to improve taste. This has been a major frustration of mine for years. Many of the support organizations focus on replacing wheat with gluten-free products, rather than encouraging people to eat nourishing food that happens to be gluten-free. A major topic of discussion right now in the celiac community is the Gluten Free Labeling Law currently under consideration by the FDA. While I support a uniform labeling standard and understand the pros and cons of various ppm limits, if you eat real food, you don’t have to worry about labels, ppms, or government standards.

Stepping down from my soapbox now. Nah, I’ll keep one foot on and one foot off.

As a nutritionist, one of the things I think is most important in improving health is to eat organic, whole foods (lots of vegetables) and to balance blood sugar. That’s also the premise of my version of a gluten-free diet and what Dr. Davis is advocating. The overriding theme in Wheat Belly is to resolve metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes by reducing carbohydrates (especially wheat and refined starches), and in the process, most people lose weight. But, you can’t trade gluten-containing processed carbs for gluten-free processed carbs.

The basic premise makes sense. Unless you’re running a marathon, but that’s another story.

While I don’t agree with everything in Wheat Belly, I do get the idea that Dr. Davis’ motto, especially when it comes to heart health, is to “prevent” problems before they sabotage your health. I’m into that, too.

For more information, please check the following links.

Wheat Belly Blog
Track Your Plaque Blog (I love this—meditation, prayer, and deep breathing as strategies to enhance heart health. Go, Dr. Davis, go!)

Peace, love and real food.

farmers food and focus groups

I have a thing for farm-fresh food.

I was in San Diego last weekend, attending the Celiac Sprue Association’s national conference. These conferences usually feature one or two celiac rock stars from the medical community. This year was no different as Dr. Peter Green from Columbia University was the keynote speaker. Yes, he’s brilliant, charming, knows his way around intestinal micro-villi, and is one of the top celiac researchers in the world. Plus, he has an Australian accent. Total swoon-potential, if you’re into that kind of thing.


I’m into farmers.

No disrespect to the docs, but it’s the farmers who rock my world. Good nutrition is about good agriculture. Our health and the health of the environment depends on what happens out in the field. It’s all linked. We can talk about medical advances, pathology, and pharmaceuticals until the cows come home (sticking with my farm theme), but it’s the quality of the food we eat that holds the promise to better health.

While in San Diego, I reconnected with some farmer friends (I admit, I’m an ag groupie) from Montana and bought some Toasted Oat Bread Mix to experiment with. Yesterday I baked a loaf of whole grain, toasted oat bread and, I’m not kidding, the smell drifting from my kitchen window was intoxicating. The UPS guy asked me to marry him.

I used pastured eggs from Grant Family Farms, the toasted oat mix from the Montana farmers, and local Madhava honey to make the bread. Once cooled, I used fresh, organic pears from my Grant Farms fruit share and smoked gouda cheese. I ended up with the most amazing grilled cheese sandwich ever. In fact, this is the best loaf of bread I’ve ever made and that includes the whole wheat bread (little did I know) I made from scratch back in my hippie-girl days.

gluten-free grilled cheese sandwich (gourmet comfort food)
2 slices toasted oat bread (I made the mix in my breadmaker)
sliced pear (not-quite-ripe is best)
thin slices of smoked gouda cheese

Melt butter in a sauté pan on low-medium heat. Make sure it doesn’t burn. Assemble sandwich and grill in sizzling butter on both sides. You might have to put a lid (askew so it doesn’t get moist) on the pan to fully melt the cheese. Sniff, slice and drool.

Other gluten-free grilled cheese ideas—
• Peaches, raw cheddar, thinly sliced almonds
• Goat cheese, figs, sliced pears
• Roasted green chiles, tomatoes, colby cheese

For more on Montana Gluten-Free Products, check here.

For more information on oats and to be included in a focus group on oats, please read on.

If you have celiac disease and are unsure about adding oats to your diet, take part in the nationwide focus group on oats (check with your doctor first to make sure this is appropriate for you). Click here for details. If you fit the criteria, you’ll get a free (yes, free) bag of Montana GF PrOatina oats to try. Deb from the blog NotEvenACrumb has joined forces with the Montana farmers to help conduct a survey determining the gluten-free community’s tolerance to PrOatina, the farmers’ trademark oat product. I have no problem with oats and, as a nutritionist, feel they are a wonderful addition to the gluten-free diet. If you want to experiment with GF oats, start slowly so you don’t confuse too much fiber with a sensitivity to the oats. Montana GF products are certified gluten-free and processed in a dedicated facility. Their products are also free of dairy, corn, soy, nuts, and are GMO-free. Check here for details.

Disclosure: I’m thankful for farmers and appreciate and respect their hard work. I like knowing where my food comes from and I support the farmers who are doing it right. This is about passion and the future of our food supply, it’s not about money. I get nothing if you click any of these links, not even a free pear or a loaf of bread. This is not about that, it’s about supporting the people who are growing our food. We need to do that. They deserve it.

If you want to try a loaf of toasted oat bread, you can get the mix here. This is my new favorite bread mix. It’s wonderful. Seriously. Go, try it now and be prepared to be flirted with if your windows are open.

Peace, love and grilled cheese sandwiches on toasted oat bread. What’s your favorite?

The Unhealthy Truth plus a give-away

* 9-22 Update on this post—Thanks to everyone for your great comments and input. Jane from PA was the winner of the give-away, but if you haven’t read the post yet, please do so. It’s full of compelling information.

Did you know?

• Almost 29 million pounds of antibiotics are sold for subtherapeutic use in agriculture each year (2009 estimate from the FDA). Animals are routinely given antibiotics to compensate for the unhealthy living conditions on factory farms. The overuse of antibiotics in our food supply is connected to the increase in antibiotic-resistant organisms. Unfortunately, that impacts the treatment of life-threatening diseases in humans. According to the State Environmental Resource Center, the USDA estimates that 70% of all food borne illness in the US can be traced to meat.

• In his book, Healing the New Childhood Epidemics: Autism, ADHD, Asthma and Allergies, Kenneth Bock, MD states that in the past 2 decades, autism has increased 1500%, ADHD 400%, asthma 300%, and allergies 400%.

• Recombinant bovine (cattle) growth hormone (rBGH / rBST) is a genetically engineered hormone approved by the FDA in 1993. The product, used to increase milk production in dairy cows, carries with it an elevated risk to the animal of mastitis (udder infections), digestive disorders, and a host of other negative health conditions. Treatment requires routine antibiotic injections. These hormones and drugs find their way into the milk supply. Canada, the European Union, Japan, Australia and New Zealand have banned the use of rBGH. We have not.

• Genetically engineered (modified) foods contain genetic material that has been artificially altered. These foods convey characteristics that weren’t previously found in our food supply, including the possibility of new allergens. Eighty percent of all processed foods in the US contain GMOs (genetically modified organisms).

Epidemiological studies indicate that exposure to certain crop pesticides may increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease by up to 75%. Exposure to multiple chemicals acting synergistically may increase the effect of each chemical.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics found the prevalence of food allergies in children under the age of 18 to be 8%. Among children with food allergies, 38.7% had a history of severe reactions and 30.4% had multiple food allergies.

• Researchers at the University of Southampton found that hyperactivity and behavior problems increased in children who were exposed to artificial food colors and the preservative sodium benzoate. Check here for details.

• Through extensive research, Dr. Joseph Murray (Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist and Celiac disease specialist), has found that Celiac disease is five times more common now than it was 50 years ago. He believes something has changed in our environment to trigger the increase. This isn’t about an increase in diagnosis, it is about the increase in occurrence. Check here for his explanation. There has also been an increase in non-Celiac gluten sensitivity and wheat allergy.

• The wheat we eat today is very different from the wild version our ancestors first cultivated thousands of years ago. We now have over 25,000 genetic variations of wheat, many with high yield and high gluten properties. Gluten is a common ingredient in processed food, is difficult to digest and is of no biological value.

• On their website, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, states that the prevalence of asthma increased 75% from 1980 – 1994. Asthma rates in children under the age of five have increased more than 160% in that same time period. In 2007, 29% of children who had a food allergy also had asthma.

• In a 2008 press release, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) announced that the number of young people who had a food or digestive allergy had increased by 18% between 1997 and 2007. The CDC report determined that children with food allergies were up to four times more likely to have asthma.

I could go on (and on), but you get the idea. These are random facts that impact our health. I believe they’re all connected. What we eat today is vastly different from what our grandparents ate fifty or sixty years ago. The introduction of highly processed foods, the overuse of antibiotics, genetically engineered ingredients, additives and dyes, crops sprayed with pesticides, fast food on every corner, patented seeds, and compromised soil have all played a part in changing the quality of the food we eat and how our bodies react to that food.

Why does it matter?

A large part of the immune system is located in the gastrointestinal tract. When we eat foods that contain pesticides, additives, hormones, antibiotics, etc., it confuses the very system that is designed to keep us healthy. We end up with nutrient deficiencies, food intolerances/sensitivities, bacterial imbalances and an increased risk for all kinds of diseases and disorders.

Robyn O’Brien, founder of the AllergyKids website and author of The Unhealthy Truth, is on a mission to raise awareness regarding the proliferation of toxins in our food supply and how that relates to the rapid rise in serious health conditions. I’ve met Robyn on a couple of different occasions and had the pleasure of joining her and several other health bloggers for lunch recently. We’re all in this together and sharing reliable information about the toxic changes in our food supply is important. For more information about Robyn, check out her TED talk video. She has a fascinating story.

I don’t often do give-aways or events on my blog as I’m too scattered, busy, and unorganized to commit to them. But – I’m passionate about wholesome, nourishing food. I’m also a nutritionist and mom to four kids and I don’t like the thought that my family (or yours) is being exposed to dangerous substances without our knowledge. Several other writers who attended the lunch with Robyn are participating in this “awareness” event and giveaway as well. Please see the links below. I’ll be adding more as the posts are published.

Okay, no more ranting. If you made it this far, please leave a comment and I’ll pick one lucky reader to receive a copy of Robyn’s informative and eye-opening book (The Unhealthy Truth), a copy of the Stonyfield Organic Yogurt cookbook and 5 coupons each for Oikos organic Greek yogurt and YoBaby organic yogurt. To increase your karmic odds, but not your statistical odds, please share this post with your friends and join me on Facebook and/or Twitter. I add lots of good information on both social network sites that I don’t have time to post here on the blog. I’ll give it a couple of weeks and then I’ll have my 5 year old neighbor pick the winning number out of a hat. I have no desire to figure out how those random raffle picker programs work, so you’ll have to trust that my little neighbor and I will do this fairly.

Check the following posts for more information. It’s a blog hop!
Write Mind Open Heart
(The Unhealthy Truth – with giveaway – and why I’m on alert for frankenfood)
Stapleton Moms (Just one thing to make your family healthier: no rBGH in your milk)
Mile High Mamas (I fed my family WHAT? Toxic secrets revealed in The Unhealthy Truth)
Lifenut (A food fight for our lives)
Evolving Mommy (The Unhealthy Truth)

Good luck!

Disclaimer: All material on this website is provided for informational and educational use only and should not be used for diagnostic purposes. Consult with your physician regarding any health or medical concerns you may have.
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(co-written with Pete Bronski)

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