Gluten Free For Good


 

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Posts Tagged ‘Celiac & Gluten Intolerance’



Gluten-Free 101 (Recipe and Giveaway)

gluten free 101 Roasted Salmon

How good does this one-pot roasted salmon, rice, and vegetable dish look? Amazing, wouldn’t you agree? This is my kind of meal — easy, healthy, and delicious.

No one knows gluten-free cooking and baking better than Carol Fenster. This post is about her newly revised and updated cookbook, Gluten-Free 101: The Essential Beginner’s Guide to Easy Gluten-Free CookingIt’s also your opportunity to win your own copy.

But first, I must disclose that Carol is a good friend of mine. We have lunch together often and we’re never at a loss for words. In fact, three hour lunches are common for us. Aside from being the visionary in the world of gluten-free cooking, she’s an incredibly nice person — one of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet. For someone who’s known world-wide for her expertise, she’s over-the-top humble and remarkably generous with her knowledge. All she wants to do is help people navigate the gluten-free lifestyle in a healthy and delicious way. Carol’s been doing this long before it was trendy. In fact, she’s been creating gluten-free recipes, writing cookbooks (10 to date), sharing information, and increasing awareness of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity for over 25 years. She’s the ultimate expert.

Having said that, there’s a touch of newsworthy irony to Carol’s story. She grew up on a wheat farm in Nebraska and went on to marry a wheat farmer. Imagine how life-altering it was for her to be diagnosed with an intolerance to gluten? Her family’s livelihood was defined by wheat. It was the main topic of conversation during family gatherings. Her journey from wheat farmer’s daughter to the queen of gluten-free cooking hasn’t been easy. But Carol has a delightful sense of humor, a supportive family, and an unwavering spirit, so that part of the story is just a tasty footnote to her success.

Now, back to the features of Gluten-Free 101. This book is designed for people new to the gluten-free lifestyle, but there’s enough interesting information for even the most experienced cook. The book describes how to read labels, offers alternatives to gluten, gives substitutions, and details how to successfully stock a gluten-free pantry. The book also highlights 175 gluten-free recipes, including everything from basic quick bread to ham quiche to lemon bars. It’s all there, whether you’re new at this or a seasoned gluten-free expert. The gorgeous color photos (see salmon photo above) also make it a fun book to drool over.

Who wants to win their own copy? Trust me, it’s worth a try. Here’s all you have to do to be entered. Choose to do one of the following (or all) and then leave me a message here on my blog as to what you did or why you’d like to have this cookbook. I’ll choose a winner at random. The contest closes at midnight on Sunday, February 16th.

Make sure you leave me a message in the comment section so I know who is entered and how to get in touch with you if you win (your email address will remain private). Good luck!

Gluten-Free-101-jacket-266x300

Here’s a delicious sample recipe courtesy of Gluten-Free 101: The Essential Beginner’s Guide to Easy Gluten-Free Cooking, by Carol Fenster (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, January 14, 2014, printed with permission)

One-Pot Roasted Salmon with Mediterranean Vegetables and Rice

Makes 4 servings
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Roasting time: 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups gluten-free low-sodium chicken broth, heated to boiling
  • 1 cup long-grain white rice
  • 5 ounces baby spinach
  • 1 (6-1/2 ounce) jar marinated artichokes, drained
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup red grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup pitted black olives, sliced
  • 4 small salmon fillets (about 4 ounces each)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine or lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning or lemon-herb seasoning

Instructions

  1. Place a rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the boiling broth and the rice in a deep, 2-quart baking dish.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the spinach, artichokes, and garlic together and place on top of the rice. Arrange the tomatoes and black olives around the edges of the dish. Arrange the salmon fillets on top of the spinach, drizzle with the olive oil and wine, and sprinkle with the salt, pepper, and lemon pepper seasoning. Cover tightly with a lid or aluminum foil.
  3. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and continue roasting until the fish flakes easily with a fork, 5 to 7 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. Serve immediately.

Per serving: 470 calories; 35g protein; 15g total fat; 4g fiber; 46g carbohydrates; 59mg cholesterol; 894mg sodium

Enjoy! Don’t forget to leave me a comment so you’re entered to win a copy of Gluten-Free 101.
Melissa

UPDATE: And the winner is — Nicole (#8 comment). 

Celiac disease, anemia, and a book giveaway

Ladies, do you ever feel like this (minus the bodice drama)? Guys, do you ever nod off mid-sentence? Do you spend half your life asleep on the couch?

There are lots of reasons for feeling tired, run-down, and chronically exhausted, but the one I’m going to focus on is iron-deficiency anemia. Anemia is one of the most common adult presentations of celiac disease and the prevailing symptom of that type of anemia is overall fatigue—as in reduced physical work capacity, impaired athletic performance, and a funky attitude.

Who wants to shuffle through life bleary-eyed and drained of energy (not to mention unaware of potential wardrobe malfunctions)?

Not me.

In order to have the energy you need to enjoy life and thrive, you need healthy, functioning red blood cells (RBCs). RBCs contain an oxygen-carrying protein called hemoglobin, which is the pigment that gives blood its red color. Heme is the iron-containing component, globin is the protein. Unlike most cells, mature RBCs have no nucleus. That way there’s more room to cart around the oxygen you need to work, chase your kids, climb mountains, play tennis, and walk the dog. RBCs only last about 120 days because of the wear and tear they take zipping around the body, squeezing through capillaries, exchanging oxygen for carbon dioxide, and supplying all our cells with nutrients.

Capillaries are the microscopic blood vessels between arteries and veins. They’re called exchange vessels and are found near almost every cell in the body, but their number varies depending on the oxygen and nutrient needs of the tissue. Muscle tissue has lots of capillaries because of the high metabolic demand, especially if you’re an athlete. The same goes for your hard-working liver. If all the capillaries in the human body were placed end to end, the collective length would be about 25,000 to 30,000 miles. Now, imagine how busy your little RBCs are and how many miles they put in each day keeping you upright and functioning. Incredible, isn’t it?

As I mentioned before, RBCs wear out after about 120 days. In order to maintain healthy numbers, we need to be cranking out new mature RBCs at the rate of at least 2 million per second. Yes, you read that right. TWO MILLION PER SECOND. And each RBC contains about 280 million hemoglobin molecules (no typo, 280 million). Each hemoglobin molecule can carry up to 4 oxygen molecules.

Seriously, tell me you’re not totally impressed with yourself. Aren’t we amazing?

Here’s the deal, though. We need to provide our bodies with stellar building blocks to make all this magical stuff happen as planned. Plus, we need to make sure we don’t have something sabotaging our good intentions. Something like celiac disease, which when undiagnosed or unmanaged, can cause nutrient malabsorption so we don’t get the proper building blocks (like iron and animo acids) we need to make all these red blood cells.

Bottom line (short-story version)? If you’re not absorbing your iron, you can’t replace your lost RBCs. If you can’t replace the high rate of RBC loss, you’ll end up with a reduced number of RBCs, a decreased amount of hemoglobin, and less oxygen-carrying capacity. In other words, you’ll be chronically fatigued, have a bad attitude, and simply getting through your day will be a monumental effort. That’s no fun.

First off, find out if you have iron-deficiency anemia. Poor absorption of iron (could be celiac disease), excessive loss of iron, increased iron requirements, or insufficient dietary intake can cause the condition. Celiac disease fits into that scenario, so make sure to consult a medical professional and get tested before taking supplements. Too much iron is toxic and can accumulate in body tissues and organs after normal needs are met.

Getting your nutrients from food should be your priority unless you have a verifiable deficiency. Here’s a list of iron-rich foods. If you’re an athlete, especially one with celiac disease, your iron-related concerns may be compounded. Add foods from this list to your diet and if you want to know more about athletically-induced, iron-deficient anemia, leave me a comment at the end of this post. Your reward for sticking with me to the end of this post is a chance to win a copy of my book, The Gluten-Free Edge: A Nutrition and Training Guide for Peak Athletic Performance and an Active Gluten-Free Life, co-written with endurance athlete, cookbook author, and good friend Peter Bronski of the blog No Gluten No Problem. We go into great detail about nutrient absorption, iron loss, and the critical role deficiencies play in overall health and athletic performance. I’ll choose one winner in a random drawing. This book is a great guide for anyone who wants to “gain an edge” in life and in sports by going gluten-free. Plus, it makes a great Christmas present.

A Sampling of Iron Rich Foods (courtesy of The Gluten-Free Edge)
Animal sources
organ meats (liver, giblets)
clams
bison and beef
pork
eggs
lamb
poultry
fish

Plant sources
kelp
blackstrap molasses
pumpkin and squash seeds
sunflower seeds
millet
oats (make sure they’re certified gluten-free*)
parsley
almonds
dried prunes
beet greens

* My favorite sources for uncontaminated, certified gluten-free oats are Montana Gluten-Free Processors and Gluten-Free Prairie (same oats). These oats are rich in iron and protein, making them good building blocks for RBCs.

Are you curious if you get iron from using a cast-iron skillet. Check this post of mine for the geeky details: Heavy Metal Skillet Breakfast.

Peace, love, and the Gluten-Free Edge.
Melissa
PS Leave a comment for a chance to win and make sure to add your email address (it won’t be seen), so I can contact you if you win. You can also check in with Pete and me on Facebook and/or Twitter. We share lots of good information.
Melissa: Facebook, Twitter
Pete: Facebook, Twitter

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

How much of you is really you?

And how well do you know the you that’s not really you? Or even the you that is you?

For the most part, we’re a highly developed species, but our interoceptive skills aren’t all that great. We’re fairly clueless when it comes to our own bodies.

First things first – the basics.

All living things are made up of cells. Some things, like bacteria, are made up of only one cell. Humans are made up of bazillions of cells and almost every one of those cells contains a complete recipe for making you the unique and quirky person you are. That cellular recipe card is encoded in your DNA, which is that long twisty, twirly, ladder-like molecule you learned about in high school biology. The ingredients for your DNA recipe are organized into 23 pairs of chromosomes, which are organized into genes. We each have about 20,000 genes. I have the gene that codes for green eyes and the one that codes for slightly wavy hair. I also have two genes that code for an increased risk for celiac disease and one that makes me a super taster. You may have the gene that codes for sparkling blue eyes and one that’s the marker for straight hair. Or, you may have hit the jackpot with ACTN3, the “I can run really fast” gene.

That’s us in a genetic nutshell.

Now, on to those one-celled, one-piece-of-DNA bacteria. Bacteria consume stuff (nutrients) from the environment and in some cases, that environmental banquet is us. We have WAY more bacterial cells in our bodies than our own cells – something like 10 times more bacteria cells. Simply put, we have (give or take a few) 100,000 bacteria cells (and genes) in and on us at all times.

Take that one step further and we can conclude that 90% of our cells are from bacteria. Yikes! There’s not much of me that’s really me. I’m just a green-eyed, over-grown petri-dish wearing a cute outfit.

So, we’re just one big tour bus for bacteria. We have some nice passengers and some not-so-nice passengers and it’s important for over-all health to keep this ratio in optimal balance. Our unique buggy environment is called a microbiome and includes all the microbes (and their genetic elements) that have become a part of our internal and external environment. These bacterial genes can profoundly impact the progression of disease – in good ways (protecting us from pathogens), or bad ways (causing infection, inflammation, and disease).

What do good bacteria do?
• Produce enzymes that help us digest, absorb, and assimilate food
• Synthesize vitamin K and other vitamins we can’t make on our own
• Break down carcinogens
• May help metabolize drugs
• Rev up the rate in which intestinal cells regenerate
• Boost immune function and metabolism
• Infants get protective bacteria during birth that help “educate” their immune systems
• Antibiotic use can kill off good bacteria, opening the door to disease

A healthy gut microbiome is akin to a functioning organ, carrying out all kinds of important immune system activities. People with digestive diseases and autoimmune conditions (i.e., celiac, colitis, Crohn’s, IBS, food allergies, environmental sensitivities, etc.) often have funky microbiomes, which can impact energy levels, overall vibrance, immune function, and aging. Researchers are even linking obesity and diabetes to bacterial imbalances.

Scientists at the National Institutes of Health are sequencing the genomes of almost every strain of bacteria we have and are connecting them to the organs they inhabit (nasal-oral-lungs, skin, gastrointestinal, urogenital).  This new approach to wellness is called medical ecology. Think of your microbiome as a soil system. Without the proper balance of nutrients and microbes in the soil, your garden won’t grow. The more good bacteria we have, the harder it is for bad cooties to take hold and cause problems.

How do we tend the microbial garden?
• Don’t use broad spectrum antibiotics unless absolutely necessary
• Choose organic produce and hormone/antibiotic-free animal products
• Eat fermented foods (yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, etc.)
• Reduce stress, which can impact intestinal health
• Prebiotics (fibers in whole foods) stimulate the growth of good bacteria
• Avoid processed food, junk food, and sugary drinks
• Talk to your health-care practitioner about taking a probiotic supplement
• Eat cruciferous veggies *

* Next up: quorum sensing, broccoli, horseradish, and a test to measure your interoceptive skills. (I know, I apologize. I just can’t help it.)

I promise you a gluten-free donut if you stick with me. =)

Peace, love, and good bacteria.
Melissa

Photo credit: WikiMedia Commons

Food (scallions) as medicine

I’m sure you’ve all heard the famous Hippocrates quote, Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. He uttered those words in 400-something BC. Back in the day when food was actually—surprise—real food. That meant lots of plants and an occasional animal snack, but certainly not double-deep-fried, nacho-flavored, cheese-like chips; high-fat “Sunday” bacon; or 2-pound cinnamon rolls. When Hippocrates was talking about food as medicine, he was talking about plants. Whole foods.

See those scrawny little scallions in the above photo? Nothing all that special. They’re just onions, right? Well, those onions pack a powerful punch when it comes to health-promoting goodness.

I’ve been doing some research on foods that fight cancer, sometimes referred to as chemopreventive (or chemoprotective) foods and ran across an interesting, recently released (last week) study.

But first, a little background. The term chemopreventive was coined in the late 1970s and refers to the phytochemicals (plant chemicals) in natural products (fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices) that reduce the risk of disease. I mentioned Hippocrates because I figured most of you have probably heard the food as medicine quote. Here’s another similar, although more wordy, quote from a March 2010 Pharmaceutical Research Journal abstract on cancer chemoprevention.

Moreover, it has been recognized that single agents may not always be sufficient to provide chemopreventive efficacy, and, therefore, the new concept of combination chemoprevention by multiple agents or by the consumption of “whole foods” has become an increasingly attractive area of study.

Hmmm? Wow, the “new” concept of consuming whole foods as medicine? An “increasingly attractive area of study.” Very interesting (I say with a touch of sarcasm). Wasn’t Hippocrates the father of modern medicine? Back in 400-something BC?

Okay, so we’ve gone astray on many fronts when it comes to health and what we eat. I’ll save that rant for another day and get on with the exciting news about scallions, one of my favorite foods.

There’s an increased risk of intestinal cancers associated with celiac disease. The risk is small and if you’re on a seriously committed and healthy gluten-free diet (think whole foods), the increased risk is minimal. I’m not losing any sleep over it. But colon cancer is one of the most common forms of cancers in the general population, so it’s nothing to sneeze at.

What do scallions have to do with intestinal diseases and colon cancer? Well, according to a new study, scallion extract (scallions soaked in hot or cold water) suppressed key inflammatory markers and reduced the size of cancer tumors. Yes, in rats, but in some ways, we’re not all that different.

In summary, directly from the study: “We therefore suggest that scallion plant materials and their extracts may have the potential to be systematically developed as a chemopreventive agent(s) or medicinal food against specific colon cancers.”

Psst—you don’t have to wait until they’re “systematically developed.”

I say, load up on fresh, organic scallions right now. Chop them and add them to soups, stews, chili, whatever you can think of. Both the hot and cold extracts provided protection, but the hot (cooked) version topped the list. Sauté them and add them to raw salads. I do that all the time and they taste spectacular! Roast them in a medley of vegetables. Slice them length-wise and put them on pizza (check out this recipe: my new favorite pizza topping to see what I mean).

Here’s the good news about this study. It didn’t take much, just one scallion a day to provide the extra boost in protection. If that’s not enough, scallions impair genes that store fat. Yes! Okay, in obese rats, but still. Good news, don’t you think? Onions also help lower blood pressure and are anti-inflammatory.

What’s not to like about the scallion?!

Go, buy some now! Let food be thy medicine!

Melissa
PS Stay tuned for a roasted scallion pesto recipe. Oh my gosh! Delicious.

* P Arulselvan et al., “Dietary Administration of Scallion Extract Effectively Inhibits Colorectal Tumor Growth: Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms in Mice,” PLoS ONE 7(9), e44658. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0044658, September 14, 2012.

Sjögren’s Venus & gluten

Last year around this time, Venus Williams dropped out of the U.S. Open and revealed that she was suffering from Sjögren’s syndrome, a chronic autoimmune disorder. Yesterday, the 7-time Grand Slam champion made another early exit from the US Open with a dramatic loss to sixth-seeded Angelique Kerber.

I started this blog (Gluten-Free For Good) in 2007, mainly to increase awareness of celiac disease and help people thrive on the GF diet. Not just get by, but to live active, radiant, and healthy lives. Today’s post was supposed to be part #2 of a series on mitochondria density, elite athletes, weight loss, and exercise, but I decided to put that one on hold to focus on Venus and Sjögren’s.

Hey, did I just hear a collective sigh of relief? I promise, you’ll find the whole mitochondria density thing and weight loss interesting once I get to it.

Okay, some of you will find it interesting.

A few of you?

Anyway, back to Venus, Sjögren’s syndrome, and … gluten.

Sjögren’s is a systemic autoimmune disease in which a person’s white blood cells mistakenly attack their moisture-producing glands causing serious complications throughout the body. Dry eyes and dry mouth are distinct features of the disease, but chronic fatigue, joint and muscle pain, gastrointestinal problems, heartburn, reflux, esophagitis, neurological problems, brain fog, peripheral neuropathy (numbness and tingling in the extremities), abnormal liver function, pancreatic disorders, and Raynaud’s disease (among others) can also be present. Women are disproportionately affected with Sjögren’s (9:1).

Sound familiar?

Sjögren’s is a red flag for celiac disease. It frequently occurs in the presence of another autoimmune disease, often connective tissue disorders like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. Many of these autoimmune diseases sound like versions of the same thing, with just a few variations. Each condition typically has a few hallmark features, but so many of the symptoms are similar. Autoimmune diseases hang around together.

The gluten-free diet is the medical protocol for celiac disease. Why not for all autoimmune diseases? Gluten causes inflammation. Decreasing inflammation via diet and lifestyle should be the first step in reducing the impact of the disease, so it makes sense to eliminate gluten.

Right?

Apparently Venus is on a vegan diet to combat her symptoms. There are rumors she’s dabbling in the gluten-free diet as well.

Go for it, Venus! Eliminate gluten FOREVER.

What are your thoughts? Do any of you have Sjögren’s and celiac disease? Should everyone with autoimmune complications, regardless of what they are, be on a nutrient-dense, whole-foods, gluten-free, dairy-free diet?

That’s my opinion.

Are any of you BFFs with Venus? Her current boyfriend? Sister Serena?

I’d love to send her a copy of our (co-written with friend, colleague, and endurance athlete Peter Bronski of No Gluten, No Problem) newly released book The Gluten-Free Edge: A Nutrition and Training Guide for Peak Athletic Performance and an Active Gluten-Free Life. Tip me off if you know Venus. I’ll send her (and you) a copy of the book.

Peace, love, and gluten-free power serves. (Not that I have a clue about powerful serves. Dink, dink.)
Melissa

Photo of Venus courtesy of PhotoBucket

Love is in the air (along with a zillion cold and flu cooties)

It’s Valentine’s Day and I’m guessing you were expecting dark chocolate, candy hearts, and frilly cupcakes—not shiitake mushrooms, leeks, and spinach. I’m compelled to skip the sugar-laden Valentine goodies this year and go the medicinal mushroom route instead. It seems half the people I know are sniffling, sneezing, and coughing and although it’s hard to avoid being exposed, nourishing food gives your body the ammunition it needs to stay healthy in the midst of cold and flu season.

You want to be able to share the LOVE, not the flu cooties, right? That takes a powerful immune system. Shiitake mushrooms will help you boost your endurance in that department. I’m lucky to have a local source in Hazel Dell’s fresh organic mushrooms.

Shiitake mushrooms have a long and colorful history as cold and flu fighters. They’re a symbol of longevity in Asian cultures and there’s research to back up the claim. What is interesting about these mushrooms is the unique way they work in contrast. Let thy food be thy medicine. These little gems stimulate the immune system in a magical way, enhancing the beneficial aspects of immunity while suppressing the negative aspects. Perfect for those of us with misdirected immunity (think celiac disease).

Having said all that, I’m not a fan of the texture of mushrooms, but love the taste. I don’t like slimy foods like mushrooms or oysters. I can watch open heart surgery up close and personal, but can’t tolerate a runny nose. Mushrooms are plant boogers and they give me the willies. So, in order to take advantage of the medicinal attributes and wonderful earthy flavor of shiitake mushrooms, I cook them up and blend them with broth and a small amount of organic tomato sauce to make the most divine soup base you can imagine. I use this base for all kinds of soups and stews. It’s a cooking/health trick worth adding to your arsenal of radiant living tips.

Immune boosting shiitake mushroom soup

What you need (see fresh ingredients above) 
1 cup shiitake mushrooms, washed and chopped
2 cups chicken broth
1 eight-ounce can organic tomato sauce
2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 leek, sliced in rounds (into the green section)
6 cloves garlic, minced
3 celery stalks, about 1 cup chopped (leaves included)
2 carrots, about 1 cup chopped
1 tomato, chopped
4 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon Simply Organic All-Purpose Seasoning
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh spinach, chopped
1 cup cooked chicken (option)

* Note that the total amount of broth should be 8 cups. You can substitute vegetable broth to make this a vegetarian soup.

What you do
1. Place chopped mushrooms in a medium saucepan. Add 2 cups chicken broth. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat when finished cooking so it can cool slightly.
2. While mushrooms are cooking, heat the olive oil in a large soup pot on low-medium. Add leeks and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring often.
3. Add 4 cups broth to large soup pot with the leeks and garlic mixture. Add celery, carrots, chopped tomato, chicken if using, and seasonings. Turn heat to low.
4. In the meantime, pour mushroom and chicken broth mixture into a blender. Be careful—hot liquids can blow the top off your blender. Let the mixture cool before blending. Add the tomato sauce and 2 cups of room-temperature chicken broth to the blender. Blend all ingredients until smooth. Pour into stock pot.
5. Simmer soup over low heat until vegetables are cooked, but still crisp (about 1 to 2 hours).
6. Add a handful of fresh, raw spinach to the bottom of a large soup mug or bowl. Ladle soup over spinach and give it a stir. The heat of the soup will wilt the spinach to perfection without overcooking it.

Options: add cooked brown rice, quinoa, or Tinkyada brown rice noodles.

For sweet treats to go with your immune boosting soup, check out these recipes.

Double chocolate, double walnut, double heart cookies from Gluten Free Easily
Mexican chocolate brownies from The Book of Yum
Chocolate souffle from Celiacs in the House
How to choose gluten-free chocolate for baking (part 1) from No Gluten No Problem
Pecan and chocolate pie from The WHOLE Gang
Chocolate fondue from Cook It Allergy Free
No bake cookies and creme cheesecakes from Simply Gluten-Free

Peace, joy, and immune-boosting love!
Melissa

Heavy Metal Skillet Breakfast

I’ve been detained for the past several weeks. In fact, I almost forgot I had a blog. If it hadn’t been for the occasional spam updates, this blogging thing might have completely slipped my mind. My absence has been for good reason though. I’m involved in an exciting book writing project with friend, colleague, writing guru, endurance athlete, and fellow blogger Pete Bronski from No Gluten No Problem. Although it’s been a wild ride (sprinting a marathon as Pete says), I’m grateful and thrilled to be involved. We’ll keep you posted.

And now — back to blogging.

Have you ever wondered if you’re getting a hit of iron when you cook in a cast iron skillet and then eat the food? Doesn’t that sound like more fun than buying and taking iron supplements?

I’m not suggesting giving up your iron supplements if you’re truly deficient, but why not let some of that free iron migrate from the pan to your red blood cells? A 2007 study published in the Ecology of Food and Nutrition Journal found that iron nutrition status among vegetarians can be improved by using cast iron skillets in meal preparation. The iron transferred from the skillet to the food and was absorbed by the subjects. The use of cast iron pans decreased the prevalence of iron deficiency anemia in the population studied.

That’s great if you’re absorbing your iron to begin with. People with unmanaged, undiagnosed (or newly diagnosed) gluten intolerance are often iron deficient. The area of the small intestine where iron is absorbed can become inflamed and damaged, so even if you’re eating a healthy diet you might not be absorbing or assimilating the nutrients.

You’ve heard the old saying, you are what you eat.

Uh, well, not always.

It’s more like, you are what you’re able to digest (breakdown), absorb into circulation, and ship out to your anxiously-awaiting cells. If you aren’t absorbing your iron, you should find out why. If you don’t get enough iron in your diet, which can be the case with vegetarians, cooking with cast iron will boost your intake.

I have a small cast iron skillet from my grandmother that I use on a regular basis. It’s my personal breakfast skillet. I roast veggies in it and top the mixture with a poached egg or two. It makes for a delicious, iron-rich meal. It also makes for quick cleanup since I’m cooking and eating out of the same pan.

Heavy Metal Skillet Breakfast

Broccoli stalks (amazingly good roasted)
Cauliflower
Onions
Tomatoes
Spinach
Pastured eggs
Simply Organic All-Purpose Seasoning
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease skillet. Trim broccoli stalks by getting rid of the funky stuff on the outside. Cut in 1-inch wide by 2- to 3-inch long chunks (see photo). Cut cauliflower chunks in half. Cut onions in 2- to 3-inch chunks. The vegetable pieces should be cut to similar sizes so they roast evenly.

Place vegetables in a small bowl and drizzle with a little olive oil. Add some Simply Organic All-Purpose Seasoning (my absolute favorite multi-purpose seasoning), sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Stir to cover vegetables. Put the broccoli chunks, cauliflower, and onions in the skillet and place on center rack of oven. Set timer for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, add the tomatoes and spinach, stirring to blend the newly added vegetables with the others. Roast for another 10 minutes.

In the meantime, poach two eggs. Once the vegetables are roasted, top with the eggs and enjoy.

Note: Broccoli stalks are awesome roasted. Don’t throw them away. They taste tender and slightly sweet when roasted. They’re delicious!

You might also like:
Carol’s version of Eggs Florentine baked in a cast iron skillet (from the wonderful blog Simply Gluten Free).

Peace, love, and cast iron.
Melissa

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.
Melissa

Celiac disease and Dupuytren’s contracture

Is there a connection?

I was diagnosed with Dupuytren’s contracture ten years ago. I have it in both my hands and my feet. I also have Celiac disease and have always wondered if the two were related. There’s no sound research indicating comorbidity, but since both are immune mediated, I’m thinking they might be kindred spirits. Comorbidity is the simultaneous presence of two chronic diseases in the same person.

Would you, my bright and nerdy readers, help me do an (un)scientific and peer reviewed (that would be you) study? Having a blog allows for some creative crowd-sourcing, so if you’ll play along, we might be able to pull off an interesting randomized (literally) study on the possible connection between the two autoimmune diseases. But, let’s do this right. Humor me while I switch from gluten-free nutrition blogger to medical researcher.

Celiac disease and Dupuytren’s contracture: are they related?
Jory MM, et al. (et al. refers to all of you)
Research study in progress

ABSTRACT

Objective: To determine if Celiac disease and Dupuytren’s contracture share common pathophysiological origins and/or genetic associations.
Method: To elicit a response in the comment section from blog readers who have both Celiac disease and Dupuytren’s contracture. People who have Celiac disease and/or Type 1 diabetes should also respond in the comment section. Any combination of the three diseases mentioned, or the suspicion of a combination should be noted.
Conclusion: Pending
Key words: Celiac disease, Dupruytren’s contracture, Type 1 diabetes, autoimmunity, gluten, genetics.

INTRODUCTION

Celiac disease is a genetically predisposed digestive disease in which gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, causes an immune reaction that damages to the lining of the small intestine. The resulting inability to properly digest (breakdown) and absorb food leads to nutrient deficiencies and a multitude of health issues. The comorbidity between Celiac disease and other autoimmune disorders has been studied extensively and clearly established. According to several research studies, Celiac disease and Type 1 diabetes share common genetic origins and immune mediated tissue damage. Dietary intolerances are found in both diseases. The prevalence of Celiac disease in people who have Type 1 diabetes is about seven times greater than in the general population.

Dupruytren’s contracture is a disease that typically affects the connective tissue in the palm of the hand, although it can also impact the feet. Scarring develops in the fascia covering the tendons that facilitate movement. The fascia becomes thick and shortened, causing the fingers to contract and pull inward. In advances cases, the muscles and tendons involved in gripping become “frozen” and unable to extend. The disease progresses until the fourth (ring) and fifth fingers remain in a permanent flexed position and a loss of mobility occurs. In more extreme cases, all fingers can be implicated. The frequency of Dupuytren’s contracture is ten times greater in people with type 1 diabetes than in the general population.

The main objective of this (un)scientific, blog-sourced study is to determine a relationship between Celiac disease and Dupuytren’s contracture. If there is a genetic and food-related link between Celiac disease and Type 1 diabetes and a genetic link between Type 1 diabetes and Dupuytren’s, could gluten and specific gene markers play a role in all three conditions? Is there a comorbidity between Celiac disease and Dupuytren’s contracture? Should people diagnosed with Dupuytren’s contracture be screened for Celiac disease? Should people with Dupuytren’s contracture go on an anti-inflammatory, gluten-free diet?

Do you have Celiac disease? Do you have Dupuytren’s contracture? Do you have Type 1 diabetes? Do you have any combination of the above? Please leave your answer in the comment section of this blog post. If you don’t want your name associated with your answer, please comment anonymously. Thank you!

Let’s see what we can come up with. Scientifically speaking, although loosely so.

Peace, love and science blogging.
Melissa
P.S. I chose the above photo because it implied a warm connection between people (all of us) and the image of contracted ring and pinky fingers is exactly what Dupuytren’s contracture looks like.

confessions of an HLA DQ2 cavewoman

*Warning: this post took on a life of its own. If you’re looking for a quick recipe, bail out now. If you’re remotely interested in my take on the wonderful world of food, genetics, evolution and Celiac disease, brace yourself and read on.

Was this Paleo guy after the mastodon or the armadillo?

Or, maybe he was out doing some wild cereal hunting. That field of Triticum would be a lot easier to tackle than the mastodon. I’m pretty sure I evolved from a less aggressive, nomadic, grass-eating tribe. My ancestors hunted with pruning shears, not six foot long daggers with jagged tips. We ate grasses, berries, nuts, seeds, dates, olives, leafy green things and even rich, savory mushrooms once we figured out which ones didn’t kill us. We also ate a lot of fish depending on our travels.

Unfortunately, that’s where things went awry. When we stopped wandering and built condos on the Mediterranean Sea. I had HLA DQ2 ancestors and around 8500 B.C. they decided cultivating Triticum dicoccum (emmer wheat) was less dangerous than chasing 6 ton mastodons with sharp pointy tusks.

And so, the Celiac story begins – with the domestication of wheat and the interaction of HLA (human leukocyte antigen) genes and deamidated gluten peptides. To make it even more fun, let’s throw in sexual selection, mating preferences and pathogen resistance. We actually have some biological factors (those HLA genes again) influencing who we get a crush on and mate with. Darn it though, this little trick of nature doesn’t always play out to our benefit.

HLA genes are involved in immune function. They guard against nasty invaders and do a good job keeping us healthy. They also magically prompt us to compliment our disease fighting ability with genetic dissimilarities. We subconsciously strive for varied biological attributes in our offspring. Bottom line? These genes play a role in who we get the hots for.

Seriously. I’m not making this up. Check here for details.

It’s called olfactory curb appeal. Okay, I made that up.

But, have you ever been attracted to someone simply because they smelled good? You don’t know why they smell good, it’s not perfume or cologne or anything. It’s just them. That’s deep, dark and delicious biology working to keep the species healthy. We don’t know it, but we’re seeking to keep our DNA loaded with a genetic mixture of diverse immunity, so we sniff out complimentary HLA genes. Unfortunately, the introduction of wheat, barley and rye played havoc on our genetic blueprint. These normally brilliant little HLA DQ2 genes also code for autoimmunity (check here for details), as is the case with Celiac Disease and Type 1 Diabetes.

Oops.

Okay, that was a rather convoluted introduction to why I don’t favor the Paleo diet, but I had to set the biogeographical stage. You see, my ancestors go back 10,000 years ago to the Fertile Crescent. I was sunbathing on the Syrian coast and eating a Mediterranean diet way back when. Before it was cool and trendy to eat like that. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t loading up on pounds of mastadon meat. Maybe on rare occasions like someone’s wedding or the toppling of a rival empire, but not often.

I’m also thinking my female ancestors frequently had to settle for HLA DQ2 suitors rather than shaking things up with an anti-Celiac DQ4 guy. Life was different then. It’s not like you could jet off to the Andes in hopes of diluting the DQ2 gene pool. You got stuck with whoever was in your merry band of hunters and gatherers and that probably meant similarly encoded DQ antigen regions.

I’m just curious about all this because I think it’s in my genetic makeup to favor plants. I’m not much of a meat eater. Paleo eating is popular right now and supporters suggest we evolved to eat a high animal protein diet, but that doesn’t work for me. At all. Ethics aside, I’m not fond of animal products and I don’t digest meat or dairy well. I’m much better off eating a big bowl of leafy greens, some brown rice and a mix of roasted veggies than I am a slab of prime rib or a chunk of cheese. I’m sure I’d do better if my meat sources were from wild, organic, healthy animals and my dairy sources were raw and from 100% grass fed, happy cows, but in general, and for a lot of reasons, I’m more suited to a plant-based diet. Considering the toxic chemicals in our food supply, the overuse of antibiotics and hormones in CAFO (confined animal feeding operations) and the increase in antibiotic resistant bacteria, I don’t think a diet heavy with animal protein is healthy.

By the way, this post isn’t an endorsement of any specific eating plan. I’m just thinking out loud. So, don’t hit me over the head with a club if you’re a Paleo fan. For the record, I’m not vegetarian or vegan, but fairly close and if I do eat animal products, I’m grateful that I can be picky about the sources.

Okay? Are we all friends? Omnivores and herbivores? Vegans and meat eaters? Berry pickers and spear throwers? What works for one person doesn’t always work for another. We’re biochemically unique. I’m also convinced that genetic influences (as wildly explained above), environmental determinants, ethical leanings, lifestyle factors and nutrient feng shui make a difference.

I made up that nutrient feng shui thing. That’s my phrase for food combining, which I’m not into either. Life is hard enough, lets make eating easier, not more difficult. A nutrient-dense, whole foods, plant-based diet is easy and healthy. At least for my DNA.

Points to Ponder

• Recent research suggests that red meat consumption increases the risk of type 2 diabetes. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2011

• Study reveals direct evidence for a variety of plant foods in the Neanderthal diet, including legumes, date palms and grass seeds (Triticeae). PNAS – Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 2010

• Don’t assume we were all heavy meat eaters. Molar macrowear in Neanderthals and early Homo Sapiens suggests high dietary variability. My ancestors were Paleo Plant People from Mediterranean habitats. Check here for the research details. I made up Paleo Plant People, but who knows, that might emerge as a classification system. I’ll contact the Paleolithic genome project and suggest it.

• Maintaining a healthy pH balance is important to health. Beef, pork, poultry, milk, butter, cheese, cream are acid-forming foods. Plants are alkalizing. An acidic internal environment is disease-promoting. Low acid diets may protect against several diseases, including osteoporosis (yes, osteoporosis). Check here for details.

• According to my weight and age, I’m supposed to consume about 45 to 50 grams of protein per day. The average American adult consumes at least twice that much per day (100 to 120 grams per day). When that much protein (along with the often higher percentage of fat in animal products) is consumed, other important nutrients are often excluded from the diet. Fiber percentages and beneficial plant nutrients are often lacking in high protein (animal source) diets. I prefer less protein than the USDA’s RDA and more fiber than they recommend. That can easily be accomplished on a high-grade, plant-based diet. Even if you’re exercising a lot. Even if you’re a serious athlete.

• Strong and consistent correlations are reported between death rates from cancer and per capita consumption of animal products. Check here for epidemiological correlations between diet and cancer frequency.

• It’s my opinion that a whole foods, predominantly plant-based diet filled with lots of fiber and organic, nutrient-dense vegetables is the best way to heal and thrive if you have Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. I have DQ2 genes and Celiac disease. People like me often have difficulty digesting animal products (meat and dairy). Maybe we didn’t evolve to do so. Maybe our genes are telling us something. Maybe Paleo isn’t for us. Maybe we’re Paleo Plant People.

Peace, love and green veggies.
Melissa

 

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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