Posts Tagged ‘Gluten Intolerance’
Thursday, December 6th, 2012
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)?
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)
organ meats (liver, giblets)
bison and beef
pumpkin and squash seeds
oats (make sure they’re certified gluten-free*)
* 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.
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
Saturday, September 1st, 2012
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).
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.
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.)
Photo of Venus courtesy of PhotoBucket
Tuesday, February 14th, 2012
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!
Monday, August 15th, 2011
*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.
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.
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should not be used for diagnostic purposes. Consult with your physician regarding any health or medical concerns you may have.