Before tackling the gluten-free diet, let’s get to know our culprit.
Gluten is a specific type of protein, but one you won’t find in meat or eggs. Instead gluten is found in wheat, rye, and barley. Going gluten-free means avoiding these grains. A gluten-free diet is essential for most people with gluten allergies or celiac disease, a condition which causes intestinal damage when gluten is eaten.
Going Off Wheat ~ Dede’s Story (from Living With Crohn’s & Colitis)
People always ask me why I cannot eat wheat and I don’t have a clear answer. I remember my naturopath asking me to give up wheat when I was really having digestive issues—mostly constipation and blockages—and I was horrified. “I love pizza and bagels the most,” I pleaded with her. She demurred and suggested I give up wheat for three days to see if that helped my frequent bouts of arthritis due to the long-term flares of Crohn’s disease that had ravaged my joints.
After three days, I was ecstatic, I had more energy, and I felt better all over, especially in my elbows and knees which were frequently arthritic. Four years have now passed, and I switched to the ancient wheat grain, Spelt, for my occasional wheat-fixes (though I typically use rice flour for pastas and pizza crusts). Spelt — HIGH GLUTEN CONTENT — looks very similar to wheat (just ask my seventeen-year-old son who often samples my Spelt concoctions, like pizza dough and scones, and doesn’t notice any difference from the same made with wheat!)
Spelt actually contains more protein than wheat, and since I have given up red meat, I do like getting extra proteinin my diet. In addition, the protein is easier to digest, though there is actually more gluten in Spelt, which makes it an unsuitable grain for those with celiac disease. Here is an awesome gluten-free bread company (their pizza is SO good!) . . .
As far as oats are concerned, I have found this grain to be easier to digest than most other whole grains. NOTE: I only use pure oats, not commercial oats, which are often processed with wheat, and if have celiac disease you MUST stay away from any wheat contamination, according to my research!
According to Diane Lamb, a nutrition and food specialist at the University of Vermont, writing in her excellent column in the Brattleboro Reformer,
“Breakfast can make your day!…A healthy breakfast should energize you, satisfy your hunger and provide beneficial nutrients—carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, minerals, and a small amount of fat…A bowl of cereal (hot or cold) that has some dietary fiber with low-fat milk or yogurt, fruit, and even a few nuts provides a lot more nutrients than an empty calorie food like that sweet roll, or donut. . . . In addition to lowering blood cholesterol, oats (oatmeal) can help control blood sugar and insulin sensitivity. Whole grains including oatmeal are digested more slowly than refined grains. This slower digestion leads to a gradual, steady supply of blood sugar which can keep hunger in check.”
I rely heavily on routine in my diet and lifestyle choices. I always read labels carefully, and I try to cook with McCann’s Steel Cut oats, perhaps as a nod to my Irish heritage, but more importantly, to get the purest grain without any addition of refined sugars, added salt, and flavors. Sometimes the fewer ingredients on the label, the happier I am and more apt to purchase!
~MORE TO COME EVERY FEW DAYS!~
Research from the Mayo Clinic, ThirdAge & WebMD • photography @creativecommons.
I’ve been asked to teach a gluten-free cooking class at our local food coop. I am quite frankly honored to do this, but I realized I needed to do some homework, so I could help inform the participants, a few of whom are children (accompanied by a parent) with Celiac disease and/or Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Since my cookbook, Cooking Well: IBS, came out last year, I have gotten a few emails and comments from readers about how it has helped them stop having IBS flare-ups all together. This makes me so happy, as an author, but more importantly, as an educator and speaker who wants to help people stay away from getting full-blown Inflammatory Bowel Disease, which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
Here is my “word salad”
(no pun intended, or yes, well a little pun!) that I made for my talk (with more to come, as I develop the new book):
Basic cooking well for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (commonly referred to as IBS), Crohn’s disease, and/or ulcerative colitis (not to mention Celiac disease), can be challenging in general but especially so when on the road.
Being able to know your body’s tolerance for certain food is key to planning your diet, and traveling makes it hard to do that. Prior to your trip, and in general, it is a good idea to keep a food journal.
No one diet is completely right for everyone with IBS, or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Keeping a food journal will help you find out which foods cause problems for you. Then you can avoid those foods and choose others that supply the same nutrients, especially while traveling. Some people with IBS may have problems digesting legumes, fiber-rich foods, raw salads, spices, additives, preservatives, fried foods, and there may be others, such as seeds in berries (especially fresh fruit with seeds).
For those individuals who either are still having significant symptoms or have very sensitive digestion, steaming or cooking most foods, even fruits, can help significantly. By steaming or cooking most foods, it reduces the live enzyme content of the food and makes it significantly easier on your digestion. Make sure to chew foods well and eat slowly. For some, taking 2 teaspoons of organic apple cider vinegar in a little bit of water be-fore meals can aid digestion. When I packed for our trip, I included flax seed since I often get constipated when I travel (I kept it frozen, and we rented a place with our own kitchen which was helpful for me to store my own food). I also packed my vitamins and some portable Jarrow probiotics. which do not need to be refrigerated.
Eating healthily and happily involves an investment of time and creativity. Preparation helps make the diet transition go smoothly. There are many techniques to create fast, easy, and healthy meals, even when you travel. For example, we cooked our own dinners a few times, and included some of my favorite comfort foods like beans and rice, along with local plantains and broccoli. A recent article attests to the benefits of these foods, which are also easy to find on the road.
Most mornings, I made a green drink to start the day right, with a good serving of oatmeal and bananas (I have always been able to find oatmeal when I travel, but just in case, I packed a few packets of instant Kashi oatmeal as a back-up plan, though it is too sweet for me). To create healthy meals while on the road, Jessica Black and I recommend you use techniques such as steaming, sautéing, puréeing, chopping small, blending, grinding, and many others. If there is a health food store near you or a restaurant that serves healthy meals, go there often at first, especially as you adjust to a new climate and location.
I ordered fresh fish, rice and streamed vegetables for practically every meal! In the morning, I had oatmeal with bananas and honey, and often at snack, I boiled a few eggs to keep in the fridge. Lunch was mostly corn tortillas with beans and rice: All these foods were “tried and true” in my diet—with a proven track record for wellness in my case (remember how helpful the food journal is!).
In addition, I kept my morning yoga routine and seated meditation—this vacation allowed me to do that on my own private beach, which was a great way to begin the day with sun salutations.
Gone are the days of partying and drinking wild concoctions of Island Rum and pina coladas! I did enjoy a light beer made in Honduras, without any problems. I drank tons of water on the trip, especially helpful when flying on airplanes which tend to dehydrate travelers in general.
Getting lots of restorative sleep was easy—being by the ocean tends to lull one into sleep effortlessly.