Tag Archives: gluten

Gluten-free for 19 days and what have I noticed?

First of all, I cannot believe how quickly these last few weeks have gone by. The first day of my gluten-free journey I found myself at a wonderful Italian restaurant with my husband Joe and son Conor: dilemma #1: don’t reach for yummy warm focaccia and dip it into spicy extra virgin oil, as I would normally do. Temptation averted, the rest should be easy! I chose polenta and sausage for my entree, thus avoiding pasta and felt quite satisfied sipping on a glass of full-bodied red wine and walked away not feeling quite as stuffed.

Red wine, Pinot noir in particular, is rich in resveratrol, an antioxidant protector of healthy cells against aging. When taken in moderation (no more than one glass a day)  it also is known to have hormone balancing benefits.

Red wine, Pinot noir in particular, is rich in resveratrol, an antioxidant protector of healthy cells against aging. When taken in moderation (no more than one glass a day) it also is known to have hormone balancing benefits.

It’s those first few days of making a change that are always the hardest and most daunting but once I settled in to my new routine, I found it easier every day to not reach for the pretzels….or grab a piece of whole grain toast for breakfast….sneak a bite of a cookie that someone(usually me!) brought in to work….grab some pita chips to dip into my hummus….order pizza for dinner or bagel and cream cheese for breakfast(these are some of my favorite foods, by the way).  Instead I made up a big batch of quinoa which I would have for breakfast with some cheese or eggs( in lieu of toast) or some polenta to have with roasted veggies and some protein for lunch or dinner. I often had thin rice cakes with hummus or nut butter for breakfast and I found some very tasty quinoa chips at our local New Seasons Market.  It took a little bit of planning and an occasional , ” oh right, I can’t have that right now” moment but it has been  fairly easy to eliminate gluten and wheat from my daily diet.

So what have I noticed? I don’t feel as full or bloated after a meal, my waist is at least 1 inch smaller, I haven’t felt as hungry between meals, my blood sugar feels more even and I haven’t had as big an energy dip after lunch. That last one is huge as I usually get up at 4:30 am during the week so I can get to the gym and walk my dog before work…so when 2:00pm rolls around, the temptation to take a nap can be pretty big(those Latin cultures with their afternoon siestas are ONTO something). Sleep has also been deep and restful , another substantial  plus as we all know how important getting adequate sleep is for restoring our adrenals and keeping cortisol levels balanced, equating to less belly fat: wow , this stuff really does make sense, doesn’t it? Avoiding gluten/wheat not only helps to even out our insulin production but it also helps to regulate our cortisol levels, both of which then help to reduce that dreaded belly fat/muffin top/menopot which we all are trying to avoid or diminish.

That dreaded belly fat! Reducing consumption of gluten-containing foods can help you to lose it

That dreaded belly fat! Reducing consumption of gluten-containing foods can help you to lose it

Now that I can see the finish line of this experiment, I am left wondering how I will apply what I have learned from these 21 days to my future diet and lifestyle.  As I suspected, my digestion, mood  nor skin haven’t changed so I don’t think I personally have gluten intolerance.  But I do think I will benefit from minimizing its consumption on a regular basis so I will treat eating wheat and gluten-containing products like I do sweets: small amounts, occasional consumption more like a condiment than a staple of life. That way I can indulge in a piece of pizza, a nice hot piece of focaccia, a warm chewy cookie from time to time.f

And that is the way we should eat, the way Michael Pollan has so eloquently laid out for us: “Eat food(whole), not too much , mostly plants”. If we all followed this advice, our level of obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease , inflammatory diseases, and even mental illness would drop greatly. Adapting a whole foods, plant-based diet leads to optimal health and wellness, hormone balance and an improved quality of life. What could be better than that???

Spring is in the air and flowers are popping up everywhere: definitely adding to our quality of life...

Spring is in the air and flowers are popping up everywhere: definitely adding to our quality of life…

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True Food awarenesss: Nutrition Month slogan tells us ‘eat foods that taste good’ – but do we like the taste of food that’s GOOD for us?

Eat what you like the taste of..…That’s pretty much the main message for this months National Nutrition Awareness….but wait a minute…so much of what we have all grown to like the taste of is over-sweetened/salted, hormone-injected, denatured, genetically modified, hyper-glutenized fake food that has stifled our taste buds and lost its power to nourish us. No wonder we are confused and bored with the Food Pyramid, USDA food guidelines and the same old messaging which among other guidelines that miss the mark is STILL telling us to eat plenty of grains. Even though we now know that wheat is not wheat as we once knew it, but thanks to better living through chemistry, a high-yield grain overloaded with gluten, a wheat protein that in excess messes with our intestines.

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USDA food guidelines are still not hip to the glut of gluten in our food supply since the genetic modification of the staff of life made us stuffed for life…

 

In the last 20 years “the staff of life” (and its carbohydrate cousins – cereals, pastas, pastries etc.) has hybridized into an insulin/fat raising food that has engulfed us in a tide of obesity and diabetes. Why is it that every other person you meet these days seems to have gut problems and/or gluten intolerance? It is not a plague, but it is a plot of sorts… read (Kyle’s past few blogs charting her experience of going gluten-free), and the groundbreaking book she shared with us: Wheat Belly, by William Davis, M.D., which explores the proposition that the health problems of Americans, from fatigue to foggy thinking and belly fat, originates with the innocent bran muffin you down with your coffee every morning.

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We’re not talking Breakfast at Tiffanys anymore….that was before Monsanto increased the gluten in your sweet roll 30-50 times…Hard to imagine the ever svelte Audrey Hepburn with belly fat, but if then was now with a croissant and coffee habit every day, no way she’d have slipped so easily into that little black dress.

. Once we learn the truth behind the fabrication of our present food supply, the first thing one wants to do is dump everything out of the cupboards and find a new approach to the care and feeding of our unwitting bodies. Consider this quote from a USDA nutritionist on how the food pyramid came about: Where we called for a base of 5-9 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables a day, it was replaced with a paltry 2-3 servings (changed to 5-7 servings a couple of years later because an anti-cancer campaign by another government agency, forced the USDA to adopt the higher standard). Our recommendation of 3-4 daily servings of whole-grain breads and cereals was changed to a whopping 6-11 servings forming the base of the Food Pyramid.” She goes on to say that many of her colleagues warned that obesity and diabetes would be the ill-considered result of such a move, which was in fact, “a concession to the processed wheat and corn industries.” No one listened at the time. Since the epidemic of obesity that has risen in tandem with the early food guidelines, the pyramid morphed into the new MYPlate.gov elevating vegetables to the largest portion, though grains are close behind.

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The amber waves of grain that nourished us for generations are under assault ….This is not wheat as we knew it and our GI tracts are saying NO to GMOs in the only way they can ….with gluten intolerance, inflammation and imbalance.

 

Finding our way back to True Foods. The question is: How do we not end up obese, diabetic, heart-diseased and afflicted with Alzheimers.) How to reverse this preventable panic….? By jumping aboard the true food train. Dr. Andrew Weil who has written a great cookbook and opened two restaurants by that name says, “True Food is not just for vegans and vegetarians, but for people who are trying to eat healthy, and people who want a good meal that happens to be good for you. The first point was always, it has got to taste right.”

Start with organic fruit and vegetables, good fats, lean proteins free of hormones and antibiotics, gluten-free grains like quinoa, forbidden rice etc. (see Kyles blogs on this) and the known SUPERFOODS, particularly: low-fat plain yogurt, -eggs, -nuts, -kiwis, -quinoa, -beans, -salmon, -broccoli, -sweet potatoes, -strawberries and blueberries. These standouts among food sources make excellent balancing partners with phytonutrients for hormone balancing! And since hormone balance is achievable (one of Menopausibilities essential truths) read on…..

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Superfoods; the nutritional powerhouses, rich in fiber, vitamins, antioxidants and plant nutrients will restore tastebuds that had long forgotten natural flavors….always best when organic of course…reject those sprayed with herbicides and pesticides that bankrupt their nutrient stores.

Normalization of  key hormone players in the body can be achieved by balancing hormones naturally with superfoods and phytonutrients, plant hormones found in whole foods and grains such as soy and flax seed. Eating cooked (not overcooked) cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, brussels sprouts and cauliflower, (and judicious amounts of crucifers in the raw), can encourage proper metabolism of estrogens in the body and help to clear excesses and xenoestrogens (chemicals from the environment that mimic estrogens to a toxic extent in the body) from the system.

Other phytonutrient-rich foods known to support hormone balance include (in order of amount): flax seed and breads; beans and legumes, soy milk, yogurt and tofu (again, in judicious amounts); sesame and sunflower seeds; multigrain (in moderation and or gluten-free alternatives) and flax breads; hummus; garlic; mung and alfalfa bean sprouts; dried apricots and dates; olive oil; almonds; green beans and blueberries.

Phytonutrients, have been used for centuries for relief of menopausal and/or hormone imbalance symptoms in women.

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May we never lose our taste for true foods….they are nature’s gift…just make sure you buy them organic!

 


 

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5 days gluten-free, 16 to go

I cannot believe it is already March 6th and I am officially gluten-free, at least for now. So far, it has been way easier than I had imagined, which is great because I often feel a pang of guilt when I recommend trying this style of eating to some of my patients. I always suggest deleting gluten from the diet of patients with Hashimoto’s(an autoimmune version of hypothyroidism) , insulin resistance and diabetes, arthritis, IBS(Irritable Bowel Syndrome), diverticulitis, fatigue, weight issues and even mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Those who have followed this advice often report a significant reduction in their symptoms, so much so that they are happy to stay off gluten indefinitely.

For breakfast, I have had either gluten-free toast with peanut butter and homemade jam, rice cakes with hummus,  Greek yoghurt with fruit and nuts, eggs with lots of sautéed veggies  or quinoa with cheese. I have not felt deprived at all.

Lunch is usually a salad loaded up with veggies, a source of protein or two and some nuts thrown in for crunch(I am definitely drawn to crunchy, salty and spicy foods over others). Snacks include sliced up apples or pears, a handful of grapes or a small portion of nuts(10 almonds/walnuts, or 40 pistachios is just the right amount).

Dinner has consisted of roasted veggies and goat cheese, tomato sauce over steamed broccoli with parmesan cheese(here is where my Italian roots come out: I just love a hearty tomato sauce and have found it to be quite wonderful served over veggies instead of pasta: another way to lower sugar and gluten consumption), chicken + yams + a salad, seafood and quinoa and veggies: really the possibilities are endless. I went to one of our favorite Italian restaurants last weekend and chose the polenta with sausage: YUM! I avoided the warm crusty Italian bread with olive oil: ouch…but I survived and happily so. I honestly believe this is a good change for me as I am one of those who often fills up on bread if it is there.

I have noticed that 1. I feel great: lots of energy. 2. I am not as hungry between meals( I am quite the grazer usually) 3. My clothes around the waistline feel a little looser.  So these are subtle changes but it has only been 5 days. I will keep you posted throughout the next 2+ weeks.

Bon appétit, sans gluten.

Another fun birthday celebration(they just keep coming, thankfully): this time gluten-free for me

Another fun birthday celebration, Melinda’s(they just keep coming for all of us, thankfully): this time gluten-free for me

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Going gluten-free: what you need to know

In my last post, I talked about some of the issues surrounding the consumption of gluten and wheat and why someone might consider going without for awhile. As you may remember, I am going to go gluten-free myself for 21 days starting on March 1st ,which is a mere 5 days away. Gluten tends to be rather ubiquitous, hiding in not only foods(like black and red licorice, I just discovered) but also in makeup, toothpaste, personal health care items and prescriptions.

In November, I attended an all-day seminar on gluten-related disorders put on by Nadine Grzeskowiak, a nurse who discovered that she herself had serious health consequences from gluten consumption. Once she eliminated it from her diet, her quality of life changed so much that she started to devote herself to educating others on this topic. You can find out more about her and her programs at http://www.GlutenFreeRN.com.

Going gluten-free can feel a bit daunting if you have never really thought about it but it is also extremely manageable to do so. Those of us who are fortunate enough to live in the Pacific Northwest are particularly lucky as we have a wide choice of health-conscious stores to choose from . During the past few weeks, I have been perusing the aisles and have amassed a nice selection of gluten-free grains(remember I love to bake and cook) and things that I can snack on. The choices are amazing!  I have ‘practiced’ going gluten-free for a few days at a time and I can honestly say that it has not been very difficult. I know that I will miss Italian focaccia bread dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, as well as New York style pizza….but I will live and not only that, I will thrive: of that I am certain. Perhaps I will even discover something without gluten that I will love as much: one can only hope.

Okay, here goes: the lists of what you can and cannot eat if you are choosing to join me. These lists are gleaned from “Wheat Belly” and Nadine’s workshop and may not include everything that you CAN eat but I believe that they do list everything that you cannot eat. I always advise my patients who are adopting this lifestyle change to pick up a book on this topic AND to take a ‘gluten-free’ tour in their local Whole Foods/ New Seasons -type grocery store.

What to avoid: Wheat, Spelt, Seitan, Semolina, Couscous, Durum,  Kamut, Bulfar, Farina, Emmer, Graham, Barley, Malt, Rye and Oats(there are gluten-free oats available by the way: more about that later)

What you CAN eat: vegetables, fruits, organic meats, fish, nuts, seeds, rice, corn , potatoes, beans, dairy , ‘safe grains’: this includes nut flours(such as almond, chestnut, coconut, pecan and hazelnut), grain flours(rice, corn, millet, sorghum , teff and quinoa), legume flours(peanut, lava and chickpea), seed flours(amaranth and buckwheat: yes buckwheat is NOT a wheat), tuber flours(potato, tapioca and arrowroot).

Some of the many choices available to bake with gluten

Some of the many choices available to bake with gluten

Something else you should know is that according to Dr. Davis(author of ‘Wheat Belly’),the tuber flours in particular can raise your blood sugar. This is particularly important if you already know that you have insulin resistance or are hoping to lose some weight by adopting a gluten-free diet. Before buying something, read the label and decide if this product is right for you.

If you are a baker, you can make your own gluten-free baked goods and know exactly what is in each item.  I am excited to try some new recipes in the gluten-free world as there are some delicious substitutes already out there. Here in Lake Oswego we have one of the best GF bakeries around: Kyra’s. The owner actually won a baking contest against bakers that cooked the traditional way. I have tasted her cinnamon rolls and cupcakes, which were simply amazing. Again, switching out sweets that are gluten-free for those that contain it will not be part of a weight-loss plan, but living without any treats forever is not a realistic goal for most of us and it is lovely to know that there are suitable choices for a gluten-free lifestyle.

There are some excellent mail-order sources for gluten-free products(like oats). Two that immediately come to mind are Bob’s Red Mill,located in Portland, and Lingonberries Market, which is located in Vancouver, WA. If you happen to live in the Portland metro area, take a trip to both of these stores to see the incredible selection of delicious gluten-free choices that are available. Otherwise, go to their websites and do your shopping online. Once you gain awareness of how many great choices you still have,  I promise that you will not feel deprived in any way.

Some of my new favorite snacks

Some of my new favorite snacks

So if you are joining me, take inventory of the things you have in your fridge and cupboards and make room for the new foods that you will be eating. I will be sharing some of my observations and recipes with you and I hope that you will do the same.  A toast(gluten-free of course) to healthy eating and living!

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Gluten: what is all the fuss about anyway????

Isn’t it amazing how hard it is to make sustainable changes in your diet and/or exercise program between all of the holidays and celebrations that just seem to keep coming? Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE holidays, birthdays, parties for no apparent reason, book club meetings, happy hour, after-work get-togethers, lunches with friends: my point is that there never seems to be a ‘perfect time’ to try to create some new habits. I have been thinking about this long and hard as 2014 has started and is now well under way(almost 1/6 th over, how did that happen???). Lately I have been immersing myself into reading about gluten/wheat/inflammation/belly fat. I am just about done reading the excellent book “Wheat Belly” by cardiologist William Davis, MD. In addition, I recently attended a terrific conference on gluten and I am getting more and more convinced that for some of us, gluten can cause some significant health problems.

My beautiful birthday group: yet another celebration!

My beautiful birthday group: yet another celebration!

Candace and I are both fascinated by the links between diet, hormone balance and weight issues. This has become quite a hot topic in the last few decades.  There is so much information that it can be overwhelming for most of us to sort through: which diet is best?:  low-fat, low carb, high protein, no grains, no sugar, vegan, vegetarian, Paleo: the list is endless and the media is constantly profiling contradictory studies about each of these programs, therefore adding more confusion to the mix.

Obviously, there is not one diet type that fits everyone on this planet. Each of us is born with a certain ‘genotype’, or genetic code, that determines about 30% of who we are and how healthy we will be. The great news, however, is that our ‘phenotype'(how we look and who we are, in terms of personality, health and everything else you can think of) is shaped by our environment and the choices we make. In other words, we have a great deal of say in who we become and what level of health we can reach and maintain. 

Making the right choices when you eat is pivotal to how healthy you look and feel

Making the right choices when you eat is pivotal to how healthy you look and feel

Getting back to gluten and wheat: what we now know is that the wheat that we consume now compared to what we consumed 50 years ago is very different. There has been a push to make the grains that we eat grow faster(leading to greater yields of crops, i.e. more profit for the farmers and all involved in the food supply chain). The wheat we now consume has between 50 and 500% greater gluten content than what was available a mere half century ago. Why is this important? Studies have shown that an individual consuming present-day wheat has a jump in blood glucose(sugar) higher than when then that same person eats white sugar. This is very alarming indeed.

Here is a quick overview of what happens when your blood sugar goes up after eating: Your body can do only 3 things with an elevated blood sugar: use it as energy, store it as glycogen in the liver or store it as fat. Well, guess what? If you are consuming more calories than what you are burning, you don’t need the glucose for energy. In addition, your body can only store so much as glycogen, so the majority gets stored as fat. Insulin is the hormone that is released by the pancreas in response to an elevated blood glucose and allows your body to use the glucose(and store it as fat). Over time, if your body is continually bombarded by a rise in blood sugar, your insulin becomes resistant and you need more of it to utilize the glucose, leading to more fat storage: this becomes quite a vicious cycle! Once your body becomes insulin resistant, it is harder to lose weight, something we hear all the time: “I just don’t eat that much and I cannot seem to lose weight, especially around my middle”. Eventually insulin resistance leads to Type II Diabetes, a road that you would rather not go down if you can avoid it.  And you can: that is the excellent news. By changing your diet and your exercise routine, you can return to the path towards optimal weight and hormone balance.

You can look and feel wonderful when your hormones and diet is balanced

You can look and feel wonderful when your hormones and diet is balanced

So is going gluten-free for you? Honestly, I cannot answer that and I don’t know if it has a huge impact on me. What I DO know is that many of the women that I see as patients have given up gluten, either by my or someone else’s recommendation, and the effect for many has been profound. I am going to ask several of them to write some comments about what happened to them individually, as I think that will be more powerful than hearing it from me. Briefly, they have noticed weight loss, clearer skin and thinking, increased energy, loss of belly fat and an overall sense of well-being. If it sounds too good to be true, it is not. For the millions of people who are gluten intolerant, giving it up can be a game changer. My goal is to go off of gluten completely starting March 1st and stay off for 21 days.  Please feel free to join me, as so many of you have in the past with our ‘consciousness cleanses’. It is nice to have company when embarking on a new way of eating and it will be fun to see what we notice individually and as a group.

Stay tuned: more info to come on what you can and cannot eat. But don’t worry: there is still an amazing selection of food out there that is without gluten. We will eat well and hopefully we will notice some significant differences in how we look and feel.

That's me inside of a 1000 year old plus tree: now that's sustainable living!

That’s me inside of a 1000 year old plus tree: now that’s sustainable living!

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