Tag Archives: inflammation

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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Filed under Essentials, Kyle Bell McAvoy, Whole Eating, Women's Health & Happiness

Don’t miss it …..here it comes…..

I have had the pleasure of working with an amazing woman in Portland, OR these past 6 months. What you may not know about me is that I am one of those people who love to network and make connections . As a result, I am able to help my patients on a broader level by putting them in touch with other providers and experts who offer different skills that they might need.  My ultimate goal for each of the women I see is for them to achieve optimal health and wellness and this often ‘takes a village’.

Candace has been educating all of us about the links between unbalanced hormones, unhealthy weight, unmanaged stress, poor food and environmental choices and the risks of developing breast cancer and other inflammatory conditions. It is sometimes hard to understand the physiology behind all of this but bottom-line , “You are what you eat” and what you eat eventually catches up with you, either in a positive or a negative way. There is just no avoiding it so the sooner you make a choice to make positive changes in the way you approach food, the sooner you will feel better and be on the path to long term, sustainable health patterns. Believe me, it gets easier as you go! Little changes, big results(please read the post I wrote on Oct 8, 2012 for more about this):……really. I am not kidding. TRUST ME.

So back to the amazing woman: her name is Andrea Nakayama(functional nutritionist and educator) and she is hosting a terrific webinar this weekend that will explain how hormones and diet can help you achieve your weight goals and hormone balance. I am providing the link below to listen to her program. If for any reason the time that she is holding the live webinar doesn’t fit into your schedule, you will still be able to listen to her talk . That information will also be available through the link provided below.

Invitation to: Andrea Nakayama’s FREE 90-minute webinar, Tipping the Scale: The Role Your Hormones play in Influencing Your Health, Happiness & Weight Loss Goals that’s happening THIS Saturday, October 26th at 9am PT/ 12pm ET. This class will help you to learn the tell-tale signs that your hormones are out of whack. Head to the enrollment page to retrieve a free hormone honing handout, plus 2 additional gifts after you register for the call!

If you have any problems connecting to this link, please e-mail me at kylebmcavoy@gmail.com and I will help you. You can also leave a comment on our blog.
Wishing you balance through lifestyle and awareness. Namaste

Wishing you balance through lifestyle and awareness. Namaste

 

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“What if one small change could improve your WHOLE life”(tagline on cover of October issue, Whole Living)

October is here and with its  arrival comes that wonderful transition between the lazy days of summer and the arrival of cool crisp days, colorful fall leaves(depending of course on where you live!), digging through your ‘winter wardrobe’ and getting re-acquainted with life lived more indoors than out. It is also that time before the arrival of ‘the holidays’ and the onslaught of celebrations, busier schedules, over-indulgence of food and libations, often less sleep and feelings of being overwhelmed.

So this is a perfect time to hit the pause button(for those of you new to our blog, go back to my post from December 9, 2011: “Hitting the Pause Button”) and regroup.  Although summer markets offer wonderful fresh fruits and vegetables and the daylight hours seem endless and filled with activities,  I often feel as though I need a break from my food and beverage habits of the summer before the start of the holiday season: too many late night barbecues and perhaps an over-surplus of happy hour get-togethers(Portland is famous for its selection of happy hours, in case you don’t live here).

Barbecue with great friends, Manzanita, July 2012

Last fall I went on a ‘cleanse’ of my own design for 10 days and I felt so empowered and healthy that I decided to do it again this October. This is not your usual cleanse filled with special drinks and supplements, but rather a very simple one that eliminates specific food and beverage groups. It was designed to make me more conscious of the food and beverage choices that I was making and led me to a better awareness of what I was putting into my body.  I loved how I felt afterwards and its effects lingered long afterwards. Of  course, here it is a year later and I am badly in need of a tune-up.

During some of my recent conversations about this with family, friends and patients, people have expressed an interest in joining me on this 10 day cleanse and have asked me to share this on the blog.  So here goes: starting on Sunday, October 14th , I am going to eliminate caffeine, alcohol, sugar and ‘whites’ from my diet. I plan to do this for 10 days in a row so that Tuesday, October 23rd will be my final day. I chose these dates because they work for ME and my schedule.  If you would like to join me and those dates are not optimal for YOU, play around with the starting and stopping dates but start when you can: the more the merrier!!  I have several friends in my book group who are going to ‘take the challenge’ and we are excited to have the camaraderie and support of one another.

Kyle making better food choices

Ah,  you ask: how did I pick these 4 main groups to eliminate? Essentially all of them have an effect on the adrenal glands and liver, as well as your insulin levels.  As always, it is extremely important to support your adrenals as well as giving them a break from time to time as well!! In addition,  we need to strive for a more steady insulin balance in our daily lives.  The health benefits of maintaining a steady insulin/glucose balance are far-reaching: decreased risk of breast cancer, diabetes, heart disease, dementia….the list goes on and on.

I could have included other food groups, such as dairy, gluten and animal proteins but these have so many health benefits and are not problematic for me. I choose to eat a diet that is primarily plant based in general and when I do eat animal protein, it is always raised organically. Feel free to include other groups to eliminate that will benefit you : modify and individualize this cleanse so that you get the most out of it.  Perhaps you will choose not to eliminate caffeine. I have heard many concerns about caffeine-withdrawal headaches, which are valid: you might try gradually decreasing the amount of caffeine you take in rather than going cold turkey.  You could try substituting herbal teas at times which might help you become ‘caffeine-free’ by the end of 10 days.

In terms of ‘sugar’, I plan to eliminate any item that contains simple sugar and focus on foods that contain natural sugars instead. I  like to use stevia or Truvia as a sweetener, as it comes from the stevia plant and has no impact on glucose levels. I suppose one could make an argument that honey and agave are naturally occuring sugars, which in fact they are. They do affect blood sugar levels but the rise is not as steep, so  I will leave that up to you whether you would like to eliminate them or perhaps include them in small doses.

And what do I mean when I say “the whites”? White rice, white flour, white potatoes, white pasta, white sugar…..sorry folks, although some of the foods that contain them are often comfort foods and childhood favorites, they are so devoid of nutritional value and are huge culprits in terms of raising glucose levels, they have to go for awhile. There is a great deal of evidence that an excessive level of sugar(glucose) is one of the primary causes of all types of diseases: dental disease, cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases are some of the primary ones. So anything we can do to minimize the amount of sugar we consume will have a powerful impact on our health, as well as our hormone balance.

It always comes back to balance…and hormones...remember insulin is a hormone as well. And all of them work together to help you to feel your best. When one or several of your hormones are out of balance, whether this is caused by stress, diet, lifestyle, aging, genetics or environment, the rest of your hormones will strive to get back to balance but often the ‘new balance’ doesn’t feel that way at all.

A feeling of balance and beauty

So mark October 14th on your calendar and do the cleanse with me . I will include more details about what to include as well before I start so stay tuned. As always, we love to hear from you. Please be sure to comment on the blog as well as on Facebook as some of our readers may not be your ‘friend’ and don’t get to see what you are writing.

See you soon. I look forward to your company during these 10 days.

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Filed under Essentials, Kyle Bell McAvoy, Women's Health & Happiness, Women's Work/Life Balance