What IS Gluten Anyway?? – Digestive Health Lesson #4

gluten-freeGluten is the latest buzz word in nutrition.

But, so many people have no idea what it is.

When friends of mine with PhD’s start asking for more info, it’s time for an article about gluten and why it’s a problem.

So, What is Gluten??

Gluten is a the protein found in the seed of wheat, barley, and rye.

the-gluten-protein-is-mainly-found-in-the-endosperm-of-grain-kernel-seedHere is definition from Celiac.org:

Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat (wheatberries, durum, emmer, semolina, spelt, farina, farro, graham, KAMUT® khorasan wheat and einkorn), rye, barley and triticale – a cross between wheat and rye. Gluten helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together. Gluten can be found in many types of foods, even ones that would not be expected.
Read more here.

Why is it a problem? 

Gluten per se isn’t the problem for everyone (more on that below). It’s the amount of gluten in the standard american diet, and the tampering of the native seed.

When you look at the diets of most Americans, approximately 80% of meals have a gluten component. There is too much bread, breading, pasta, crackers, croutons, tortillas, etc. in our meals.

Gluten can be inflammatory for many people, too much gluten can be inflammatory for anyone. Inflammation can lead to other chronic diseases, I talk more about that in my article explaining how Inflammation is the root of most disease.

Chronic inflammation occurs because of a process called Intestinal Hyperpermeability, aka, Leaky Gut. I explain this process and how it leads to chronic inflammation in my first digestive health article.

The lifelong health issues I have come from being sensitive to gluten and dairy, but I do not have Celiac Disease and my sensitivity does not show up on allergy testing. That means absolutely nothing though. I learned more about Gluten sensitivity from a GI Specialist last spring during a Pediatric Conference at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). Here are the numbers he shared…

  • 10% of our population has Celiac Disease
    • These people CANNOT eat gluten without major symptoms.
    • Many people in our population are undiagnosed, continuing to eat gluten will cause multiple health problems. Think ADHD, Thyroid issues, Irritable Bowel, Autism, Epilepsy, and the list goes on.
  • 40% of our population has Gluten Sensitivity
    • Symptoms are more subtle than Celiac Disease; stomach pain, headache, sinus issues, eczema, constipation, brain fog, lethargy, food cravings, mood swings, depression, anxiety, focus issues, etc.
    • It will get worse.
    • It will cause chronic inflammation and intestinal hyperpermeability.
    • It will most likely cause Celiac Disease if gluten is continually consumed, and will definitely lead to a host of other disease processes. (Please refer to the digestive health articles above for more details.)
    • **If you read some research, please note, some people in modern medicine will tell you there is no way to confirm gluten sensitivity. THIS IS NOT TRUE!! There is a way for doctors to check for gluten sensitivity!! It’s as easy as running a simple blood test for gluten immunoglobulins. I know this, because that’s how we found out my son cannot have gluten. When his Holistic Doctor did labs, the antibodies for gluten and wheat were 5-6 times normal. His Celiac tests and allergy tests are negative. I also know this because one of the top specialist in GI Pediatrics told me all the same stuff himself with research and a groovy powerpoint presentation!

One of the biggest reasons we need more awareness and sensitivity is the vast amount of food that contains gluten, and the vast amount of people, especially children that should not be eating it. If we look at the percentages above, 50% of our population should avoid gluten, yet, 80-90% of our public food choices contain gluten.

THIS IS A HUGE PROBLEM FOR OUR CHILDREN AND FOR OUR FUTURE!!!brain-fog

If you think it’s hard to function as an adult with stomach pain and headaches and brain fog, try being a kid, sitting in school after eating mostly gluten for breakfast AND lunch and having anxiety and mood swings… Is it the kid? NO, it’s his food! AND IT’S CHANGING HIS FUTURE! And, he’s a problem in class sitting next to your kid, and that’s why you should care!

I could go on about how reducing our gluten intake has changed my family’s health, but I’ll invite you to read through my blog a little more to find that out, there’s plenty of evidence.

If you want to read how gluten breaks down in our system and causes damage, read how “Getting ‘Glutened’ is Drugging My Kid!!”

I share because I care. I want a better world for me and you and our children.

Please, practice wellness so you live a happier and healthier life. Your loved ones will be awfully glad you did! Enjoy the Journey! 🙂

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Photo compliments of glutenfreesociety.org 

 

 

How the hell did that happen? 50 pounds later…

Growing up as an athlete, weight was not a problem… until my teen years. I stayed fit multiple ways; there was soccer, gymnastics, swimming, roller skating and ice skating, field hockey, tennis, weight training and the list goes on. As an adult, I controlled my weight by eating healthy, walking, weight training, waitressing, bartending, nursing, biking, swimming, pilates, yoga. I even taught pilates for a year when Drew Elizabeth was a baby. Best shape I’ve ever been in, and I was 35 and had 2 kids! I love pilates and thought I’d do it forever, but then I started my graduate program, and my exercise habits went to Hell, but it was a slow slide.

I was over 40 when my weight was creeping up, quickly, and I felt like a prisoner in my own body. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong… I gained 30 pounds in 8 months! It all started just after my brother’s wedding in April 2012. My goal has been to get back into that dress.

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April 2012, 40 years old and feeling good (before the gain).

So, when I hopped on the scale at the Y in January, I thought it was broken. I know that sounds like a joke, but, I really did. I went to my friend’s house. I told her I needed to use her scale, because I didn’t own one and the one at the Y had to be broken. I came back down the stairs stunned.

The scale wasn’t broken.

I gained 30 pounds in 8 months! WTF!

How the hell did that happen??? 

I had a plan. I joined the 3 month weight loss program at the Y.  I went to kick ass cardio classes at 5:30am, which is almost impossible for me (Fibro is a chronic fatigue disorder), but I did it. I was doing weight training, I was walking. I was working out 6-7 times a week, even won highest attendance in that contest. I lost 4 pounds in 3 months… What. The. Fuck. Excuse my language, there just is NO substitution. I have never had trouble losing weight. It’s never been easy, but I know how to get it done. Well, I thought I did. I was struggling.

Off to the doctors I went, primary doc, endocrine doc, neither of them thought there was a medical problem. Katie was just gaining weight, it happens when women turn 40. WHAT!?! NO! That was not acceptable. But, what was I to do. I kept struggling.

In March 2014, I was heavier than I had been when I was full term pregnant with either of my children. This couldn’t be happening. How was this happening. I was crying almost every day when I got dressed. I didn’t want to get dressed. I was depressed.

I went to a friend’s 50th birthday party and a college roommate’s wedding that month. I was so very happy for them, and I hated how I felt inside and how I looked on the outside.

I hid. These are the only pictures I can find of me at that time.

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Top right, February 2014, before I knew, I was swollen and inflamed. Left and bottom right are about 4 weeks into my purge. You can see my face is a bit less swollen. But, my stomach was so upset in both of these pictures. I can still remember, and it was almost 2 years ago.

I had an epiphany one day reading a Fibro blog, I clicked on a link to yeast allergy because I was somewhat familiar. I was worried I might have some of those symptoms.

O.M.G.!     Did I have some of the symptoms???     I. Had. Every. One. 

Let’s see if I can remember them all…

  • dry skin
  • constipation
  • bloating
  • stomach upset
  • asthma (it got so bad I went back on meds I hadn’t been taking for years!)
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • eczema
  • thinning hair
  • yeast infections (yup, those kind of yeast infections!)
  • sleep problems
  • dandruff, with fungal patches on my scalp
  • UTI (never had a UTI except when I was prego)
  • major sugar cravings
  • mood swings
  • anxiety
  • acne
  • the list seems to go on and on…

It. Sucked.

So, what to do? Fortunately, I’ve got this friend… Thank God I have all kinds of knowledgeable friends. Remember, Kathy, the allergy RN from my allergy posts? Yeah, she got a text real quick. Not only did she agree with me, she thought the same thing when she’d seen me the previous week.

So, how do I fix it?!?!?

No biggie, just avoid the following:

  • Sugar
  • Processed, packaged foods
  • Vinegar, anything vinegar based
  • Leftovers past 24-36 hours old, they start to grow organisms, a healthy GI tract can tolerate this, mine could not.
  • Yogurt has a ton of sugar, beware.
  • All berries/grapes and other fruits with the S.minor fungal organism, that white mold that shows up after 5-6 days. Our GI system should be able to break that down, unless it’s inflamed and leaky, like mine was!
  • Breads with yeast (flatbread and crackers would be ok on occasion)
  • Wheat is a cross-contaminant, so I should avoid that too
  • Wine (!)(!problem!)(!ALERT!)(!ALERT!)(!problem!) I had to do all this AND avoid wine… it’s fermented. Oh, champagne is even more fermented. (A girl’s gotta have sip on occasion, so I do enjoy a glass of wine (or 2) here and there!)
  • Alcohol is fermented. (Vodka is distilled!!!)
  • Change your cooking oil to coconut and olive, be sure to buy quality items.
  • Balance your Omega 3 oils with your Omega 6 oils. (Fish oil, tuna, coconut, olive are Omega 3 sources.) I get my coconut oil here.
  • I’m sure there were more, but if you take a look, there isn’t much left.

So, that leaves veggies and meats with no marinade. Fun. It was going to have to be fun. But, I did come up with dinners like this one. This was actually last nights, and it was yummy.

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Chicken with fresh lemon, garlic, salt, pepper, italian spices over baby spinach with peas and sweet potatoes. Now that I’ve changed, I think this is scrumptious. Actually, it was!!

I’ve learned more about cooking with dry spices, and now wouldn’t do anything else.

I’ve learned that I prefer to put my meat on a bed of greens, and don’t really need salad dressing if I have it that way. Good luck finding salad dressing without vinegar or soy. Soy is a huge inflammatory. I avoid it at all cost, along with all the other inflammatory foods.

What I’ve learned in my research over the past few years is that inflammation is the root of most health issues, including obesity. Now that I know that, I look back at the struggles I had in my life with my weight, my fibro, my asthma, my skin, my irritable bowel, my anxiety, and it all makes so much sense. It was all because of food intolerances that I knew nothing about. I know I’m not alone… look at the obesity epidemic in this society.

I encourage anyone that has weight challenges to learn about inflammation and leaky gut syndrome. Knowing this knowledge will change your world.

Besides diet changes, what should you do:

  • Probiotic to help heal the gut; multiple lacto and bifido strains, specifically acidophilus, My family takes 40 billion units minimum and changes brand each month too.
  • Vitamins, I use B-complex, Vit C 1000mg, Vit D 2000-5000 IU each day. Most multis don’t have enough in them unless they are a high dose. In my recent readings, I’m learning more about the CRUCIAL role of Vit D, which is really a hormone, and essential.
  • Purge from the above foods for a minimum of 6-8 weeks, then you can slowly try to reintroduce some things. Still only eat them on occasion. Adding fermented foods back into your diet is helpful for a healthy gut.
  • Exercise, at least 3/x week, but daily activity is important.
  • Find ways to manage your stress, this is crucial! Cortisol changes everything. High cortisol makes is really hard to be healthy in multiple ways.
  • 8 hours sleep should be a minimum. WE HEAL WHEN WE SLEEP!!
  • Change your cookware to avoid non-stick chemicals like teflon. I use solid ceramic Xtrema by Ceramcor.
  • I have found that eating Paleo, or close to Paleo is the way to go for me. I have decreased my grain intake significantly.

Well, there wasn’t a damn thing easy about it. I honestly didn’t think I’d see the day I got back into the dress I wore to my brother’s wedding. But I have, comfortably… pictures the next time I have an event! 😉

This was part of my journey that was and continues to be a real struggle. I wanted to share, because I think there are an awful lot of people out there going through what I went through. You don’t have to.

Of all the chapters I’ve lived, I must say, this was a toughy. I have learned an awful lot from this part of my journey, and now I can share some pretty important health information with others.

I knew I needed to write this post 2 years ago. I hoped my journey would bring me here. I can’t tell you how overwhelmingly happy I am that I am writing and telling you all about it. I hope it helps you.

Nothin’ easy about it! We HAVE TO help each other.

Enjoy the Journey!! 😉

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January 2016, 44 years old, 50 pounds lighter than my max weight. BAM! HELL YEAH!