Monday, March 28, 2011

Eating to Live: Gluten Free

Two weeks ago I began sharing some insight as to the new path I am on in response to my digestive problems, and how much better I have been feeling by food combining. Today I will update you on the second change I have made⎯wheat free/gluten free. I can’t believe I am going down this path as I was tested for wheat allergies and have none, so why bother since it obviously was not a problem for me. Ah yes⎯living to eat again! I’ve watched a dear friend, Jean, struggle with gluten free to get on top of her celiac disease, an autoimmune condition. Celiac's  must stay away from gluten or anything containing wheat, barley and rye…and now look⎯here I am trying the same thing. So what's up?

Who persuaded me to try wheat free?
Five weeks ago I had my first appointment with a naturopathic doctor. I have heard of this particular doctor for a few years and know a number of people who have been helped when conventional medicine was not working for them. One of the things suggested was eating wheat free due to the fact many people with intestinal problems, while not celiac or allergic, are sensitive to wheat/gluten.

What is gluten?
A protein present in many grains, especially wheat. It is responsible for the elastic texture of dough and the light, soft texture in baked goods. It is also used as a starch, binder and filler in many processed foods.

Why does it seem more people are having a problem with gluten?
"A new study in the journal BMC Medicine may shed some light on whyIt shows gluten can set off a distinct reaction in the intestines and the immune system, even in people who don't have celiac disease...Although much remains unknown, it is clear that gluten can trigger an immune response like an enemy invader...People aren't born with this. Something triggers it...One possible culprit: Agricultural changes to wheat that have boosted its protein content." The Wall Street Journal, 3/15/2011, Health & Wellness section, by Melinda Beck, Clues to Gluten Sensitivity.

Where does one find gluten-free (GF) products?
Fortunately, gluten-free products are showing up at your local grocer. There is even a store dedicated to gluten-free not far from my home. BUT, many gluten-free products are not created equal. Until recently, living gluten-free has been difficult. I watched Jean try product after product, recipe after recipe trying to find food she liked well enough to eat. I am happy to report there are some rather decent gluten-free substitutes showing up every day and Jean is pointing the way. With more and more stores carrying gluten free, obviously GF products are being embraced by a growing number of people who are finding they just feel better gluten-free.

When does one start eating gluten-free?
There is nothing like the present. I started out cold turkey as they say. It was simple. Just don’t eat anything with gluten. Right! Do you know how many food products may contain gluten? Two weeks later the cravings hit! Off to the store to start trying GF products for the types of food I was missing⎯pasta, bread and something sweet like cookies or muffins. While these products have helped stave off cravings, and I am able to eat corn and rice products since they do not contain gluten, I still need to figure out how to get the right balance of carbohydrates back into my diet.

How do you know if gluten-free is right for you?
If you are having gas, bloating, intestinal cramping, acid reflux or other forms of digestive distress⎯what are you waiting for? Get the conversation started. I previously mentioned talking with Jean, but I also found the person who owns the local gluten-free store is also GF and so is the health food department manager of the local grocery store. Talk to real people who can guide you to the better tasting foods and then dive in. I previously mentioned food combining as outlined by Sherry Brescia from Great Taste No Pain, but she also has a website for gluten free food combining, Great Taste No Gluten. It can’t hurt and once again, may just help improve intestinal distress. If you are one of the many people with gut issues, don’t let gluten stand in your way.

As for Jean, she has been GF for four years and counting. Her health has improved exponentially! As for me, I will continue GF for a time and will see what happens when I introduce gluten back into my diet. I am thinking of my body as my own personal scientific research project; after all, I am eating to live. It is possible, since I do not have celiac disease or a wheat allergy, I could have gluten on occasion or in small amounts. We shall see, so stay tuned…

I am using momentum to move forward in my life and will continue to make choices and changes until I find what is right for me. How about you? Are you making the right choices and do you have the guts to make the changes necessary to live your best life?

© Copyright 2011 Michelle Clark