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Goodbye gluten (for a little while)….

Here I am in the world thinking that gluten intolerance is all about your stomach. More specifically that is all about digestion and in the case of those with such issues – not very comfortable digestion!

So I am thinking this whilst thoroughly enjoying my home-made muesli (made with rolled oats), rye Mountain Bread wraps, soy & linseed sourdough bread from my local boulangerie and from time to time even delicious handmade pasta created by the hands of my talented boyfriend.

Never feeling the slightest bit sluggish, bloated or sick from consuming such foods; in fact all I feel is contentment from deep inside. The kind that comes from giving my body such deliciousness.

Then why this post??

A colleague and friend of mine mentioned that she often experienced the above digestive symptoms and after a discussion it seemed more obvious that gluten was the likely culprit.

Having always firmly believed (and lived as such) that no food groups and drastic changes do any body any good; whenever the thought of removing gluten pops into my head I know that within that present moment I am not in a good headspace. That the motivation and drive for such change is not borne of a genuine health concern or wanting to better my nutritional intake on a regular basis. It is instead my little “demon monster.” The one that says to me things like, “I don’t look quite right”, or “I have a long way to go for the body I crave”, and that despite knowing; in all ways that one can know anything; the time and committment that it takes for any positive change to occur within our bodies; that maybe, just maybe THIS will be the game-changer.

So in other words it comes from a down-right stupid place.

This time around though, the thought popped into my head following the above conversation with my friend and co-incided with some research that I had been doing after her and I had spoken. As usual I wanted to know more and so…. Despite the “demon monster” telling me that by removing gluten I will have the body that I so crave; in many ways this may not be too far from the truth. More on the WHY later….

The only way for me to know however; is to try it for myself.

Hence…. Goodbye Gluten for the Month of May.

SUPER QUICK FACTS

  1. Gluten is the protein found in wheat (gliadins), rye (secalins), barley (hordeins) and oats (avenin)
  2. More than 55 diseases have been linked to gluten – the major one being Coeliac Disease
  3. Gluten is the #1 inflammatory food in our diet – dairy is #2 so perhaps this will be my plan for June!?? 🙂
  4. It has been estimated that 99% of the people who have either gluten intolerance or Coeliac disease are never diagnosed
  5. Gluten sensitivity is defined as any sensitivity to gluten – and includes Coeliac Disease
  6. Most gluten sensitive people return negative or inconclusive results upon Coeliac testing and are instead deemed Non-Coeliac Gluten Sensitive – or intolerant as is commonly use

The first place that my research took me to were the symptoms of having gluten intolerance. It should be pointed out that this research; and post in general; is aimed at gluten intolerance and NOT Coeliac disease. Coeliac disease is defined as a positive result to a biopsy of the small intestine showing damaged villi (structures which assist absorption).

From reading many journals, reports, articles and opinions over the past few weeks, I have compiled the 10 most common symptoms experienced by those with gluten intolerance. These are listed below:

  • Digestive issues such as gas, bloating, diarrhoea and even constipation
  • Keratosis Pilaris, (also known as ‘chicken skin’ on the back of your arms) 
  • Fatigue, brain fog or feeling tired after eating a meal that contains gluten
  • Diagnosis of an autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditisRheumatoid arthritis, Ulcerative colitis, Lupus, Psoriasis, Scleroderma or Multiple sclerosis Yes
  • Neurologic symptoms such as dizziness or a feeling of being off balance Yes
  • Hormone imbalances such as PMS, PCOS or unexplained infertility Yes
  • Migraine headaches
  • Diagnosis of chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia.
  • Inflammation, swelling or pain in your joints such as fingers, knees or hips Yes
  • Mood issues such as anxiety, depression, mood swings and attention deficit disorder (ADD) Yes

I answered YES to 5 out of 10 symptoms.

I was shocked.

HOW DO YOU TEST FOR GLUTEN INTOLERANCE??

Wheat; for instance; contains many proteins and peptides and every single one of us can react to one or a variety of combinations of these proteins. Current blood tests available in mainstream pathology laboratories will test for reactions against ONE of the proteins in wheat and typically that is gliadin.

WHY IS GLUTEN SUDDENLY THE BAD GUY??

On a global scale the cause is due to a breakdown of our immune tolerance. This is brought about by increased exposure to chemicals, medications, and stress, as well as poor nutrition. We consume much higher amounts of gluten in today’s world due to the vast amount of highly refined wheat products available. The global “addiction” to highly processed starches i.e. cookies, crackers, white bread and chips; has led to gluten overload.

image credit : Dunbar Systems

image credit : Dunbar Systems

To make matters worse; gluten is often added to products with the aim of increasing protein and assisting with texture. Gluten can be found in salad dressings, prepared soups, broths, gravies, marinades, and more.

Furthermore, many of our baked goods today present more gluten to our intestines because we’ve eliminated the step of fermentation in their preparation. Until the last few decades our bread was invariably fermented before baking, which predigested gluten in the dough.

All of this leads to decreased “good bits” in our small intestines that help us to digest the gluten in the first place – catch-22 alright!!

MY SYMPTOMS AREN’T BAD, SO CAN I IGNORE ALL OF THIS??

In regards to developing autoimmune diseases; it has been proven that the duration of gluten exposure in a gluten sensitive individual is a key factor. A landmark study published in 1999 found that the longer that people who were gluten sensitive were exposed to gluten, the more likely they were to develop other autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.

My reaction

Rather than being down in the dumps about symptoms and the (possible) state of my intestines; I thought OK this is great – I can take charge here!

Having been previously tested for Coeliac disease with a negative result, I can rule this option out. However I can investigate possibly having a gluten intolerance.

As well as the obvious health concerns that I will be closely monitoring; getting back to my earlier comments about attaining the “body I crave” this is what I will be additionally assessing. Point 3 in my gluten facts, states that gluten is the #1 inflammatory food in our diet. With that in mind I will be reviewing those parts of my body that do not react as well (as other parts) to my strict, demanding and successful training program; nor to my clean eating lifestyle.

How will I figure this all out then??

Simple.

Eliminate gluten for 4 weeks.

During the month of May whilst NOT consuming any gluten I will be closely observing all differences in my body (and mind). Will my noticeable symptoms calm down during this time? Will my body look different? Will I feel more amazing and energetic than I do now?

After this month I will carefully; and not all at once; reintroduce gluten into my diet and again see how I react as above, both immediately and for 72 hours after consuming it.

If I feel significantly better without gluten and also worse when reintroducing it; then gluten is likely a problem for me.

A gluten-free existence will then be the way forward for optimal health and wellbeing.

My Plan

Currently my diet is fairly low in gluten and in fact the only gluten that I consume on a daily basis are oats in my homemade “killer muesli” (find the recipe here – https://mumanddaughter.wordpress.com/2013/03/10/killer-muesli/)

My "killer muesli"

My “killer muesli”

Even in saying that; as with all nutritional changes; I believe planning and preparation are critical.

I have spent the last 2 weeks assessing my own daily nutrients as well as my enjoyment factor from them, identifying WHEN I consume gluten, WHEN it may be more difficult to stay away from, HOW I feel/look and vitally; researching nourishing and clean alternatives to gluten to add to my meals. I have also been intentionally consuming less gluten (other than my muesli) in an effort to ease into this change. I take absolute care of my body and am very proud of that fact. It has been a long journey to where I am at today and I know how important it is to prepare the body and the mind for change; even if the change is a good one!

Below is a snapshot of what I worked on for myself to help me easily identify; or as it would be; research where the gluten currently exists in my life. This made it much simpler to confirm where the changes were required.

P.S. I love a spreadsheet!

The more fun aspect was drooling over recipe-inspiration online and now looking forward to concocting some new creations in my kitchen. First up will be quinoa and coconut muesli for breakfast!!

image credit : Green Kitchen Stories

image credit : Green Kitchen Stories

It was also important for me, even though I knew a lot about gluten (and where it can hide – see below) to confirm whether or not some of the foods I consume; and do not create and are also not from the earth; were in fact gluten-free. It was very exciting to learn that my clean whey protein which I buy here (http://www.purenutrition.com.au/whey-protein-isolate-4-5kg.html) is gluten-free!!

WITH gluten WITHOUT gluten
BREKKIE
oat muesli – dried fruit/nuts/wheatgerm etc with yoghurt, milk, fruit & cinnamon quinoa & coconut muesli
LUNCH
rye Mountain Bread wraps with cheese/eggs/beans/lentils/nuts + salad brown rice or quinoa salads as the same
SNACKS
protein powder smoothies OK to go – gluten-free!

There are loads of yummy, nourishing, clean and gluten-free options out there. I am looking forward to a month of new recipes in my kitchen, new creations in my belly and a better understanding of my body.

image credit : La Tartine Gourmande

image credit : La Tartine Gourmande

My Advice

Clearly many people talk about this health concern and recently in my life several people have identified themselves to me as sufferers so… Here is a little bit of advice from what I know:

  • To make it worth your while and to really see changes (if any) you must eliminate 100% of gluten from your diet. Even trace amounts of gluten from cross contamination or medications/supplements can be enough to cause an immune reaction in your body.
  • The duration that you remove gluten is very important and few experts would recommend any less than 3 weeks to really observe changes. 4 weeks has a nice ring to it so perhaps give that a go?! It is interesting to note that as gluten is a very large protein, it can take months and even years to clear from your system; so the longer you can eliminate it from your diet before reintroducing it, the better in terms of results.
  • Prepare your body and your mind (see above for my notes on this stage)
  • Watch out for hidden gluten! I generally would say to avoid anything in a packet however that is not quite the case… Packaged soups generally contain gluten as do salad dressings, soy sauce (even Tamari!! – lower-salt option of soy sauce), some chocolate bars/blocks, some lollies and even oddly (as I have just found out) sometimes stamps and envelope glue!! CHECK CHECK CHECK everything. Research or ask questions if you are not sure. Perhaps you could use the time as a wonderful reason to get back to basics. Buying yummy and fresh things to create delicious and nutritious meals for yourselves and loved ones in your kitchen… Endless benefits to that one!!!!
  • Get creative!! Try out those “weird looking/sounding” flours and grains that you have seen. Buckwheat flour for your pancakes, amaranth grain for your porridge, almond flour for baking and basmati rice for a new dinner recipe just to name a few. I promise you will be impressed.
  • Try to not focus on what you are going to be without and instead think about what you will gain. Perhaps refer to my above notes on this.

Stay tuned and expect the full report next month!

xxx Nadia

References:

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-7482/10-signs-youre-gluten-intolerant.html

http://www.coeliac.org.au/content/downloads/Oats%20Position%20Statement.pdf – VERY interesting read on the position of oats in the gluten-free debate

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-6950/Why-You-Might-Have-a-Gluten-Sensitivity-and-Not-Even-Know-It.html

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-8197/is-the-gluten-trifecta-bringing-you-down.html

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-4488/10-Unexpected-Gluten-Culprits-in-Common-Foods.html

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8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Alex #

    Hey Nadia,

    One of my friends does a super simple breakfast quinoa porridge by adding quinoa flakes/ground quinoa (mortar and pestle style) into whole quinoa when cooking, then adding apple pieces and ground cinnamon for a tasty flavour kick!

    My favourite gluten free cuisine is indian – of course you have to be careful of all the packaged stuff but there are gluten free curry pastes out there, and you can always find great spice mixes at gourmet shops. There’s a local gourmet company over here in Perth, combine their butter chicken curry paste with coconut milk/cream you get the most amazing gluten soy and dairy free butter chicken – I team it with fresh spinach and red quinoa for a super tasty feast!

    I’ve spoken to severe ceoliac friends and If you want to go 100% gluten free, you have to review all the ingredients in your toiletries too. It genuinely is insane what they put that crusty little protein in!

    Alex

    April 26, 2013
    • Thank you for the thoughtful comment Alex and I love your first-hand knowledge on the matter!

      Really interesting about the other places that gluten hides – it is everywhere!!

      Hope you are really well xxx

      April 26, 2013
  2. Grains can also be cross-contaminated – even quinoa and buckwheat, as well as natural flours. Good luck with your trial. Incidentally, I believe you can be tested for non-coeliac gluten intolerance by biopsy, but not as you state, by blood test.

    April 30, 2013
    • Thanks Emma and isn’t it crazy! Gluten is everywhere that’s for sure.
      I am looking forward to my trial and reporting on it next month.

      April 30, 2013
  3. Hi Nadia,
    Love love love this post and I too experienced 5 out of the 10 symptoms. It’s been a problem for 10 years. So glad I found your blog :0)

    May 13, 2013
    • You are too kind Neets so thank you!! Have you gone gluten-free?

      May 13, 2013

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