Let the Gluten Go (#2 in a Series)

How food, diet, and dieting affected my writing and my life.  And maybe effects yours…

All right.  You‘ve thought about my proposal made in my earlier post called “Testing the Waters,” and you have decided you’ll give at least a month of being gluten-free a try.  Reasons to give this a chance include the following things.

* Other diets have never worked, or lasted
* Exercise alone has not worked, or stopped working
* Giving up everything you enjoy didn’t work
* Your stomach and/or lower GI tract hurts a lot, and you haven’t been able to figure out what’s causing it.
* You show signs of blood sugar fluctuation or diabetes, or autoimmune diseases — arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis, persistent Lyme disease, brain fog, fibromyalgia, pain in and gurgling from the GI tract, IBS, colitis, insomnia, brain fog, ADD, memory loss, persistent muscle ache, IQ drop, persistent hormonal flares – things that are NOT NECESSARILY JUST AGING.
* You are in a category some scientists think may trigger recessive genes controlling gluten intolerance in adults (See epigenetics):

1) You have been, or continue to be in a high stress situation.
2) You have ever been in a serious accident, and your weight/joint/brain fog issues really started during or after that point.
3) You have ever been seriously ill, and your weight/joint/brain fog issues really started during or after that point.

Still with me?  As you can see, the potential here runs from small but significant problems all the way to catastrophic problems.  And we’re going to investigate whether gluten might be contributing to your problem.

Some good news!  If you’ve lost a lot of foods along the way, like dairy gives you trouble, too?  You might get those foods back.  Once you stop eating the real problem, then your digestion can heal, and you can enjoy other foods again, foods that right now your system can’t handle.  Dairy and meat, for example, or beans, are harder to digest.  So remember the immortal words – DON’T PANIC.  You are not necessarily allergic to food, period.  Give this experiment a chance.

If you are under a doctor’s care and taking meds?  DON’T JUST STOP TAKING THEM.  Some things must be gotten off slowly, and others are life-saving.  If removing wheat and other glutens improves your health, then you will want to take stock, check blood values (for example, my triglycerides dropped through the floor after I stopped wheat) and possibly cut back on amounts of medicines – or look for versions of them that do not contain gluten.  A good doctor can help you figure these things out, once you are on the right track for you.

(By the way – in my case, I eliminated ovarian cancer and had a colonoscopy and biopsy for celiac before reaching the point of eliminating gluten as an experiment.  And gluten-free is reducing/eliminating my symptoms.  So – don’t overlook any serious condition that could produce your symptoms.  This diet change might drastically improve your quality of life, but do not overlook anything that indicates the system is already running amuck!)

Important detail – your body has tried to tell you when you got something it didn’t like.  It could be that your GI tract cut loose, you hurled, you felt light-headed, you had indigestion – your body has been talking to you.  Figure out how your body is warning you about what you’ve eaten, and start listening to it.

I said I’d break down this experiment for people at different stages.  Here are my suggested groups.  Remember that the BIG test would be to give up ALL gluten.  But there may be reasons you can’t do that.  So – small steps may be helpful for you, as they were for me.  Don’t wait until you are so sick it will take months for your body to say: “Oh?  We’re not being poisoned anymore by those weeds?  Okay, now we can start functioning.”

Group One.  Follow in the footsteps of others, and simply give up wheat.  That means ALL wheat – see the list below.  Some of you may be able to tolerate a few of these forms, after resting your system, but for now, I’d suggest you stop all of them.  You don’t have to read labels yet.  Just this change stands a good chance of helping, if gluten reduction is what you need.

Wheat (just making the point!)
Bulgur
Durum and semolina
Einkorn
Farina
Faro (also known as Emmer)
Kamut
Spelt
Triticale

Remember – no pasta with wheat forms, no tortillas, no pizza, cereals, breads, desserts etc. – nothing with wheat, no matter how little of it.  For this month, the easy way is to not eat these foods, but there are tasty pastas, breads, etc. out there that are gluten-free.  We’ll talk about them another time.

One gluten-free site lists millet as containing gluten, but I have never found it listed as containing gluten anywhere else, and my doctor approved it for me to use as a substitute.  So…buy a small amount in bulk and try it out!  Millet is not expensive, high in protein, and worth the experiment.

Group Two.  Give up active eating of gluten.  That means not only everything in Group One – it adds in the rest of the gluten family:

barley
rye
oats (not the same gluten, but unfortunately contaminated by wheat)

Breads, pastas, cereals, cookies – if it might have gluten, just don’t take a bite.  You don’t want to read labels right now?  Cut all grain carbohydrates except rice you buy in bulk and cook for an hour (rice that requires an hour to cook is probably just rice, with no gluten added.  No guarantees – label reading may be required.)  One month.  Give away anything that expires before your month ends.  I’ll give you a list of other gluten-free grains you can try.

Group Three. You guys get to do Group Two, and read all labels.  The safest place to start is in your home.  Here’s your homework.  Get a box (one that won’t get too heavy, so not a huge box – a computer paper box or moving book box is good) go to your pantry, and start reading labels.  You’re not only looking for the words listed above in Groups One and Two – you’re looking for hidden gluten, such as:

dextrins — sometimes they’re corn, and sometimes they’re wheat.  And the manufacturer may not tell you which was used.
Malt flavoring — generally made from barley
MSG — especially from any foreign source.  MSG can be made without wheat gluten, but you don’t know how it was made – so into the box it goes.
Hydrolyzed vegetable protein — contains MSG
Natural flavors and spices —  contains unknowns!
Wheat starch — don’t forget this one!
autolyzed yeast — possible MSG source
hydrolyzed yeast — possible MSG source
yeast extract — possible MSG source
Caramel coloring — (may be made from malt barley)

Read everything!  If the above are in there?  Put them in the box.  For the month of your experiment, put the box someplace like on top of your dryer or something. (Unless the food is too close to expiration; then take the close-to-expiration food to the food bank so someone who is not gluten-sensitive can eat it.)  Toss the expired stuff!

The safest thing is to also do this with condiments in your fridge, and frozen foods.  Segregate them to one shelf, and even cover them with a dishtowel or paper.  Don’t even look at them for a month.

If you’re getting a bad feeling about a lot of hidden places for gluten – like ice cream, potato chips, chocolate and dark-colored liquors such as rum, brandy and whiskey – you’re right.  Gluten, even more than wheat, is ubiquitous.  It’s everywhere.  But for a month, you’re going to make an effort, because you may find that doing this helps you.  If it does?  Then comes the detective work of figuring out what is your problem, and if you can have it occasionally, or not at all.

I’m researching alcohols, chocolates, etc. that are gluten-free.  We’ll get to them.

Group Four. Welcome to the scary place.  You’ve experimented with getting rid of this or that, but you’ve never gone as far as gluten.  And you have one of the biggie things listed above – diabetes, high triglycerides, arthritis.  You hurt, and no one has a suggestion.  Your rules are much simpler, and more difficult, than the other groups.

No grains containing gluten.

If the food is not raw before you start cooking, or says gluten-free clearly on the packaging – DON’T EAT IT.

The truth is, for the hyper-sensitive, you might eventually have to buy gluten-free makeup, toothpaste and skin care products.  But for now, do what you can to control the food going into your mouth.  This is where I am.  I haven’t tossed away my make-up yet, but I am reading a product’s web site, or calling its 1-800/1-888/1-866 number, and asking about gluten.  (Crest toothpastes are gluten-free!  Whee!)

I’m getting tested.  Why am I going to so much trouble?  Remember that I was 95% gluten free for a long time.  It was that last 5% of gluten that screwed with my mind and my creativity.

Want to go further?

Group Five. I actually went to a macrobiotic diet when no one had answers, and I realized that I was dying much faster than one day at a time.  A simple way to experiment with macrobiotics is to read Modern-Day Macrobiotics by Simon G. Brown.  There are one-day, three-day, ten-day and four month macrobiotic experimental menus in there, as well as explanations of why some people lean toward this diet.  Macrobiotics in its strictest form was designed for cancer patients.  It probably saved my life.  Or visit http://www.macroamerica.com/.  David Briscoe helped save my life.  It might be the way for you.  Note — macrobiotic diets are not gluten-free, although they are mostly made up of fresh but cooked food — raw food can be hard on a sick gut.  You will still have to segregate the gluten, if you are suspicious of gluten.  But macro can give your body the building blocks it needs to recover.

Are you concerned that you won’t be getting enough B vitamins if you stop wheat?  Don‘t be – beef, poultry, fish, eggs and nuts all contain B vitamins.  Yes, gluten has possibly made you B deficient.  A balanced B gluten-free supplement would be a good idea.  Don’t get one with too high a dose – remember, your system, whether you know it or not, is challenged and needs to heal.  Don’t overwhelm it!  If you have been really feeling “off” for a long time, you might find that liquid drops of B12 (remember to ask for gluten-free vitamins) will help you during this test.  Like a lot of people, you may see a lift just from the drops.  Which begs the question – what is stopping your diet from getting B12 to you?  Gluten is a likely culprit.

Not ready to join the game?  That’s okay.  Keep thinking about it, and keep reading.  I’ll be back Monday with “What can you eat?  What can you not eat?  You can eat the world!”

Let the gluten go!

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Katharine Eliska Kimbriel is currently working on a new Alfreda book, a contemporary fantasy series with dragons, and a few other things as well.

You can find her latest work at Book View Cafe, where her SF novels Fires Of Nuala and Hidden Fires are currently available for purchase.  Check out her bookshelf for free samples of both books.  Her bookshelf is here, her personal blog is here, and her web site over here.  (These books are slowly coming out on Kindle, so yes, you can get them in Kindle format – but the BVC editions will also work on Kindles!)

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Let the Gluten Go (#2 in a Series) — 13 Comments

  1. Oh, yeah. Crawling out now. I figure I’m the canary in the mine — why should other people spend their life savings for an answer and be sick all the time, when they can investigate a few things and narrow their search — or eliminate some things? I’m trying to make it simple for them — or as simple as diet change can be.

    I wanted to write SF, not live it. But with luck new stories will rise from it!

  2. I’ve eaten wheat-free (NOT gluten-free, rye doesn’t mess up my brain) for 12 years now. All the meats and vegetables, and all the things you can do with rice or rice noodles!

    Sauces were the hardest until I stumbled upon almond flour as thickener. They actually used it for the purpose in the Middle Ages.

    Living here next to Mother Russia we also eat a lot of buckwheat. It’s gluten-free. And it tastes extremely good if you halfway know how to prepare it.

    OK, I’m still pretty clueless in the sweets and desserts department but my personal idea of a dessert is a big jar of pickles anyway. And my daughters have become accomplished home bakers so I don’t have to worry about my family not getting enough cake.

    I’m with you!

  3. @ganna — Tahini (sesame butter) is also great for mixing sauces. I’ve used almond butter and cashew butter, but not almond flour — that sounds great for a gravy. Corn starch remains a great thickener over here, if you are still using any grains. Also arrowroot starch and kudzu starch.

    I just bought some buckwheat to try, maybe in some pancakes? A friend told me she didn’t care for it, but after years off of wheat, I find I like the taste of different grains — teff is lovely in shortbread, and also as a porridge!

    Thanks for commenting!

  4. Oooo, Deborah, that looks promising! And a nice use of kale and pomegranate right there on today’s front page! Once I’m past my kale pesto urge (kale, minced garlic, sea salt and EVOO) that looks like a lovely winter treat. Thanks for the link!

  5. If you go to the website Deborah linked to, you’ll also find a tab or button about an elimination diet, which might also be useful for folks who are reacting to something (or maybe a lot of somethings) and don’t know how to begin a process for figuring out what is safe for them to eat and what is not.

  6. Thanks for pointing that out, Lara — elimination diets can be very useful for figuring out diet challenges, and I can personally attest to the detoxifying power of kale!

    I haven’t talked about them because this series is pointed toward people who would not make a greens smoothie if their life depended on it. I have a friend who refuses to make any diet changes — he says food is one of his few pleasures left, and he won’t give up anything he loves — and it’s killing him. I’ve been trying to figure out a way that he’ll try giving up gluten for a bit.

  7. Buckwheat is best in a meaty porridge. If you got the grains, not the flour, of course.

    Basically, you do the REAL buckwheat porridge in a wood oven but there’s a microwave recipe, too.

    Put two cups of buckwheat grains into a large glass dish. Add some soy sauce, ginger, salt, pepper, a pinch of nutmeg, any other spices you’re experimenting with today. Ginger, salt and pepper are obligatory. Buckwheat eats up a lot of those. Add 4 cups of water, stir, microwave on highest for 5 or 7 minutes.

    Meanwhile, cut up a couple of onions and a clove or two of garlic. Quick-fry them with some mincemeat (if you want something extra special, try minced chicken). You can add any mushrooms, carrots, parsnips, bell peppers, whatever veg happens to be going off in your fridge at the moment. You can also add greens like dill or parsley or, um, almost whatever. When the meat is brownish and the microwave beeps, add the contents of your frying pan into the microwave dish and mix well.

    Let the result bake in the microwave on medium for 25 to 35 minutes. At this point you can go out for an hour. It needs to after-bake itself for some 15 minutes at least.

    Serve with fresh salad. Preferably a salad with Russian sour cream but any salad will do.

    The corresponding wood oven recipe is an overnighter. Put stuff in in the evening, have your porridge in the morning.

  8. @ganna — That sounds almost like a soft version of a mincemeat pie. The REAL mincemeat, not the fermented fruit the West currently calls mincemeat. Although I think the original mincemeat pies had not only fermented fruit, but they soaked the meat in alcohol, too. And you like chicken best in it?

    I’ve got to think of some people who would be willing to try it. I know several who would be game, it’s just my best friend who’s a picky eater. I’m still trying to think up something that she’ll try.

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