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Painfree and Painting Again!

Dear Readers and Supporters:

I just wanted to write an apology post to all of my wonderful followers (and to those whose blogs I follow and enjoy), to say that I’m sorry for being so quiet recently! I appreciate all of those who read and comment, and sincerely hope that you do continue to find value here in these pages, as I look forward to seeing what you have been up to in your kitchens and lives as well.

There are times when work and family just get too hectic for my mind to find the space to write here, even though it’s always in my thoughts (and in piles of ingredient notes in my kitchen from experiments!) I was working against an October deadline for some graphic work that pretty much consumed my energy on the computer, along with preparing for some remodeling projects around the home that now look like they will have to wait until Spring has Sprung… oh well! Can’t do it all at once  😉

Hand-painted distressed armoire

Hand-painted distressed armoire

That’s all wrapped up for now, and I have some other art projects on the horizon that promise to be interesting as well, as I venture back into painting murals and furniture again! I am sure that many of you are unaware that I was a decorative painter for more than 15 years, as I took a break the past few years mainly due to severe joint pain that seemed to get worse by the day. I actually went back to school and received a degree in Graphics/Digital Media Design because it interested me, and I felt that I needed to choose a new career that wasn’t so physical because climbing ladders and scaffold to paint walls and ceilings was completely overwhelming given the level of chronic pain I was experiencing!

Now, you may be guessing where I am going next… eliminating the wheat and grains over the past 6 months or so has changed my outlook and my ABILITY to work in a physical way! It was just a week into the Wheat Belly way of living that my joint pain was decreased by probably 80+%! No longer taking handfuls of Motrin every day or clenching my teeth and pushing through the painful haze, I feel like I did more than 15 years ago when I first started putting my designs on walls and furniture! It’s still amazing to me. Now, the pain isn’t chronic at all, and only shows itself when I actually physically stress my body. If I feel like accepting a commission to paint for a client, I now have that choice!

The inflammation from wheat was totally ruining the quality of my day-to-day life in the form of joint pain in my knees, hips, and sometimes my shoulders and elbows, in addition to having severe headaches 3-4 days a week, every week! Now that I am back up to par (without meds, thank you) it seems like there is so much catching up to do, and avenues to explore! But don’t fret, this blog remains one of the important things in my life that I am passionate about 🙂 Spreading the word about the grain-free lifestyle and helping others be able to pull it off in their own kitchens is very rewarding to me.

Hopefully you will indulge me if I post a picture here or there and let you know what I’m doing on a creative front in addition to posting recipes! A well-rounded life is much more achievable when our bodies are running clean and healthy!

 

 

I’d be interested to know what YOU are enjoying in life again (or newly enjoying) because you found renewed health by going wheat-free…. Feel free to post it in comments!

Yours in Health!
~ Gretchen

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Posted by on November 2, 2012 in Article, Thankfulness

 

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When a Diet isn’t a Diet (Or how my husband and I have lost 44 lbs in 12 weeks)

What if I told you that by omitting ONE food, our overall health and weight are steadily improving? Would you think that going without one ingredient is something you could do if the health benefits were not only weight loss, but also improved overall health?

Do you struggle with any of the following? (Likely more than one…)

You might be thinking to yourself, “Well, of course I do! Who doesn’t?” Kind of like a disreputable psychic who makes general statements which are likely to apply to a wide range of people and situations, the list raises skepticism.  However, it is precisely BECAUSE these symptoms are so widespread that people should be more concerned about having them, not less. A widespread collection of symptoms might just point to a widespread contaminant or cause. Does that make sense?

There are countless over-the-counter drugs that one can buy to try to get a handle on these awful feelings. If you were to go to your doctor and complain about these symptoms, the likely result would be a prescription for a pharmaceutical to ease the symptom only. Maybe they would request a test or 3 first and then still write a prescription.

However, how many physicians really dig into the causes of these things, especially occurring together? How many ask what you are eating? How many ask whether you have tried to lose weight and whether any methods were successful? My bet is VERY FEW. Why? Because even the medical profession has accepted that these symptoms are normal or average in our society, and are signs of perhaps aging or the general stress of living, even though they occur in children and teens as well as adults! (Not to mention, who would purchase all the over-the-counter meds and prescription drugs if people were to fix these problems with DIET alone?)

Finding the “Key” to good health

As citizens of planet Earth, we are faced with countless health choices and challenges in our everyday living. Some rely solely on pharmaceutical solutions to manage their symptoms; some use a combination of meds and natural approaches. Many of us have been delving for years into the natural keys to our own personal health, trying to discover what makes us feel the best and what makes us hurt, deciding which foods are “golden” and which are damaging our body systems, which combination of foods and activities will help us to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight and fitness level. It matters to some of us, a whole lot. It seems like it can be so much work to keep up with the conflicting information and possible schools of thought, that it can be frustrating trying to make real and lasting changes for ourselves and our families.

It doesn’t help that the waters are muddied by corporate voices that speak with profit as a primary goal, rather than distributing critical health information. I have no intention of sounding extremist or alarmist when I discuss the state of human health, but I do think that many people, even those who believe they are eating “right” or “healthy” are instead eating themselves into clinics, hospitals and even graves. The worst part of it is that while some people have a casual disregard for health matters, there are many who have the very best intentions, and are unfortunately operating on misinformation, rather than apathy or ignorance.

If you are like me, you have been hoping that at some point the light would shine down, illuminating some “truth” that you missed, and things would click into place.  That there would be some key that makes so much sense that you can’t believe you didn’t figure it out sooner.

Well, I am happy to say, we have figured it out! (For us, anyway.) I’d like to think that it’s the same key that might work for you. I’m just thankful that I heard the message enough times from other people passing through my life that I actually tuned in, and investigated! People on gluten free diets were talking about the major positive health impact that one change has made…

We gave up WHEAT, and our health and weight is steadily improving!


I believe that most people have had, at the very least, an inkling that processed carbohydrates are “bad”, or that there are better choices out there than foods with “empty calories.”  Reaching for a cookie, cupcake, candy bar, or slice of pizza usually is met with delicious anticipation as well as a pang of guilt for many people.  We brush it aside and think, well, it’s just one… or we remember that we did have a salad for lunch, which was a healthy choice. Or maybe we think that it’s a whole grain bran muffin, or that it’s a whole wheat pizza crust… that has some merit, right? We are getting our daily allowance of grains (the government tells us we NEED whole grains!) along with our veggies, fruits, proteins…

Except that many common grains in the wheat family contain gluten, which wreaks havoc on our bodies! It is true that some people are more sensitive to it than others, there are a wide range of effects from gluten sensitivity to celiac disease, however, if you are suffering any of the symptoms on that list, there’s a chance that wheat could be impacting your health and your life. (Click HERE for an extensive list of diseases associated with wheat consumption) Also, carbohydrates, whether they are wheat-based or not, spike blood sugar and can cause visceral fat, insulin resistance and diabetes.

I can only speak from my own perspective and on behalf of my own research and my family’s experience when I relate our stories in my articles and on my blog. As I say that, I am always hoping that the information strikes a chord with someone who is also looking for a health solution, and that they will give wheat-free and gluten-free living a try. (Buy Wheat Belly” by Dr. Davis, and the information will blow you away. And, if you are like me, it will spur you on to start reading even more, and question even more, and start following a path that seems to be more enlightening every day. Also, visit GreenMedInfo.com for a wealth of real research articles that will open your eyes!)

Back to the title, and why I say that this diet, isn’t a diet.

From what I have seen and read, I believe that our bodies have different norms in weight and shape, depending on how we eat. Our bodies adjust to a balance, and that balance can only be maintained by continuing to eat a certain way. If you change back to old eating habits, you will change back to your old weight and health status. It really is that simple. If you continue down a new food path (or “diet”), and stay there, your body will adjust to a new normal for that lifestyle, and that is where you will likely remain. To me, the term “diet” has the connotation of a temporary change to meet a weight loss or health goal. Maybe the word “program” would be better? No, programs tend to have a beginning and end as well. Hmmmm, I think “LIFESTYLE”, as it refers to a more holistic and long term approach or state of being. (Here is what Dr. Davis has to say about the diet not being a diet.)

At any rate, I am very interested to see where my own weight will stabilize, eating a gluten free diet, and very little sugar or processed carbohydrates. The things that we have deleted from our diet, we have no intention of ever eating again, because we know how bad they are for our health, not just our weight. That makes all the difference in the world!

There is a mental difference between mildly suspecting that a substance is harmful, and having evidence that it is. Between the research I have done, and the personal (anecdotal) experience, I am certain that wheat and sugar are extremely damaging to our bodily systems.

Since we are a real family, living in a real world with friends, family, co-workers and the like, and we will share meals with these people in our lives at times, it is natural that conversation about the way we choose to eat will be a recurring topic. The reactions from people vary from curiosity or support, to scorn, disbelief, or sort of shaking heads in pity that we are living our lives without the almighty grain, and even anger in some cases! At first it was a little disheartening, but now it evokes a sense of empathy in us, because we were where they are… and not so long ago. We know that it can sound alien to hear people talking about ridding their diets of wheat (specifically the gluten protein, gliadin) and people wonder if there is anything to our way of eating, or if it is merely another “fad” diet.

Well, for starters, we have never been fad dieters. We have always attempted to eat healthy as a primary goal, and have looked into information about real wellness and good foods to eat. Even though we have struggled with some excess weight over the years, and would be more than happy to lose it, our eating routines have mainly been formed with increased overall health in mind, not merely losing pounds.

At one point in the past we did engage in a low fat diet, where we ate lots of veggies, fruits, lean meats, and low fat snacks (carbs included), but avoided oils and fats like the plague. During that time, we did lose weight, but there was always this imminent sense that we couldn’t wait to reach our target weight, our goal, so that we could be done with this torturous process! We were often HUNGRY! (set up to FAIL)

Now, any of you who have dieted, probably understand that conflict. Even though we were trying to convince ourselves that the way we were eating was healthy, our bodies were in real need of the healthy fats that we were going without. Also, the carbohydrates that we were eating, we may have been burning off (I exercised a LOT), but they left us feeling hungry and unsatisfied… which leads to the yearning for the diet to end! The problem with waiting for a diet to end is that once it ends, eventually you will end up gaining weight back.

That is precisely what is different about eating this way. We went through a period of getting off wheat, and processed foods (a couple weeks of cravings and detox), however once we were clean, our outlook felt “clean” as well! We don’t have those awful cravings; we get full and satisfied from our meals; we enjoy choosing healthful foods, because we know that they are fueling and nourishing our systems with the components they need. The fats in our diet are good for our organs and mind, feel satisfying, and are pretty much self-regulating when combined with all the healthy veggies we eat, as well as a wide variety of meats, nuts, some fruit, hard cheeses and some (low lactose) dairy. We have cut processed sugar out of our diet by at least 90%. Our teenage son will “cheat” with sugar, but he never cheats with wheat on purpose (that teen is a good label-reader!) I do use agave nectar now and then, even though it is a sugar (and not on the Wheat Belly program), because it absorbs more slowly into the blood stream, avoiding the spikes in blood sugar. This is an exception though and why I can’t say we’re 100% without sugars.

People ask if we are tempted to cheat… umm no. If we were feeling hungry and unsatisfied, we might be tempted, but since we feel good and have an awareness now of when we are full (no false signals from our brain, caused by the exorphins in wheat) we have no compulsive desire to eat wheat-containing foods. We know very well how wheat makes us feel!  (Chronic: migraines, joint and muscle pain, IBS digestive issues, and acid reflux are the most noticeable for us on a daily basis.)

My husband and I have lost 22 pounds EACH since the end of March (12 weeks) and the weight change just slowly continues to happen. When you start getting into those numbers, people start to notice, and the people who shook their heads before, are now beginning to get curious about what is happening, and why it’s working.  It’s like certain people are hoping to uncover some conspiracy or flaw in the thinking that allows them to dismiss our process because it makes them uncomfortable to believe wheat is unhealthy. No one wants to believe that their trusted dietary staple is bad for them. No one wants to think they are addicted.

The next paragraph is important.

Some point out that the lack of breads is leaving a calorie hole in our diet, so THAT is why we lose weight. (As if that statement is all-encompassing.) Well, there may be (or may not be) fewer calories, but if it was only due to decreased calories, wouldn’t the expected result be increased hunger?
Hmmmm. Think about that for a minute. That is what happened when we dropped fats on a low fat diet (and the calories that went with fats.) We did consume fewer calories, but we were always hungry and looking for ways to cope with that hunger. It was sabotaged before we ever reached our goal, because no one can be happy and healthy if they are always battling hunger.

This is totally different. We eat less because our bodies are satisfied, and our brains aren’t playing tricks on us and telling us that we need more, and SOON. We simply don’t need as much food as those who are still eating wheat (like we used to.) The healthy fats and lack of gliadin-induced hunger pangs make for a much easier way to live healthy and lose weight.

If we need a snack, we eat one… but to be honest, that doesn’t happen nearly as often as it once did, and the snacks we choose sit well with us, and a small amount is very satisfying. A couple bites of cheese, a few nuts and a piece of fruit, nut butter on a celery stalk, a smoothie, or maybe parmesan crackers, a piece of raspberry streusel or something else made with almond flour or coconut flour… Those are enough to give the body some fuel, and to help us stay on track. Our systems feel like they are running cleaner, and we enjoy our food even more than we did before.

Here is my hope

For those of you who not only want to lose weight, but want to feel better overall, and take a shot at addressing some chronic health problems that you may have been facing for most of your life, I urge you to give this LIFESTYLE a try. DELETE the WHEAT.

If you are curious, engage in a little web surfing. Visit the Wheat Belly Blog by Dr. Davis and friend Wheat Belly on Facebook. Explore GreenMedInfo.com… There are countless research articles which address gluten and wheat, and there are also countless success stories on blogs from people who are enjoying improved health. If you need tips and recipes, there are plenty of those too! People who are eating this way are vocal and excited, and want to share. This article is full of links to relevant information, but know that they are just the tip of the iceberg, and that there is much more information available to those who choose to look.

 

What do we eat? According to Dr. Davis, the basis of the Wheat Belly diet:

Eat real, natural foods such as eggs, raw nuts, plenty of vegetables, and fish, fowl, and meats. Use healthy oils like olive, walnut, and coconut liberally. Eat occasional fruit and plenty of avocado, olives, and use herbs and spices freely. Eat raw or least cooked whenever possible and certainly do not frequent fast food, processed snacks, or junk foods.

This is a very simplified summary, taken from the FAQs on his blog (The diet also allows real cultured cheeses.) You can find more information about specifics on the Wheat Belly blog and in his book.

What’s in it for me? Why do people like me take the time to tell others about this? Why am I writing articles and posting recipes to get people to think more deeply and to make the switch to gluten free eating easier? Because when you make a personal health discovery, it is hard to stay quiet about it! Because I wish that I had known this, decades ago! Because I know you love your families as much as I love mine, and want to make healthy choices, especially ones that will have a real impact!

~Good luck to you in your health quest, and Cheers!

 

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The Dangers of Wheat, Don’t Let Addiction Fool You.

Life is…

When talking to interested (but skeptical) people, about my family’s experience being gluten free, a phrase that comes up a LOT in regards to giving up wheat, even for a week-long trial, is:

“Life is too short to go without the things I love!”

In other words: “I deserve to enjoy my favorite foods and beverages in whatever shape and quantity I desire because it makes me happy right now. And I deserve to be happy! I work hard, I deserve pleasure and treats. Besides, I feel fine. Wheat isn’t hurting me. If I was sick, maybe I would consider it.”

When you look around at the health of our nation and our world, it is becoming more and more clear that this feeling of entitlement in combination with addictive substances, has created a deadly trend. There is more obesity and diabetes in adults and children than there has ever been. Auto-immune diseases are telling us that our bodies are fighting hard against things in our environment that we aren’t even aware of. When our immune system resources are being taxed so much by daily living, we have fewer resources left to fight off other threats to our health. While it is true that there are many potential hazards in our environments, there isn’t one that enters your system as directly and consistently as food, nor is there one over which we can exercise more control than our individual diets.

Hmmmm. I don’t know about you, but I am going to be 43 next month, and I have plans to be around until I’m between 85 and 105 😀  If something out of my control happens in the meantime, so be it, but I plan to do my part to be in good health for those remaining 42-62 years!!! I say:

“Life is too LONG to go without the things I love!”

The things I love happen to be health, peace of mind, wellness, love itself, creativity, freedom, energy, and to be a positive example to my son as well as other people in my life and world. I think that being deprived of these things is much worse than skipping pizza or making the vast majority of my meals at home. Looking at the big picture, those things are much more important to me than having convenient fast food, toxic carbs and sugars which create a temporary high, followed by regret and ill feelings. I want to control my food, not be controlled BY it.

Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand the mindset that forgoing a certain food (or even material possession) equals deprivation. I mean, that is what our society is trained to believe since birth. Brainwashing us (err… I mean, Marketing) towards unhealthy foods as being “popular”, “exciting” and “hip”, starts when we are small children and continues… well, forever. Do you see cartoon characters advertising fresh produce? Did you ever dig to the bottom of a bag of carrots to find a toy? Or see a commercial where a bunch of trendy 20-somethings are sitting around discussing the benefits of eating greens every day, juicing or going without sugar? I haven’t. The Jolly Green Giant was probably the closest thing to a veggie mascot, and I miss him!

Back to the deprivation mindset… mindset and education is where we first need to make our changes. Having facts to build on, and then adjusting our perspective, is key to making lasting changes. So is imagination. It can be only a few small steps from imagining yourself in a healthy lifestyle and enjoying being free from pain (or fatigue, or excess weight, or…) and actually being there! It takes a dedication to your vision, because it might not be a one-step fix. There is much empowerment to be had by taking those first mental steps and then seeing the results. There is a quote I liked from a movie called The Edge with Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin… “What one man can do, another can do.” Meaning that the difference is in determination and drive, not in ability in most cases. It’s down to wanting and needing to do something. Making up your mind.

Argument for Deleting the Wheat

Even if you don’t suspect you are gluten intolerant, or haven’t been diagnosed with celiac disease, understanding the toxicity of wheat can be enlightening. Don’t believe the hype from some that gluten is a trendy new allergen. It is a toxin, and it is not digestible whether or not you have celiac disease!

A large part of the problem is that wheat products are so deeply ingrained (haha, punny) into the fabric of our society that it seems incomprehensible that they could be literally toxic. I had a hard time coming to terms with that concept at first too, but reading Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis really made a difference to my understanding. According to Davis (and supported by facts and research), the wheat of today is not the wheat of our ancestors; it has been changed a multitude of times through hybridization.

While hybridizing is not the same as genetic modification (GMOs, think Monsanto), it still changes the properties and composition of a plant from what it was before. A certain amount of this happens in nature on its own from cross-pollination, so on the surface it seems harmless. Scientists approach hybridizing with certain goals; in the case of wheat it was to enlarge the seed head to increase yield. When that was accomplished, further changes needed to be made to keep the wheat stalk from buckling over under the weight of the heavy tops, which ruined harvests. So now, instead of the “amber waves of grain” of our forebears, and 4 foot tall wheat plants, today’s wheat is about 2 feet tall on a stocky, sturdy plant.

This all sounds good so far… and it is good from a standpoint of increased production and being able to feed more people with less land (a noble goal, indeed.) However, not all the changes in wheat are ones that can be seen with the naked eye. The changes on the outside also changed the nutritive makeup on the inside, causing the gluten content to skyrocket. In fact, NEW glutens are present in modern wheat that were not present in the “parents” that it came from.

So what? Well, humans have evolved at a much slower pace in the sense that our digestive systems have not changed to keep pace with the new wheat. In fact, when wheat underwent all this modification, no studies were done to check that the end product was even fit for human consumption! I suppose it was just assumed that it would break down in the same ways as the old wheat, and that all was good. Unfortunately, that is not the case, which leads us to the current state of recognizing gluten intolerance and celiac disease.

The changes in wheat are one aspect, but the effects are compounded by the fact that wheat is no longer just eaten as a grain or in a piece of bread like our ancestors did… this ubiquitous grain is used everywhere in a myriad of products, in places you might not even think to look. This push of wheat (which is now plentiful and cheap thanks to the hybridization to increase yield) into so many processed foods has dangerously increased our exposure to gluten. Our bodies treat gluten as a toxic substance which triggers an immune system response, and leads to a host of health issues. On top of that, add in the addictive properties of wheat which cause us to crave more wheat-containing products and calories.

Addictive, I say? YES. Not just because we are in the habit of having bread and cereal and sweets, but because wheat is literally addictive in the sense that when it is digested, it results in certain polypeptides that cross into the brain and bind to opiate receptors. OPIATE RECEPTORS? Yep. As in drugs. Grains without gluten do not have the same effect… so this is an issue specific to wheat (also rye, spelt, triticale.) The fact that wheat acts like an opiate in the brain would explain why people are so defensive about going without it! Whether we know it or not, even the most health-conscious among us is getting a “fix” from that morning slice of 9-grain toast (ok, that was my vice!) To take this WHEAT as OPIATE stance one step further, there have been studies done that prove that the opiate-blocking drugs naloxone and naltrexone can be used to block the brain response to the wheat-derived polypeptides which create addiction and out of control appetite. This makes it easier to understand why we go through withdrawal symptoms when we drop the wheat in favor of a gluten free diet! And you can bet that those drugs are being researched as potential diet medications! The problem is that even if we manage to block the opiate response in the brain, continuing to eat wheat will continue to wreak havoc inside the body.

The other major argument against wheat is in regards to the insulin effect, and it applies to other high carbohydrate foods as well. This includes sugary foods in addition to alternate flours like rice, tapioca, potato, sorghum, etc. That is why I have chosen to not only go gluten free, but low carb. Many people who realize that they are intolerant to gluten first mourn the loss of bread, pasta, crackers, doughnuts etc… but then rapidly turn to alternate flours or ready-made processed gluten free foods on the market as a substitute. (I did that for the first week or so myself, until I read Wheat Belly.) While it’s true that a gluten intolerant person can eat these and bypass the symptoms such as headache, joint pain and digestive issues, the substitutions are every bit as bad for blood sugar as wheat products are.

This leads to weight gain (or at least prevents weight loss) and continues the risk of developing chronic health conditions. Also, the type of weight (visceral fat) that is gained because of insulin spikes is the kind that one carries around their midsection, which not only shows on the outside, but also wraps and permeates the organs on the inside (liver, kidneys, pancreas), causing inflammation and preventing the release of protective molecules which normally aid the body in preventing heart disease, diabetes and hypertension. There is a lot of science behind this, and I strongly recommend Dr. Davis’ book for a thorough and understandable explanation.

This is the reason you will see that the few baked goods that I include in my blog are based on using almond or coconut flours which are very low carb and a good source of protein. I have no interest to go to the lengths I have to improve my health just to sabotage myself with insulin-spiking foods. I am not judging anyone else for sharing their delicious solutions to gluten free baking that include other types of flours and starches, but personally those do not match the goals I have set for myself. (I realize that not everyone wants to lose weight, but even those who aren’t overweight can develop insulin resistance through repeated spikes in blood sugar.)

Let me help, let the community help… You are NOT alone!

So why did I bother to write this article if I am already off the wheat? To help you. To make a difference. To spread the word. To start/continue a movement. To educate. To start a dialog. To reinforce my own commitment and share. To get to know you. Really.

While it’s true that I am busy helping myself and my family, I know that in the world community we can also help each other through some of the rough spots. It is my sincere belief that if even one person decides to try going gluten free to help relieve their migraines, or joint pain, or any other symptom, because of something I wrote, it is well worth every hour spent crafting these words. But I would be ecstatic to influence as many as possible!

My personal family testimony may or may not be convincing to you, as I know it amounts to anecdotal evidence, but I share an update here anyway:

  • I haven’t had a migraine in the 7 weeks since I went gluten free. (3-4x week prior.)
  • My IBS symptoms are slowly improving all the time.
  • My joint pain (shoulders, hips, knees) is gone.
  • I have lost 14 lbs so far.
  • I never feel deprived of food, and eat when I’m hungry. No cravings.
  • I am sleeping well.
  • My skin and hair looks and feels healthier.
  • I have more patience and less anxiety.
  • I have more energy and focus, less frequent brain fog.
  • My husband has lost 18 lbs so far.
  • He hasn’t had an incidence of acid reflux in 7 weeks. (suffered often after meals prior.)
  • He has much increased energy and confidence.
  • His chronic shoulder pain has eased tremendously.
  • My son has increased focus.
  • He has gained about 5 lbs so far. (He needs to gain, not lose.)
  • He eats more often, finishes his lunch instead of leaving it.
  • He sleeps better.
  • His skin is clearer.
  • His frequent “growing pains” have subsided.
  • He has a sense of control knowing he can make his own health decisions.

Hopefully your discovery or diagnosis of gluten intolerance or celiac disease will open up a world of health benefits and wonderful foods that far outweigh the perceived restrictions and limitations. Just think, it just might be the best you’ve ever felt!!

FOR FURTHER READING:

Wheat Belly, a book by Dr. William Davis, and his Wheat Belly Blog.
Gluten:Bad for us All, and article by Dr. Rodney Ford
The Dark Side of Wheat, Part I and Part II, by Sayer Ji

 

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Love to Graham Kerr and a Rant on Personal Nutrition Choices


As a self-proclaimed “Foodie”, you can bet that I have watched more than my share of cooking shows, read countless cookbooks and blogs, and have generally soaked up everything that I find interesting about food for a VERY long time. It wasn’t as if I discovered that I did better without wheat and gluten, and then suddenly decided to start cooking… it is something that I (and my husband) have been enthralled with forever, it seems. Along the way we have seen some true talents showcased in the cooking world, along with some that we just scratch our heads and wonder about. I want to give cheers to Graham Kerr here, who is definitely the former!

He was originally known as The Galloping Gourmet, an energetic television chef and author who is full of fun and frolic, using loads of heavy cream, butter, wine, and other decadent ingredients with full abandon and incredibly delicious results. Later in his career, his beloved wife, Treena, experienced severe health issues, and as a response to her nutrition needs, Kerr changed his tune and his theme, moving away from indulgence, to “Minimax”. Minimizing risk and maximizing color, aroma, texture and taste.

While the current eating style my family has adopted embraces certain fats and cheeses (of which Kerr  would likely NOT approve), and instead minimizes the carbohydrates and sugars, Graham’s philosophy of Minimax is with me in the kitchen every single day. I am always seeking to get the most of my ingredients by using fresh herbs, spices, citrus, flavorful cheeses, nuts, radiant vegetables, fresh cuts of meat or seafood, along with flavor-enhancing cooking techniques. He is one of my true Foodie Heroes, and I have endless amounts of admiration for him for taking a health challenge, and translating that challenge into more wonderful, life-giving meals, instead of feeling that the changes were negative limitations.

As a long-time designer and artist, I have always found that working within guidelines or limitations imposed by a specific client or a defined project, actually can be a positive thing that helps to focus the mind and creativity in such a way that the endless possibilities and distracting thoughts do not interfere as much with achieving the end goal. (Have I mentioned that I am quite ADD, and am easily distracted by… “oooohhhh shinyyyy?”) When you take away the things that are not right for the project (or in this case, dish or lifestyle), you are left with freedom and mindfulness to capture the outcome you desire and need. I feel that cooking gluten free (or for any other food intolerance, allergy, health or weight loss goal) is much the same as designing within the parameters of a client’s needs… YOU and your health just happen to be your client!

I urge you to become familiar with the guidelines of your particular nutrition needs, and to embrace those limitations as a way to move freely inside those parameters. Yes, the results of the food are fantastic, but they are nothing compared to the results that manifest in your life! Did I enjoy the Seared Sea Scallops and sauteed greens on Mother’s Day? You bet I did! But not as much as I have enjoyed being free from recurring and debilitating headaches and body pains. It feels miraculous to me still. I literally could cry with relief at any given moment. I have even more joy in preparing foods now than I did before because I know, I mean really KNOW that I am feeding my body with what it needs to be healthy.

And on to a Rant….

I have had well-meaning friends ask me if I couldn’t just “cheat” once in awhile and have a killer pizza or something else when eating out (I know I bore them with my safe salads!) I laugh and say no, because the only person I would be cheating is ME! I am not eating this way to lose weight, although that is certainly welcome, I am eating this way because I finally heard the language of my body, and it has told me in no uncertain terms that some foods make me sick. Having pizza today is not worth waking up tomorrow with a migraine and feeling like I have arthritis throughout my body.

The irony to me is that most people I know also experience a myriad of health issues, aches and pains, along with excess bulk around the midsection, and it doesn’t even occur to them that there is a strong likelihood that it is being caused by their food. (It seems that we, as a culture, treat disease symptoms as a lack of the right pharmaceutical in our medicine cabinet instead of as an imbalance of our internal systems.) It’s not our fault, we have all been educated repeatedly to eat whole grains (even though they spike blood sugar and create an insulin reaction, in addition to being a very inflammatory food.) We live in a society where fast food is abundant and speed is touted over simplicity or healthfulness. Another problem is that food intolerance is not nearly as obvious as food allergy. Allergies cause a severe and usually immediate immune response, but intolerance is much sneakier and builds up over time, affecting many systems, causing inflammation and auto-immune disorders among other things.

When faced with a friend (me) saying “Hey, why don’t you go without wheat and gluten for a week and see how you feel? Just try it?” The reactions are rarely enthusiastic, smiles.

Darling, you CAN’T be serious!?

“You mean I couldn’t drink a beer or have pizza with my buddies? Well, that is un-American!”

“How do you eat sandwiches without bread? I survive on sandwiches!”

“Grains can’t be that bad, we’ve eaten them for thousands of years!”

“Well, that way of eating works for you, I am sure it’s something else wrong with me.”

“I’ve had cereal for breakfast every day of my life, it can’t be the problem.”

“The government tells us that this is the best way to eat, they couldn’t tell us that if it wasn’t true.”

Really? How do you know? I often suggest that one has nothing to lose by trying, but you see, that’s not quite true! I realize that what one loses is somewhat intangible and yet powerful. First there is the disruption of habit and the major introduction of change in an area of our lives that we “think” is settled and working fine. Then there is a heritage and connection to our roots that most people strongly associate with certain foods and habits. We were raised on breads, pastas and cereals, after all. For what I am saying to be true, it means that what their mom and dad, favorite teachers and doctors were saying was NOT true. I know it wasn’t intentional misinformation, but I urge people to use critical thinking and question these accepted norms!

I do have strong opinions when it comes to a governing body telling its population what foods to eat and how much, when it is clear that those same governing bodies are not being advised by scientists and doctors on the cutting edge of nutrition, but rather by corporations which have a vested interest in selling their goods (as much as possible, please!) to the consuming public.Those same groups seek to limit access to homeopathic remedies, vitamins and supplements, as well as clamp down on those who are seeking lesser-processed dairy and meats, saying that their safety can’t be assured. Come on! Let me decide what is safe for my family, while you go ahead and serve GMO’s at your own table! We the people deserve a say in this!

I don’t claim to have all the answers (or even most of them); I am not a doctor or a dietician. But because of that, I am free to explore without kowtowing to pharmaceutical companies or grain lobbyists. I can tinker with my diet and see what happens if I take out this, or add that, and so can you. I am not telling you or anyone one else to do one certain thing (though I personally think wheat is bad for many people), because if one thing is clear, nutrition and health is NOT a one-size-fits-all solution. What I am urging each of us to do is to explore the bountiful world of food-based nutrition and work at finding out what is right for you. It is definitely a journey rather than a concrete destination, and what works for me now, may very well change in the future.

You deserve to make up your own mind, after all it does still belong to you!

 

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Quick Eggy Breakfast

Broccoli Mushroom Scramble

Yesterday was a tough day… NO energy, extreme fatigue, ugh! It made me wonder whether I had accidentally ingested some gluten because “brain fog” is an understatement to how I was feeling! Without body aches and pains though, I had to think it was something else. One thing about going off gluten and eating low carb, is that my appetite isn’t what it once was, and I sometimes forget to eat… so last night my hubby busted me for not having breakfast and snacks during the day. It’s harder to eat when you’re not hungry!

Today I decided to make sure I had a nice dose of protein to start my day, along with a few mineral-rich veggies tossed in to round things out. I can’t say yet whether it will get my energy back on track, but I am hoping so!

What do you do differently when you notice that you are fatigued?
Does it help you to address it with diet?
Do you have any tips or tricks to share? I would love to hear them!!!

Broccoli Mushroom Scramble

  • 1 Tb olive oil or butter
  • 3 small stalks baby broccoli
  • 1/4 C sliced crimini mushrooms
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tb cream
  • 2 Tb sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 roma tomato, sliced

Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat, and saute broccoli, mushrooms and garlic gently for a couple minutes, until broccoli is tender. Beat eggs with cream and add to pan, scrambling just like normal scrambled eggs. When the eggs are almost done, add the cheese and transfer to a plate along with the sliced tomatoes.

 

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Why Gluten Free for Me? Reasons I Deleted the Wheat!

It’s been just over a month since I cut out wheat and gluten in my diet, and went low carb. If you read the veryyyy first post on my blog, you will have some idea of the health issues that made me decide to try going gluten-free. I will say up front, that I have not been formally diagnosed with gluten intolerance or celiac disease (and I have noticed in the food intolerance/health community, that some people really frown on self-diagnosis. To this I say, OH WELL!) I made a simple experiment with my diet to eliminate something I felt might be toxic, and the results were nothing short of miraculous. I am not about to start eating wheat again so that I can be diagnosed formally, when I already know that the treatment IS abstaining from wheat. Even if there was a drug to take instead, I would still choose to be gluten-free.

Here are some results I have experienced during the past month:

  • Immediate relief (within 2 days) of abdominal bloating that made me feel much more comfortable, and clothes fit better (same with husband).
  • Joint pain and inflammation 90% gone, within 3 or 4 days. I had been experiencing shoulder, hip and knee pain that had been worsening for a couple years, and often interfered with sleep and exercise (my son also experienced disappearance of joint pain).
  • Decreased appetite and craving for sweets and carbohydrates (same with husband) after the first couple weeks.
  • Haven’t had a headache bad enough to take Motrin in a MONTH, when I used to take it up to several times a week for headaches that could last 3-4 days
  • IBS symptoms lessened, but not gone. (Currently researching other possible causes for issues, such as low stomach acid and pancreatic enzymes, or other food intolerances.)
  • Lost 10 lbs over the course of the month (and my husband did as well.) I didn’t start with the goal of losing weight, but I am thrilled that I have! 

In my mind, there isn’t much that’s more personal than the choice of what we put into our bodies. To make any thoughtful decision to eat a thing or not to eat a thing, is taking responsibility and accountability for our own health. As a society, we have given over a large part of these critical choices to a fast food and processed food mentality, which has speed and profit in mind, not health and wellness (which is the point of eating in the first place.) Nutrition is sacrificed for convenience, and at a price so high, that our health as a nation is likely worse than it has ever been. Good thing the pharmaceutical industry has our back with all those handy-dandy (side-effect laden) medications!

Obviously, I have a lot of misgivings about the current state of our food industry, and that is for reasons too numerous to detail. As a family, there are some changes we were able to make immediately, and there are others that we are working on sourcing out in an affordable way, such as locally farmed beef and poultry. (I have no plans to become vegan or vegetarian, however, I do strongly believe in humane treatment of animals during their lifetime in addition to skipping all the chemicals.)

In the past weeks, I have done endless research about the effects of gluten, and how to eat healthfully without grains, and I will continue to do so, and occasionally share my findings here. I will say though, that the book Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis, is an EXCELLENT starting point to regaining health and wellness through properly feeding the systems of the body. His book is a compelling combination of personal experiences and scientific data that went a long ways towards explaining to me WHY I felt the way I did, both before and after. The reason I say that his book is brilliant as a starting point, is that for many people, wheat is likely to be the largest, quiet toxin in their diet, and once it is eliminated, it makes room to pinpoint further issues without wheat muddying the waters, so to speak. The results vary from person to person, as we are all unique in our make-up and history, but I believe strongly that the majority of people could find benefits from going wheat free. I have seen that many people discover other intolerances and sensitivities as well as deficiencies in certain bodily systems as they begin to get clean, and I am in the process of investigating these things for my own situation.

When I read opinions and consider factual studies, I also take into consideration whether the person or agency has any benefit to be gained by convincing people that what they are saying (selling) is valid. Critical thinking plays a large part in my personal research, and it pays to question things and seek out a variety of resources, especially those that are contrary to each other. In doing this, I have found that those who are opposing the health benefits of whole grains, aren’t out to make a profit from this point of view, they are trying to give people the power to make informed decisions and break addictions! If the author of Wheat Belly, Dr. Davis, was only out to make money by selling copies of his book, he wouldn’t have such an informative blog where he takes a personal interest in the people who post and query him about this topic. Instead, it is obvious that he has in mind helping to open peoples’ eyes so that they are able to regain their health.

While I am doing my best to live up to the dietary recommendations in Wheat Belly, I know that I am not the gold standard with the recipes and foods that I post, but I am sharing what types of things we are eating in my home, in the hopes of helping people who need a few new ideas, or are even possibly overwhelmed by the task of eating differently. I consider recipes from many sources, some gluten-free, some traditional, some Paleo… while other postings are just a peek into the way I cook at home, and some of the methods I use in my kitchen. I urge readers to play with the recipes and adjust them to your tastes and dietary needs, as there is no such thing as a “one-size-fits-all” plan for health and wellness. I am thankful for comments and “likes” from the blogworld, and enjoy the sharing and positivity that is happening here!

 

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Go Ride a Bike! And a Note of Thankfulness~

It’s been a long time since I’ve had the energy to ride a bike! I know that sounds completely lame, mostly because it IS. But the daily joint pain from the unknown wheat-intolerance really did a number on my body, and my mental state as well. Being free from wicked wheat for barely 2 weeks, and I am ready to RIDE!

I couldn’t resist the slightly retro look of this bike, along with what I think of as the the Black Cherry/Vanilla coloring. But the thing that really won me over (other than a reasonable price point) was the shocks in front AND on my seat post! Like many women, finding a comfortable bike seat was akin to finding a dentist that you look forward to seeing. A myth that didn’t seem to exist for me! So far so good with this one though, and I’ve already enjoyed a couple 5 mile rides with my guys down to the local park and around the neighborhood. It’s really quite exciting! I know that there are plenty of die-hard bike enthusiasts who will snark at my paltry 5 mile outings, but I am thrilled to have the energy and even more thrilled to be pain-free even after riding!

Staying on track with relevance to eating well and feeling well…. I splurged on a front basket which snaps on, and can be removed with the push of a button. I can’t wait to take it to the Farmer’s Market when the season begins, so that I can fill it up with fresh veggies, local honey and artisanal cheeses.Yeah Baby, yeahhh!

And I would be remiss if I didn’t thank my wonderful husband for being so supportive, and urging me to buy the bike when he saw that I was serious about feeling well enough to use it. He really rocks in so many ways! I wish that everyone was as fortunate to have a built-in support system, because it really does make all the difference to me. He was also the one that urged me to “write baby!” He has always loved my cooking whether it was normal fare or now the gluten-free variety, and he has also always tried to prod me into writing down my recipes, which I was far too distracted and/or lazy to do. I just feel bad that it took me so long to get on board with it!

So, no recipe today (since I have been eating left-over soup), just a celebratory post of feeling well, and being thankful that I found one of the keys to improved health for myself. I wish that I could reach out to every person that is feeling chronic joint and body pain, and convince them to simply TRY going wheat and gluten-free for a week, and see if they feel better. If you don’t, no biggie, but if you do…. go ride a bike!

 

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