Is a Gluten Allergy Just a Fad?

Having a gluten allergy or sensitivity has become trendy.

So much so that is has become fodder for comedians.

 via glutenfreesociety.org

via glutenfreesociety.org

Firstly, let me point out that clearly there are a lot of people who are utilizing "avoiding gluten" as a way to try to lose weight without having any specific gluten-related diagnosis. (Or some other benefit, but losing weight is certainly the most common reason for someone to just randomly try going gluten-free.) I don't have a particular problem with this. Experimenting with avoiding gluten is not harmful, if a bit inconvenient, and may actually be helpful. It can be helpful in one of two ways for those who have jumped on the gluten-free bandwagon: 

  1. It causes said bandwagoner to dial back their refined carbohydrate consumption since most processed grains contain gluten. Removing processed junk is always a good thing and can definitely result in weight loss if those foods are not simply replaced with gluten-free versions of the same vein.
  2. Said bandwagoner turns out to actually have an underlying sensitivity to gluten that has caused symptoms for a long time (e.g. gas, bloating, skin irritations, inflammation etc.) but because the symptoms were a constant occurrence, he/she never made the connection between food and the symptoms. By removing gluten, these symptoms that he/she had become accustomed to disappear.

Those two reasons are why I don't have a problem with people experimenting with a gluten-free diet on their own. They may actually get some benefit. If they don't see any improvements after a month, then gluten is probably not an issue and not worth avoiding. Of course, there are also some pitfalls with eating gluten-free:

  1. Simply substituting gluten-free processed crap for gluten-containing processed crap. This does not benefit your health in any way. In fact, some gluten free products have higher glycemic indexes than their gluten-containing counterparts.
  2. Thinking that anything that is gluten-free is magically healthy. NOPE. Sorry, but a gluten-free cupcake is still a cupcake. This is similar to #1, but extra dangerous because it can go beyond substituting to causing over-eating. Similar to the SnackWells problem of the 80's and 90's where people ate boxes of fat-free cookies, slapping a label on desserts does not turn them into vegetables. (Vegetables ARE gluten-free, however. Eat them.)

Some people like to argue that going gluten-free can cause nutrient deficiencies.  This is NOT TRUE. Gluten is not a requirement to health. What is true, however, is that grains are often people's main source of B-vitamins and fiber. This doesn't have to be the case, but since Americans (and other western nations) eat A LOT of grains, they tend to be the most prolific source. Be sure to eat a varied whole foods diet focused on vegetables and you will be fine. 

What about people who DO need to eat gluten-free?

Okay, here's the thing. I have noticed recently that some people who truly are allergic to gluten (e.g. Celiac disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis/other autoimmune disorders) or have established sensitivities to gluten are now being accused of having a fake gluten problem. This is not fair. First of all, many people have an allergy to gluten in the true ALLERGY sense: meaning an IgE reaction. That is the definition of an allergy. Other people have different immunoglobulin reactions that are not IgE and those fall under the category of SENSITIVITIES because only IgE reactions are labeled as allergies. 

Both of these situations are real and neither of these categories of people should be consuming gluten.

Let me reiterate.

There is such a thing as a gluten-allergy AND there is such a thing as a gluten-sensitivity. Neither are fake or a fad. People can lie about it, sure, but the diagnosis does exist.

The good news is that since gluten-free became a mainstream idea, people who should absolutely not eat gluten have many more options available to them, better labeling, and restaurants now understand what gluten is. That is great. 

The fact that people roll their eyes at people avoiding gluten is not great. 

Here is my opinion about what you should do if someone says they are gluten-free.

Say OKAY with a smile.

Then you have a couple of options.

  • If you are planning a dinner party, inquire "Is there any way that I can accommodate you?" Most people who are gluten-free take it upon themselves to make sure they are taken care of without being a burden. Most likely they will offer to bring a gluten-free dish or have a snack before coming so that they can eat less at the party without going hungry.
  • If you are at a restaurant, inquire "Will you be able to find options here to accommodate you?" Honestly, most restaurants these days are prepared for gluten-free customers. Most likely, your dinning partner will be fine. You can always ask the waiter.
  • If it just randomly came up in conversation, either just say okay with a smile or ask nicely about what caused the shift, how's it going or if he/she has noticed any improvements.

Easy-peasy.

No need to be all judgmental, roll your eyes and immediately start fabricating reasons in your mind about all of the supposed "fake" reasons this person has made the choice to go gluten-free. 

Yes, I realize that some people are just trying to be trendy or trying a new diet for kicks.

Gluten-Joke.jpg

Oh well.

Seriously.

Unless you just spent all day in the kitchen making this person a beautiful gluten-containing meal only for he/she to stride in declaring that from this day on he/she is avoiding gluten for no seemingly particular reason, then it doesn't really matter what this person will or will not eat. (And if someone does do that to you, and if that person doesn't immediately spy your hard work and declare that this new diet begins TOMORROW, then that person is an asshole. Throw your beautiful pie in his/her face.)

I realize that if the impetus is on you to cook for a gluten-free individual and you have no idea how to do this, it can be scary and frustrating. Gluten-free cooking, I promise, isn't that hard. But, that is a whole other topic. This post is concerned mainly with those who are not all that affected by their friend's, colleague's, random acquaintance's diet choices.

When it doesn't really affect us all that much how someone else eats, don't be rude. 

The last and final caveat

This post is really about good people who either have a true gluten issue or want to experiment with gluten-free eating. I'm not talking about people who aggressively inundate you with details of their eating habits when you never asked. You might want to stop hanging out with those people. They sound insufferable.

And even more importantly, this post was not referring to people who seem to have a truly unhealthy relationship with their food. Othorexia nervosa is an eating disorder associated with extreme obsessiveness with eating healthy. If the latest manifestation of someone's fixation on healthy eating has come to include gluten-free eating, the previous rules do not apply. Instead, you really ought to entertain the possibility that this person might need some help. Be kind. Always be kind and point this person in the direction of someone with the skills to intervene.

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Katie Dawn Habib

Katie Dawn Habib is a Holistic Nutrition Coach with a M.S. in Nutrition and Integrative Health. By combining her nutrition knowledge with a love of writing, Katie created her own website, The Hungry Gypsy, where she talks about food, nutrition, wellness and travel. On her site you can also find information about her nutrition coaching practice and join in on the conversations. Katie would like to contribute in some small way to global healing and help her clients and readers feel inspired.

Pain Relief from Diabetic Neuropathy

Diabetes is far too common in the USA.  One of the unfortunate complications of diabetes is that neuropathy can develop.  Of course, the first (and most important!) step is to get your blood sugar under control. For tips, see my previous post about blood sugar regulation.  Unfortunately, if you have neuropathy from diabetes, it can remain even after you've managed your blood sugar.  The pain can be very debilitating so here are some things that may help relieve some of the pain.

*First, to be clear: I am not a M.D.  Please consult your doctor before undergoing any health treatments or taking new supplements. This post, and all information on this site, is for educational and informational purposes only.*

diabetic-neuropathy.jpg

Supplements can definitely be helpful because we are talking about utilizing vitamins for therapeutic purposes, which requires higher doses than a typical healthy intake.  Work with a healthcare provider to determine the appropriate supplements and dosages for you.  Until then, you can certainly focus on eating foods high in these nutrients. 

The following are your friends:

GLA (Gamma-linolenic acid)

  • Borage oil, Evening Primrose oil, Black Currant oil

ALA (Alpha-lipoic acid)

  • Flax seeds (and oil), Chia seeds, Hemp seeds

Vitamin C

  • Citrus fruits, Non-Citrus fruits, Melons, Green Leafy vegetables, Cruciferous vegetables

Vitamin E

  • Almonds, Sunflower seeds, Green Leafy vegetables, Avocados

Vitamin B6

  • Fish, Poultry, Meats, Nuts, Chick Peas, Sweet Potatoes, Spinach

Biotin

  • Eggs, Peanuts, Almonds, Swiss Chard, Carrots

Capsaicin

  • Cayenne pepper
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Katie Dawn Habib

Katie Dawn Habib is a Holistic Nutrition Coach with a M.S. in Nutrition and Integrative Health. By combining her nutrition knowledge with a love of writing, Katie created her own website, The Hungry Gypsy, where she talks about food, nutrition, wellness and travel. On her site you can also find information about her nutrition coaching practice and join in on the conversations. Katie would like to contribute in some small way to global healing and help her clients and readers feel inspired.

Blood Sugar Regulation is Extremely Important

Does any of this sound familiar?

  • You get sugar cravings throughout the day or after meals.
  • You get extremely irritable, shaky and/or spacey if you haven't eaten recently.
  • Your diet is full of processed foods and simple carbs.
  • Your blood test from your doctor came back revealing above normal blood glucose and/or Hemoglobin A1C levels.

If you said yes to any of the above, you may have blood sugar dysregulation.

The bad news is that blood sugar dysregulation can lead to a whole host of issues such as weight gain, depression, hormonal imbalances and diabetes.  It may even be a contributing factor to PCOS, infertility and breast cancer in women.

The good news is that blood sugar issues can absolutely be addressed by diet and lifestyle habits.

 via ucsf.edu

via ucsf.edu

Blood sugar imbalance is one of the few areas where even conventional medicine looks to diet and lifestyle interventions first.

What are the 3 main steps to getting blood sugar under control?

  1. Increase your intake of healthy fats, protein and fiber

  2. Remove processed carbohydrates from your diet

  3. Add regular exercise into your daily lifestyle (including strength training)

Those are the basic concepts.  Now, let me expand on those ideas a bit and help you understand how to do those three things.

I tend to find that my clients have an easier time adjusting their current food intake by focusing on ADDING first, and REMOVING second.  Usually, this approach is the most effective and successful.  Therefore, in terms of blood sugar management, this means that you want to start my making sure that you are consuming enough healthy fats, protein and fiber. How to do this?

 via pushupsandcarrots.wordpress.com

via pushupsandcarrots.wordpress.com

Healthy Fats:

Avocado, Avocado Oil, Olive Oil, Coconut oil, Butter (grassfed), Ghee, Oily Fish, Fish Oil, Flax Oil, Nuts and Seeds.

Fat is key.  Thanks to the 1980's people are fat-fearful, but that really needs to go away now.  That was a fad that allowed companies to pump their foods full of salt and sugar, but market them as a health food because they were "low-fat."  Terrible.  Fat slows down the absorption of carbohydrates, limiting the glucose spike that causes blood sugar highs and lows, which can lead to diabetes.  Not to mention all of the very important fat soluble vitamins that come with healthy fats.

BTW-Yes, butter is a healthy fat.  The key is to make sure that you are getting a good quality butter- meaning grassfed.  It really does change the nutrient profile.  KerryGold is a widely available grassfed butter, or any smaller local companies that sell grassfed butter at your local healthfood store or farmer's market is great.  Coconut oil (another saturated fat and therefore sometimes demonized) is awesome.  It is a medium chain fatty acid, which means it is easily absorbed into the body.  It is also a high heat oil so you can cook with it.  Please only cook with fats that can take high heat.  Low-heat oils will oxidize and become very inflammatory.  Not good.  

Cook with: Avocado Oil, Ghee, Butter, Coconut Oil. (Save the olive oil for low heat situations.)

ALSO, when it comes to fats, organic should be the priority.  I realize that price can be an issue and therefore you will need to make the decision that is right for you and your family, but in terms of health and the chemistry of fats, organic is extremely important. Fats can store tons of fat-soluble toxins and fats are mostly absorbed directly into the lymph, which means that they enter our bodies before getting screened by the liver. The liver is our ultimate protector that tries its best to eliminate harmful substances before they enter our blood stream.  Fats often skip this first step and therefore it stands to reason that fat-soluble toxins may be even more damaging than water-soluble toxins.  (Not that those are good either, we don't want to overload our livers and cause liver disease.)

Protein

It does't have to be animal protein.  While quality animal meats (humanely raised, not pumped full of chemicals) can be a healthy source of protein, try also looking toward plant sources such as beans and legumes.  They also have the added benefit of being good sources of Fiber.  

Fiber

This is where the classic fruits, vegetables and whole grains enter the picture.  (+Beans and legumes.)  Not only do these foods contain fiber, but they also contain wonderful vitamins and minerals that help our bodies function.  Think the color of the rainbow. While whole grains are good in moderation, try to focus on vegetables more than grains.  

Remove the Junk

Once you've got a hold of including the goodies, you should feel more prepared to remove the troublemakers.  Typically, the sheer act of including more of the good stuff will crowd out some of the bad stuff, but incase there is still a bunch of processed, refined carbohydrates on your plate: time to chuck them.  They are nutrient deplete (seriously, absolutely no benefit other than containing calories) and they spike your blood sugar very high.  This spike in blood sugar (aka. blood glucose) will result in your body bringing tons of insulin onto the scene to move that bucket of sugar into your cells. Unfortunately, this process will work too well and your blood sugar level will drop too low, resulting in reactive hypoglycemia and sugar cravings.  That is why you crave sugar soon after meals.  This can be the beginning of a roller coaster ride for your body's blood sugar management team: You continue to eat processed junk spiking your blood sugar, insulin comes in and works too hard to move the sugar into cells, which causes your blood sugar to drop low enough to cause sugar cravings.  If you indulge this craving the whole things repeats itself until your body is literally worn out. The insulin receptors stop working as well, moving you into non-insulin dependent Type II diabetes.  If you continue, your body will be too tired to make insulin at all and you will have insulin-dependent Type II diabetes and require insulin injections.  Once your body loses its ability to produce its own insulin, it can never be reversed.  You will require insulin injections for the rest of your life. Not Fun.  Let's stop you from getting there.  (If you are already there, we can still vastly improve your quality of life and prevent you from other unfortunate complications of diabetes.  Never give up on your health!)

 via dumbellsdepot.com

via dumbellsdepot.com

Exercise

Not only is exercise good for weight management and cardiovascular health (just to name a couple), but the physical act of contracting your muscles will move glucose (sugar) from your blood stream into your cells WITHOUT the use of insulin.  How cool is that?!  If you are heading on the path towards diabetes, or have already been diagnosed with diabetes, how important do you think it is to give the insulin in your body a break?  VERY that's how important.  Since it is the contraction of muscles that is key, strength training really is the golden boy in this scenario.  Instead of just hopping on the elliptical, throw in some strength training and you will reap the rewards!

 

I realize that was a crap ton of info, and I still feel like I only scratched the surface.  If you have any questions, thoughts, confusions, etc. please leave them in the comments section below and I will answer them/discuss them with you. 

2 Comments

Katie Dawn Habib

Katie Dawn Habib is a Holistic Nutrition Coach with a M.S. in Nutrition and Integrative Health. By combining her nutrition knowledge with a love of writing, Katie created her own website, The Hungry Gypsy, where she talks about food, nutrition, wellness and travel. On her site you can also find information about her nutrition coaching practice and join in on the conversations. Katie would like to contribute in some small way to global healing and help her clients and readers feel inspired.

Eat to Ease Arthritis Pain

Lots of people suffer from pain associated with arthritis, an inflammation of one or more joints.  Osteoarthritis, usually thought of as "wear and tear arthritis" is the most common form of arthritis.  (Not to be confused with rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune disease and quite different.)  There are also various other forms that fall under the umbrella term of 'Arthritis' because they all involve inflamed joints.

 via dailymail.co.uk

via dailymail.co.uk

Conventional medicine usually uses pain medication to treat the discomfort associated with arthritis.  While arthritis can be extremely painful and wanting to treat that pain is understandable, pain medication doesn't actually treat the cause of the condition, it only treats the symptom of pain.  Chronic, longterm use of these medications, such as NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: ex. aspirin, naproxen, ibuprofen) can cause major damage to our digestive systems, kidneys and even increase our risk for cardiovascular disease.  Therefore, I think it is a much better option to try to find ways to decrease the inflammation holistically and avoid possible serious complications. 

Luckily, there are foods that can help quell inflammation, as well as foods that are known to increase inflammation, and therefore can be consciously eaten and avoided, respectively. 

Foods to EAT

  • Foods that are good sources of Omega 3's
    • ex. Salmon, Sardines, Mackerel, Trout, Flax seeds, Chia seeds, Walnuts
  • Foods that are good sources of other healthy fats
    • ex. Avocados, Olive Oil, Nuts, Coconut Oil
  • Foods that are high in fiber and complex carbohydrates
    • ex. Vegetables, Legumes, Fruits, Whole grains
  • Foods that are high in plant-based antioxidants (such as anthocyanins and Beta-Cryptoxathin)
    • ex. Berries, Fruits, Greens, Turmeric, Ginger, Squash, Colorful Vegetables 

Foods to AVOID

  • Trans fats
    • These awful man-created fat molecules are incredibly inflammatory.  They have absolutely no need to exist.  Food companies manufacture them so that their products are more shelf stable and easier to transport.  It is a matter of convenience for them.  It has no bearing on taste while being extremely unhealthy. Not good. Stay Away. ex. processed foods, partially hydrogenated oils.
  • Omega 6's
    • The Standard American Diet is way too high in Omega 6's, which cause inflammatory responses in the body. ex. Corn Oil, Canola Oil, Safflower Oil, Palm Oil
  • A.G.E.'s (Advanced glycation end-products)
    • These bad boys are created when food is heated, grilled, fried or pasteurized.  They are toxins that cause the body to have an immune response.  The body sends cytokines, inflammatory messengers, to attack the toxins.  Try not to char your food and instead heat food at a lower heat to decrease the A.G.E. load. ex. Char-grilled, burnt and other foods cooked at very high heat.
  • Excessive Dairy and Meat Consumption
    • I believe quality matters a lot here- sticking to organic, grassfed meats and dairy will make them much less inflammatory.  If you are up for it, however, completely cutting them out or greatly reducing your intake has been shown to possibly be beneficial. ex. Dairy Milk, Cheeses, Meats from CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations)
  • Alcohol and Tobacco
    • Both are very inflammatory. Sorry. Tobacco is definitely out. If you want to stick with some alcohol, go for wine.  It has some polyphenols that might have some anti-inflammatory effects.
  • Nightshades
    • The family of foods known as Nightshades contain solanum alkaloids which may contribute to arthritis in susceptible individuals.  ex. tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant.
  • Processed foods and processed sugars
    • If it comes in a box with lots of ingredients, contains refined flours, contains lots of preservatives, processed sugars and/or unhealthy oils, steer clear. ex. Candies, Soda, Boxed Foods, White Sugar, White Flour.

If all of that was too much:

The main take away is to decrease your processed, refined food consumption and increase your colorful fruit and vegetable consumption.

2 Comments

Katie Dawn Habib

Katie Dawn Habib is a Holistic Nutrition Coach with a M.S. in Nutrition and Integrative Health. By combining her nutrition knowledge with a love of writing, Katie created her own website, The Hungry Gypsy, where she talks about food, nutrition, wellness and travel. On her site you can also find information about her nutrition coaching practice and join in on the conversations. Katie would like to contribute in some small way to global healing and help her clients and readers feel inspired.

Help! My Allergy Test Says I'm Allergic to Everything!

I've had a couple of clients come to me in a panic saying that they can't eat anything because the food allergy test their doctor ordered came back saying that they are allergic to practically everything.  The good news, I reassure them, is that they are not really allergic to everything that popped up on that list.

Food-Sensitivity-Test-Results-SAMPLE.jpg

If you have a food allergy test done that comes back identifying a huge number of food culprits, then the real problem is that you have an irritated/inflamed gut lining commonly referred to as leaky gut.

The cells that line your gut are called enterocytes.  Enterocytes are supposed to be joined together very tightly with "tight junctions" in order to prevent any food particles that are not properly digested from getting absorbed.  With leaky gut, the enterocytes have become damaged and spaces are created between the cells that allow for large, undigested proteins to get through.

These proteins are identified by the body's immune system as "foreigners" and an immune reaction occurs.  This reaction will be identified on your allergy test results as an allergic reaction.  Essentially, with leaky gut, the food that you consume can get through those gaps without being properly digested and cause a reaction.  Yet, if your gut lining was healthy, those foods wouldn't cause any problem.  

So how do you fix this?

  • REMOVE true irritants

If there are a few foods that show up on your allergy test as being spiked much higher than all of the other foods, then you may have a true allergy to those particular foods. Common examples are casein (a protein found in dairy), gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley) and nuts.  You will also want to remove any universally inflammatory foods such as processed sugar, trans fats, coffee and alcohol.  (I know, the last two suck, but if you are a regular consumer of coffee and/or alcohol and you have a leaky gut, you really ought to remove them temporarily while your gut heals and then you can try reintroducing them later.)

  • REPAIR your gut

Simply removing many offending foods will help your gut wall out a lot, but usually your enterocytes need some additional help.  There are many things that can help heal your gut, but my two favorites are:

Supplement: L-Glutamine

Food: Bone Broth and Mineral Broth

L-Glutamine is the primary food source for the enterocytes and will help them heal. Broths, both bone and vegetable mineral, are very healing and help to provide critical minerals that may be missing from your diet.  For bone broth I use Sally Fallon's recipe, and for a vegetable broth I use Rebecca Katz's Magic Mineral Broth.

  • Reinnoculate

If you have leaky gut syndrome, your poor gut has been through the ringer.  You need the good guys to help you out.  The good guys being good gut bacteria known as probiotics.  

Supplement: Sacchromyces Boulardii is great, or a good quality multi-strain capsule with at least 10 billion per cap.

Food: Fermented Foods!! Check out my post on how to ferment.

  • Reintroduce

The last step is to reintroduce some foods one at a time.  Truly, all of this should be done under the supervision of a health care professional and that is especially true for this step.  If you are interested in working with me, please visit my Work With Me page. This step needs to be closely monitored because reactions can sometimes take up to a few days to show up.  Also, sometimes a small amount won't cause a reaction, but larger amounts will so that will also need to be evaluated. 

All in all, leaky gut syndrome is a serious enough condition that you really ought to be under the care of a healthcare professional who can guide you towards healing. The good news is that healing is possible, and since so many issues come back to digestive health, repairing your gut can have a profound improvement upon your life.

Comment

Katie Dawn Habib

Katie Dawn Habib is a Holistic Nutrition Coach with a M.S. in Nutrition and Integrative Health. By combining her nutrition knowledge with a love of writing, Katie created her own website, The Hungry Gypsy, where she talks about food, nutrition, wellness and travel. On her site you can also find information about her nutrition coaching practice and join in on the conversations. Katie would like to contribute in some small way to global healing and help her clients and readers feel inspired.