Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Special Diet

About two years ago, I discovered a have a gluten sensitivity. It triggers my migraines (I have many, many other migraine triggers, but gluten is the most severe and immediate) and so I avoid it as much as I can. We are not 100% gluten free at home, but I'm working on it.

These days it seems as if "gluten free" is the way to go whether you have a sensitivity to it/are celiac or not. I hesitate to tell people I don't eat gluten because I know it must seem as if I'm trying to be trendy. But a lot of people don't know that wheat, and the gluten contained in wheat, cause a host of issues for many of us. It's not just about gaining weight, either.

Did you know that wheat has only been in our diets for 7,000 years (source: Gluten Free Baking Classics by Annalise Roberts)? Humans, or homosapiens, have been on the earth for roughly 100,000 years but we didn't eat wheat for about 90,000 of those years. As Annalise points out, that's like a 45 year old man eating wheat for the first time at age 41. I like to spout that statistic when I hear people wonder why it seems as if gluten is causing issues for people "all of a sudden." In reality, these issues have developed over the course of many years, and what seems like an everyday problem (like IBS, indigestion, arthritis, depression, even acne) can often be attributed to a gluten sensitivity/intolerance or celiac disease. Celiac is the most misdiagnosed disease in the United States!

More telling is the fact that the wheat we grew 200 years ago is not the wheat we are growing today. In order to make the fluffiest cakes, muffins, and breads, we have genetically modified our wheat to contain as much as 50% more gluten than it used to.

Of course, the easiest way to avoid gluten is to just stop eating things that contain it. But it's so difficult to avoid gluten completely, and even harder if you love a good slice of pizza or have a serious sweet tooth. Plus, gluten seems to be in everything. Did you know that soy sauce and sausage casing have gluten in them? (I didn't.) It's a constant effort on my part and sometimes I "cheat." A cookie here, a pita there. Bagels and pizza (two of my favorite foods) trigger a migraine for me within an hour after I've eaten them--most likely because the gluten content in those is high. Crusty breads do the same.

It's important to remember that gluten free does not equal healthy. Processed food is processed food, whether it's gluten free, vegan, low fat, sugar free, whatever. And I don't like substitutions. I eat vegan for periods of time and I don't like fake cheese or textured vegetable protein that pretends to be meat. 

I often get asked if my kids are off gluten too, and for now, the answer is no. They are carbohydrate hounds, and I monitor their consumption as much as possible, because simple carbs = sugar, and well, we know how that goes with small kids (it's been over a year since I've bought those Goldfish crackers, and that was a big hurdle to overcome!).

The best solution I've found is to make as much of what we eat at home from scratch, which is always a priority to me whether it's gluten free or not. Baking is a science, and gluten free baking/cooking is even more so. You need a balance of grains and starches, but there are so many different flours it's easy to get confused and overwhelmed (and buying all those flours can get expensive!). I've found a few great resources and I'd love to share them with you. We are once again enjoying pancakes, waffles, bread, muffins, cookies, and cakes.

Gluten Free Baking Classics by Annalise Roberts -- Every single thing I've tried from this book is delicious and easy. Annalise has a few basic flour mixes which are simple and accessible. The first part of her book has some history on gluten (part of which I shared above) and explains the science behind gluten free baking and cooking, which is really invaluable. Her blog is also awesome.

These pancake and waffle recipes from Lynn's kitchen adventures are fantastic--fluffy, delicious, and not a hint of gluten.

Gluten Free Slow Cooking -- I love my slow cooker and I love gluten free. This has some delicious recipes.

Gluten Free Girl and The Chef -- A writer as well as a chef, Shauna's blog is a wonderful source for many amazing recipes and great information.

google -- Yep, google. I have found many intriguing and ultimately tasty recipes by just googling them.

Do you have a special diet?


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