by Andrea Purcell, ND
The shocking news in 2003 was that 1 in 133 people had celiac disease. Celiac disease is a genetic intolerance to gluten contained in wheat, rye, and barley. Eating and cooking gluten free means consuming a whole food diet devoid of gluten containing grains.
Celiac disease once considered rare, is now a common autoimmune disease afflicting 1 in 133 people. If you or a loved one has Celiac disease there is a good chance that first and second-degree relatives have the diagnosis as well. As a medical necessity, there are three groups of people who should avoid gluten.
*Any person with a diagnosis of Celiac disease.
*Any person with an allergic reaction to wheat as determined either by an IgG or an IgE blood test.
*Any person with gluten sensitivity.
Many people are sensitive to wheat and/or gluten but do not have the diagnosis of celiac disease. Sensitivities can cause symptoms such as skin reactions, congestion in the throat, ears, or sinuses, digestive upset, or other body inflammation such as fatigue and aching joints. A recent study in 2010 found that people could lose their tolerance to gluten as they age. These people are not born with the genetic intolerance commonly seen with celiac disease but are developing the intolerance later on in life. This suggests a weakening of digestive function due to repeated exposure to gluten, which can cause leaky gut, toxin exposure, antibiotics, medications, and even vaccines.
The information about gluten and the awareness around celiac disease seems to have thrown the nation into a gluten free frenzy. Many people are eating gluten free as a type of fad diet. These people have heard that gluten is bad and have chosen to avoid it as a way to be healthy. As the awareness builds so does the variety of gluten free products. It is easier than ever to find gluten free cake, cookie, brownie mixes, breads, need I say more? Even if you are going gluten free filling your day with these will not bring you closer to health. Moving towards a plant-based diet however, will.
Cooking Gluten Free…
For those first diagnosed with Celiac disease the act of cooking and eating initially becomes very stressful. Learning a few tried and true recipes that you know you can whip up in a flash will be extremely helpful.
The first thing you should do when you find out that you need to eat gluten free is to focus on a plant based diet. This includes vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and lean proteins. These foods will become the foundation of your daily food plan.
Experiment with alternative grains such as brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, sorghum, and teff.
There are many benefits to home cooking. You have complete control over what you eat and the quality of ingredients, plus there will always be leftovers for lunch the next day, hooray!
Baking Gluten Free…
Cooking is one thing and baking is another. The general rule of thumb for mastering any gluten free baked good recipe is to experiment with the recipe at least three times. The first will be a flop, the second will be better, and you will try a different flour, moisture ingredient or sweetener, and by the third try you will be satisfied. Then you can actually bring the finished product to a social gathering. Making a bread or cupcake with one type of flour is not recommended, the success in baking gluten free comes from mixing the flours. You can mix bean flour with a gluten free flour to help with the texture. In gluten free baking many things can come out dry and crumbly so items must be added that create more moisture. These items could be mashed banana, tofu, honey, eggs, pumpkin, or xantham gum. In order to succeed you must experiment with a variety of flours. Become familiar with the tastes and textures of the alternative flours, then you can combine them. Once you master the moisture content, then you can experiment with the level of sweetness. Many recipes just have you add plain old white sugar but I prefer stevia, agave, brown rice syrup, honey or a combination of two sweeteners to reduce the calorie and sugar content of the recipe.
Note from Dr. P
In order to determine if you are sensitive to gluten you can do this simple experiment at home. Avoid all gluten for 14 days. This means all gluten. Read labels carefully because many items contain hidden gluten such as cereals, deli meats, and canned soups. After 14 days reintroduce gluten containing foods 1-2x daily for three days in a row. Observe your body for any signs of gluten sensitivity that I listed above. Looking for healthy gluten recipes? Get my book!
-Be Healthy, Happy, & Holistic