Still confused or annoyed about the whole gluten thing?
I’m excited you’re here reading today. Today’s blog is particularly special and a bit of a different flavor as I’ve drawn on some expert resources in my holistic nutrition circle to help bring you clarity.
I’ve personally have a history of getting on and off the gluten-free bandwagon, sometimes having diligently committed to gluten-free living and other times just having gone gluten-free when it was convenient.
By really owning the principles I teach my private clients around pleasure and relaxation, I’ve been able to listen to my body more clearly without variables like stress or dieting (which make identifying food sensitivities seriously tricky). Overall, reducing or eliminating gluten from my diet has been great for my body (mainly gastrointestinal benefits). But don’t take my own experience as gospel. Explore on your own and listen to what’s true for your body…
I’m happy to have gluten-free expert and dear friend, Stephanie Laidlaw, help make sense of it all. I’ve drawn on her expertise personally and professionally and want to share a taste of her insight first-hand.
In today’s blog interview, Stephanie explores:
Common misconceptions about gluten allergies & Celiacs
The development of gluten sensitivities
Allergies versus intolerance
Tips for going gluten-free at home as well at out socially
Resources to amazing gluten-free recipes.
Sounds pretty good, right? Whether you’re curious if going gluten-free is right for you or simply looking for new healthy (and delicious!) fall recipes, check out the interview below. Feel free to skim through the questions that feel most relevant for you.
RFW: In your opinion, what do you think one of the largest mis-conceptions about gluten or a gluten-free diet?
Stephanie: Many people think when you say you eat “gluten-free” that is some type of sugar-free diet (maybe because of similar sounding glucose). I have also heard people confuse eating gluten-free to mean you can’t eat whole wheat bread, but you can have regular white bread. And beyond those misconceptions, many others think that eating gluten-free is just a fad diet and something that you can cheat on every now and then and it’s no big deal. But that is simply just not true. And, for many of us, eating gluten-free cannot be something you can cheat on or a “fun new fad”. It is a diet that must happen to keep away extreme digestion issues, seizures, and many more serious health issues*. Eating gluten-free is more than some fad diet. It is a way of life, a personal choice and for many a way to live beyond a much more serious diagnosis. *RFW Note: Stephanie had struggled with years of debilitating symptoms until discovering that she did in fact have Celiacs Disease.
RFW: Is it possible to develop celiac’s disease or gluten sensitivity over time?
Stephanie: I am not sure of the scientific answer to this question, or even if there is one that can be really determined at this point. There is a lot of research that needs to be done on this issue, but what I do know is based on personal experience. I developed a gluten issue in my early twenties when my life was full of a lot more stress, hormonal changes and food changes. These changes triggered many new sensitivities that my body was trying to handle all at once. In the end I discovered that my body just can’t process or assimilate the nutrients in gluten. But, looking back, I do think that growing up I was more sensitive to gluten, carbs and processed foods. I just didn’t know how sensitive until my body reached its maximum intolerance. So many times it seems that gluten sensitivity is something that happens over time, yet with young children it is being tested and discovered very early on (which has never happened before in history!) So I think there may not be a very clear answer to this just yet.
RFW: Can you give us an example favorite gluten-free recipe for a traditional gluten-heavy dish?
Stephanie: Since going 100% gluten-free over 5 years ago now, I have had the journey of going through many holidays and experiences where gluten would be missed. From traditions over Christmas, to parties and gatherings with friends, you start to see more of what you may be missing out on. But, if you ever cheated or accidentally had some gluten when you knew it was an issue, you may find that it wasn’t worth it. Either the baked good or pizza just didn’t tastes as good as you remembered or the sickness and pain in the aftermath just wasn’t worth it either. So, to keep your sanity and your hope, you start creating old favorite recipes (and amazing new ones!) to fill the void. That is how my gluten-free blog started at www.glutenfreehope.blogspot.com. And I think one of my family’s indulgent favorites for dinner would be the Chicken Parmesan (minus gluten and minus cheese!) Here is the link:http://glutenfreehope.blogspot.com/2011/03/chicken-parmesan-gluten-and-dairy-free.html
RFW: What is the difference between a gluten allergy and gluten intolerance? What might symptoms look like?
Stephanie: An allergy is something you might find having more severe symptoms like severe digestive issues, rashes, or breathing issues. But to be honest, this list could get really long because when the body is fighting an allergic reaction many weird symptoms suddenly come alive. This could be itchy-ness, joint pain, headaches and the list goes on. And intolerance is usually described as something that has a level of tolerance, so the person would be able to eat and digest a certain level of the allergen like gluten or dairy or nuts, but then they would at some point have too much and their body would have a reaction. So people who describe themselves as having “an intolerance” usually know their level of how much they can handle and don’t cross that line in order to avoid symptoms. I personally do not believe that there is much of a difference. I think that if you are sensitive to gluten that you should not eat it regardless if you can handle a little bit. My reason for believing this is because I know that the body is still trying to digest something that is has a hard time dealing with, so you may not have your typical symptoms, but you really are causing your body to work overload in trying to work smoothly. So this is not good for healing or your long term health. That is why I think these lines are blurry and many people cheat here and there and suffer in the aftermath.
RFW: Is there separate testing for both? What would you consider the most reliable method?
Stephanie: As far as I know, you can get your blood tested for Celiac’s disease, and that will indicate your levels on how severe your issues with gluten would be. This test can be ordered by your Primary Care Doctor. I think anything over level 30-ish shows an indication that you have a level that is high and that your body is rejecting the gluten. So even with this test, if you could be “high or low” on the scale, so it is not always considered the last-stop answer or reliable. I also know that you can get allergy testing done, and this is usually done by getting a series of needle pricks to your back or arm and will indicate what allergens (including gluten and other foods) are causing your to have allergic symptoms. Personally, I think these tests will help give you an idea of if your body is responding negatively to gluten. But it would be your choice to what you do with that information. If you are getting higher numbers of gluten issues, then I would say that is a pretty clear answer that you need to stay away from gluten. And, I bet if you decide to do this, you will see many more symptoms start to disappear as well.
RFW: Do you think most people would benefit from eliminating gluten from their diet?
Stephanie: I actually do believe that all people (in our day of age) would benefit from eliminating gluten from their diet, even just for a month at best. Let me explain. Because so much of our food today is genetically modified, and wheat and gluten grains being up with the worst factory farm and genetically processed product that it has become an ingredient that our bodies no longer recognize. That is unless one is eating fresh from the non-GMO plant. But the honest trust is that most people are not eating pure wheat or other gluten grains, and the processed stuff is found in everything. So basically our bodies have been hijacked with the fake stuff and it is causing many of our bodies to be working overtime in getting the toxins and crap out. Eating gluten-free will not only help your digestion, but it will give your liver, kidneys and heart a break. It is all connected. So if you are just an average person trying to clean up your diet and body I would suggest a gluten-free diet for at least a month to help that clean up process, and then if you do not have an allergy you would be best to just start eating whole grain wheat from that point on.
RFW: Where can people find some of your delicious gluten-free recipes?
Stephanie: All of my recipes, resources, other gluten-free inspiring blogs are found on my blog website: www.glutenfreehope.blogspot.com. Check it out and leave me a comment on one of your favs.
RFW: Any words of encouragement for those striving for gluten-free living?
Stephanie: Don’t cheat! As hard as it is, the longer you don’t cheat the more results you would see. Also…make your food at home. Don’t try and find GF restaurants or make friends worry too much about your diet. Just slow your meal times down and start very simple. Sticking with fruits and veggies is best and then add in the gluten-free grains and proteins to supplement. Oh and another thing…don’t let the GF diet be a death sentence or prison and don’t let others around you spend time in prison either. Try your best to stay positive, and remember there really is a lot of whole and pure foods you CAN eat. Start making that list and you will be surprised! I really could go on and on here though…:)
RFW: Your household is gluten-free, correct? What advice can you give to people who are going gluten-free in a gluten-containing household?
Stephanie: Yes, my household is gluten-free, but for the first few years it wasn’t. So I understand the difficulty. It truthfully is much easier to eat GF when the rest of the house does. It is your support system and your home-base, and when you have that kind of safe GF haven, then you are definitely prone to more success and happiness. BUT, I know that is not always possible. So I always suggest that you have “2 pantries” One that is GF and one that isn’t. That way you don’t have to have each other spying on each other’s foods and having temptations (and vis versa). If you can’t have two pantries, then at least try and have one separate cabinet or shelf that is GF. Also, soap and hot water works magic on any gluten contaminated surface or cook ware, so don’t be too afraid of mixing utensils after washed. But if you are super sensitive, I would suggest being very strict about your GF areas in the kitchen. You have to do what works for your household and try and be flexible as much as you can!
RFW: Let’s say you are new to gluten-free eating, and you have a dinner party coming up. What is the simplest thing to say to friends and/or servers to make sure you are taken care of?
Stephanie: Make sure you are as clear as possible! This was hard from when I first started because I hated being an inconvenience. But the truth is that it is only hurting everyone if you are not clear and up front. So if this means you are going to a party or gathering, then call ahead and find out what the food is and even see if there is something you can help with or bring. This is usually how I can make sure I am covered for food. Most of the time I will bring along a great big salad or quinoa dish or other veggie side dish that I know I can for sure eat and then also share with the group. That way you know you have at least 1 thing you can eat and it always is a great way to share your good food with others as well. Or I sometimes just say I will bring a dessert if I know the dinner menu will be GF regardless if it is some side of meat and veggie. That way if you are sharing a simple GF dessert you know for sure you don’t have to say NO when it comes your way. Can you tell I have a sweet tooth?
A big thanks to Stephanie for sharing her wisdom.