Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Gluten free is a big deal right now.  Thankfully, a new breed of medical doctors are emerging who are putting together the chronic illness/diet relationship.  The question is, have we as a species always had a problem with cultivated grains, or is this an across-the-board weakness that has come about for another reason?

The food I was offered was cow’s dairy which I do not tolerate.  Within the first three months of my life, gluten grains (which are very complicated and hard to digest) in the form of boxed Pablum were pushed.  Realize it takes humans a full eight years to develop a fully functioning digestive engine.  Some adults still have an underdeveloped or damaged gut, and are limping through life struggling to be well.

Baby Boomers are the Pablum generation
Baby Boomers are also the front line generation of test subjects in the consumption of genetically manipulated food.  This started with the hybridization of grains to create more disease resistant crops.  As a result, my generation has had ‘Franken-food in our diets for decades starting with hybridization and moving on to more complex and evil manipulation of genetics.

We are part of a wacky experiment
When we eat meat that has been genetically altered, this is a different creature than ‘cow’ or ‘chicken’. These new creatures change us physically in unpredictable ways.  How we individually and collectively respond to genetically altered foods is at best, a very wacky experiment, where nobody is particular is paying attention to the results.

My adventures into the diet revolution began in 1984.  My daughter was suffering from repeated ear infections and had been treated with repeated antibiotics.  When I was told she needed a surgical procedure to put tubes in her ears, I freaked out!  At this point I took my daughter to see a herbal/nutritional practitioner.

When I was told to eliminate dairy and wheat from both our diets, I didn't have the substitution choices that I see today in most grocery stores or health food stores.  What I did instead was to explore Asian recipes where dairy and wheat was not staple ingredients.  Later on I introduced moderate amounts of goat and sheep based cheeses as a treat item.

For some people, gluten may be at the root of many chronic health issues
For any kind of inflammatory conditions and degenerative conditions, eliminating gluten is a reasonable place to begin.  It isn't going to be easy because gluten will be hidden in to many things.  Any form of commercial thickeners including soup bases or corn starch may have gluten added.  Always look for ‘gluten free’.

I have a few clients who have been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.  They avoid all gluten.  By sticking to a strict gluten free diet they have been able to reduce and avoid flare ups.  One person is on no medication, and the others on reduced medication.  In my world there are other factors with any auto-immune condition that have to do with modifiers and DNA.  There is more to change and heal rather than just a list of what one must avoid.

In my world, grains work well for some people and not for others. If you do well with organic grains, spelt or kamut may be a reasonable substitution if wheat is a problem, but again why push the same thing day after day. There are a variety of grains, oats, rye, barley, rice, wild rice, teff, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat.  Add spelt and kamut to that list and you have a working diet – Unless gluten sensitivity or  is an issue.  In this case avoid all gluten grains: wheat, spelt, kamut, rye, barley, buckwheat.

To many people, 'the staff of life' is the processed thing that comes out of a box.  This is a processed food. Many people also use bread as a constant in their diet.  Flour is a processed food that acts like glue in the gut.  Try cooking real grains opt for eco-friendly containers to tote instead of the never ending sandwiches.

For gluten free thickeners try making a roux (French style of cooking gravy).  Just cook a tablespoon of starch (tapioca, arrowroot is a good substitute for cornstarch or any flour) in 2 tablespoons of hot oil in a saucepan,  cook it for a minute, then add liquid; water, nut/seed milk, broth or leftover vegetable cooking water a little at a time and stir like crazy until you get the gravy thickness you are looking for.  I use this as a thickener for soups and sauces.

Soaked/sprouted grain breads may be a good choice for some people when consumed moderately, but again, the whole bread thing is overdone in people's diets generally.  You can freeze the loaf and take one out at a time as a treat.

Dairy Substitutes

I use all kinds of milk-like things.  Almond milk (soak nuts overnight, strain off soaking water, add filtered water in a blender and blend the be-jiggers out of it.  Strain and voilà!). Seeds take much less soaking time, but can be made into milks as well.  I also like coconut milk and cashew milk. Variety is the thing.  I like soy but use the commercial stuff very sparingly.  Rice or rice/almond may be good as a milk substitute.

Just a note that you can 'milk up' nut butters by adding hot water gradually in small amounts, and stir like crazy.  Add Braggs or tamari, dry mustard or Dijon mustard, parsley, garlic.  Flavour it up in any way that you prefer.  Consider making a sauce out of sesame seeds (Tahini sauce), peanuts (Satay) almonds, cashews, hazelnuts sunflower or really any nut or seed you like and tolerate well.

Red Star brand nutritional yeast has a cheesy taste and you may like this instead of the pricey cheese substitutes.  Is one of my favourite things for popcorn or as a Parmesean substitute or when I want to make a roux-cheese-like sauce.  You can try other brands of nutritional yeast, but Red Star so far anyway, has the best taste.

For anyone willing to make radical changes in the pursuit of better health, I would suggest to stay away from all dairy products and all gluten grains and the by-products of these staples.  Lactose free alone may not work.  Lactose free means that they have removed the milk sugars, but all other bits are still there.  For example I am fine with lactose, but don’t tolerate the beta-albumin proteins in cow’s milk.

If I am going to be part of an experiment I would prefer to be in control of it.  Eliminate gluten and dairy for 12 weeks and see what happens.  You just might feel better.  If you add it back in to your diet and you feel worse, you have just had the experience of a successful experiment.

As usual, these comments are not meant to prescribe or diagnose, but are offered as ‘food for thought’.

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