How Long Did It Take For You To Be Diagnosed With Celiac Disease? Your Body Needs Healing Foods: Gluten-Free Junk Food is Still Junk Food

Are you one of many on a gluten-free diet but still experiencing pain and discomfort due to arthritis, headaches, numbness or diabetes? Are you frustrated, rightfully so, because your doctor wants to prescribe medications that mask the symptoms but don’t cure the problem? The average length of time it takes for a symptomatic person to be diagnosed with celiac disease in the U.S. is four years. Imagine if you are asymptomatic- the time could be double, even triple. In Dr. Fasano’s landmark prevalence study on celiac disease (1), 60% of children and 41% of adults diagnosed during the study were without symptoms. A lot is happening in the body during those undiagnosed years and it takes more than replacing wheat bread with gluten-free bread to heal the damage and achieve good health.

For years your body was a war zone- literally. If you have an autoimmune disease like celiac, your immune system launches an attack on the lining of the small intestine. The small intestine is lined with tiny fingerlike projections called villi, which secrete digestive enzymes and absorb nutrients. With celiac disease, the villi are damaged or destroyed, resulting in the poor absorption of nutrients such as magnesium and zinc, which can lead to collateral damage in other systems because everything in the body is interconnected. Think of a spider’s web- if there is a kink in one area, there is tension and stress somewhere else- and then that area affects another part until the whole web is contorted and out of balance. This phenomenon explains why people who are gluten intolerant experience over 200 symptoms such as headaches, skin rashes, thyroid problems, fatigue, and fertility issues.

All this destruction takes place in the form of inflammation because the immune system battles invaders by releasing toxic chemical molecules. In the gastrointestinal tract, the release of these chemicals causes inflammation of the gut lining, and as the gut lining becomes inflamed large foreign particles, such as proteins, bacteria, viruses and yeast, are allowed to slip through the damaged intestinal wall and into the bloodstream. The body then recognizes these substances as foreign and releases further antibodies in an attempt to expel the intruders from the body, causing more inflammation, further increasing the permeability of the intestinal wall, and resulting in a leaky gut.

A growing body of evidence suggests that virtually the same trio of factors underpins most, and perhaps all, autoimmune diseases: an environmental substance that is presented to the body (in the case of celiac disease the trigger is gluten), a genetically based tendency of the immune system to overreact to the substance, and an unusually permeable gut. Going gluten-free will repair you intestinal villi, but what about the rest of your battered war torn body?  Once diagnosed it is important to eat not only gluten-free, but an anti-inflammatory diet of healing foods so your body can repair, rebuild, and rejuvenate. Restoration could take years depending on the damage done due to years of misdiagnosis.

How can you eat a healthy healing diet? Eat more plants! Focus on fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, lean protein, whole grains such as quinoa and buckwheat, and good fats such as coconut oil- not a diet filled with gluten-free processed foods made from oxidized oils. Junk food is junk food, whether made with refined gluten-free flours or wheat. Yes it takes planning, time and a little extra effort but the reward is fewer sick days and doctor visits. Once you feel better, you will have the time and energy to continue to eat healthy. The tension and stress on the spider web will begin to release and you will experience a high quality of life. Feeling good is happiness.  And luckily, there are more and more gluten-free, vegan and raw food options available to help make us happy. For more information go to  http://www.hailmerry.com/changeyouroil and http://www.foodphilosopher.com/.

(1) A. Fasano, I. Berti, T. Gerarduzzi, T. Not, R.B. Colletti, S. Drago, Y. Elitsur, P.H.R. Green, S. Guandalini, I. Hill, M. Pietzak, A. Ventura, M. Thorpe, D. Kryszak, F. Fornaroli, S.S. Wasserman, J.A. Murray, K. Horvath. Prevalence of celiac disease in at-risk and not-at-risk groups in the United States: a large multicenter study. Arch Int Med 2003;163:286-292.

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Gluten-Free Casein-Free Oat Rolls for a Leaky Gut

In the past blogs, I have discussed how inflammation is the underlying cause of most chronic and autoimmune disorders. But for many who suffer from diseases such as arthritis, colitis and fibromyalgia, the big question is “What triggers the inflammatory reaction in the body?” Simply, the food we eat.

Food allergies and intolerances have been implicated in a wide range of medical conditions, affecting every part of the body: from mildly uncomfortable indigestion, to embarrassing diarrhea, to severe illnesses such as celiac disease and affecting over 60% of the U.S. population. The inflammatory reaction occurs when an ingested food molecule acts as an antigen, a substance that causes the immune system to produce antibodies against it. When you ingest something your immune system does not like or perceives as undesirable, it attacks by means of inflammation. When inflammation occurs, chemicals from the body’s white blood cells are released into the blood or affected tissues in an attempt to rid the body of foreign substances. This release of toxic chemicals increases blood flow to the area and may result in irritation, redness and swelling (think arthritis). The common thread in all these conditions is an unusually permeable gut caused by inflammation in the small intestine as a response to the food we eat- mostly wheat, sugar and acid forming foods like polyunsaturated oils and beef. With a leaky gut, undigested food proteins, bacteria, viruses, and even yeast can escape into our blood system thru the inflamed cell walls of the small intestine. The body recognizes these proteins as foreign invaders and our immune system attempts to fight them off causing more inflammation which sets the stage for various chronic and autoimmune disorders including IBD, lupus, allergies, asthma, even eczema. For more information go to http://www.foodphilosopher.com and The Gluten-Free Good Health Cookbook.

What can we do to heal a leaky gut? Eat a varied seasonal diet based on whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, lean protein, and monounsaturated fats that contain omega 3 oils. Avoid common foods that cause an inflammatory response in the body, such as wheat and sugar, which are commonly used in many processed foods. Other allergenic foods include soy, milk, eggs, and peanuts.

Below is a bread recipe free of common allergens but high in flavor. Each roll contains more than 3 grams of fiber (10% recommended daily intake) and almost 600 milligrams (50% of the minimum recommended daily intake) of anti-inflammatory omega-3 oils due to the chia seeds, oats and whole grain gluten-free flours. Chia seeds are a nutritional bonanza in a tiny package. Each tablespoon contains 65 calories, 2.5 grams protein, 4 grams of fiber and 1755 milligrams of omega-3 oils, plus they are chock full of antioxidants and alkalizing minerals such as phosphorous and manganese. Good health can be delicious and gluten-free. These rolls have a crispy crust, a delicate inside and a wonderful wholegrain flavor. I love them toasted and of course fresh from the oven. Enjoy!

GFCF Oatmeal Rolls with Chia Seeds

Makes 12 rolls

1 cup gluten free oat flour

1/2 cup teff flour

1/2 cup sorghum flour

1/2 cup potato starch

1/2 cup tapioca starch

3 tablespoons sugar

4 tablespoons chia seeds

2 teaspoons xanthan gum

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 packet (1/4 oz. each) dry yeast granules (not quick rise)

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons water (110 F)

Cornmeal

  1. Spray a 12-cupcake baking pan with baking spray and sprinkle with corn meal.
  2. Mix all dry ingredients in large bowl of electric mixer. Pour warm water (110°F) and olive oil into mixing bowl; mix until just blended. Scrape bowl and beaters, and then beat at high speed for 2 minutes.
  3. Scoop dough for rolls into prepared cupcake pan with an ice cream scoop. Cover with a light cloth and let rise in a warm place (about 80°F) for 40-50 minutes, until dough has slightly more than doubled in size.
  4. Place shelf in center of oven. Preheat oven to 400°F while bread is rising (do not use a convection oven).
  5. Bake in center of preheated oven for 15-25 minutes. Rolls should have a hollow sound when tapped on the sides and be light golden in color. Instant read thermometer should register about 200°F. You can bake them longer to make a thicker crust; the color will deepen, and the internal temperature will continue to rise. Remove rolls from pan and cool on a rack. Rolls can be stored in refrigerator for up to two days or freezer for up to three weeks; wrap well in plastic wrap and then foil. Refresh rolls with a sprinkle of water and rewarm in 350°F preheated oven; wrap in foil if you do not want a crisp crust (but open the foil for the last five minutes). Or microwave rolls for 15 seconds and then lightly toast.

Eating a Healthy Gluten-Free Diet is a Bargain Compared to the True Cost of Chronic Inflammation

Unhealthy diets cause chronic inflammation which may result in autoimmune diseases such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, Graves’ disease, lupus, celiac disease, and multiple sclerosis. Therefore, it is important to eat a diet of whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, lean protein and gluten-free whole grains.

There has been much discussion about the high cost of eating healthy. I see articles that recommend purchasing only the “dirty dozen” organic foods: peaches, strawberries, nectarines, apples, spinach, celery, pears, sweet bell peppers, cherries, potatoes, lettuce, and imported grapes. Others suggest growing your own organic produce. Eating less meat and more rice and beans has always been sage advice to save money. Some call for simply eating less. Whatever the call to action, I have yet to see someone explore the real cost of eating unhealthy. So I decided to look at some of the costs of being unhealthy and compare those numbers to the food cost of eating healthy.

How much more does it cost to buy healthy food? A 2006 study in the Journal of Nutrition1 examined actual long-term costs associated with a change from a traditional western diet (high in sugar and saturated fat) to a Mediterranean diet (high in vegetables, fruits, and omega-3 fats) in people who had suffered their first heart attack. The results showed that patients spent only an extra $10 a month on food. The study did not account for differences in the cost of health care or medicines. Just food! For $10 a month in food, the Mediterranean diet group went on to have a much better quality of life and more time with family and friends. The group experienced a 40% decrease in deaths from all causes and a significant reduction in minor health problems, including chest pain and non-fatal strokes.

Several medical studies have shown that people who eat five or more servings of vegetables a day have a lower risk of chronic disease, which is a disease that lasts longer than three months2, 3, 4. An unhealthy diet is a major contributor to long-term disease. So we started exploring the cost of chronic disease. An October, 2007, Milken Institute study, “An Unhealthy America: The Economic Burden of Chronic Disease”5 reported that seven chronic diseases—cancer, diabetes, hypertension, stroke, heart disease, pulmonary conditions, and mental illness—cost the nation $1.3 trillion annually, including $277 billion for treatment and nearly $1.1 trillion in lost productivity. This sum equates to $361 per month per American for 2007 for just those seven diseases. This number implies that treating chronic disease costs more than the extra cost of eating healthy.

What about the cost of eating food that gives you an allergic reaction, gas, or diarrhea or causes constipation? The Consumer Healthcare Products Association estimates that three out of four Americans take an over-the-counter (OTC) product to treat common everyday ailments like heartburn. In 2007, Americans spent approximately $17.7 billion on all OTC medicines, including an astonishing $1.4 billion on heartburn medicine alone (The Nielsen Company, 2008). This sum equates to $5 per month per American for 2007. It seems that super-sizing isn’t always a bargain.

OTCs can save the cost of a doctor visit, but sometimes a doctor visit is necessary. The 2003 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development health data claims the average American visits the doctor 9 times per year. It is safe to assume that sick people visit the doctor more often than healthy people. If you are fortunate enough to have health insurance, the average copay is $20 to $30 per doctor visit, or approximately $225 per year. If hospitalization is necessary, the average annual out-of-pocket expenses for hospitalization and outpatient are $1150 for individuals. Therefore, chronically ill people with insurance may average monthly copay and out of pocket expenses of at least $115. Wow, it doesn’t take long before being ill costs real money. We haven’t even discussed the cost of prescription drugs or home care.

Let’s add these numbers up: $361 + $5 + $115= $481 per month or $16 per day. That’s a lot of broccoli, especially when you buy the organic four-pound package at Costco for $6. Even an individual membership to an upscale gym is less than $4 per day. In closing, the numbers speak for themselves: eating healthy is a bargain compared to the cost of being chronically ill.

For more information about eating a healthy gluten-free diet go to http://www.foodphilosopher.com/index.cfm.

References:

  1. Dalziel, K., Segal, S., de Lorgeril, M. 2006. A mediterranean diet is cost-effective in patients with previous myocardial infarction. Journal of Nutrition, 136:1879-1885.
  2. Liu, S., Manson, J.E., Stampfer, M.J., Holmes, M.D. 2001. The effect of fruit and vegetable intake on the risk of coronary heart disease. Annals of Internal Medicine, 134: 1106-114.
  3. He, F., Nowson, C., MacGregor, G. 2006. Fruit and vegetable consumption and stroke: meta-analysis of cohort studies. Lancet 367: 320-326.
  4. Appel, L.J., et al. 1997. A clinical trial of the effects of dietary patterns on blood pressure. New England Journal of Medicine 336: 1117-1124.
  5. Milken Institute Press Release, October 2, 2007. Annual Economic Impact of Chronic Disease On U.S. Economy Is $1 Trillion. Retrieved from http://www.milkeninstitute.org/newsroom/newsroom.taf?cat=press&level1=new&function=detail&ID=129