Category Archives: Gluten Free

The Wheat Series- Part 4: Wheat and Your Mind

In the other blog posts in this series (read Part 1, 2, and 3) , we have seen how wheat can affect our blood sugar, metabolism, and immune system. In this post I wanted to discuss something that was VERY surprising to me when I first learned about it, how much gluten can affect our minds.

I was a psychology major in college (before I went back to school to become a dietitian) and my interest in psychology and health remains (I even thought about doing a PhD in health  psychology). I have seen that many patients struggling with mental illnesses (bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, etc), who also had issues with diet and weight. I would say that when I worked with the pre-gastric bypass population about 50% (or maybe even more ) of those patients struggled at some point with anxiety, depression, or other psychological disorders. I always thought that the mental issue was affecting the diet (overeating, under eating, binges, sugar cravings, etc), and never really thought that maybe the diet was contributing to the mental illness. That is until I heard Nora Gedgaudas speak at the Ancestral Health Symposium. Nora’s talk discussed how blood sugar regulation is key regulating the endocrine and nervous system, controlling our hormones, emotions and behavior. Surges in blood sugar are destabilizing because of the effect it has on insulin, leptin, and other hormones, stimulating over-arousal and exacerbating anxiety-related issues. Remember the effect that wheat has on our blood sugar due to its high content of amylopectin?

But, its not just the blood sugar surges that contribute to the mood swings, depression, anxiety, etc, its the actual gluten itself. Gluten polypeptides have been found to penetrate the blood-brain barrier. Once gluten is in the brain, it attaches to morphine receptors, the same as opiates. It has also been found that the drug naloxone (used to reverse the action of heroin and other opiates) blocks the binding of gluten to the brain’s morphine receptors. When naloxone was given to “normal” subjects (blocking the opiate effect of gluten), they consumed approximately 400 fewer calories from carbohydrate sources. Consumption of wheat can therefore lead to a mild feeling of euphoria and  when it is not consumed, people can experience withdrawal.

Nora, in her practice, has seen significant improvement in mental illnesses by using a gluten-free, Paleo diet approach in combination with therapy and biofeedback. If you are struggling with depression/anxiety or other mental issues, it may be worth a shot. For more information, there are several testimonials about anxiety, depression, and the Paleo diet on Robb Wolf’s site.

Paleo Day 9

Its been 9 days since I started the “strict” Paleo diet. Here’s what I learned so far:
1. Staying away from grains is not that hard. I just need to plan my meals/restaurant choices. If worst comes to worst there is always salad at most restaurants.
2. Staying away from cheese 100% is a completely different story. Most of the salads at work have some feta or other cheese on them. I had a little emotional issue on monday and felt like I “deserved” some expensive French cheese…I ate it with apples, improvement right? I am going to work harder on this part of it this week.
3. I am not seeing any “miraculous” results yet. My Raynaud’s is bad and my joints are a little achy. Maybe if I try harder on the cheese thing I might see a little improvement.
4. I have been doing great on the supplements. All it takes is a little planning to make sure I have the supplements I need. I don’t even notice the fish oil burps anymore!
5. My performance at Crossfit has really declined. This is the most frustrating part. Robb Wolf says that it should take 3 weeks to fully adapt. Right now I am about 1.5 weeks in…I guess I have another 1.5 weeks to really see improvement. It is frustrating now because I am exhausted during the workouts and am not used to it. Its really been a struggle.
6. I think I need to eat more protein. It is so easy for me to eat veggies and fruit. For the next week I am going to try to get rid of some of the fruit and increase the protein. I am going to get some recipes that include more protein so that I will get motivated to eat more.
7. I have lost about 2-3 lbs..weight kinda fluctuates. I think that is pretty good for me in 9 days.
8. My occasional digestive issues are gone. I do love that about eating more fiber.
9. I really don’t feel hungry. I don’t really want to munch at night. I feel satisfied after my meals.

I think I am going to continue what I have been doing with a few tweaks. There are always things one could do better and be stricter about. Hopefully in another week or so I will start seeing the results I am looking for…weight loss, less joint pain, improvement in Crossfit…for now I will just have to wait it out.

The Wheat Series- Part 2

In the last post in this series, I discussed how modern wheat is different from ancient wheat because of genetic modification due to the need for greater crop yields. Modern Triticum aestivum (wheat) is unable to survive without human intervention, fertilization and pest control.  Kind of reminds me of Jurassic Park when the scientists made the dinosaurs  in the movie all lysine dependent (trying to keep them dependent on humans to live) then the dinosaurs mutated and we all know how that story ended…ooops! The point is don’t screw with mother nature, she knows what she’s doing.

Due to genetic modification, modern wheat is about 70% carbohydrate and is lower in protein than ancient wheat (read more about ancient wheat at www.growseed.org). The carbohydrate in wheat is 75% amylopectin and 25% amylose. Amylopectin is very efficiently digested and easily turned into sugar.  The specific type of amlyopectin in wheat is amylopectin A which has been called a “super carbohydrate” as it is the most readily turned into blood sugar of all the types of amylopectin.

In this study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, participants were given a diet of 70% amylose or 70% amylopectin. Those on the amylopectin diet had higher glucose and insulin responses after a meal. Due to the high amylopectin content, white bread has a higher  glycemic response than table sugar (according to the glycemic index). So why does this matter for health?

The reason it matters is because of insulin. As I have discussed in previous posts, high blood sugar (from amylopectin and other refined carbohydrates), leads to increased insulin, which leads to increased inflammation, and then to chronic diseases (diabetes, autoimmune diseases, heart disease, and even mental illnesses- more on that in a future post). Insulin is also a storage hormone and causes food to be stored…excess food leads to excess storage (ie FAT). The only way to get rid of fat is to allow insulin levels to decrease enough in the body so the fat can actually come OUT of the cells. So, due to its high amylopectin content, wheat elevates blood sugar leading to not only excess weight, but a whole myriad of other health problems. How is this a “safe” food again?

 

PS When I was writing this post, I came across this article from 2011 that basically says how great the genetic modification of wheat is. Ha! Enjoy!

Autoimmune Disease Rant

I’m sorry, I try to be positive. I try to look for solutions instead of focusing on problems, but today I feel like just ranting a little…for one day. So, here goes…

As many readers know, I have an autoimmune condition that has not been given an official diagnosis. Currently they call it “mixed” or “undifferentiated” autoimmune disease. Basically, we are waiting for more symptoms, so that we can give it an “official” name. Lupus? Scleroderma? Who knows? “We” (doctors) are just waiting to see where else in your body this is going to pop up so we can put a label on it. After a bout with pleurisy about 2 years ago, I finally agreed to take the medication Plaquenil. Its an anti-malaria medication that is shown to decrease inflammation levels. The problem is that after the doctor tried to convince me the medication was “mild”, he then said, ”oh and you need a yearly eye exam to make sure you don’t go blind from it”. Really? So the side effect is blindness? Great. I was desperate at the time, so I took it. I have been on it for about 2 years now.

A little over a month ago, I stopped taking it.  I decided to do trial run to see if I could stay off the medication. I have been pretty good with my exercise, Paleo diet, stress management, etc so I felt like maybe I didn’t need it anymore. It takes about 6-8 weeks to get out of your system, so I have been feeling the same for the last few weeks. Until maybe the last 3-4 days. Today its my knee that is aching. Last night it was the bottom of my feet. Over the weekend it was my wrists. I am afraid that my illness is going to come back full-blown. I am afraid I am going to have to get back on my medications. Or medications that are worse than the Plaquenil.  I am afraid that this knee pain is going to go back to how it used to be where I didnt even want to stand-up to walk my patients to the door. I am afraid my lungs or kidneys will spontaneously fail. I want off the meds, but I am so afraid right now.

I went to see an alternative doctor yesterday that put me on an even sticter diet plan. No granis, no dairy, no alcohol. I already knew that that is what I needed to do. The problem is that I think 100% compliance is unrealistic. For example, I was not pefect with my diet over the weekend, I ate Mexican food on saturday and some crackers and cheese at an Oscar party on sunday. BUT, that is not even two full meals of cheating. All my other meals were Paleo meals.   I feel that is as compliant as I am going to get.  Sometimes I want some spaghetti or Mexican food. I can’t live on 100% paleo all the time, I have a real social life. I can’t constantly live in this place of deprivation, eating salads and meat only. Never enjoying a glass of wine, cheesecake, or a delicious Italian dinner. Feeling guilty over too much fruit. I desperately want to get better, but I desperately want a balance. I want to eat a good diet, be at a healthy weight, feel good about my health and my life, and enjoy foods that I like from time to time and not be so afraid. I don’t know where that balance is….

My boyfriend says, that if I really feel that way, I should get back on the medications. That way I don’t have to be 100% compliant all the time (although I probably still will eat mostly Paleo, just because its better for me) AND I won’t have any pain. I just don’t know if I want to take that risk of getting back on the meds. I also can’t live with this diet forever, always trying to be more and more compliant, and never feeling good enough.

So, thats my rant for today. I am tired of thinking about it all the time. I am tired of reading the blogs, feeling my diet doesn’t add up, feeling that my results are not good enough or dramatic enough. My body is struggling with inflammation. I don’t know definitively why. Some say diet, environmental toxins, genetics, stress. I think its all of those factors. Just a big combination of things making my body freak out and attack itself. The solution as I see it today are 2 things: take the meds that could have side effects; or follow a diet that makes me feel sad and deprived that I will never be able to be 100% compliant with.  What would you choose?

Gluten: Why you should eliminate it from your diet

Since I have been having so much pain from the cheating this weekend, this week I am continuing my research into the Paleo diet and trying to come up with as many air-tight arguments as possible to present to my cheating self when the temptation hits. I have been doing a lot of research on gluten and autoimmunity so here is what I found…and it explains why my freakin wrist hurts so bad today….
Gluten found mostly in wheat, barley, etc (like many grains) contains a protein called lectin. This protein is not broken down in normal digestion and passes through the intestine intact. The passage of these lectins through the GI tract cause holes and irritation in the small intestine leading to what has been called “leaky gut”. These holes allow all sorts of proteins and other foreign objects (viruses, bacteria, etc) to enter the body.
Immune cells sit right outside the intestine waiting to attack these foreign invaders before they get any closer to the body’s vital organs.  This process would normally be ok and is used to protect us from viruses, bacteria and other illness….BUT…..the molecular structure of these proteins is VERY SIMILAR to the body’s other proteins…i.e.the structural proteins in my wrist, fingers, and whatever other body part has the “-itis” on a particular day. Therefore, the body has created a full scale attack against its OWN proteins. This leads to all sorts of autoimmune issues and inflammation…because inflammation is basically a reaction of the immune system. Compound this with general overall chronic inflammation from stress, lack of sleep, too much sugar, processed foods, etc and we have a serious inflammation problem! Its systemic inflammation, everywhere in our bodies! No wonder I have the “-itis”!!!
There is research out there which explains this process and its connection to autoimmune conditions. There have been several articles that have linked a diagnosis of lupus to gluten sensitivity, in rheumatology journals. Why didn’t my doctor tell me that?

So Why Does Paleo Eliminate Dairy?

We feed grains to cows. Cows are meant to eat grass, they have 8 stomachs for god sakes! When cows eat grains, they have the same immune reaction, causing an increase antibodies against gluten, and drinking their milk/cheese/etc causes these proteins to come into our bodies. Feed cows grass!

Healthy Holiday Gifts

I stole this idea from my e-friend (a friend I know over the internet but not in person- seem to have a lot of those) Kelly over at Paleo Infused Nutrition. She gave me the idea to do a little self-promotion and a promotion of my friends for the holiday season. So here goes!!

Book Recommendations

Looking for some reading material for the new year? Here are some e-books to check into by myself and some of my e-friends.

– Remember my best-seller called “How to actually lower your cholesterol?”, yes, the “best-seller” that sold all of 2 copies! Well, guess what??? Its still available! For purchase on the Amazon.com site. Check it out here.

– My wonderful e-friend Aglaee, Paleo Dietitian and world traveler, has not just
ONE but TWO e-books for sale. Since she travels so much she is an expert at eating Paleo during travel, so she wrote “Eating out and traveling on the Paleo diet” and her second e-book “21 myths about the Paleo diet debunked”.  You can get them both on her site here.

– Another e-friend who has given me a lot of free information about blogging over the last year, Tom Corson-Knowles has written an e-book on creating a business out of your blog. He has been very successful at creating his own business and living the life of his dreams. If you have a goal of being a pro blogger, start with his book.

– A REAL friend (who I know in person) Candace Morgan, RD has put together her family’s favorite healthy recipes. You can get your copy here.

Vitamins

– HUM Nutrition is offering special gift boxes this holiday season to get your friends and family off to a healthy start. I have packaged together some of our favorite products into bundles to help you reach your goals for ultimate health in the new year. Check out the “Skinny Box” if weight loss is your goal or the “Looking Fabulous Box” for glowing skin, strong nails, and shiny hair. They are also offering the “Ultimate Detox Box” for when you over-do it a little on the holiday cookies and the “Winter Boost Box” too keep you healthy all winter long!

– Looking to get your kids on the right track in the new year? Try the Smarty
Pants line of great gummy vitamins for kids (and grown-ups too!). They are one of the few kids vitamins that taste good, have omega-3s, and vitamin D! They are also a part of the Vitamin Angels network and donate a portion of their profits to help prevent vitamin deficiencies in needy children.

Cleanse Program

– I will be offering the “28 Days to Health” cleanse in the new year. January is a GREAT time to do a cleanse to get the year started off right. This is a gluten-free, dairy free, toxin free cleanse to maybe help you shed a few holiday pounds and make 2013 a great year for healthy eating! Keep posted on the date, but you don’t need to show up to the class to do the cleanse as all the materials are online. Contact me for more details!

Make it a healthy holiday and an amazing 2013!

The Wheat Series- Part 1

My time here in Brazil is allowing me to do some research into different topics I don’t really have time to look into in my regular life. I have been reading the book Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis, which describes how the genetic modification of wheat has affected human health over the last 50 years. I have decided to write a series on wheat based on what I learn from the book, including some of my own research on the topic. Hopefully, you will get more educated on this topic as well.

Why is it necessary to even genetically modify wheat or any products in the first place? Why not just leave things the way mother nature created them? The main reason is to increase crop yields is to feed a growing world population (now estimated to be at 6.98 billion). About 1/6th of the world is hungry and suffering from malnutrition. That doesn’t even include those who are undernourished and not getting adequate vitamins or minerals needed to truly thrive. For those of us who generally have too much to eat, not having enough food seems like a crisis, and we need to solve it! We need to feed these people! Everyone should have a chance, right? It would be inhumane to not help these people! Don’t get me wrong, I have a bleeding heart myself. I donated money to Doctors without Borders because I learned on the evening news that 25,000 children had died recently in Africa, I bought towels for the victims of hurricane Katrina when Oprah asked me to. I get the desperation to fix human issues like world hunger.

So, scientists were put to work to figure out HOW to increase crop production,  so we could feed more people for less money. Of course part of the problem is about power and social inequality more than it is about lack of food, but that is a whole other post. The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (IMWIC) located in Mexico, decided to start working on genetically modifying wheat to produce larger yields and make it more energy dense. Norman Borlaug, one of the primary scientists at the IMWIC, created a dwarf wheat plant (shorter than normal varieties) which could hold a larger seed, was disease resistant, and had a high yield. He won a Nobel Prize for this work and is called the father of the Green Revolution. He was able to help several countries, who were on the brink of famine, feed their population. This was an amazing feat! The dwarf wheat he created is now more than 99% of the wheat grown worldwide. This means all of us eat the wheat he created, people are being fed because of this genetically modified wheat. This is awesome right?  The issue is that none of this wheat was tested for safety….stay tuned.

Eating out to lower your cholesterol

It is best to eat food from home that you can prepare yourself, but life doesn’t always work out that way. The key to eating out and sticking with your meal plan is to be prepared. Most restaurants have menus online so you can check them out before you go. Salads are generally a good choice, just watch out for added croutons, tortilla strips, fried chicken, etc. A good salad should have at least 5 different vegetables and some protein. Use olive oil and vinegar instead of ranch or blue cheese as your dressing.

Here are Some Options When Eating Out:

  • Panera: Classic hand-tossed salad + chicken
  • Chipotle: burrito bowl or salad. No rice, no beans, add veggies of choice (salsa, fajita veggies, lettuce), double meat, guacamole.
  • California Fish Grill: grilled fish (no fries, rice, coleslaw or bread), add side salad
  • KFC: Chicken without breading, corn, green beans
  • In-and-out: Protein-style double-double.
  • Quiznos: Chicken Taco salad (no tortilla strips) or Classic Cobb Salad (no croutons)
  • Subway: Salad with all veggies, chicken, and avocado. Mexican food: Fajitas (any protein is ok), no tortillas, no rice, no beans, double vegetables.
  • Japanese food: Teppan yaki, eliminate the rice. Sashimi or hand rolls without rice. Soy sauce contains gluten (gluten free soy sauce is available at specialty grocery stores).
  • Italian food: Avoid pasta or rice. Choose grilled fish or chicken with a side of vegetables and lots of salad to start.

How to actually lower your cholesterol

As a Registered Dietitian, I have seen hundreds of patients trying to lower their cholesterol via a low fat, low cholesterol diet. Many patients come to me desperately trying to figure out why their cholesterol keeps increasing after years of avoiding fried foods, meat, bacon, eggs, and cheese. I learned in school,

that if a patient was not seeing results with a low fat, low cholesterol diet it probably meant they weren’t REALLY avoiding the foods they needed to avoid. Just a few years ago I believed that if a patient was truly eating lots of whole grains, very little fat, and avoiding red meat at all costs, they should have low cholesterol. But, after a while in this field, seeing one unsuccessful patient after another, I started to see that this was clearly not happening. How could ALL my patients be lying to me about what they were actually eating? Sure, there is a genetic component to high cholesterol and some people’s numbers are high no matter what they do, but these cases are rare. I didn’t feel that genetics was accounting for the lack of change I was seeing in my patients when they changed their diet according to my recommendations

The thing is that I was eating a “heart healthy” diet myself, exactly as I had learned in school. I knew I had a family history of high cholesterol and had to be careful with my diet.  But, even in following the traditional recommendations (and who knew them better than me?), my total cholesterol was over 200. My LDL (bad cholesterol) was borderline high. How could this be?  I ate oatmeal with fruit for breakfast, whole grain bread with fat free mayo, low fat cheese (or fat free, yuck!), and turkey for lunch, and whole wheat pasta with veggies for dinner! I used only olive oil for cooking, didn’t eat fast food, never ate anything fried, avoided eggs, and didn’t eat much red meat. Why was my cholesterol so high at only 27 years old? I had all the information and was following the recommended diet I had learned in school. Why couldn’t I lower my own cholesterol? Why were my patient’s struggling as well? Clearly there was something that was not right.

Part of the reason I became a dietitian is because I love how often the field changes, requiring a lot of research and constant learning to stay on top of all the new information. I like to try things out on myself before I make recommendations and don’t like to recommend diets if I am not seeing the results I think I should.  I couldn’t accept that the low fat diet I was following was not keeping my cholesterol under control, especially since I was following exactly what I was taught and what was fully accepted by the medical and nutrition communities.

So, I hit the internet and did some research, I desperately wanted real results for my patients and myself, and didn’t want to provide information that clearly wasn’t working. I attended a few “alternative” nutrition conferences to try to discover different ways of thinking about heart health. After a lot of research into what would actually lower my cholesterol, I changed my diet. I quit following the “recommended” heart-healthy diet and I added back many foods that I had been avoiding for years.

After 6 months on this new diet, my cholesterol went down 32 points, my LDL was down 27 points, now all within normal levels. I also convinced a coworker to try the diet with me and her total cholesterol dropped 20 points and LDL dropped 25 points after only 2 months. Her HDL also increased by over 20 points, and she was not exercising (exercise usually raises HDL)!

When I told my doctor what I had done, including the dietary changes I had made, he told me it was impossible, that it couldn’t have been my diet that changed my cholesterol. He said “You must have a different kind of metabolism from other people!” Really? Clearly, he was wrong, it was my diet. It’s not his fault, his area of expertise is not nutrition and he is just following what the rest of the medical community has accepted as dogma. When you know better, you do better.

So I wrote a program manual called “How to actually lower your cholesterol” to help people like myself who are doing everything they can, following all the recommendations as closely as possible, and still not seeing the results they want with their cholesterol levels. It outlines exactly what you need to do to get your cholesterol down fast.