Food Quality, and Quality Food by Lauren Kunkler

Freshest food for Everyone!

Freshest food for Everyone!

There is so much information about food, nutrition, diet, and health, that sometimes its easier to not worry about it, than to decipher this week’s controversy over chemicals in food, pesticides, GMO’s or factory farmed meats. Here, I want to make it simple for you to make good food choices, that are right for your health and your lifestyle. So, lets start at the top. Think of the absolute highest quality food with the most nutrition packed within it.

High Quality food generally would follow these common sense rules:

1. A plant that was grown from nutrient dense soil that has not been contaminated by toxic chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, etc) or genetically altered with genes from another organism (GMO).

2. A plant that was harvested at the peak of ripeness and consumed recently because as soon as the plant is picked it will lose nutrients over time (buying produce grown in other states or countries can be very old and may have lost much of their nutrients)

3. Animal products should come from healthy animals that live in sanitary and humane conditions, eating foods that they naturally eat (when animals are raised in factories, in poor sanitation, without sunlight, and consuming foods that they would not eat in nature, it causes animals to get fat and sick, thus requiring medications, antibiotics, supplements, and more. The animals are often given hormones to speed up their grown or milk production to have quicker turn over time, and more money for the farmer. These factors can also change the nutritive factors of the meat such as vitamins or omega 6 fats which are inflammatory)

4. Foods should be consumed in a way that is not damaging to the nutrients. (Burning food, processing food, adding sugar to foods all can change the body’s response to the nutrients in a negative way such as burning food can cause carcinogens and denaturing of protein, processing can strip nutrients, and sugar can block nutrients from being absorbed by the body)

5. The food that we consume should be sustainable. (This might sound “hippie dippy” but contamination of water, soil, and air due to farming and food processing is hurting all of us. We should grow a variety of foods, and raise diverse animals for food, keeping the ecosystem of nature in balance)

So, thats sounds easy right? Wrong! Think of all the food and beverage companies who would go out of business if we all started to eat by these 5 rules. We are bombarded by advertising, convenience, cost, and social barriers that keep us from these seemingly simply rules, and big corporations are counting on it. Think of all the restaurants that would have to close because the local organic food is too expensive. So what, oh what, do we do about it?

These next 5 tips are ways you can get quality food, without loosing your mind

1. Sign up at a local  co-op, farm share or CSA (community supported agriculture) that provides organic food and pasture raised, free range, or grass fed animal products and eggs. Talk to them about their practices and pick one that you believe is offering you the best quality (By paying yearly, farms can count on your business and provide plenty of produce without worrying that it will go bad, and its picked fresh and often with great variety available)

2. Cook at home (Learn how to make quick easy meals from your fresh quality food, and you will experience freshness that no microwave dinner could ever give you.You will be able to slow cook, steam, or sauté your foods to ensure they loose as little of their nutrition as possible )

3. Buy organic. (Its likely that a farm share will not be able to provide your household with all of the food you need, year round, so supplementing from the store will likely be necessary, if not, you hit the jackpot of all farm shares and you should be psyched! So, when you are buying food at the store,or farmers market,  stick to organic wherever you can afford to. When you are on a budget don’t be afraid of fresh frozen organic fruits, vegetables, seafood and meats. Sometimes you will also be able to find organic foods in bulk at box stores like Costco, so stock up and freeze it! Coupons are also available online or in the newspaper.

4. Grow food at home. (Sprouts are packed with nutrients and costs very little start, you just need seeds and a sprouting jar or container. Also growing fresh herbs is easy and year round and adds wonderful nutrition and delicious flavor to your food) During growing season you will be amazed what you can grow in your garden or even on the porch in a container. Beans, tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, radishes and squash are very easy and good to start off with. You can find low cost organic seeds online and ask your CSA or farm share about fertilizer, they will probably give you a great deal on compost and manure. Otheriwse, compost your vegetable scraps and make free compost that will really give your garden a boost)

5. Be part of the community and take action! (You don’t have to drive yourself crazy over this, and definitely don’t get stressed out over worrying you are not eating healthy enough. Use your energy for positive things like sharing your home grown or CSA produce with friends or neighbors, volunteer to start a community garden, share great deals you find on quality animal products and organic foods, take cooking classes on how to prepare these foods into delicious meals that you and your family will love)

I hope you enjoyed these tips and after reading them I hope you feel empowered to take charge of your food and your health! Stay positive and focus on what you want for your body. When you are full and nourished, there will be no room for junk 🙂


Gluten Free Living







Going gluten free can greatly improve your health but it can also be challenging, frustrating, tedious, and tasteless. Here are my top suggestions for living a gluten free lifestyle:

1. Mindset- Many people think that your only options are the few shelves at the grocery store with the bland overpriced highly processed foods. These foods are often loaded with sugar and lots of processed ingredients that may make you feel lousy. Here is where you have to change your thinking. Instead of looking at food that you “can’t eat”, focus on the foods you CAN eat! 

2. Now that you have determined that you will focus on what you CAN eat, lets take a look:

Proteins: all animal proteins are gluten free, with the exception of deli meats or processed meat products. Boars head is a popular brand that is gluten free. Milk is naturally gluten free but always check the labels of cheese products, ice cream,  and yogurt.  If you are vegan or vegetarian and using protein replacement powders, you still have to look for the gluten free symbol on the container (warning: if you are consuming soy as an alternate protein, only buy non-gmo soy)                                                                                                                Vegetables and fruits: all veggies and fruits are naturally gluten free so eat em up!  (does not include packaged items such as vegetable soup because these food products may contain gluten)                                                                                                                                                Fats and Oils: Naturally occurring fats and oils such as avocado, olives, nuts, coconut oil, seeds, animal fats, and dairy all are naturally gluten free. The exception here is in condiments such as salad dressings and sauces, so we will come back to that.                                                                    Starches: Starch containing foods are where we find lots of gluten. Safe starches include rice of all kinds, coconut flour, nut flours, legumes such as peanuts, lentils, and beans, including bean flour, all potatoes, tapioca, quinoa, corn and cornmeal, amaranth, buckwheat, millet, teff, sorghum, and soy.  There are many gluten free products that use these starches to make bread like items.                                                                                                                                                          Sweets and Condiments and Beverages: Here is where it gets tricky. You will have to get used to looking at labels in the beginning but after a while you will know which ones are safe. Some of the “sneaky” places you will find gluten is in sauces such as soy sauce, BBQ sauce, salad dressings, soups, seasonings, oatmeal, “meatless” foods, protein bars, frozen foods, candy, cookies, any packaged foods, and beverages like beer. 

3. Get some cookbooks! You may find it helpful to browse some cookbooks at your local bookstore before you buy. There are so many great options out there but if you build your recipes around foods that are naturally gluten free it will save you time and money and hours of baking and prepping food. Try some “Paleo” cookbooks too! Even if you do not follow a pale type diet, they do not use any wheat, so they will always be gluten free. Then, you can alter them to include the foods that you like. 

4. Unite with other gluten free eaters. There are many people going through the same thing as you, and sharing your struggles and success will help everyone. I will list some resources at the end.

5. Don’t feel bad for yourself. Be proud! Its not easy to relearn how to eat, and if you have to omit gluten from your diet, you will free yourself from this highly addictive food. There will be no option to eat gluten containing junk foods, and you will feel better and even look better because of it. You are doing great! 

Here are some recommendations on products, books, and resources for going gluten free:

My favorite gluten free pancakes:,

Amazing gluten free banana bread:

I love these GF pastas!

List of GF condiments:

Great cookbooks:   

The best book I have found overall-food and shopping guide:



Baking Mixes

 Arrowhead Mills Gluten Free Organic all-purpose baking mix 

 Betty Crocker Gluten Free mixes (variety) 

 Bisquick Gluten Free Baking Mix 

 Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free mixes (variety) 

 Chebe (pizza, breadsticks and rolls) 

 Cherrybrooke Kitchen (variety) 

 Gluten Free Pantry 

 Pamela’s Products (variety) 

 Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Brownie Mix 

 Namaste Foods 

 Cornstarch (Bob’s Red Mill FG Argo) 


 Bora Bora Bar 

 Kind Bar 

 Lara Bar 

 Nature Valley Gluten Free Roast Nut Crunch 

 Trio Bar 


 Food For Life White Rice Bread, Brown Rice Bread, Pecan Bread, Red Rice Bread, Millet Bread or Raisin and Pecan Bread 

 Food For Life Brown Rice or Multi-Seed Muffins 

 French Meadow Multi Grain (higher fiber content) or Cinnamon Raisin Bread 

 Rudi’s Gluten Free 

 Udi’s Multi Grain Bread 

 Udi’s Bagel 

Buns, hamburger and hot dog

 Kinnikinnick Hot Dog and Hamburger Buns 

 Rudy’s Gluten Free Buns 

 Udi’s Hamburger and Hot Dog Buns 


 Lundberg Farms Brown Rice Chips 

 Food Should Taste Good Sweet Potato Chips, and others 

 Tostitos Tortilla Chips 

 Garden of Eatin’ Tortilla Chips 

 Mission Tortilla Chips 

Cold Cereals

 Barbara’s Bakery Gluten Free Puffins 

 Chex 

 Enjoy Life Perky’s Crunchy Flax 

 Gluten Free Rice Crispies 

 Glutino Berry Sensible Beginnings (enriched) and Honey Nut Rings 

 Nature’s Path Organic Mesa Sunrise and Corn Flakes (also has “sugary” cereals) 

 Gluten Free Rice Krispies 

 Arrowhead Mills Maple Buckwheat Flakes 


 Back to Nature Gluten Free Multi-Seed, White Cheddar, or Sesame Seed Rice Thins 

 Blue Diamond Nut Thins 

 Crunchmaster Gluten Free Crackers 

 Glutino Crackers 

 Kinnikinnick Smoreables Graham Style Crackers 

 Mary’s Gone Organic Brown Rice Crackers (100% whole grain) 

 Orgran Buckwheat or Quinoa Crispbread (100% whole grain, GMO free) 

Frozen Meals

 Amy’s Gluten Free frozen meals and rice bowls 

 Amy’s Gluten Free Meals 

 CedarLane Gluten Free frozen omelet and frittatas 

 Dr. Praegaer’s Gluten Free Potato Crusted Fish Fillets 

 Ethnic Gourmet Gluten Free frozen meals 

 Glutino frozen meals 

 Ian’s frozen foods (chicken nuggets, corn dogs, fish sticks—fun foods, not every day foods!) 

 Kettle Cuisine soups 

 Organic Bistro frozen meals 

 Sunshine Patty’s (organic, vegetarian falafel and veggie burgers) 

 Tucson Tamale Company tamales 

 Tai Kitchen Gluten Free 

Frozen pizza

 Amy’s Gluten Free pizza (frozen) 

 Glutino pizza (frozen) 

 Udi’s Pizza Crust 

 Chebe Pizza Dough Mix 


 Bakery on Main (choose high fiber granolas) 

 Enjoy Life Foods Granola (allergen free) 

 Gluten Freeda Granola (made with oats) 

 Udi’s (made with oats) 

 Kind 

Hot Cereals

 Ancient Harvest Quinoa Flakes 

 Arrowhead Mills Rice and Shine Gluten Free Cereal and Gluten Free Yellow Corn Grits 

 Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Oats, Gluten Free Creamy Buckwheat, Gluten Free Cornmeal and Mighty Tasty Gluten Free Hot Cereal (some organic) 

 Gluten Freeda Instant Oatmeal (packets) 

Ice cream

 Breyer’s (except those with obvious gluten, e.g. cookies n’ cream) 

 So Delicious Dairy Free coconut milk ice cream 

 Dreyer’s (most, check online) 


 Ancient Harvest Quinoa Pasta 

 Annie’s Naturals Gluten Free macaroni and cheese (box and microwavable) 

 DeBoles Gluten Free Mac and Cheese (box) 

 DeBoles Gluten Free Pasta Lundberg Farms Organic Brown Rice Pasta 

 Tinkyada Brown Rice Pasta 


 Ener-G Pretzels (allergen free) 

 Glutino Pretzels (also chocolate covered) 

 Snyder’s of Hanover GF Pretzels 

Rice Cakes

 Lundberg Farms Organic Rice Chips 

 Lundberg Farms Organic Brown Rice Cakes 

 Quaker Gluten Free Rice Cakes 


 Tamari sauce (wheat-free soy sauce) 

 San-J Asian cooking sauces 

 Organicville BBQ sauce 

Shelf-stable meals

 Dr. McDougal’s Gluten Free lentil and grain bowls (just add water) 

 Thai Kitchen Gluten Free Noodle Soup Bowls and Stir Fry Noodle Carts (varying flavors) 


 Amy’s Organic Gluten Free soups (variety of types, includes chilis) 

 Kettle Cuisine frozen soups 

 Pacific Naturals Soups and Broth 

Sweets and Treats

 Ener-G Foods Cinnamon Crackers (these are sweet, and surprisingly high in fiber) 

 French Meadow Gluten Free Brownies 

 Pamela’s Products Cookies (box) 

 Kinikinik Cookie 

 Annie’s Natural Gluten Free Bunny Cookies and Fruit Snacks 


 Food for Life Brown Rice Tortillas 

 French Meadow Tortilla 

 Mission Corn Tortillas 


 Annie’s Naturals Gluten Free salad dressings 

 Glutino Breadsticks 

 Lighthouse salad dressings 

 Lundberg Farms Brown Rice Couscous (flavored, box) 

 OrganicVille Organic Gluten Free salad dressings (also some marinades and sauces) 

 Van’s Gluten Free Freezer Waffles, Pancakes and French Toast Sticks 

I hope you enjoyed this article, please feel free to post your ideas and recipes in the comments section!

Lauren Kunkler






Burger Be Warned



Step aside beef patties, there is a new “burger” in town!

We could debate about being vegetarian, we could battle over Paleo or low carb diets, and we could even dispute the health benefits of meat….but….not today. Today I’m going to talk about the one thing that health professionals DO agree on….


Now, you may be making that squeamish face reminiscent of your 3 year old when you passed him the creamed spinach, but I tell you, if you want a truly delicious way to eat more veggies, make them into a darn burger and be amazed how good and satisfying it can taste! You may be thinking “hmmm…she has a point, i could eat that gorgeous little burger she is showing in that picture”, but if you need more convincing, keep your mind open and forget all you know about those little frozen patty veggies burgers… THIS is NOT THAT! 

I have tried just about every veggie burger on the market and even many home made ones! The best part about home made is that you can make any way you want, and my recent acquisition of a handy cuisinart food processor was just the motivating factor to start the experiments! So here we go…

First Step: Get your ingredients.


This is the hardest and easiest part because you can put just about anything in the burger, just be aware of the amount of liquid in the different foods because moisture will ruin your burger. Here is what I used:

1 red bell pepper, 2 cloves garlic, 1 small white onion, 1/2 cup sun dried tomato, 1 cup white mushrooms, 1/2 cup peas, 1 cup of spinach, 1 small can water chestnuts, 1/2 can garbonzo, 1/2 can red beans, 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, 1/4 cup hemp seeds, 1/4 cup chia seeds, 1/4 cup + quinoa flour, 4 eggs +1

Next step: Toss it all into the food processor and pulse until well chopped but not puree (this pic is about half way there)


Now that we have a lovely mix, we have to add just a bit of salt, maybe a teaspoon… this draws some water out of the veggies and the chia seeds jump into action. As they absorb the water, they will become a bit starchy and help keep your burger together. You can let it sit in the bowl for about 15 min if needed. Next, you want to add 4 eggs to the mix. Your main binders will be the eggs, the chia seeds and the mushrooms. You can add any veggies but i would always include some sort of mushroom because in addition to adding a certain “meaty” quality, they also keep it together. Now form some patties, sprinkle salt and pepper on each side, and heat up a pan with coconut oil. Brown both sides and serve with a yummy mustard sauce or some ripe avocado. (If your patties are too soft, add more quinoa flour and some cheese (i like parm or feta) of your choice to thicken it until its about the consistency of falafel mix)


You will probably notice that there is enough mix to make a whole bunch of burgers and if you don’t think you will use it all, I recommend making a “meatloaf” with the rest. Take 1/3 of your mix and add the extra egg, some cheese, and breadcrumbs or oats and put it into a pie pan or bread pan and bake at 350 F for 45 min or until the top is all toasty. This will allow you to serve the “veggie burger” in different ways such as on top of a salad or along side some eggs and bacon.


With my “meatloaf” I decided to add it to a spinach and feta salad and make a whole grain mustard, coconut vinegar, and blood orange bitters dressing. It was amazingly tasty and made me feel awesome. I guess thats the point right?!




6 Cheap and Easy ways to Improve your Health



Is shopping at Whole Foods, buying organic, and spending loads of money on pricey supplements draining your bank account and making you stressed out?

Here are my top 6 ways you can be a better you, without breaking the bank!

#1. Sleep– Getting a good night’s sleep is more important than just the obvious reason than to have more energy and focus. While you sleep your body heals itself and recovers from the stresses of life like long work hours and exercise. The main timeframe of this healing and recovery happens between 10pm and 2am. What you may not know is that lack of sleep may be sabotaging your diet. Recent studies show that impaired sleep effects insulin sensitivity, which means that you may have higher insulin levels that can lead to fat storage and even type 2 diabetes. Hormones are also regulated during sleep and dis-regulation of cortisol can lead to fat gain, especially in the belly area. On top of that, when you are tired, your ability to make good food choices diminishes and those high salt and high sugar snacks will be irresistible. So what if you missed out on sleep last night, are you doomed? Luckily, in as little as 15 minutes, you can recharge your batteries with a power nap, or meditation. Score a 20 minute nap during your lunch break for more energy and alertness all day. This little bit can help you keep cravings at bay and even avoid the vending machine! The best thing about sleep, naps, and meditation is that they are completely FREE! You can even find free guided meditation and calming music free on sites like youtube.

Blue light, beware. Don’t forget to turn those electronics off an hour before bed time. The blue light given off from your tv and computer tells your brain that its daytime and can trick you into staying up later. You can try some tinted lenses to watch your late night shows, or download f.lux ( which tints your computer screen to a more orange hue after dark depending on your time zone.          

#2 Deep Breathing  It seems too good to be true, but here is a freebie health tip that you can do anytime, anywhere! Breathing exercises have been used for ages to calm women during birth,  talk a child out of a tantrum, help an athlete focus, and even slow down your heart beat. Taking a deep breath can relieve stress, regulate hormones, and help you feel invigorated. During practices like yoga, students are taught many poses and stretches, but the common theme is always regulating your breath. There are even apps that can track your breathing and heart rate and help you train to calm yourself down from stressful situations. You can find apps like HRV Sense, or visit the website Managing stress is one of the most important things you can do for your health so, sit up straight, take a big breath into your chest, and check out these unique breathing exercises:                                   

#3 Warm water with lemonThis quick and easy morning ritual can cost you pennies a day but bring you a wealth of great benefits. Squeeze half a lemon into warm water and sip it when you first wake up. The vitamin C and other goodies in lemons charge up your digestion and metabolism, and could even take the place of your coveted coffee. It will leave you feeling refreshed with its alkalizing properties, and give your skin a boost of its healing powers.It can also help freshen your breath! This is certainly a “power drink”.  In addition to lemon water try other powerful drinks like green tea, and even “bulletproof coffee”.   

#4 ExerciseAgain, no surprise that exercise can better your health. Luckily this does not have to require expensive memberships or clunky equipment. Walking is a great place to start. Just getting your body moving in any way will be beneficial and if you are up for it, you can do intervals of speed walking until you are ready for some for intense exercise. An interval for walking could be a 10 minute warm up followed by 60 seconds speed walking followed by 60 seconds easy walking and do this for about 20 minutes.

If you are ready for a more vigorous workout that can really get you in good shape, you might be ready for some HIIT (hight intensity interval training). This would consist of doing something like running in place, jumping jacks, mountainy climbers, burpees, jumping rope, or many other types of movements for 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds rest and repeated for 15-30 minutes. Thanks to sites like, you can find many workouts for free!

Resistance training is also a great option and this is when you work a muscle or set of muscles until they are fatigued such as doing push ups for arms, chest, back, and abs, or bench pressing a barbell. The idea is to put enough strain on the muscle that it tears and rebuilds itself into a larger muscle. The more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn to maintain it. There are almost unlimited ways to do resistance training and usually include your body weight such as in push ups, pull ups, squats, lunges, dips, and sit ups.

Another type of resistance training is called “eccentric” exercise, meaning that instead of contracting muscles by lifting weights, you release the muscle using more weight than you can lift, to stimulate deep muscle fibers. This often uses weights but you can do the “free” version with moves such as a push up position where you only slowly move down toward the floor and then use assistance to push back up. Check out this video for more information:

Unfortunately one mistake people make is using poor form or over doing exercise until they become hurt or injured. To avoid this it would be a good idea to hire a trainer to help teach you how to do each exercise properly and set you on a course of smart progression as to not go beyond your strength level. To save money on this, try convincing a few friends to go in on the trainer because they usually give discounted rates for multiple people. The next great tip on avoiding injury is to keep your muscles and tendons limber by “rolling” them out with a foam roller. This inexpensive piece of equipment is like having a daily sports massage and can really get into those knots and cramped area so your body can move more easily. Last tip on avoiding injury is taking the time to stretch properly. Classes like yoga and pilates are wonderful for elongating muscles and developing flexibility and avoiding injury at the gym (as long as you don’t over do the stretches and hurt yourself, remember, its not a contest!) There are wonderful inexpensive ways to do yoga such as: where you can pay a reasonable monthly rate and can customize a great workout to do from your computer at home.                                                  

#5 Attitude– Being positive may not always be easy but one thing you can do to lift your mood is to focus on a few simple things that may brighten your day.  Not only can thinking positive make you feel better, it can improve your health!                                                                 

“Gratitude” might be some hooey word you remember from “The Secret” but there is much more to it than just wishing for all your dreams to come true. Being grateful for what you have helps you put things into perspective. Reminding yourself to be grateful for the smallest things such as a warm house, running water, shelter from the storm, having enough food, having friends and family, and then appreciating these things, will make any person feel lucky even on their worst day. A practice that is particular to nutrition is to appreciate your food. Before you eat anything, think to yourself, “I am grateful for this food, and my body appreciates all the nutrients”.

Ask yourself “WHY”. Having a reason to press on or achieve your goals will help you to stay motivated and positive. Some people say “i want to lose 20 pounds” but what that person might mean is that they want to feel less bloated, have more energy, and look great in their favorite jeans. Staying focused on the “why” is a great way to stay positive and have a good attitude about making positive changes in their life.

#6 Sit Down Less Sitting for long periods of time may be more damaging to your health than you thought. Being sedentary is an obvious reason that you should be active but long periods of sitting can shorten your leg muscles, strain your back and neck and lead to leg, hip, back and neck issues that need expensive rehabilitation. Another downside to sitting all day, year after year is that your arteries and blood vessels actually become stiffer, leading to heart disease. Stay mobile with a standing desk, stretch your back and legs often, move around your office while on phone calls, try a few apps that remind you to take 5 min to walk around your office or workplace every hour. Another way to  track your movement is to get a cheap pedometer and try for the coveted 10, 000 steps a day. You can motivate yourself to keep moving with an awesome website: where you register a device such as a fitbit ( and earn points with your activities and those points turn into donations for charities! Super cool, and a great way to see how your activity is directly helping other people as well.

I hope you enjoyed these free and inexpensive tips, and let me know how they have worked for you! Thanks for reading,

Lauren                                                                                                                                       Nutritioneers

Why is everyone talking about Gluten?

Beat the Wheat

Beat the Wheat

What the heck is gluten anyway, and should I eat it or not?

Gluten is a family of protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and relatives of wheat such as spelt, triticale, kamut, farro, and einkorn. Up until recently, it was thought by many that the only reason to avoid wheat products was due to a disease called “Celiacs Disease” (different than a wheat allergy), which is when the immune system reacts to wheat by causing inflammation and damage to the intestines that eventually causes other issues such as malabsorption of nutrients and ailments associated.Currently there is no cure for celiacs disease and those affected must omit all gluten from their diet for life. Signs and symptoms of celiacs disease have a broad range, but include abdominal cramps, gas, bloating, fatigue, aching bones and joints, skin rash, and even infertility. Celiacs disease is an “autoimmune disease” and causes a reaction that leads to the immune system essentially attacking itself when the gluten proteins come into contact with the cells in the intestines. You can be tested for celiacs disease and I would highly recommend it if it runs in your family.

Why are people without celiacs disease avoiding Gluten?

Recent researched has shown that people can be suffering from something called “non celiac gluten sensitivity”. This is different than celiacs but may have similar reactions in the immune system when the intestines come into contact with gluten. People who are “sensitive” to gluten may produce more zonulin, a chemical released from intestinal cells that can break down their delicate lining, leading to “leaky gut syndrome” where proteins are able to pass through the intestinal walls and the unsuspecting immune cells waiting on the other side respond by over reacting, and possibly leading to other immune systems disorders.

How do you know if you have a non celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS)?

Well, there are more symptoms than I could list in one article and some people have no symptoms for years, but, the most common symptoms are gastrointestinal pain or discomfort, headache, brain fog, joint pain, weight gain, acid reflux, numbness in the arms, legs, or fingers and skin rashes.The recent “Gluten Summit” event got together over 100, 000 doctors and patients across the world to hear from the world’s experts about new symptoms, reactions, and diseases that are related to gluten consumption to shed light on the subject. This is useful because when a doctor is “stumped”, testing for gluten sensitivity should be an option for them. Because this is a newer development, testing is still in its infancy and not yet a totally reliable tool, though I don’t think its a bad idea. If you think you have an issue ask your doctor about testing for celiacs disease, gluten sensitivities, wheat allergy, and auto immune diseases. Testing may also be a good idea because you may want blood levels that you can later compare against. When you take gluten out of the diet, the reactive chemicals in your body may no longer be present, and skew the results.

I think I may have a NCGS so what now?

In my view, if you have consulted your doctor on testing, the next step would be to test yourself with a food elimination diet. Simply put, take all the gluten containing foods out of your diet completely. This may include surprising items such as potato chips, condiments, soy sauce, lunch meats, and salad dressings, so read your labels! Many people notice a difference within days and for others it could take up to 6 months. Fortunately, there is very little risk when taking wheat and gluten containing foods out of your diet if you replace the grains with whole food starches and quality fiber such as sweet potatoes, quinoa, rice, and vegetables. Be careful when choosing “gluten free” foods because many of these foods are loaded with sugar and artificial ingredients to imitate the food that its replacing such as gluten free cookies or pasta. Gluten free does not mean healthy, and it might not even mean gluten free because of labeling laws and cross contamination. So, choose whole foods whenever possible to eliminate the chance of gluten interaction. Another issue is over the amount of “whole grains” we should have in our diet. Much of the research i have found shows the benefits of whole grains over processed grains (which we have long known are unhealthy). They don’t show any compelling evidence to be required in the diet because they don’t  offer anything that can’t be obtained from other sources. Many claims for the health benefits of wheat come from fiber, which can be found in higher amounts in many plant foods such as broccoli, avocados, artichokes, legumes, and berries. It always a good idea to work with a Registered Dietitian or Nutritionist for help when making drastic changes in your diet.

So if I can’t have bread flour, cookies, pasta, bagels, and all my other favorite foods… what on earth am I going to do?

Well there is good news and bad news. Bad news first. Wheat has been found to have addictive qualities and creates an opiate like response in the brain. Getting wheat out of your diet may be challenging at first but when you ask people who have been doing it for a while, most of them say the same thing… “I don’t crave it anymore”. Just like getting off sugar, caffeine, or cigarettes, it can take some time to adjust. Get help from your R.D., nutritionist, M.D., Chiropractor, Psychiatrist, Naturopathic Doctor, Certified Gluten Practitioner, or anyone who has gone through what you are going through and can support you during transition.

Not everyone is sensitive to gluten but if you think you may be, then i hope this article helps. I have read so many accounts of people’s lives changing after finding out that gluten sensitivity was the unknown variable that their doctor couldn’t pinpoint. Testimonials are striking and link gluten to depression, schizophrenia, autism, asthma, certain types of cancer, auto immune diseases, and many more. Taking charge of your health can be one of the most liberating things you can do, and your body is one of a kind. Its ok if things don’t go exactly the same for you as they did for someone else. There are various online resources and community support groups to help you and your family on your journey.

Need a second opinion?

This is a very simplified and general article about gluten sensitivity and I highly advise that you dig into more information to see for yourself what happens to the body when our modern wheat is ingested. The book “Wheat Belly” by William Davis is the place to start in my opinion.”Grain Brain” is another great book. If you are a medical practitioner or want to deeply educate yourself on the most recent scientific findings from across the world, I would highly recommend Dr. Tom Obryan’s “Gluten Summit”, which I have referenced in this article. Also check out this site listing the top 30 online resources for people dealing with gluten sensitivities that covers things like recipes and tips for dining out.

If you are have having issues with food sensitivities but are not sure if gluten is the main issue, you may be interested in reading “Lose 7 pounds in 7 days” by JJ Virgin which is a food elimination diet and the claim about losing weight is in reference to your body being less inflamed when problem foods are eliminated. I have personally done this one and found it very helpful. Also you can check out “The Plan” by  Lyn-Genet Recitas, another food elimination diet but more geared toward food allergies and histamine intolerance, and perhaps foods that you never thought were causing problems for you.

Good luck and check out some great sources listed below,

Lauren Kunkler