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. http://wp.me/p4knIu-d

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




















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 🙂