You’ve heard the term gluten or gluten free somewhere, but you’re still wondering what the heck is this gluten business all about, right? Well trust me, I’ve been there and I am still learning new information all the time. When I was first diagnosed in June 2015 as being severely intolerant to gluten, a wave of confusion fell over me.
Time and time again I had observed all of the gluten free products on store shelves, I even knew a couple gals who were gluten free and I saw the GF bread at the farmers market, but I had no clue why one would elect to go GF unless it was just another stupid diet fad. (i.e. Atkins, South Beach, The Zone, etc.) Being highly unsupportive of diets, I always snubbed my nose to the gluten free living craze. I figured it was bound to fade out and it would be replaced by something new such as grinding animal bones into powder and drinking them in smoothies. I mean seriously, who knows what the next diet fad will be? That was until I started to learn more about my diagnosis and that for people who are indeed allergic, intolerant, or worse, have an autoimmune disease such as Celiac where gluten can do serious damage to a person’s digestive tract and make them very ill, gluten is no joke. What being gluten free means to this category of people definitely isn’t a diet fad.
Okay so what is gluten? It’s the elastic protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Gluten literally means glue in Latin. Do you love how doughy a fresh loaf of bread feels or how cake springs back from your fork after pressing down on it? That would be gluten doing it’s magic and creating the elasticity most people love and crave.
Not only is gluten found in a lot of cakes, cookies, breads and pastas, but guess what, gluten is also found in barley. Barley is in beer. Beer has gluten. Beer, people. I was so sad to learn this news. I don’t drink beer often, but with all of the valley breweries to choose from, I do enjoy having a glass of local craft beer here and there….I now weep for Mr. Pineapple.
The third biggest gluten culprit is rye, but I never really ate much with rye in it so I don’t worry as much about that. Gluten can also be found in other wheat related grains so take a look at this link for the full list. My main focus is wheat because wheat is in so many products. Even products you wouldn’t suspect, wheat can lurk, especially in condiments. Take a look at this list from Gluten Free Girl and my own research of where gluten can hide:
|soy, fish & oyster sauce||soups||licorice, hard candy|
|seasoning packets||natural flavoring||BBQ sauces, ketchup, mayo|
|chocolate||ice cream||broth and bouillon cubes|
|chipotles in adobo sauce||yogurt and other dairy products||miso|
|cold cuts, hot dogs||mole and Mexican sauces||beverages- iced tea, sports drinks|
|beer, vodka, wine coolers||breaded foods||oats|
So what was my first step with receiving the gluten free blues news?
Initially I thought…okay not a big deal. I will just take this with a 80/20 approach and as long as I’m gluten free most of the time, I can do this. No sweat. For the first couple of weeks I did just that. I mainly ate the same way I was eating before which was a diet rich in vegetables, fruit, organic chicken, fish, nuts, whole grains and dairy. However, a girl steers off the course sometimes and wants a brownie, crackers & dip, pizza or sushi. Or she goes out to eat and may order something that contains gluten that she would have never suspected. This is where I needed to tighten up and stop making assumptions that I knew what was GF and what wasn’t. I needed to start questioning more and accept that this will be a learning curve and it’s okay to not have a handle on this new challenge immediately. I needed to educate myself further and do some research.
Once given the diagnosis, a lot of stuff began to make sense. I’ve had digestive issues since all the way back in high school. I’ve always gotten sick from fried foods, anything with heavy sauces, pastries & cake, salad dressings, fast food, even beer occasionally. I had seen a Gastroenterologist in my early 20’s and had a colonoscopy at the ripe age of 23, but there were no polyps, cysts, Crohn’s or other diseases detected. The diagnosis was IBS. I was prescribed medicine and was on my way. The IBS was so bad that often I would have to plan my night around it. I never liked going to parties because if I had an episode, I didn’t want to mortify myself and hang out in the bathroom half the night. I was never tested for gluten intolerance or even told to change my diet so I didn’t. I continued eating the way most 20 something year olds eat, and suffered the consequences for many years. In addition to digestive issues, gluten can also cause brain fogginess, headaches, bone & joint pain, chronic fatigue, depression, diarrhea and bloating. I have experienced a lot of these symptoms especially the brain fog, pain, bloating and fatigue.
Interesting enough I don’t look at gluten free living as this life-altering complication I now have to face. I’m actually excited by the challenge to try and make myself healthier. Thankfully I started looking at my health differently in my late 20’s and I realized that diet is so key to everything. For the past 5 years or so, I have been on a quest of eating healthy, cooking, taking supplements, exercising and trying to live a healthier lifestyle. Once I recognized the diet and IBS connection, my IBS symptoms reduced significantly, but not 100%. Even with all of the positive changes I’ve made, there was still the gluten issue that I was unaware of until recently. Now that I have this piece of valuable information, I look at it like a piece of a puzzle. I have been looking for the missing piece for so many years and now I have it. I can choose to use this new wisdom to really get to that next step of feeling vibrant, energized and pain free.
I learned that when you are GF, there is no halfway. You are either gluten free or you’re not. This totally shot down my plan on just being 80/20 with it. Kerri Kreuger of Natural Healthy Concepts sums it up well…
The gluten-free diet is put into action to not only keep gluten damage from occurring, but to help your gut heal, too. In those with celiac disease and gluten intolerance, ingesting gluten causes varying levels of sickness. That sickness can last for days, and if you’ve been faithful to the gluten-free diet for any amount of time, you know how great being gluten-free can make you feel. So, why would you willingly make yourself miserable?
Well I guess I’m 100% gluten free then. I have read other information online about the havoc that gluten can do on a sensitive digestive system along with the wildfire of inflammation that it spreads into bones and joints. I want to feel better so I want to commit. I want to go GF for real, not just part time. It’s been almost 2 months now and so far so good. I have been exploring different gluten free products, cooking a lot more at home and researching GF friendly restaurants. I have had a few mishaps not by choice, but by not realizing there was gluten in something I ate (condiments and sauces are the biggest culprits for me). I am learning and that is okay. I’m also learning to deal with the comments from people like “well what do you eat then” or “it’s just this once.” Also the misconceptions others have about my reasoning or what gluten intolerance even is, and the label of being a “picky eater.” People often judge what they don’t know. Just because someone is GF, doesn’t mean they judge you for eating gluten. I’m a “picky eater” because I care. Sometimes I wish I didn’t, but I do. I am super excited to see where this road takes me on my path to wellness. How will I feel in 6 months, 1 year, 5 years? As a cancer survivor, I have dealt with a lot of medical issues that I had no control over and if this is something I can put a leash on and control to feel healthy and strong, you bet your bagels I’m on board.
Has gluten free living changed how you feel? Share below!
Granola always brings back sweet memories for me. I remember when I was a kid my dad would come home from work with one of those old tins, (you know the ones that had Christmas scenes on them, and were once full of some sort of Scandinavian cookies) and when he would shake it, we knew exactly what it was! Not cookies, but my grandma’s granola: simple, sweet and crunchy, the perfect granola! Now that I’m grown and have a gluten sensitive daughter we have steered clear of granola and my kids’ favorite, granola bars. Steering clear of this isn’t only due to gluten intolerance, but also because often traditional, store-bought granola can be overly sweetened, processed and if you buy it at a conventional grocery store it will most likely contain GMO’s. We don’t want that. It’s always best to make your own or buy an organic granola brand which assures you that it is GMO free!
After trying out a few grain free recipes I finally came up with a version of my own organic granola recipe that is kid and husband approved! I came up with a frozen organic granola bar which is pretty darn tasty too. I hope you give them a try!
Maple Vanilla Grain Free Organic Granola
- 1 cup mixed nuts (I used of a combination of pecans, walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts)
- 1 cup sunflower seeds
- 1 cup dried fruit (today all I had on hand was raisins)
- 1/4 cup flax meal or almond meal
- 2 tbsp. chia seeds (helps to bind)
- 4 tsp. nut butter (I used sunflower seed butter because my daughter is sensitive to peanuts)
- 1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut flakes
- 4 tbsp. coconut oil
- 2 tbsp. clarified butter (regular butter would work just as well)
- 6-8 tbsp. honey or maple syrup
- 2 1/2 tsp. vanilla
- 1-2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. sea salt
- 1/2 cup organic dark chocolate chips or bar chopped up (for Grain Free Granola Bar Recipe)
Preheat oven to 170 (if your oven goes to 160 that would be preferable)
Toss nuts, sunflower seeds, and dried fruit in a blender or food processor (or chop if you have neither), and process blend briefly, until nuts, seeds and dried fruit are broken up –you want different sizes of the pieces of nuts, seeds and dried fruit, some whole, some broken, some ground. You know, what makes granola, well granola!
Pour this mixture into a large bowl and stir in chia seeds, flax meal, coconut, and cinnamon.
In a small sauce pan, melt coconut oil and butter then whisk in honey, vanilla and sunflower/almond butter until smooth.
Pour yummy liquid mixture into dry, and stir with a wooden spoon until liquid mixture is evenly coated.
Spread maple vanilla organic granola out on a parchment lined baking sheet in an even layer. Bake for 20-30 minutes, stirring halfway through. After 30 minutes, it should be golden brown. Stir again, turn oven off, and let sit in the oven for 20 more minutes. Remove from oven and let it sit out and cool—this is when it will harden and get it’s crunchy texture.
When it’s cooled completely cool, break it up with your hands and store in an airtight container. Enjoy!
Grain Free Chocolate Chip Organic Granola Bars:
My kids and husband love these snacks! So quick and easy, and no baking required!
All you do is follow the above recipe, but when you get to step 5 let the mixture cool for about 5 minutes then add in the chocolate chips or chunks.
Then instead of spreading onto a baking sheet, I use an 8”x 8” baking dish lined with parchment paper and pressed organic granola mixture into pan. Stick it in the freezer for 2-3 hours and it’s done!
Take them out, cut them up and keep in the freezer for a quick grab and go snack that your children will love!
Do you make your own organic granola? Share your favorites in the comments!
A few years back, gluten free foods were not particularly tasty, but folks with gluten sensitivities didn’t have a lot of options – forget trying to find gluten free organic foods. Fast forward to 2013 and you can find a wide variety of gluten free organic products from breads to pastas, beverages to snacks.
Why Gluten Free Organic Foods?
The term “gluten free” covers wide territory and as people with Celiac disease and gluten sensitivities know, it’s not “one size fits all.” People sensitive to gluten have a variety of physical reactions to gluten and tolerance ranges from high to low which can result in mild stomach upset to life-threatening allergic responses. Unfortunately, a lot of gluten free foods are filled with chemicals and ingredients that aren’t good for you and can contribute to the problem.
However, there are a lot of gluten free organic foods now available so you can choose healthy foods within a gluten free diet. It still takes some effort, because not all foods are created equal. For instance, some oatmeal is gluten free, some is not. Bob’s Red Mill, a popular organic food brand, carries both a gluten free organic oatmeal and a non-gluten free organic oatmeal. As a consumer with Celiac disease or gluten sensitivities, there are lots of choices available, but you still have to read labels and pay close attention.
Where To Find Gluten Free Organic Foods
The first place to start is in your grocery’s organic produce section. You can’t go wrong with fresh organic fruits and vegetables as the mainstay of your diet. However, few people live on fruits and vegetables alone – and a natural addition to most diets are beans and grains. That’s where finding gluten free organic food options can be challenging. Bread, crackers, grains and other starches you might naturally add to your diet need to be carefully selected.
shopOrganic offers a wide variety of gluten free organic foods to make your gluten free shopping experience easy. We’ve created an entire section of gluten free organic and natural products just so you don’t have to hunt-and-peck looking for gluten free organic foods.
Needing to be on a gluten free diet used to be a very dull alternative, but thankfully there are hundreds of delicious, nutritious gluten free organic foods to choose from these days!
Gluten intolerance is on the rise in America. It seems like everywhere you turn there’s another article about gluten sensitivities. Estimates have shown that 40 percent of the population in the U.S. now suffers from gluten intolerance. Celiac disease affects 1 in every 133 Americans, but gluten intolerance that hasn’t been diagnosed as Celiac has risen dramatically over the last 20 years.
Gluten Intolerance and GMOs
Is it a coincidence that the increase began just when GMO’s came into the marketplace? In researching the correlation between the gluten intolerance and the rise of GMO’s I found quite a bit of evidence that pointed toward a connection. Researchers and food safety advocates are starting to take a closer look at the role that GMO’s play in this dramatic increase.
When a person has gluten intolerance and ingests gluten, the body treats that gluten as an invader and attacks it. During this process the microvilli in the small intestine are damaged leaky gut syndrome can develop. The gut wall becomes permeable and microscopic particles of food ‘leak’ into the body. Those particles end up in the bloodstream and the body responds to them with inflammation. This process can set the stage for a whole host of diseases from autism to irritable bowel syndrome and even cancer.
Jeffrey Smith’s documentary Genetic Roulette: The Gamble of Our Lives shows clearly how genetically modified crops are damaging the digestive tracts of animals. Because the Bt toxin in genetically modified corn kills insects by exploding their stomachs, Smith believes when mammals ingest that food, it creates holes in the gut lining, leading to leaky gut syndrome. This is one explanation for gluten intolerance increasing so dramatically since GMOs were introduced into the marketplace.
Not Just Gluten Intolerance
It’s not just gluten intolerance that has been on the increase but a whole host of digestive disorders: irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, chronic constipation, gastrointestinal infections, Crohn’s disease, leaky gut syndrome and acid reflux have all increased in the last two decades since the introduction of GMO’s
An unfortunate aside to this is that most gluten free packaged products are made with genetically modified ingredients. Unless you’re buying organic gluten free products, they will often contain corn, soy or canola that are genetically modified.
In the film, Smith speaks with health care practitioners who have had great success with their patients with gluten intolerance simply by removing GMO’s from their diets. It can take a while for the gut to heal, depending on the individual, but by eliminating any genetically modified foods from the diet, symptoms will reverse themselves.
If you suffer from gluten intolerance, make sure you’re looking for organic gluten free products. If a product doesn’t specify that it is organic and it contains corn, soy, or canola, chances are very high that there are GMO’s in the product. Look for the USDA Organic logo and read your labels carefully.
Now that my daughter is Gluten intolerant our whole family is adapting. This discovery actually turned out to be the perfect opportunity for us to make a change I’ve wanted us to make for years! As I see it, if one of us is Gluten free we all are! The problem is my kids love snacks… they especially love snacks with Gluten in them (pretzels, pastries, tortillas – oh you should’ve seen the waterworks). Snacks are huge in any house with growing kids and I was becoming concerned my daughter would fall to pieces if I kept telling her about the snacks she couldn’t have. After rummaging through my pantry and refrigerator the other afternoon I realized that this was actually going to be a lot easier than I’d feared. There are plenty of Gluten free snacks for kids today, and it just so happened that some of my kids’ favorite snacks were already Gluten free.
In this blog post I’ve listed eighteen Gluten free snacks for kids – and the rest of us too!
Healthy Gluten Free Snacks:
- Organic apple slices dipped in Almond Butter
- Fruit skewers (strawberries, grapes, blueberries, pineapple, melon balls, etc)
- Organic celery topped Peanut Butter(or Hazelnut, Sunflower, Cashew Butter, etc.) and raisins aka “Ant’s on a Log”
- Rice cakes with variety of toppings, my children’s favorite is the Chocolate Hazelnut Spread topped with sliced bananas
- Sliced vegetables (like carrots, celery and bell peppers) with salsa
- Dried fruits
- Organic Popcorn, some consider it junk food, but in moderation it’s not that bad! Sprinkle it with some nutritional yeast for some added vitamin B.
- Applesauce with cinnamon
- Plain Greek Yogurt with a couple drops of Dark Chocolate Stevia and Raspberries.
- Organic Corn Chips dipped in guacamole
- Nuts – Almonds, Cashews, Pecans, Walnuts, Hazelnuts
Gluten Free Snacks for a Sweet Tooth:
- Annie’s Gluten Free Chocolate Vanilla Bunny Cookies perfect for the kids.
- Fruit and Greek Yogurt “Sundae’s” top with Hemp Seeds and raw honey.
- Sliced Organic Granny Smith apples dipped in caramel sauce.
- Strawberries dipped in melted dark chocolate
- Pear and Greek Yogurt Tartine -Toast a piece of gluten-free bread. Dividing evenly, top with 2 Tbsp. apple butter, ½ thinly sliced pear and 2Tbsp Greek yogurt
- Chocolate bars – there is a variety of yummy, Gluten free options.
- If you love almonds then you must try these delicious treats by Laughing Giraffe they are Organic Raw Vanilla Almond Snackaroons and they will definitely curb that sweet tooth.
I hope these quick & easy Gluten free snacks help to get you started. Remember there are numerous options out there, so feel free to use your imagination in the kitchen and be adventurous!
One of the hardest parts of switching to a gluten free diet is that you start to feel like you’re missing out on all the treats, all the “fun” food. The truth is, just because you are gluten intolerant or sensitive, doesn’t mean there aren’t gluten free recipes out there you’ll love. My kids love cookies, and since we’ve all recently started a gluten free diet I thought I’d share with you one of their favorite recipes for gluten free cookies: Almond Joy Chocolate Chunk Cookies.
- 3 cups Almond flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 4 tablespoons coconut oil, softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup sweetener (organic cane sugar, maple syrup, sucanat,)
- 2 whole eggs, organic free range is best
- 1/2 -1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips or we like to use 1 dark chocolate bar shopped up into chunks.
Preheat oven to 350F. In medium bowl, combine the first 3 ingredients and mix well. In a separate bowl combine the oil, vanilla, sweetener of choice and eggs and mix well. Add the wet to the dry and mix until they’re well combined, then stir in the chocolate chips.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and form dough into tablespoon size balls and bake for 10 minutes or until tops are starting to get golden brown. The centers might be somewhat soft, but they will continue to firm up once removed. Let cool for 5 minutes. Enjoy!
Gluten Free Substitutions:
I have successfully used Stevia with this recipe. To do so I cut the sweetener back to 1/4 cup and use 1/8-1/4 teaspoon of Stevia depending how sweet you like it. If you don’t have the sweeteners above you can also try honey or molasses, I haven’t tried those myself yet so bake at your own risk. If you don’t like the coconut taste then substitute the coconut oil with butter.
Tip: Make a double batch and freeze for later.
Researchers believe that somewhere between 30% – 50% of the world’s population is Gluten sensitive, and that 1 in every 133 people is gluten intolerant. So, what’s gluten intolerance and how do you know if you have it? To
start, gluten is a water-insoluble protein found in grains like wheat, rye, and barley. It is responsible for the elastic quality of dough and is found in almost every bread and cereal out there . Now that we know what gluten intolerance is, how do we know if we or a loved one has a gluten intolerance?
Here are 5 Classic Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance:
1. Stomach Aches (Gas, cramping, bloating)/ IBS /Irregular bowel movements: perhaps the most well-known symptoms of Gluten intolerance, however, many people overlook or ignore these symptoms altogether, not knowing that they’re actually symptoms of a larger issue nor that they can easily address them.
2. Fatigue: many people with Gluten intolerance start to feel tired after consuming Gluten, some describe it as “foggy brain”
3. Headaches: a large percentage of headaches and migraines come from nutritional deficiencies and/or food allergies. There are a number of different neurological symptoms associated with Gluten intolerance, headaches and migraines are often the first sign of a bigger problem.
4. Keratosis Pilaris: a skin condition in which the skin on the back of your arms gets dry and bumpy, from protein in the skin called keratin that forms hard plugs in the hair follicles – they look like permanent goose bumps.
5. Mood Swings: including anxiety, depression, and even in some cases ADD. Many people have found that changing a diet to gluten-free one significantly helps address issues like ADD.
Tip 1: How to Find Out if You Are Gluten Intolerant
- Blood Tests: If you have the means to get a blood test from a doctor, it is one of the most accurate ways of determining whether or not you are gluten intolerant.
- Keep a Food Diary: keep track of what you’re eating and how it makes you feel. Figure out if any symptoms you’re experiencing correlate with certain days and certain foods you ate.
- Cut-out gluten from your diet for 1-2 months then slowly add gluten back into your diet. If you notice any of the above symptoms as you’re introducing gluten back into your diet, odds are you are gluten intolerant.
Tip 2: Three Foods to Avoid with Gluten Intolerance:
- Grains: wheat, spelt, rye, triticale, barley, kamut, and oats
- Cereals Containing: bran, graham, wheat germ, malt, bulgur
- Pasta from Gluten grains
Tip 3: A-OK Foods for that Gluten Intolerance:
- Organic, non-GMO corn, hominy, rice, millet, teff, tapioca, potato, yam, arrowroot, quinoa, buckwheat
- Gluten-free flours: coconut flour, bean flour, almond flour, and rice flours
- All meat, fish, shellfish, poultry & eggs
- All vegetables
- All dried peas, lentils, and beans
- Fresh fruits
- Most organic dairy products
Tip 4: How to Adjust to Your New Gluten-Free Diet
Making the change to a gluten free diet is often the biggest challenge people face when they discover they may have a gluten allergy or are gluten intolerant. My advice would be: try not to focus on the foods you can’t have, but instead on the foods you can have. I think this is especially important if you discover one of your children is gluten intolerant. And remember, in the long run, the benefits of cutting these foods out of your diet will far outweigh the price you have to continually pay to consume them.
Tip 5: Where to Find Gluten-Free Products & Recipes
Thankfully finding gluten-free products is becoming much easier as gluten intolerance and sensitivity is getting more and more attention in the media. Now you can find a wide array of gluten-free products including: gluten-free baby food, gluten-free breads and tortillas, gluten-free candy and desserts, and so much more. Start exploring with different products and brands and figure out what you like, there is no shortage of foods or products to try!