So what exactly is gluten anyway? Here’s what Wikipedia has to say:
Gluten (from Latin gluten, “glue“) is a protein composite found in wheat and related grains, including barley and rye. Gluten gives elasticity to dough, helping it rise and keep its shape and often gives the final product a chewy texture.
So, basically, gluten is any type of wheat or white flour. This is found in most all of the processed foods we eat; bread, pasta, pizza, crusts of any sort. It’s also a hidden ingredient in many package mixes, as it acts as a thickening agent: soups, mixes including but not limited to, chili, taco, beef stew, dressings, sloppy joe. Darn if Pringles aren’t a mixture of flour and potato. Look for yourself.
Here’s how our story began: As a young mother, I didn’t have the slightest notion as to what “gluten” was. I was a stay-at-home Mom, making most all meals from scratch. Meat, potatoes, biscuits, vegetable. If a dessert wasn’t offered after dinner, some sort of “feel good” snack was offered so the children went to bed with a full belly. Not all bad, really. I assumed that I was offering the best food choices possible, never considering that my children could have food allergies, but one in particular suffered. As a baby, my middle daughter had chronic ear infections and was on round after round of antibiotics until she was 14 months old. At that time, the doctor put tubes in her ears and she was miraculously cured of ear problems. What I didn’t know, was that after all of the antibiotics, her gut was already damaged.
It wasn’t until she was in her first year of college, that symptoms really flared. She was experiencing abdominal pain, got sick easily, and had random skin issues. We decided to go to an integrative doctor and have some testing done. It was there that we discovered she was having multiple reactions to foods, gluten in particular, and had developed something called, Leaky Gut. We began the process of eliminating foods on her “no no” list: eggs, milk, yogurt, cheese, potatoes, vinegar, bananas, oranges, and sugar. Can you imagine? She was a new student on campus and couldn’t eat anything in the cafeteria. It was during this stressful time that she thought about a new cookbook called the, “Help! I Can’t Eat Anything” cookbook. She was forty miles from home and drove back and forth every weekend. Together, we would make between 12-15 meals for her to take back for the week. That was a rough year, but she was fastidious about her diet, and within a year, just by changing what she ate, she cured her leaky gut! Slowly, she was able to add back all foods, except gluten.
Wikipedia describes Leaky Gut syndrome as “a hypothetical, medically unrecognized condition which some alternative health practitioners claim is the cause of a wide range of serious chronic diseases, including diabetes, lupus, and multiple sclerosis. Proponents claim that poor diet, parasites, infection, or medications cause damage to the intestinal wall or lining, permitting toxins, microbes, undigested food, or other substances to leak through. According to the hypothesis, this “leakage” prompts the body to initiate an immune reaction that, in turn, leads to chronic diseases such as those mentioned.””
My personal journey includes a struggle with arthritis and hypothyroidism. I decided to join my daughter in her gluten free lifestyle, but I ate a less glutenous diet at best and didn’t see any real changes. Recently, however, I jumped the fence and made a stalwart effort to go both gluten free and grain free. The only grains I do still eat are non-processed grains such as quinoa and/or rice, but these are extremely limited. I’m here to tell you, that I am amazed at the difference this has made! I no longer struggle with bloating or having a sluggish digestive system. You know what I’m talking about. My joints are loose, mobile and pain free, and the brain fog that often accompanies hypothyroidism is gone! What a contrast to my previous lifestyle! Do I miss gluten? Yes, sometimes. In those moments, I just try to remember the taste and realize it wouldn’t taste any different if I ate it now. I count my blessings for newfound mobility and health and keep going, realizing that good choices make every day enjoyable.
Gluten free is not hard, it’s simply a decision, just like any other firm decision that you have made in your lifetime. If you want to see real changes, the key is in making a complete transition. Be easy on yourself, because there will be a learning curve that must be taken into consideration. If you want to go gluten free, eliminate the obvious first. Bread, white flour, pasta. Don’t fret, though. You can replace those items with Udi’s bread (here’s what I buy) in the frozen food section, gluten free pasta, and gluten free all purpose flour, right in the same isle with the other flours. Easy. My favorite pasta is the Jovial brand (this link is for a case of 6), because it cooks up like the familiar brands. Below are a couple of recent gluten free meals at our house, keeping in mind that it’s corn season in central Illinois.
a few fresh veggies, cooked carrots with pears,
and a chia seed pudding. See our recipes.
corn on the cob, mediterranean quinoa salad,
watermelon slice, and cantelope with raspberries.
I would love to hear what you have to say. Join me by commenting on some of your gluten free secrets, recipes or tips that you have found in your journey. If you are new to the idea of gluten free, let me know what other things you would like to know. I’ll see if I can help you.
Have a Healthy, Happy Day!