Living with Food Allergies

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Food allergies can be a pain (literally) to live with.  Some are much more severe than others, with the most severe allergies, called anaphylactic, potentially fatal.  Allergic reactions vary from mild skin rash, slight cough, or itchy throat, to stomach cramps and diarrhea, to heart failure, complete throat/airway obstruction, or unconsciousness.

Common to all allergic reactions is the fact that our immune systems treat the allergen as a foreign substance.  Our immune systems are designed to protect us, so when such a foreign and potentially dangerous substance (called an allergen)is identified, the body goes into attack mode.

In the case of an anaphylactic reaction, the immune system produces massive amounts of histamines which cause the muscles in the lungs to contract, blood vessels to dilate and heart muscle to overwork to a point of heart failure.

A non-anaphylactic, but potentially just as painful, reaction results when the allergen results in the production of antibodies that are deposited in many organs throughout the body.   This is called a CHRONIC reaction, meaning not acute.  This buildup of anibodies takes years to accumulate, so reactions are often hard to diagnose and identify.  Symptoms can mimic asthma, arthritis, high cholesterol and more.  My WHEAT allergy is this chronic, yet painful and unhealthy type of food allergy.

There are many misconceptions of wheat and gluten allergies as well as other gastrointestinal disorders.  Here are some of the important facts:

  • People allegic to wheat and or gluten can and do have anaphylactic reactions as described above.
  • It is a protein in the wheat that is the culprit in wheat allergies.  Gluten is one of, but not the only protein found in wheat that can cause allergic reactions.  So if you are allergic to wheat you do not have to be allergic to gluten, but if you are allergic to gluten, you are allergic to wheat.
  • Gluten is present in wheat, barley and rye.  Semolina, spelt and kamut are less common types of wheat that contain gluten.
  • Oats do not contain gluten, but most products that contain oats have the possiblity of cross contamination from gluten within the grains listed above.  For this reason, people that suffer from celiac disease or a gluten allergy often avoid oats too.
  • Celiac disease results when the allergic reaction to gluten happens within the small intestine.  Most people are aware that celiac disease causes digstive problems such as bloating, gas and diarrhea, but are unaware that edema, fatigue and anemia are common symptoms as well.  Diagnosis is made from a biopsy of the small intestine.
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) causes similar symptoms to celiac disease and chronic food allergies but affects the large intestine.  It is often caused by a bacterial imbalance within the digestive system, and can often be treated with a probiotic.
  • Crohn’s disease causes intermittent patches of inflammation between normal patches within the whole gastrointestinal (GI) tract, but predominantly the lower small intestine and upper large intestine (colon).  The inflammation can extend through the layers of the intestines into surrounding mesentery (tissue)  The cause of Crohn’s disease is suspected to be related to an overactive immune system.
  • Ulcerative Colitis usually starts in the rectum and extends upward into the large intestine.  It only involves the inner lining of the intestine and is more localized (not patchy) than Crohns.  Although diet and stress aggravate UC, the exact cause is still unknown, but also thought to be linked to the immune system of its victims.

 

 

Many people not diagnosed with a gluten or wheat allergy have chosen to eliminate those substances from their diets because they believe that fewer carbohydrates in their diet can result in a  healthier lifestyle.   As suspected by many doubters, this decision may turn out to be temporary  like many other fad diets that have come and gone.

If you suffer from the symptoms common to the conditions listed above and cannot control them with your diet, seek advice from your doctor.  Why people choose to eliminate wheat and gluten from their diets does not matter if their lives are improved.

Unfortunately, for many of us, it is not an option.

The Best Gluten-free Chicken Chili Recipe

A few days ago I made the best gluten-free chicken chili in my slow cooker.  My husband said it was the best “soup” he has ever tasted.  Regardless of what you call it, chili or soup, it was fantastic.  The only problem is, as usual, i did not follow a recipe, so the measurements I am giving you are approximations only.  These quantities are for my family of five with leftovers (hopefully) for the next day…

-5 uncooked, boneless, skinless chicken breasts

-2 cans white kidney beans, well rinsed and drained

2 cups sliced baby portobello mushrooms

-1 cup chopped spanish onion

-2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes

-1 cup roasted red peppers (cut up two sweet red peppers, toss in a bowl with olive oil, bake the peppers on a cookie sheet at 400 until they start to turn black at the edges)

-2 cups green tea (i know, sounds gross, but I didn’t have any fresh chicken broth and needed some liquid, not to mention green tea is good for you!)

-2 tsp each chili powder and curcumin (or more chili powder if you like it HOT)

-2 tsp minced garlic

I cooked the above ingredients for 6 hours on the low setting of my slow cooker, then removed the chicken breasts, chopped them up, and returned them to the pot.  At this point I also squished the tomatoes against the side of the slow cooker to make them burst.  I then let the concoction simmer for another hour on low heat.

Approximately 20 minutes before serving, I turned off the heat on the slow cooker, and then added 1 cup of jalapeno flavored Greek yogurt, (see my last post about this amazing product http://lorieb.com/2013/11/10/my-favorite-gluten-free-secret-ingredient-skotidakis-jalapeno-flavored-greek-yogurt/) and 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese.  I buy the yogurt at Costco and use it in many recipes instead of sour cream or cream cheese.  It provides a nice, mildly spicy flavor and adds much less fat.  This is my secret ingredient that I use to thicken any sauces, soups, and gravies without adding gluten.

You can serve this chicken chili up in a bowl with a sprinkling of shredded cheese or a dollop of the greek yogurt on top, or even on a plate over a bed of rice.  Left over the next day, this chicken chili tastes even better as is often the case with many stew, chili, or soup recipes.  That is if there are any leftovers to be found!

Cooking with Coconut Flour – Living Without Article

Check out this link for cooking with coconut flour as an alternative to wheat flour.  I’m always looking for substitutes to try in my everyday cooking; will be sure to try it soon!

Cooking with Coconut Flour – Living Without Article.

Ten Signs You’re Gluten Intolerant

This articles comes from MINDBODYGREEN.COM, sent to me by my brother John.  I think it has some good information, worth passing on…
More than 55 diseases have been linked to gluten, the protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. It’s estimated that 99% of the people who have either gluten intolerance or celiac disease are never diagnosed.
It is also estimated that as much as 15% of the US population is gluten intolerant. Could you be one of them?
If you have any of the following symptoms it could be a sign that you have gluten intolerance:
1. Digestive issues such as gas, bloating, diarrhea and even constipation. I see the constipation particularly in children after eating gluten.
2. Keratosis Pilaris, (also known as ‘chicken skin’ on the back of your arms). This tends to be as a result of a fatty acid deficiency and vitamin A deficiency secondary to fat-malabsorption caused by gluten damaging the gut.
3. Fatigue, brain fog or feeling tired after eating a meal that contains gluten.
4. Diagnosis of an autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Ulcerative colitis, Lupus, Psoriasis, Scleroderma or Multiple sclerosis.
5. Neurologic symptoms such as dizziness or feeling of being off balance.
6. Hormone imbalances such as PMS, PCOS or unexplained infertility.
7. Migraine headaches.
8. Diagnosis of chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia. These diagnoses simply indicate your conventional doctor cannot pin point the cause of your fatigue or pain.
9. Inflammation, swelling or pain in your joints such as fingers, knees or hips.
10. Mood issues such as anxiety, depression, mood swings and ADD.
How to test for gluten intolerance?
I have found the single best ways to determine if you have an issue with gluten is to do an elimation diet and take it out of your diet for at least 2 to 3 weeks and then reintroduce it. Please note that gluten is a very large protein and it can take months and even years to clear from your system so the longer you can eliminate it from your diet before reintroducing it, the better.
The best advice that I share with my patients is that if they feel significantly better off of gluten or feel worse when they reintroduce it, then gluten is likely a problem for them.  In order to get accurate results from this testing method you must elimination 100% of the gluten from your diet.
How to treat gluten intolerance?
Eliminating gluten 100% from your diet means 100%. Even trace amounts of gluten from cross contamination or medications or supplements can be enough to cause an immune reaction in your body.   The 80/20 rule or “we don’t eat it in our house, just when we eat out” is a complete misconception. An article published in 2001 states that for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity eating gluten just once a month increased the relative risk of death by 600%.

Lose the Wheat, Lose the Fatigue, Brain Fog and Weight

A year ago I was diagnosed with a wheat allergy and low iron stores (ferritin). Since then I have read many books and discovered the two issues may be related. The book I liked the best is “Wheat Belly” by William Davis, M.D. The basic information below is what I derived from his book. For further details and explanations, please read the book!

For years we have been told to eat more complex carbohydrates such as whole grains and less of the simple carbohydrates found in candy or soft drinks, but studies have now shown that modern wheat is the culprit, making us fat and unhealthy!

This is because amylopectin, the glucose units found in wheat, is easily digested and quickly absorbed into our bloodstreams, increasing blood sugar levels. Gram for gram, wheat increases blood sugar faster than all other simple and complex carbohydrate foods. The insulin we produce naturally in our bodies converts the glucose to fat. The higher the blood glucose level after a meal or snack, the greater the insulin level, the more fat deposited. The fat is deposited in our abdomens, encasing our livers, kidneys, pancreas, intestines, and stomachs. This is called visceral fat and is uniquely capable of causing many inflammatory processes and health conditions.

For the past 50 years, wheat has been genetically altered to increase farmers’ yield by making the grain heat and drought tolerant, as well as disease resistant. Changes have also been made to modify its properties making the wheat more suitable for the baking industry. These changes have made wheat very popular in our lives, but have also had tremendous consequences on humans ingesting the wheat: increased blood sugar levels, inflammatory processes, pH changes, activated immune responses, neurological disorders, heart disease, cancer, skin rashes, and obesity.  It is no wonder many people have developed a wheat allergy.

Wheat consumption can affect almost every organ of your body; the liver, lungs, pancreas, skin, heart, brain, stomach and intestine, thyroid gland etc. Wheat converts quickly to blood sugar, not only causing us to gain weight but also leading to many debilitating conditions not just associated with excess weight. Wheat has also been proven to worsen the symptoms of schizophrenia, autism, and ADHD.

In patients diagnosed with celiac disease, the most common wheat related illness, gluten protein causes an immune response that inflames the small intestine resulting in stomach cramps and diarrhea. Gluten is the component of wheat that makes baked products doughy and able to rise in the baking process. Wheat is the main source of gluten in our diet. Other less common sources of gluten include Kamut, tricale, rye, bulgur, and barley. Gluten, however, is not the only villain in wheat flour, there are also thousands of other strains of proteins, enzymes, and starches. These ingredients cause allergic reactions triggering rashes, asthma and even anaphylaxis.

Unfortunately wheat is not so easy to remove from your diet. Wheat products are convenient, readily available and satisfying to eat. To avoid wheat, be sure to read the ingredients list on food labels keeping in mind that wheat is in many items other than just bread. Fill the gap in your diet left by wheat with meats (not processed), vegetables, fruit,  nuts, eggs, avocados, olives, and cheese. You can actually eat larger portions of these items.

Whether or not you have a wheat allergy, eliminating wheat can be beneficial. Your body’s ability to absorb vitamins, minerals and other nutrients such as B6, B12, folic acid, iron, zinc, magnesium, and thiamine will improve. Your fiber intake will also increase. Eliminating wheat from your diet may be inconvenient, but I guarantee you will notice a difference in as little as one week! You will have more energy, sleep better, feel more alert and look trimmer.

If substantial weight loss is your goal, please read my next post…