Food Allergies: Gluten (including recipes)

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Jill Miles, Assistant to 100 Days of Real Food

Have you noticed lately that everyone seems to be avoiding certain foods for one reason or another?  Maybe it’s a food allergy or intolerance or perhaps just a dietary preference.  Whatever the reason, avoiding certain foods can present challenges for both eating and cooking, but, as I have found, you can overcome them.

My Story

I am Jill (assistant to 100 Days of Real Food) and a little over 2 years ago, my husband started suffering from digestive problems following back surgery.  After countless visits to doctors, including specialists, numerous medical tests and a weight loss of 40 pounds, we still had no answers.  While his most severe symptoms had subsided, he was still not feeling well and was continuing to lose weight.  Frustrated, we decided he should eliminate both gluten (despite him testing negative for celiac disease) and dairy (for which he had tested positive for a slight allergy although the doctors did not recommend avoiding it).  It has been about 9 months now and his weight has stabilized and he is feeling pretty well overall.  Even better news though is that his change in diet, although forced upon him, was really a gift.  His diet of highly processed foods was finally catching up with him, even placing him at risk for elevated cholesterol (combined with a family history of high cholesterol and heart disease).  Having to eliminate so much from his diet forced him to add in more whole foods, including fruits and vegetables.  So, at the end of the day, while the initial change in diet was both difficult and frustrating at times, the long-term health benefits have been immeasurable.

We still do not have a definitive answer as to whether gluten or dairy was the cause of his illness, and the only way to tell for certain would be to add it back to his diet and see what happens.  Right now we are not willing to do that as we are enjoying his improved health for this period of time, but we may eventually consider it just to know for sure.

Where Do I Start?

This was my biggest question and the one that caused me the most angst.  Once I got started though, it became easier and almost second nature to cook within the parameters of these new food omissions.  So, for starters, let’s focus on gluten first.  Over the next few months, I plan to post more on food allergies and intolerances, specifically gluten and dairy, so please stay tuned.

Naturally Gluten Free Foods

So the big question I get from family and friends is “what can he eat?”.    Here is a list of some more common naturally occurring gluten free foods.

  • Fresh fruit – all kinds
  • Fresh vegetables – all kinds
  • Potatoes
  • EggsGluten Free Recipes from 100 Days of Real Food
  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Beans
  • Dairy
  • Oils
  • Whole Grains
    • Amaranth
    • Buckwheat
    • Corn
    • Millet
    • Oats (use certified gluten free to avoid cross-contamination)
    • Brown rice
    • Quinoa
    • Sorghum
    • Teff
    • Wild Rice

The bigger issue is with the food preparation.  For example, many marinades, dressings, sauces and other condiments contain wheat.  For this reason, I now make all of my own marinades, dressings and sauces, not to mention that making them myself ensures that they are free of added sugar and preservatives.  Additionally, there is the issue of cross contamination during food preparation with foods containing gluten.

What About the Rest of Your Family?

I am often asked if the rest of my family suffers from gluten sensitivity or intolerance and the answer is no. The obvious next question I usually get is “do you cook separate meals then or do you just have your whole family follow a gluten free diet?”  Again, the answer is no.  I do not (personally) believe that my children or I should avoid gluten without a medical reason to do so.  I believe a diet rich in whole grains is important.  A New York Times FAQ published last year quoted Michael Pollan as saying that “People who eat lots of whole grains are generally healthier and live longer than those who don’t.” In the same article Pollan also addressed gluten-free diets saying, “They are very important if you have celiac disease or can’t tolerate gluten. But it’s hard to believe that the number of people suffering from these conditions has grown as fast as this product category. Gluten has become the bad nutrient of the moment, the evil twin of Omega 3 fatty acids. Could it really be that bread, a staple of Western civilization for 6,000 years, is suddenly making millions of us sick? I’m dubious.”

So, how do I accommodate my husband’s gluten free diet while allowing the rest of my family to eat wheat?  For dinner, I most often cook a meal that is naturally gluten free.  If I make something containing gluten, like whole-wheat biscuits (which my kids love), he just doesn’t eat it.  On the occasion I serve a pasta dish, I make a gluten free sauce and prepare a separate gluten free pasta for him (like brown rice pasta) while the kids and I have whole-wheat pasta (although they are happy to eat the brown rice pasta too).  Breakfast is probably our biggest challenge when it comes to making pancakes and waffles because I do often find myself making a whole grain version as well as a gluten free one.  We all love oats too, so as long as I use certified gluten free oats, everyone can eat them and feel good.  And, finally, lunch…this is my easiest meal since my husband only eats this meal at home on the weekends…PHEW!

A Final Word About a Gluten Free Diet

A gluten free diet can present a challenge in regards to whole grain intake since it eliminates some of the most common sources of whole grain, including wheat, rye and barley.  Fortunately, it can also provide an opportunity to eat a more whole food diet as is evidenced by the list above.  While there are many refined gluten-free grain replacements such as cornstarch, potato starch, tapioca starch and white rice flour, the variety of nutritious gluten free whole grains is plentiful.  So, rather than having the gluten free diet be a challenge, look at is as an opportunity to increase both variety and nutrient content through the incorporation of the above mentioned gluten free foods, including whole grains.

I’d like to leave you with  two gluten free recipes to try that will help incorporate the whole grains listed above.

-
Two of our Favorite Gluten Free Recipes-

MILLET PORRIDGE
 
Adapted from Food.com
Ingredients
  • ⅓ cup millet
  • ¾ cup water
  • ½ cup whole milk or unsweetened almond milk
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey
  • Optional - ½ whole apple, peeled and diced, or 2 tablespoons raisins
  • Optional – walnuts or almonds, about 1 tablespoon

    MilletPorridge Recipe from 100 Days of Real Food
Instructions
  1. Combine millet, water, milk, cinnamon, vanilla, salt and apples or raisins (optional). Bring to a boil, reduce to low and simmer 25 minutes or until liquid is fully absorbed. Stir in maple syrup or honey and nuts (optional).

 
QUINOA SALAD
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2½ cups water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ⅓ cup thinly sliced scallions
  • 1 cup diced cucumber
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 2 tomatoes (or equivalent amount of cherry tomatoes), chopped with juice
Instructions
  1. Cook quinoa according to package directions. Let cool.
  2. Mix olive oil, balsamic vinegar, orange juice and salt and pepper to make dressing.
  3. Pour over quinoa and mix. Add all chopped vegetables and mix.
  4. Chill for a few hours before eating. Feel free to add whatever other vegetables you like.

    Quinoa Salad from 100 Days of Real Food

 

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91 comments to Food Allergies: Gluten (including recipes)

  • Great post, Jill! So glad you guys have been able to figure so much out for Rob. Eliminating dairy from my son’s diet and gluten from my diet have been game changers for us. Your perseverance is inspiring!

  • Malia J

    great post about gluten free eating. My story is similar to yours – my husband had back surgery (a major one ) and over time started gaining a lot of weight and had major tummy issues. We couldn’t figure out why because his diet hadn’t changed. We did all the testing and he came back negative for celiac, but after eliminating gluten from his diet he lost 25 pounds a short amount of time and his tummy problems went away. The kids and I have learned to like eating mostly gluten free and embrace eating things like gluten free pizza and pancakes. It makes my hubby happy that we will eat his food. (-: Best wishes!

  • Jodi Gee

    Thank you for sharing! We have been doing a gluten free diet as a family since mid-January. We noticed a huge difference in stomach issues for all of us and ADHD symptoms in my husband and son. I can’t wait to see what gf options you come up with! I love your blog!!!

  • lisa

    I would have to disagree with Michael Pollen, and as such you, regarding grains and intolerances. Please read the book Wheat , and look at the science of gluten does to the body. People suffer from a poor digestive system or other body ailments without even realizing it.

    • Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Lisa. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. As I stated in the post, I believe that for those who eliminate gluten and feel dramatically better with it removed from their diet, then by all means it makes sense for them to avoid it. But, for those who have no medical issues or do not experience any changes in health after eliminating it, there may not be any reason to avoid it.

  • Kaylin Snodgrass

    Thank you for addressing this! I love your site, but as I said in a comment before, we have kids with different allergies-not sensitivities-to corn, wheat, peanuts, sesame seeds, and dairy so watching all your great recipes come through sometimes gets me in a litte funk. I want to make all of them!!!! I love that you listed out naturally gluten free foods. If we concentrate on REAL food, going gluten free isn’t so hard. Incidently-if anyone has a good bean-tortilla recipe, I’d love it. That is the one thing my son really misses.

  • danyelle

    I made quinoa salad for lunch! Yum. I also made what turned out to be good we called it quinoa hash. Cakes weren’t sticking together enough.

  • You know- I tested negative for celiac disease back in March. However, based on what I had been eating that was sending me into gastrointestinal woe, I figured gluten had to be the culprit. I have eliminated it completely from my diet, and three and a half months later, feel like a million bucks. I hope your husband is feeling better. Even with less food choices, it’s healthier overall, and let’s face it, that list of foods that you have provided here still has lots of yummy choices. Thank you for sharing with us.

  • I have a chronic disease (not celiac), and it was tremendously improved when I eliminated gluten.

    I have lost weight, have more energy, my cholesterol and blood pressure are lower, and my pain is 95% gone.

    Definitely worth the harder diet.

  • Thanks for the balanced information! With the increase in gluten-free products on the market, and tons of blogs dedicated to the gluten-free lifestyle, I was starting to wonder if this was something I should try. But I am not gluten-intolerant, and quite frankly don’t want to give up whole grains. I’m pleased to read that someone like Michael Pollan feels that whole grains are okay.

    For those who truly must follow this diet, it must be very annoying that so many people are “jumping on the bandwagon.” I’m glad you were able to find help for your husband, and it sounds like you all eat quite well.

    Thanks so much for the quinoa recipe. I just bought some for the first time yesterday, and am not quite sure what to do with it ;) Looking forward to making this salad with produce straight from my garden!

    • AK

      As someone with Celiac disease, I am certainly not annoyed with people “jumping on the bandwagon” as you phrase it. Frankly,the gluten levels in our foods has dramatically increased in the last 50 years, and I think many people get way too much of it. One of the most respected experts on Celiac disease, Daniel Leffler of Harvard Medical School, has even said, “Gluten is fairly indigestible in all people. There’s probably some kind of gluten intolerance in all of us.”

      If people eliminate gluten from their diets, and feel better, whether or not they have Celiac, good for them.

    • Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Jennifer. Glad you enjoyed the post and that it provided you with some information for making your own personal decision on gluten. Hope you enjoy the quinoa recipe. Jill

  • julia

    I think you mean the book Wheat Belly by William Davis, MD – a preventative cardiologist. It is an excellent read. I went GF 20 months ago and now I can walk again and I am off of 20 meds. My husband and young children went GF 12 months ago and they are off their meds. Behaviors are changed dramatically and diseases are in remission. Michael Pollan is an amazing professional writer. Most of what he says is true, however, he is not an expert regarding the fact that our genetics has not kept up with the changes in the properties (over the last 50 years)of what we call wheat. How could he?

    • Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Julia. Glad to hear that eliminating gluten from your diets has contributed to improved health for all of you. With that being the case, it makes sense to continue with the gluten free diet (as it did in our case). Michael Pollan is a professional writer as you state, but he is also one of many credible resources in the area of food and nutrition, with his highly praised books being based on research (although not annotated). In addition to the theory you state below, you may also be interested to know that “There is a theory that antibiotic drugs cause an imbalance of gut flora and can prevent the digestive tract from secreting enzymes that enable us to break down complex proteins such as gluten. Sounds a lot more plausible than the idea that wheat suddenly started causing gluten intolerance out of nowhere.” (Source: http://www.cheeseslave.com/top-10-reasons-im-not-paleo/). Again, glad you are all feeling better. Jill

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