Thursday, October 30, 2008

So what is the difference anyway?

So have you ever wondered, what is the difference between a wheat/gluten allergy, gluten intolerance/sensitivity, and Celiac? Often, these terms are used interchangeably. However, it is important to know that they are three separate things.

Let's start with the allergy thing. A food allergy is an immune reaction to a specific food. Basically what happens is that this great stuff made by our immune system called IgE, which is really an antibody, forms when the body recognizes something as an allergy. So the next time you ingest the offending food, or antigen, again, this IgE creates a whole host of problems, including swelling, asthma, itching, inflammation, vomiting, and lots of other ugly things. When this reaction is very severe, it is called anaphylactic and can be life-threatening.

Ok, so now we've got gluten intolerance and gluten sensitivity. These are two catchall terms. Basically, these two are the same thing. And while they exist in conjunction with Celiac Disease, they can exist separately... a little confusing, huh? It's kind of along the same line as lactose intolerance, your body is lacking an enzyme that makes the break down of lactose possible. In those with gluten intolerance, their bodies are unable to properly breakdown gluten, causing them to be ill. However, whether this causes long term damage to your health is still a very controversial issue. A word of caution: sometimes there are other reasons for gluten intolerance. There may be an underlying illness, so if your symptoms do not improve on a gluten free diet, please get yourself to the doctor.

And finally we've come to Celiac Disease. Celiac is an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks the villi of the small intestine. Which is really not good, since that's where many of the nutrients that are necessary for life are absorbed. However, with this AI disease, the trigger is known, which is a definite plus in staying healthy. When gluten is ingested, instead of being broken down normally in the stomach and small intestine, it becomes resistant to the enzymes that break it down. What's left is a long chain of amino acids, the toxic portion of gliadin. The chain then somehow works it's way into the wall of the small intestine, underneath the cells lining the villi. The small intestine becomes inflammed to protect the body from "the invader". (Insert scary music here...) Over time, this continued reaction causes the villi to lose their integrity, as if having been burned. There's more reasons why a strict gluten free diet is necessary, but that's another topic.

So there you have it! A lot more science than you came here for. But look how much smarter you are!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Great Oat Debate

If you're trying to be GF, no doubt you've heard to avoid the acronym BROW. No barley, rye, oats or wheat. And yet, there's certified GF oats available at just about any grocery store. What's up with that?

OK, ready for some science? The truth is, oats are naturally gluten free. They are still a member of the grass family, but are more closely related to rice than to wheat, barley or rye. To get really technical, gluten is a protein, but what is toxic to Celiacs are certain fractions of this protein. And oats do not contain the three different fractions found in wheat, barley or rye. However, there are a small percentage of Celiacs who have a very similar reaction to oats as they do to gluten.

The problem with most commercially grown and processed oats is that they are grown and processed with wheat; which makes them contaminated. But thankfully, a few manufacturers have started to dedicate their facilities and/or machinery to the production of gluten free oats. Hooray!! Which means that we have another choice for a fiber source, especially to those who are watching their cholesterol. Oats are also soothing, so remember that the next time your tum tum's not feeling so great.

Personally, I only like oats two ways: In a cookie/brownie form, or with a big ole glob of peanut butter melted in it and some cinnamon sprinkled on top. But hey, it's nice to have variety, especially for my hardest meal of the day...BREAKFAST!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Did someone say pie?

Sweet potato, that is.

Some friends invited my husband and I over for dinner Sunday, and lo and behold, my friend took a pie out of her oven. And then she proudly announced that I could have some because she had gone to Whole Foods and bought a GF pie crust. I ate my pie with gusto. Ain't friends great?

So, then I started thinking about sweet potato pie and all the other pies I could make. But sweet potato remains at the top of my list. It's one of my favorite foods because you can do so much with it. How many other vegetables can you roast in the oven with olive oil, garlic, salt and parsley, then turn around and make a pie out of? Not to mention that it's so good for you.

Sweet potatoes are considered one of the world's healthiest foods, and are high in vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene) and vitamin C, which makes it a wonderfully natural anti-inflammatory food. You'll also get a good dose of potassium, B6, iron, and everyone's personal favorite: dietary fiber!

So the next time you get a craving for pie, try sweet potato pie. It's still pie, but hey, you're getting some healthy benefits. How many pies can say that?

Monday, October 27, 2008


I know, I know... you're thinking, what kind of topic is this???

I have Celiac Disease. I can't eat gluten, which translates to no wheat, barley or rye, and only certified GF Oats. Only because I can tolerate them, not all Celiacs can. I also am allergic to egg whites, and cannot eat dairy products. Despite all of this, I eat some amazing foods.

Which leads me to why I started this blog. I talk to so many people with GI disorders, who are offered nothing by way of what foods are helpful or harmful. I have spent the past year studying what foods to avoid for what problems, looking into different diets that are supposed to be healing, and the like. It only made sense to me to try to reach out and help others. So, please, leave comments. Ask questions...

I'll be exploring different disorders, not just Celiac, and sharing with you my knowledge to help you improve your health. I'll also share tasty recipes I come across; don't worry, they'll be tested and approved! Living without certain foods can be tricky, but not knowing that you can affect your overall health by your food is just downright frustrating.

So, here we go!! Until next time...