Should You Be on a Gluten-Free Diet?

Should You Be on a Gluten-Free Diet?

GLUTEN-FREE! It is hard to avoid the term if you are looking into making changes in your diet, but should you jump on the gluten-free wagon?

It is in most of your favorite foods, and you hate to give them up, but you keep wondering if this is just a fad or if you should be eating a gluten-free diet, or maybe at least be limiting consumption or avoiding it.

Probably.

Gluten is protein found in many grains like wheat, rye, and barley. It’s responsible for developing the sticky consistency that develops when flour mixes with water. It’s commonly found in bread and other baked goods, pasta, cereals, beer and other products made from these grains. Gluten-containing flours are added to many processed foods as well.

Gluten is not an essential nutrient, so it is possible to eat a healthy, nutrient-rich diet without it. Many doctors suggest that avoiding gluten would actually benefit everyone. So it is not just a passing fad.

Chances are that yes, you could benefit from going gluten-free, especially if you have an autoimmune condition.

Who should definitely be gluten-free?

Some people are dangerously sensitive to gluten. For example, if you have celiac disease, an autoimmune disease, you definitely should avoid all traces of it. About 1% of adults have been diagnosed with celiac disease. However, it’s estimated that up to 80% of people who have it don’t even know it!

After eating even a trace of gluten the immune system attacks it as a foreign invader. This results in severe damage to the gut lining. Some of the digestive symptoms include bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. Other symptoms of celiac disease include headache, fatigue, and skin rashes.

Long term effects of eating gluten, if you have celiac disease, are serious, including:

  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Osteoporosis
  • Infertility
  • Nerve damage and,
  • Seizures

It’s estimated that one percent of the population has Celiac disease and one in 30 people have a gluten sensitivity.

There are many common signs of gluten sensitivity. The problem is that they’re not very specific. They don’t necessarily occur immediately after eating it, and they’re not always located in the gut. This makes it so difficult to pin down the symptoms as gluten related.

Symptoms of non-celiac gluten sensitivity include:

  • Digestive issues (bloating, flatulence, diarrhea, and stomach pain)
  • Skin issues (eczema and redness)
  • Bone and joint pain
  • Fatigue and chronic tiredness
  • Other symptoms like headache and mood issues

Many with autoimmunity, like me, are sensitive to gluten and find that their symptoms improve when following a gluten-free diet.

Why is this?

Gluten Free Diet

Gluten Causes Inflammation

Eating gluten causes inflammation every time someone with a sensitivity eats it. An estimated 99 percent of people with gluten sensitivity are undiagnosed, so they are increasing their inflammation without even knowing

What does this mean for your health?

Dr. Amy Myers, the author of The Autoimmune Connection, explains it this way:

If you have an autoimmune disease, then that means that somewhere along the way, your immune system went rogue and began attacking your body’s own tissues. This change from healthy to autoimmune isn’t instantaneous, it happens over years. As I explain in my book, it’s a spectrum, and the factor that pushes you up the spectrum and towards autoimmunity is inflammation.

When your immune system is continuously creating inflammation in response to the gluten you’re eating, your leaky gut, and the microbes and toxins flooding your bloodstream, you develop chronic inflammation. Your immune system is now stressed and is less able to attack pathogens and invaders with precision. Instead, it begins indiscriminately sending wave after wave of attack in a desperate attempt to fight off the invaders. Eventually, your body’s own tissues end up on the receiving end of the attack, and you end up with an autoimmune disease.

The only way to give your immune system the break it needs to regain its precision so that it can stop mistakenly attacking you, is to remove gluten entirely.

“Remove entirely” is a tough phrase to read when considering transitioning to gluten-free.

I know. Oh, how I know. Some of my very favorite foods are gluten bombs: biscuits, pancakes, doughnuts, bread of all shapes and sizes,  GrapeNuts cereal. . . I could go on and on.

But I could also go on and on about the benefits I have experienced since going gluten-free and the changes I have seen in our daughter since removing the gluten from her diet as well. I noticed an immediate reduction in bloat and overall inflammation: my morning stiffness was greatly improved, and my skin cleared up.You can read more about my diet here.

My daughter stopped having chronic stomach issues, her energy level tripled,  her allergies improved, and the dark circles under her eyes disappeared. It has been an amazing experience.

A few points of consideration when going gluten-free:

It is easier than it used to be.

Being gluten-free is popular and as a result, there are many foods available now that are “gluten-free.” But, as with most “diets,” gluten-free is not guaranteed to be healthier (gluten-free cookies are still cookies!).

Some gluten-containing foods have the nutrition that you’re going to have to get elsewhere (not from those cookies, though):

  • Folate/folic acid (vitamin B9). Many breads and cereals are fortified with this vitamin. To get it naturally, make sure you’re eating plenty of leafy greens. And if you’re planning to get, or are pregnant, talk to your healthcare professional about this critical nutrient.
  • Dietary fiber. Whole wheat is a major source of this all-too-important and often forgotten nutrient. High-fiber gluten-free foods include brown rice, quinoa, flax seeds, chia seeds, beans/legumes, and fruits and veggies.

So if you’re going gluten-free, choose nutrient-dense whole foods (not gluten-free processed junk foods) to make sure you get all the nutrition you need.

Here’s my gluten-free recipe for banana chocolate chip muffinswhich is actually quite healthy, but tastes like an indulgent treat.

I realize the idea of transitioning to gluten-free can be daunting. I was freaked out about it too, especially when I added my daughter into the mix. But trust me, if I can do it you can too. Going gluten-free has been a very positive experience for us and was the first step I took toward taking back my health post-diagnosis.

If you are looking for some guidance, I have an ongoing accountability/ support group here.

Check out the many discounted gluten free products at Thrive Market, my favorite online source for healthy products.

 

Want more recipes like this delivered straight to your inbox? Subscribe to my newsletter here.

I look forward to connecting with you soon,

 

 

 

Some of the links on this website are affiliate links. That means that if you purchase a product through one of my links, I receive a small commission, and the price is still the same for you! To learn more about this, click here.

Thank you for helping me keep this blog going. I appreciate your support.

HI, I’M ASA!

I’m a Paleo enthusiast, Keto newbie, toxin- and cruelty-free beauty addict, and autoimmune wellness advocate on a mission to help others thrive in spite of it all.

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Drinking Vinegar: Your New Favorite Gut Healing Ingredient

Drinking Vinegar: Your New Favorite Gut Healing Ingredient

Drinking vinegar may not sound like something you’d use to create a tasty beverage, but it is destined to become one of your new favorites.

You have probably seen many articles about the benefits of apple cider vinegar, as it has been marketed as a cure-all for quite some time now. Just go to Pinterest or Google it- you will be bombarded with articles touting its many magical powers.

While it is great that it can help control dandruff, dry skin, cholesterol, asthma, and more, what really matters to me is its impact on gut health.  Drinking vinegar is fermented, and therefore contains probiotics.

Probiotics are the good bacteria that benefit our gastrointestinal tract, and our gut health determines our overall well-being.

Supplementing with probiotics (from fermented foods like drinking vinegar) has been shown to boost immune system function, and can even prevent infection.

For those with autoimmunity, boosting immune function, and preventing infection are crucial, especially for those of us taking medications that lower our immune function and make us more susceptible to infection while inhibiting our ability to fight them.

This post contains affiliate links. Click here to read about what that means.

I first heard of drinking vinegar when I saw a recipe online.

What really got my attention was that drinking vinegar has the same healing benefits of Kombucha, which is fermented tea, but without the kombucha taste. Maybe I just haven’t had good kombucha, but I just cannot get on the Kombucha train. I have considered making it, but am a little intimidated (okay, darn right scared) of the “mother” part of it, which is the blob of bacteria and yeast that grow on top while it ferments.

I buy Bragg apple cider vinegar which proudly advertises that it has “the mother” (the floating bits of yeast that make it cloudy), so I am good with that for now.

drinking vinegar health benefitsAfter reading the recipe (you can find it here) I realized I had all of the ingredients I needed on hand, which was awesome, but I was bummed I would have to wait two weeks to taste the results!

It only calls for three ingredients (I chose blueberries as my flavor) but if you want to try this 2-week version you will need a one-quart canning jar, preferably with a plastic lid, because metal does not play well with acid. I learned this the hard way. I used the mason jars I had on hand, and now I have rusty lids.

It was a long wait.

The process involves combining fruit and vinegar in the jar for 7 days at room temperature, straining the fruit out and returning the vinegar to the jar and adding honey, then refrigerating for another 7 days.

drinking vinegar gut health paleowhen I opened the finished product after 14 days, I was worried, because it just smelled like apple cider vinegar, even though it looked nice and dark with a deep blueberry color.

But when I poured my new drinking vinegar into my cup and topped it with my favorite raspberry lime seltzer, I was delighted. It is super refreshing and tangy- not at all earthy, like the kombucha I’ve tried.

 

But two weeks was a long time to wait. I knew there had to be a faster way.

Are you dying to try a drinking vinegar mocktail now?

Thankfully you won’t have to wait two weeks to try gut-healing drinking vinegar!

There are quick versions of drinking vinegars, which are also referred to as Shrubs.

You have a couple of choices:

  1. Buy a drinking vinegar either at your local natural foods store or here (The flavor varieties are truly inspiring. Peach Habanero, anyone?) remember, these are considered mixers, so you only use one ounce at a time.
  2. Make you own

QUICK DIY PALEO HAPPY GUT DRINKING VINEGAR 

drinking vinegar health benefits

Ready?  I bet you have everything you need in your pantry right now.

Plus, when making your own drinking vinegar, the levels of sugar and other ingredients can be controlled to your personal tastes.

To make a drinking vinegar mocktail or shrub, First, you need one large glass of (12-16 ounces) sparkling water (I use flavored, unsweetened seltzer) next you add two tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar. Finally,  the fun part.

The flavor combinations are up to you. To sweeten the drinking vinegar you can add juices, honey, stevia, maple syrup, cinnamon, cayenne, ginger, or turmeric, which has natural anti-inflammatory ingredients. To keep it paleo, stay away from refined sugar, which is used in traditional recipes.

Mix well and enjoy your mocktail!

Let me know what you make! I cannot wait to hear from you.

Some of the links on this website are affiliate links. That means that if you purchase a product through one of my links, I receive a small commission, and the price is still the same for you! To learn more about this, click here.

Thank you for helping me keep this blog going. I appreciate your support.

HI, I’M ASA!

I’m a Paleo enthusiast, Keto newbie, toxin- and cruelty-free beauty addict, and autoimmune wellness advocate on a mission to help others thrive in spite of it all.

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Paleo, AIP, Whole30, or Primal? How to Choose the Best Option for You.

Paleo, AIP, Whole30, or Primal? How to Choose the Best Option for You.

Paleo, The Autoimmune Protocol, Whole30, and Primal. You’ve probably heard of all these when reading about the best autoimmune diet, but do you know the difference between them?

There are many similarities, but it’s subtle differences you should pay attention to when choosing the best autoimmune diet for you. This is especially true for those with food sensitivities:

The autoimmune diet you choose will directly impact your wellness and your symptoms.

Thankfully, no matter which option you choose or have already chosen, it will be healthier than the Standard American Diet (SAD).

I have read the foundational books for each of these approaches, so the information provided in this post comes directly from the leading authorities on the topics.

By the time you finish reading, you’ll understand the purpose of each of these diets and the information necessary to make a decision as to which approach might be best for you, because the best autoimmune diet is the one that works for you.

 

Since the AIP and Whole30 programs are variations of the Paleo approach, let’s start with Paleo.

I’ll tackle Primal a little later.

This post contains affiliate links. Click here to read my disclosures.

Paleo is a long term diet. This is a way of eating for life.

Paleo is a very popular autoimmune diet for many. The top two offenders: dairy and grains (and as a result, gluten) are not allowed, threfore, many find relief when following a Paleo diet.

Robb Wolf, one of the world’s leading paleolithic nutrition experts, and whose book, The Paleo Solution, brought me a greater understanding and respect for the approach, explains:

The Paleo diet is the healthiest way you can eat because it is the ONLY nutritional approach that works with your genetics to help you stay lean, strong and energetic! Research in biology, biochemistry, Ophthalmology, Dermatology and many other disciplines indicate it is our modern diet, full of refined foods, trans fats and sugar, that is at the root of degenerative diseases such as obesity, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, depression and infertility.

 WHAT TO EAT ON A  PALEO DIET:

  •  Lean proteins
  • Fruits and Vegetables
  • Healthy Fats from Nuts, Seeds, Avocados, Fish Oil, Olive Oil, and Grass Fed Meats

FOODS TO AVOID ON THE PALEO DIET

  • Legumes (beans, peas, peanuts)
  • Cereals and Grains
  • Refined Sugars and Sweeteners
  • Refined Seed Oils
  • Dairy (Ghee, clarified butter is allowed if tolerated)

One of the common misconceptions is that the Paleo diet involves eating bacon and red meat all day every day. This is not true, as the focus is to improve health by increasing nutrients, which requires eating fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds as well.

The Autoimmune Protocol is a specialized version of the Paleo diet, an elimination diet designed to help identify food sensitivities, which can impede our ability to heal.

For many, a Paleo approach will bring about relief and improvement, at least initially, but for others, an elimination diet is necessary to rule out foods that, while allowed on Paleo, may still be problematic. This is where AIP comes in.

This diet is intended to be followed for a few months, then foods approved for the Paleo diet, but excluded from the protocol can slowly be re-introduced.

Sarah Ballantyne, the author of the book, The Paleo Approach, further explains:

The goal of the Autoimmune Protocol is to flood the body with nutrients while simultaneously avoiding any food that might be contributing to disease (or at the very least interfering with our efforts to heal). It is an elimination diet strategy, cutting out the foods that are most likely to be holding back our health. After a period of time, many of the excluded foods, especially those that have nutritional merit despite also containing some (but not too much) potentially detrimental compounds, can be reintroduced.

WHAT TO EAT ON THE AUTOIMMUNE PROTOCOL:

  • Vegetables- Eat a Variety- all Colors and Type
  • Fish and Shellfish
  • Organ Meats
  • Quality Meats
  • Quality Fats
  • Fruit
  • Probiotic/ Fermented Foods
  • Bone Broth

FOODS TO ELIMINATE WHILE ON THE PROTOCOL

  • Nightshades (white potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, tomatillos)
  • Spices derived from Nightshades
  • Eggs
  • Sweeteners with no nutritional value (stevia included)
  • Grains
  • Legumes
  • Dairy
  • Nuts
  • Coffee and other seeds
  • Food additives and emulsifiers
  • Alcohol
  • NSAIDS (ie-Ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin)
  • Foods your body may react to if you are Gluten sensitive

This autoimmune diet is challenging but very beneficial for those looking to uncover food sensitivities so common and problematic, especially for those with autoimmunity.

Whole30 is also a specialized, short term approach that involves removing problematic foods for thirty days. It’s considered a reset.

It is strict, but many foods not allowed on AIP (nightshades, coffee, for example) are okay here as long as they are whole foods.

A driving philosophy is- The fewer ingredients, the better.

Whole 30 is often referred to as, “Paleo with potatoes,” but that is too simplistic.

Melissa Hartwig, the creator of Whole30 and author of, It Starts with Food, explains:

Certain food groups (like sugar, grains, dairy and legumes) could be having a negative impact on your health and fitness without you even realizing it. Are your energy levels inconsistent or non-existent? Do you have aches and pains that can’t be explained by over-use or injury? Are you having a hard time losing weight no matter how hard you try? Do you have some sort of condition, like skin issues, digestive ailments, seasonal allergies, or chronic pain, that medication hasn’t helped? These symptoms are often directly related to the foods you eat—even the “healthy” stuff. So how do you know if (and how) these foods are affecting you?

Strip them from your diet completely. Eliminate the most common craving-inducing, blood sugar disrupting, gut-damaging, inflammatory food groups for a full 30 days. Let your body heal and recover from whatever effects those foods may be causing. Push the reset button.

WHAT TO EAT ON WHOLE30

Moderation is key

  • Meat
  • Seafood
  • Eggs
  • Vegetables (white potatoes are allowed)
  • some Fruit
  • Healthy fats

 

FOODS TO AVOID ON WHOLE30

  • Dairy- (ghee is okay)
  • Legumes (beans of any kind)- includes soy
  • Sweeteners (artificial or natural)
  • Grains
  • Alcohol- even for cooking
  • additives like msg and sulfites
  • Baked and treats goods made from “approved” ingredients

The idea here is to reset your body. This is a great starting point before transitioning into a traditional Paleo diet if you are already aware of food sensitivities.

 

 

Primal is a lifestyle where diet is just one piece of the puzzle.

The lifestyle involves eating whole foods, engaging in restorative exercise, sleeping enough, getting outside, and avoiding spending too much time in the digital realm. Sounds good, right?

There are many similarities between the Primal and Paleo dietary principals, but Primal is much less rigid.

In addition to Paleo approved foods, the diet allows for full-fat dairy, legumes, coffee, nightshades, and whey protein if one is able to tolerate such foods.

 

Mark Sission, author of The New Primal BluePrint, explains it this way:

When you get past the contrary position on coffee, the legume agnosticism, and the stances on potatoes and nightshades and dairy, there aren’t a lot of differences between paleo eating and Primal eating itself. The biggest difference is in the name: the paleo diet is a diet, while the Primal Blueprint is a lifestyle. You’ll often hear “make it a lifestyle shift, not a diet,” and it’s great advice. Diets don’t work. They come with built-in endpoints, “goal weights” that, once reached, people use to justify quitting.

This is an approach that still leads to much healthier eating and a better quality of life but is problematic for many with autoimmunity if not altered or customized.

To summarize these potential autoimmune diets:

Paleo: a long term approach- a way of eating for life that works with out ancestral DNA

AIP and the Whole30 are short term Paleo adaptations with restrictions designed for specific purposes. These diets are followed short term to identify problematic foods. One returns to the Paleo diet for the long term.

Primal is a lifestyle incorporating a less rigid version of the Paleo diet philosophy.

 

 

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After reading all of these books (and others), trying several anti-inflammatory diets including AIP and Whole30, eliminating and re-introducing foods, and much trial and error, I have finally found an autoimmune diet that works best for me.

It is basically a hybrid: a nightshade free combo of  Whole30 and Paleo with a little Primal thrown in for good measure. Confused? Hopefully not for long.

Here’s a quick explanation:

I start each weekday with a shake made from a powder containing whey protein isolate, which although contains only the slightest trace amounts of lactase, is not Paleo, but okay for Primal.

Coffee is controversial with some Paleo followers but is a big part of the Primal lifestyle. I drink at least one cup every morning.  I add stevia to my coffee, which is not Whole30 approved but is Paleo compliant.

Additionally, I avoid “paleofied” products like the bread and muffins made with approved ingredients (even though I bake them for my daughter) and unrefined sugars like maple syrup, which is more of a Whole30 philosophy, since unrefined sugars are allowed on the Paleo diet.

I avoid nightshades included in the  Whole30, Paleo, and Primal approaches.

As a rule, I focus on consuming quality proteins, lots of vegetables, some fruits, and healthy fats 

I consider mine to be a Paleo diet, but more of the 90/10 approach due to my Primal breakfast choices.

click here to read more about how I manage my rheumatoid arthritis with this diet

Finding the right autoimmune diet for you will take time, so be patient.

What is most important is finding what works for you. Many foods, even those included in all natural approaches, can still cause inflammation in those with sensitivities.

Please feel free to contact me with further questions about autoimmune diet and food sensitivity and be sure to subscribe to my email list to have anti-inflammatory recipes delivered right to your inbox.

HI, I’M ASA!

I’m a Paleo enthusiast, Keto newbie, toxin- and cruelty-free beauty addict, and autoimmune wellness advocate on a mission to help others thrive in spite of it all.

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