Once you realize gluten is not your friend and you eliminate it from your diet you are likely to feel much improved. That improvement may “flatten” after a time and you’re left feeling not quite as good as you’d hoped.
What to do?
I’ve posted before on the secondary effects of gluten and gone into the need to diagnose the presence of pathogenic organisms, adrenal fatigue, malabsorption, etc. But today I’d simply like to talk about a healthy diet.
All too often once we remove gluten, finding substitutes for all of our most favorite gluten containing foods becomes the highest priority. So you buy the gluten-free pizza crust, brownie mix, crackers, etc. In moderation that’s fine, but we still haven’t answered the question as to what a healthy diet truly is.
Obviously for you it’s not going to contain whole wheat, rye or barley. But what must it contain?
Vegetables and fruits are critical to maintaining good health and something we typical Americans tend to minimize in our diets. Every meal should contain a good amount of these, preferably fresh and organic whenever possible. Organic produce does provide a much higher amount of nutrition than its pesticide-laden counterpart. If you buy seasonal produce from a local grower it will be more affordable than trying to purchase strawberries in December!
The best fruits and vegetables are the ones that are very brightly colored as they provide the highest amounts of anti-oxidants that are protective against heart disease and cancer. Such things as blueberries, raspberries, pomegranate, blackberries, and citrus are very healthy. Vegetables such as peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, artichoke, spinach, kale, brussel sprouts, onions and garlic are very beneficial.
Oils are also important for their anti-inflammatory, hormone-producing qualities, not to mention being a good source of fat. Olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil and some organic butter or ghee are all recommended. Coconut oil is nice for high heat cooking as it isn’t altered by the temperature. Olive oil is better when used on a medium heat. Fresh, raw nuts are another good source of fat. Good fat must be consumed in adequate amounts to prevent sugar or simple carbohydrate cravings and to stabilize blood sugar.
Protein is an interesting issue. We consume 6 – 8x more protein than any other country in the world. While protein is critical for growth and repair we could likely decrease our intake somewhat while increasing the quality of what we do eat.
With the chemicals and hormones being fed to our animals (3 million pounds of antibiotics/hormones given to livestock), it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find a “clean” source of animal protein.
Fish that are wild or farm raised on good quality feed are available. Eggs from organic farms that enhance the chicken’s feed with fish oil creates an egg that is higher in omega-3 fatty acids.
Of course there’s always the vegetarian option of whole grains (gluten-free of course!), legumes, beans, raw nuts, etc. I must admit to being quite leery of soy. I know it’s a “go-to” protein source but I find many of our patients to react poorly to it. I don’t know if it’s the genetic modification of the bean or what exactly, but I would caution moderation if you do seem to tolerate it. Another note, Dr Gonzalez, from New York who specializes in cancer treatment and gets outstanding results through use of diet, enzyme therapy and more, cautions his patients to “cross the street” if they see a soybean!
Dairy products, based on my most recent research, may very well not be a good idea for any of us. The enzymes that we have available to digest milk (and that’s human milk) stop getting produced after about the age of 3. It is thought that the proteins in cow’s milk are actually damaging to our gut lining, while creating a mucous buildup that prevents the absorption of some vital nutrients.
This theory segues very nicely with some recent research that makes the supposition that in order for gluten to initially create damage in the small intestine, there has to be an initial insult to the gut. Could this initial insult come from dairy? More on that in a future blog.
The toxic burden on our bodies from living in the US is huge as compared to other countries. Our FDA has approved 3,200 food additives to be used in our food while the European union only allows 6 different food additives.
My recommendation is to consume moderate amounts of protein from as clean a source as possible, meaning organic, grass-fed, hormone and antibiotic-free, etc.
I know that it’s extra work but remember than you can control what you put into your mouth. The other sources of toxins coming our way from air pollution and chemical exposures from industry are more difficult, if not impossible, to avoid. So if you control toxic exposure as much as possible in your food it will help a great deal.
I realize that I am promoting cooking and mostly eating from home. And I also realize that this isn’t the American way. But may I point out that the “American way” is not really working? Witness the statistic of dropping form 11th in the world for life expectancy down to our current ranking of 42nd.
To summarize, clean and pure sources of all food products is what you should be striving for as much as possible. This would entail also eating food that is in its natural state. E.g. a piece of organic fruit vs a fruit roll-up!
Increasing one’s consumption of fruits and vegetables is something we commonly see as needed in our patients. Balancing carbohydrates with good protein and fat in a meal is another good recommendation. If all you ate for a snack was a banana, you’re likely to find yourself “craving” in a couple of hours. Had you balanced that out by eating only half the banana with some raw nuts you likely would have felt much better.
Don’t forget to stay hydrated. Other than some green or white tea, your beverage of choice should be good clean water in the quantity of eight to ten or more 8 oz glasses per day, depending on your weight. (Hint: take you weight, divide it in half and you’ll have the number of ounces of water you should consume each day.)
While we’re all thrilled that Betty Crocker has come out with a line of gluten-free bakery mixes and that other companies have perfected that perfect brownie or cake, don’t fool yourself into thinking they’re good for you. Enjoy them in moderation on special occasions, but don’t make them a daily habit.
I think I could write another book on this topic alone, but until then I hope this helps.
To your good health,
Dr Vikki Petersen
Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center
Co-author of The Gluten Effect