Posts Tagged ‘gluten free’

Part 2: Gluten Diagnosis or Not!

Continuing on from my last post (Part 1: What is Gluten Exactly?), we are going to jump straight into how to be diagnosed with a gluten intolerance, sensitivity or Celiac Disease….or not.

Part 2: Gluten Diagnosis or Not!

So I left you all with a wonderful thought last post – did you know that only 1% (yes, I did correctly type the measly number of only 1%) of people with celiac disease are properly diagnosed…..1 percent…

Yep, true stuff! The majority of people who can’t eat gluten will go for a test and the result will be negative BUT it should have been positive! They actually are sensitive to gluten or they have Celiac Disease, but the results will say no.

There are so many factors that cause this misdiagnosis:

  • Testing the wrong markers/areas of the gluten sensitivity
  • Not having any gluten present in your system at the time of testing, so it all looks ‘fine’
It is important to note however, that positive results are usually almost always dependable. Negative results are not. No single test has been universally accepted as the standard for diagnosing celiac disease. (AAFP)
Thankfully, things are looking up for the testing of gluten sensitivity in the medical world. Cyrex Labs ( is starting to get high success rates since January 2011. They do their testing through salivary panels covering all areas of gluten. They also make available a test that can pinpoint the very areas of your body that are being most affected by gluten. To get your hands on these tests, you must go through a licensed medical care provider.

I have been asked many times if I am going to get tested for Celiac Disease, and honestly I personally don’t see the point.

If there is a high chance of the result being a misdiagnosis, why don’t I just skip all the drama and just cut gluten out of my diet anyway? After all, we know for a fact that gluten is bad for everyone. If there were more reliable tests available (Cyrex Labs is leading the way!) and through this I discovered that I didn’t have gluten intolerances, I would still cut it out of my diet.

As I said in Part 1 of this gluten series, most people have ‘Silent Celiac Disease’, which means they do not have any noticeable symptoms at all so they have absolutely no idea. Do you have any symptoms? This is pretty scary seeing as gluten can do so much damage to your body (as we covered in Part 1)!

My naturopath, my doctor and a health expert have all said that no one should eat gluten anyway. Even those who do not have any noticeable symptoms. I think immediately of my husband who eats mainly gluten-free with me, but will still have the odd hamburger or cake. He seems to handle gluten fine (unless he has ‘Silent Celiac Disease’!) but inside his body is working mighty hard to process it. Everyone’s body has to work extra hard to accommodate gluten.

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From Nora’s book: Primal Body, Primal Mind: People often think that the symptoms to watch for when it comes to gluten issues are typically gastrointestinal, when gluten sensitivity can, in fact, profoundly impact your brain, nervous system, emotional states, endocrine functioning, neurotransmitters, immune system, bones, joints, skeletal system, and any possible aspect of your mental or physical physiological functioning.

So basically, no one should be eating gluten. Full stop.

The next post, Part 3, will be all about ‘Cross-Reactivity of Foods’. I have had first hand experience with this one! In this we will also look at the relationship between gluten and coffee.

Part 1: What is Gluten Exactly?

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I have been reading a fantastic book called ‘Primal Body, Primal Mind’ by Nora Gedgaudas (I will leave that pronunciation up to you!).

It is about gaining optimal health by eating well and avoiding the so-called ‘food’ that our food companies have created for us. Food that isn’t really food anymore. We don’t know how it was made, what is in it or the damage it is doing to our bodies (even though the food companies know the mountains of facts proving their ‘food’ is causing us major health problems). Don’t get me started – it makes me mad.

So, our option is to take back the control and go back to the basics…eat primal!

When I started going gluten-free I was overwhelmed with all the information out there. The many do’s and don’ts, which can sometimes be conflicting – do eat rice, don’t eat rice – do eat buckwheat, don’t eat buckwheat….it was doing my head in!

After tons of reading, loads of questions and through my own experiences I decided to share what I have learned. I am by no means a doctor or health advisor – I am just sharing my learnings with you. Nora’s book has really helped me to clear my understandings of gluten and it is actually not all that complicated. More and more friends are asking me how to go gluten-free and what it involves – hopefully this helps!

I am going to have to break this information up into parts as there is quite a bit and I don’t want to miss out on any important details. This post will be Part 1 where I will go into what gluten actually is. Then the following posts will go into diagnosis, healing, cross-reactivity with other foods (you will hear doctors say “don’t eat gluten…OR dairy”) and anything else that I can think of to share.

Stay tuned and please comment with your thoughts or gluten stories.

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Part 1: What is Gluten Exactly?

Firstly, the word Gluten is derived from the Latin word glue. This in itself should not sit right with you. Gluten was actually used to stick wallpaper onto walls! It is the stuff that makes food stick together, be soft and fluffy, and sometimes cause us to be addicted to the stuff.

Gluten has absolutely no benefit to our bodies. There is nothing in gluten that we need. No nutrients, vitamins or minerals we require from gluten. If we eliminate it from our diet, there is nothing we miss out on.

Some people get very confused between Celiac Disease and gluten intolerance or sensitivity. We tend to think that one is worse than the other but this is not true. To quote from Nora’s book, ‘All celiac disease is a form of gluten sensitivity but not all gluten sensitivity is celiac disease.’ They just have different genetic markers. They are both equal in danger to our health.

Gluten is found in the following grains:

  • wheat – durum, graham, semolina, spelt, kamut, etc
  • rye
  • barley
  • some oats (although I would steer clear of this supposedly “gluten-free” food as gluten is typically present from the modern methods they use to process oats, which contaminates it with gluten)
  • cornstarch

Although other grains such as corn, millet, quinoa, rice, buckwheat and soy do not technically contain gluten, gluten contamination in many of these foods are extremely common. I do eat quinoa…but only very small amounts, and I tune into my body to see if I react (which I do…very badly with gluten).

Gluten is everywhere 😦 , and unless a product is clearly labelled ‘GLUTEN-FREE’, I wouldn’t eat it. Gluten can be labelled as other things such as food emulsifiers, artificial food colouring, vegetable (or hydrolysed) protein, modified food starch, dextrin…and so on. So you really have to read your labels if they don’t clearly state ‘Gluten Free’.

So what damage does it do to our bodies? Gluten flattens the very important villi which is the lining of your small intestine (it looks like shag carpet). This villi is responsible for absorbing all your nutrients and so on. Gluten will actually turn this healthy, shag carpet villi into a completely destroyed flat zone where you are unable to absorb the “good stuff” from your foods.

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If you are not absorbing the things your body absolutely needs for you to survive, you fall into many health problems. Gluten definitely does not just affect the digestive system. ‘Gluten sensitivity can be primarily and at times exclusively a neurological disease, affecting not only the brain and nervous system directly, but also cognitive and psychiatric illness.’ (Hadjivassiliou)It affects the brain – when you consume gluten, it shuts off the blood flow to the frontal and prefrontal cortex which is responsible for short-term memory, focus, managing of emotions, planning and organisational skills.

Eating gluten has proven to cause ADD/ADHD, depression, heart problems, chronic inflammatory conditions, immune system, diabetes, musculoskeletal system, nervous system, moods, eczema, joint pain, and kidney issues. Gluten is the root cause of many health issues (and deaths).

‘Celiac Disease is one of the most common lifelong disorders in both Europe and the US.’ (A. Fasano)

In Nora’s book, she shares that The New England Journal of Medicine discovered that 55 diseases are KNOWN to be caused by gluten. Among these are heart disease, cancer, nearly all autoimmune diseases, osteoporosis, irritable bowel syndrome, gall bladder disease, Hashimoto’s disease (an autoimmune thyroid disorder), epilepsy, migraines, Parkinson’s disease, lateral sclerosis, autism (which is technically an autoimmune brain disorder), anxiety issues, bipolar disorder, dementia, and schizophrenia.

I hate to be a downer, but gluten can kill you.

Hmmm…another piece of pizza?

My next post will be all about ‘Diagnosis’ (or lack of!), but be warned….did you know that only 1% (yes, I did correctly type the measly number of only 1%) of people with celiac disease are properly diagnosed…..1 percent…

The Perfect Flavoured Vegie Lasagne

Many years ago we dined on this at a friend’s place and we have been cooking it ever since.  Sometimes I cook it for friends, weekly lunches, shabbat meal, or when we just feel like something warm and hearty! Usually with a glass of red.

You can add your choice of meat if you wish, but I like to cook it without (although lamb mince is amazing too). My husband thinks all dinners should have some kind of meat/fish, but he seems to like this….probably the sour cream 🙂

So what’s in it? Gluten-free lasagne sheets (not too great on the top as it puffs up), sweet potato, normal potato, zucchini, squash, sour cream, tomato pasta sauce, eggplant, mushrooms, cheese, oregano and thyme (this time from my garden!).  I just layer it up in a square dish and pop it on the oven….not too high cause you don’t want the sour cream to curdle and it is ideal to have the vegies cook through too!

Gluten-free lasagne sheets - just from Coles.

Herbs from MY garden! So nice to not buy them. Oregano and Basil.

Some of the layering.

That’s it! I’ve had it!! (going gluten-free)

I am kind of chucking a bit of a “tanty” here…at myself!

In 2006, my husband and I went with a group of people over to Fiji on a mission trip.  We visited some very remote islands and like all foreign places, told to be careful with the drinking water…basically don’t consume it at all!  So we didn’t drink the water, but I HAD to brush my teeth in it one night after a massive evening of ministry at the local church.  In my tiredness I had forgotten the golden rule and paid for it by spending the night and early hours of the morning in the most agony I have experienced up to that point in my life.  Incredible stomach cramps that were like many tiny knives striking my lower abdomen, vomiting, diarrhoea….it was so so painful!   I spent the entire night outside in the pitch black stillness under the stars trying to stop myself from crying out from the pain in my gut.  The next day our mission team was flying off the island to head back to the main land. As soon as we landed at Nadi airport my sickness had basically gone……but I was forever after that to experience chronic tummy problems.

Me dancing at the local church on the island. This was the teeth brushing night that would change my gut forever.

The morning after my 'all nighter' still sick and crampy. It was horrible! This Fijian lady made me fresh lemon and sugar concentrate to sip and it really helped before we boarded the mini plane.

The morning after we left my sick island which is really named Koro Island and it is a magical place. Little did I know that Weetbix and white bread would be a thing of the past!

That Fiji moment is the pin-point in time of when I began my struggle with tummy pains, headaches, fuzziness and extreme tiredness.  I didn’t realise this until last year when I had my first miscarriage and blamed myself thinking my body was just retarded and couldn’t hack building a baby.  So, all down on myself I headed to a naturopath thinking I needed something to sort myself out. I knew I had issues with my tummy and I was significantly more tired than usual, but I had been tested for various things through the doctor I was seeing at the time and nothing had come up except that I had chronic hypoglycaemia..later linked to my gut problem. My naturopath did many more tests that were more thorough and it was discovered that I was gluten intolerant, and he even threw in the word ‘coeliac’ although I never ended getting fully tested for that.  He said there was a time that I had picked up a bug and it was playing havoc with my system. Gluten was feeding it and had caused me to become intolerant to the stuff. The original tests I had through my old doctor couldn’t detect the bug as it was too small. My naturopath instructed me on how to eat so that I eliminated all gluten and temporarily dairy as well (dairy is very hard for an already weak digestive system to absorb and break down). Within a few days, I felt incredible!!  My tummy pains went, I woke up in the morning full of life and with a clear head.  Energy was just pouring out of me! I lost so much swelling from my body that weight was just dropping off me. Basically, I had previously been unable to absorb any nutrients from my food as my digestive system was very damaged from the gluten I had been eating and the water I was drinking was not being absorbed either. My body just wasn’t functioning properly.  Chronic Hypoglycemia was caused by a lack of sugars and nutrients also, so it was all linked. One thing we were to discover later was that my miscarriage had nothing to do with this – a bit of a relief back then.

After a couple of months, things got a little fuzzy for me.  I discovered the world of gluten-free products such as bread, pasta, biccies, etc and even though they were gluten-free, they began to give me slight tummy issues anyway. I was finding it hard to eat out, travel, and entertain people…or be entertained at people’s homes.  I know now that this was due to my lack of knowledge in how to live a gluten-free life, and this is where my “tanty” comes into play. I am so mad at myself for letting something so debilitating beat me cause I felt it was too hard.  I now feel back to the gross way I did before and this whole time I knew I shouldn’t be eating gluten.  I have been ignoring it and putting up with the consequences with gritted teeth and clutching my tummy. How could someone be so destructive to their own body when they know what needs to be done….and has experienced the positives before!

An interesting article has been written by the Sydney Morning Herald about how people can be intolerant to gluten and have a negative coeliac test result .  I am also educating myself through other people’s blogs.  I love reading real people’s perspectives on their trials and errors in finding what works for them rather than from a company or scientist pushing their product.

So, I have come to the crossroads and I am choosing to get educated and serious and live life fully and properly again. The excuse of it being too hard is crap and doesn’t fly with me any more.  It is time to grown up and take control.

Wish me luck.

The Best Breakfast In My World

The delicious breakfast!

I shouldn’t eat cereal and I shouldn’t eat toast. As a matter of fact, I shouldn’t eat any food with gluten in it. Breakfast was becoming boring, unless it was eggs of some sort, and the gluten-free bread still gave me tummy issues.

My friend shared this recipe with me for a delicious and healthy breakfast and I can certainly say that I am hooked!

C’s Brekky

Mix together: rice bran, puffed rice, puffed millet, fresh banana, goji berries, almonds, dried blueberries, sultanas, honey , a good trail mix, grapes, etc.  I add some chia seeds and a tablespoon of natural yogurt (Chris’s Greek Style Yogurt is my favourite!), then you pour some juice over it, instead of milk (I am using the Mango and Apple juice and my friend likes pineapple).

Stringy Pasta Phobia?

I see a bit of an unplanned pattern happening for my favourite food five-post series – Poached Eggs, Potatoes, Pasta…what’s next?! It is totally unintentional. I absolutely, whole heartedly, love pasta.  In particular, the tomato kind.  It will always have a place in my kitchen.  Even when I was a little girl, it was high on my list of yummy din dins. It is so filling and versatile and makes me feel like I have had a good dose of real, hearty food.  It is easy to cook, it is cheap, most people like it, you can add so many things to it,  you make a big batch of it for lunches and other lazy dinners, and everyone usually has some pasta hanging out in their pantry – along with some sauce. Surely?

When my husband and I started dating 12 years ago, he came over for his first ever meal at my parents place. In true Burchill style we had pasta for dinner. I just assumed that my new, hot boyfriend would LOVE pasta just like me….I mean who doesn’t right?  Not until much later, my now-husband tells me that he will never forget that first meal with my folks.  Sitting there at the dinner table, with a meal that he knew he couldn’t wrangle with the common fork/spoon technique most of us are talented with. He never really ate that much pasta growing up, and therefore sat at the table and watched us eat, while trying his best to copy without it going everywhere.

Early days in our relationship

Nowadays when I make pasta, I usually forgo the messiest types (string spaghetti) for my hubby’s comfort, and head more towards the penne, shells or spirals.  Tastes all the same to me, so who cares. Keeps everyone feeling coordinated at the dinner table.  I have had to make the switch from normal pasta to Gluten Free pasta after I discovered how sick gluten can make me.  We both actually prefer the taste of the GF stuff. I came across this recipe some time last year, tore it our of the mag and pasted it into my recipe scrapbook.  I cooked it for the first time tonight and it was perfecto!  Approvals all round.  It was that easy that you only dirty one saucepan and a stirrer as you cook the entire thing in one pot.  This gave me time to sip a glass of red and rock out to some Roxette tunes playing in the background.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 500g beef mince (I like to use lamb mince)
  • 400g pasta sauce
  • 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms (I use over 1 cup of mushies cause we love them!)
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup  water (I used about 1 cup all up as I put in more pasta)
  • 1 1/2 cup small pasta (I like using the Gluten Free Penne pasta)
  • chopped parsley (from our garden!)
  • grated parmesan to serve (I just used light Tasty cheese)
  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan on high.  Saute onion for 2-3 minutes until tender.
  2. Add mince. Brown well, breaking up with the back of a spoon as it cooks. Stir in the sauce, mushrooms, wine and water. Bring to the boil.
  3. Reduce heat. Stir in pasta. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally until pasta is tender. Season to taste. Serve immediately topped with parsley and parmesan, if liked.

I know it is a crazy idea to COOK a meal during such hot, sticky, humid weather that we have been having this past week.  We grabbed our pasta, and had a picnic together on the floor of the living room with the air conditioner on full!

In case you want to listen to some Roxette as you cook this meal, here you go –

Eggs, Toast & One Kinda Sauce

The first entry of a five-part post marathon on my favourite meals. Enjoy!

Our breakfast this morning.

Breakfast is by far my favourite meal to eat out.  There is just something unbearably delicious about eating a breakfast at a cafe on an empty stomach…the first meal of the day.  I also enjoy seeing the variety each cafe has in addition to the base breakfasts such as ‘Bacon & Eggs’, ‘Fruit & Muesli’, and the best of all ‘Eggs Benedict’.  You never know exactly what it is going to look like and what little extras they have added to the norm.  Sometimes you have potato fritters instead of toast, fried haloumi, smoked salmon instead of bacon or ham.  You also get a great idea of how to mix flavours.  A favourite mix would have to be at the Nanna McGinn’s Cafe in Kenilworth where they serve french toast, cooked banana and bacon drizzled with maple syrup.  What an intoxicating meal for the adventurous and definitely an explosion of flavours…well worth the risk of bacon and banana in the same meal.

Eggs Bene would be right up on my list of favourite meals, but it really depends on where you go.

Delicious Eggs Benedict Sauce!

Sometimes you can end up with the weirdest Hollandaise Sauce flavours…and some are hard to stomach.  When visiting my sister-in-law up in Normanton (Far North Queensland) a few years ago she introduced us, and converted me, to the one of the yummiest Eggs Benedict sauces for a quick home fix, and I haven’t looked back since.  Her favourite is the Masterfoods Hollandaise Sauce.  You just put the packet into the microwave for 40 seconds and you have yummy sauce.   Every time we get together with my husband’s family for Christmas or a visit, we usually end up with Eggs Benedict along with this sauce for breakfast.  I love my Eggs Bene with smoked salmon, but for this morning I just used plain old ham and it was still scrumptous. When we make this at home, we usually use the gluten-free bread by Country Life Bakery.  The best one I have ever tasted and I usually use the low G.I one (it has blue on the packet). You can just buy this in the normal bread section of the supermarket (Coles, Woolworths, IGA, etc). Really nice texture and flavour.

Tip: I had no end of trouble trying to poach the eggs without a poacher so my brother-in-law gave me some very handy tips.  This way works for me – boil water in a medium saucepan and add white vinegar (the vinegar actually gives the egg a really nice flavour).  Wait until the water has heated and there are some small bubbles appearing at the bottom of the saucepan (in the lead up to the water boiling).  Crack the egg into the water and let it sit for a few seconds until the base part of the egg has turned white.  You can either leave it like this as the small bubbles will slightly move the egg into a nice bundle, or you can get a spoon or ladle and gently lift the egg around to bunch it up a bit.  I usually leave the egg in the water until I think it is ready.  All the whites of the egg should not be clear, but…well…white! Make sure your water doesn’t reach boiling point as the egg may break apart.  When finished, scoop out the egg onto a paper towel to let it dry. Done!