How Gluten Relates to You

Gluten is not a scary thing! Avoiding it does not mean going without bread, pasta, pastries or dessert for the rest of your life! Relax. If I could have you over for dinner or an apple turnover in the morning, you’d be pleasantly surprised at the flavors you will love- and recognize- without the gluten in it! Stay awhile, read this post and educate yourself. Be inspired. Then, try a recipe or two- if not for yourself, then for a gluten free friend I’m sure you have. Us gluten intolerant folk are really just popping up everywhere!

So, what is gluten?
It is the wonderful reason baked goods hold together so well. It is also my nemesis, but we’ll get to that later.  Gluten can be explained as, “the elastic protein in wheat, rye, and barley. Its elasticity is why French bread holds together, why angel-food cakes rise so high… Think of gluten as the glue of wheat, rye, and barley” (Gluten Free Girl). A bit more scientific than glue, “Gluten is a general name for specific proteins found in wheat, rye, and barley...  Gluten proteins are made up of two types of peptides, glutenin and prolamins.  It is the prolamins that trigger an autoimmune reaction in people with celiac disease.  They also trigger reactions in people with gluten intolerance” (Gluten Free Home Maker).

What has gluten in it?
My answer: Everything! Ok, not true. All natural, non wheat, non rye, and non barley foods, are of course gluten free. You know- fruits, vegetables, dairy products… However, everything else has gluten. Or, at least, seems to. Check the food labels and aside from the obvious wheat, rye and barley to avoid, steer clear of a super long list of ingredients that you can find by clicking, here: Unsafe Ingredients Yea, print it out. Take it with you the next time you shop. I promise it gets easier. We’re a gluten free household and I don’t even have to think twice about it when I shop. Guess it kind of became second nature for me, and in a minute I’m going to share some tips I’ve learned along the way that really make my life easier.

Who benefits from a gluten free diet?
Those who have celiac disease, or are gluten intolerant, obviously benefit from a gluten free diet. However, they are not the only ones- and you just might too! Actually, you may even have a gluten sensitivity since it is estimated that 33% of Americas population does and they just don’t know it! But, even if you don’t have this issue you can still vastly improve your health by avoiding gluten, or even just wheat! Take my husband for example. He has arthritis in his back. Did you know that wheat causes inflammation, which makes his back hurt like heck? Yep- avoid the wheat, avoid the back pain. Also, he gives up wheat, and BAM!- Looses five pounds. Indulges in a wheat filled treat, instantly gains five pounds. I’m talking like five pounds in two to three days. Something in his belly doesn’t like the wheat! And, lots of people have been making the same discovery. Dr. William David, cardiologist, describes himself as having the “audacity to write such an against-the-grain book exposing “healthy whole grains” for the incredibly destructive genetic monsters they’ve become.” His book, Wheat Belly, apparently explores this topic. I, however, am much more familiar with his blog and suggest you check it out to see how cutting wheat from your diet may benefit you in these ways, “weight loss of 25 to 30 lbs over several months, marked improvement or total relief from arthritis, improvement in asthma sufficient to chuck 2 or 3 inhalers, complete relief from acid reflux and irritable bowel syndrome symptoms, disappearance of leg swelling and numbness. Most reported increased mental clarity, deeper sleep, and more stable moods and emotions

What are symptoms of gluten sensitivity?
Ah, my favorite question. Just like I answer the, what has gluten in it question with the response, EVERYTHING; I like to respond to the symptom question with: EVERYTHING. Let me explain, gluten damages the lining of the small intestine. The small intestine is what absorbs nutrients, but when damaged it cannot function properly and many, if not all, nutrients are passed before our body has a chance to use them. So, use your imagination. What can go wrong when our body isn’t receiving sufficient nutrients? EVERYTHING! Common complaints though include gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea, gas and bloating, infertility, thyroid disorders, auto immune disorders, and mental illness.  

My story:
It is common for gluten sensitivity symptoms to go un-noticed for many years, they are known as silent symptoms. Be that my case, or be it ignorance, I have only lived a gluten free lifestyle since 2010 when my symptoms screamed so loudly during my first pregnancy that they could not be ignored. At the time my physical complaints were awful, mysterious, and debilitating- now though, I recognize them as the tell tale sign that I slipped up and ate some gluten. In a way, they are a subtle (well, not so subtle) way of reminding me why I follow a strict gluten free diet anyway. I, personally get an upset stomach, heart burn, and an overwhelming feeling of exhaustion following gluten consumption. Then, the next few days always have me feeling lethargic, tired, and suffering from diarrhea. I won’t lie, occasionally I sell my soul (or so it feels like) to sink my teeth into a fast food hamburger bun. Yes, out of all the gluten laden goodness out there, a nasty, greasy fast-food bun is my biggest weakness. 99% of the time though, I lead a very satisfied gluten free lifestyle, as does my family. We don’t bring gluten into the home to tempt me, and neither my husband nor my toddler ever complains about my cooking! Well, the toddler throws things and sticks up her nose at meal time on occasion, but I blame it on toddlerness and not my food.
Here are my tips to make this lifestyle enjoyable:
1. Find an all purpose gluten free flour that works for you and use it in EVERYTHING. Buying specific flours and flour blends for each and every recipe you come across is expensive and chaotic. I mix up a big batch of my flour of choice at the start of each month and use it as I need it.
3 Cups white rice flour
3 Cups brown rice flour
3 Cups tapioca flour
1 1/2 Cups potato starch
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons xanthum gum
2. Become a gluten free household. In the beginning, I made dinner for me and I made dinner for my husband. Not only did I hate cooking twice, but I envied the familiar food on his plate. Now, what I eat- we all eat. And, no one complains. There are amazing recipes out there, and by now I can easily make the necessary substitutions to turn just about any old favorite into a gluten free dish. 
3. The quick, gluten free packaged meals and snacks may look tempting. But, read your labels! Replacing wheat with starch is not ideal. Eating fresh is always best, but when in a bind, choose products that list brown rice flour first as brown rice flour is a whole grain.
4. Stick to the products you know and trust! Some of my favorites are: Wishbone ranch and Italian salad dressings. Progresso Chicken Enchilada Soup and Mushroom soup (both excellent in croc pot recipes and casseroles) And, Chex cereals including corn, rice, honey, cinnamon, and chocolate! (Great for that bowl of cereal in the morning, or to use as bread crumbs in your favorite recipe like breaded chicken and meat loaf.)
5. Check out this MUST HAVE book: Cooking for Isaiah by Silvana Nardone. No, she doesn’t pay me to advertise her book (but, wouldn’t it be cool if she did?) I just sincerely love this cookbook and cook from it on a weekly basis. You can sample some of her recipes, here: Silvanas Kitchen
6. Know what ingredients to avoid. While some products are clearly labeled Gluten Free, not all products that aren't labeled as such are off limits. Gluten is a protein found within food and is not in itself an ingredient that you will find listed in the ingredient list. Common ingredients that contain gluten and that I often see are wheat, food- starch, (corn and potato starch are fine.) malt, barley, rye... I mentioned the complete list above, but here is that link again: Unsafe Ingredients
7. Eat your whole grains! Incorporate brown rice and quinoa into your diet. They are delicious, especially when cooked in gluten free chicken broth, and healthy! Experiment with gluten free bread recipes. I myself love Silvana's corn bread, banana bread, and I use her bialy bread slabs for hamburger buns. Below I mention the best sandwich bread recipe I have found yet.
3 Simple ways to save $20.00 a month (Yes, you can afford this lifestyle.)

Picture courtesy of the Baking Beauties Blog
Small changes can account for big savings, which is good because the gluten free lifestyle can sure account for big spending if you're not careful! Here are some tips I've picked up on to keep our wheat free/ gluten free household fed without going broke!

1. Make bread. Save 1.70 per loaf! We eat a loaf of bread a week, bringing our savings to $6.80 a month!

I did the math and baking this recipe of gluten free bread by the baking beauties saves me 1.70/ per loaf compared to Udis Flax and Fiber bread- their only bread that also has the uber healthy ground flax seed in it. Besides, fresh, soft, straight from the oven bread always tastes better than store bought frozen bread whose main ingredient happens to be starch- ick. So do yourself a favor: Save money, and eat healthier, tastier bread!

2. Make all purpose flour. Save $3 a batch! We use a batch a month, so we save $3.00 a month!
Not only have I had incredible results cooking with my gluten free all purpose flour, but saving 3 dollars a batch is huge! Especially considering it takes all of five minutes to mix up.

3. Know your brands, find your savings! Save $10 a month!
Buying store brand foods is often the cheapest way to go, but often times this is no longer an option on a gluten free diet. Learn what brands ARE safe to eat and stick to those! This not only makes shopping easier since you don't have to read labels each and every time you shop, but it also gives you something to keep in mind when browsing local ads and coupons. I refuse to devote a lot of time to couponing, but I like to spend a few minutes before each shopping trip browsing online coupon sites. On average, I save $10 a month this way. The sites I use are: (my favorite as each redeemed coupon credits my account with 10 points; points add up and can be cashed in for gift cards to places like!) and