Since I experienced my own personal health battles over a decade ago, that resulted in me changing my entire lifestyle to a cleaner way of eating, I can say that I have maintained an overall healthy diet and lifestyle since then.
Fast food is never an option and neither are processed sugars or foods. I also eat almost entirely organic when possible.
Although I can say that my family and I had very healthy diets in general, we were still consuming wheat and gluten regularly.
I was already aware that it wasn't the best thing to eat all the time because I had watched an informative program last year by Dr. William Davis based on his well known book Wheat Belly. He clearly explained the risks and side effects associated with eating gluten and wheat on a regular basis, which I will go through some of in this blog.
The information impacted me, but quite honestly I wasn't experiencing the side effects(or so I thought) of eating whole wheat grains and gluten so I didn't give it up yet.
Last month that all changed! My 3 year old son had been dealing with an incessant cough that would come and go for over 6 months. It wasn't always associated with a cold or flu either, although it would get a lot worse when he did have a chest infection. The spasm like coughing became severe to the point that he would vomit his food up from coughing so much. So I had to take him to the doctor to see what was going on, because the remedies and cough syrups I had given him were not helping and I wanted to get to the bottom of this pattern. I had a gut feeling that it could be asthmatic. Not much to my surprise the paediatrician said that he heard wheezing in his chest upon examining him and that although he could not officially diagnose my son with asthma because he was too young for the official asthma medical diagnostic, he did say he was going to prescribe him a non steroidal puffer for asthma related coughing. I was not in any way opposed to this, because as natural as I like to be, in these cases I will not risk my son's well being. The medication was necessary.
The definition of asthma and what it actually means is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways. Key word: Inflammation.
I did mention to the paediatrician as well that I had also been noticing eczema like rashes on his cheeks lately and that I felt it was all somewhat related. So I asked him if there were foods that I had to avoid to keep his immune system strong and avoid the inflammation in his system. Not to my surprise the Doctor said "NO, food has nothing to do with this type of condition and you can feed him what you like except for what he's directly allergic to." This is an absolutely ignorant statement to disregard diet as a trigger to his condition. I immediately disregarded his comment and just thanked him for his time because of my own avid research and experience, I know that the food we eat is DIRECTLY RELATED TO EVERY ASPECT OF HEALTH, ESPECIALLY INFLAMMATION! Food can certainly be our medicine and I'm a firm believer of that from my own life experience. Nature has everything we need in order to prevent and treat almost all, if not all diseases and conditions. I am also a believer of being your own personal health advocate and to inform yourself as much as possible on all angles as to how to maintain your own optimal healthy life in order to meet your personal needs. I certainly do not disregard professional medical advice and services, but I'm not going to take everything they say as absolute truth and as the only options available. I knew my son had plenty of options to reverse his asthma symptoms, and it was going to begin with his diet. The puffer helped alleviate the coughing because it did open his airways, but as a long term solution it does not get to the core root issue.
I immediately took him to a local natural pharmacy to consult with some qualified experts in the field and they confirmed my initial gut feeling. The first thing they mentioned was to get him off gluten and get his gut flora and lining all rebalanced and reinforced and restore his immune system with an anti inflammatory based diet. This also meant that for a period of time he should avoid dairy which wasn't an issue because he only rarely eats cheese and regular milk and yoghurt make him sick. That made it clear that we would have to modify our family diet to avoid wheat all together, which was quite a blessing in disguise because I personally had noticed that the last times I consumed bread and gluten I became bloated, cramping occurred and I felt gross a couple hours after eating it. God knows how much we loved eating pizza and sandwiches so I didn't think it would be an easy transition, but I knew it was worth it for all of us.
According to what I have learned so far, conditions like allergies, eczema and asthma have all been shown to be strongly correlated to poor gut health. They are all inflammation based. If the lining of our intestines is compromised, food particles get into our blood stream and our immune systems go into over drive and it creates chronic inflammation and unnecessary stress on our immune systems. Gluten and wheat are very much related to this problem because the wheat of today is not the wheat humans used to eat hundreds of years ago. It has been drastically genetically modified and even Organic modern day wheat is still not the same as ancient wheat. The wheat fields of today are enormously giant wheat stalks compared to the small wheat stalks of the past!
I modified the type of probiotic he was taking to get the optimal bacteria cultures to restore his gut flora health. I also began to give him more fermented food items.
Gluten is particularly a major culprit for our health because of the various ill side effects to many different body systems including circulatory, nervous, endocrine and digestive systems. Not to mention everyone knows how easily it contributes to unhealthy weight gain! That delicious white pasta goes straight to the gut! Gluten's particular proteins such as WGA, is what is responsible for a lot of gut inflammation and digestive issues. Most people like myself will report of decreased bloating and improved digestion after giving up or greatly reducing gluten from their diets.
Most people who suffer from diabetes or struggle with weight are aware that the bread and regular pasta are off limits, but as if the extra belly bloat and weight gain wasn't already enough to deter you from thinking twice before eating that extra bagel or donut this week, there's more!
Gluten derived polypeptides cross into the brain and bind itself to the brain's opiate receptors. That's right, wheat is as addictive as drugs! As exaggerative as it sounds it's absolutely true. When you have become accustomed to consuming wheat on a regular basis and then refrain from it all of a sudden, there is actually wheat withdrawal symptoms. I can attest to this because after refraining from wheat for about a week, all I wanted to eat was bread!
Eating excess wheat and gluten is proven to cause brain fog, and lack of sharpness and memory retention. There are also plenty of studies that show a strong correlation between gluten consumption and both Alzheimer's disease and dementia because of the glucose hemoglobin glycation that occurs. This means that the part of the blood that carries oxygen to the cells gets stuck with the sugar molecules within it causing rigidity in the cells. Glycation was something I learned about when I was teaching men and women about hair loss as it is also a factor in that area of health and beauty as well. Preventing any form of glycation as much as possible is very important.
I don't know about you, but I'm all about preventing illnesses like dementia that can rob one and a family of having a great quality of life. I'm not going to take any chances as that's not how I would like to spend the last golden years of my life. I plan on being healthy both physically and mentally and having my family enjoy me to my fullest potential as much as I possibly can!
Wheat also contains a starch called Amylopectin A which is quickly converted to blood sugar which creates a fast and high rise in blood sugar and insulin levels that can lead to heart disease and diabetes. When you have just a little bit, it causes for you to want more like any other sugary item so it can easily become habitual especially when seeking comfort.
So with all of this information and much more that I can go into, this is why I decided to go wheat and gluten free for myself and my family. It has allowed for me to be more creative with meal planning, cooking and snacks and my 3 year old son hasn't really complained. I've mentioned to him in a simple way that we are not eating wheat or gluten to stay healthy and he seems to be all for it because there's plenty of delicious options for him. Taste has not been and will never be sacrificed in this family of foodies!
Now there are lots of gluten free options out there as it's certainly quite trendy right now, but that doesn't mean that all gluten free options are healthy. Look out for ingredients like tapioca flour and white rice flour which are extremely high on the glycemic index and cause high rises of insulin levels comparable to processed white sugar. There are plenty of healthier options like almond flour, coconut flour, and garbanzo bean flour. It might take some time to adjust to some of it but I haven't found that the wheat and gluten detox has been too challenging given the encouraging positive results we already see and feel.
So far its been about a solid 3 weeks of not eating any wheat or gluten about 90% of the time and a solid week of not eating any at all. I still love sandwiches so when I want one for beach days or for a lunch meal, I choose wheat free bread.
Will I ever eat pizza again? YES! Being completely honest I probably will eat an item with gluten or wheat in it down the road but after having the negative side effects of wheat and gluten affect me after stopping for a while, I will avoid it as much as I possibly can.
Our health including my son's, has gotten so much better because of this step we have taken to avoid wheat and gluten. Our diets still include lots of fresh organic veggies, fruits, healthy fats like coconut and olive oil, daily smoothies, salads, wild fish, organic eggs and high quality supplements like super greens which are all a part of the anti inflammatory diet I have always believed in and will always adhere to. We have just improved even more so by eliminating another factor for both short and long term health benefits.
So if you feel like having a bit of a break from wheat and gluten even for just a temporary time might be something you're interested in, I will be posting some of my personal favourite delicious wheat and gluten free recipes and simple snack options for the whole family.
Having a nutritionally dense diet can mean something different to everyone, but so far this is working for us!