Breaking Up is Still Hard to Do

IMG_1920As it is with many relationships, breaking up can be torture. Although I believed coffee and I were over (Breaking Up is Hard to Do), because it mimics gluten, I indulged in a bit of a reunion a few days ago. And it felt so good. Because I’m stubborn and in denial about the new and unjust effects of caffeine on my body, I took a few sips of espresso. Yes, of all things, espresso. I said, if I’m gonna do it, might as well get ridiculous. It made me weak in the knees and butterflies swirled in my stomach, typical of a reunion with a missed beloved.

Except, I quickly realized the butterflies weren’t the good kind. They were pangs of agony, and the cold, hard reminder that coffee and I should most definitely remain apart.

But then, because I just can’t seem to torture myself enough and because denial is an astonishingly powerful thing, I tried a milder coffee blend a couple of days later. I was surprised to find that I tolerated it pretty well this time. Except, after a couple of cups, back to the same problem. So my conclusion is that the strength of the coffee bean is a factor in whether it can impact a person with gluten sensitivity, but amount is also a part of it.

I’m sure I’ll keep experimenting to find the perfect coffee for me (and regret it after), but in the meantime, I’m reconnecting with my first love, chai. But I’m not talking about coffeehouse “Chai Tea Latte,” (which actually just means tea tea latte) with 50 grams of sugar and tons of additives, but homemade chai grounds boiled to perfection, milk added in at just the right time, and spices thrown in.

So far, it’s going pretty well. Rebounds are the best, at least for a little while.

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Myth or Fact: Bread May Cause Seizures

image1Can bread be the reason you’re feeling anxious and depressed? Do you know someone who has seizures but doesn’t know the underlying cause? Based on recent research, it’s quite possible that gluten is the problem. Gluten is often linked to digestive symptoms, however, there is also research that suggests gluten is related to brain functioning and mental health.

Here’s what a research review of 162 studies shows regarding the relationship between gluten and neurological and/or psychiatric symptoms (Jackson et al., 2012):

36 articles for seizure disorder

20 articles for movement dysfunction such as ataxia and cerebellar degeneration

26 articles for neuropathy, which causes weakness, numbness and pain related to nerve damage

20 articles for schizophrenia

14 articles for depression

12 articles for migraine

Up to 10 articles each for anxiety disorders, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, autism, multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis, myopathy, white matter lesions

There may be a variety of reasons why a person is experiencing any of the neurological or psychiatric issues listed, however, it’s worth talking with your doctor if you suspect gluten might be part of the problem.

To read more about the relationship between gluten and the above listed diagnoses, go to http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3641836/

 

Really Mom, Coconut Oil? Moms and Their Myths.

imageI sat reluctantly on our living room floor as my mother roughly applied coconut oil to my hair. She ignored my bratty, ten-year-old complaints as streams of oil made their way down my face. I protested, fidgeted, and tried to escape her grip, only to be drawn back to my seat and jostled around into a near concussion as she continued the greasy ritual.

“You have to use coconut oil every night so you have nice, healthy hair,” she’d remind me. Yet, along with all the other pieces of random tales she’d offer, I placed her nuggets of advice into the section of my mind labeled, “Myths That Mom Makes Up.”

Coconut oil for hair and skin, turmeric for colds, hot tea for itchy throats, ginger for indigestion, they were all such weird remedies. Mom is a large advocate of I told you so’s, but I’m going to say it anyway. After many, many years of ridiculing her suggestions, I have found that she’s right. Ugh.

Although used for hundreds of years to improve health and nutrition, coconut oil is only now receiving popular attention. It is used in cooking, hormone imbalance, and even deodorant. Think of all of the preservatives that can be avoided by substituting coconut oil for everyday products that are often loaded with toxins, such as coffee creamer, soap and toothpaste. Check out this article http://draxe.com/coconut-oil-uses/ to learn about its many benefits.

There are various methods of extracting oil from coconut. This article provides information on the types: http://healthimpactnews.com/2014/what-type-of-coconut-oil-is-best-how-to-choose-a-coconut-oil/. It’s a bit lengthy but informative. If you’d like to skip to which extraction types are best, there’s a chart toward the bottom of the article. I’d love to hear how you’ve used coconut oil.

By the way, thanks Mom.

Breaking Up is Hard to Do: Ode to Coffee

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Sadly, I recently found out that my beloved – coffee – has been doing me wrong. Heartbreaking. I didn’t even see it coming. Everything was fine for several years, so I thought, No! It can’t be. Coffee was my best friend and trusted companion. Coffee came to work with me, walked to school with me through many chilling Chicago winters, even came to class and stayed up with me on late nights as I studied. More recently, coffee clocked in long hours of writing, revising, and obsessing over a very involved project.

Yet, I’m left with no choice but to come to grips with the fact that coffee is doing weird things to me, and sadly, can no longer be trusted. Of course I went through a phase of denial and thought that maybe gluten was sneaking into my body without me somehow knowing it. Gluten, for me is particularly deleterious. But no, that wasn’t it. I was too diligent. So I had to start the very difficult process of eliminating foods systematically to find the culprit. Of course I continued to drink coffee because it surely couldn’t be that. However, it quickly became very obvious that despite my back stroke down the deep sea of denial, coffee was in fact the culprit. I frantically started to do research hoping that someone would tell me it wasn’t so. Maybe I’d even find that coffee helps the digestive system function more optimally (see, that back stroke again). Except the only thing I found time and time again related to the digestive system was this:

Coffee can be misunderstood as gluten or other invasive substances in the body, and therefore, the body reacts adversely to it. I’ve included a couple of articles that support this absurdly tragic news:

http://autoimmune-paleo.com/kicking-the-coffee-habit/

http://www.hungryforchange.tv/article/10-reasons-to-quit-coffee-plus-healthy-alternatives

NOOOOOOO!!! I didn’t want to find research that confirmed my suspicion. But here I am, now attempting to find suitable alternatives for my beloved friend and comforter, the coffee bean. Of course, there is tea, matcha and mate, the latter possibly being closest to coffee in consistency. But, the reality is that I’m not ready for this relationship to be over and I’m surely not ready for a rebound. So, in my tormenting sadness, the only thing I can do is this:

 

Ode to Coffee

Coffee, oh coffee, where art thou, coffee?

I thought you’d never, ever forsake me.

But you changed, and we can no longer be together.

In fact, separate, I suppose, would be better.

 

You did me wrong, or was it I that was changing all along?

Despite this conundrum, I shall continue to sing this song,

Because you were there when I needed you,

Unwavering, bold and strong.

 

Although it is now time for us to part,

You will always and forever have my heart.

Although you sometimes gave my stomach great pains,

And sometimes gave my heartbeat a terrible start and disdain.

 

Coffee, oh coffee,

I shall always wish that you hadn’t left me,

Yet for my own good, I must refrain from your lure,

In spite of my yearning heart and your aromatic overtures.

*****

Breaking up is oh, so hard to do. I suppose this isn’t a Happy Ending, because I have to sacrifice an old friend, nor is it thoroughly sad, because I feel liberated from its effects. It is instead bittersweet, just as I loved my coffee.

What’s All the Hype About Gluten?

image1Someone recently asked me why there’s such a huge explosion of information and awareness of gluten. “We’ve been eating gluten for years and people have been fine. Why’s everybody on this gluten-free kick? It seems like people just think it’s cool.” It’s true, gluten is getting a lot more attention, but it’s far from a fad. In fact, it’s like any other illness-causing source. Once health advocates find out something may not be good for us, the spotlight shifts so that its harmful effects can be understood and eventually reduced.

Think of all the unhealthy foods that were consumed years ago. We now know that adding a liberal amount of lard in our recipes is not just a fun way to enhance taste, it’s a death wish. We’re also now far more knowledgeable about the effects of diabetes so we make efforts to deter away from choices that may cause it. It’s exciting to know that gluten is attracting more attention because in my humble opinion, Irritable Bowel Syndrome isn’t really a thing. It seems to be more of a catch-all diagnosis, many times qualifying as a diagnosis for someone with gluten-related concerns. It’s gluten at it’s finest. Researchers conducted a study with IBS sufferers in which one group of subjects eliminated gluten from their diet while the other group did not. Not surprisingly, IBS symptoms decreased in the gluten-free group. Sure, other factors might be contributing to folks’ health issues, but I have yet to hear someone tell me that eliminating gluten made them feel worse (well, emotionally maybe, because knowing I can no longer eat a chocolate glaze covered chocolate doughnut with drizzled chocolate chips on top from my favorite bakery almost brings me to tears, but that’s another story).

Who Me? Gluten-Free?

IMG_4970   I remember my first experience with numbness and tingling in my hands and feet, along with other weird symptoms – a rash around my elbows (yes, just the elbows), stomach pain and breathing problems. After weeks of having symptoms, I began to wonder what was really going on. I saw my doctor, who suggested vitamin supplements and said we’d observe how that went. Kinda sorta saw a minor improvement, which made some sense, but ultimately, I still had frequent symptoms. Check out this article on neurological symptoms and vitamin deficiency to find out more about that:

that.http://brainblogger.com/2014/07/30/vitamin-b12-deficiency-and-its-neurological-consequences/

So anyway, she then referred me to a neurologist who cleared me of all things terrifying. I was very grateful but I still didn’t have answers. With time, I began to learn the connection between gluten sensitivity and its symptoms. I started experimenting. I went off of gluten. Felt amazing. Then, drowning in the sea of denial and bread withdrawal, I told myself my health improvement had nothing to do with gluten and I’d be fine if I ate it. Terrible idea. So I went back off. And on, and off. I did the tango with gluten a few more times before I regretfully came to terms with it. So eventually and very reluctantly – I decided to give up gluten. Bread versus being symptom-free of weird, scary sensations, I decided giving up bread, and pizza, and ugh, cookies was definitely worth it. Painful, but worth it.

I also later realized that although I had to make some food and financial sacrifices, there are a lot of gluten-free options now available. The Autism & ADHD Diet: A Step-by-Step Guide to Hope and Healing by Living Gluten Free and Casein Free (GFCF) and Other Interventions by Barrie Silberberg is an excellent resource for people looking to switch to gluten-free eating (and casein-free, if you prefer). Despite the title, it is not only for those suffering with autism or ADHD. It’s a great resource for multiple reasons, really, because she also details how gluten and casein affect developmental and overall general health.

Gluten Implicated in Cognitive Decline?

IMG_4581      Gluten-free diets are sometimes thought to be a fad. Friends have disgustedly asked me, “Ew, you do that? Why?” Believe me, it’s not a choice, it’s a necessity. Other people eliminate gluten because they figure if it bothers other people, it can’t be good for them. Until recently however, no one was really sure why it causes adverse effects.

People who have Celiac Disease and gluten sensitivity/intolerance may have reactions from stomach discomfort to neurological symptoms, like tingling and numbness. In a book titled, Misdiagnosed by Jody Berger, she shares how she was misdiagnosed as having multiple sclerosis, but after doing some lengthy research and seeking other sources such as Ayurvedic doctors, she finally discovered she had a gluten intolerance.

There’s increasing research that neurological symptoms of gluten insensitivity and intolerance do actually mimic multiple sclerosis and other neurological diagnoses. Further, there might also be a link between gluten and cognitive decline. Check out this article that details how gluten affects the brain: http://thepaleodiet.com/gluten-brain/ There are some interesting MRI scans that show atrophy in a particular part of the brain that’s thought to be caused by gluten consumption.

By the way, the dish I made in the pic is all gluten-free – noodles by Ronzoni and gluten-free corn meal for the breaded salmon.