So I recently journeyed to the National University of Natural Medicine in Portland OR. The trip was an anniversary gift from my boyfriend, who lives there, and it is where he initially was encouraged to go on the paleo diet. For someone who is both gluten and lactose intolerant, the paleo diet has been a gift to him both physically and mentally. Jesse brought me to the University of Natural Medicine because he was concerned about several known problems that I have, the major one being the reliance of my digestive system on routine. There are several theories as to why I have digestive issues, the most likely being that I was an antibiotics baby. As a preemie of nine weeks in 1988, I was in and out of the hospital frequently. I was on so many medications that I didn’t have enough hair to cut until I was five years old. My memories of this time are actually happy, consisting of free hospital stuffed animals, stickers, and the tradition of blowing up latex gloves into a fun balloon. They also involve a lot of pain. A few years ago when I got pepper sprayed for work, it didn’t faze me. I knew the pain was superficial and it would eventually go away. It reminded me of the many nights I had stayed awake as a kid next to the toilet, wondering when I would either throw up or pass out from the pain in my stomach. I did not pass out from pepper spray. Was it fun? No. But neither was it the most terrible thing ever.
There were several interesting results from the university. The most promising is the use of castor oil, which I will explore. However, a lot of it pissed me off. The biggest thing being the elimination diet of “exclude all sugar, grains, dairy, alcohol and avoid fruit.”
Avoid all fruit? Um… SAY WHAT?
Thanks for putting me on a paleo diet. I guess the suggestion to my boyfriend wasn’t unique. Except I’m an athletic vegetarian. I can’t live off of just potatoes, vegetables, and tofu. I have no signs of either gluten or dairy intolerance. Furthermore, I have gone significant portions of my life without one of the other, to no change in dietary effect. This demonizing of both dairy and grains (especially wheat) has got to stop.
Also, I just have to throw it out there that a lot of people are much healthier on a meat free or meat reduced diet. If the Natural University is so gung ho about elimination diets, why don’t they suggest their patients try going vegetarian? I mean, if Harvard says it is good for you, who can doubt that?
But one post at a time. Let’s talk about a little about wheat.
The big story out there today is that wheat (and the gluten found in wheat) is bad for you. The two biggest reasons?
In regards to the first, it is true that modern wheat is very altered from its ancient counterpart. Not only is the breed of wheat different, but wheat products have tons of additives and even bulk flours can be highly processed. Flour used to be perishable after all. Non organic wheat is heavily sprayed by chemicals and that adds delicious pesticide residue to your breads and bagels. When purchasing organic wheat, not soaking the grain can lead to an increase in phytates, which is the grain seeds natural defense against digestion.
Unfortunately for the gluten free advocate, changes in the breed of wheat do not explain the supposed rise in gluten intolerance. The increase in phytates does not explain it either, unless you also have a major problem with non sprouted nuts and nut butters. But you don’t hear people going off about the unhealthiness of almond butter, now do you?
In regards to the second, no, gluten and grains do not necessarily cause gut inflammation in non celiac diagnosed people. However, there are some conditions in which certain types of gluten or grains may cause gut inflammation. For example, some people exhibit a sensitivity to short-chain carbohydrates (called FODMAPs), such as breads, beer, pastries and pasta. Basically, white bread and white pasta is bad for you (DUH). Another misdiagnosis is a sensitivity to fructose, a sugar commonly found in processed wheat products. Therefore, you don’t need to exclude wheat or grain, but just try to avoid the non-organic and highly processed versions of these foods. It bears to mention that Irritable Bowl Syndrome (a problem often supposedly associated with a gluten intolerance) is often cured by an increased intake of starchy foods, including whole grain wheat! I myself have learned that my stomach requires a certain amount of starch a day, if it is to function properly.
I will admit that in no circumstance should you eat the same food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. That is just common sense. So if you have wheat breakfast cereal, a sandwich on whole wheat toast, AND pasta for dinner…. maybe you should shake things up a bit and try potatoes or buckwheat or oatmeal. Just saying.
In conclusion, stop the gluten hate. But hate all you want on processed foods. They deserve it.
This Week in Updates: Blueberry Madness!
So OMG. Finally my day has come. I found this huge flat (A REAL FLAT. LIKE THE SIZE OF A GROCERY CART) of discount blueberries. Okay, okay, so 2/3 of them were bad. But I still had enough good blueberries to make seven containers of jam, blueberry masa bread, and have over a pound left over in the freezer.My composter loved the blue addition too. (By the way, my composting is going exceedingly well!) That is probably good news because blueberries have antioxidants and I am still sick. Not like terribly, terribly sick, but just I have been exhausted and congested all week. Being tired means everything is ten times harder, and my will power is rather thin at the moment. I also am house sitting this week, so I am trying valiantly not to infect things. I also made a friend with this little guy. He let me pet him!
The Recipes: Blueberry Low Sugar Jam and Blueberry Masa Bread
In regards to the jam, you are going to need a lot of blueberries. My favorite pectin (which is vegetarian by the way) is Pomona’s, and inside you will find all sorts of instructions and to how to make it! Note though, that it takes awhile for the jam to thicken. My very first jam (a blackberry in Portland) I got worried and kept adding pectin. The result? Tasty, tasty, blackberry concrete. Seriously. Stick to the recipe.
So this recipe was inspired by a combination of olive oil yogurt banana bread and cornmeal olive oil blueberry cake. I like to bake with olive oil because I usually have it on hand and it is cheaper. The bread fell a little bit in the middle, but tastes SO GOOD I just had to include it. To make it, just check out Brooklyn Supper‘s fantastic recipe (and their whole website because they are awesome), substitute blueberries for banana, and 1 cup masa harina for one cup of the flour. I like to eat it toasted with a little peanut butter or sour cream.