Overcoming Gluten Intolerance
Food and eating is one of life’s daily pleasures that is discussed, planned, anticipated and savored. Unfortunately, those suffering with digestive distress too often view mealtime with anxiety, frustration and trepidation.
In order for your body and digestive system to heal, you must first understand the cause behind gluten intolerance. While there is a genetic component associated with celiac disease, that is only one factor – akin to someone having a genetic or family history of heart disease or certain types of cancer. Typically, we find that the manifestation of disease results from a multitude of risk factors playing out and not only the genetic predisposition. As discussed to early, Mother Nature puts anti-nutritional factors and toxins in grains, nuts, seeds and beans for a variety of reasons. Phytates, for example, block seeds from sprouting prematurely. Protease inhibitors, saponins, lectins and phytoestrogens harm insects, animals and other predators that would otherwise eat too many of them. It is interesting that wounded plants produce extra inhibitors and other anti-nutrients to preserve the plant species.
These foods (grains, bean, nuts and seeds) when eating too abundantly in their raw form act as irritants, resulting in inflammation, diminished absorption of minerals and nutrients and ultimately damage of the intestinal tissue. Compound these naturally occurring anti-nutrients with chemicals added by the manufacturer such as preservatives, artificial colors/flavors/enhancers, etc. and you can create some pretty inhospitable foods. The knee jerk reaction, exhibited by many popular doctors (usually pushing a diet plan of their own), is to eliminate all grain from the diet, “because grains are bad and obviously not meant to be eaten.” However, our ancestors, were pretty clever, even if they didn’t drive cars and entertain themselves with electronic gadgetry. By properly soaking grains, seeds, nuts and beans, something magical happens. Gluten is broken down, phytic acid is neutralized and enzyme inhibitors are deactivated. The inhospitable food is now not only easily digested but has transformed into something quite healthy and nutritious.
It appears that grains are not so much of the problem, but how they are prepared. Breads made from wheat or other gluten containing grains must be soaked or fermented with an acid (such as sourdough starter or apple cider vinegar) for a minimum of 8 hours before proceeding to cook. This is how every indigenous culture prepared their grain (and nearly all of them ate grains – wheat, rye, oats, corn, barley, etc.). By the way, genuine sourdough bread is not made with added yeast. I once mistakenly bought Apple Cider “flavored” Vinegar. You don’t want sourdough “flavored” bread. Which means that most likely, if bread is to be introduced back into your diet, you will need to learn how to make your own bread. Once you understand a few basic techniques, it is fun and easy. Oops, I’m getting a head of myself. Before we get into sourdough bread, you must first heal your gut (“the gut” really is the scientific term for the entire digest tract). First and Foremost – YOU MUST NOT EAT ANY FOODS CONTAINING GLUTEN or other foods that cause you digestive upset or other symptoms. Earlier, I mentioned the Caveman or Paleo diet – these diets have provided a safe haven for many with Gluten Intolerance and can be followed as your gut heals, although you need to be cautious of any food that may difficult for you.
Most people with Gluten Intolerance end up with what is known as a leaky gut. The intestinal villi are damaged and the channels in the intestine for absorbing foods become larger than they should be. The gut is too porous allowing food particles that are not broken down sufficiently to be absorbed into the blood stream. The result is often the development of food allergies. So compounded with the inflammation and irritation caused by gluten, they now are allergic to corn, sugar, nuts and many other non-gluten foods. Dietary changes alone can resolve the allergies to these additional foods (besides the gluten containing foods) but often I find that allergy elimination treatments are necessary.
My first recommendation for someone suffering from digestive distress is our Colon Comfort herbal formula. Colon Comfort Formulaby Western Botanicals has been specifically developed to soothe the entire digestive tract. Most people will begin with 3 capsules three times daily. Additional Colon Comfort can also be taken throughout the day for symptomatic relief. In effect, you’ve got to put out the fire and this herbal product will do it.
Another key to supporting the digestive tract are Bone Broths. This was how our great grandmothers made soups and stews. You cannot buy bone broth. It must be made in your kitchen. The great value in bone broth is that they are rich in the minerals that are cooked out from the bones. In addition this broth is very high in gelatin (which helps with your joints, skin, digestion, etc.). The minerals and the gelatin are nourishing as well as very easy to digest. And as a bonus, the soups, stews and sauces made from these broths are absolutely delicious – like grandma used to make.
Here is a general recipe that we use for making our bone broths.
Mineral-Rich Bone Broth
This recipe make approximately 64oz of broth depending on how much water, how much you reduce the broth and how strong you like the flavor to be.
- 4 quarts of filtered or distilled water
- 1.5- 2 lbs of beef knuckle bones (or any other kinds of bones/meaty bones/marrow bones) Talk to your butcher and see what they can get for you. Sometimes the bones are sold as “dog bones”. We also use the bones/carcass from chicken, rabbit, turkey, deer, and elk – whatever is available)
- 1 whole head of fresh garlic, peeled & smashed
- 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (organic, unfiltered- We like Bragg’s brand)
- 1tsp Sea Salt – or more/less to taste (I like Celtic Sea Salt or Real Salt)
- If you choose, you may brown or roast the bones/meaty bones first in a separate pan/pot. If using a crockpot, this isn’t a necessary step. I don’t normally do it because it saves time/dishes not to and the purpose is just for more flavor which I don’t find necessary in this recipe. If you choose to, brown them in bacon fat or coconut oil before putting them into the water in the next step.
- Place all ingredients in a 6 quart crockpot and set the heat to HIGH.
- Bring the stock to a boil, then reduce the heat setting to LOW.
- Allow the stock to cook for a minimum of 12 hours and up to 24 hours. The longer it cooks the better!
- Turn off the crockpot and allow the stock to cool.
- Strain the stock through a fine mesh metal strainer and throw away what you skim off.
- Place the cooled stock into glass jars for storage in the fridge (for up to a few days) or freezer for later use. You know you’ve done it right if once cooled your broth will gel up due to the high amount of gelatin. – Don’t worry the broth will liquefy when reheated. You won’t have to eat cold beef jello.
You can use stock to drink any time of day or before a meal or as the base for soups, stews and in any recipe that calls for it! Add more sea salt to taste if needed. For additional variations use any other kind of animal bones you like. Add chopped veggies like carrots, celery, potatoes and onions for more flavor or variety.
A crockpot makes this recipe super-simple, but you can also use a large stock pot (hence the name) or an enameled cast-iron dutch oven type of pot.
I will often recommend taking in 5 cups of bone broth per day. – at least for the first week if your symptoms are severe. You will notice an improvement usually within a day or two of starting this.
Many of you who have probably been advised (by those who may have been very well meaning) that you need to eat a raw food or mostly raw diet. You’ve discovered -no doubt- that raw foods tears you up inside. What you need is just the opposite – easy to digest foods.
A great food to calm the digestion down is call Congee or Jook. Congee is the foremost of the “easy-to-digest” foods in Oriental medicine, used for all types of imbalanced digestion. Congee is a thin porridge, which is often used as breakfast in parts of China. There are many congee recipes available online, but I will give you the basic formula here:
I typically like to use brown rice, millet, quinoa or buckwheat (or a combo of any of these) as these are easy to digest and, usually, the least allergenic. Use a ratio of 1 part whole grain to 5 or 6 parts water. To this, you can add various fruits, vegetables, spices or herbs. Then cook on low for several hours. (In a crockpot overnight on the “low” setting works well.)
Examples of ingredients to add to the congee would be ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, raisins, chopped carrots and apples. (These will add a touch of flavor and texture to the congee, but will still be well-cooked for easy digestion.) You can also put cooked congee through a blender to feed to infants and toddlers with “tummy problems”.
Warm Cooked Foods:When your system can handle more solid foods, you can add cooked potato, sweet potato (skin the potatoes initially if you need to), cooked winter squash (such as butternut, banana or pumpkin), cooked summer squash (like yellow squash or zucchini), cooked root veggies (such as carrots, beets), whole grains like rice, quinoa, millet and buckwheat, and warm veggie soups with your bone broth or miso broth. Meat is usually well tolerated, especially cooked well in soups or stews.
You may also add to your diet stewed fruits such as apples, pears, prunes, and figs, particularly if you are constipated.
Warm Teas & Broths:Most people do well with chamomile tea, licorice tea, fennel tea or Western Botanicals’ Tummy Tea. You will also be sipping on warm, clear bone broths or warm miso broth. Use a pinch of sea salt or Real salt – never, never table salt – as this results in mineral imbalance. These healthy broths are very nourishing and very satisfying to the taste.
Foods to Avoid:All gluten containing grains (primarily wheat, rye, and barley). With nausea, vomiting, stomachache and/or diarrhea, avoid raw veggies, frozen, iced and chilled foods, as well as acidic fruits (like citrus and raw tomato) until your digestion is feeling normal again. It is best to avoid the cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, radish, etc., They are all wonderful foods, but they are hard to digest for anyone with sensitive digestion. Spinach, beet tops, Swiss chard and rhubarb all contain abundant oxalic acid, which irritates the lining of the gut, and which the body neutralizes with calcium from the diet. Eating these vegetables will restrict calcium absorption, and they aren’t good choices for the healing period. Depending on how weak your digestion is, you may need to eliminate all raw fruits initially as well, even bananas until you are feeling a little stronger.
Other foods to avoid with weak digestion are diary products, which are very difficult for most people to digest and create excess mucous in the digestive system, as do wheat products, animal meats, sugars, artificial sweeteners, and fried or greasy/fatty foods and oils. This means no fast foods, no processed foods, no candy, etc.
Beans, nuts and seeds are healthy foods, but should be avoided until the digestion feels normal again. People usually do okay with sprouted beans, lentils and seeds, but don’t push your luck. One miscalculated indiscretion can bring on a week or more of digestive upset.
I generally recommend that you enjoy several weeks of digestive happiness before you begin to add any sourdough breads, soaked and fermented oats, or beans, nuts or seeds.
Once you feel that your digestion has returned to a point of harmony, and only then, can you begin to introduce foods that have been properly soaked and prepared. The question always comes up, when can I eat bread again? If you are talking about commercially made breads the answer is NEVER. But there is a lot of research coming forward showing that genuine sourdough bread is tolerated very well by those with Celiacs or gluten intolerance. Remember, grains prepared properly need not be a problem. Breads and grains prepared commercially can tear you up inside, even as much as a small pancake.
While some people who suffer from Gluten Intolerance are looking for a panacea that will take their pain away and allow them to go back and “eat like everyone else”. I am sad to say (that’s just an expression because I’m really not too broken up that you will be forced to eat a diet that is so much healthier than what “everyone else eats” – meaning you will be cutting risks of cancers, heart disease, diabetes, to name just a few), there is no pill you can take that will restore your health allowing you to consume unhealthy, un-nutritious foods and enjoy all the benefits as if you were eating healthy nourishing foods.
Recommendations in summary
1) Avoid all grains containing gluten and any other foods that cause symptoms
2) Take Colon Comfort Formula by Western Botanicals – 3 capsules 3 times daily and as needed
3) Bone Broths (with added sea salt) – 5 cups daily if symptoms are severe. 4) Warm cooked foods including Congee, root vegetables, and those described early
5) Do not introduce soaked or fermented grains or breads until your digestive tract has healed and settled down for several weeks. Introduce these properly prepared foods cautiously.
6) Commit to a life of preparing and eating only healthy foods.