WHEE (Weight, Health, Eating and Exercise) is a community support diary for Kossacks who are currently or planning to start losing, gaining or maintaining their weight through diet and exercise or fitness. Any supportive comments, suggestions or positive distractions are appreciated. If you are working on your weight or fitness, please -- join us! You can also click the WHEE tag to view all diary posts.
I have written quite a bit on WHEE in the past about the gluten free diet: it is getting a lot more press and media attention as more and more people are being tested for - and found that they suffer from - celiac disease, more accurately known as GLUTEN SENSITIVITY.
What is Gluten Sensitivity? follow me over the fold to more delicious adventures in Gluten Free cooking and baking.
Gluten is the common term for two proteins commonly found in wheat: glutinen and gliadin. One of these proteins is also found in barley and in rye, also in spelt and other wheat-related grains such as kamut. Our ancestors did not cultivate wheat or seed grains, and there is no evidence that our paleolithic ancestors evolved to digest them. This little fact of our biology and evolution gives a clue as to what is becoming an alarming symptom of the consequences of a diet dependent upon wheat: it isn't healthy for human beings.
But what does it do? In a person who is gluten sensitive, which is a genetic predisposition that DOES run in families, these proteins cause enteropathy - a big word that means destruction of the villi of the intestinal tract. Villi are the little thread-like brushes lining the intestinal walls which swoosh our digested food along so that the large intestine can absorb the vitamins, minerals, and other trace minerals and nutrients that keep us going. If there are no villi there to swoosh things along, the food does not get absorbed, it ferments and decays in the large bowel, causing gas, diarrhea, symptoms similar to food poisoning, abdominal distention, rapid weight loss, malnutrition, vitamin deficiencies, irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulosis (pouches that swell out from the intestines that sometimes rupture), hernias, colitis, and yes, BOWEL CANCER.
Scientists have been looking for a cause and a cure for that deadliest of illnesses - cancer - for most of the past hundred years, and while there are many risk factors, there are few actual causes. Gluten proteins are one of them: they cause direct destruction to the intestines which lead to the less-horrible diseases and symptoms for which we pop antacid tablets and Pepto Bismol - but the problem is NOT in the stomach. It's in the intestines.
Other rare manifestation of this destruction is the dermatitis form of celiac disease - the intestinal damage may not be noticeable, and there may not be any overt evidence of indigestion, diarrhea, gas or gastroenteritis (at least not initially). It causes itchy, painful, hard lesions on the elbows, arms, knees and legs, known as dermatitis herpetiformis. I have the dermatitis form.
The reason why this is important to discuss in the context of WHEE is that for those who are gluten sensitive, the sensitivity can take the form of a passionate hunger for gluten-containing foods: breads, pastas, pastries, pizza, because the protein produces a narcotic-like effect. Right before I took the gluten sensitivity elimination diet and survey in fall of 2005, I would struggle out of bed early on a Saturday morning to rush down to the Bakerei in Saarbruecken to catch the fresh rolls before it closed at 11 a.m. Nothing else but a bomb or a fire would get me out of bed - but fresh rolls would. And it was because of this narcotic quality gluten produces in those who are sensitive to it.
Like many others, I believed I suffered from a chronic overeating problem due to a lack of personal discipline. Sure, I have discipline problems of many kinds, but the discipline to resist the lure of what was essentially a poisonous food attacking my intestines, was not something I could employ since I didn't know what it was. But I found out.
It is now estimated that 1 in 6 Americans are gluten sensitive - 16%. I believe they will find that figure is much higher. Recent media reports say that the incidence of diagnosis of celiac disease has tripled in the past 30 years. Epidemic, or newly discovered cause of a problem that has been with us since the cultivation of wheat?
I didn't mean to get back into the details of Celiac Disease, what I meant to do was to share with you some of what I have learned to cook gluten-free. If you have not tried gluten free food, if any of the symptoms or problems above sound familiar to you, it is worth trying a gluten free diet, at least for a short time, to rule it out.
And if you do, remember you can always email me and go to my FLICKR photo blog for the most delicious recipes that I use every day and every week which are just as good as wheat, and will not touch a single little villa in your intestines.
Cheers! Sorry I missed last week, I was away on a long-long delayed road trip to Canada, and busy with publishing a novel.
I'll try to be around more now that I'm on a regular work schedule once more!
And now for a few photos from my Flickr photo blog:
Here are the site addresses if you want to peruse my Flickr site:
My Baking collection is here:
Gluten-Free Oatmeal Bread
Gluten-Free White Cake with Chocolate Frosting
Gluten-Free Tomato Pizza (Vegetarian!)
Gluten-Free Buckwheat and Rice Flour Waffles
Gluten Free Idli (Rice Steamed Cake) with Marmalade
Gluten Free Dosa (Black Lentil and Rice Flour Pancake)
Gluten Free Mongolian Dumplings
A Baking Frenzy: Cornbread, Sorghum-Millet Bread and Carrot Cake