A Beginners Primer Archive

Can Gluten Cause Depression?

Posted April 28, 2014 By Sandy

If you are depressed, gluten intolerance or celiac disease can be one of the culprits. Yes, gluten can cause depression!

I conducted some of my own research on the subject, and here is what I found:

  • The intestinal damage wrought by celiac disease prevents absorption of essential nutrients that keep the brain healthy, especially zinc, tryptophan, and the B vitamins. These nutrients are necessary for the production of essential chemicals in the brain such as serotonin, a deficiency of which has been linked to depression.
    Is Gluten Making You Depressed? by James M. Greenblatt, M.D.
  • How gluten causes depression anxiety is by producing inflammation in the gastrointestinal Can Gluten Cause Depressiontract, triggering an autoimmune response to the gluten protein which releases cytokines, which then enter the brain and produce inflammation in the brain, leading to depression anxiety.
    How Gluten Causes Depression Anxiety
  • …. Dr. Rodney Ford, author of The Gluten Syndrome — have hypothesized that gluten exerts a direct depressive influence on your brain chemistry, independent of malabsorption resulting from intestinal damage. Dr. Ford believes gluten is responsible for depression both in people with celiac and in people with non-celiac gluten sensitivity. In fact, his hypothesis of a direct effect would explain why so many people — both celiac and gluten-sensitive — experience short, predictable bouts of depression whenever they’ve been glutened, even if they didn’t ingest enough gluten to cause lasting intestinal damage.
    Are Gluten and Depression Related? by Jane Anderson

So what can you do to deal with depression?  First, of course, is to stop eating gluten and if you are already on a gluten free diet, stop ‘cheating’ on your diet.

–Dr.Greenblatt suggested checking your zinc levels and make sure you take B12 supplements (especially good if you are vegan).

–Jane Anderson suggested adding the vitamins folic acid and B-6 to your vitamin regiment.

And of course, eating a good diet and exercising regularly is a universal ‘cure’ for depression.

Personally, when I was being treated for Alzheimers (before discovering I was gluten intolerant), I was prescribed anti-depressants.   Now, nearly 5 years later, I am still on them, but need to take them only 2-3 times a week rather than the 7 days a week per the original dosage.

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How Long will it Take to Recover from Gluten?

Posted April 22, 2014 By Sandy

Your recovery from gluten, along with anyone else, can be different for everyone. I am told that a large percentage of folks feel better just a few days after removing gluten from their diets.

In my case, there was no doubt that I had a problem with gluten all my life. I can remember being sick from eating when I was quite young. Food made me sick and I was too little to explain it to my mother.

How Long will it Take to Recover from Gluten?Yet, on the other hand, as sick as I was when I was finally diagnosed (for those who don’t know my story, I was being treated for early stages of Alzheimer disease), only three weeks or so passed before I started feeling better! But it didn’t end there. Now, nearly 5 years later, I can still feel improvement in my health.

I suffer from a mild form of ataxia. According to Jane Anderson, the About.com Celiac and Gluten Sensitivity Expert:

Gluten ataxia, an autoimmune neurological condition involving your body’s reaction to the gluten protein found in wheat, barley and rye, can irreversibly damage the part of your brain called the cerebellum, according to practitioners who first identified the condition about a decade ago.

This damage potentially can cause problems with your gait and with your gross motor skills, resulting in loss of coordination and possibly leading to significant, progressive disability in some cases.

So how long will it take to recover from gluten?  Someone with a recent problem with gluten or with milder symptoms than my own, may recover much quicker and feel better within days.

Jane goes on to share:

You may feel constantly hungry during the first several weeks you’re gluten-free, and you may want to eat all the time. This is completely normal — it’s your body’s way of trying to make up for not being able to absorb food. Your ravenous appetite should calm down eventually….

In addition, to feel better sooner, you may need to address any celiac-caused malnutrition. Lots of celiacs find they have vitamin and mineral deficiencies at diagnosis that can interfere with their well-being. Talk to your doctor about what supplements you should consider, and make sure to use only gluten-free vitamins.

Although you should start to feel a little better quickly, it takes most people who were very sick prior to diagnosis a long time — months, usually — to feel completely “normal” again. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t bounce back immediately; if you continue to see gradual improvement, you’re going in the right direction. However, if you don’t feel as if you’re making enough progress, talk to your doctor about your ongoing symptoms.


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Recovering from Gluten Poisoning

Posted February 22, 2014 By Sandy

Have you ever accidentally poisoned yourself by eating gluten?  Thankfully, I have only done that once.  I was at a church potluck and tried a dish that had gluten in it …. and, of course, I didn’t know it until I started getting stomach cramps, diarrhea and all those other nasty symptoms!

So what can we do to recover from gluten poisoning?  At the time, I took several digestive enzyme pills (that I have on hand all the time) and just waited it out.  But there are some things that are Sick 2helpful.

Jane Anderson, one of my favorite ‘go-to’ resource for gluten issues offers some helpful tips:

Recovering From an Accidental Glutening

1. Get Plenty of Rest:  Gluten exposure leads to a dreary combination of fatigue and insomnia in many people. It’s tough to feel normal when you can’t sleep at night, and want only to sleep during the day.  The solution? Get as much rest as you possibly can, whenever you can grab it.

2. Avoid Difficult Tasks:  Many of us suffer from brain fog when we are exposed to gluten, leading to fuzzy-headedness, absent-mindedness and sometimes outright confusion.  Needless to say, that’s not a good recipe for tasks that involve heavy lifting, quick thinking or deep analysis.

3. Skip Lactose-Containing Foods: If you’ve been heavily exposed, you may temporarily become lactose intolerant. That’s because we digest dairy proteins with the very tips of our intestinal villi, and gluten ingestion can damage those villi.

4. Revert To Whole Foods:  Now is not the time to try a new type of “gluten-free”-labeled product or to challenge your digestion with something radical. Your best bet to a speedy recovery is to revert to eating a whole foods diet made up of foods you know don’t bother you.

5. Don’t Take Chances:  That means skipping restaurant meals, bringing your own food to friends’ houses, and sidelining any temptations you feel to indulge in something you know may be questionable.


Sometimes, it is good to remember that the symptoms are only temporary.  Seems to me, the stomach/intestine issues were over in about 30 hours.  The brain fog took a bit longer, but I recovered from the worst of that as well.

What do you do when you are gluten poisoned?  Did it work well for you?  Please share with us!!

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Setting Up Your Gluten Free Kitchen

Posted June 22, 2013 By Sandy

If you are new to a Gluten Free Vegan diet, not only will you need to clean out your pantry, you will also need to check and maybe replace some of your cooking utensils.  (If you are interested in my story around cleaning out our pantry, check out My Pantry posts).  Gluten is sneaky stuff that can get into EVERYTHING in your kitchen.

Here are some tips in Setting Up Your Gluten Free Kitchen:

  1. Toaster — your toaster is the biggest collector of gluten.  Even with a good cleaning, it Skillet & Utensilscan still harbor residues of bread and crumbs.  Best to have a dedicated gluten free toaster — especially if you share a kitchen with a gluten eater.
  2. Non-stick pans — your non-stick pans can contain gluten in the scratches.  If you cookware is fairly new, a good cleaning may do the trick.  If you have used your pans to cook gluten foods for a long time or there are visible scratches, replace them.
  3. Cast-iron pans — Believe it or not, cast iron is porous.  Best to replace these or if you want to just do a thorough cleaning instead, follow the tips for cast iron cookware listed on the About.com article.
  4. Cutting boards — wooden or otherwise, cutting boards have scratches where gluten can hid.  Even the best cleaning cannot insure they are safe, so replace them.
  5. Silicone and plastic utensils — gluten can hide in cracks in either silicone or plastic utensils that were used to cook gluten food — especially if they have wooden handles.  Best to replace these.
  6. Wood spoons and utensils — no matter how hard you clean them, wooden utensils can still have gluten in them.  It is just easier to replace them.
  7. Rolling pins and cloths — anything used with gluten flour should be replaced.  These is especially true of rolling pins and pastry cloths.  No matter how well you clean them, gluten can still hide in them.

If you are sharing a kitchen with someone who is not gluten free, it would be a good idea to set aside a separate area for gluten free cooking and preparation.  As you know, Gluten can hide ANYWHERE in your kitchen, so a good cleaning of the separate area will deter any cross contamination (NOTE:  If you have ever pour flour from a bag into a canister, you will know what I mean when I say that gluten can be EVERYWHERE in your kitchen!)

For more tips on making your kitchen gluten free, check out the following articles from Jan Anderson, the About.com – Celiac and Gluten Sensitivity expert:

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First Steps for Switch to a Vegan Diet

Posted January 3, 2013 By Sandy

With the New Year upon us, many of us are making changes to the way we eat, work, and play.  I hate to use that R word (you know, resolutions!), but the down time of winter does make me think of things I like to change or explore.

Even though I changed my diet over three years ago, (if you want to read me story, check it out Girl Studyinghere:  My Story) I am still looking at ways to improve what I am already doing.  First Steps for Switching to a Vegan Diet seemed to fit the direction I am going.

I found this post, Vegan How To: Part 1 (How To Make The Transition), on the Oh She Glows website.  Angela makes some very good points about changing your pantry, packing food and getting support from friends and/or family.

Here are some of the points she makes:

How I made the transition to a vegan diet:

1. Slow and Steady

2. Stock your pantry

3. Be your own teacher

4. Focus on what you add, not take away

5. Don’t expect perfection

6. Get support

7. Pack food

Taking time is very important in the beginning because change is not always easy.  I needed to explore the different options I had before I could make some good choices for me.

I, too, restocked my entire panty.  In fact, I wrote a series of posts on My Pantry to share what I keep on hand to make sure I have the food I need.

Learning to prepare new foods can be a long process, but after my 3 years, I feel very confident in making good nutritious and balanced Vegan and Gluten Free foods.

Focusing on what you add, rather than take away is very good advice.  In my case, I was intolerant to so many foods I felt like I just wanted to give up.  I slowly learned to look at what I COULD eat instead and endless possibilities opened up for me.

And yes, don’t expect perfection right from the beginning.  Changes take time …. and the dog or compost pile may receive more than their fair share at the beginning!!  Take heart as it will get better!

Support is really helpful.  A new health food store opened in the town I live about the same time that I discovered my intolerances.  The gal that ran the store spend several months giving demonstrations and teaching on how to prepare and cook Gluten Free Vegan meals.  She was a god-send!  I still go to her when I have a question about a recipe or certain way to cook a food.

Last, but not least, make it a point to pack your own food when you go out.  Nothing is worse than sitting at a potluck or friends home only to find that you cannot eat anything offered!  I find that packing a salad is pretty easy.  I also keep a supply of Amy’s soups around to take with me if I am out and about.  Humus and chips are another good easy snack.  Use your imagine!!

If you are new to the Gluten Free Vegan diet, don’t hesitate to comment about your issues with your new diet.  Or if you like, like my Facebook Page, and we can chat there as well!

I am committed to helping you through this change!

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My Pantry — Prepared Foods

Posted November 27, 2012 By Sandy

We don’t use many prepared foods, but we do have some can products (in particular) that I like to keep on hand for last minute meals.

Those include the following:

I also keep some processed Dry Products on my shelves.  They are:

  • Dried Mushrooms — mostly for convenience
  • Quinoa Spaghetti — lots of other gluten free noodles are available, but quinoa is my favorite
  • Gluten Free Cereal such as Rice Chex or Granola (I am not going to list any as I have to be very careful which brands I buy due to my almond and sunflower seed allergy!)
  • Mary Janes Farm Dried Organic Black Bean Chili Flakes — great ‘seasoning’ for Mexican dishes.
  • Salsa Seasoning — we use Oregon Spice, and we order it from our local health food store
  • Spinach Dip — also from Oregon Spice.  Makes a great potato topper or chip dip.

I also like to keep the following on hand that needs to be kept in the Refrigerator or Freezer:

  • Mixed Stir Fry Veggies — quick easy meal (I like the big bags from Costco)
  • Mixed Fruit — I like the tropical blends with pineapple, mango, papaya and strawberries
  • Gluten Free Bread — various kinds
  • Grapeseed Vegenaize — sandwiches, salad dressing, dips etc.
  • Earth Balance — toast mostly
  • Coconut Aminos — I use it like soy sauce and it is the secret ingredient in my homemade salad dressing!
  • Organic Catsup — love this on home baked french fries
  • Food for Life Organic Sprouted Corn Tortillas — we eat lots of tacos!!
  • Misc. pickles, pickle relish often bought at the local farmers market or Bubbies brand.

A few more things we keep around that don’t fit any category in particular

So now that you know what is in My Pantry, what types of foods do you keep in your pantry?

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My Pantry — Nuts and Seeds

Posted November 19, 2012 By Sandy

Another segment of My Pantry is set aside for Nuts and Seeds — some of the most nutritious food on the planet!  Nuts and Seeds are important to a Gluten Free Vegan Pantry as they are so useful and versatile  in recipes.

Here is a list of the Nuts and Seeds I keep in My Pantry:

  • Pecans or Walnuts — Are the staple of nuts as they can be used in baking, numerous salads and dishes.  Can be made into nut milks by mixing with water and ground in a VitMix or blender. (Keep in refrigerator)
  • Cashews — Are the base for vegan gravies and a great addition to Chinese style dishes.
  • Peanuts — Mostly for snacking or adding to snack foods such as granola and trail mix.

This is the list of the main nuts we use, but there are lots more.  We use to keep Almonds in our pantry until we found out that we were allergic to them.  Other nuts that are good to keep on hand are hazelnuts and brazil nuts.


  • Pumpkin Seeds — One of our favorites for adding to salads, granola or just for snacking.
  • Chia Seeds — I used these mostly in my smoothies.  Chia also work great when you are looking for a ‘gel’ or egg substitute.
  • Flaxseeds — I am allergic to flax, but my husband adds these to smoothies (rather than Chia, like me!).  Ground flax seeds also make a great egg substitute (should be refrigerated).
  • Sesame Seeds — Use these mostly for making tahini for our hummus (must be keep in the refrigerator)
  • Sprouting Seeds — there are lots of different kinds of seeds you can sprout, but we normally keep broccoli and clover seeds on hand for sprouting and adding to salads and stir-fry dishes.

We use to keep lots of sunflower seeds in our pantry, but unfortunately, both Malcolm and I are allergic to them!

Click here, iff you are interested in more info on Edible Seeds.

We buy our nuts and seeds in bulk — they are much cheaper per pound when you buy in bulk.  We keep small amounts in containers, and freeze the rest.  Nuts and seeds that should never be left at room temperature are noted above.  If you have shelf space in your refrigerator, I suggest keeping all you nuts and seed stored there.

What are your favorite nuts or seeds to keep in your pantry/refrigerator?


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My Pantry — Grains and Legumes

Posted November 10, 2012 By Sandy

Grains and Legumes are the staples of a Gluten Free Vegan Pantry — at least in my house, they are!  Although most of my meals are full of veggies (fresh when I can get them, frozen next and canned as a last resort!), I complement dishes with grains and legumes.

Here is a list of the Grains and Legumes I keep in My Pantry:

  • Rice — There are lots of different rices to chose from.  Right now, we have short grain brown rice because we got a good deal on a large package.  Some of my other favorites are Jasmine and Basmati which are a sweeter white rice.
  • Popping corn — Popcorn is one of my favorite snacks.  I pop it on the stove in coconut oil and add seasoning salt!  Don’t forget to buy organic popping corn so it is free of GMO.
  • Quinoa –One of my favorites for breakfast, lunch or dinner recipes.
  • Rolled Oats — Not just for breakfast as it is good in granolas, meatless dishes and cookies.
  • Teff, Buckwheat, Millet and Amaranth — I keep small amounts of those just for some variety.  I have mostly eaten those cooked for a breakfast dish, but occasionally, I find an interesting recipe that calls for one or the other.

My favorite is a grains mix by TruRoots called Sprouted Rice & Quinoa Blend.  The blend consists of organic sprouted brown and red rice along with organic quinoa and wild rice.  I absolutely love the stuff and use it in soups and casseroles.

NOTE:  If you are interested in more information on grains, check out my Squidoo page:  Gluten Free Grains.

For legumes, we have a variety of different types of bean and lentils that we use interchangeable in some dishes.  I use to eat lots of beans until I found out that my uric acid level was unusually high.  I still eat beans, but I need to limit the amount to a couple times of week instead eating them everyday.

  • Black Beans –King of the beans in my opinion.  I use these as a base for many of my Mexican dishes (I am allergic to pinto beans).  They are very flavorful and taste much better than pinto beans.
  • Garbanzo or Chickpeas — Wonderful in minestrone soup, salads, and as a base for my husband’s hummus recipe.
  • Red/Orange Lentils (Red Chief?) — Quick cooking lentils to eat alone or with veggies
  • Sprouting Mung Beans — we sprout and put in our salads and stir fry dishes.
  • Great Northern White Beans — I like these in salads, mock ‘chicken’ salad and in our white chili recipe.  They are a mild bean that does not overpower the taste of the ingredients you add to them.
  • Red and Pink Beans — we have a limited quantity of these beans for variety.

I also have a favorite Bean mix from TruRoots called Sprouted Bean Trio.  The mix includes organic sprouted mung beans, green lentils and adzuki beans.  This quick cooking mix takes only 15 minutes to prepare.  I have mixed it with the TruRoots grain mix and added veggies for an interesting soup.  Last night I cooked up a batch, added sauteed onions, celery and mushrooms and poured diced tomatoes and tomato sauce over the mix.  Delicious!

TruRoots makes lots of other nutritious sprouted mixes.  Check them out below:

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Using Substitutions in Your Recipes

Posted November 1, 2012 By Sandy

Once I became Gluten Free and Vegan, I wanted to convert all my favorite recipes to eliminate wheat, gluten, dairy and eggs.  At first, I did not realize how great a task that would become!

Substitutions are available, but often they don’t act the same or tastes the same.  I found that Jeanne from the Art of Gluten Free Baking had faced the same problem and created a post around the topic.

Here are some of the tips she includes in her post: 

First and foremost: substitutes are what they sound like–they are substituting for the preferred item.  So, most of the time they are not going to behave, taste, or feel EXACTLY like the preferred ingredients. …

… I would like to ask everyone who uses cookbooks and blogs and recipe sites to use some common sense when approaching ingredient substitutes.  Realize that a substitute is a step away from the preferred ingredient.  It is going to be, at the very least, slightly different from the preferred ingredient, and at the most, quite different from the preferred ingredient. …


…   My preferred butter substitute is Earth Balance Soy-Free Butter Spread …Some people use coconut oil in the place of butter.  I do not do this in my baking because it adds a very strong coconut flavor. ….


…Eggs are one of the most difficult things to replace in baking.  Eggs provide structure to baked items in addition to binding.  Without eggs, your baked items are going to be flatter than they would be with eggs. …

… my next preferred egg substitute is ground flax seeds mixed with hot water.  For 1 extra-large egg, I recommend mixing 1 TBL of ground flax seeds with 3 TBL of hot (not boiling) water.  Whisk together and then let sit for 15-20 minutes in order to make a gel.  Then use this gel as you would the eggs–you can beat it with your mixer. …


…Brown rice flour: substitute sorghum flour
White rice flour: substitute millet flour
Sweet rice (also know as glutinous rice) flour: substitute potato flour (not starch)
Tapioca flour: substitute potato starch (not flour)


…Maple sugar is a nice alternative to cane sugar.  It behaves the same as cane sugar, but will add a slight maple taste to baked items.

Palm sugar is another nice alternative to cane sugar.  It comes in many forms.  The granulated form can be used in baked goods.

Honey and agave are hard to use in the place of sugar in baked goods.

Xanthan Gum

I use xanthan gum as the “gluten-replacer” in my baking.  I truly feel it is the best product available for creating baked items that taste and feel like their wheat counterparts. …


Jeanne shares some excellent suggestions.  Here are my personal preferences:

Butter:  Earth Balance Spread or Coconut oil

EggsEner-G Egg Replacer (Flax gel is a good one, but I am allergic to flax *sigh*)

Flour:  Pamela’s Amazing Flour for breads and Jules Gluten Free Flour for cookies, cakes, etc.

Sugar: Coconut palm sugar for brown sugar, Xylitol for white sugar and Coconut nectar for syrup

Xanthan Gum


Interested in more substitution tips:  Check One Green Planet.

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My Pantry — Sugars and Baking Aids

Posted October 27, 2012 By Sandy
Sugars in My Pantry

If you have been following my blog for any length of time, you know that once I changed my diet, all the white sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, imitation maple syrup, imitation sugars (Splenda in particular) we pulled out of the pantry and gave away.

On the advice of our naturopathic doctor, these are the sweeteners we now use:

  • Stevia — use in drinks or smoothies (be careful if you use Stevia as just a small drop can add lots of sweetener to your drink!)
  • Coconut Palm Sugar — good substitute for brown sugar
  • Xylitol — substitute for regular white sugar
  • Pure Maple Syrup — for Gluten Free pancakes and waffles (I also use it in my baked beans)
  • Coconut Nectar — my favorite on Gluten Free pancakes and waffles (Maple syrup is too sweet for me!!)
  • Honey — locally ‘grown’ is the best and I use this on bread and muffins or in tea when I want a little sweetness.

You will find after eliminating and watching your sugar intake (even using the ones above) your body will no long crave sweetening and lots of the sugar foods you use to love will taste too sweet to you!

Baking Aids in my Pantry

If you want to bake your own breads, quick breads or cookies, you need to learn about different leavening agents.  Once you remove gluten from your flours, extra care and ingredients are needed to help your baked products to have the correct texture.

Here is my list of leavening ingredients:

One you start baking Gluten Free, you will see these special leaving agents in recipes.

If you are interested in some in depth information on Gluten Free Baking, I can recommend a couple resources:

  1. Gluten Free Bread Baking Tips
  2. The Art of Gluten Free Baking Tips

Jeanne, author of The Art of Gluten Free Baking, teaches classes on Gluten Free Baking (mostly in the Seattle area).  She is also coming out with her first cookbook (that I will be reviewing soon).

She also has a wonderful recipe for making Gluten Free Shelf Rising Flour:

Self-Rising Flour, Gluten-Free

1 cup Jeanne’s Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour mix (or mix of your choice)
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt

Do you have other sugars or baking aids in your pantry that are not listed here?  Please share them with us!


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