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Gluten and the Brain

Most people think gluten problems are centered in the digestive system.  True in some cases, but the majority of symptoms from gluten poisoning happen in the brain!  Symptoms can be seemingly non-existent, but can slowly cause damage to your brain …. or, like in my case, damage your memory, your thyroid gland and even your sense of balance!

Dr. Vikki Petersen from HealthNow Medical Center talks about Gluten and the Brain in the following video:

When I was first diagnosed with gluten intolerance, I was surprise to find that the memory problems I was having (I was being treated for early Alzheimer at the time) was probably caused by gluten poisoning.  And I was equally shocked to find that the brain is the organ MOST effected by gluten intolerance!

Since that time (2009), I have discovered other brain issues caused by my gluten intolerance:  Gluten Ataxia!  I always wondered that despite my years of dance lessons as a young person and as an adult, I would have such balance issues.  My husband once described me as ‘tripping over a blade of grass’!  I also choke on air!!

Last year, I read an article on Gluten Ataxia from Living Without Magazine, and I understood what was going on with me.  Sarah Bosse, who is featured in the article, says this about her symptoms:

Shortly after finishing college, Bosse began experiencing frightening new symptoms. She was increasingly dizzy and disoriented, frequently stumbling while rounding a corner or changing directions. She’d even fall out of a chair or her own bed at times, blaming it on klutziness until balance was no longer her only new complaint. Her head started to feel thick and foggy and she had trouble concentrating, likening it to an extreme case of ADHD. She also began having unusual problems with her vision, seeing bright flashes and noticing that her eyes seemed to bounce, rather than rest on what she was looking at.

“I could be at the grocery store, staring at a display of ketchup. I’d try to reach for one but my eyes wouldn’t stay still so that I could pick it up,” she says.

Sarah’s story got my immediate attention as it sounded like me on some of my bad days!  Maybe I was not the klutz I thought I was …. maybe there was an answer to my issues.

The article goes on to say….

Gluten ataxia is a neurologic condition characterized by the loss of balance and coordination. However it can also affect fingers, hands, arms, legs, speech and even eye movements. Typical symptoms include difficulty walking or walking with a wide gait, frequent falls, difficulty judging distances or position, visual disturbances and tremor.

Experts believe gluten ataxia may be a form of gluten sensitivity, a wide spectrum of disorders marked by an abnormal immunological response to gluten.

If you can relate to Sarah’s story, I suggest you read the entire article.  It may be as eye-opening for you as it was for me!


Gluten Intolerance, Celiac and Genetic Testing

I can always count on Living Without magazine to keep me updated on some of the new developments and information on Gluten Intolerance and Celiac Disease.  Information in the medical field is often changing faster than we can keep up — especially with Gluten issues.

The article posted today by Living Without is Searching for Answers – Celiac and Gluten SensitivitiesCeliac or gluten sensitive? What you should know about genetic testing. Author, Christine Boyd, begins the article with a story about a 10-year old girl named Abby who obviously is dealing with gluten issues.  After eliminating gluten from her diet, she developed what the doctors called a ‘diagnostic dilemma’ because some of her symptoms still persisted and the endoscopy procedure (biopsy they use to check her intestines for damage from gluten) came up negative!  The family opted for one more procedure which checked for genetic predisposition to the disease or intolerance.

Abby’s genetic testing came out positive, so they resumed the gluten free diet.  But what I found interesting is … ”

Although the positive read didn’t mean the diet was necessary for her, it seemed prudent to give it a second try. In addition, she cut out soy and dairy at the suggestion of her gastroenterologist.

Eliminating dairy made a huge difference. “It may be the reason why Abby didn’t feel 100 percent better the first time she went gluten free,” Williamson speculates. “We still don’t have a formal diagnosis. As best as we can tell, she is sensitive to gluten, dairy and soy.”

READ MORE … Including details about genetic testing for gluten intolerance.

I found the article especially interesting because not only am I allergic to wheat and gluten, but my tests also showed an intolerance to dairy, eggs and possible soy.

Thankfully, the testing I had done in 2009 was less expensive than the testing that Abby took.  My naturopathic ordered a couple blood tests (one checking for allergies) and a saliva test.  He received the genetic test results first and warned me that I might be gluten intolerant.  When my allergy tests came back, there was no doubt that I needed to eliminate several foods from my diet.

What I find interesting is that most of my friends who are gluten intolerant also have a problem with one or more of the following:  dairy, eggs, and soy!  Personally, I believe there is a link with these foods and gluten.

Also, as part of my diagnoses, the long years of eating gluten had caused my thyroid to malfunction (I take Amour Thyroid) and raised my cholesterol to a rather high level.  Those levels have improved over the last couple years, but I think they are another indicator of gluten issues.

For my readers that have gone through lots of testing, what have you found?  Are you also intolerant of dairy, eggs or soy products?  Or how about thyroid or cholesterol issues.  Do you deal with any of those?  It would be interesting to know!


Red Velvet Cupcakes for Halloween

Holidays are fun times to experiment with different and decorative foods.  Living Without posted this interesting recipe for Red Velvet Cupcakes for Halloween.  The cupcakes are gluten free, dairy free and egg free — so are perfect, in my opinion!

Check them out and see what you think!

Red Velvet Cupcakes for Halloween

Recipe Type: Holiday Desserts
Author: Cybele Pascal on Living Without website
Serves: 12
  • 1¼ cups + 2 tablespoons Basic Gluten-Free Flour Mix
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¼ + ⅛ teaspoon xanthan gum
  • ¾ teaspoon double-acting baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup rice milk
  • ¾ teaspoon cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons dairy-free, soy-free vegetable shortening
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 2¼ teaspoons Ener-G egg replacer mixed with 3 tablespoons rice milk
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon natural red food coloring
  • 1 recipe Velvet Frosting
  • – Natural orange food coloring
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with 12 liners.
  2. Measure out flour mix by spooning flour into a dry measuring cup and leveling it off with the back of a knife. (Do not scoop the flour directly with the measuring cup or you’ll wind up with too much flour for the recipe). Whisk together the flour mix, cocoa powder, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Combine the rice milk and cider vinegar. Set aside.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the shortening, sugar, egg replacer and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the natural red food coloring and mix until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Sift in the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the rice milk mixture and beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Beat until smooth, about 30 seconds, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
  5. Divide batter equally among muffin liners, smoothing down the surface with a frosting spatula or butter knife.
  6. Bake cupcakes in the center of preheated oven for 18 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking time.
  7. Let cool in the pan on a cooling rack about 5 minutes. Transfer cupcakes to cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.
  8. Once the cupcakes have cooled completely, frost with Velvet Frosting. Top each with a Halloween party favor. Once frosting has set, store covered at room temperature. Extras can be frozen for eating later.


Photo courtesy of Living Without online magazine

To find out how to make the icing, check out the original recipe!

What I like about this recipe is you can make it for any holiday and decorate it accordingly.  Cupcakes are so fun and kids, especially, really like them.  The ingredients are good healthy ingredients — just as long as you don’t get too carried away with the icing!

What is your favorite Halloween dish?  Do you have a special dessert or dish that you serve?  If so, please share it with us!



Gluten Free Restaurants and the GFRAP

Eating out can be a nightmare if you are Gluten Intolerant or have food allergies.  Trying to figure out which restaurants will serve you allergy free dinners on their menu or if they will alter their menu items to accommodate you, can be challenging.  But according to Living Without Magazine, this is changing:

A renaissance is taking place in the restaurant industry and people on special diets can taste the benefits. From independently owned restaurants to national chains and fast food franchises, the food service industry is recognizing food allergies and sensitivities as a market that can no longer be ignored. The shift in awareness is due to the growing number of people on special diets—12 million Americans have food allergies, 3 million have celiac disease, and millions more have dietary concerns due to conditions like lactose intolerance and diabetes.

The increased need for allergy-friendly dining options has generated industry interest in the special-diet diner. It’s a win-win situation that’s sure to increase business for restaurants and provide a wider trough of choices for food-sensitive diners.

The article continues with a special focus on a restaurant owner, Kevin Herron, who is catering to allergy free customers.  What I found especially interesting about this article was the mention of the Gluten-Free Restaurant Awareness Program.  According to their website:

The Gluten-Free Restaurant Awareness Program (GFRAP) facilitates a relationship between individuals with celiac disease and other forms of gluten intolerance, and restaurants. The relationship builds a win-win opportunity for restaurants to provide service to people following a gluten-free diet, and to gain increased patronage. Participating restaurants are able to provide gluten-free meals from their regular meals. GFRAP is a program of the Gluten Intolerance Group of North America.

If you dig deeper into the site, there is a page to locate a Gluten (and allergy) Free restaurant by state and zip code.  Since Idaho, where I live, is a relative small state (by population, not by size), I looked up the restaurants that are registered on the site.

Only eight restaurants are listed, and most of those are in the Boise area.  But what I found interesting is that the Outback Steak House is listed in several locations.  So now I know that if I go on a trip, I can find an Outback Steak House — which is located in most areas.

Since I live close to the Washington border, I checked the Washington listings and found several pages of restaurants listed including several listings for the Outback Steak House, Old Spaghetti Factory, Jet House Pizza, and Garlic Jim’s Famous Gourmet Pizza!  Once again, if I find any of these restaurants, I will know they are save for Gluten Free menu items.

The site also has a recipe database that you might want to check out!


Tips for Newly Diagnosed Celiacs

You have just been diagnosed with Celiac Disease or Gluten Intolerance.  A great relief to finally find out what is wrong with you, but what do you do now?

Living Without magazine (one of the best magazines on the market for information on Gluten Intolerance, Celiac Disease, and food allergies in general) recently published an article (with video) on the subject.  Written by Jules E. Dowler Shepard, the article lists Ten “Most-Do’s for Newly Diagnosed Celiacs”.  Following are some highlights from the article.

1.Understand Your Disease.  Make a point to learn all you can about your condition. Read recently published books written by acknowledged experts and turn to websites run by national celiac organizations, noted celiac research centers and trusted publications. …

2. Build a Medical Team.  Consult with a doctor and nutritionist who specialize in celiac disease. …

3. Join a Support Group.  Chances are there is a celiac support group within short driving distance from where you live or work. …

4. Check Your Pantry.  This step includes cleaning or replacing the items in your kitchen where gluten contamination can occur: scratched pans, the toaster, your food mill and breadmaker, etc. Do the homework to truly understand cross contamination, gluten-containing ingredients and food labeling, so that your kitchen becomes a safe haven that you can rely on for tasty, uncontaminated foods. (Go to Living Without‘s Quick Start Guide to the gluten-free diet.) …

6. Dust Off Your Apron.  Even if you’ve never baked from scratch, consider doing it now. Despite all the new gluten-free products available, many just don’t taste like the foods you remember. …

7. Buy a Bread Maker.  A good bread machine can be your new best friend. …

8. Patronize Local Businesses.  You’ll feel better once you figure out the dining spots in your town that serve safe foods. …

9. Don’t Settle.  Just because you are now eating gluten free doesn’t mean that you don’t have the right to enjoy delicious meals. …

10. Exhale.  Relax. It’s going to be all right. Your diagnosis is a life sentence, not a death sentence. You’ve been handed the opportunity to largely control your health by what you choose to put into your body. Without a  prescription, you can heal yourself simply by taking charge and changing a few of your foods. Now don’t you feel better already?

As usual, Jules lists some wonderful tips for newly diagnosed celiacs!

Personally, I was very fortunate that the naturopathic doctor that diagnosed me was married to the gal than owned the local health food store in my town.  Between the two of them (and my own research), I learned tons about the disease, what foods were safe to eat and how to prepare them.  In my experiences point #1, 2, 3, 4 & 8 were the most important tips to follow!

Which tips helped you the most??



Strawberry Rhubarb Pie and Crust Recipe

Well, it is about that time of the year when strawberries and rhubarb are ripe or getting ripe!  Strawberry Rhubarb Pie always makes me think of spring — some of the first fruits to be ready in the garden!

What intrigued me most about this post from Living Without is the Pie Crust recipe!  Gluten Free Pie crusts are a whole different animal when making pies!  The following recipe lists step by step on how to make a wonderful Gluten Free Pie crust:

Allergy-Friendly Pie Crust

MAKES TWO 9½-INCH CRUSTSStrawberry Rhubarb Pie and Crust Recipe

1⅛ cups Gluten-Free Multi-Blend Flour Mix, more
as needed
⅔ cup finely ground gluten-free rolled oats
¾ cup + 1½ tablespoons millet flour
1½ teaspoons xanthan gum
¾ teaspoon salt
1½ tablespoons sugar (omit for savory recipes, like quiche)
1 cup cold leaf lard or regular lard, cut into pieces
½ cup ice-cold water (more, as needed)

Wash for Top Crust
2-3 tablespoons high-protein milk of choice (soy, almond, hemp)
1 tablespoon sugar

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, combine flour mix, oats, millet flour, xanthan gum, salt and sugar. Turn mixer off.

2. Drop lard by the tablespoonful onto dry ingredients. Turn mixer on low and combine ingredients. When lard has coated the flour and bits of lard are about the size of peas, slowly add the water in a stream, enough to moisten the dough (you might need a little more water). If dough starts to make a wet, whipping sound, add a few more tablespoons of flour a little at a time until you have a soft dough. (If mixing by hand, use a pastry blender to mix lard into dry ingredients; then gradually add water until a soft dough forms.)

3. Gather a bit more than half of the dough into a ball and shape it into a 6-inch disk for the top crust. Shape remainder into a 4-inch disk. If the dough becomes sticky, wrap both disks tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes before rolling out.

4. On a cool countertop, between two sheets of plastic wrap, roll the 4-inch disk into an 11-inch circle. While rolling, frequently flip the dough over and lift up plastic wrap to ensure dough isn’t sticking. Remove plastic wrap from one side. Pick up plastic wrap sheet with dough and place it, dough side down, into pie plate. Peel off plastic wrap.

5. Trim overhanging dough or tuck it under itself. Crimp the crust by pinching a V-shape every ½-inch around the edge.

6. To partially bake the crust, cover it with foil and heap dried beans or pie weights inside. Then place pie plate in the refrigerator while oven preheats to 400 degrees. Bake crust for 15 minutes or until edges turn golden. Allow crust to cool for a few minutes. Then remove foil and weights. If a crisp crust is desired, return crust to oven to bake uncovered for 3 more minutes. Allow crust to cool for 10 minutes before filling with prepared fruit.

7. For a doubled-crusted pie, partially bake the bottom crust for 10 minutes to prevent sogginess. Roll out top crust to at least a 12-inch circle and place it on top of mounded fruit filling. Fold under the overhang of dough to create a thick edge around the pie. Crimp edges to seal. Cut 7 slits into the top crust for venting.

8. For a lattice top, roll out the second disk and cut into ¾-inch wide strips. Place half the strips horizontally and the rest vertically across the pie, weaving them together for a lattice look.

9. Brush the top crust with egg wash. For more about top crust washes, see “Easy as Pie.”

10. Bake assembled pie in a 325-degree oven for one hour. Pie is done when a knife inserted meets with slight resistance but still easily penetrates the fruit. If pie bakes longer, cover loosely with foil to prevent over-browning.

READ FULL RECIPE (You will need to access the original article to find out how to make the filling!)

Do you have a pie recipe you would like to share with the rest of us?  I would love to post it on my blog!

If you don’t have a subscription to Living Without magazine, you are really missing something!  Click the link below to get a copy of the magazine delivered to my mailbox: