Tuesday, November 13th, 2018

Gluten Intolerance: Real or Imaginary?

Published on January 24, 2011 by   ·   7 Comments Pin It

Goodbye Gluten, Sayonara Sourdough, Arriverderci Arrabiata! When we read Katherine Pennington newest article for GirlieGirl Army, we admit, we felt sick to our bagel-full bellies.. we will most certainly be participating in a wee gluten-cleanse after reading this!

If you are anything like me, I used to completely roll my eyes when a mother would explain that her child was on a gluten-free or dairy-free diet or had this or that food sensitivity. And, it is almost comical the lengths we all have to go to in order to make sure everyone’s food needs are met at birthday parties and bake sales!

Well, embarrassing to say but I have joined the group and have taken my son completely off gluten and dairy!

It all started with we decided to take Oliver to visit a doctor who practices up in Rhinebeck named Dr. Bock who wrote Healing the New Childhood Epidemics: Autism, ADHD, Asthma and Allergies. For those of you who are not familiar with Dr. Bock, he has clients coming from all over the world and he literally heals (or at least greatly improves symptoms) of many children with ADHD, autism, asthma, and allergies through supplementation and diet change.

With Oliver, after a battery of blood tests and an in-depth interview, it was revealed that he has a gluten and dairy intolerance as well as having an iron and zinc deficiency. When Dr. Bock put him on supplements and on the new diet, we saw the results of that immediately. The main thing that we saw that set him off was GLUTEN!

Unfortunately, gluten is in everything, or at least everything a 10 yr old boy loves! Gone are the beloved morning bagels, the donuts that my husband would take him to have for “treats,” the pizza, pasta, cookies, and even the garlic knots and sandwiches he craves at school.

The good thing is that Oliver has seen the positive changes and likes how he feels. In fact, he likes the way he feels so much that it is now him that takes staying on the diet so seriously. When he does lapse and has something with gluten, either by accident or on purpose, we all see the immediate difference. Our journey has been helped immensly by the chef at our son’s school who is an advocate of healthy living as well and we are deeply greatful for everything she has done and continues to do.

Has it been hard at times? Sure! But the benefits of seeing my son so much happier, taking his school work so much more seriously and, overall, just being a more positive member of our household, make it 100% worth it! These days there are so many wonderful gluten-free (and even dairy-free) subsitutes that it has made it fairly easy to do and we have actually all had fun trying the new foods.

So, for those of you wanting to learn more, read on. At the end, I will give you a list of our favorite foods if you want to experiment a bit and see if it resonates with you.

Delicious or Devilish?

So, what is gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley, spelt, kamut, rye, semolina, pumpernickel, faro and bulgar. Just because something is “wheat-free” does not mean it is gluten-free! Also, because oats are commonly processed at plants handling non-gluten-free grains, they are generally placed on the gluten grains list.

What is a gluten sensitivity?

A gluten sensitivity is a “state of heightened immunologic responsiveness to ingested gluten proteins in genetically predisposed individuals.” (Pediatrics, Aug 2001.) Someone who is sensitive to gluten might have bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, reflux, skin issues such as excema and other rashes, congestion, wheezing, headaches, night sweats, or have dark circles under their eyes. An individual can also exhibit signs of exhaustion or depression. In children, you often see hyperactive or restless behavior normally associated with ADHD.

Most people just assume that a gluten sensitivity is a disease of the digestive system but this it is actually a disease of the entire body and symptoms can vary widely from individual to individual.

Is a gluten sensitivity the same thing as celiac disease?

No!!! While a gluten- sensitivity can be annoying, celiac disease is downright debilitating and dangerous! Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder caused by the inability of the body to digest and breakdown gluten protein into amino acids and results in the intestinal villi, the surface of the small intestine, being damaged. When the villi are damaged or destroyed, it causes malabsorption of carbohydrates, fat, protein, vitamins and minerals.

Symptoms are similar to that of gluten-sensitivity but much more pronounced and debilitating. It is estimated that 1 out of every 133 Americans has celiac, most of which go undiagnosed. The only cure for celiac is taking gluten out of the diet completely.

How do I know if I have a gluten-sensitivity or celiac?

If you exhibit any of the above symptoms, then go immediately to your doctor and ask for a gluten allergy test. You can definitely put yourself on a gluten-free diet but without a proper test there is no way to know. Also, with so many cases of celiac going undiagnosed, you don’t want to take a chance with your health!

A few of the many vegan gluten-free cookbooks available on amazon.com

So, if you have a gluten-sensitivity or celiac, just what can you eat?

The grains brown rice, millet, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat and corn are all gluten-free! There are so many amazing gluten-free alternatives using these grains to replace your old pasta, bread and other staples so don’t despair.  A visit to the health food store’s gluten-free section will leave you plenty of choices.


The Food for Life Millet bread, which makes yummy sandwiches, garlic bread and the most delicious croutons. Food for Life also has a delicious Raison Pecan Bread, which we use for yummy cinnamon-raison toast in the morning! For tortillas, I suggest the rice tortillas from Food for Life or corn tortillas that don’t have any other added flours. Pamela’s, Bob’s Red Mill, and Namaste, which makes great bread mixes!

Pasta: My favorite brand of pasta is Tinkyada, which is a rice-based pasta that cooks and tastes just like the “real stuff.” My kids literally have no idea that it is not regular pasta. Key here is that it is not brown like the whole wheat pasta so win-win! Other brands I like are Ancient Harvest, Bionaturae, and even Amy’s has a gluten-free, rice Mac n’Cheese!

Pancakes: Arrowhead Mills has an amazing gluten-free pancake mix and my family also likes the Namaste. Other good brands are Pamela’s and Bob’s Red Mill. For young children, being able to have their favorite treats is essential for having them stay on their diets, which leads to my next section…

Cookies/Treats: Emmy’s Macaroons are also delicious and come in Dark Cacao, Coconut-Vanilla, Chai Spice, Mint Chip, and Chocolate-Orange. Put any of these out and I can promise you that no one will even notice the difference! Gluten-Free Cookie Jar Company’s Vegan-chocolate chip cookies are out of this world, as are the sweet treats at Three Tablespoons Bakery! Another healthy alternative to cookies, are the coconut milk based “ice creams” made by Luna and Larry’s Coconut Bliss, which are sweetened with agave nectar not sugar! Some of our favorites are Chocolate Hazelnut, Dark Chocolate, Vanilla Island, Mint Galactica, Naked Coconut, and Naked Almond Fudge! Yum! So Delicious also makes a good “ice cream” and has products using soy milk as well as coconut milk.

Treats from Three Tablespoons Bakery (available to order online through their website) are some of the greatest things we’ve ever tasted in our lives. Baked with whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, herbs, seeds, and a very light hand of unrefined sweeteners, they are all kosher, organic and vegan and have no white flour, trans-fats, refined sugar or artificial ingredients! Luscious brownies, creamy ganache-covered cupcakes, ultra moist muffins and decadent cookies. You’d never guess beans, avocado, zucchini and flax seeds are among the ingredients. Most, if not all, are gluten-free.

What else can I do other than take gluten out of my diet?

As I mentioned before, taking gluten out of my son’s diet was just part of our approach. When an individual has a gluten sensitivity, they have also had problems digesting and assimilating the nutrients in their food so they often will have nutritional deficiencies. Not only must you take the culprit (in this case gluten) out but you also have to build up their nutritional profile through vitamins and good food choices.

The gluten-free approach may not work for everyone but, if it does, it can literally change your life.

Editors Note: The web is filled with vegan/ gluten-free websites.  A simple google search will offer you more websites than you know what to do with!

Nutritional consultant Katherine Pennington, Be in Balance, offers holistic health and lifestyle counseling in New York for women and men who want to lose weight, gain energy, sleep better, reduce stress, get in shape and achieve a greater sense of well-being, balance and happiness in their lives and those of their families.   For more information, please visit her website at www.be-n-balance.com or   send an email to katherine@be-n-balance.com.

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Readers Comments (7)

  1. People think I’m nuts because I grew up seemingly OK eating foods that contain gluten, but I know that when I eat it, I feel sluggish, bloated, uncomfortable, and generally ill at ease.

    It’s very hard to make the change as an adult, especially when you were a person previously known for your baking (le sigh!), and there is a lot of getting used to the amount of alchemy involved with substituting ingredients. However, the yo-yoing of my weight has stopped, my migraines have become less frequent, I’m less prone to getting serious upper respiratory infections(due to inflammation), and my arthritis is a lot better.

    When we have children, hubby and I are definitely going to let them try lots of foods because we want them to have options and to be open minded, but I will most definitely only feed them gluten free at home and do my best to make sure that they keep to a gluten free diet outside of the house best they can.

  2. PS–Obviously, by the last name, I married an Italian man. Best gluten free pasta we’ve found in a local Italian grocery store is De Cecco. Cooks al dente and does the homemade sauce real justice with consistency and flavor!

  3. This is one of the best post I’ve seen in a long time on gluten intolerance!

    Thanks for including Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss in the treat list. Coconut Bliss got started by looking for a treat that didn’t leave Luna & Larry feeling bad afterwards, and we love being able to share that same feeling with others.

  4. OrganiKooK says:

    Great article! Will be sharing this one!!

  5. Great article! I would add inflammation to the list of symptoms. Idiscovered years ago that when I eat foods I’m sensitive to (including gluten), my muscles and joints feel very tight and achy. When I don’t eat them, the symptoms go away. It’s not in my head; it’s empirical data. If I hadn’t found out about food sensitivities, I would have thought I had arthritis at the ripe old age of 25!

    tinkyada used to be my favorite gf pasta until I found Andean Dream, which is made of organic rice AND quinoa together and has the perfect texture I remember from nasty ole white flour pasta with none of the nastiness. Plus, it boasts 6 grams of protein per serving. Woohoo!

  6. Melissa says:

    We avoid wheat (and especially anything processed) but always soak or ferment your grains and legumes.

  7. […] or allergy aren't clearly involved.This type of gluten sensitivity is questionable right now.Gluten sensitivity (GS) includes an accumulation of health conditions by which gluten comes with an … be observed in the nerve condition, but a clinical finding might not be obvious.GS may also affect […]

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