As the weeks went by, I became alarmed at the time I spent daily thinking about how to prepare and cook naturally gluten-free foods. I also realized that my revelation needed a reality check. Making meals from scratch is easier said than done. Cooking can be unnecessarily time consuming, at times annoying and stressful especially if you have children. Even so, take heart for it will become easier as you go along. My reality check was the driving force behind my desire to create meals for each day of the week. But a collection of recipes by themselves did not seem to be enough. There was something missing and that something was a basic knowledge of food that your imagination could reference anytime you felt like trying something new. You will become your own chef, limited only by your imagination. This experience brought to mind a maxim I have long believed in and in part helped inspire me to create this website.
If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.
When designing the meals, I kept several standards in mind. First, the food had to be inexpensive and easily accessible while preparation and cooking time should not be much longer than a half hour for the breakfast/lunch and one hour for the dinner/dessert. Secondly, each meal had to contain at least one complete protein food (meat, fish, poultry or eggs) or a combination of partial protein foods (brown rice, beans, peas and vegetables). Combined partial protein foods can make a complete protein meal, which is a very fortunate thing if your vegetarian. Ok, so you’re probably wondering what’s so special about complete protein foods? Well, in a nutshell, they provide all the essential amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of all the protein in us (hormones, antibodies, bones, organs etc.). The essential amino acids cannot be manufactured in the body (unlike the nonessential), which is what makes them essential. They must be obtained from dietary proteins. So, if a shortage of amino acids became chronic due to a diet deficient in essential amino acids then the body will most certainly suffer. Never forget, it is not the quantity, but the quality of protein foods in your diet that is important. Third, each meal had to be low in saturated fats (ten grams or less per serving) while the unsaturated fats could be much higher (around twenty grams per serving). Unsaturated fats (obtained from olive oil) increase the levels of good cholesterol (HDL) by taking any excess bad cholesterol (LDL) to the liver to be broken down and removed from the body. Unsaturated fats help your body in many other ways. Not to be outdone, saturated fats obtained from grass fed animals and coconut oil have important antimicrobial properties that protects us against harmful bacteria in our digestive tract. Saturated fats also help your body in many other ways. Both fats are required for survival, what your body doesn’t require is a diet with more saturated fats than unsaturated. Fourth, I wanted each meal to be a good source of complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are vegetables and a good source of insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber is that part of the vegetable which is not digestible. Insoluble fiber provides the bulk that contracting and relaxing muscles need to grab onto. You see, food moves through our digestive system by a process known as peristalsis- the contraction and relaxation of digestive tract muscles. Like any muscle in your body, your digestive tract muscles work less efficiently as you age, resulting in food moving more slowly through the small and large intestine. When things slow down, digestive health problems arise. Fortunately, this rhythmic contraction with the presence of insoluble fiber (which is mildly abrasive) not only helps keeps things moving more freely but also gently scrubs your intestinal walls clean in the process. Now, I’m sorry to say some of my recipes fell short of meeting this standard I had set. So, on those days it would be a good idea to supplement your diet with a fiber mix.
Yes, it seems as though I’ve strayed some-what from the subject at hand. But I believe having a basic knowledge of proteins, fats and carbohydrates is critical to our complete recovery. We can’t just remove gluten from our diet and expect all to be well. The damage inflicted by gluten is not to be taken lightly; your body is in need of repair. Therefore, it is going to need a diet packed with macro and micro nutrients in order for it to undo the ills that a gluten filled diet had years to place in motion. Our bodies are amazingly resilient. When given enough time and care, the human body has demonstrated time and time again that it can heal itself.
Last, I decided to make all the meals dairy free because anyone who is gluten intolerant might also be sensitive to the casein protein. Casein is a milk protein with a very similar peptide chain to the gluten protein. Our body breaks protein down into a combination of amino acids called a peptide chain which is small enough to be absorbed through the wall of our small intestine. Partly digested proteins (peptide chains) which are larger than normal can still make their way into the bloodstream via our intestinal and cause all kinds of problems. The casein protein, if partly digested – turns into morphine-like substances called opiates. Like opium it is highly addictive and will give that person a doped-up cloudy feeling (aka brain fog) and a reduced sensitivity to pain; to say the least. A few days to a week after you start a casein-free diet, withdrawal symptoms will begin. Withdrawal refers to the on-set of symptoms that occur whenever any long-term habit is discontinued. Psychological symptoms such as anxiety and insomnia are just two of a wide range of symptoms that can last for a few months. Dairy free means removing all cows’ milk, butter and cheese (made from cows’ milk). As with gluten, don’t forget there are hidden sources of casein. Casein is often listed as caseinate, milk protein or whey. Accidentally consuming hidden sources of casein will prevent symptoms of withdrawal and result in an indefinite opiate withdrawal period. On the upside, opiate withdrawal is not life threatening.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder (triggered by gluten) that results in damage to a person’s own body tissue (small intestine) in genetically predisposed individuals (blood relatives). Our first line of defense in maintaining good health is our digestive system. Our immune system – via gluten – unintentionally destroys this defense by damaging our villi (tiny hair like projections) along the lining of the small intestine. It is through our villi that we absorb the nutrients from the food we digest. Our immune system will launch an attack on any gluten being absorbed through the intestinal villi. This immune response causes the lining of the small intestine to become inflamed and swell, in turn causing the villi to either fall off or lay flat. Since our small intestine was never the intended target of our immune system, the unintended damage described above can be viewed as collateral damage. Celiac – is a term that simply refers to the location of the “collateral damage” caused by our body’s immune response to gluten, hence the name – Celiac disease. The collateral damage also produces an outward appearance of a bloated stomach. But thankfully, (say it loud and be proud) “the human body is amazingly resilient”- believe it. Villi damaged or destroyed will regenerate in a few days once gluten is completely eliminated from your diet. Please know this, if left untreated (gluten-free diet) celiac disease may lead to acute malnutrition which can be physically and mentally disabling, even life threatening. Consuming non-dairy probiotics (friendly bacteria) will help accelerate the healing of your intestinal lining because probiotics have anti-inflammatory properties. Beside adding probiotics to your diet, lets not forget as we age our ability to digest food efficiently decreases. So, by our mid thirties it would be a good idea to start taking a digestive enzyme right before each meal. Incorporating digestive enzymes into your diet will help you break down foods quicker thereby improving your absorption of nutrients. You see, it doesn’t matter how perfect the meal is if you lack the ability to properly digest and or absorb it. Most will pass through and out of your body unused, depriving your body of the macro-nutrients (protein, fats, carbohydrates and minerals) and micro-nutrients (vitamins and trace minerals) it needs to maintain a strong immune system, grow, repair and regenerate.
In conclusion, it is safe to say the first month of your transition to gluten free diet without a meal plan will be very disruptive. Coming soon! downloadable gluten-free/dairy-free cookbook. It is not my intention to overwhelm you with hundreds of recipes like a majority of the gluten free books on the market; for a collection of recipes (no matter how numerous) by themselves are nothing more than crutches. During your period of transition, my eBook will allow you to maintain most if not all of the flexibility you are accustom to in your daily routine. The eBook; supported by the information on this website will encourage if need be, inspire your imagination and hopefully provide you with the knowledge and foundation to take an active role in creating meals to fit your nutritional needs throughout your life.