Sunday, July 21, 2013

What the heck is Gluten and why do I keep complaining about it? Plus a yummy Pesto recipe.

What a beautiful morning it is sitting on my brand new patio set listening to the birds chirping. In brain storming some new topics to write about, I thought I would write about gluten. Those who know me personally, probably get so sick and tired of me whining about my gluten related GI issues and probably wonder, what the heck is she even talking about?!

No it's not a new hippy dippy diet bandwagon I wanted to jump on. It really and truly is an actual health issue that dictates what I can and can't eat. Here is a little history about me and my weeny stomach issues. When I was 20 years old, I began noticing that whenever I would eat, I would feel like I had a brick in my stomach, nauseous and usually would end up with diarrhea. I eventually went to the Dr. and was told I had IBS, which made sense to me, and was given an anti spasmodic medication. This did help with the cramping, but obviously not the symptoms. So fast forward about 7 or 8 years. I go back to the Dr. with the same continued issues, only now they are way worse. I was advised to have a colonoscopy which,  a year later I ended up doing. It basically was normal and I was again told I had IBS and again given the same kind of medication. It was about 2 months later my mother read an article in a women's health magazine about gluten and brought it to my attention. I read up on it and did my own experiment eliminating all gluten from my diet for a week. Then on a Friday night, Brian and I had a gluten containing dinner and I was right back in pain, bloating, nausea and diarrhea. And such is my life currently.

Gluten is a protein composite that is in wheat, and grass related grains such as barley and rye. It is found in anything that is made with flour. It is also used in soy and many sauces, ketchup, BBQ sauce, etc as a stabilizing agent. It is used in many medications and vitamins as a binding agent. The gluten protein is what makes things stick together and hold. It give elasticity to dough to allow it to bind. About 15% of the current population is thought to have some sort of gluten sensitivity or allergy.

Gluten causes inflammation in the small intestines. The symptoms are abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, muscular, bone and joint pain, headaches, vertigo, depression, anxiety, exhaustion and poor dental health. Obviously if you have a true allergy to it you can have rashes, itching, hives and anaphylaxis. These are the people with celiac disease which goes way beyond just the sensitivity.

A gluten free diet basically consists of eating fresh, clean food. (you have never heard me enforce that, right ;)....). It's fruits, veggies, lean protein, beans, rice and most dairy.  There are many products these days that are gluten free such as bread, pasta, tortillas, cookies, etc. But be careful, just because it says "gluten free" doesn't mean it's healthy. If normally you don't eat cookies in your healthy diet, don't start just because they are gluten free. But it is nice to have options. I have tried many pastas, breads, pizzas and really they are tasty to me. The biggest thing is to avoid anything made with wheat, flour, barley and rye. This is why you can't drink regular beer. Any anything that is breaded will have flour in it. Basically if in doubt, I don't eat it. The biggest concern with a gluten free diet is that you may not get enough fiber and vitamins such as zinc, vitamin B, iron and complex carbs. This is because many wheat products are enriched with these. But I do use a gluten free fiber supplement most of the time and I take a B vitamin and multivitamin.

Now I am not perfect by any means, and again, those who know me sure know when I have slipped because it really is uncomfortable and I end up in the bathroom with regrets. The best way to describe how I feel when I have loaded up on gluten is like I have a hangover. I am very fatigued, have a headache and major stomach issues.

I hope this has helped increase your knowledge on the new and growing issue.

The recipe I want to share is one I found in the paper a few weeks ago. As I grow basil and mint in my garden, this was perfect!

Basil Mint Pesto:
1 cup fresh mint leaves
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup toasted walnuts (sounds weird, but it's good!...spread on baking sheet at 350 degrees for 5-7 min)
2 cloves of garlic, cut in half
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 pepper
2/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese

Place mint, basil, nuts, garlic, salt and pepper in food processor. Pulse to finely chop. While running the processor, add oil in a steady stream. Process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in cheese.

As I have a ton of basil and mint, I plan to make a lot of this and freeze it in ice cube trays. Then transfer to individual freezer bags to have for this winter. It's great with chicken.

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~Mandi   
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