Our Culinary Journey: Gluten free and then some.

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I had been waiting for years.

The day I moved out of my parents' house I stopped eating meat. Born of my big/sensitive heart and a desire to not pay someone else to do something I was unwilling to do myself (ie: kill animals), I enthusiastically quit eating meat for most of a decade. I always viewed it as a personal choice, one that did not effect how I viewed the omnivores in my life, but an extremely important one when it came to "living my truth".

From an ethical place I think I did the right thing by following my heart. Each of our hearts knows our own unique truth, and at 18 this was mine. (I'm sure for many of you it is still your heart's truth today.)

But I had a belly ache.

I had often had belly aches as a child and after a few years on a legume and grain based diet I nearly always had a belly ache. Diarrhea, a crampy gut, and other unpleasantries were the norm and each meal I ate would end not when I was comfortably full but when my stomach hurt.

In my possession at all times were various over the counter treatments including Imodium, gas-x, lactase, and tums. I was in sorry shape. Western medicine wasn't any help, labeling it as "irritable bowel syndrome" and telling me to continue to take said pharmaceuticals daily into perpetuity. No "cure", no recommendations to change my diet, just "take this pill."

And so I did. Unhappily but not aware of other options for years.

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And then I noticed something.

The more vegetarians I met, the more belly aches complaints I heard. Not all of course, but nearly everyone I knew who complained of chronic digestive woes were also vegetarian or vegan. And something clicked. I believe a vegetarian diet can be a healthy one, I decided, but perhaps not for me. I slowly started eating meat again, first fish that Pete and I caught ourselves (me crying for twenty minutes in the bottom of the boat after killing the fish I caught), then venison from my dad. Only wild game for the first years and that only occasionally, then slowly branching out into locally farmed organic meats."Happy meat," I called it. It was the only solution I could see to bridge my belly ache with my ethics.

It never occured to me that not only had I been eating a vegetarian diet but I also had taken antibiotics, eaten conventional food, drank chlorinated city water, and taken birth control pills. Only the food layer had occurred to me so at that time it was the only correction that I made.

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Fast forward another decade after returning to a non-vegetarian diet. My belly still hurt. Not as much, but it still hurt. Eventually I gave up gluten and a few other trigger foods but it still was there. And dark circles beneath my eyes and an edge of un-wellness that I couldn't put my finger on. It was like a shadow, barely perceptible but present.

Then in 2004 as if by magic I stumbled upon a book at the coop called "Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Intestinal Health Through Diet." Without even opening the book every cell in my body confirmed that it was my right answer. My intuition was screaming out for the information in this book. I thumbed through it then and there, standing in the isle at the coop then turned around my full shopping cart, putting most of my items back on the shelf. I filled my cart with nuts and nut flours, honey, eggs, meats, fruits, and vegetables.

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet was designed to heal children (and adults) with severe gut imbalances and was found to also reduce or reverse many mental health issues. The diet, if strictly adhered to is said to correct everything from irritable bowel syndrome, chrone's disease, celiac, autism, colitis, and ADHD – among others. It spoke to the underlying imbalance of a gut that isn't working as it should.

I read the book cover to cover and started "The Specific Carbohydrate Diet" just a week later. Within three days the stomach ache I had carried with me for nearly two decades was gone. Completely gone. I honored the diet for a year and found all of the digestive symptoms I struggled with since childhood disappeared. So did my eczema, dark under eye circles, and malnourished appearance. It was pretty sweet. My gut healed by this diet, I returned slowly to "normal" omnivorous food and saw no return of my symptoms.

I joked that after being on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet for one year I ate all the animals I saved during my decade as a vegetarian.

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Fast forward a few more years, to today.

I'm still well. I still eat "happy" meat and limit my grains. We live primarily on traditional foods, based on whole foods, bone broths, vegetables, and soaked or sprouted grains. But those grains. And that sugar… they are so seductive. So I eat more of them than I should and my belly churns and howls when I do. It's too much, I know. And I've come to think that we all (in our house and much of our society) have digestive systems that are a bit out of balance. Gut flora is imbalanced by chlorinated water, antibiotics, birth control, and environmental toxins. And I believe all four of us have signs of a flora or candida imbalance: thrush and colic as babies, sugar craving, a little eczema, and a sporadic red rash on Lupine's chin.

So in the next couple of weeks we are embarking on the GAPS diet (a variation on Specific Carb. that includes traditional foods and probiotics) as a family. While giving up grains, sugar, and most dairy isn't something that sounds like great fun at the surface, I am actually stoked to be heading down this healing path once more. I've done it before and know we can do it again, and I believe it will heal and nourish us on many levels.

For more on the GAPS diet see this site, and information about Specific Carb. can be found here.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Thanks to Tiffany who introduced me to the GAPS diet this autumn. I'll get you your book back, I promise!

36 thoughts on “Our Culinary Journey: Gluten free and then some.

  1. Lori says:

    Rachel this sounds very interesting. Here’s a question. I’m stuck in a bit of a rut and need some ideas for good healthy finger foods for my Isaac who is just a bit over a year and snacks for Lexi who is almost 7 would love to hear some of your ideas.

  2. Sara says:

    Good luck with all of it. I have had chronic digestive problems which are far too long to go into. I have finally figured out what works for me and that is no meat, fish, dairy, peas, mangoes and gluten. I was vegan for a little over a year but then I found out I couldn’t eat gluten (it may be celiac but I can’t afford the intestinal biopsy to know 100%, nor do I really want it). No gluten and no eggs make baking anything almost impossible. After a lot of truly disgusting experiments I gave up and allow eggs from chickens that are treated very well. One day I want my own chickens. Anyway, it is so interesting to see what works for different people.

  3. Cassandra says:

    I have also had horrible digestive issues over the last few years. I’m a vegetarian too, so now this has me thinking. I even had my gallbladder removed last October…and that has helped a little, but not what I was expecting. Thanks for posting this! I totally plan on looking into these books! I need some relief!

    Oh, and I ordered “Pelle’s New Suit” the other day (on your recommendation). I love it! And my boys love it too! Thanks 🙂

  4. Madcap says:

    Good morning Rachel.

    I’m celiac, and I went off gluten 15 years ago. It helped A LOT, but I still had some residual cramping, allergies, and digestive insufficiency.

    What helped me and my family enormously was acupuncture, which is why I’m now studying to be an acupuncturist. It helped with the digestive problems, as well as my daughter’s eczema, our family asthma problems, general itchiness, etc. It’s not ‘the solution’, but it’s a great tool for people who’s bodies have been damaged by allergies or celiac in the past, especially in conjunction with dietary and lifestyle support.

    Good luck!

  5. Sara Adams says:

    We’re following the paleo diet at our house. http://robbwolf.com/ I’ve seen great improvement since cutting grains and legumes from our diet. My husband also dairy-free but I was having a hard time getting enough calcium while nursing my toddler so I went back on temporarilly. The girls just added limited dairy back: whole milk, raw cheese, and homemade (low-lactose) yogurt. I wish you good health.

  6. Megan says:

    I am excited to follow your journey! I have been “about to start” a personalized GAPS/BED diet for a long time now. You might just give me that last little nudge of inspiration. Good luck!

  7. Rachel Wolf says:

    Hi Lori,
    We love nut butter carrots or apples… nori (just as is, by the sheet)… date balls (remember that recipe from a while back?)… muffins (ours are now based on almond flour, but use what you use)… homemade jerkey… hard boiled eggs… fruit, fruit, fruit… salmon/tuna salad in the nori wraps above… homemade crackers and cheese…

    Hope that gives you a jumping off point!
    ~ Rachel

    Rachel Wolf
    rachel@lusaorganics.com
    http://www.LusaOrganics.com

    608-356-SOAP (7627)
    blogging at http://www.lusaorganics.typepad.com
     
    Use coupon code hello and receive a free lip balm with your first LüSa Organics order! (Add a lip balm of your choice to your basket.) Online at http://www.lusaorganics.com .

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  8. Rachel Wolf says:

    Sara,
    It is indeed fascinating to see what works for whom. I believe however that for virtually everyone gut flora is part of the picture. I hope your path to wellness is blessed!
    Rachel

  9. Rachel Wolf says:

    Cassandra,
    I also cannot recommend Nourishing Traditions with enough gusto. It has transformed us.  (Glad you loved the book!)
    ~ Rachel

    Rachel Wolf
    rachel@lusaorganics.com

    http://www.LusaOrganics.com
    608-356-SOAP (7627)
    blogging at http://www.lusaorganics.typepad.com
     
    Use coupon code hello and receive a free lip balm with your first LüSa Organics order! (Add a lip balm of your choice to your basket.) Online at http://www.lusaorganics.com .

    10% to organizations generating positive global change

  10. Rachel Wolf says:

    Madcap,
    Weve used acupuncture minimally in the past but it is powerful and important medicine. How wonderful that you are studying! As someone who is celiac you would probably be fascinated by the first part of the Specific Carb. book. It explains why we dont get well just by cutting out gluten. Amazing stuff. So many blessings,

    Rachel

  11. Rachel Wolf says:

    Sara A,
    One of my best friends whos son is celiac has been doing paleo for some time. They are possibly transitioning to GAPS to see what further healing it brings. Do you have a raw milk source? It is more absorble. I would also recommend the Green Pastures fish oil supplement. It makes the minerals much more accessible to your body.

    Blessings, mama.
    Rachel

  12. Nahuatl Vargas says:

    I know very little about some things that are spoken here, but I’m in pain, for 2 years or so now.
    I also had an appendix intervention when I was 15, and I recently hear the theory that even when that is supposed to not be useful, some people said that it woks as a room to storage all the good bacteria for your intestine, it makes sense to me, because since then I became stomach sensitive, and I don’t think there is something in body that it’s there just to be cut off.
    I will go to check all your recommendations, this sound like THE answer for me, thank you.
    Love your new banner, by the way.

  13. Susanne says:

    I’m interested to see how this works for you guys. It seems like there are a whole lot of foods on the “do not consume” list. There is so much conflicting information out there! I’ve always considered legumes and whole grains to be a healthy part of any diet. Personally, I am a little wary of anything that requires such strict adherence as I know it will be harder for me to comply over time. I’m looking forward to your reports from the field!

    With regard to the comment about appendices…they are vestigial organs and don’t serve a specific purpose in the body. Unfortunately, they do not store good bacteria for one’s gut as most of that is found in the stomach and colon. An inflamed appendix should generally be removed to prevent perforation which can result in a systemic sepsis (blood infection) which is almost always fatal.

  14. Rachel Wolf says:

    Susanne,
    Once you read the supporting information on why you can eat certain foods and must avoid others it is so logical that (for my personality anyway) it becomes easy. Yes to squash, no to sweet potatoes. Seems random, but the carbohydrates are multi-molecule chains in the sweet potatoes and single molecule in the squash. So he squash is easy to digest. I guess the science nerd in me gets a kick out of it.

    As for legumes and whole grains, Ive been reading more and more about the stress they cause for us to digest (weston-price foundation is a good source of information on how to properly prepare them to make them more digestable). Its all about the fiber and if our diet is fiber rich without them, all the better for most of us.

    Ill post updates!

    Blessings,
    Rachel

  15. Susanne says:

    Awesome! I think I’ll do some more reading, too. I’ve never thought about the molecular chain of a sweet potato but, you’re right, it makes a good deal of sense. It’s the same way we classify saturated fats as bad and unsaturated as good – it’s based on their chemical composition.

    I agree that grains/legumes are pretty difficult for most humans to digest – we just don’t have enough bacteria in our gut to break down the cellulose and other components. Hence the reason why cows chew their cud and have six stomachs. I’m not about to regurgitate my quinoa, though 🙂

    Sounds like this will be a really interesting journey!

  16. lauren says:

    though my biggest symptom was fatigue, rather than a stomach ache, i, too, had a candida imbalance for years that i didn’t know about (doctors told me i was either faking it or was depressed-but-refused-to-acknowledge-it. they prescribed me prozac! i was 17!!!).

    about eight years ago, i went on a candida cleanse which sounds much like your selective carb diet – it changed my world! i, too, have gotten a little off track in the last couple of years & need to get back on the wagon. i can’t wait to read about the GAPS diet. thanks for sharing!

  17. Rachel Wolf says:

    Lauren,
    Amazing. At 15 I was put on pre-ulcer medication for digestive woes, so your doctor was only slightly crazier than mine. Ill share how this goes as we embark!
    Peace,
    Rachel

  18. kendra says:

    wow. i’m very interested in this too! ex 10-year vegetarian with ibs here.

    so, now we’re gluten/dairy free, after my three year old had blood in his stool as an infant and i was tested for food sensitivities. we’ve been wondering if he can or should ever try these foods.

    now, our baby has thrush. and i’m taking probiotics and clay to help with this, and giving her probiotics too.

    whew! thank you for sharing about your journey in such a positive light. i usually keep my mouth shut about it because i find myself getting a little down. blessings to you. <3

  19. nannergirl says:

    Good luck 🙂 I’ve noticed a major change in how I feel since we moved out of the city and started growing a lot of our own food and buying what we can’t grow from local farms. I still have gut rot when I eat too much “unhappy” meat, but I find a couple of days back on our reagular diet of natural foods helps. I hope this helps your whole family – there’s nothing worse than not feeling well.

  20. Rachel Wolf says:

    Nannergirl,
    Yes, home-grown is certainly an important piece of sustainable, healthy food. Were sketching up plans for our root cellar (and house) in the country as we dream away these winter days in town…
    ~ Rachel

  21. shelly says:

    We started the gaps diet last February….it was the Best thing we’ve ever done! Everyone benefited–our autistic son made progress like you wouldn’t believe, our youngest’s skin rashes and constant runny nose cleared up and within a week our oldest’s constipation problems went away (he is 10 and we have been battling this for as long as I can remember–it’s been a year and he hasn’t had one incidence since). Your site was a huge life saver in the beginning…your recipes and guidance for not just living the way everyone else did…I can’t thank you enough 🙂

    Many blessings to your family as you start this journey!

  22. Rachel Wolf says:

    Oh, Shelly. What a sweet note. Thanks for your words. And the benefits you have seen are so similar to what weve seen in the past. We have our own stories over here that are truly amazing on the power of what we eat…

    So many blessings,
    Rachel

  23. Karla says:

    My biggest vice is sugar – I LOVE sugar! Not every type, mind you – death-by-chocolate cake was always too much for me – but I love sugar-y snacks. I was so bummed at my last ob-gyn apt that I was the same weight as I was shortly after having my second baby. *sigh*

    Slowly but surely, I’ve weeded out (not entirely, but severely limited) white sugar, white flour, many processed foods, and more recently milk products (we still love cheese, though).

    We’ve always eaten at home anyway, but I’ve been making a conscious effort to have healthy protein sources at each snack or meal, lots of fruits and veggies, and whole wheat (or whole grain) versions of things we would normally eat. In baking, I try oat flour, flaxseed, wheat germ, and other things in addition to or in place of flour. If we do use sweetners, I try honey, agave syrup, or sometimes brown sugar in small amounts.

    I’ve lost about 30 lbs since having my second baby, and am back to the weight I was when I got pregnant with my first (I’d still like to lose more weight). My husband, who doesn’t always want to give up his treats, has admitted that we haven’t gotten sick this year because I’ve made us all healthier. 🙂

    I’m always looking for ways to improve – who isn’t? – and am always looking for ideas. I’d like to try making coconut milk yogurt; I have a yogurt maker from when I used to make it for the kiddos all the time, but it’s since been stashed away. We hope to get our own chickens soon so we can have fresh eggs. We can’t afford to buy organic everything, but we do what we can, and even the smallest changes are changes nonetheless.

    I told my husband, now that our diet has been improving, I need to tackle some other things – like our toothpaste! I do occasionally make batches of homemade detergent, but I’m not always 100% satisfied with the results. I’m hoping to make your recipe soon.

  24. Melissa V.O. says:

    Thank you for sharing the links, information, and your story along with it. I am fully supportive, though I would have been skeptical a few years back. I have fibromyalgia, but no gut-based irritable bowl syndrome or any other digestive diseases or symptoms related to fibro. However, two out of my three children have celiac disease and the likely genetic link is me. For the boys with celiac, a regular gluten-free diet is ok, but tightening up and tweaking to this specific carb diet helps even more, takes away moody edges and agitation. For myself, it was night and day with the pain and inflammation of fibromyalgia. I have good control with an anti-seizure medication, but it’s not perfect. The dietary changes gave me more energy and took away the radiating nerve, joint, and vague non-muscle/tissue pain that was always so difficult to treat, manage, or medicate.

    I wouldn’t be so supportive of this if it weren’t for the fact that it’s done so much for myself and my children, that it’s simple and pure and easy to do. Because really, it’s not that hard to give up refined sugar or wheat (etc.) when you are miserable in order to feel better with very little effort otherwise. My (then) 9 year old did it, hasn’t cheated on gluten once, and is 12 years old, and very independent about his diet and celiac, it is do-able! I really appreciate other people stepping forward, spreading the news, their stories, info, support. This isn’t just for celiac any longer, and it’s awesome to see such positive reactions and practical applications in real families. Best wishes for you and yours, keep it up!

  25. sandy says:

    Wow, Rachel, this is so interesting. I’ve been itching to step up to make changes in our diet for a while now, ever since allergies have taken over our lives, especially my poor, suffering 6 year old. And reading about GAPS through your blog might just make that dive in a little less scary. (I’m not sure what I’m afraid of, really…the kids not getting enough calcium? Something like making my own yogurt just seems daunting.)

    Thank you for sharing. I have to bookmark your blog now!

  26. Rachel Wolf says:

    Sandy,
    Did you see my easy-peasy yogurt tutorial? It is here:
    http://lusaorganics.typepad.com/clean/2010/02/in-the-kitchen-homemade-yogurt-tutorial.html

    Start with this this week, then as you get towards diving in on GAPS just extend the culture time from 4 to 24 hours. Weve been making yogurt and sprouting and drying grains forever. Last night I told Pete that GAPS is way easier than traditional foods were! All we do now is cook our food, soak and dry seeds and nuts, and make yogurt. Really. Easy. (I promise!).

    ~ Rachel

  27. Noelle says:

    Hi! I am curious why you chose GAPS this time after success on SCD? I know they have differences but have always been confused by which one might be right for me.

  28. Rachel Wolf says:

    After I did SCD I discovered traditional foods/WAPF. When I found GAPS I felt it took the best of both and brought them together. Because when I was on SCD there was no talk of bone broth, probiotics, etc. But that was cornerstone to WAPF. In all, I preferred GAPS because of how it combined these two. Hope that helps!

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