“Do you want a cookie, your wife isn’t around?” or “Let’s go out for a sandwich, I won’t tell Lisa.” These are things I hear often. It is a common misconception that I am a food prisoner in my home. The truth of the matter is that the last three years of gluten free living have been good to me. It is true that I have never had an allergy test to see if there are any foods to which I am allergic however, I am convinced that gluten is not for human consumption and I am perfectly ok not eating gluten laden foods whether or not I am in the presence of my family.
A question that I am often asked is, “If you are not allergic to gluten, why would you eat gluten free?” Let me tell you what I think. As a chiropractor, it is my goal to live a drug free existence. This is also a major goal of my wife and kids. This does not just mean no ibuprofen when I have a headache or no antibiotic when I have a cold but it also means no flu shots for the cold and flu season and no statins to keep my cholesterol down. The last one is big for me. We’ve heard for years that cholesterol is THE killer. Magazine articles and ads tell us this, television shows and ads tell us this as well. The pharmaceutical companies have spent huge sums of money making sure we get the message. However, is cholesterol the killer that they would like us to believe, are there other ways to control our cholesterol, is cholesterol really the problem when it comes to heart disease? I’m not so sure. How many of us know someone walking around, appearing to be in not so great physical shape with a cholesterol level of 250 or 300 or more? If cholesterol was the problem, should this be the case? How many of us know someone who has lived through or, perhaps, died as a result of a heart attack or has undergone bypass surgery of one or more coronary arteries, all with a cholesterol level of 150 or less? If cholesterol was the problem, should this be the case? What can explain this inconsistency? Is cholesterol really the problem? Again, I’m not so sure.
If cholesterol is not the problem, what is the problem you ask? What do I think? I think the problem has more to do with inflammation than cholesterol. I think inflammation at the cellular level is the silent killer in us all. I think if you can control inflammation at the cellular level, your body will be able to keep all of your systems under control. Sure, it’s the classic chicken and egg argument, was this or that caused by inflammation or did inflammation come about as a result of this or that. My feeling is that it is much more important to control inflammation than anything else. I think that gluten is an inflammatory agent that promotes inflammation at the cellular level. I think avoiding gluten will help you to control inflammation at the cellular level and give your body the best chance to stay healthy.
I’ve had a couple of interesting experiences in the few years since I stopped eating gluten. The first happened at the eye doctor. My eye doctor has a machine which does an Optomap Retinal Exam. This is a camera that takes a close up, wide view picture of your retina. The eye doctor can get a pretty good idea about the health of the patient with this scan. The year before I stopped eating gluten I had an exam and the arteries in my eyes looked ok although there were some arteries showing signs of thinning and a couple of the arteries showed white spots which I was told were most likely cholesterol build up. The next visit was after I had stopped eating gluten for about a year and I had another Optomap exam. This time the arteries in my eyes showed no signs of thinning and all of the white spots were gone. This was pretty dramatic for me as one of the “side effects” I had hoped to see from a gluten free diet was better control of my cholesterol levels. Can cholesterol levels be controlled by a gluten-free diet? The second interesting experience has been happening ever since I stopped eating gluten. After 40+ years of going to the dentist and hearing about my inflamed gums, the reports of my gum health have improved at each visit. My dentist actually tells me my gums look good and not as inflamed as they have been in the past. My hygienist has actually accused me of flossing (which I have been doing)! She can’t believe the changes in my gums and neither can I.
Are these two experiences coincidence? Maybe, I would not claim that they are a direct and exclusive result of my gluten free diet. Is it interesting that these coincidences came about around the same time that my diet changed to a gluten free diet? I think it is very interesting. Do I feel good about my progress and is the gluten free diet worth it to me? You bet. I think the changes that I have seen are amazing and I am convinced that these changes are a direct result of my gluten free diet. Do I miss a “normal” piece of pizza, a sandwich on a warm, soft role, a 365® brand vanilla sandwich cookie (Whole Foods oreo-like cookie)? Have you tried Lisa’s homemade pizza, her waffles or pancakes, her peanut butter cookies (especially with frozen yogurt on top)? I guaranty they will make you forget all about the foods you used to eat. I can tell you our family is not starving and we are not longing for “good” food. Lisa works very hard at making sure we have great food at every meal. I know it’s a lot of work for her, and it’s a commitment for all of us, but we will all tell you it’s worth it, especially when one of the coincidences I described above happens right out of the blue. So, am I a food prisoner in my own home? Try some of Lisa’s recipes, send her a note and ask her for tips, make the commitment and put forth the extra effort. I can assure you it will be worth it in every way.
Homemade French Fries-11-15-10
5 Yukon white potatoes
2 T olive oil
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. garlic salt
2 T parmesan cheese
Cut potatoes, long way, into thin strips, about ¼ inch diameter.
Coat potatoes in olive oil.
Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
Sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic salt and parmesan cheese.
Place in an oven at 400 degrees. Cook 1 hour, or until golden brown.
Serve plain or with ketchup! Great as a side dish.