...or for that matter, from anything made with wheat ...cakes, pies, cookies, crackers. That includes barley and rye too.
A pox on gluten-free high-glycemic products made with rice, tapioca, corn, and potato starch.
Yes, I've gone grain-free an effort to get my inflammation levels down (and Gary's HDL levels up.)
The plan I'm following is based on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet™, a diet developed in the 1950’s by biochemist Elaine Gottschall, who successfully treated her daughter's ulcerative colitis, a painful, disabling bowel disorder. Since then, Gottshall's diet has garnered support among the IBS/IBD community, if not among gastroenterologists, who for the most part, would rather throw drugs at it IBS/IBD. Drugs with very scary side effects. Seven years ago my daughter, Amy, who has Crohn's disease, started the SCD, achieving remission in just a few short months. She's been drug-free ever since.
Anyway, recently Gary got a less-than-good cholesterol report... HDL too low... LDL too high. I've been battling knee and thumb arthritis for years and rotator cuff tendonitis for months.
Inflammation is the culprit in heart disease and arthritis... and all the other itises.
Gary does NOT want to go on a statin. I do NOT want to have knee replacement.
Hmmm... I seem to remember that these conditions responded well when we followed the SCD for 7 months back in 2007. Amy had just started the diet. In solidarity with her and so I could learn to bake things that she could eat, I decided to be her "Diet Buddy."
So, you ask, why did you stop? Nearly 8 years after leaving the SCD, I have been asking myself the same thing. Fortunately, I journal regularly, so I was able to go back to my 2008 writings and find out.
Back then, in spite of improvements in my arthritis, I was having lots of heartburn. At the time, I thought it was caused by almond flour, a hallmark of SCD baked goods. Within a few months, I had gastritis so I stopped eating the almond flour goodies. I tried subsisting on meat, vegetables, fruit, and yogurt for a while, but my longing for breads, cookies, and cakes soon became overwhelming.
I made a brief excursion into the world of gluten-free baking... experimenting with all those starchy GF "flours" rice, potato, corn, tapioca, which have the consistency of talcum powder and create impossibly sticky doughs. Since the GF flours have no gluten, you use things like xanthan gum.. the "glue" that holds them together. But those baked goods bugged me too... lots of gas and bloating.
Eventually I gave up and went back to "normal" eating. I tried to vary my grains, eating wheat only once a day. My arthritis got worse, my heartburn, especially at night, was horrible, and the gas... needless to say if you could bottle it, it could have powered a small city.
At the same time, my weight was slowly creeping up. 13 pounds over the next 3 years. My BMI was in the "overweight" category. But I wasn't in the mood to restrict food. I had yo-yo dieted for most of my adult life. I threw the forbidden food list out the window, let my scale collect dust in the corner, and embarked on a 3-year mission to accept my larger size and at the same time work to heal my past as a disordered eater.
Shunning all diets, I read everything I could get my hands on; books and websites from the "Fat Acceptance Movement." I wrote and published a cookbook of all my favorite foods. I spoke to women's groups about body acceptance I tried really hard to be okay with my size. This series of posts documents that journey.
And I was okay with my size. Except when I wasn't. I had outgrown all my clothes! (And I really like my clothes.) My knees were much worse. My expanding belly was making it hard to tie my shoes. I weighed what I weighed when I was 9 months pregnant. And I still had awful heartburn that woke me up with nausea at 3 a.m. a couple times a week.
Then on Jan. 3, 2012, when all the morning shows were yakking it up about New Year's resolutions, mostly weight loss schemes, I fell for a convincing pitchman on the Today Show. Singing the praises of his "8-Hour Diet," he claimed that as long as you limit eating to an 8-hour window, you can eat anything you want. Anything? Really? He said that it's unlikely that a person will over-eat within the "window." I decided to put it to the test.
At the end of two weeks, the scale hadn't budged a bit. What I was doing was cramming all my day's food into that 8-hour window, and my mouth. I was starving all morning. Stuffed all afternoon. Pretty darned miserable.
Mr. "8-hour Diet” was wrong. It is possible to overeat on his plan. So I got wise. And did a little calorie math and some research on Intermittent Fasting. Found out how much I need to eat... basically two normal meals a day... which cut out the 500 or so calories I was eating at breakfast. Over the next 18 months I lost 20 lbs. My nighttime heartburn vanished, probably because I stopped eating after 8 p.m. But I still had horrendous gas. Mostly after dinner. My knees felt somewhat better minus the extra weight, but still pained me if I walked on uneven terrain or climbed the stairs too many times. But my BMI was back in the normal range and all my clothes fit. Once again I was happy with my size. This series of posts document that adventure.
But let's get back to where this post started, and to an epiphany that I had 3 weeks ago.
I was visiting at my daughter's for a few days in early June. Lunchtime. She had a plate with 3 fried eggs, 2 sausage links, and a big pile of red and yellow sliced peppers. My lunch was a piece of whole wheat toast with peanut butter and a sliced apple. I wished I was eating what she was eating. It looked so good to me. And at that a switch flipped in my brain.
Amy's family had been gluten-free for 6 weeks... her four kids have health issues that were responding favorably. She, as I said before, has been gluten, grain, and lactose-free for 7 years.
At that moment, I decided to give the SCD another try. That night we went to a cookout at her friend's house. I had a hamburger sans bun, fruit salad, green salad, and a couple delicious GF brownies made with coconut flour that Amy brought to the cookout.
Three days later, on the way back to my house, I stopped in a Barnes and Noble to pick up a cookbook that Amy recommended. Against All Grains, by Danielle Walker. In the last few years SCD baking has changed. Many of the newer recipes use coconut flour in combination with almond flour, yielding lighter cakes, muffins, and breads that rise better, have balanced moisture content, better texture, and more closely resembling their "normal" counterparts.
Within two days... my shoulder pain was MUCH better. Minimal gas if any. No middle-of-the-night heartburn either, probably because I've stayed with IF, eating 2-meals-a-day... no reason to change that because it's worked so well for 3 years.
While I was at B&N I also picked up a copy of Wheat Belly, by cardiologist William Davis. He has much to say about the evils of wheat gluten, pinning the blame for diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, skin disorders, mood disorders, and diseases of the digestive track on wheat and wheat gluten. His opinions are backed up with plenty of legitimate studies.
According to Davis, some of the stuff Gary and I are fighting are related to gluten... some are related to glycemic index. Davis advises, in addition to keeping away from gluten, to shun sugary, starchy foods, reducing visceral fat and keeping blood sugar spikes at bay. Davis implicates wheat as the highest glycemic index food one can eat. He bakes with almond and coconut flours like the SCD, but sweetens cookies and cakes with Stevia (horrors). But his points about reducing or eliminating sweets are well taken. Except I don't think we can give up honey, allowed on the SCD, it's a food high on his "avoid" list.
We're going to give the SCD a 4-month trial. Cutting out all grains should make a huge dent in the total amount of high-glycemic index foods we are eating. 8 years ago, Gary followed the SCD part-time, eating "legal" with me at home, but indulging in "illegal" items when we ate out or were on vacation. His total cholesterol came down, but the ratios were still a little off. This time he's 100% on-board. We'll see how his blood work comes out in September.
Over the past 3 weeks we have both dropped 2 pounds, hopefully the dreaded visceral-fat kind.
My knees, thumb, and shoulder inflammation are much improved.
For now I will keep baking our beloved SCD goodies, sweetened with honey. We promise to eat our treats in small amounts. Really.
This post is not intended in any way, shape, or form to be medical advice. Please consult your doctor before starting any diet/health program.