Go Wheatless, But Don’t Lose Your Mind by Tara Heath, LA based freelance health writer

Have you recently found out that you have an allergy to gluten? Perhaps you simply want to remove gluten from your diet because it may be causing you to gain unwanted weight and is producing other adverse effects. Transitioning to a gluten-free lifestyle may sound easy at first, but in truth, it is much harder than most originally think.

Gluten is in so many different products – some that seem harmless – so you really have to pay attention to ingredients lists to make sure you aren’t consuming anything containing gluten. On top of that, it’s probably necessary for you to give up some of your favorite foods in order to support your new lifestyle.

Yes, transitioning into a new diet may be more difficult than you first thought. However, with some tips, you can make the transition as smooth as possible and make living a gluten-free lifestyle a success.

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Know what to look for.

Educating yourself is the best way to make the transition into a gluten-free lifestyle a success. It is important that you are aware of what products constitute as gluten. You will not be able to eat anything that contains wheat, barley, rye, or triticale. These are all grains that contain the gluten protein and cause adverse effects on your body, which is why you are giving up gluten products in the first place.

Know where to look.

Don’t just assume that gluten is only in food, or that it is very easy to determine what products contain this protein. Yes, there are some products that you will automatically know not to consume, such as bread, but don’t give yourself the benefit of the doubt that you already know and can easily identity other products that contain gluten. Food is sneaky - sometimes the things you least expect can be your worst enemy.

There are many things that do contain some type of derivative of gluten, and you may never even know it. Common places where this ingredient can be lurking include:

·         Beer

·         Croutons

·         Energy bars

·         Matzo

·         Marinades

·         Medications

·         Salad dressings

·         Lunch meat

·         Imitation seafood

·         Sauces

·         Gravies

 

 

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Always read the labels of all products that you buy to ensure that you are buying gluten-free. If you are unsure of the contents of a product, avoid buying it or do further research before you purchase it to make certain it is gluten-free. There are dozens of sites online that offer great resources to help you in determining what does, and does not, fit your lifestyle.

Cook for yourself.

Eating out at restaurants or even at other people’s houses is sometimes a challenge. You don’t want to put other people out because of your inability to consume gluten. Furthermore, restaurants cannot guarantee that the dishes they prepare you won’t contain gluten. The best way to play it safe is to prepare your own meals, this way you can avoid hassle and stress.

If you do have plans to eat out at a restaurant, do some research before you get there. Take a look at the menu and find out if you’ll be able to make substitutions. More and more restaurants are adapting their menus for those with gluten sensitivities.

Be Patient with Yourself.

Such a strict change in diet is difficult to adjust to. You may feel stressed out, or irritable because you have to give up certain foods that you love. Don’t assume that you are going to breeze through this transition with ease. Know that there will be hurdles and allow yourself some space so you can successfully jump over them. Being too hard on yourself only makes matters more difficult to deal with.

Remember - you are not just talking about a diet change, you are talking about an entire lifestyle change when make the decision to go gluten-free. With these tips, the transition will be as smooth and as painless as possible. It is going to take some effort, but you will be able to succeed.

Tara Heath is a freelance writer in Southern California. She enjoys eating healthy and clean foods. You can find more of her work at the blog on www.CandyConceptsInc.com.

 

Sugar: More Than Just Empty Calories

THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE UGLY…

What do the following conditions have in common?

-Fatigue

-Depression

-Anxiety

-Difficulty concentrating

-Hyperactivity

-Memory problems

-Brain fog

-Mood swings

-Fibromyalgia

-Headaches

-Joint pain

-Osteoporosis

-Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease

-Metabolic syndrome (prediabetes)

-Type II diabetes

-Heart disease

-Cancer

-Alzheimer’s disease

They’re all linked to sugar.

But aren’t sweets ok to enjoy in moderation?  Isn’t sugar merely “empty calories”?   That way of thinking has led to the tsunami of chronic diseases listed above.  The truth is that sugar disrupts metabolism, suppresses the immune system, and causes inflammation. The progression towards disease starts long before a diagnosis is made.  For example, many people have normal fasting blood sugar levels, but may be unaware that their insulin levels spike after eating, as an insulin challenge test is seldom ordered during standard lab work-ups.

Insulin dysregulation leads not only to belly fat, prediabetes and Type II diabetes, but to heart disease, cancer (cancer cells feed on sugar), and neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s Disease, which is being called Type III Diabetes. Tragically, children as young as four years old are being diagnosed with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which now affects 90 million Americans.  You don’t have to be overweight to be prediabetic or have a fatty liver.  Visceral fat hugs our vital organs.  The culprit is the 158 pounds of sugar and 146 pounds of flour consumed in a year by the average American.

Hunter-gatherers consumed about 20 teaspoons of sugar per year. That’s because sugar was available either as fruit for only a few months a year during harvest time, or as honey guarded by bees.  But today sugar is added to nearly all processed foods.  So in nature sugar is hard to get, but we’ve made it easy.

Sugar is everywhere.  Walk down an aisle in a supermarket and pick up anything that comes in a bag, a box or a can.  Chances are pretty good that you’ll see some form of sugar on the label.  Don’t be fooled if it’s organic or has a health claim on the front.  Even canned organic corn has sugar added.  Some barbeque sauces have as much sugar as a candy bar.

Sugar may also be hiding under an assumed name.  Look out for barley malt, beet sugar, brown rice syrup, cane juice, corn sweetener, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, dextrin, dextrose, fruit juice concentrate, glucose, sucrose, polydextrose, fructose, or the health food industry’s current favorite: agave nectar.  Processed grains such as bagels, breads, muffins, pastas, cereals, crackers and chips are just another form of sugar as well.  Even those products advertised as “whole grain” or “whole wheat” fall into the sugar category.

More addictive than heroin, cocaine, tobacco or alcohol, sugar acts on the same areas of the brain as addictive drugs, so we crave it.  This behavior served us well, evolutionarily speaking.  Our ancestors gorged themselves on wild berries in the fall, gained belly fat, and thus were able to survive the famine of the coming winter.  We’re doing the same thing: devouring sugar on a daily basis, but the difference is we’re doing this day in, day out, all year round.

 

 

If you suffer from sugar cravings, the following tips may be helpful:

-Eat protein and healthy fats, such as avocado or olive oil, with every meal.

-Eat foods with more grams of fiber than grams of sugar.

-Eat every 2-3 hours for blood sugar control.

-Have only 1 serving of fruit per day.

-For those times that call for a sweet food, choose wisely and eat mindfully. Enjoy baked goods made with coconut sugar or raw, unprocessed honey.

-Spend time soothing yourself without sugar.  When a craving hits, thinks of what would really feel good.  Nothing beats the sweetness of meaningful social connections and pleasurable activities.

 

Sandra Scheinbaum, Ph.D.

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Director, Feed Your Mind Wellness, LLC.

847-604-2752.

www.feedyourmindwellness.com

Drsandi@feedyourmindwellness.com

small adhd sign

ADHD, Food and My Family

FEED YOUR MIND

November 2004.  My oldest son, Max, who was 10 years old and in 4th grade was showing signs of struggling in grade school.  Lack of focus, lack of interest and low self-esteem in the classroom were rearing their ugly heads.  Being that Max was the first of my five kids, being that my husband’s ADHD was still undiagnosed in his mid-thirties and being that Max was a boy, hockey goalie and all around athletic kid, how would we have ever known he had ADHD?  He was our guinea pig, the one whe’d make the most mistakes with, our first-born.  It was during his fall conference that year that his teacher at the time suggested that we have Max tested for ADHD.  She kept us calm, focused and talked us out of blaming ourselves for the rest of our lives.  At the end of our conference, knowing how talented and committed Max was at playing high level hockey at such a young age, she left us with these words of wisdom that I still think about daily with my other kids.  She told us to never take him out of a hockey rink.  I didn’t get it back then, I was far too young of a mother.  But, those words have helped me raise my kids to have self-worth, independence, routine and discipline.  Character traits they would have never gotten from school.

And so, our journey along the ADHD rollercoaster had begun.  After having my son being tested by a third party, confirming that he does have ADHD, my husband started thinking about his own struggles.  Then he went to get tested.  Two for two.  Did I mention my husband was also a hockey goalie? Four more kids waiting in the wings.  We decided to try a low dose of Concerta, which Max stayed on for the next four years.  That love-hate relationship had begun. Max would hold his focus in school much longer, however, his desire to eat and drink would diminish, thus affecting his mood throughout the day.  For those of you who have gone down this path with a child, you know the scene.  By three in the afternoon, there was a crash, emotionally and physically.  Our nutritional saving grace – fruit smoothies with protein powder.  Cold, liquid and quick.  By the time hockey practice rolled around after dinner, an energy charge, followed by a late night eating frenzy as soon as the meds wore off.  Another energy surge capped the night with little sleep.  Homework?  Not a chance.  His brain was fried long ago from holding it together from 8-3.  Mornings were no party.  Get the meds in atleast half an hour before school, get the food in before the meds took effect.  It was a game against the clock, everyday.

During the next four years I perfected my ADHD sense.   ADHD has a wide spectrum and not all kids or adults are alike, so what one child’s symptons are may very well be non-existent with another child.   What was working for Max would not work for Asher, or Simon.  Our third child, Zev, was born Apraxic, which is like dyslexia of speech, so he stuttered a little and had a hard time retrieving information from his brain.  What they all have in common is that their brains are wired to not function so easily.  Information is not passed smoothly, often getting stuck or taken down the wrong path.   What else they have in common is their athletic ability and a mom committed to fueling their brain.  This combination would be their ticket to re-building themselves in and out of the classroom.  Although I tried my best to feed them whole, organic foods during their early kid years, it was not so easy.  I quickly learned that just because something was labeled as organic didn’t mean it was healthy.  I tried to keep them on as anti-inflammatory based foods as possible, but way back when, healthy gluten free options were rare.

At fourteen, Max was scouted by East Coast prep schools during a Boston hockey tournament.  With high school just around the corner, and no 504 Plan in place(that’s another blogpost!), prep school seemed like an option we couldn’t refuse.  Small classrooms, low teacher-student ratio, scheduled study time, access to teachers all day and night and a hockey rink fifty feet away from your dorm was just too perfect to pass up.  The biggest negative for me?  The food he’d be eating.

Max took himself off his meds that year.  He wanted himself back and I couldn’t blame him.  While the other kids still had me to fuel them with clean food free of additives, preservatives, gmo’s and keeping on a gluten free based diet, prep school cafeteria food in the mountains of Maine would not be so.  Max has been around healthy and organic eating his whole life.  He knew the terms, he knew how to read a label and new what questions to ask.  But, he was still fourteen and leaving home with a lot of other things clogging his mind.  Even though I sent many gluten free care packages, he did not keep up as he should on his clean eating.  Being on the road for hockey, team pizza parties and unlabeled sauces, dressings and deli meats left Max in the dark about his meals.  I have raised my kids to eat a certain way, not for food allergies, but for focus, for endurance, for better sleeping patterns, for overall health and wellness.  Their first words as a baby may have been “mommy” and “daddy”, but “organic” was soon after!

The gastro problems started soon for him.  Daily pain enough to keep him from playing hockey at his peak, keep him up at night and take his focus away from his studies.  It confirmed his gluten intolerance to us both.  We went through the cafeteria meals and talked about what was safe and not safe for him.  Food was his fuel.  It was then that he made the 100% gluten free, healthy eating commitment for himself.  He became a role model for his younger siblings.  They all started to believe in this “hoax” of food as fuel that I have been creating in our home for the past decade and a half.

Max graduates this year from prep school, just committed to a Division III hockey program in New Hampshire and will be representing Team USA in the Israeli Olympics this summer.  Not bad for a kid who felt like a failure his entire three years spent in junior high.  Not bad for a kid who struggled between the worlds of ADHD on and off meds.  Not bad for a kid who is now a leader on his hockey team, a role model for working hard at his sport and for trying his best at school.  His siblings have followed in his footsteps:  Zev is successfully earning A/B grades in his final year of junior high, managing his weight gain for football by cooking his own grass-fed beef burgers, cooking organic eggs and drinking his green smoothies full of kale, spinach, almond milk and berries.  Asher, who has ADHD, doesn’t take meds and is also a hockey goalie, just brought home the State win and the Central States win this season and is in 6th grade.  Simon, who just turned 10 and is in 4th grade, also a hockey player, has ADHD, no meds and just brought home a 2nd place State win.  As hard as school may be for them, it’s important they find success in other areas of life. They view their daily diet as being instrumental in their success.

I get asked by people all the time how do I control what my kids eat OUTSIDE of our home.  I don’t.  They don’t have food allergies.  I want to teach them to pay attention to how they feel after they eat certain foods.  All I can do is be their guide on the journey to overall health and wellness.