Today marks the start for Zema’s 2nd Annual “March Madness” Nutrition Month. During the next four Mondays, Zema’s will introduce you to four guest cyberspeakers, each sharing an aspect of their view on living a healthy and clean gluten free life. And, because here at Zema’s Madhouse Foods we are all serious foodies, we have asked each contributor to share some of their favorite recipes with you! Read and share this wealth of knowledge all month long with your friends and family.
Zema’s welcomes Sandra Scheinbaum, Ph.D., the founder of www.feedyourmindwellness.com. Sandra is also a certified yoga instructor and nutrition coach in the northern suburbs of Chicago. Since 4 out of the five of my own kids, and my husband, were diagnosed with ADHD I have been hard at work trying to understand the connection between ADHD and living a gluten free life. Sandra has years of knowledge on this subject and I have asked her to share her expertise with us.
COULD GLUTEN BE DRIVING THE ADHD EPIDEMIC?
Sandra Scheinbaum, Ph.D.
“It feels like a cloud over my head has been lifted.”
“I can focus better.”
“I feel less restless.”
“The brain fog is gone.”
These positive changes weren’t the result of starting medication for ADHD. They were comments made by children and young adults after they eliminated gluten from their diets.
When I received my master’s degree in learning disabilities in the early 1970’s, nutrition wasn’t even a part of the curriculum. The diagnostic process, considered the “gold standard” to this day, involved rating scales, standardized tests and interviews. As a psychologist, I performed hundreds of these evaluations. Looking back, I now recognize that my comprehensive testing process wasn’t so “comprehensive.” What was missing? My questionnaires and interviews failed to take into account dietary factors other than the most obvious allergic reactions. Like most conventional physicians and psychologists, my goal was to establish a diagnosis and develop a treatment plan that typically consisted of medication and behavioral or educational interventions.
Today, as a functional medicine practitioner, I want to dig deeper and identify root causes. For example, if someone presents with poor attention, impulsivity, asthma, frequent stomach aches, and skin problems, I view these, not as isolated conditions that need a different medical specialist or medication for each problem, but as symptoms related to the same underlying factors, such as inflammation. Considering what might be contributing to chronic low-level inflammation means investigating the possibility of gluten intolerance or celiac disease. In fact, celiac disease is markedly overrepresented amongst individuals with ADHD.
Gluten, the protein found primarily in wheat, barley and rye, has a sticky, gluey texture and needs to be broken down with an enzyme called DPP4, which is also involved in the digestion of dairy. Unfortunately, many people are deficient in that particular enzyme. When DPP4 fails to completely break down gluten, partial proteins, or peptides are created. Very similar to endorphins, these opioid peptides can cause feelings of spaciness. Partially digested gluten also contributes to problems absorbing nutrients in the small intestine. An inflammatory response is turned on and malabsorption of nutrients occurs, leading to impaired brain health. The methylation process may be negatively impacted as well, leading to problems removing toxins from the body and maintaining adequate levels of neurotransmitters.
Why is ADHD (along with autism and asthma) being diagnosed in epidemic proportions? It’s been theorized that the typical diet, consisting of too many processed grains, laden with additives and preservatives, and lacking foods rich in vitamins, minerals and omega 3 fats, may be a contributing factor. We’re just not genetically built to take in so much gluten. In addition, the gluten in foods today is quite different than the gluten in wheat cultivated a hundred years ago. Now we like our bagels big and fluffy. But we’re not just eating bread and an occasional serving of pasta. We’re consuming a vast array of gluten-laden processed foods. Walk down any supermarket aisle and read the labels. Gluten is hiding in hundreds of products.
The first step in healing the brain is to “heal the gut.” If you or your child has been diagnosed with ADHD, I recommend going gluten free for a trial period of about 4 to 6 weeks. Removing gluten from a child’s diet can seem like a daunting task. These children are often addicted to gluten-containing foods, most likely due to the opioid effect. I remember when one of my daughters only wanted to eat plain pasta, cereal, or a bagel with cream cheese for every meal. Looking back, it’s seems pretty clear that these food cravings were connected to symptoms of ADHD. That was twenty years ago, when gluten free choices were extremely limited. Fortunately, the array of gluten free foods is rapidly expanding. Going gluten free no longer means having to feel deprived. One caveat though: watch out for gluten free “junk foods” and stick with minimally processed products containing quality ingredients. I encourage families go gluten free together, rather than singling out one child as needing a “special diet.” What’s the result: everyone feels better.
Dr. Sandra Scheinbaum, www.feedyourmindwellness.com, is a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in functional medicine and holistic approaches to wellness. She hosts “Feed Your Mind Wellness,” a local cable television show, and is the author of “How to Teach Clients to Stop a Panic Attack: Don’t Forget to Breathe,” to be released in June, 2012 by Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
GF SQUASH AND NUT BUTTER PUDDING
by Sandra Scheinbaum, Ph. D.
I learned of this fast and simple recipe from a nutritionist in Florida who recommends it to student athletes for breakfast. It contains some protein, some fat and a carbohydrate, and is gluten free and dairy free. Experiment with different squashes and types of nut butters. You can add a bit of cinnamon or a tiny drop of honey or maple syrup. No need for exact measurements.
1 baked squash (acorn, butternut, kabocha, delicata)
2-3 TBL of nut butter (raw or roasted almond, cashew, hazelnut, sunflower)
Dash of cinnamon (optional)
Drop of honey or maple syrup (optional)
Mix all ingredients together until desired consistency.
Approx. 2 servings