Darth Gluten’s Troops

Foods represented: Wheat (gluten), Dairy products, Sesame, Corn, Potatoes, and Avocados

One of the hardest things to deal with when suffering from gluten intolerance or Celiacs isn’t living without wheat.  Why? A study cited by a popular advocate for a grain-free approach and others indicates that going gluten free isn’t enough. I suspect that by the time most patients are diagnosed, their bodies are in extreme chronic inflammatory mode and their intestines are as permanent as the US borders.

To date, current medicine does not understand the process by which acute inflammation (a process which aids in wound repair)  switches to a chronic and detrimental state. I’ve read studies which give tantalizing clues, but we are still piecing together the puzzle. As a result, the only current medicinal approach to inhibiting chronic inflammation involves suppressing our immune systems.  It doesn’t take a science or medical degree to figure out that isn’t a great approach, especially for long-term therapy.

It took about four months of a gluten-free diet for me to figure out that while I felt a little better, I still felt ill. Fast forward a few more months and without dairy I felt better. After several close encounters of the potato kind, I banished them from my diet. Since I could eat daal made from chickpeas, but hummus made me ill, sesame joined Darth Gluten’s troops.

Avocados are listed as agitators because it isn’t a gluten-like reaction. Rather, aspirin, also known as acetyl salicylic acid exacerbates the inflammation already present in my intestines. Avacados happen to have a large amount of salicylates,  chemicals very similar in structure to aspirin.

I’ve suspected corn for awhile as corn pasta does not sit particularly well and tortilla chips make me ill. I bought a gluten free cereal and have eaten it for breakfast all this week.

Ingredient (1) Corn flour

Unlike with wheat or dairy, the symptoms are not immediate, but rather build in intensity over several days. Yay? Corn starch seems sufficiently well processed not to bother me too much, but as I can’t see my intestines, I can’t say that with certainty. What’s it doing on the molecular level? I’m afraid to find out. As a medicinal chemist researcher, I know one well established fact: chronic inflammation increases the risk of cancer and autoimmune diseases.

Yet, the average doctor knows very little about Celiacs or gluten intolerance. I met a woman last week who nearly died because her doctors diagnosed her with everything from acid reflux and IBS to stress. The true diagnosis was diverticulitis combined with a raging case of Celiacs. The gastroenterologist I went to see told me to eat more fiber. I bought a high fiber cereal, which contained every gluten grain known to mankind, and by day two I felt like an alien was trying to claw its way out of my innards.

There are tests available to test serum or stool antibodies to find all the minions recruited by gluten, but a lot of good that does when neither the doctors nor the insurance companies understand the severity of gluten intolerance. If you can afford them, you might consider doing the tests, but the best thing I can recommend to gluten intolerant or Celiac sufferers is to remain cognizant of EVERYTHING you eat. If you have to keep a food journal, do so, as observation is free and probably just as accurate.

For people who fear that eating such a restrictive diet must be boring, here’s a recipe for my own version of  chicken tikka masala, with a few changes:

  1. 2 onions chopped and sauteed in olive oil (~3tbsp…enough to keep onions and spices from sticking)
  2. 2 tbs minced garlic
  3. 1 tsp minced or grated fresh ginger
  4. Spices: 1 cinnamon stick, 3 whole green cardamom pods, ground peppercorns to taste, 1 bay leaf, 1 tsp cumin seeds (add to onions while sauteing)
  5. Add 1 small can of tomato paste
  6. Add 1.5-2 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into 1in pieces
  7. Add 2 c of water and a tsp of GF chicken bouillon
  8. Add 1 tbs coriander, 1 tsp curry powder, dash of paprika and cayenne powder, and salt to taste
  9. Simmer for ~15 min or until chicken is nearly done. If desired, add 1c frozen peas and simmer for 5 more minutes.
  10. Add ~3-4 tbs “Better than cream cheese” (soy based vegan ‘cream cheese’) Add slowly over low heat and stir well to melt it. Add water if needed to adjust to desired consistency (should be a nice gravy).
  11. Serve over rice.


2 responses to “Darth Gluten’s Troops

  1. Pingback: Diagnosis Ick! | Author: H.C. Playa

  2. Pingback: A Series of Unfortunate Genes | Author: H.C. Playa

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