Friday, December 10, 2010

gluten-free guide

You can find specific information about what gluten is and how to go gluten-free from the famous gluten-free goddess Here and Here. That being said, there are lots of ways to approach the gluten-free diet. You can avoid all baked goods and breads (no fun!), or make them with alternative flours. You can buy pre-packaged gluten-free food and baking mixes (easy, but very expensive), or make them from scratch. So many companies are jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon (bisquick, betty crocker, etc.), but everything is healthier/tastes so much better if made from scratch.

If you are making a life-long commitment to a gluten-free diet, it is imperative (in my opinion) to buy a grain mill/grinder. It will save you so much money in the long run. I have heard that cheap coffee grinders also work, but have never tried them. I buy grains in bulk, and grind all of my own flour rather than paying a fortune for a small bag of specialty flour. My favorite flours for baking are sorghum, teff, millet, brown rice, tapioca, amaranth, and buckwheat. I grind a variety of flours on a weekly basis and store them in small, labeled pete containers in my fridge. I buy tapioca flour/starch at our local Asian market. It is incredibly cheap there. Tapioca is also a very un-allergenic food.

Everyone has their "signature" gluten-free flour mix. The secret to successful gluten-free baking is to use at least three different types of flour, and to make sure 1/3 of that flour mix is a starch. I use tapioca flour (also known as tapioca starch), but cornstarch and potato starch are commonly used in recipes. When looking at any gluten-free recipe, you can adapt it by taking the total amount of flour and coming up with your own flour mix. Sometimes I lower the amount of starch to 1/4. I would suggest playing around with different flour mixes until you find one you like. I change mine constantly depending on what's in my fridge. Bean flours and almond meal are also very popular in gluten-free baking. And xanthan gum is a must...I buy it in bulk, but it is available at walmart.

The internet is a fabulous resource for gluten-free recipes, but I would suggest investing in one book: "1,000 Gluten-free Recipes" by Carol Fenster. It is my cooking bible. She has many allergy friendly recipes and provides dairy substitution ideas for those on the gfcf diet. I adapt most of her recipes because I like to use more whole grains, but her recipes are fantastic.

Brown rice pasta is a staple in our house. I think it tastes much better than whole wheat pasta. Some brands are better than others. I stock up on brown rice penne at Trader Joe's, and Rizopia brand pasta at our local health food store. Trader Joe's is an excellent resource for gluten-free goods. I love their gluten-free gingersnaps. There is a big purple "G" next to all of the foods that are gluten-free, but you can also request a list of their gluten-free products.

Snacks ideas: brown rice cakes with organic strawberry jam, organic corn chips and hummus/salsa (best price at costco), fruit, veggies, kettle brand potato chips (gluten-free and non GMO), dried fruit (raisens, cranberries, etc.), popcorn/kettle corn, trail mix (choc chips, nuts/seeds, dried fruit), healthy homemade cookies/muffins, corn chex or other gluten-free dried cereal, etc.

Dining out: This is the hard part, especially if you are avoiding dairy too. When we are in a hurry we get protein-style (wrapped in lettuce) hamburgers and fries at In 'n Out Burger. The other places we eat out are Pei Wei's/PF Changs (awesome gf menu!), and Chipotle. Everything at Chipotle (aside from the flour tortillas/cheese/sour cream) is gluten and dairy free. Other Chains have gluten-free menus, just check their online menus for gluten-free options. One thing we buy a lot when we need a quick meal is the rotisserie chicken at Costco. It is both gluten and dairy-free. The one at Sams club has both wheat and dairy, so be careful and read labels.

Good Gluten-free Sites:

Elana's Pantry
Simply Sugar and Gluten Free
Gluten-free Goddess
Gluten-free Girl
Living Without
Sure Foods Living
Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen
Gluten-free Works

I have more links on my sidebar. Oh, and a breadmaker with a gluten-free cycle saves so much time. Read my post about mine here. I will try to edit this post as I remember more tips/tricks.

Dairy: 6 Reasons You Should Avoid It at all Costs

Dairy-free (casein-free) Guide

Lately I have had so many people requesting info on the gluten-free and/or dairy-free diet. I am telling you, the increase in autism, food allergies, and digestive disorders is EPIDEMIC. I don't know when doctors are going to figure out that food sensitivities play a HUGE role. To start things off I will do a dairy-free guide. Soon to be followed by a gluten-free guide.

Going dairy-free is easy. There are so many excellent dairy substitutes. But before exploring the world of dairy substitutes, it is important to know about any other food sensitivities. You can test for food allergies by using an IgE (allergies) or an IgG (sensitivities) blood test. Another option is keeping a food journal. Most people that are allergic/sensitive to dairy are also sensitive to soy. Plus soy messes up your hormones, is usually genetically modified, is very difficult to digest, and blocks the absorption of other nutrients. But that is a post for another day.

My favorite cow's milk substitutes:

Rice milk, Almond milk, Coconut milk, and Hemp milk. Rice milk is most affordable at Costco, Trader Joe's, and Walmart. Almond milk and Coconut milk are becoming very ubiquitous. I usually buy mine at Walmart, Trader Joe's, and Sprouts (health food store). Dark chocolate almond milk is lovely and can be found in the refrigerated section of most grocery stores, heat it for quick hot chocolate. I also buy canned coconut milk to use for ice cream, smoothies, and curries. Trader Joe's has very affordable canned coconut milk, but it is not full-fat so it doesn't work that well for ice cream. I buy full-fat organic coconut milk in cans at our health food store. I stock up when it goes on sale. Do NOT buy canned coconut milk at the grocery store/asian markets. It is full of preservatives and tastes awful. Really.

I use rice milk as a direct substitute for cow's milk in cereal, baking, mashed potatoes, recipes, you name it. I wish I could use almond milk more, as I believe it is healthier, but my four-year old is allergic. It also has a stronger flavor. I use almond milk and rice milk to make hot chocolate, smoothies, etc. I use coconut milk to make ice cream, smoothies, and curries. I want to make coconut kefir/yogurt, but haven't gotten around to it. I use hemp milk only in smoothies.

My favorite butter substitutes:

Earth Balance (we buy the soy-free one) is the best one. Spectrum (non-hydrogenated) shortening, and raw coconut oil can be substituted in baking recipes. If you don't care about eating genetically modified soy, then Smart Balance Light and Best Life Buttery spread are the only non-hydrogenated, dairy-free butter spreads that I know of. And if you didn't get the memo about hydrogenated oil/trans fats, they are BAD. Avoid crisco/margarine period. Unless you want to increase your chance of infertility, cancer, and heart disease, among other things. Earth Balance, Smart Balance Light, and Best Life Buttery spread are all available at Walmart. When baking, I often substitute oil (grape seed) for the butter and that works well too. Butter substitutes work better for cookies though. Earth Balance acts the most like butter in baking.

Other things:

I like to buy SoDelicious brand coconut yogurt when it goes on sale. I have heard that people use plain coconut yogurt to make ranch dressing. I hear the SoDelicious coconut ice cream is very good too. Real Mayonnaise is dairy-free, but check the label on your bottle to be sure. There is no need to buy vegannaise (usually full of soy) unless you have an egg allergy. I sometimes make my own mayo out of organic egg yolk and oil, the old fashioned way. The egg whites are the allergenic part.

The best kitchen appliances to invest in (if this is a life-long commitment) are an ice cream maker and a vitamix blender. The vitamix is very expensive, but it has magic powers (what Starbucks and Jamba Juice use). It can make dairy-free ice cream in about 30 seconds. Just pour in frozen fruit, a milk substitute, and sweetener. A vitamix can also be used to make rice milk, almond milk, coconut milk, pumpkin seed milk, etc. from scratch. It also makes nut butters. Great for those on a budget. I think that a vitamix is a need, not a want if you are on a restricted diet. The blendtec is supposedly comparable, from what I hear. I also make ice cream/sorbets in a conventional ice cream maker. Hagen Daz makes some fantastic dairy-free sorbets as well. Mango is my favorite.

What else? Dairy-free chocolate chips can be found at Trader Joe's, health food stores, and sometimes at grocery stores. I found them in the bulk bins at Winco when I was in WA state this summer. Use them to make trail mix with dried fruit, sunflower seeds, almonds, etc. It takes lots and lots of label reading to determine which packaged goods have dairy in them. Eventually you will find brands that don't contain milk. Some brands of potato chips have dairy, some don't. Same with other snacks and packaged foods. Label reading is key.

Oh, and you will probably notice some withdrawal symptoms. Especially if you or your child is addicted to dairy products. Things usually get worse before they get better. You might notice some positive side effects of going dairy-free. Fewer runny noses, colds, ear infections, less digestive problems, etc. My dairy-allergic four year old has never had an ear infection, and I can only remember him having one cold at 18 months. If you do your research, you will find that dairy has been connected to a whole slew of problems...from diabetes, to ADHD, to cancer, to autism. And don't believe all of the nonsense the dairy council feeds us about how milk builds strong bones.

--"There is really no requirement for dairy products in the diet", says Amy Lanou Ph.D., nutrition director for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington D.C. "The countries with the highest rates of osteoporosis are the ones where people drink the most milk and have the most calcium in their diets." And like my wise pediatrician said, "Most of the population of the world doesn't drink milk (think Asia, India, Africa), and they are a lot healthier than we are".

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

gluten-free bread recipe

We have been a gluten-free family for eight months. In that time we have seen miraculous changes in my four-year-old's behavior. His asperger's symptoms have disappeared. It's really quite remarkable. To be fair, we also have him off of soy, dairy (casein), and a few other foods that he seems to react to. We keep a food journal and make note of foods that cause troubling behaviors. Anyway, the hardest part of the gluten-free diet is giving up good tasting bread. After awhile cravings go away, but sometimes it is nice to eat bread, no? For my birthday this year I got this cuisinart bread maker. It is available right now at Costco and has a gluten-free cycle. You can save about $10 if you buy it in-store. It has revolutionized the way we eat. I can throw in some ingredients, push a button, and have warm, delicious bread in a little over two hours. The key is finding a good recipe. Here is mine, adapted from gluten-free goddess.

Whisk together dry ingredients and set aside:

1 cup sorghum flour
3/4 cup tapioca flour
3/4 cup millet flour
2 teaspoons zanthan gum
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 package yeast, or 2 1/4 teaspoons

Pour wet ingredients in the bread maker:

1 1/4 cups warm water
3 tablespoons grape seed oil (or olive)
1 tablespoon agave nectar (or honey if you don't have an infant in the house)
1/2 teaspoon raw apple cider vinegar
2 egg yolks (or whole eggs, whipped egg whites make lovely bread but we are allergic)

Pour the dry ingredients on top of the liquid. Sometimes I don't even bother to whisk them together beforehand, just make sure to add the yeast last. Make a little well at the top. Set your bread machine for the 1.5 pound loaf. Bread machines with gluten-free cycles work best. Otherwise try the rapid rise selection.

The dough will be softer than regular bread dough, closer to a muffin dough. Play around with the dough consistency and flour ratios until you tweak it to your liking. Add more flour or liquid as needed. Sometimes I use teff or brown rice flour instead of millet. I grind my own flour (so cheap!), but buy the tapioca flour at an asian grocery store. They sell it for one tenth the price of health food stores. If you don't have a grain grinder, I hear that cheap coffee grinders work well too.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Organic Guide

We try to buy mostly organic. When possible. Since those with compromised immune systems (food allergies, asthma, autoimmune disease, autism spectrum) have a hard time flushing toxins, it only makes sense to limit exposure. According to the Environmental Working Group, we can reduce our pesticide exposure by 80% by avoiding the most contaminated fruits and vegetables. Here is the "dirty dozen" list, updated for 2010: meat (eggs), blueberries, strawberries, peaches, celery, nectarines, bell peppers, spinach, kale, potatoes, carrots, apples, lettuce, pears, tomatoes. In addition to the dirty dozen, I would recommend buying the following organic to avoid genetically modified food: soy, corn, canola, tomatoes, potatoes, squash, carrots, sugar beets, papaya, wheat, rice (notice potatoes, tomatoes, and carrots are a double threat!).

Luckily for our pocketbooks, there are "clean" foods that you don't have to buy organic: onions, avocados, pineapple, mangoes, asparagus, sweet peas, kiwi, cabbage, eggplant, watermelon, broccoli, and sweet potatoes.

My organic shopping tips: Plant a garden. Organic seeds are available at Home Depot and Walmart. It will save you so much money. The following stores have the best prices on organic goods: Trader Joe's, Costco, Fresh n Easy, Target, Walmart (very limited selection), and Sprouts. I also occasionally get an organic produce basket from our local co-op. Click
HERE to see if they are available where you are.

has gotten so many organic options lately: chicken, hummus, carrots, lettuce, spinach, chicken broth, rice milk, frozen peaches, brown rice, canned tomatoes, strawberry jam, apples, tortilla chips, eggs, agave syrup, and more. Things I stock up on at Trader Joe's: organic brown rice pasta, organic canned tomatoes (the price can't be beat), organic canned pumpkin, organic turbinado sugar, rice milk, and produce.

Also, I have recently discovered a company called
Azure Standard that has a lot of organic options (including bulk) for amazing prices. Oh, and the above picture is our garden. We are currently growing organic tomatoes, basil, cucumbers, cilantro, swiss chard, napa cabbage, green onions, kale, bok choy, lettuce, and beets.

Friday, October 1, 2010


I have been researching all of the possible causes of food allergies, digestive problems, infertility, autism, etc. One common thread that all researchers point their finger to is genetically modified food. It was introduced into the food supply in the mid 1990's. Since then, autism and food allergies have skyrocketed. Digestive disorders and infertility have also dramatically increased.

Over the past two decades, scientists have genetically modified the DNA of soy, corn, cottonseed, canola, tomatoes, potatoes, squash, carrots, sugar beets, papaya, wheat, rice, and milk and dairy products. These products have been available in our supermarkets since 1996, but here is the kicker: they are not labeled!

I won't get into the science of why GM foods are bad for you, but there is an excellent overview in the book "Dangerous or Safe? Which Foods, Medicines, and Chemicals Really Put Your Kids at Risk" by Cara Natterson, MD. Here are some interesting links...

GMO health risks
GM corn kills monarch butterflies
GMO defensive shopping list
GMO corn linked to organ failure
GM foods can lower your fertility
55% of offspring of rats fed GM soy died
GM foods can change the DNA of our gut bacteria
GM foods may cause rise in food allergies

To avoid GM foods you have to buy organic or foods labeled as no-GMO's. Kettle brand potato chips do not use GM ingredients, they are the only ones that I buy.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


We have been cooking with a lot of teff around these parts. It is packed with vitamins and minerals (twice as much iron as wheat), and contains all 8 essential amino acids. It is high in protein and helps control blood sugar (great for diabetics). It is also gluten-free. Teff originates in Ethiopia, and some conjecture that Ethiopians always win so many marathons because they eat a lot of teff. Who knows.

This is one of my favorite teff recipes so far:
Banana Teff Pancakes. They are also egg-free and taste fabulous with real maple syrup. I have also made teff gingerbread muffins that are pretty good. I grind my own flour because otherwise it is a little pricey. The grain is so small that I have to turn the grinder on before I put the teff in or it slips right through.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Banana Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

I just found the best wheat-free, egg-free, sugar-free cookie recipe. And it still tastes good. Shocker, I know. It comes from this Cookbook, although I adapted it a little.

2 medium bananas, mashed
1/4 cup (60 ml) raw coconut oil 

1/4 cup (60 ml) pure maple syrup
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) pure vanilla extract

1 cup (240 ml) old-fashioned rolled oats

2/3 cup (160 ml) sorghum flour (or brown rice flour)
1/4 tsp (1 ml) baking soda

1/2 cup (120 ml) shredded unsweetened coconut

pinch fine sea salt

1/4 cup (60 ml) semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F (180C).
In a medium bowl, combine bananas, oil, syrup, and vanilla. In a separate medium bowl, combine oats, flour, baking soda, coconut and salt. Add the banana mixture to the dry ingredients and blend until just combined (do not over mix). Fold in the chocolate chips.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and drop batter by heaping teaspoons onto the sheet. Place in oven and bake 14 minutes (or less depending on your oven) or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and place directly on a wire rack to cool.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


I could never figure out why so many people were outraged at the use of High Fructose Corn Syrup in processed foods. I couldn't see how it was any different than sugar processed from beets or cane. Why the fuss? Well, I was naive. Read here.

After reading more about genetically modified foods and the role they might have in causing food allergies, my perspective changed. Most corn products in this country come from genetically modified corn. And now that I am dealing with my husband's corn allergy, I have noticed that HFCS really is in everything. Ketchup, BBQ sauce, salad dressing, spaghetti sauce...everything! To avoid HFCS I have to buy organic or make it from scratch. It drives me crazy.

The kicker is that HFCS can be contaminated with mercury (read Here, and Here). HFCS became the sweetener of choice for pop, etc. in the 80's. Soon after we started to see an increase in autism, food allergies, and autoimmune diseases (like diabetes). Maybe it's a coincidence. Either way, I think we'll steer clear.

Here is a table comparing the symptoms of mercury poisoning to the symptoms of autism.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Vitamin D

A lot of researchers are blaming all of our current health problems on vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D deficiency is a nation-wide epidemic. Doctors are seeing cases of rickets for the first time in decades. Many attribute the rise of food allergies/autism/autoimmune disease in the last 20 years to the advice to "stay out of the sun" and "wear sunblock" that started in the 80's.

Here are some articles from pubmed on vitamin D deficiency:

Regional differences in EpiPen prescriptions in the United States: the potential role of vitamin D
The vitamin D epidemic and its health consequences
Autism and vitamin D

I am proud to say I haven't really put sunblock on my children all summer (ok, a little on the baby). I also force them outside for 20 minutes in the mid-day sun to soak up some rays. For more info visit: The Vitamin D Council.

On a positive note, HERE is a wheat, dairy, soy, egg, and nut free pop tart recipe.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Book Review

One of the most interesting books I have read lately is "The Unhealthy Truth" by Robyn O'Brien. It is a must read if you have children with food allergies or behavioral problems. She has children with food allergies, and is trying to dig deep and get to the bottom of the allergy epidemic. She explores many theories, the biggest one being GM foods.

Genetically modified foods were released into our supermarkets in 1994. Since then, there has been a surge in food allergies (400% increase). Maybe it is a coincidence. Maybe not. We don't know because there is no research being done, and no regulations in place. Many countries around the world have banned GM foods, or required them to be labeled. Many countries have also banned the use of artificial colors.

Kraft has taken artificial colors and flavors out of their foods in the U.K., but not the United States. Mars and Coca-Cola have followed suit and taken additives out of their U.K. products. Many other countries have banned the use of artificial dyes and additives that have been proven to be harmful.

Another interesting thing I learned in this book is that mast cells (the cells involved in allergic reactions) are linked to a possible increase in pancreatic cancer, according to an April 24, 2008 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Also, If you haven't looked into the feingold diet, you should. I have read hundreds of online forums and SO many mothers swear that going off of artificial colors, flavors, chemicals, and preservatives completely changed their child's life. If you don't want to pay to join, you can do some googling to find out more about what is allowed on the feingold diet.

Oh, and buying organic is the only way to be assured that you are not eating genetically modified food.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Book Review

I just finished reading "Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Intestinal Health Through Diet" by Elaine Gottschall. She tells the amazing story of how she healed her daughter from severe ulcerative colitis (that didn't respond to steroids or medication) through diet. Right before they were to have her colon removed, they met a doctor who put her on a specific carbohydrate diet (SCD). Within two years she was completely healed and symptom free (although they saw immediate progress). She was able to go back to eating normally and has remained healthy since.

The most interesting part of the book was the chapter on the brain-gut connection. Many patients that are put on this diet find that their psychiatric/neurological symptoms (schizophrenia, epilepsy, hyperactivity, autism, seizures, etc.) are resolved even before their intestinal symptoms improve. Which made sense to me because my husband met a lady at our health food store that claimed to have completely cured her epilepsy by going gluten-free.

Here is an interesting case report that my aunt sent me.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

paleo/SCD diet

I have been making so many connections between autism and autoimmune diseases (M.S., fibromyalgia, celiac, Crohn's, food allergies, etc.). Aside from the inflammation factor, intestinal candidiasis seems to to be a common problem. All of these conditions seemed to be healed and/or greatly improved by going on no/low carb, no sugar diets (sounds miserable, i know).

The two most popular are the Paleo diet and the SC Diet. I have read many accounts of people recovering from M.S. by going on the paleo diet. Here is a personal account. The SC Diet was pioneered by Elaine Gottschall. She discovered a diet that completely healed her daughter's ulcerative colitis, and wrote a book that has helped many people recover from crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, IBS, celiac, diverticulitis, autism, cystic fibrosis and other ailments rooted in the digestive tract. Her story is amazing, read it here. THe SC diet is supposedly one of the most effective for treating ASD children, and many parents who don't see results with the GFCF diet often find them with the SCD. The SCD children's site is here:

I'm not ready to give up non-gluten grains. But I have been taking precautions to make them more digestible. Information on soaking grains here. And I made this for dinner last night. It was delicious!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Inflammation leads to...

I can't stop reading about inflammation. Inflammation is connected to many health problems such as food allergies, cancer, autoimmune disease, autism, acne, heart disease, arthritis, asthma, IBD (crohn's, celiac, U.C.), spinal disc problems, hypertension, infertility, etc.

Here are some great articles from one of my new favorite blogs:

Here is an "Anti Inflammation Zone" book review that discusses how inflammation relates to infertility.

Inflammation and Autsim

In all of the reading I have been doing about food allergies, autoimmune disease, digestion, and ASD (autism spectrum disorder), there seems to be a common denominator: inflammation. Inflammation of the gut and brain are present in ASD. Between 6 months and 2 years, ASD kids experience fast brain growth, which gives way to unusually large heads in that time period. A five-year-old with autism has the same size brain as an average 13-year old. This inflammation leads to decreased blood flow/oxygen to certain parts of the brain.

Here is an article from the NY times that explains these abnormalities. Here is an article about neurological inflammation and autism. Here is a VERY interesting article about hyperbaric oxygen therapy used to treat the inflammation and decreased blood flow to the brain. It is also used to treat other autoimmune diseases. Lance Armstrong owns a hyperbaric oxygen chamber and uses it to enhance athletic performance.

Gluten and Celiac Disease

There has been an explosion of celiac disease and gluten intolerance in the past 10 years. The sale of gluten-free food has become a billion dollar industry. For some reason I can't stop reading about gluten and the ill affects it has on health. Celiac disease/gluten intolerance is often the first step in developing autoimmune disease. According to the University of Chicago, any person who experiences persistent infertility/miscarriage should be tested for celiac disease. The most common sign of celiac disease in adults is iron deficiency/anemia that does not respond to treatment.

Here is the fact sheet from the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center. Here is the list of symptoms. Here is an article I just read from Columbia University. Here is an interesting post I read on a cardiologist's blog.

epsom salt

I have been trying to give my children regular epsom salt baths to help them detox. Just found this article that explains that espsom salt bath can help with phenol processing. This is very exciting news.

Fish Oil

I started taking fish oil during my second pregnancy because I read that it reduced one's risk of developing postpartum depression. It has worked like a charm in two pregnancies. Zero postpartum tears and no baby blues. In fact, I feel very happy and emotionally stable whenever I take fish oil. I have noticed that it really helps my children as well. My latest reading on fish oil here:

Taking fish oil...

prevents allergies: here
helps reduce inflammation/autoimmune disease: here
Helps autism/ADHD: here, here, here
helps pregnancy/fertility: link

We use this fish oil. It is pharmaceutical grade and tested for contamination (mercury, etc.).