Sunday, March 31, 2013

Evil or Just Misunderstood?

     A friend of mine mentioned that she would like to read about how gluten affects learning disorders, ADD and ADHD. I have been doing some reading and here are a few things I found:

....Because of this experience, I became deeply involved in research exploring the effects of gluten sensitivity on the brain. I learned that gluten sensitivity, known as celiac disease, is actually an extremely common human affliction. In fact, it has been described as "one of the most common human diseases." Current studies indicate that about one percent of Americans are gluten sensitive. This is an astounding statistic when you consider that at the time of this writing, there are approximately 297,000,000 Americans. That means, about 3 million Americans are gluten sensitive. When you consider the population from birth to age five years is 23 million children, that means that approximately 230,000 of these children are gluten sensitive....

Researchers in Israel have noted neurological problems in 51 percent of children with gluten sensitivity and further, describe a link between gluten sensitivity and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). As authors in a recent issue of the journal, Pediatrics, stated in their research, "This study suggests that the variability of neurologic disorders that occur in celiac disease is broader than previously reported and includes softer and more common neurologic disorders including chronic headache, developmental delay, hypotonia and learning disorders or ADHD."  ...

The link between gluten sensitivity and problems with brain function, including learning disabilities, difficulty staying on task and even memory dysfunction, is actually not that difficult to understand. Gluten sensitivity is caused by elevated levels of antibodies against a component of gluten, gliadin. This antibody (anti-gliadin antibody) combines with gliadin when a person is exposed to any gluten containing food like wheat, barley or rye. Testing for the antibody can be performed in any doctor's office. When the antibody combines with this protein, specific genes are turned on in a special type of immune cell in the body.
When these genes are turned on, inflammatory chemicals are created called cytokines, which are directly detrimental to brain function. In fact, elevated cytokines are seen in such devastating conditions as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis and even autism. Basically, the brain does not like inflammation and responds quite negatively to the presence of cytokines. Another problem with anti-gliadin antibody is that it can directly combine with specific proteins found in the brain. Specific brain proteins can look like the gliadin protein found in gluten-containing foods and the anti-gliadin antibody just can't tell the difference. This direct role of anti-gliadin antibody in combining with specific proteins in the brain, has been described for decades and again leads to the formation of cytokines, the chemical mediators of inflammation. This is an example of turning on genes that ultimately function in a negative way in relation to brain health and function
.-borrowed from

I have also read that it can worsen inflammation which directly impacts the pain levels of those suffering with arthritis. It has also been linked to insulin resistance and bone loss. Gluten can damage the micro villi which inhibits our bodies ability to absorb nutrients properly. Malnutrition can cause weight gain as our bodies hunger for more food, because they are not able to utilize what you are taking in.

I don't believe gluten is evil, but if you have a disease or disorder that is negatively affecting your daily life, then my feeling is that avoiding foods containing gluten is worth trying. Worse case scenario, you just don't have any positive changes and you have went without store bought white bread for a month or two. Best case, you find that gluten was the culprit and can now formulate a plan to change your life for the better.

There are many, many resources and recipes out there that make a gluten-free lifestyle easy to transition to. You no longer have to live without your favorite foods or sacrifice taste. And with more people learning about how gluten-free living can positively change your health, foods and staples are becoming more available and more affordable. Major chain stores are carrying more varied gluten-free offerings.
So don't be afraid to give it a try. Find an easy recipe, say for a biscuit ;)  or a quick bread. Go to Kroger or your local health food store and look for the ingredients. Then take it one meal at a time. Just don't give up until you have given it long enough to really be able to judge if it is helping. Find a good forum or a blog that will encourage you in your quest. Just try it!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Shop like it is gonna SNOW

I let us run dangerously low on bread. Usually, it would not be a big deal to whip up a batch. But as I am typing this, I am looking out the window, watching it snow. And of course I don't have enough flour in the house.
With my husband in class all day, loading everyone up and making a run to the grocery is not an option. The moral of this story is: when buying baking supplies and you are gluten free, remember that you can't borrow from the neighbors so you better buy extra!
Where we live, if the word SNOW is even mentioned people flock to the market as though a blizzard has been forecast. They pile their buggies high with milk, bread, and snacks like some doomsday preppers. Next time I shop for baking supplies, I will pretend its about to snow. That way I should have plenty for the next time I wake up with bread desperately needing to be  baked!

Hot Date-Gluten Free Style (well mostly)

     With seven people in our house to care for, you can imagine that date nights are few and far between. So when we have a willing sitter, we jump on the chance to escape to "couple's land" if only for an hour.
My husband took me to dinner yesterday. It can be quite challenging to eat out when you are avoiding gluten. Lucky for us, we are not true celiac so it is not quite so critical that hidden gluten be rooted out. Yeah, I know, it would be better if we did, but sometimes it is just too much work.
We ate at a buffet and with salad, veggies, and fruit it was not as hard as I had thought to get full without compromising our game plan. It was pretty non-stressful.
I was sad that the local Italian place is out. I do love pasta!!! I guess when I am feeling the need for Italian, I will just have to get the hubby to cook me a romantic candlelight pasta dinner at home.That's amore`!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Super Mom Moment

Have I told myself just how awesome I am lately? Well, I should, lol! I totally had a super mom moment last night. I cleaned the kitchen, cooked supper, and baked not one, but two delicious loaves of bread. Man I wish I were so Super Mom all the time!
I remember before we started homeschooling, I saw a mom on Oprah who had thirteen foster kids. Her house was spotless, she was trim and well pressed and the children were all well behaved and clean. For some reason, this woman, whose name I never even caught, became my personal measuring stick.
I only had three kids and two foster adults so surely if she could do it, so could I?

Let me tell you-my measuring stick started out as one of those long, wooden fold out types that carpenters use. Then as I decided that a clean house was highly overrated; that stick became more of a yardstick.
Then I wanted to have more fun with teaching the kids. Laundry was left in a perpetual state of  "wrinkled" and that stick became a ruler. Now I want to get my family healthy, take care of my elderly grandmother, foster two adults, nurture a teenager, love my married daughter in her busy life, keep my very active, outdoors man son from getting hurt (too badly) and help my husband transition to a work at home job. All while keeping my sanity and hopefully making sure everyone has had a bath and has clean underpants. That stick has become one of those little nubs of pencil that boys in grade school would sharpen down until it hit the metal ring.
Needless to say, my priorities and expectations have changed. If the son's fingernails are clean and he remembered to wash his body with soap-great job! If I have the dishes washed in time for the next meal-kudos! If I get to shower daily, it has been a really good day.
So you see, when supermom moments come along, they are savored, celebrated, and cherished. Locked away in my mind, I pull them out and use them to give me courage when the natives begin to get restless...

Here's to hoping ya'll have a supermom moment soon!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Preparation is Key!

I woke up wanting pancakes. (Remember, I told you I love food!)
Fluffy, white pancakes drizzled with sticky, maple syrup. Years ago when I tried to go gluten-free, I made oat/buckwheat pancakes. Not bad....not too good either and for sure not the soft, steamy goodness that I woke up picturing.
With seven people in our house to feed, it is no small task to just whip up a batch of pancakes, never mind the challenge of turning gluten free pancakes into the equivalent of their evil, white-flour counterpart with no advance planning! Luckily, I have an awesome husband who is always willing to help cook.
If I had planned ahead, cough, cough :) it would have been easy as, well, pancakes. But who said easy was any fun, lol! I spent a bit of time cruising the 'net, looking for the perfect pancake recipe.
I have to take my hat off to the pioneers and front runners of the gluten-free lifestyle. There are some really great recipes out there, thank the Lord! Otherwise, I would still be sitting on the bar stool, scratching my head, wondering how best to go about making a go of pancakes that would not resemble hockey pucks when finished.
I am happy to say that I got my wish this morning-lovely, moist pancakes dripping with maple syrup, complete with bacon (thanks, my love!) and a hot cup of coffee. The recipe came from
It was easy, with no weird ingredients and had no advance prep time. They rose just like traditional pancakes and stayed soft and pliable even later in the day. This recipe will absolutely make it into my new-and-improved gluten free recipe collection!
Now, what do I want to eat in the morning.....;)

By the way, does anyone know a local place to buy fine ground rice flour in bulk? That seems to be the go-to grain if you want to replace white flour with similar results. We are in TN about mid-way of Nashville and Knoxville.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

How the quest for a good biscuit started...

Five years ago we decided to home school. We joined a local homeschooler's co-op and it changed my life.
I listened to the other moms talk about nutrition and how it affects learning, and I started to research and learn about different ways of eating. My kids got to the point where they would visibly cringe when they saw me talking with someone about food. You have to understand, we have always been a food loving family. Good southern style cooking, complete with fluffy biscuits smothered in sausage gravy with a side of fried potatoes and scrambled eggs.....ah-manna from heaven!
"Gluten-free" was a term that kept popping up. I thought, "Good grief, I must be killing my family with this evil gluten!" So I began to feverishly clean out cabinets and refrigerator in my quest to eradicate that evil villain. I jumped in with both feet, only to find the reception chilly on a good day. My family was miserable! Gone was the luscious, creamy mac n'cheese, the smooshy white bread, the fluffy biscuits with creamy gravy only to be replaced with unfamiliar grains and textures that, well, did not please the palate to say the least.
I had not done my homework well enough. I was in such a hurry to jump on the gluten-free band wagon that I tried to completely change what we ate. It was an epic failure.

Five years later, and hopefully much wiser, I am still convinced that while not evil, gluten is indeed not good for the people in my family. So instead of trying to take all of our good southern food away and replace it with dry, tasteless meals, I am trying to find the gluten free version of what we love-comfort food!

It started with bread rolls, which we don't often eat. I stocked my pantry with things like rice flour and potato starch and gave away the wheat flour. I ground oat groats. Not bad.
Next was cornbread-made with fresh ground dent corn. Superb! It tasted like hot, buttered corn on the cob.  But one cannot live by rolls and cornbread alone, so I decided to tackle that most elusive of all palate-pleasers....the gluten-free biscuit.

Now if you are from the south, you understand that biscuits are supposed to be crisp and browned on the outside and fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth goodness on the inside. And when you are working with flours made from freshly ground, whole grains that combination is hard to achieve.

The Internet is a wonderful thing. I have found so many great recipes to start with. My favorite site so far is
I found a fantastic starter recipe for a melt in your mouth biscuit. If I can feed my family gluten free biscuits and they go back for seconds, then I think I just might be able to make this work.
Life, it's all about compromise!