Category Archives: leaky gut

All About Gluten

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a binding protein found in certain grains – all wheat (durum, semolina, faro, kamut, einkorn, graham, spelt), rye and barley.  (It’s also in triticale which is a mixture of wheat and rye.)  Gluten is what gives elasticity to dough that give it it’s shape. 

A Word About Oats

Oats do not naturally contain gluten.  (http://www.cureceliacdisease.org/archives/faq/do-oats-contain-gluten)  However, there can be two problems with oats.  First, some, especially those who have Celiac, may have sensitivity to oats due to the protein avenin found in them, although not all with Celiac will have issues with oats.  (See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oat_sensitivity.)  Second, oats can also be a problem for those due to cross-contamination.

Those who are not sensitive to oats may prefer to buy certified gluten-free oats, which are processed in a facility where no gluten-containing grains are processed.  In addition, some like to soak their oats before cooking and consuming to reduce phytates (see Information on Soaking Grains, Nuts, Legumes to Reduce Phytates). 

Symptoms of Gluten Issues

Symptoms of gluten issues can be delayed.  Some people report having delayed symptoms around three days after consuming gluten, lasting days or even months.  Symptoms of gluten issues can include:

  • stomach ache
  • gas
  • bloating
  •  constipation
  • diarrhea
  •  leaky gut syndrome
  •  brain fog
  •  joint pain
  • tingling in fingers or feet
  •  headaches/migraines
  • chronic fatigue
  • infertility
  • hypothyroidism
  • ADHD Autistic behavior
  • and more

Note that not all people who have gluten issues have gastrointestinal symptoms.  I didn’t.

Gluten:

What to Look for on Labels

The following items contain gluten:

  • barley
  • barley malt
  • barley starch
  • breading and coating mixes or packets
  • communion wafers (see here for info on very low gluten-communion hosts)
  • couscous
  • croutons
  • flour
  • malt
  • matzo meal
  • natural or artificial flavoring or coloring
  • Panko
  • soy sauce
  • sprouted wheat
  • tabouli
  • wheat (durum, wheat germ, wheat bran, wheat meal, wheat stabilizers, wheat starch, white flour, whole wheat, einkorn)

Cross-Contamination in the Farmer’s Fields?

Beans and Buckwheat flour don’t naturally contain gluten, but cross-contamination in the farmer’s fields may be an issue if you’re really sensitive to gluten.  Educate yourself and use your judgment.

Also, additives can sometimes mean gluten:

  • dextrinhydrolyzed vegetable protein
  • starch or modified food starch (can be corn or other starches, too)
  • caramel color

Obvious gluten-containing foods like bread and crackers are easy to avoid.  But some “hidden” gluten-containing foods include:

  • beer
  • bouillon cubes
  • broth
  • brown rice syrup
  • candy
  • corn tortillas
  • dressings, like ranch
  • energy bars or protein bars
  • french fries (not just from cross-contamination in the fryer, some have wheat in the ingredient list)
  • imitation seafood like fake crab meat
  • lunch meat
  • marinades
  • oat bran or oat germ
  • pasta
  • rice like box mixes
  • spices and spice mixes
  • sauces, such as ketchup, honey mustard, barbecue sauce
  • soups

More info on gluten-containing grains and ingredients and contaminated ingredients from Celiac.com: http://www.celiac.com/articles/182/1/Unsafe-Gluten-Free-Food-List-Unsafe-Ingredients/Page1.html

Besides food, what else do I need to make sure is GF?

  • Beauty Products
  • Cleaning Products
  • Dental Products including dental glue, paste, etc.
  • lipstick, lip gloss
  • Make-up
  • Medications
  • Supplements
  • Play-doh
  • Vitamins and other Supplements

Worried about your beauty products?  Check out my list. 

Prepared Gluten-Free Foods

Be careful with prepared gluten-free foods.  Even though they might be gluten-free, they are often heavily processed and loaded with preservatives or sugar, which are not good for achieving or maintaining a healthy gut.  A good rule of thumb is to try to get foods as “whole” as they can get: meat, veggies, fruit, dairy, eggs, gains (if you can have them), avoiding allergens or sensitivities, of course.

Gluten Issues and Dairy

Some people with gluten issues have issues with dairy, at least until they heal their gut.  For those with Celiac, the villi that are damaged with Celiac Disease can’t produce the lactase enzyme, so depending on the extent of the damage, they may need to avoid lactose until the villi are healed enough to properly digest lactose.

Soaking Grains, Nuts, Legumes to Reduce Phytates

Many people, especially those who have gut issues, prefer to soak their oats overnight in luke-warm water, which helps reduce the phytates, which are difficult to digest.  The following links contain useful information about soaking grains, nuts, and legumes.

Fermented Sourdough Grains can be Gluten-free

Fermented grains can have health benefits for those with gut issues.  Read: http://wholenewmom.com/recipes/gluten-free-sourdough-starter/

Flours, Starches, etc.

Eliminating gluten from your diet doesn’t mean you will have to miss the foods you enjoy, but you will have to find alternatives, if your gut health allows them.  Flours and starches that you can experiment with include:

  • Almond
  • Amaranth
  • Arrowroot
  • Brown Rice or White Rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Garbanzo
  • Coconut Garbanzo
  • Guar Gum
  • Millet
  • Nut Flours such as almond, hazelnut
  • Oats (certified gluten-free)
  • Potato Starch
  • Quinoa
  • Seeds such as Chia, Flax, Hemp
  • Tapioca Starch
  • Teff
  • Xanthan Gum

Note that Guar Gum and Xanthan Gum are binding agents which add elasticity, but they can become quite gummy when too much is used.

Gluten-free may not be enough for those with Leaky Gut Syndrome (consider fermented grains, at least):

 

Benefits of Bone Broth

Our ancestors knew that broth was vital to health.  It’s true that everyone can benefit from bone broth, but for those with gut health issues, it’s absolutely crucial for healing.

Check out my easy, delicious Beef Stock recipe.

Read more about the benefits of bone broth here:

Some people will do better on meat broth at first:

What’s the difference between stock, broth, and bone broth?

Learn how to make bone broth here:

Looking for ways to use your bone broth?

These Vitamin C gummies are a great way to boost your immune system – and your kids’ too! 

Can there be side effects to bone broth/gelatin/collagen?  Yes!  It means your body is healing.

This is an interesting article by Jenny McGruther on a taste test done for both home made and commercial broths.  You might be surprised to see the list!

Vitamin B12 Deficiency

How do our bodies use B12?  Mayo Clinic writes that “Vitamin B12 is frequently used in combination with other B vitamins in a vitamin B complex formulation. Vitamin B12 is important in DNA synthesis. Vitamin B12 is bound to the protein in food. Acid in the stomach releases B12 from protein during digestion.”

As a Chronic Lyme Disease patient, I’ve learned firsthand about the importance of Vitamin B12 for gut health (which Lyme wreaks havoc on) and nerve health.  When I had carpal tunnel surgery ten years ago, not one of my three doctors thought to test my B12 levels.  It wasn’t until three years ago in my search for answers to my health issues that I asked my health care provider to test my B12, and it was high, despite not being on any supplements.  I found out through the thyroid patient support groups that it can be a symptom of having methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) gene mutation.  So I tested through 23andme and, sure enough, I have it.  (Read more here to learn about the conditions MTHFR can cause.)

For me, B12 supplementation (with methyl-B12) has made a tremendous difference.  It stops my restless leg syndrome and light-headedness (my head feels like a balloon that is about to pop when my B12 is low), improves my weakness, tiredness, sore calves, rapid heart rate, breathlessness, and more, including many symptoms I thought were due to my chronically low iron (thank you, Lyme Disease and heavy metals).

We can also find B12 in fish, shellfish, meat, eggs, and dairy products, but I personally choose meat and eggs from pastured animals, wild-caught fish, and unadulterated dairy from pastured cows or goats because I know those products are healthier and nutrient-dense.

By the way, I’m not a medical professional.  Please read my disclaimer.

That being said, in my research for my own health which I share with you here, I’ve found that B12 deficiency can cause:

Symptoms of B12 deficiency:

  • Restless Leg Syndrome
  • Numbness or tingling in hands or feet
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Difficulty breathing, feeling out of breath
  • Weakness, tiredness
  • Light-headedness
  • Pale skin
  • Sore tongue
  • Depression, anxiety, mania, hallucinations
  • Poor memory, concentration
  • Irritability
  • Poor balance or coordination
  • Diarrhea, constipation
  • Upset stomach
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Headache
  • Menstrual irregularity
  • Ringing in ears (tinnitus)
  • Sore calves

At-Risk for B12 deficiency

  • History of acid blockers
  • Low stomach acid (common in hypothyroid patients, the elderly, those with gut health issues)
  • A diet low in meat and animal protein, esp. vegetarian or vegan
  • Celiac Disease
  • Use of Birth Control
  • Use of Nitrous Oxide anesthesia (which inactivates B12)
  • Stomach Surgery
  • Pregnant and post-partum women (increases B12 needs), especially those women taking supplements high in folic acid – particularly women with post-partum depression
  • Age over 50
  • Parasites
  • Pernicious Anemia
  • Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth
  • Peptic Ulcer
  • Transcobalamin Deficiency

Those with hypothyroidism, vegetarians or vegans, and the elderly are at risk for low stomach acid.

This documentary about B12 deficiency is really informative.

Labs for B12 issues

Again, I’m not a medical professional.  But as a patient, I understand that serum B12 labs are not always enough to rule out a deficiency because the lab is checking serum levels, not tissue levels of B12.  Here is a list of labs that might be helpful, according to the video linked above:

  • Serum B12
  • HoloTranscobalamin
  • Homocysteine
  • Methylmalonic Acid
  • Unsaturated B12 Binding Capacity

Also see Pernicious Amenia Society.

MTHFR Testing:

https://www.23andme.com/

Links on methylation/MTHFR gene mutation:

Links on Methylation and Digestion:

Slow-cooker Chicken Stock

Ingredients
  • 1 Free-range chicken carcass
  • about 4 quarts filtered water or nearly to the top of your slow-cooker
  • 2 T. apple cider vinegar, unfiltered and unpasteurized – like Bragg’s brand
  • 2 T. salt
  • 1 bunch flat leaf parsley, optional
  • 2 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 3 celery stalks with leaves, roughly chopped
  • leftover veggies scraps like carrot peels, onion peels, celery tops (optional)
  • 1 chicken neck
  • 1 chicken foot, cleanedInstructions
  1. Place ingredients in slow-cooker
  2. Cook on LOW for 24-48 hours.
  3. Let broth cool, then refrigerate. (If you allow the fat to rise to the top and leave it instead of skimming it off, it will help preserve your broth longer.)