Saturday, June 2, 2012

How I Went Gluten-Free & My Favorite Digestive Enzyme

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One aspect of my diet that is pretty profound is my sensitivity to gluten. While I was growing up, I always seemed to have digestive issues, but they got more severe during my first year of teaching when I was trying to get my Master's Degree in a year. I think the heavy stress load aggravated my digestive issues even more. Basically, a day didn't go by that my stomach wasn't bloated, upset, or uncomfortable...I knew something had to be up. So after reading the book, The False Fat Diet  by Elson Haas (don't let the title fool you) I learned about food sensitivities.

To describe them simply, food sensitivities are delayed reactions to food that you eat. So someone with a real "food allergy" may start itching, get hives, have their tongue swell or go into shock after eating a peanut or drinking cow's milk. (These can be seen with the skin-prick tests done by allergists.) Food sensitivities on the other hand, are delayed reactions. So say I had some wheat pasta and several hours later I get a massive headache and am totally bloated...that's a food sensitivity. It basically leaves you playing detective to trying and figure out which food was the "trigger".

To make a long story short, back in 2009 I was lucky enough to find a place locally called Summit of Health: Integrative Care, Chiropractic and Hyperbaric Center, Inc. (There are other locations around and another location I know of in the Kansas City area where you can get the same test done is Eckert Chiropractic Center ). Here I was given an IgG Food Allergy Test, where my blood was drawn and analyzed. They tried nearly 100 different types of foods on my blood to see how my "IgG Antibodies" would react. Well, apparently they were in a bad mood, because they were firing off at everything!

Here's the test result I received 3 weeks later which described the foods I had sensitivities to. Basically, the higher the number after the decimal=the higher the reaction (so pears 0.147=good, coffee 0.915=very bad). As you can see, gluten wasn't the only little friend who showed up on this test, so did yeast, cow's milk, yogurt, olives, and peas. Since these had the highest scores, these are the ones I was vigilant about removing from my diet.



Although it was a relief to find out about these "so-called healthy foods" were actually making me sick, it was very depressing to know that I would have to cut a lot of my favorite food out. (Find out about other allergy testing I had done on this post). I had cut milk out a long time ago, so that was nothing new, but wheat was the hardest to give up.
Here I am saying my final good-bye to gluten back in 2009
as I cleaned out our pantry with all the food I thought was healthy...
unfortunately it wasn't healthy for me anymore.
Well, enough of that sad song...it didn't take long for me to snap out of this woe-is-me mindset and start doing some research. I read everything I could about Celiac's Disease (which although I was not diagnosed...I also avoid wheat/gluten just like a Celiac would). But, the best thing I did to make it through this was to just all kinds of gluten-free foods. I tried out tons of different gluten-free cereals, breads tortillas, pizza crusts, pastas, snacks, and recipes. Although, some didn't work and were kind of gross...others were great and I liked them even more than their gluten-full originals. Now after a three years of being gluten-free, I truly feel that my gluten-sensitivity isn't even something I think about, it's just become so second nature to me. To find out more about the foods I chose to swap out, see below and I hope this can help you become gluten-free.

Here's a little gluten-free cheat sheet of ingredients you'll want to look out for or add to your diet.

NO NO Gluten-Free Ingredients (If you see this on the ingredient list...stay away from it):
  • whole wheat
  • enriched bleached white flour
  • kamut
  • spelt
  • rye
  • triticale
  • malted barley (beer)
  • oats (because of cross contamination)
  • couscous
  • soy sauce
  • modified food starch (questionable)

Which pretty much cuts out traditional foods like: bread, bagels, cupcakes, croutons, white and wheat pasta, crackers, some chips, graham crackers, flour tortilla shells, muffins, breadcrumbs or any other breaded food item, soy sauce, and some soups and sauces, just to name a few.

YES YES Gluten-Free Ingredients (So...what's left?):
  • corn
  • potatoes
  • rice
  • tapioca
  • amaranth
  • arrowroot
  • millet
  • quinoa
  • sorghum
  • sweet potatoes
  • teff
  • beans
  • buckwheat (even though the name doesn't seem like it would). 
Ash's Green Gluten-Free Swaps: Okay, so if you just found out you need to cut out gluten or if you want to reduce the amount you currently eat, here are some of my favorite gluten-free products and recipes.
Favorite Gluten-Free Bread: Rudi's Multigrain Bread

Favorite Gluten-Free PastaTinkyada Brown Rice Pasta.
This brand tastes like "normal" pasta!
Here's one of my favorite recipes from Peas & Thank You,
with tempeh with spaghetti sauce.


Favorite Gluten-Free English Muffins:
Enjoy Life Brown Rice English Muffins

Favorite Gluten-Free Snack Bars: Larabars
These usually only have 3-4 ingredients...like my favorite here,
"Peanut Butter Cookie": peanuts, dates, sea salt.

My Favorite Tortilla Shells: Corn Tortilla Shells
 Recipe shown: "BBQ Black Beans &
Tofu Burritos" from Vegan on the Cheap.


My Favorite Snack ChipsWay Better Simply Sprouted
Sweet Chili Tortilla Chips (taste like Doritos but healthy)
One of my favorite gluten-free grains: quinoa like in this
recipe, "Cheesy Corn Quinoa"


Favorite Gluten-Free Cereal:
Rice Chex Cereal (sweetened with xylitol and with
SO Delicious Sugar-Free Vanilla Coconut Milk.

Favorite Gluten-Free Fries &Veggie Burger:
 Alexia Sweet Potato FriesSoL Cuisine Veggie Burger,
here's my vegan baked beans that are also gluten-free.
Favorite Gluten-Free Pizza Crust: Udi's Gluten-Free Pizza Crust

Other Gluten-Free Grain: Brown rice like used in this Broccoli Stir-Fry




Favorite Gluten-Free Soy Sauce: Bragg's Liquid Aminos

Favorite Gluten-Free, Vegan Pancake Recipe: from The Cinnamon Quill blog

You accumulate a lot of gluten-free flours when you do GF baking,
here's some of the ones I always keep on hand: brown rice flour,
sorghum flour, tapioca flour, GF all purpose flour, potato starch,
arrowroot flour, garbanzo bean flour, and millet flour.

Want to hear about someone else's gluten-free journey? Check out my blog friend Allison over at A Little Blueberry in this post about how she said "Goodbye to Bread".  Or you could check out her "Gluten-Free" page for more resources and posts. It's always helpful to hear about another person's gluten-free journey and favorite products! ( :

Digestive Enzymes: Now if you look at my food sensitivity sheet you'll find that there were a number of other foods that showed up as possible food sensitivities (even though they were small). For awhile I felt so much better with the gluten and all the dairy gone, but after a while a little bit of the bloated feeling started to come back, though no where near as strong or painful as before, but none the less...back.. My guess is that it was all those little food sensitive I added back in like yeast, peas, cashews, soy, and watermelon. I still stayed away from the "big boys" like gluten, milk, yogurt, and coffee, but some of those small ones still crept in and led me to have some digestive issues.

This led me to researching something called digestive enzymes.  I won't bore you with the scientific facts and descriptions, but it's basically the idea that our body and the food we eat (when raw) is usually equipped with a variety of enzymes that help us breakdown our food completely and convert the food into absorbable nutrients. Unfortunately some individuals have enzyme deficiencies (which I think I might have), so when I eat food, my body only has it's JV squad out to help digest the food, leaving me with semi-digested food which leads to the bloating and upset stomachs I'm prone to getting. When I take a digestive enzyme before the meal, things change...the Varsity team comes out, my food gets digested, my tummy stays happy, and best of all there's no gas (sorry for TMI, but that's my body's first sign of digestive trouble).



In my enzyme research, I've tried a variety of digestive enzyme formulas and brands, but the one that seems to work the best for me is Digest by Eznymedica.

According to Enzymedica's website,

"Digest ™, a balance of high potency digestion enzymes, enhances the digestion and assimilation of food, while reducing the body's need to produce digestive enzymes . Digest is for those that want to fully benefit from the nutrients in the foods they consume. Digest contains a broad spectrum of digestive that turn the food we eat into energy and unlock this energy for use in the body."

Here's the ingredients:
How I take it: I take two a day, one right when I wake up before breakfast, and one before lunch.  It's key to take them BEFORE a meal, as opposed to after because it will be too late. You need those enzymes in there, doing there thing right when the food gets there, not after it's already been sitting there, and your body is struggling to digest it. The bottle recommends taking one before each meal, I haven't found that I needed to do this, as two a day seems to work just fine for me. I tried one a day, and that wasn't enough, so adding that second one a day, seems to have helped.

I also make sure to take one any time I go out to eat, kind of as "digestive insurance" just to make sure there is not traces of milk or gluten in anything I eat (since I'm not the one making it).  You just never know...

I remember realizing that I will have to take two of these enzyme supplements each day, well, forever (or until I feel like I don't need them anymore) and I didn't like that. I hate taking medicine, and although this is natural medicine, I still didn't like the feeling of being tied to it. But then I got to thinking about my digestive system, and the fact that I may just have an enzyme deficiency due to genetics or who knows what else, and this is the "medicine" I need to help me...things didn't seem quite as bad.

I reminded myself that since I've started taking the digestive enzyme (several months ago) I feel like I'm getting more out of the food I eat. I try to eat very healthy and to think that my body was not able to digest and absorb all those nutrients and vitamins from the food I was eating in the past, is frustrating. But now that I have the digestive enzyme, I feel like I'm really getting more bang for my buck with all the healhty food I eat.

How much does it cost: $23 for 180 caps (that will last me about 90 days...so not bad)
Other formulas to try out from Enzymedica: Digest Basic (wasn't strong enough for me), Digest Gold (too strong for me, made my stomach cramp), Digest Spectrum (wasn't strong enough for me), just to name a few. But everyone is different so try the different formulas to see what will work for you.
So that's where I'm at with my digestive enzymes and my gluten-free journey. I hope this helps you if you are struggling with a gluten allergy or other food sensitvities. Post below if you have any questions and I'd be happy to answer them as best as I can.
Here's one of my favorite new quotes to wrap up with:

"No gluten? No problem!"


Recently this post was linked up to: "Waste Not Want Not" Blog Hop over at Poor and Gluten-Free...

1 comment:

  1. Hi ashley! So I found you by googling digestive enzymes and gluten free! I've been gluten free for about a month and all the sudden started getting awful indegestion after eating certain meals. I became very frustrated thinking that all of my problems were suppose to go away and not get worse. I went gluten free because in have always felt bloated and a few years ago was diagnosed with IBS. Also my son has ADHD so I wanted to see if it would help his symptoms. Anyways, I got some enzymes and have felt much better! I couldn't seem to find any info on anyone else having some problems after going gluten free. It really eased my mind to find this! Thanks!!

    ReplyDelete

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