It has been simmering at the back of my mind to share these thoughts, much of which I have touched on in the past, but still so important. My husband went to the doctor a year or so ago and was told he was border-line diabetic. It is so prevalent in our society that I guess it wasn’t much of a surprise, even with what we considered a healthy diet. Our children see the same physician, so after talking to my husband he turned to me and said with the boys on a gluten-free diet it was only a matter of time before they, too, ended up with diabetes. “WHAT?!” my mind yelled, “How can that be?!”. It just didn’t seem right that our children would end up with this illness despite everything just because they can’t eat wheat.
Our family has tried to eat well. Both my husband and I grew up in health-conscious families. We both grew up with gardens and home-cooked meals, hard work, and family fun. In our married life, we strive to provide nutritious food for our family. When the doctor told my husband how he needed to eat, it was beyond ridiculous; no sodas, smoking, limit sweets, salt, etc. It was like he was preaching to the choir. Yet, despite everything, my husbands health was not right, and both our respective parents have health issues related to diet and habit as well. Why? And how can I stop this in our children? How can being gluten-free make them diabetic? If you know me, then you know I like to work out puzzles, and this has been no exception.
The first thing I did was examine the effects of a gluten-free diet on health. This has many components, but the first thing to note is that the average diet of someone in any industrialized society today seems to consist of packaged, processed foods that are devoid of life. Many of us are aware of that, but we are not dead yet, and it’s so easy, so why change? Now, I looked at our gluten-free diet. When we first started eating without wheat there wasn’t much available commercially. I baked everything at home, and because of the expense we didn’t eat all that many baked goods. Now there is a plethora of commercially available gluten-free foods on supermarket shelves in response to the fad diets and the high number of people showing dietary problems with wheat. I can either make or buy anything we want to eat, and we never have to “miss out”. The question then arises, is this good?
Here is an example; not long ago I was in the supermarket, looking at the gluten-free pasta. A large woman in a wheelchair approached me to ask some questions about gluten-free foods. I explained what gluten was and why we had to avoid it. She told me she had been seeing it in magazines as a health diet, and that we must be really healthy if we were eating that way, and that maybe she should start. She picked up a box of gluten-free chocolate chip cookies with a huge smile, and said “This is great! I can eat healthy cookies!” and proceeded to put them in her shopping basket. I was astonished, but it made me take a closer look at how I was feeding my family. First, I understand from making gluten-free baked goods at home that to make them bind and taste good you need extra sugars and fats. While that isn’t always a problem if you use the right sugars and fats and in moderation, these baked goods were not the wisest choice for every-day fare.
Gluten-free flour mixes are high in carbohydrates that the body converts into sugars, on top of the sugar used to make the baked product, and many times the sugar we put ON the baked product. These sugars overwhelm the body, and over time the pancreas cannot keep up with the influx of sugar in your system and you end up with diabetes. So, after really looking at things, I realized the doctor was right. We needed to change some things, or our children would end up diabetic, and at a much younger age than anyone else in our family!
Delving into more research I have learned that there are toxins in un-sprouted grains, nuts and seeds. I researched sugars and their affects on the body, and understood further how using none, or only the smallest amount of any sugar, even the ones classified as “good-for-you”, was a must for health. I am learning how many chemicals are in any of the processed foods that will cause health problems down the road and must be avoided. I am learning how genetically modified grains and produce in our diet affect our health. Mostly, I am realizing that if I don’t want to create sick children, some things in our diet must be changed, especially since we have no choice but to eat gluten-free.
While this is a book-worthy subject, here is what I have determined to do, even as I continue to learn.
- We must limit baked goods to no more than one, maybe two servings a day. By baked goods, I include bread, cookies, cakes, etc. Instead, eating sprouted beans, grain/seeds such as amaranth and quinoa, and rice served in different ways is a must.
- Absolutely no refined sugar has a place in our diet, and that includes turbinado sugar and agave nectar (which happens to be one of the worst thing for a diabetic). I won’t buy refined stevia, nor will we use sugar-replacements like splenda or aspartame. Instead, raw honey, maple syrup from my parents maple trees, and blackstrap molasses are preferred if I have to have something.
- Instead of filling up on heavier carbohydrates, we eat meat and fats with our meals, but no sodium nitrite thank you! (in bacon, hot dogs, sausage, and other prepared meats) Meat and fats help us feel full faster and longer, and help us absorb fat soluble vitamins essential to bodily function. Fats can include animal, coconut, olive, butter, cheese, and other dairy products
- We eat eggs, and a lot of them. We eat vegetables prepared so as to preserve the living microbes inside, and we eat fruit instead of sauces or juice. We also eat fermented products daily like kefir.
The more I learn, the more I realize I have yet to understand. One thing I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, though, is that eating most of what is in the store will make quality of life poor, and it is especially so in gluten-free diets. We, who already have problem digestive systems, must take extra care to provide our bodies with nutrient rich, and living foods, not dead, sterile ones that have been converted into something that resembles the food our bodies crave. There are some really good books already written to help you learn more about food and how to prepare it in ways that preserve the nutrients inside, my favorite being “Nourishing Traditions” by Sally Fallon. It is based on the research of Dr. Weston A. Price, but is also well founded in scientific research papers and books by well-respected doctors and nutritionists form a broad span of years. It has made a huge difference in how I look at food, and I have seen many benefits to my families health as I have studied and applied many of the ideas presented in it. Often, it has led me to do further research into specific ideas. I would especially urge those with young children on a gluten-free diet to look into how you should be feeding your family, and how to get the most out of your food. Just because everyone else eats what is on most grocery store shelves doesn’t mean we have to do the same. We can stand out and start creating a healthy generation to replace our sick, disease-ridden one!