Gluten-Free Diet: Is it Right For You?

Does it pay to go on a gluten-free diet when you do not have gluten intolerance? What does gluten-free food actually mean, and is it right for you? These are questions that may have crossed your mind with all the “gluten-free” buzz that has been happening as of late. Along with the questions: is it actually a healthier option? Will it make me lose weight? Let’s try to answer some of them, shall we? 🙂

What is Gluten

First, let’s talk about gluten. Gluten is a protein found in certain grains as wheat, barley and rye, and triticale which is a hybrid of wheat and rye. [1] It is the protein that gives the food a gummy and elastic quality, and is important protein in making baked goods as it gives it its nice structure.

How does it affect people?

Gluten is the only protein in food that cannot be fully digested. As the food goes through our digestive system, this indestructible molecule can slip through the intestinal walls. And for people who have Celiac disease, this can cause intestinal inflammation. [2]

Our small intestines have what we call villi which are finger-like projections in the walls of the small intestines, 0.5 to 1.6 millimeters long.  These villi collectively form a “brush border” facilitating nutrient absorption from the food we eat as it passes through the small intestine. [5] In people with Celiac disease, gluten irritates the lining in the small intestine, and causes the immune system to attack the villi, damaging it over time. As a result, nutrients go through our system without getting properly absorbed. This in turn can cause malnutrition.[3]

Purpose of Gluten-Free Diet

Intolerance to gluten ranges from gluten sensitivity (non-Celiac gluten intolerance) to Celiac disease.  A gluten-free diet is essential for people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity for its treatment. A gluten-free diet can be beneficial for other conditions, as well, like IBS or irritable bowel syndrome being that a gluten-free diet is also classified as a low FODMAP Diet ( Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols), a diet that is helpful for people with IBS.

However, an important thing to note is that worrying about gluten is not at all material to those without these conditions, since gluten doesn’t affect them in the same way.

I Don’t Have Gluten Intolerance: What’s in it for me?

Since in a gluten-free diet, one would need to eliminate certain grains, it is a risk that you could miss out on the nutritional benefits of a well-balanced diet. Wheat, barley and rye containing foods, especially in their wholegrain format offer important nutritional benefits. Gluten-free processed foods refined to make them gluten free has the disadvantage of stripping grains of their essential parts, making them have less fiber, vitamins and minerals as compared to whole grains.

However, should your choice of a gluten-free diet involve you switching to more non-processed food, opting for food that are naturally gluten-free like plain fruits, vegetables, nuts, lentils, beans, that you wouldn’t consume on your normal diet, then this might prove beneficial. However, as gluten containing food may contribute to a nice balanced diet, then a better choice would be to eliminate processed food from your diet instead, regardless of gluten content.

Will a gluten-free diet help me lose weight?

Being smart in your choices pays, especially when introduced with  diet concepts that are unfamiliar. It is very easy to fall into the trap of thinking a certain diet will help you lose weight, without proper research and effort to be informed. Since the gluten-free diet only aims to eliminate the protein gluten, properties of food that will affect your weight need to be taken into account before deciding to get into this type of diet, and any other diet for that matter, with weight loss in mind. Look at the calorie content of food, for refined carbs, for unhealthy fats in your diet instead.

Those who claim gluten-free diet helped them lose weight benefit from it by incidentally removing processed food from their diet, regardless of gluten content. Gluten-free food and weight loss are not synonymous, unless it helps you to “get rid of the junk” and eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains that are naturally gluten-free, as mentioned by Shelley Case, one of North America’s premier experts on the gluten-free diet. [4]

Bottom line: Gluten-free diet is the right diet for those with gluten-intolerance and non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and certain conditions like IBS. Gluten-free diet can incidentally be healthier if it eliminates processed food from your diet. However, in some cases it could be less beneficial if it causes one to eat more processed food stripped of nutrients. A gluten-free diet should not be seen as a weight loss diet since what is removed in the diet is mainly gluten. And depending on how much nutrients is eliminated and junk food added when it is processed, gluten-free food can either be healthier or less healthy than conventional gluten-containing food.

References:

1- Boyles, S. (2012, February 17). Gluten Sensitivity: Fact or Fad? Retrieved November 20, 2017, from https://www.webmd.com/diet/news/20120220/gluten-sensitivity-fact-or-fad

2 – Gluten-free diet: What’s allowed, what’s not. (2014, November 25). Retrieved November 20, 2017, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/gluten-free-diet/art-20048530

3 – Bradford, A. (2015, December 10). Gluten-Free Diet: Benefits & Risks. Retrieved November 20, 2017, from https://www.livescience.com/53061-gluten-free-diet-facts.html

4 – Helms, J., MS, RD. (2012, September 6). Will Going Gluten Free Help You Lose Weight? [Web log post]. Retrieved November 20, 2017, from https://blogs.webmd.com/food-and-nutrition/2012/09/will-going-gluten-free-help-you-lose-weight.html

5 – Moreau, J. (Eds.). (n.d.). Digestive System, Enzymes, Absorption in the Small Intestine. Retrieved November 20, 2017, from https://scienceaid.net/biology/humans/digestion.html

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Gluten Free Blueberry Pancake

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With gluten intolerance, the typical pancake is one of the items you would eliminate from your meal planning. It’s such a shame though , as pancakes have become a standard breakfast item for good reason. It’s quick and easy to prepare and you can make exciting combos with different fruits, to add to your fiber intake, or even make dessert pancakes with chocolates (and more yummy ideas you can think of!).

And so what a relief that with flour options other than wheat, the fantastic pancake can still be a mainstay on your breakfast table.

Here’s a great recipe to follow:

Ingredients

1 cup Brown Rice flour  – provides sweet and nutty flavor

1 cup Sorghum Flour  – close to regular wheat

3/4 cut White Rice flour  – lends a light texture

1/4 cup cassava starch – helps to make products less dense

1/4 teaspoon Xanthan Gum – helps give it a fluffy texture (optional)

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp baking powder

1/4 cup sugar

1 tbsp butter

An option is to get ready  made gluten-free pancake mixes. if you don’t know where to source all these different ingredients. 

1 cup milk

1 egg

1/2 cup frozen blueberries, thawed (20% off offer on blueberries for home delivery until this Sunday!)

Directions

Combine and sift together all dry ingredients. Beat the egg separately in a small bowl and add in milk. Whisk this into the dry ingredients and add in melted gluten free butter. You can choose to mix in the blueberries at this point.

Heat a frying pan on your stove, add in 1 tbsp of oil and coat the surface. Pour around a quarter of a cup of batter. As for me, I like to wait for the batter to have a few bubbles as it cooks and place around 6 to a dozen berries to evenly cover the whole pancake. After around 3 minutes, flip the pancake and let the other side cook for another minute.

Serve with honey or maple syrup and add in more fruits, if desired. Enjoy!

Gluten Free Lemon Butter Garlic Prawn Recipe

Lemon Butter Garlic PrawnsThis is practically a no-brainer dish that can be prepared in a matter of minutes.  This indulgent dish works for anytime you need to prepare something nice but do not have much time. Good news: Lemon, Butter, Garlic  and Prawns are naturally gluten-free! If you are highly reactive to gluten and need to be absolutely sure, try to find butter with gluten free on the label :-).

Ingredients:

1 block King Size Black Tiger Prawn 1.3 kg (12 to 15 pieces)

¾ cups butter

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

8 cloves garlic

2 lemons – juice

Salt & pepper

1 tsp fresh parsley or(flash frozen parsley)

Steps:

To Defrost Prawns: Open bag and leave in the refrigerator overnight, or leave at room temperature for about 3 hours.

In a wok or large pan, melt the butter and add oil. Add garlic and cook until fragrant about 30 seconds. Add lemon juice, and saute for another 30 seconds. Add defrosted prawns.

Stir-fry until color of prawn changes to pink and thoroughly cooked (about 4 to 5 minutes). Cooking the prawn with the heads on adds to the flavor to the dish.

Add salt and pepper to taste, and sprinkle parsely. Transfer and assemble prawns to a nice serving dish and serve.

Typical Pinoy Gluten-Free Food You Should Know

In general, those of us in the Philippines who are avoiding foods with gluten, we’re happy to say, won’t have a difficult time finding food that are gluten free in this country (It actually fits well in typical Filipino diet: rice, anyone?). Most of the carbohydrates and starch sources that we have in our local dishes are commonly gluten-free.

We have already discussed what gluten-free food is, and what the common sources of gluten free food could be, even grains you’d definitely be glad to  know are gluten-free.   Let’s see 3 important food items to add to your gluten-free list.  

Rice

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Yes, the Filipino stomach won’t be satisfied without this Filipino dining staple. Though a lot might already be   aware that rice is not a member of the gluten foods roster, there are still some that are quite uneasy about it. Good news is, rice is not part of your blacklist.  So it’s not necessary to avoid your hankering for rice when you have it. 

Sweet Potato

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Craving for a stick of kamote-cue this afternoon? Go ahead! Though it’s actually one of the most underestimated carbohydrates around, it boasts a good quality of sugar that does not easily disperse in our blood, unlike its other variety, the tastier regular potato. So this is, indeed, a dieter’s delight. And of course, it’s one of the foods without gluten (Yey!).

Rice Noodles (Bihon)

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As a rice source, we can all instinctively declare now that this is not a gluten laden food. As one of the party favorites that symbolizes “long life”, noodles such as bihon, though will not really “extend” your life, is technically safe for consumption for our gluten intolerant friends. The catch however, is that it should be generously washed first, especially if you are not sure where it was manufactured since cross-contamination during processing might have happened[1].   Not a fan of rice noodles, there are some more pasta items you can find in your typical grocery store that are gluten free. You can even have some home delivered

We’ll get to know more gluten free foods in our next posts so, stay tuned!

Source:

  1. 4310830, 95 -. Sources of gluten – celiac disease foundation. Celiac Disease Foundation, 1998. Web. 4 Nov. 2016.

The Boon, the Bane, and the Basics of Gluten

gluten-free-101-photo

A lot of us are lucky enough not to experience the pressure of scrutinizing the details of what we eat. But for some, it can be a daunting process to know the components of their meal, just right before indulging in it.

Aside from the typical food allergens, there are also various substances that some of us need to keenly observe beforehand, lest we experience discomforts of having to deal with adverse reactions to the food that we eat. And one of those compounds is the hidden gluten component  in various starches.

What is gluten?

We constantly see a lot of articles about gluten being published in social media, among other sources. However, some fail to address the basic question before giving it a bad rap. So first things first, what is gluten?

Gluten is basically a mixture of different types of protein activated by water that provides elasticity and form to the final product of almost all breads and pastries that we love. It is generally found in wheat, barley, rye, malt, triticale, and even brewer’s yeast.  

Majority of the population do not experience adverse reaction when consuming gluten. Nevertheless, there are certain medical conditions that require avoidance of the said protein combination. This includes Celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, and wheat allergy. Since a lot of our processed starch sources contain gluten, it is necessary  that those people who have either of these medical concerns be well informed about the presence of gluten in products they wish include in their shopping list.

question-bread

Being well informed about gluten

Wheat is one of the most consumed cereals around the world. It is therefore implied that wheat gluten is one of the items that should be watched-out if you belong to the population who needs avoid it. Aside from wheat products, it’s also important to recognize other sources of gluten as well to make sure that there are no stones left unturned.

Though avoiding sources with gluten can be excruciating to some extent, preparing a gluten-free food list is quite an easy job. Since gluten is found only in certain grains, other carbohydrates sources such fruits, vegetables, and root crops are already out of the equation. Of course, animal proteins and fats are not included in the list.

When preparing a list of gluten-free foods, particularly grains that can serve as perfect alternatives to those gluten-rich grains, remember to include these perfect substitutes which you can incorporate into your meals:

  • Buckwheat
  • Corn
  • Quinoa
  • Rice
  • Oats
  • Millet

Based on the grains listed above, there are far more varieties of grains that do not have gluten than those that have it. Filipinos are primarily rice consumers, so it would  not be difficult to stick to it during meal time.  However, it is wise to consider the manufacturing process of these grains, as most like oats are harvested, packed and manufactured in the same facilities as wheat.

Other gluten-free products to consider

Luckily, people who need to avoid gluten no longer bound to perpetually avoid their go-to comfort foods. Certain methods of gluten extraction and purification paved way to innovative production of gluten-free bakery products which we can all definitely enjoy. Here in the Metro, online shop such as GERALD.ph offers a wide selection of gluten-free products from different kinds of pastries, pastas, and even ice cream, which would certainly make people with gluten concerns live like any other gluten tolerant  individual.

Gluten-free lifestyle might be overwhelming to some of us. But with the right selection and now with wider varieties to choose from, developing a habit would be way easier than it was before.

Sources

 

  1. Lamacchia, Carmela, et al. “Cereal-Based Gluten-Free Food: How to Reconcile Nutritional and Technological Properties of Wheat Proteins with Safety for Celiac Disease Patients.” 6.2 (2014): n.pag. Web. 14 Oct. 2016.
  2. 4310830, 95 -. Sources of gluten – celiac disease foundation. Celiac Disease Foundation, 1998. Web. 14 Oct. 2016.
  3. Awika, Joseph M. “Major Cereal Grains Production and Use Around the World.” Advances in Cereal Science: Implications to Food Processing and Health Promotion. N.p.: American Chemical Society (ACS), Jan. 2011. 1–13. Web. http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/whats-whole-grain-refined-grain/gluten-free-whole-grains
  4. “INFOGRAPHIC: How much rice do Filipinos consume?” Rappler, 7 Oct. 2012. Web. 14 Oct. 2016.

Know Your Status: Are You Gluten Sensitive?

food-allergies

A good number of people already know that gluten is found in various starchy carbohydrate sources. Here in the Philippines, we take pride in our carbohydrate-rich menus which are customary in every meal. However, since gluten intolerance is still not a familiar concept to many of us, we discount having gluten sensitivity when experiencing discomforts after certain meals, allergy or intolerance specifically to gluten is hardly even thought about.

Pandesal, typical Filipino gluten laden bread.
Pandesal, typical Filipino gluten laden bread.

Studies on the prevalence of gluten sensitivity or gluten allergy in the Philippines have yet to be published, though we have to be aware of the possibility that anyone of us might be part of the statistic, especially if the source of discomfort is not top-of-mind.

It is important also to differentiate between gluten intolerance and gluten allergy. Allergic reactions tend to be immediate and often severe, as opposed to intolerance, the symptoms of which are not immediately felt, could be from days to weeks, the cause of which are subtle and not readily detectable. Both are abnormal reactions to certain foods manifesting in your body in different ways. Gluten adverse reactions include skin conditions like eczema, digestive conditions like bloating, constipation, pain and diarrhea, even others seemingly unrelated to digestion, like fatigue, migraines and severe ones like seizures.

gluten-words

When adverse symptoms continue to bog you down, allergy testing and food intolerance testing would definitely help shed some light on your concerns.

Allergy Testing

A trip to the allergist would help you determine if you are susceptible to allergic reactions to specific components of a particular food, such as gluten. Some other common food allergies are caused by milk, eggs, nuts, fish or shellfish. Gluten and other food allergies can also be identified by undergoing a series of brief tests and interviews. Here in the Metro, we have quite a number of hospitals and centers that conduct tests know which food items you have to watch out for.

Quezon City

St. Luke’s Medical CenterQuezon City, ranked as one of the top hospitals in the country, offers a variety of services from asthma, drug allergies, insect allergies, and of course food allergies, to determine which substance you have an allergy to, through its St. Luke’s Allergy and Immunology Department.

It is located at 279 E Rodriguez Sr. Ave, Quezon City. They also have a branch in Bonifacio Global City: St Luke’s-Global is located at Rizal Drive cor. 32nd St. and 5th Ave., Taguig.

Makati and BGC (Bonifacio Global City)

Another center you can visit in BGC is LifeScience Center for Wellness and Preventive Medicine. Through a simple blood sampling that is analyzed using their in-house Food Detective Kit, which uses Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) technology, which is a plate-based assay technique designed for detecting and quantifying substances including antibodies, assisting in determining your food intolerances.

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Healthway, the mall based clinic also  offers what they term as “FIT”, short for Food Intolerance Test, which already includes a consultation with nutritionist for briefing on their FIT service and to explain the findings of the test. You can find them in Greenbelt 5, as well as other malls in Alabang, Bonificio Global City, and Quezon City.

Manila

Manila Doctors Hospital, through its Pediatric Allergology and Immunology Department also conducts tests to determine your food allergies and food intolerances. Among its Allergology Services are allergy screening, and allergy management.

MDH is located at UN Ave., Ermita Manila City

Alabang

With 30 branches nationwide, including Alabang, High Precision Diagnostics offering Food Intolerance Testing is also an option for you. The food intolerance test is simple, done through blood sampling. You can get the results of the test in two weeks.

Asian Hospital And Medical Center in Alabang also offers food intolerance and allergy testing. As with its tertiary hospital counterparts in the North, AHMC provides services for immunologic/allergic disorders, such as allergic rhinitis (hay fever), asthma, sinusitis, insect allergy, unusual vasculitis syndromes, and penicillin and other drug allergies.

AHMC is at r, 2205 Civic Drive, Filinvest Corporate City, Alabang, Muntinlupa City

With the variety of healthcare providers around, tests in determining whether you have some food intolerances is now very accessible. If you maybe suffering from any of the symptoms mentioned or you have an inkling that you could be adversely reacting to food but not completely sure, visiting your doctor and taking a food intolerance test could be well worth it. It can help improve your health and might even save your life in the long run.

Sources:

“Philippines.” Welcome to Ranking Web of Hospitals. Centro De Información Y Documentación (CINDOC), n.d. Web. 10 Oct. 2016.

Raneses, Katherince Grace. “Getting Tested for Food Intolerance at LifeScience.”Mucking Around Manila. N.p., 14 Nov. 2014. Web. 10 Oct. 2016.

Aventajado, Michelle. “My Food Intolerance Test – Momma ‘N Manila.” Momma N Manila. N.p., 2016. Web. 10 Oct. 2016.

How do you travel Gluten-Free?

travel

Ah… the joy of travel. But only until your cravings kick in and your stomach rumbles.

If you are visiting a place for vacation, things commonly enjoyed are the sights, the fun activities,  and of course, the F-O-O-D. If you’re on business, eating the local food would be one of the ways you can enjoy a place, even if only incidentally.

But being celiac or gluten-intolerant, or just having food allergies of any kind, you already know how it is to try to relax when you don’t know where your next safe food will be coming from.

So, what to do?

Preparation is key. Take the attitude that with just a bit of time and effort, maximizing your vacation is in  your hands, and it will be well worth it.

happy thoughts

1 – Visit online forums especially for gluten-free dining in advance and find out which locally serves food that fit the gluten-free diet. Luckily, you’re not alone in your quest for a hassle free vacation. You’ll be surprised how many are willing to make suggestions and give you useful information on where to eat and what to avoid in your destination. Post your questions in forums at least 2 weeks in advance so that you have time get substantial replies from fellow planners like yourself.

laptop

2 –  However, if you would like to give the planning to someone else, there are resources that organize vacations and travel around the world that are especially gluten free. They reduce the worrying and the nitty gritties to a minimum. Since they specialize in gluten-free travel, they will have more options for you to choose from, and can make travel a treat, and especially if you’re travelling with your friends or family. One such company is:

https://glutenfreetravelsite.com/glutenfreegetaways.php

3 – Have a list of things you that you know are absolutely gluten-free including food items and brands. If you are unsure of fast food places, restaurants or even your food available at your hotel, visiting your nearest grocery store will be the next best thing. Especially, where the language barrier poses additional challenge, googling which familiar gluten-free brands are available locally will save you a lot of worry and headache of trying to find the safest items on the shelves.

 

lists

 

4 – Be armed from the moment you walk out your door. Pack your own airport food.  It would make things so much easier if every bit of food is labeled, but especially in the Philippines, this not the case. Airport dining is limited to only a few restaurants and gluten-free dining is not a priority. No frills flights like Cebu Pacific, only have snacks that typically contain gluten

So, it is best to come prepared.

airport

However, some flights, like international flights of Philippine Airlines do offer some comfort to you if you’re gluten-free. PAL provides gluten-free meals in all classes, and gluten-free snacks may also be available. However, all special meals on airplanes must be ordered no less than 24 hours in advance. Take time to call.  

lunch

5- When you can, pack some food items that will last a few days. Order gluten-free in advance from your go-to gluten-free shops. Online shops like Gerald.ph at http://shop.gerald.ph/gluten-free will deliver to your home so you don’t have to go out to buy these things especially.

As you make these things a habit, bit by bit you’ll find each trip less focused on where and what you can eat and more on enjoying the experience.