Although it’s true that there may be an overload of news regarding additives and other problems with our food sources, overall the heightened awareness of what we put into our mouths has the potential to keep us healthier. One of the benefits of living and working in Sedona is, I believe, a heightened sense of health consciousness above the average American.
It has been ten years since my husband first began suffering with a mysterious severe skin condition that left his hands and feet cracked and bleeding. Nothing seemed to work until a wise word from my sister suggested that he may have a wheat or gluten intolerance. A simple test of removing wheat from his diet proved that this was, indeed, one of the major culprits. He has since been living wheat and gluten free—enjoying improved health and with minimal skin problems.
When we think gluten intolerance, often celiac disease comes to mind. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that is triggered when the person eats or comes in contact with gluten. Symptoms can include days of severe digestive distress including vomiting, diarrhea, cramping, and eventually weight loss. The Celiac Disease Foundation estimates 1 in 100 people have the disease, many going un-diagnosed.
Beyond Celiac estimates that 18 million Americans have a non-celiac gluten sensitivity. There are available blood tests to identify food allergies and sensitivities; however, the tests may not show the less severe conditions. Like my husband, if you suspect a gluten sensitivity, you may want to practice the tried-and-true method of listening to your own body. The most common way to identify a gluten sensitivity is to go gluten-free for three to four weeks and watch for improved health. Then, reintroduce gluten to your diet and see if the symptoms of bloating, brain fog, cramping or other issues return. Gluten is found in many food products in addition to grains such as wheat, barley, rye, kamut, and spelt. Veggie burgers, sweeteners, processed foods like soups, meat, and condiments all may contain gluten.
A wheat sensitivity presents similar to a gluten sensitivity—with digestive distress, fatigue, and skin conditions among the symptoms. One source states that much of the wheat available in the U.S. today is “dwarf wheat.” Dwarf wheat contains a higher level of phytic acid—a protective coating found on grains that is hard for us to digest. Additionally, some sources cite pesticides and other processes used in wheat production could contribute to the rising sensitivity to foods containing wheat. (www.beyondceliac.org.) Interestingly, too, whereas wheat has served as an important source for iron, zinc, copper, and other important minerals, levels of these beneficial minerals are decreasing in the U.K. (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov) Check with your primary care provider if you have questions about wheat and gluten sensitivity; information in this column is intended for informational purposes only, not medical advisement.
While life changes may make us anxious—especially when permanent eating habits are involved—take heart if you have, or think you may have a gluten or wheat sensitivity. There are many alternative choices on the grocer’s shelves nowadays, and more coming out all of the time. Gluten/wheat-free breads, crackers, snacks, cookies, rolls, and pasta are available at most major grocery stores. A delicious and healthy cauliflower pizza crust is available for those who like to make their own home-baked pizza. Many stores have a selection of boxed cookie and cake mixes although be advised—these products have high sugar content.
At the Sedona Community Center we endeavor to provide the most nutritious meals possible for local residents who have lunch with us onsite or receive the Meals on Wheels delivery. Suggestions for improvement to our services are always welcome—our services are for, and all about, the local residents. Also, please remember that Meals on Wheels is available short-term for adults recovering from injury, illness, or surgery. If you, or someone you know, can benefit from the home delivered food service, please call us at 928.282.2834.