Almond flour has been a stable item in my pantry for a number of years now. In fact, when I get down to a single three-pound bag, I quickly get another on order. It provides a sweet, nutty flavor, that doesn't overwhelm you. It is an excellent gluten-free alternative flour and can be used as a 1-to-1 substitution for baking; extra eggs may be necessary to provide structure to your recipe and help with binding everything together. It can be used in cookies, cakes, bread, and a multitude of other items.
Almond flour comes from the almond nut. It is excellent for individuals that may be seeking a more tailored diet, such as, keto, paleo, high protein, grain-free, or low-carb. There are two ways it can be ground. The first is known as almond meal (unblanched), which is when the entire almond, including the skins, are ground to a fine consistency. The other way is almond flour (blanched), which is when the skin of the almond is removed and then ground into an even finer consistency. I personally only use almond flour, but everyone has their own preference when it comes to baking and consistency.
Almond flour provides some great nutrients such as vitamin E, riboflavin, manganese, iron, calcium, potassium, and copper. Also, almond flour is known for its health benefits. Some of those benefits include:
I ran across an interesting study regarding almonds and how well they assisted in weight reduction. 65 adults were either categorized as either overweight or obese. Half of them ate a low-calorie diet with their choice of complex carbohydrates each day. While the other half ate a low-calorie diet plus three ounces of almonds each day. Keep in mind the exact same amount of calories and protein were consumed by all of them. The results were somewhat mind-blowing. After the end of the 24-week study, there was a 62 percent greater reduction in weight/BMI, a 50 percent greater reduction in waist circumference and a 56 percent greater reduction in fat mass compared with the group that consumes the low-calorie complex carbohydrate diet. I think those are some pretty great results. By no means am I suggesting or encouraging you to run out and get on this low-calorie diet and eat almonds, but I find it fascinating that the almonds assisted in the weight reduction so prominently. It goes to show that little differences in the way we eat can go a long way in our health. Also, keeping in mind everything in moderation and too much of any certain food can get us out of balance.
I know for me learning about some those additional health benefits encourages me to continue to use as my base flour and keep it on hand. If you haven't made almond flour a stable in your pantry, I highly recommend you add it to your list.
I have been MIA...
I haven't been posting recently because I was putting extra hours in on my book that I just recently published. My book, Guts and Gluten: A Step-by-Step Guide to Gluten-Free Living, is now available on Amazon in paperback or eBook. It is packed with valuable information on gluten-free living. I have been getting great feedback and really appreciate the continued support!
I have a Confession to Make...
So instead of an informational article, I wanted to share a personal experience that took place a couple of weeks ago. Every other Saturday is our grocery shopping day. I typically go by myself instead of trying to juggle four children and keep my sanity. Unfortunately, I was battling a neck issue and was unable to drive safely, so my husband and the four kiddos had to chauffeur me on the outing (but they all hung out in the vehicle together while I shopped). I have quite the list to accomplish before my grandmother's surprise 80th birthday party at 11:00 am. I have to go grocery shopping, bake a gluten-free cake, and make it to the party (hopefully on time). I was already a little irritated for the late start, trying to get four children and your husband out the door can be a challenge. We get home by 9:50 am, I get inside and immediately start on the cakes (these were not a box mix but from scratch).
Nathan and the two oldest kids haul in the groceries. I get the cake ingredients in the oven and start getting the icing put together. The two lemon pound cakes get done, I pull them out, and at this point, it is about 10:35 am. I have to get these two hot cakes cooled, staked, iced, and prepared for transportation. Let me remind you that putting the icing on partially cooled cakes will not allow you to win on Top Chef. We are loaded up and heading to my parents' house at 11:02 am (they live about 5 minutes away). Here I am I can't turn my neck, the butter is separating from the icing on my cake, we are late, and I am imagining the looks and thoughts that are going to surround this cake.
The brighter side to this story is the cakes were honestly just for our immediate family (my husband, me, and our four children), to make us feel included in the festivities. Of course, anyone that wanted to have some they were more than welcome to, but my side of the family isn't gluten-free, and they had gotten a regular bakery cake from somewhere else. I am often trying to get my family to take nutrition more seriously, so when I make items I want them to look appealing and something they are willing to try. Needless to say, we are the only ones that ate the cake, and I can't say that I blame them if they were only going for outward appearance, but man it tasted SOOOO GOOD. Why do I share this experience with you? We often have this additional pressure to prepare and bring our food to feel included or not to offend others. Unfortunately, others don't understand that this way of eating isn't a choice, but indeed survival. Even if I had the option to be able to eat whatever I wanted again, I wouldn't want to go back. I have learned more about nutrition by being forced to eat this way; then I probably would have ever taken upon myself. That is why I try so hard to educate others about the importance of nutrition and the effects it has on our bodies. I want you to know the struggle is real. Initially, I was upset with the appearance of my cake, but my husband brought to light that it is actually a blessing in disguise. He made me laugh when he was happy it looked that way because it means we would have more to take home and eat ourselves. I guess there are benefits to crappy looking food. No matter what don't get discouraged, do what you have to do for your health, don't compromise to not to offend others, and know that you are not alone in the struggle. Also, don't judge a book by its cover because that cake was truly the bomb!
Below you will find a picture of the final product. No matter how many years of experience, things can still not turn out as you had imagined...stay the course and don't give up! :)
Selenium...The Thyroid Maintainer
What exactly is selenium and what does it have to do with my thyroid? There is a lot of medical terminology that could go into this blog, but I am going to try and keep it as simple as possible. Selenium is a trace mineral, also known as an element that is required for nutrition. It plays a vital role in thyroid function, along with other functions of the body. The pituitary gland is a tiny organ located below the brain and one of its roles is to produce and release the hormone TSH, thyroid-stimulating hormone. TSH tells or stimulates the thyroid to start making the thyroid hormones, T4 and T3. This process naturally creates a lot of oxidation and inflammation in our body, but thankfully we have a few antioxidant enzymes that help combat that and contain that oxidation. Glutathione is the most powerful antioxidant molecule we have and for our body to be able to make it, we need an enzyme called glutathione peroxidase (GPx) and thyroid oxidoreductase. Don't get caught up on the big words, just know that both of these are oxidation scavengers (antioxidants) and they are dependent on selenium. They help to contain the high oxidation that the T4 and T3 production releases. Another enzyme that is crucial in changing T4 to T3 is DIO. This enzyme relies on selenium as well.
Selenium is probably the most important contributor to the normal function of the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland actually has more selenium per gram than any other organ in the body. It has to be present for all of those enzymes to work properly in the process, production, and release of thyroid hormones.
If you are deficient in selenium or other nutrients we have to ask ourselves why, there has to be a reason. We may not be eating the proper foods or maybe there is something preventing us from absorbing it from the foods we eat. A culprit could be celiac disease, it deteriorates the microvilli in the small intestines, which compromises the bodies ability to absorb nutrients.
What to take away:
References/ Additional Resources:
How Important is Selenium for Thyroid Function (YouTube Video)
Essential Nutrients for Thyroid Function: By Dr. Scott Beyer.
Infertility is a sensitive and delicate subject and affects about 10% of the population (6.1 million Americans). I don't take it lightly, and I have compassion for the pain that it brings to so many women. My goal here is not to give false hope, but at the same time provide you with information that shows there are direct links with infertility and gluten. I want to be very clear that not all infertility issues are directly related to gluten, but for those who bare the struggle of not being able to conceive, this may be an option to try or at the very least investigate.
Multiple medical studies date all the way back to the 1980s that show the link between infertility and celiac disease. This article, Coeliac Disease, Fertility, and Pregnancy, from 1982 is a prime example. It shows the difference between celiac disease patients that follow a regular diet (not gluten-free) are relatively infertile, while celiac disease patients that follow a gluten-free diet show no difficulty getting pregnant.
There is another study from 1988, Adult Coeliac Disease Presenting with Infertility, this is a case study on a 21-year old that had been attempting to conceive and was unsuccessful. She had presented with no other symptoms then unexplained anemia (low iron), that was recurrent. Due to the anemia, they did further testing and eventually diagnosed her with celiac disease. After attempting to conceive for a total of three years with only two months of a gluten-free diet, she conceived and had a perfectly healthy baby.
Another medical study, Increased Prevalence of Celiac Disease in Patients with Unexplained Infertility in the United States: A Prospective Study, revealed that celiac disease plays a role with infertility. Out of the 188 patients that completed the study, 51 patients had unexplained infertility. The other 137 patients had other factors (i.e., endometriosis, ovarian dysfunction, etc.) that could be the culprit. Almost 6% of the patients who exhibited unexplained infertility were diagnosed with celiac disease. All four of those patients went on a gluten-free diet, and all four conceived within a year. Additionally, 8 patients were positive with the serologic testing (blood testing), but never underwent the endoscopy and were advised to follow-up with a gastroenterologist.
There are plenty more studies that support the link between unexplained infertility and celiac disease. I want to be very clear that this is not the case for everyone that is infertile, but when you have gone to specialists, and they don't have any reason as to why you can't conceive, gluten could be the culprit. So many women suffer from infertility and long for the day that they can conceive. If you have unexplained infertility, a viable option is a gluten-free lifestyle. Infertility can be the result of nutritional deficiencies, those include:
The Chicago Medical Center: Celiac Disease Center states, "610,000 women in the US experience unexplained infertility; 6% (36,600) of these women might never learn that celiac disease is the cause." Also, they state, "in the landmark prevalence study on celiac disease, investigators determined that 60% of children and 41% of adults diagnosed during the study were asymptomatic (without any symptoms)." This tells us you don't have to have symptoms to have celiac disease or gluten intolerance. I decided to write on this topic to bring awareness and that maybe there are women who are trying to conceive that will read this and benefit from it. If you are battling with any symptoms, including infertility, I strongly encourage you to keep searching, be your own advocate, don't take no for an answer, and don't give up.
There is a diagram created by Dr. Peter Osborne to illustrate the numerous nutritional deficiencies that can contribute to infertility. It helps you identify how many factors play into the role of conception and helps you understand how many other factors in your life celiac disease may be affecting in your life. You can click HERE to view the diagram.
Ataxia...Nothing to do with Calling a Taxi.
Ataxia is known as an unsteady gait or being off balance. Have you ever experienced that? Is it frequent or just every once in a while? It can be life altering in allowing you to perform your activities of daily living. I came across a fascinating article by Dr. Vicki Petersen and she discusses more in-depth the link between gluten and ataxia. Unfortunately, if a patient goes in to see their physician for such a symptom, it is almost unheard of that a physician would refer the patient to a gastroenterologist (stomach doctor). Their first referral would be to a neurologist (brain doctor). That has the potential to delay the diagnosis of celiac disease and continue to cause additional damage to the gut. Also, it doesn't include the additional medications that a patient may be put on to help "relieve" the symptoms. There are some astounding numbers that link celiac disease and ataxia together. Below Dr. Petersen discusses these numbers and their significance relating to celiac disease.
Dr. Petersen states, "I suppose they haven’t heard of the research that looked at 500 patients with progressive ataxia evaluated over a period of 13 years in the United Kingdom. Astonishingly, researchers found the following:
Dr. Petersen goes on to say, "In fact, less than 10% of those suffering from gluten-induced ataxia had any digestive problems at all. Over 90% of the patients whose ataxia was verified to be caused by gluten had absolutely no digestive complaints."
The medical definition of prevalence is the proportion of a particular population found to be affected by a medical condition. In the study referred to above, it is stating that out of the entire number of patients that suffered from ataxia, the percentages reflect the patients who had ataxia symptoms due to gluten. To break it down even more, out of all the ataxia patients, one in five patients had their symptoms caused by gluten. Patients with sporadic ataxia were one in four and patients with idiopathic sporadic ataxia is almost one out of every two. Those are high percentages relating to gluten-caused ataxia. We have to continue to bring awareness to physicians. I sympathize for the individuals that still suffer today because their physician refuses to believe that their symptoms have anything to do with gluten and our gut health. There are more and more studies being done regarding just how vital our gut health is to our overall health. If you have been diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, you know just how difficult it can be to get a diagnosis. For the individuals reading this article and are still searching for answers, don't give up. Today it is becoming more and more important to be an advocate for yourself and to find that physician that will listen to you.
Click the link below to read the full article:
Gluten Causes Ataxia by Dr. Vicki Petersen
To Keto Or Not To Keto (Part 2)
This article is a spin off from “To Keto or Not to Keto (Part 1). The keto diet dates back to the 1920s, which was originally created by Dr. Russell Wilder. Its initial use was for children that suffered from epilepsy who were unresponsive to drugs. Today, Dr. Gianfranco Cappello, an associate professor of surgery at the Sapienza University in Rome, Italy, plays a vital role in its advocacy. There are plenty of critics, but probably just as many supporters. I am only here to present the information, studies, and supply you with resources to help you do your own research; beyond living a gluten-free lifestyle, I am not currently supporting nor opposing any specific diet. Here are the different arguments regarding the pros and cons when researching the keto diet:
You may notice the contradiction in some of the pros and cons. Again I just deliver the information. I don’t believe there is a final verdict or will there ever be. Our bodies are not a one size fits all and each person is going to have to find what works for them and gives them the desired results; while still giving the body the nutrients that it needs to thrive. Sufferers of celiac disease have been deprived of vital nutrients for possibly years and it is extremely important to make sure you are replenishing those properly. The best first step for any individual, whether you have celiac disease or not, is to simply get off the gluten. There are no benefits your body receives from eating gluten. For those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, it is your only choice. Whether it is keto, paleo, or most importantly eating a balanced diet, all of those can be obtained by going gluten-free.
To learn some additional history on the ketogenic diet, click here.
HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training. It is a type of workout that has caught fire. That is because of the great results people see. It is a cardiovascular exercise with brief intense workout periods (ranging from 30 seconds to 2 minutes at a time) followed by periods of rest that you desire to last just a little longer. It definitely isn’t for the faint of heart, but can be modified to make it achievable for all ages and ability levels. I recently reached out to Chelsey Stewart, the owner, operator, and lead trainer of Chelsey Fit Factory. She specializes in HIIT classes and provides Heart rate monitored HIIT training at 400 Edgar Street in Evansville Indiana. I asked her to elaborate on the HIIT classes that she provides and this is what she said, “Typically in a HIIT workout you want to be at 80% of your max heart rate to be in your fat burning state. In my classes it varies: We focus on strength, cardio, and plyometrics. During these classes people typically burn 400-700 calories which is perfect. I would say it’s not all true in my opinion when it comes to who can burn the most. It matters most that you stay in that fat burning zone to see the most results (80% of max heart rate for at least half of the workout).” After personally participating in Chelsey’s HIIT class, I found it to be challenging, rewarding, and effective. One great thing about her workouts is you aren’t hanging around the gym for long periods of time, you know your results immediately (they even focus on keeping you in that fat burning range), but you also build a comradery with the fellow participants. A HIIT workout typically last about 30 minutes or so. During that time you are not only burning a large amount of calories, but you have kicked your metabolism into overdrive for the rest of the day. If you have the opportunity to participate in a HIIT class I highly recommend it. It is grueling and invigorating all that the same time!
Here is a great article, What Is The Best HIIT Workout?, that breaks down the different types of workouts, schedules, and what results you can expect to see. To check out more of what Chelsey Fit Factory has to offer click HERE or find her on Facebook HERE!
Wait! My Liver Does What...?
I came across an article that caught my eye regarding celiac disease and liver abnormalities. Liver abnormalities can refer to elevated liver enzymes that can be caused from multiple liver conditions. In celiac disease, those liver conditions can range from a mild inflammation of the liver, know as celiac hepatitis, to fatty liver disease, and even chronic liver failure. The liver plays an important role to the body and has hundreds of functions; some of those include:
According to Ruba Azzam, MD, a modest elevation of liver enzymes (AST, ALT) is found to be common in untreated celiac disease, occurring in 15%-55% of patients. Also, it is important to note that celiac disease has been found in as many as 9% of patients with elevated liver enzymes. Although more research needs to be done it is expected that liver enzymes will normalize on a gluten-free diet in 6-12 months with certain liver conditions, but has not been proven for all. Celiac disease patients should follow up with their physician if liver enzymes have not begun to normalize after 6 months. If you have unexplained liver enzymes that are elevated and have not been diagnosed with celiac disease, it would be beneficial to have further testing.
To go into greater detail regarding this topic, click on the link below and read the entire article.
Are Restaurants The Place To Be?
Wow! I shouldn't have been so surprised when I read the article below. A recent study of over 800 restaurants involving 4,723 menu items resulted in 32% of those items (1511 items) contained higher levels of gluten than FDA standards allot for an item being labeled "gluten-free." Keep in mind the FDA standards allows 20ppm of gluten. To learn more about the FDA standards you can visit my video, FDA Regulations.
To read the entire article, click on the link below.
To Keto or Not To Keto (Part 1)
What is all the fuss about keto? Keto seems to be on the forefront of peoples lips today, whether that is through talking about it or eating like it. What is keto and how can it benefit you? Keto is the term used for ketogenic, this is where the body, more specifically your liver, produces ketones when fat is the source of energy. We typically get our energy from glucose, which is supplied by the carbs that we eat. Keto is when you put your body in a state that it is burning fat instead of glucose. It can be done by the foods that you eat and/or by intermittent fasting. It requires you to take in a large percentage of healthy fats, moderate size of protein, and minimal amounts of carbohydrates. The percentages typically work out to be about 70% fats, 25% protein, and 5% carbs, but those can fluctuate a little. A ketogenic diet has been known to help enable weight loss. Also, it has been known to help with different medical conditions, such as epilepsy, dementia, and more. It doesn't focus on cutting or counting calories, but focuses on making sure to take in the proper percentages of whole fresh foods, such as vegetables, meats, and healthy fats/oils. There are plenty of companies that offer supplements to help "throw you into keto," but those can be expensive and honestly avoided if you monitor your food intake closely. Also intermittent fasting can be a great jump start as well. As with anything there is controversy on the keto topic, such as how long to stay on it, appropriate percentages, and much more. Before diving head first on the keto train you would benefit from doing your own additional research to make sure it is the right plan for you. It is always best to talk to your health care provider before starting any sort of a diet or major lifestyle change. No matter what the diet or lifestyle you are living, a lifestyle without gluten is always one that you will benefit from and doesn't come with any side effects. Hopefully this article gives you a little more insight and explanation on the ketogenic diet and if it may be a right option for you. Keep an eye out for my continuation on the topic of keto with “To Keto or Not to Keto (Part 2).”
What is a Symptom?
What exactly is a symptom? According to Merriam-Webster a symptom is subjective evidence of disease or physical disturbance; broadly: something that indicates the presence of bodily disorder. So what does that mean? To make it simple, a symptom is when you feel or see something is wrong with your body; this can be seen visually, like a rash or it can be something you feel, like pain or dizziness. Your body is sending you a message that something isn't right with it when you have symptoms. The symptoms are not the culprit or cause, they are the expression of the problem. To give you an example, you eat something and within five minutes you notice your lips are swelling up and it is becoming difficult to breath; your swollen lips and difficulty breathing are the expression that you just ate something that you are highly allergic to and you are now having an anaphylactic reaction. Another example is that you wake up in the middle of the night with a fever and have sinus congestion. The fever and sinus congestion are the symptoms and the culprit is the virus that you have contracted. I want to express how important it is to understand that if you are experiencing symptoms, the symptoms are not the problem and it is extremely important to find the cause of the symptoms. So often we want to just get rid of these symptoms instead of hunting for the culprit. Medical tests can be expensive, painful, and frustrating. Even after getting testing there are plenty of times physicians can't seem to find the culprit and tell you everything "looks" normal. Until the culprit is found your body can not function at optimal level. I discuss this topic because with celiac disease it takes an average of four to six years for someone to be diagnosed because the symptoms often are not related to the gastrointestinal tract.
I have done a video called "Symptoms of the Unknown," its purpose is to discuss the multitude of different symptoms that can be presented from celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Understanding that your symptoms are the direct result of a culprit is the first step to getting well.
In 2013, a study by Mayo Clinic and Olmsted Medical Center found that nearly seventy percent (7 out of 10) of Americans are on at least one medication and more than half received two prescriptions. Also it was noted that twenty percent of Americans are taking five or more prescription medications. I bring this to attention because if you suffer from celiac disease or gluten intolerance this could be causing you a problem. There are no requirements from the FDA for pharmaceutical companies to label gluten-containing medications. Although they are encouraging them to voluntarily do so, that doesn't mean you are home free. Remember that gluten of any amount can cause the continued inflammatory response that you have been experiencing. Being aware of what you are ingesting and putting on your body is a key element to the healing process of your gut. Check with your physician or with the pharmaceutical company directly to assure that your medication(s) do not contain gluten.
Gluten-Free Drugs is a resource about gluten-containing medications. This is a great starting point, but does not take the place of contacting your physician or the manufacturer company to get a full list of ingredients.
Below are additional articles discussing this matter.
FDA Issues Gluten in Drug Products and Associated Labeling Recommendations
7 out of 10 Americans Take Prescription Drugs
Recently I ran across a question regarding lactose and dairy free labeling. I know it sounds like this doesn't deal with celiac disease, but bare with me. If you begin eating or increasing your dairy intake and notice new symptoms, increased symptoms, or don't see improvement after going gluten-free, it could be related to a lactose allergy.
Your body requires lactase to breakdown the lactose in foods. Lactase is the enzyme our bodies make to breakdown lactose. Lactose is a sugar that naturally occurs in milk and other dairy products. Here is the kicker, lactase is made by the microvilli in the small intestines. In celiac disease, the microvilli are damaged, so in turn lactase is hindered in its ability to produce. This can create a lactose intolerance, which you may never have had before.
There is a study (from the source listed below) that shows individuals diagnosed with celiac disease suffering from lactose intolerance can become tolerant of lactose again after following a strict gluten-free diet. Actually one out of 15 individuals recovered from their lactose intolerance within 6 months and nine out of the remaining 14 recovered within 12 months. It is probably safe to assume that the healing of their microvilli allowed the lactase to be produced properly again and allowing the breakdown of lactose.
It is necessary to understand that every individual that is lactose intolerant does not have celiac disease, but it could be related to a condition called lactase deficiency. This deals with just genetic make-up and the inability to produce enough lactase, but has nothing to do with celiac disease. But it is important to note that if you do suffer from celiac disease it would be beneficial to be tested for a lactose intolerance to make sure your symptoms are not continuing or being increased due to the damage that has occurred to your microvilli.
Now I want to bring clarification on lactose free vs dairy free labeling because they are different. Lactose free does not mean dairy free. Lactose free products don't contain lactose, but may still contain other dairy components. If it says dairy free you know you are safe from dairy, lactose, and casein, but lactose free you are still taking a chance with dairy. Understanding whether you are lactose intolerant or have a dairy allergy is important in identifying what precautions to take.
Ojetti V. et al. Regression of lactose malabsorption in coeliac patients after receiving a gluten-free diet. Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology. 2008;43(2):174-7.
Oral Health in Celiac Disease
After reading an article from The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, they brought great awareness about oral health. We don't often think of oral health as something that is linked to celiac disease, but it truly is. With celiac disease your body lacks lots of nutrients due to the small intestines inability to absorb them; that is caused from the inflammation and damage that has taken place with ingesting gluten. With having inadequate nutrition our teeth suffer. Symptoms range from canker sores (aphthous ulcers) to defects in tooth enamel (enamel hypoplasia) to delayed tooth eruption. Although oral health is important at all ages, children are at a higher risk because of the development taking place. Paying close attention to your oral health can help identify a problem and provide early intervention before irreversible damage is done. The article below goes into greater detail on the topic.
Below is a link to the article regarding oral health from The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center.
Hello, my name is Rachel. I am a wife, mother of four beautiful children, and a registered nurse. I have a passion for educating people on nutrition. I strive to "Put life back into your lifestyle," by connecting you to the most up-to-date and accurate information regarding gluten-free living and other topics on nutrition. Check out my blog, website, and feel free to drop me a line!