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November 11, 2022:

Going Gluten Free? What CAN you eat? And a recipe!

Last week we went over the common signs and symptoms of gluten intolerance, along with the different levels of sensitivity. It can initially feel jarring to think about which foods need to be avoided and how best to navigate it. With time and practice, I promise it gets easier! The good news is that there are so many foods that are still available for you to enjoy. I will go over what to keep in your diet, along with one of my favorite recipes that is super easy and delicious!

What CAN I eat?

Foods that are naturally gluten free are all whole, unprocessed fruits and veggies, animal products (eggs, meat, fish), unflavored nuts and seeds, certain grains, and most dairy. Legumes such as lentils, garbanzos, and black beans are not only gluten free, they are packed with nutrients and fiber.

Grains that are not gluten free are wheat, rye, barley, spelt, farro, and triticale. Grains that ARE gluten free are rice, corn, millet, amaranth, and quinoa. For example, flour tortillas commonly used to make burritos are not gluten free, while corn tortillas used to make tacos, are. Oats can be produced gluten free, however some bodies are still sensitive to gluten free oats, so be careful. The majority of dairy is gluten free, except for blue cheese, due to the way it’s fermented. Coffee and most teas are gluten free, along with juice and seltzer. Watch out for teas that contain barley. It isn’t super common, but some sleepy time teas use barley. Unflavored alternative milks (almond, soy, hemp, coconut) are also gluten free, with the exception for oats.

A common breakfast for me is an egg scramble cooked in high quality fat (organic coconut oil or grass-fed duck fat), along with a mix of greens, avocado, fresh basil, and sea salt. I like to pair it with a starch, such as brown rice or steamed sweet potatoes. Lunch and dinner are usually pretty similar to each other. I have a starch (potatoes, sweet potatoes, quinoa, or rice), lots of fresh veggies, and a protein. The recipe in this post is a go-to lunch or dinner for me.

It is possible to have food intolerances other than gluten, especially while the body is healing. If you notice reactions to other foods, play around with swapping them out for a short time, to see what happens.

When choosing fruits and veg, try to select organic, non-GMO foods as much as possible. This will help to avoid pesticides, which cause inflammation in the body. It’s important to be picky at least in the beginning, while the body is still healing from the impact of gluten sensitivity.

Eating whole, unprocessed foods is a great way to ensure you are getting the nutrients your body needs so it can heal. For example, choose apple slices instead of apple chips. Processed foods have been made to be shelf stable so that they can be produced en masse and sold cheaply. The impact is that processed foods are lower in nutrients and higher in chemicals.

Here’s one of my favorite recipes, I hope it inspires you on your gluten-free journey!

Roasted chicken thighs with Inflammation-reducing veg

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 40 – 50 minutes

Equipment: a good knife, cutting board, baking pan, and oven

Why I like this recipe: This recipe provides a mix of good fats from the chicken thighs. The red onion provides flavor, along with inulin, which is important for gut health. Onions are also a natural anti-histamine. Fennel is an anti-inflammatory and a carminative, which means it breaks up gas and soothes the digestive system. Garlic helps to balance gut bacteria. Fresh herbs provide antioxidants that lower inflammation. Sea salt supports health stomach acid production, which is necessary for digestion. I love to pair this recipe with brown rice and a side of roasted squash.

This recipe is also easy to batch produce. If you have a big enough pan, feel free to double the quantities. With the amount listed below, this is about 4 meals. I love this because it takes minimal preparation and then the whole thing goes in the oven, and you can go do other things or take time to rest.


4 Pasture-raised chicken thighs (boneless skinless are easier to deal with, bone-in skin on are more nutritious

1 small red onion, diced

1 medium fennel bulb, sliced

3 – 4 cloves of garlic, minced

Fresh herbs – I use what is in season: basil, thyme, rosemary are all great!

The juice of half a lime

Sprinkle of sea salt

Sprinkle of black pepper


Preheat the oven to 375F.

Prepare all of the veggies by dicing the onion, slicing the onion, and mincing the garlic. For the fennel, slice off the tough bottom root and the green fronds. You can use the fronds to make soup stock, or just compost them. Then slice the fennel the same way you would an onion. Place all of the veggies in the bottom of the baking pan. Squeeze the lime juice over the veggies. Sprinkle the salt and pepper and then mix in the fresh herbs. Mix these ingredients to make sure the herbs and lime juice are evenly distributed.

Arrange the chicken thighs on top of the veggies, with a little bit of space between each piece of chicken. Optionally, add more salt, pepper, and herbs to the top of the chicken.

Place the dish in the oven and bake until it reaches an internal temperature of 165F, about 40 – 50 minutes. It may be a little longer if they are whole chicken thighs. Let it rest for ten minutes, then enjoy!

Next week we’ll talk about navigating the holidays while maintaining a gluten free diet. I’ll talk about cross-contamination and common foods that contain secret gluten.

November 4, 2022

What is gluten, anyway?

Over the next four weeks we’ll be exploring all things gluten free, starting with a question I get asked all the time: what is gluten?

What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein that is found in certain grains, the most common is wheat. The others are barley, rye, farro, and triticale. While oats do not contain gluten, they do contain a similarly-shaped protein, called avenin. These proteins are notable because they cause an immune system reaction in some (but not all!) people. This can be due to various reasons, including Celiac Disease, Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity, impaired digestion, or chemical sensitivity. Not all grains contain gluten. Grains that are safe to consume for someone who is gluten sensitive are rice, corn, amaranth, and millet.

The types of reactions to gluten can vary, however sensitivity can frequently cause rashes, gas, bloating, IBS-like symptoms (constipation, diarrhea, pain), heartburn, reflux, brain fog, sinus problems, trouble concentrating, and poor memory. Since it activates the immune system, it can also cause flu-like symptoms, such as body aches, joint pain, and extreme fatigue. Gluten can cause on-going inflammation, which can damage the digestive system and create nutritional deficiencies. These deficiencies can lead to other imbalances, specifically in the thyroid, which can lead to increased anxiety.

What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac Disease is an autoimmune condition, caused by genetics, where the immune system attacks the body’s own tissues after an exposure to gluten. Exposure usually means eating gluten, even a small amount, but it can also include skin contact or inhaling particles, especially flour. For someone who is very sensitive, eating even a few breadcrumbs or licking an envelope (many glues contain wheat) can cause a reaction. In general, the tissues that the body attacks are the small intestine, though it can also affect the nervous system, larger digestive system, and the endocrine system (hormones).

Diagnosing Celiac Disease can be tricky. Since it is genetic, if others in the family are sensitive or have been diagnosed, this is a clue that it is Celiac. There is a blood test that looks for antibodies to gluten. A positive test for this indicates Celiac. This test is minimally invasive and is now easily available to consumers. It is possible to get a false negative to this test, especially if you have already cut out gluten. If someone has intolerance symptoms, I strongly encourage getting tested before making long-term dietary changes. If you want to get tested after having cut out gluten, you would have to eat three slices of bread per day for a month before taking the test. For those of us who are very sensitive, that would be torture!

The other way is through a biopsy of the small intestine, which is considered the gold standard in diagnosis. This procedure is invasive and can also produce false negatives. In some respects, a formal diagnosis doesn’t matter if you know you feel better when avoiding gluten. The upside to getting diagnosed is that it provides information on how strict you need to be and it can be helpful in setting boundaries. Someone who does not have Celiac might be able to reintroduce small amounts and still feel ok.

The most effective way to manage Celiac is to avoid gluten completely, which includes avoiding cross-contamination of cooking surfaces and oils. Since oats can be inflammatory, I usually recommend avoiding them initially, then slowly adding them back in to see if they’re ok.

Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity

Not all gluten intolerance is Celiac! It is entirely possible to react to gluten without having Celiac, this is called Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity. Gluten is a complex protein that has gotten larger due to GMO farming practices and can be difficult for some bodies to break down. This can cause inflammation, which can further disrupt digestion. NCGS can also be caused by sensitivity to chemicals. This would include synthetic perfumes, harsh cleaning agents (bleach), or exposure to pesticides. When wheat is harvested, it is sprayed down with Round Up, a pesticide that is toxic. Sometimes, reaction to wheat is actually a reaction to pesticides or other chemicals. This is more likely in someone who is regularly being exposed to chemicals or is generally sensitive to them. In addition, processed grains such as white flour are refined through chemical processes, increasing their toxic load.

When digestion isn’t working properly, the body can’t take in the nutrients it needs. Without the proper vitamins and minerals, the body has a hard time making stomach acid, which it needs to properly absorb nutrients. It’s a vicious cycle where inflammation leads to poor digestion which leads to nutrient deficiencies, which increases poor digestion. Inflammation also disrupts the microbiome, the community of bacteria, viruses, and fungi that live in our gut and help us maintain health.

Depending on sensitivity level, it may be possible to increase tolerance. This can be done by boosting digestion, choosing organic whole grains, avoiding highly processed and refined foods, increasing intake of fruits and veg, and minimizing life stress. All of these decrease inflammation and boost the absorption of nutrients. It makes sense to try these strategies before deciding to cut out gluten forever. It’s also possible to minimize gluten intake by eating more non-gluten grains and focusing on whole, nutritious fruits and veg.

Another question I get frequently, is should I cut out gluten? My answer is, if you think you might be sensitive, take it out for a short period of time and see what happens! It can cause such a wide variety of symptoms, that it’s worth playing around with taking it out for a week. During that time, focus on whole nutritious foods and plenty of filtered water. Next week I’ll get into gluten free recipes and foods you CAN eat to nourish you wherever you are in your stage of healing!


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