Going Gluten-Free for Life

Tribune Media Services

Terri is a 38-year-old who traces her tummy problems back to high school. She has had off and on again fatigue, cramping, gas, bloating and mood swings. She has seen 11 doctors, and been told she is a "diagnostic dilemma" and has "atypical bowel syndrome."

No wonder. Terry has celiac disease, one of the few diseases that can absolutely be caused by -- and cured by -- what you eat.

The protein called gluten (in wheat, barley, rye and several other grains) is the problem. In more than 2 million Americans -- 1 in 133 -- gluten results in damage to the lining of the small intestine. That makes it hard for the body to absorb what you eat. Irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn's disease and depression can mimic and mask celiac disease.

The medicine? Savory, toothsome, gorgeous gluten-free pasta, nuts, vegetables, meats, seasonings and even beer. These foods can heal and reverse insomnia, depression and even osteoporosis in people with celiac disease.

Terri re-discovered cooking and began to cure herself.

She learned to simmer brown rice and millet in stock, toasting the grains first for a little nuttiness, and using the pilaf method for full flavors.

She gave up oatmeal, which is so often processed with the same equipment used to process wheat.

And she discovered quinoa. Quinoa is an ancient, quick-cooking, high-protein whole grain with all nine essential amino acids. You can use it as a side dish, as a bed for roasted vegetables and meats, or as a better-than-oatmeal hot breakfast cereal (see below).

Terri seemed to find gluten in everything -- cosmetics, soy sauce, toothpaste. You'd think she might have just given up. On the contrary, she found it empowering to discover what was in what she ate. And that good food, gluten-free, was the only way to heal herself.

So she filled herself with the best ingredients -- for her. Food became a joy and pleasure, because she tasted it fully and didn't overeat. And it changed her life.

Terri felt better than she had in 40 years! She dropped 15 pounds over four months. She learned that her son's diabetes indicated his risk, so he had the celiac blood tests, which were normal.

There is four times as much celiac disease in the U.S. as there was 50 years ago. No one knows why. Celiac disease is easy for doctors to miss: a single physician these days can seldom take the time to hear all of the patient's symptoms. So nearly all of those who have celiac disease have not been diagnosed.

Terri's case inspired me to create Gluten Free Quiz (www.glutenfreequiz.com) a free, personalized self-assessment of your risk for celiac disease. The completed quiz and your Gluten Free score can be printed from the Web site for personal use and to discuss with your doctor.

Could eating gluten-free really reverse Terri's insomnia, anemia and fatigue -- and taste as good as what she loved to eat before she found food that her body would love?

Absolutely! And a great part of a gluten-free diet is this recipe for Warm and Nutty Cinnamon Quinoa Cereal.

Warm and Nutty Cinnamon Quinoa Cereal

Makes 4 servings

Preparation Time: 5 minutes

Cooking Time: 20 minutes

1 cup organic 1 percent low fat milk

1 cup water

1 cup organic quinoa, such as Trader Joe's or Bob's Red Mill

2 cups fresh or frozen (and thawed) blackberries, organic preferred

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/3 cup chopped pecans, toasted

4 teaspoons organic agave nectar, such as Madhava brand

Combine milk, water and quinoa in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer 15 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed.

While the quinoa cooks, roast the pecans in a 350 F toaster oven for 5 to 6 minutes, or in a dry skillet over medium heat for about 3 minutes.

Once quinoa is done cooking, turn off heat; let stand covered 5 minutes. Stir in blackberries and cinnamon; transfer to four bowls and top with pecans. Drizzle 1 teaspoon agave nectar over each serving.

310 calories per serving, 30 percent from fat; 10.7 grams total fat; 1.1 grams saturated fat; 2.4 grams polyunsaturated fat; 4.3 grams monounsaturated fat; 6.8 grams fiber; 46.3 grams carbohydrate: 11.8 grams sugar; 10.3 grams protein; 46.5 mg sodium; 138.7 mg calcium, 36.4 mg magnesium, 269.4 mg potassium.

(John La Puma, M.D., is a board-certified internist, professionally trained chef and co-host of Lifetime TV's "Health Corner" with Joan Lunden, airing every Sunday morning. Visit www.glutenfreequiz.com and Dr. La Puma on line at www.drjohnlapuma.com. Recipe © "ChefMD's Big Book of Culinary Medicine (Crown, 2008). Photo © Heidi Swanson, 101cookbooks.com).

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