WOW! I didn’t mean for the cliff hanger in Unmasking the Gluten “Villi-an” Part 1 to be more than two years long! I hope you weren’t kept waiting while it took so long to ambush the rest of the “Villi-ans!” But thanks for coming back to visit my blog, dear World. I will try to write more often than once every two years from now on!

There are some doctors who believe that this masked villain, gluten, is what drives about 1/3 of mankind’s chronic illness. It turns out that the “villi-an” gluten has its accomplices, so how much illness does that add up to? I promised in Part 1 of this article (so scroll down and read that part first) that you might be surprised at who and what they are. Well, I have captured them and am ready to expose their sinister faces. The line up is ready. Who are the other “villi-ans?” What other infamous (more than famous) foods can destroy the intestinal lining and wreak havoc with our health? I am so sorry to say they are some of your closest friends. I am truly sorrowful about their betrayal.

Are you ready? Are you sure you want to be healthy? Do you really want to know the rest of the story? Are you ready for gluten free 401? I am vacillating at this moment. I fear I am going to be labeled a bread bashing, grain trashing, squirrel of a health nut. Also, I am “sensitive” to the fact that you have been through a lot just dealing with the gluten thing. Maybe ignorance is bliss. Yes, it IS bliss. Forget it. I cannot go through with this. But wait, maybe health is better than bliss. Maybe health is bliss. I want to sleep tonight so I must expose the “villi-an” accomplices. My conscience is strong and the truth must prevail, so here they are:

Milk and corn and soy. Sorry. That’s it folks. They also possess the ability to destroy intestinal villi. They are the gluten accomplices. Sorry for the bad news.

It turns out that we, those of us who eat SAD (Standard American Diet), have lost our God given instinct to consistently eat a healthy diet. The Asians brought us soy, but they realized the need to ferment it to make it safer and then only ate it in limited amounts. Now, we drink it straight up. Soy as we know it and use it, is a problem. In a study by Perkkio, at Children’s Hospital, Helsinki (1981) villous atrophy was shown by jejunal biopsy of patients allergic to soy. Folks, you do not want your villi to atrophy, shrivel, wilt, or disappear. You want them to be like a thick, high pile towel that absorbs every drop of nutrition. The duodenum and jejunem are responsible for the absorption of a vast majority of calcium, iron, iodine, trace minerals, B complex and vitamin C. There are other reasons to avoid soy. One of them being the phytoestrogens that mimic our own estrogen. It is reported that feeding infants soy formula is equivalent to dosing them with five birth control pills worth of estrogen daily.

Then there is milk (casein.) We would be fine if we had stuck with goat’s milk since it is mostly devoid of casein, but some bloke took notice of a cow’s udder and had the brilliant idea that bigger is better. Cow’s milk can cause an enteropathy similar to celiac disease. It is called Bovine Beta Casein Enteropathy. It acts very much like celiac disease causing inflammation and an antibody reaction in the intestine which flattens intestinal villi making them unable to absorb those important nutrients. It might be the case(in) that feeding grains to dairy cows, instead of grass, increases the problem. And to complicate matters further, there are certain breeds of cows that produce healthier milk for people. Add to that the perils of pasteurization and homogenation which is a different and lengthy topic. ( It could very well be that raw milk from a monitored herd is actually healthy for us.) Got milked?

And finally corn. Corn, like modern wheat, is a cultigen, no longer at all like the early variety grown in Middle America. Ever heard of pellagra? It seems that corn can cause celiac like lesions in the intestine causing malabsorption of B vitamins. In addition, it has the wonderful attribute of making muscles fat. “Corn fed people” is not healthy.

Gluten grains, milk casein, soy, and corn all have common characteristics. All of them can destroy intestinal villi. They are “villi-ans.” Gluten and casein form a glue in the gut that coats the intestinal lining and prevents absorption of vital nutrients. But the worst scenario is if your immune system launches an immune response to the glue and destroys the intestinal lining and your villi in the process. This leads to leaky gut syndrome, so not only are you not absorbing your food, toxic peptides and other toxins are allowed to cross into the blood stream causing inflammation and immune reactions in far away places. The blood brain barrier can be crossed also, causing immune reactions, inflammation, and exposure to the opioid content of grains and milk in your brain. Gluten grains and milk casein have strong opioid components that can cause neurological damage. (gliadomorphins and casomorphins) Gluten grains and milk casein are diabetogenic. All four of this gang of ne’er do wells have harmful lectins that cause inflammation and tissue damage just by being in contact with organ tissue, especially the gut. I call this villain, “Hannabal Lectins.” The subject of lectins in foods is worthy of a lengthy and eye opening blog that will be coming soon, hopefully in less than two years time. The discussions on gluten are not complete without knowing about lectins. Be forewarned!

There are a few other elements in our diet that make matters worse. At the top of the list is sugar. I think we instinctively know that refined sugar in the diet is not good for us or our pets, but it is ubiquitous and highly addictive, and most people eat it all the time. High sugar intake makes every condition worse. It is the Godfather of villains. I encourage you to think of it as a toxin, because it IS one. And forget high fructose corn syrup, too, unless you want a fatty liver. Check out Dr. Robert Lustig’s video on youtube: Sugar: The Bitter Truth. You must know that the truth does set you free.

Nutritionists have the annoying habit of spoiling the good times for everyone. These food police exist because somewhere along the way we have gotten the idea that we can eat anything we want, whenever we want, and as much as we want, yet we would not consider feeding our dog that way. Some hardy individuals may seem to get away with it, however, I can assure you that there is a slow death going on. Someone once said that healthy people are really sick people who don’t know it yet. Wrong diet choices equals slow death syndrome.

The looming question is, “Why are these foods so common in our diets?” 75% of our calories come from these four foods. Why do they travel together in a pack and why do we crave these foods? Is this some kind of food corporation conspiracy backed by greed? Hmmmm?

We have been going the wrong way for a long time and the road back to health will not be easy. What is the price we are willing to pay to find our way back? If we took out all the processed health defying foods from the grocery store, we would have a little Ma and Pa corner grocery store once again, although maybe that is where we are headed for other reasons, too.

What is the problem here? We should have the instinct to choose what foods are good for us. Come to think of it, maybe the villain is US! And yes, let’s have a heart to heart about what foods ARE good for us…….sometime in the future. But don’t hang onto this cliff!

Talk to you soon!


I can sense the uneasiness about this supposed epidemic. It just doesn’t seem right to “villify” (vilify) the “staff of life,” does it? (The definition of “villify” is to slander the staff of life as the destroyer of villi in the intestine. Just couldn’t resist….) Many doctors think this is the new “fad diet.” The new “boutique disease.” Most are bothered and bewildered about this whole thing. We are mad, sick and tired, flummoxed. We don’t want to hear about it. We don’t want to do the diet or learn about GS or whatever the h-e-double hockey sticks she is talking about. I know, I KNOW, I am the big kahuna party pooper. Pasta lovers everywhere hate me and my blog. But then, people who get their lives back love me, so I guess I am even up on the deal. I can stand a little verbal abuse in return for the reward of seeing someone healthy again.

It is time to rip off the mask of this villain causing gluten sensitivity to stare it in the face and to identify what is underneath it all. You instinctively know down deep inside what is behind the mask, but it is hard to put your finger on it, especially when “it” has you in a brain fog headlock. It takes someone who has been pestered and devastated by this masked intruder for thirty years to finally rip off the mask in one desperate swoop.

As you happily travel down the road to gluten hell, a sign appears in the distance. You can just barely make out the words. “You…………….. are…………… going……… the….. wrong…… way. You are going the wrong way. Ha! How do they know which way I want to go!!” You continue down the road, ignoring the signs, when suddenly, headlights appear in both lanes coming toward you. You are going the wrong way.

Celiac disease has been with us. The condition was named, accurately described and written down 2000 years ago. But cultivated grains have also sustained civilizations (they are the reason civilizations could flour-ish) for 10,000 years, albeit with a price to pay health wise. Archaeologists tell us that there were changes in the skeletal remains of humans after the advent of agriculture, so grains are not the perfect food. Bones became diseased, stature shorter and brain size smaller, not exactly a small price to pay.

Grains are the perfect comfort food however, having opioid like substances that have a morphine like effect on the brain, so it is not hard to see why grains became the “staff of life” as comfort foods. Grains are a really a poverty food, an emergency storage food. About 4000 years ago this certain wise man named Joseph heard from God that a famine was coming, so he built a huge barn and filled it with grain for seven years and saved a whole bunch of people from starvation. It worked. They could not have all been doubled over with stomach cramps and frothy diarrhea. What is going on here? Why is this gluten thing seemingly getting worse? What is this supposed epidemic?

There are immunotoxic peptides in gluten that are recalcitrant to being broken down by digestive enzymes. A 33-mer peptide for α-2 gliadin is the principle to gluten immunotoxicity. Celiacs respond to this foreign invader with the production of antibodies. The immunogenetics of the disease implicate certain HLA DZ alleles as necessary for subsequent disease development. Work continues to progress in the unravelling of the molecular interactions involved in the pathogenesis of celiac disease……………………… In the meantime, people are perishing for lack of knowledge.

People for thousands of years knew how to properly grow and process grains to make them safer for consumption. These survivors possessed something called “wisdom,” a gift from our Creator if we take time to observe his ways. As a matter of fact God told us directly in the Bible in Ezekial 4:9 how to make bread so as not to leave us to our own devices. “Take unto thee wheat and barley, and beans and lentils, and millet, and spelt and put them in one vessel, and make bread of it.” We have only begun to understand the wisdom of that recipe, but a new protein is actually formed with this combination of grains and beans. I bet they soaked and sprouted and fermented the grains, too.

Grains contain anti-nutrients. Phytic acid binds with minerals in the intestinal tract and blocks their absorption. There are complex sugars the body cannot break down and enzyme inhibitors that inhibit digestion. Then there is gluten, the protein ready to spring into action when the seed is planted to supply energy to produce a plant. Gluten is very hard to digest and it is the undigested protein of gluten that signals the immune system that a foreign protein is present. All hell breaks loose in the intestines and you may be doubled over in pain or completely unaware of the dramatic warfare going on down below. Our wise ancestors soaked and sprouted and pounded and roasted and fermented their grains and they did it to ALL of their grains, even the ones we consider gluten free and safe.

The Japanese know about this. They make mochi from rice that has been soaked and then pounded into a uniform consistency and made into cakes and baked. The Russians know about it, too. They made tolokno. Oats were soaked for 24 hours and then set in a slow oven overnight. The oats would then be roasted and ground and made into a soup which was good for the digestion. The Africans know about it. They ferment teff to make injera bread. They also soak and ferment corn and millet to produce the sour porridge called ogi. The East Indians know about it, too. They ferment rice and lentils for several days to make dosas. Then there is sourdough bread. The American pioneers were famous for their sourdough breads and biscuits and pancakes. It turns out that all of these methods assist in the breakdown of gluten, anti-nutrients and the other naturally occurring toxins in grains. Fermentation helps to maintain healthy intestinal bacteria that are protective of the immune system and the lining of the gut. Besides that, these wise ancestors respectfully gathered and ground the harvested grain into course flour using huge circular milling stones. Bread was formed and baked by hand, imparting a strong and nurturing energy. The subtle energies of the grain remained intact.

In 2004, the results of a research project aimed at producing a sourdough bread that is tolerated by celiac patients was published in the journal of Applied and Environmental Microbiology. They selected sourdough lactobacilli that had peptidases capable of hydrolyzing the 33-mer peptide. The conclusion was that a bread biotechnology that uses selected lactobacilli, gluten flour and nontoxic flours, and a long fermentation time could decrease the level of gluten intolerance in humans. Apparently digestive enzymes are not able to completely break down gluten, but bacterial enzymes, the kind found in sourdough bread can! Our ancestors knew all about this without some fancy research lab.
DISCLAIMER: This article does not imply that GS persons can safely eat sourdough bread. This was a specific and controlled experiment.

So who is this masked “villi-an?” A “villi-an” is a villain who contrives an evil plot to destroy intestinal villi with gluten. Just couldn’t resist. Villain actually comes from the Latin word “villanus” which means farmhand. I refuse to comment any further on the word villanus. The villain I am referring to really IS a farmhand, however.

This modern villanus has been the contrivance of commercial wheat production. Modern bread wheat is now a very distant relative of the early grasses of our ancestors and is higher in gluten content. In 2006 a paper by T. Pizzuti was published in Gastroenterology reporting that in a study of the early wheat, Triticum monococcum, it shows a “lack of mucosal toxicity in celiac disease patients.” The gluten content of this early wheat was very low.

In addition modern wheat production is a study in pesticide application. The seeds are treated with fungicide and then the harvested wheat is sprayed with hormones to prevent sprouting and pesticides and more fungicide. The fiber and more nutritious part of the grain, the bran and germ are fractionated out and only the starchy endosperm remains for those “gourmet” white flour products. The flour is milled using high speed steel rollers and at high temperatures. Then it is assaulted with chlorine or bromine gas to bleach it. Alloxan is a byproduct of the flour bleaching process. Alloxan is a poison that is used to produce diabetes in laboratory animals so that treatments for diabetes can be researched. It destroys the cells in your pancreas that produce insulin. This is villainous.

The flour now has no natural vitamin E left, about half the calcium, seventy five percent of the phosphorus is gone, eighty percent of the magnesium, and about seventy five percent of the B vitamins are vanquished. The subtle energies of the grains are dead and no loving member of the family will impart his/her strength to the bread for the nurturance of others. Is there anything left? Yes, starch, chemicals, anti-nutrients, opioid components and gluten. This is a recipe from hell.

The flour is now ready to be baked by commercial bakeries into those addictive pastries and breads. They are baked quickly to insure a profit and the gluten and anti-nutrients remain intact. In contrast it takes four days to bake a loaf of traditional Russian sourdough bread. I firmly believe that these highly processed and finely milled particles allow far more undigested gluten peptides to come into contact with the intestinal lining and this is one very important reason for the worsening of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. Undigested gluten is the problem. It damages tissues both in the intestine and in unexpected and far reaching places as the proteins are leaked through the destroyed intestinal lining. If gluten is incubated in a petri dish with healthy tissue, it damages the tissue.

The next sign on the road going the wrong way is this. The…….. canary……. is…….. dead. The gluten sensitive are like the canary that was lowered into the mine to see if dangerous carbon monoxide fumes existed. If he died it was a warning not to go into the mine. We are the sensitive ones. Our dear gluten sensitive friends and relatives are the warning that we have gone the wrong way. The immune system of gluten sensitive people is doing exactly what it is supposed to do given the circumstances, it is just doing it better than most people because of our genetics. So the next time you meet a celiac, stick out your hand, pat him on the back and thank him for saving lives. My daughter and grandson saved mine, but there are still about 90 million lives to go.

So how do we propose fixing this 10,000 year old genetic mismatch that is made worse by the reckless production and processing of grains? How do we go the other way on this road to gluten hell ? The forthcoming answers from experts are making me stare blankly out my window, like a deer caught in those headlights coming the wrong way. One idea is to vaccinate all the gluten sensitive people against the virus researchers are looking for that seems to occur alongside the onset of celiac disease. I definitely won’t stand in line for that one! Another is to genetically engineer grains to be more digestible. Sorry, I won’t sign up to be a guinea pig for that one either! No thank you, Monsanto. How about digestive enzymes so everyone can eat whatever they like? One does exist, but it should only be used to protect against gluten contamination. Some continue to advocate new medications to alleviate symptoms so patients don’t have to implement such a strict diet. I suspect Merck, Monsanto, and Mills will never find the truth even though it is staring them in the face. They have brain fog and greed. Like Diogenes, I have lit a lantern but I am on a search to find the wise people. I can recognize the “villi-an” anywhere and I am most certain this villain has some accomplices that I will expose to view. You will be surprised at who and what they are. In the meantime there is no choice but to eliminate gluten grains for life.

Going the right way,


This article is simply an opinion to provoke thought. It is not intended for use in diagnosis, treatment, or any other medical application. See your gluten savvy physician for that.

© 2009 Margery J. Thomas. All rights reserved.

My saga of gluten woe began in 1975, but in reality years before. It is not unlike the so many stories that I have heard or read about, with the suffering and the searching for a diagnosis. Yet, my journey has some twists and turns that make it unique. There are lots of bits of information that will help you with the new understanding of gluten sensitivity. In the process, you will understand why my blogs are the way they are.

It began with a stomach virus that swept through our family of five with a quick vengeance. We all recovered in 24 hours, except for our one year old baby. Her digestion did not return to normal but persisted with intermittent diarrhea. I sought the advice of our pediatrician and he prescribed an antidiarrheal medicine that was opium based, although I didn’t realize it at the time. It didn’t really help that much and some days she was worse and some days better, with or without it. Thankfully, I instinctively used it sparingly.

I found that she improved for a time when I eliminated milk from her diet. Still, she continued to get worse overall. Thinking I should optimize her nutrition, I emphasized organic foods and grew my own sprouts and baked whole wheat bread….. Her immune system was now weakened and she began to have strep infections which led to a cycle of antibiotics plus medicine for the diarrhea that inevitably worsened from the antibiotics. In spite of “normal” check ups, over the next months her condition became frightening to me. In addition to a very distended abdomen and frothy diarrhea, she was now extremely irritable and spent some part of her days screaming and crying inconsolably. She could not bear to have her hair combed, so I lovingly combed it with my fingers. Her smile was gone. “I think she is becoming autistic,” I whispered. “I have to find an answer.”

On the way to the doctor’s appointment, I mentally rehearsed what I was going to say, but I never could have anticipated our pediatrician’s reply. The scene that day left me in shock for weeks and emotional to write about, even now. After observing her behavior, he glared at me and said, “Your child is not autistic. The reason she is acting this way is because you are not disciplining her!” I was speechless, never even mentioning the frothy diarrhea. I left with another script for an antibiotic and opium. We were in gluten hell.

On the way home, I stopped at the drugstore to fill the prescriptions and I asked the druggist what was in those drugs. He handed me an info sheet since it was before they included one in the packaging. My eyes filled with tears as I read the warning: “Contains opium. Do not use over a long period of time…..” I was horrified. They had given my baby opium over a long period of time!!! Thank God I had not used it very often. I tore up the prescription and fled the pharmacy with a fire to find the answer.

In that moment of desperation, I thought of Dr. Curtis Dohan as if his name were dropped from above into my consciousness. Dr. Curtis Dohan was an MD  who worked where I had worked as a lab tech in biochemistry research. He was investigating the high incidence of celiac disease in schizophrenic patients. I had not paid much attention to that facet of his work, but on this day I had an epiphany. ( Note: Opioid fractions in gluten grains cause addiction and brain fog. With any addiction there is “denial” when confronted with the possibility that a favorite substance may be harmful. You simply can’t hear the truth.) “CELIAC DISEASE!!! She has CELIAC DISEASE,” I cried out. I rushed home and called Dr. Dohan.  His immediate and frantic reply was, “Take her off from gluten now!” And I did and in three weeks she was better.

She was scheduled for an intestinal biopsy, which was, and still is considered by many, to be the gold standard for diagnosing celiac disease. As I sat in the waiting area, I continued to question why she needed a biopsy. “She is better,” I thought, “Isn’t that enough? If this diagnosis required medical treatment, then maybe, but the answer is to be vigilant over her nutrition.” The longer I waited, the less I wanted her to be subjected to a biopsy. She was finally feeling better after months of being sick. Besides, I didn’t even know what the risks of the procedure were and she had to have general anesthesia. I wondered how accurate the biopsy would be. What if they don’t snip a damaged area? Most importantly, what if the results were negative, would I go back to feeding her gluten? I stepped up to the receptionist and announced, “I changed my mind” and we left. We never did the biopsy and she never needed one to prove what she had. The diet proved it.

At the time, and even today, many “experts” believed that as long as there is no diarrhea, some gluten may be ingested to tolerance without consequence. We blindly followed that misinformation and later found that the effects of gluten can be far reaching beyond the intestinal tract and without the obvious symptoms. Never, never, believe the above bit of twisted information. There is no such thing as “low” tolerance. There is only “no” tolerance.

We will now fast forward to about 10 years ago when our daughter began having some frightening symptoms. Our very compassionate doctor told me he cried after he examined her. “Mrs. Thomas, I believe she has MS,” he said sadly. My second epiphany came a short time later. “What if gluten can cause neurological symptoms without the symptoms of celiac disease?” I thought. I encouraged our daughter to be 100% gluten free even though she did not have the former symptoms of celiac disease. The symptoms of MS disappeared, but it was not until we learned the lesson of “contamination.”

At about the same time, our daughter’s beautiful three year old son began showing signs of celiac disease. It arrived insidiously following an intestinal virus, little by little claiming its unwanted place in our family again. Initially, I started to have brief flashbacks as I contemplated our look alike grandson. Then the picture became crystal clear and unmistakable. Our grandson had celiac disease. I had thought celiac disease was “rare” so I was devastated to see it again in our family and it was the last thing I wanted to believe. So the second member of our family became gluten free and he got better. Totally better, in fact, but we were about to learn another lesson.

Our grandson was very sensitive to gluten and in spite of my best efforts, he kept getting “contaminated” at my house. So I cleaned out every speck of gluten, threw out my toaster oven and restocked my kitchen shelves making my home a gluten free safe place. We began investigating food companies and to our horror discovered that many of the GF food lists, even those printed by celiac disease associations, did not take into account contamination during processing or that the ingredients in the products from other sources might be contaminated with small amounts of gluten. We realized that if our immune system can recognize sub microscopic viruses, it can hone in on very small amounts of gluten, even as little as 20 or 30 parts per million. We also realized that eating out in restaurants was like playing Russian roulette. (This appears to be changing, now.) We perfected the definition of “gluten free” and accomplished a very pure gluten free diet. It made all the difference.

In addition, I decided to be gluten free too, so I could walk the same road with my daughter and grandson and be a loving and constant support for them. I did this even though “I had absolutely no” symptoms of GS or so I thought… The first thing that happened was I noticed my brain fog was clearing and I began to see things differently, more realistically as I moved out of “Glutenville.” Secondly, my body aches disappeared and my restless leg syndrome was gone. I could now go to the bathroom regularly and the frequent flu like symptoms disappeared, too. I woke up every morning refreshed and alert. I now was thinking clearly enough to be hot on the trail of a new paradigm.

I discovered a book titled “Dangerous Grains” by Ron Hoggan and Dr. James Brayly (see Resources). I digested the book in one day and it confirmed everything I had learned from my experience and more. The light had dawned. There is more to this gluten thing than celiac disease! I was in the book and I knew I was gluten sensitive and so were other unknowing members of my family.

At this point there were three of us who were gluten free, but one more would soon be added. After our middle daughter’s first baby was born, our daughter began to lose weight at an alarming rate. Once again, no symptoms of classic celiac disease were present, except for loss of weight. Instead of diarrhea, it was constipation. She decided to go to her doctor to request a test for gluten sensitivity. “But you don’t have the symptoms of celiac disease,” the doctor responded in a rather bemused and condescending way. She refused to order the blood work. A short time later, I found out about Enterolabs. (see Links). Her test results were positive for both gluten sensitivity and casein allergy. She became gluten free and her weight normalized and she got better.

Over the next months, one by one, most of our family became gluten free. Here is a list of our collective symptoms that disappeared quite dramatically in most cases:
Abdominal bloating, anxiety, behavioral issues, body aches, brain fog, canker sores, celiac disease, constipation, depression, digestive problems, flu like symptoms, headaches, hypoglycemia, irritability, learning problems, neurological symptoms, restless leg syndrome, skin rashes, weight loss, very bad grumpiness.

That is what gluten hell looks like. It is the portrait of a gluten sensitive family. Our portrait looks much different today because we are gluten free and healthy now.

As I sat one day in quiet contemplation I had my third epiphany. I began reminiscing about my life’s path and how truly blessed I am. I wondered what would have happened if I had not known Dr. Dohan and about the amazing inner guidance that led me to work in that research lab. I grappled with the mystery of gluten sensitivity and gluten’s insolent masquerade as the staff of life. I pondered its addictive nature and the reasons there is so much resistance to looking at the picture of gluten syndrome.

My most dramatic revelation came while looking backward in time at my family portrait. My father had been a “sickly” child and his last days were spent battling rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease. “I think it has to do with something I am eating,” my dad would often remark. He must have been intuitive, but who would have guessed it would take forty years and the next generation to figure out exactly which food it was.

As thoughts about the events surrounding my older sister’s death forced their way into view, I asked myself in quiet desperation, “Could it have been?” She had died before I was born and I grew up with a lingering and silent grief in our household. I began to cry softly. Joanie had died at the age of fifteen months of severe, “intractable” diarrhea following a flu. It was in 1940 and they simply didn’t know.

Margery Thomas

Disclaimer: This is my story and my opinion. It is not meant to advise, diagnose or treat a medical condition. Please seek competent medical help for medical conditions.

© Margery Thomas 2009. All Rights Reserved

Today I am visiting Bob’s Red Mill store or rather Bob’s Red Mill virtual online store. I am very impressed with this company and use their products often. Their gluten free labeled products are baked in a dedicated facility and each batch is tested using the R5 Elisa Test to ensure gluten free status. They have a wide variety of flour and flour mixes. Their new GF Pizza crust mix is one of our family’s favorite. CAUTION: They do make gluten containing products too, so be sure to look for the gluten free label.

A mere fifteen years ago, the diagnosis of celiac disease (gluten sensitivity that affects the gastrointestinal tract) brought dread because of the austere and limited lifestyle that lay ahead. There was a lot of isolation and loneliness. “She is a celiac child, poor thing,” people would whisper.

Back in those early days, gluten free gave new meaning to the words, “blase gourmet.” Chinese cellophane noodles or spaghetti squash were for pasta dishes. Attempts to duplicate pizza or pretzels or dumplings brought angst and frustration. (I did bake a great potato flour sponge cake.) Breads were crumbly and dry, but decent when toasted. Rice cakes and peanut butter and jelly were sandwiches. Grits were the only hot cereal. But, the tragic thing was that cross contamination was not even in anyone’s awareness. We knew so little.

NO LONGER! As you will come to realize, there is absolutely no reason to be downcast at the prospects of a gluten free diet. In fact, our whole family loves sharing recipes and new foods with each other. We have a great time at our family dinners, too. All of our homes are gluten free safety zones.

Here are a few of my favorite flours:

Organic Coconut flour. This is a delicious and healthy alternative to gluten grains.
Almond Meal flour. Great in cookies and sweet breads.
Black Bean flour. Great for bean dip and Mexican recipes.
Organic Flax seed. So very nutritious and high in omega 3 fatty acids.
Organic Brown Rice flour.This is a staple in baking recipes.
Creamy Buckwheat and Buckwheat groats.This is not a grain at all, it is a fruit. Yum.
Fava Bean flour. Add a little extra protein to baked goods.
Garbanzo Bean flour. Great for recipes to boost protein and to make hummus.
Green Pea flour. Create green pea soup or use in recipes to add fiber and protein.
Hazelnut flour. Yummy in baked goods. I love this nutty taste in things.
Hemp Protein powder. A great source of protein for shakes and recipes. Just don’t try growing it and smoking it……..
Potato starch. Make a dreamy light cake or use as thickener.
Sorghum flour.This is another grain from antiquity high in protein and fiber.
Tapioca flour. This is a grain free root.

I did not include millet flour, because some very sensitive people also have problems with millet. Quinoa is also suspect, for reasons yet unknown, so I will err on the side of caution and not include it. Teff and amaranth are usually OK but I am quite leery of grains, period. Corn is highly allergic and moldy so don’t load up on corn. I also recommend not using oats in the early days of transition, if at all, because some people do not do well on oats. I guess you could label me “grain free.” But bravo to Bob’s Red Mill for growing their oats in gluten free dedicated fields and for batch testing to make sure there is no incidental gluten. Bob has been inducted into my “Food Hero Hall of Fame.”
I am not a fan of soy either, for other reasons too complicated to mention now.

There are recipes on Bob’s Red Mill site, too. Oh, I almost forgot. There are cake mixes, brownie mixes, pancake mixes and more………

Austere? Bleak? Lonely? Isolated? Poor thing? NOT!

Be sure to : Visit Bob

With gratitude for every nutritious blessing, and that we are not “poor things” but very healthy, wealthy and wise.

Today’s travels have brought me to The Great Food Pyramid of the USDA, that antiquated monument to gluten gluttony. As I contemplate the foundation of the pyramid, I begin to question the wisdom of placing grains, and especially gluten grains of the wheat type, as a huge supporting base of a good diet. My mind wanders to the millions and millions of adults who are eating the recommended intake of 6 to 11 servings of grains daily, mostly in the form of wheat. I am even more concerned about the wheat/sugar based diet of American children. ” How is their health on such a diet?” I wonder. Actually, I don’t have to wonder. I KNOW how their health is.

But who am I that I should touch this sacred shrine to rearrange it a bit? I am so tempted, but I fear the gods would be angry. I think I will leave it alone, this manmade unscientific monolith, but I will suggest something for you, dear gluten free traveler. Before you rush out to replace all your favorite sugar laden gluten goodies with gluten free ones, begin to increase your intake of veggies and fruits and healthy fats and meat. Your carbohydrate/protein balance is a function of your metabolic type, not of an artificial edifice constructed by self interest groups. (More on metabolic types later.) Is there a place for gluten free grains? Of course there is, but in non addicted moderation! But maybe your food pyramid should look more like a not so tall Empire State Building and perhaps one day, so will the USDA’s. I hear they have been renovating.

And one more thing. If your digestion is really screwed up and you need to gain weight, see a health care professional who is gluten free savvy and who can carefully support you in your transition to health. Please don’t travel alone.

I wish you all the best,

© 2009 Margery J. Thomas. All rights reserved.

Is the following statement true or false? Gluten free foods are “Foods made from grains (and grain-like plants) that do not contain harmful gluten, including: Corn in all forms (corn flour, corn meal, grits, etc.). Rice in all forms (white, brown, basmati and enriched rice). Also amaranth, buckwheat (kasha), Montina, millet, quinoa, tef, sorghum and soy.”

It is true if and only if there is no co-mingling of these grains with gluten grains ANYWHERE in the processing of the grains from the field to the grocery store to the table. The above statement is very misleading to the new gluten free traveller. Based on the above statement, the unwary shopper is now celebrating that the corn chips she loves is gluten free. She rushes out to get some only to be sick for a week. Some diligent detective work reveals that the corn is processed in a mill that also mills wheat and to make matters worse the chips are fried in oil also used to fry gluten containing foods. REMEMBER: A grain is absolutely gluten free if and only if the company has batch tested it for gluten. This strict rule I apply hard and fast to grains since the likelihood of cross contamination is so high with grains. It only takes a few parts per million to signal your immune system that gluten is present. So beware, be very aware. You could end up in the Jabberwocky den with Alice. Answer: true and false. It all depends.

Staying on the right path,

Let’s take a look at how far we have come in the thirty years since celiac disease became a sign post on my journey.  Remember, celiac disease has been with us for a very long time, probably since the cultivation of grains 10,000 years ago.  It was first quite accurately described about 2000 years ago in the writings of a Greek physician, Aretaeus of Cappadocia, who called it “koiliakos” after the word for abdomen, “koelia.”  In 1857, Dr. Gee of London, England published a lecture on the ‘celiac affection’ in which he prescribed a diet low in ‘farinaceous food.’ But it was in the 1930’s that the Dutch pediatrician, Dr. Dicke, demonstrated that the removal of gluten grains was the cure for celiac disease.  This is a ridicously short history lesson, but I want to fast forward to where I came in, about 30 years ago, and compare what was understood then with what we understand now.

Back then in 1976, celiac disease was thought to be quite rare afflicting about 1:5000.  Celiac disease (and perhaps dermatitis herpetiformis) was thought to be the only symptom of gluten intolerance. Blood work that came back negative was the definitive proof that the patient did not have celiac disease.   The only signs and symptoms of celiac disease were diarrhea, weight loss, muscle wasting, failure to thrive, smelly stools, abdominal bloating, muscle cramping and irritability.  They believed that celiac disease was primarily a disease of malabsorption due to the destruction of the intestinal wall and secondarily a disease of vitamin and mineral deficiency.  As long as the patient did not have diarrhea, it was believed that it was safe to consume small amounts of gluten.  

Now we know that celiac disease is found in 1:111 individuals.  Celiac disease is only one subset of disorders caused by gluten intolerance and possibly as many as 1 in 3 is gluten sensitive.   Blood work is sometimes false negative for celiac disease.  The above listed symptoms are the obvious ones for celiac disease, but just as often, constipation or other digestive complaints are present.  In addition, there are many seemingly unrelated symptoms to celiac disease that can indicate an individual is gluten sensitive.  The most common symptom is depression.  Chronic liver disease, fibromyalgia, autoimmune disorders, neurological diseases, chronic pain syndromes, epilepsy, infertility, premature births, and skin rashes can point to gluten sensitivity.  Celiac disease is not only a malabsorption syndrome, it is an autoimmune disease and just one of the autoimmune diseases associated with gluten sensitivity.  And very importantly , it is never safe for a gluten sensitive individual to consume gluten.

Back then, in 1976, I knew of not one other parent of a child with celiac disease.  There were no certified gluten free foods and I had only 1 cookbook.  Now, I meet gluten sensitive people everywhere, there are certified gluten free foods in abundance and cookbooks galore.  What a difference 30 years and the gift of knowledge from heroic thinkers has made.  But then, without knowledge, people perish.

Many blessings,