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The Degrees of Gluten Intolerance April 15, 2011

Posted by Melonie Gallegos in Living It.
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It’s black and white with shades of grey. There is one prescription for preventing gluten triggered illnesses. Don’t eat it.

It gets fuzzy when we question how much? It depends on an individual’s root condition and on the level of sensitivity their body has developed to ingesting gluten or wheat.

1. Wheat Allergy
People who have a physical allergy cannot have any wheat in their diet without quickly feeling symptoms. As with any allergy like peanut or shellfish they can experience hives, rash, belly ache and so on depending on their allergy level. You can test for this with your doctor and even get details on how allergic. This is where there is high concern for cross contamination when eating in a restaurant.

3. Celiac
A person with Celiac Disease cannot ingest gluten without it having long term affects on their health and digestive system. Depending on how damaged their system is, one person may be able to eat wheat with no noticeable symptoms, while another will get sick immediately. Your doctor can test for Celiac and it often goes undetected for years in people.

3. Intolerance
…Can be among others things a lack of enzymes in one’s digestive system to process gluten making it uncomfortable if not intolerable. This condition is not well studied by the medical community. Diagnosis starts with an elimination diet, then by ruling out allergy and Celiac. Tolerance levels will vary and it’s not likely that a speck of wheat flour flying around the kitchen will lay you out as it would an allergic person.

I would like to see a movement in the medical community and in the food service industry to better categorize gluten free menus, nutritional information and levels of intolerance. In the end empowering us to better understand our own bodies and make our own food choices in an informed manner. Case in point, I am intolerant yet find myself arguing with food servers that I can handle a speck of flour dust in my salt from their combined kitchen, because I’m not allergic. It’s not a diet fad. There are medical reasons for gluten free living. It’s the learning and understanding of this that is the latest fad. So jump on the wagon.


3 Myths That Make You Fat On A Gluten Free Diet April 1, 2011

Posted by Melonie Gallegos in Living It.
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Excluding wheat can mean a complete mind shift in the food combinations we select. Many people gain weight because their body is suddenly able to absorb nutrients that were blocked previously by the irritation wheat brought about in their digestive system. The transition to a gluten free diet can result in a healthy diet.

Here are three myths that will turn your gluten free diet into a fat fest:


Myth 1: I can’t eat this without the sauce

Let’s face it, we lose the sauce. Most finishing touches and texture like crusted macadamia or tempura contain flour. So we turn to butter, cheese and cream for comfort. You will end up packing on thousands of extra calories intended to nurture small calves into cows, let’s rethink this approach.

First, let’s dispel our own personal myth that we need to smother our food with something to make it better. My Oma (grandma) taught me early on with her simple German “farm to table” cooking that the natural flavor of food is wonderful. She would get disgusted when as a five year old I would ask for cheese on my veggies. “You’re smothering the natural flavor” she would say, “try it first.” When is the last time you had a high quality steak without gravy smothering its natural taste? Or really tasted your potato, instead of a mouth full of sour cream? Ask for your food to be prepared in olive oil vs. butter. Purchase butter substitute that contains olive oil. I like Best Life Buttery Spread. I’m not saying to eat dry food, use oil and sauce in moderation.

A little olive oil, salt and pepper can bring out the natural flavor of your food and you’ll rediscover eating. Listen to Oma. Unlike Oma, I’m willing to make a deal. If you do not like it, don’t eat it at all.

Myth 2: Meat is my only option

When the gluten options are eliminated from your restaurant menu what’s often left is meat or a salad. I know. I’ve been there. A steak with veggies no sauce. A burger no bun. And who wants salad for dinner? OK I’m raising my hand I do occasionally because I really, really like veggies. I am not a vegetarian. I am for a week every year when I go on my cleansing diet (to lose toxins not weight). Each time I go through this exercise it’s apparent that I have the false perception a “meal” must contain meat, fish or chicken to qualify as a main course. Untrue by the end of the week. I am fully satisfied with my grains and veggies. Eating vegetarian requires eating more frequently but what it does for digestion is a beautiful thing. My craving for savory flavor will prevent me from ever going full veg. But I become aware that in our culture we can give non-meat dishes a little more love.

One of my favorite lunch dishes is called mujadra – lentils mixed with rice and spices, topped with salsa fresca and sliced avocado. It traditionally includes pita which is a wheat flour bread so I pass on that and add the avocado. When eating at a steakhouse I go for the petite filet (although I love rib eye it’s a monster) and order two sides of veggies or rice and every time I eat dinner I start with a salad. That leads our discussion on dressings….

Here’s how it translates to real life – eat more grains, beans and veggies than meat each meal. If you hate veggies, completely legit. Experiment. If you are not willing to try them at all, not legit.

Myth 3: Salads are low fat

The truth is a salad is as low fat as YOU make it. If you sit down at a restaurant and say to yourself “I’m going to eat healthy” then continue to order the buffalo chicken salad smothered in cheese with ranch dressing, you may as well have ordered the burger. We need fat in our bodies. Just not as much fat that’s served up in America’s processed foods and dining establishments.

The easiest way to lower your fat intake is to keep your meal simple. And, watch out for junk dressings. I categorize junk dressings as those containing corn syrup, milk, cheese, and preservatives. Dressings to check out: italian, french and thousand island. Ask what’s in them and if it comes from a bottle, pass. In the grocery store read the label and select a natural, high quality dressing. If there is not a good option available to you, try olive oil and balsamic and mix it up yourself. I’ve yet to find a restaurant that doesn’t have this on hand. And, the simplicity of this dressing allows the natural flavors of your food to come through. If you need cheese on your salad opt for a sprinkle of goat cheese or parmesan. Keyword sprinkle. Good to fatty foods: grilled chicken breast, lean steak, salmon, avocado, and beans.

Keep it simple, avoid junk dressing, and eat good fat.


The Trick to Getting Your Restaurant Order Back Allergy Free March 25, 2011

Posted by Melonie Gallegos in Living It.
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How many times have you had “the talk” with your server or cook about your food allergy/intolerance to no avail? I can tell you too many. It seems 4/5 times when I order I have to send back it back. My favorite is getting a giant piece of bread in the middle of my wheat free dish. Not to mention mistakes you can’t see but emerge later as a mysterious tummy ache.

The problem is communication. From the manager, to the waitress, to the cook, to the end of the line who puts the final dressing on your plate. I found a solution that has helped a great deal. The laminated allergy card.

It’s available for multiple foods and languages. And here’s why it works:

  • Laminated: You give it to your server and because  it’s laminated it seems to always make itself back with the bill. Maybe because it carries the plastic importance of an ID or credit card. My paper versions were always one use.
  • Travels with Your Order: The server attaches the card to your order and it is passed back to the cooks without relying on an uneducated translation of what you had to explain. My favorite question when I say I cannot have wheat is, ummm can you have rice or potatoes? No, America does not know where their food comes from. It’s a sad learning through this process.
  • It breaks down language barriers: The truth is that even in your expensive or quality restaurants many of the people back in the kitchen preparing your dish are immigrants. There’s nothing wrong with it except that it presents a break down in communication between the person taking your order to those cooking your order. I am not making this up, I’ve had servers and managers explain this as the source of the issue after several order mishaps in different restaurants. The allergy card has clear pictures with symbols. No English necessary.

The Select Wisely card is about $8 and it comes in the mail already laminated. I carry it in my wallet and can tell you it’s worth it.

One more way to fool proof your order…

Confirm with who ever is delivering your plate that it adheres to your food allergy. Sometimes it is not the server and there are finishings on the plate (a little sprinkle of cheese to your lactose free pasta) they didn’t catch. It also makes the server think twice to check her plate and the kitchen.

If you have a dining out allergy free horror story or more tips please share with us in comments.

What’s your gluten tolerance level? March 18, 2011

Posted by Melonie Gallegos in Living It.
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heart breadIf the answer is “I don’t know” join the club. I’m intolerant, not celiac or allergic. According to my nutritionist I should test my tolerance levels with hopes of building my tolerance level up. With many cravings and this hopeful advice I have been braving it to determine how much I can take. Intolerance is a moving target. You feel OK them bam you wonder what happened.

This is how it goes. I can eat bread for two days straight. Then I think well, let me try REAL pasta. About the third day in I begin to bloat and run into digestive symptoms. I guess I can handle one to two doses per week. But hey that’s better than nothing. I miss bread so much I went to the special bakery and paid $8 for one loaf of an organic honey rosemary blend. It was worth it for the taste and if it’s going to be a treat, I’m going to splurge. Forget the Wonderbread.

…although I occasionally crave that too…with tuna or crunchy peanut butter and grape jelly. The cheap kind. It’s a lunch box nostalgia.

I’ve seen several specialists at this stage it’s hard to keep them all straight. The diagnosis is the same with every test, they know nothing. One doctor mentioned it is not possible to build back tolerance (which would mean building up production of the enzymes to digest the said intolerable item).

Do you have any facts or experiences on this? I’m looking for clarity. Comments appreciated.

Put Down the Pills! 10 Holistic Digestion Remedies for Your Aching Tummy March 10, 2011

Posted by Melonie Gallegos in Living It.
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Food intolerance leads to digestion problemsDigestion is a tricky thing. For those of us who are intolerant to certain foods it is a medical mystery. And, trying to pin point what you ate to cause your tummy troubles in a any given day is a guessing game. To further complicate the issue, if you ate out you would never know every ingredient in your dish unless you stood over the chef watching the preparation. Who does that?! I want to sometimes…


Intolerance is recognized by the medical community but they know little about it. My doctor has sent me to every specialist possible, and a nutritionist, and I found I was much more educated then they were about gluten intolerance. After explaining to the dietitian that I’m lactose intolerant she showed me the four food groups and suggested I eat yogurt to get my calcium. Yeah folks, yogurt is milk, don’t do that. It is very new to their field. The lack of education and information out there is a big reason why I share what I learn with you here on my blog.


This phenomenon of food interolerance in the U.S. is not a mere diet trend. Unlike many countries, Americans drink milk through adulthood. Why? I believe it’s due to a well funded advertising campaign. Not nutritional best practice. Got Milk?

Between 30 million and 50 million people in the United States have lactose intolerance. That means at least 1 out of every 10 Americans. Other countries that do not drink milk into adulthood have populations with up to 100% lactose intolerance (Asian countries to note).

Another common digestion enemy that I am very familiar with is Gluten intolerance. It’s estimated that 3 million people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with celiac disease, or 1 of every 133 Americans. This is an under estimate because it does not account for those who do not have the disease but simply lack the enzyme to digest wheat or have an allergy.


How do we manage without overmedicating ourselves? I get to a point where my digestion comes to a HALT! I’ve tried Pepto Bismol, Tums and over the counter medicines to find they aren’t very affective in this situation. Nor a good long term solution. Here are holistic tricks that help me. Please consult your doctor for your specific ailments and what is appropriate for you.

  1. Green Tea: is full of antioxidants. Drink a cup after a meal and it’s soothing warmth will help bring harmony to the digestive process. It has to be green, unflavored and if you must have sweetner use a teaspoon of honey. Fresh loose tea is the best but you can get the same benefits from $1.99 box of green tea from the grocery store.
  2. Avoid Soda with Meals: The sugar, caffeine and carbonation is no friend to digestion. A bubbly, sugary stomach is not what you need when your sensitive. I recommend avoiding soda altogether including diet which contains the same bad stuff plus more chemicals.
  3. Drink Water with Lemon: At room temperature. This is good to drink all day and an alternative to soda or sugary drinks with a meal. Something about the lemon and it being room temperature is cleansing and balancing to the digestion track.
  4. Eat More Fiber: A tip from my gastroenterology doctor, and with good reason. I realized my consciousness around gluten resulted in my avoiding foods with fiber (e.g. cereal with fiber etc). Many people, like myself, skip breakfast which is the key meal of the day for fiber consumption (cereal, fruits). I wasn’t getting much at all. I’ve added Metamucil to my daily routine and  this helps digestion slow down so the stomach has time to break down food before it hits the bowel. I also found gluten/lactose free snacks at Trader Joes such as dried fruit fiber bars. Gas = undigested food that your stomach didn’t break down and your intestines are struggling with. More than I ever wanted to know.
  5. Heating Pad: works wonders on a crampy stomach. Not just during your menstrual cycle. It works on stomach aches caused by gas or diarrhea that also experience symptoms of tightness and cramping.
  6. Take a Walk: My family takes after dinner walks and I never understood the benefits of it until adulthood. It gets your blood flowing, your body moving, and in turn your digestion. Even if your having a bad bout, try getting up and taking a walk around the house. It helps, I swear by it!
  7. Processed Foods are the Devil: It’s a hard habit to break. Fast food is delicious, easy, cheap. Boxed macaroni and cheese has warm fuzzies all the way back to childhood. I know. But stop eating it. It will change your life. If the label has more than 5 ingredients and you understand what they are – it’s good. If you see the words high fructose corn syrup, MSG, coloring, and other chemicals that would never show up in your spice cupboard – put it down.
  8. Cut Out Sugar: Eating whole foods will also help you cut down on sugar. I do not mean substituting sugar, stop eating it. Sugar should be a treat, not the fifth food group. This chemical can spin your tummy and your entire body out of balance.
  9. Digestive Enzymes: are a natural way to help break down  proteins, lactose and wheat. I take a daily enzyme with each meal and carry Glutenese as additional defense when I eat out . There are several products out there targeting specific enzymes to food intolerances. They won’t harm your stomach because your system naturally contains them. Opt for this before you grab your next antacid.
  10. Yoga: is more than an exercise routine, it is also therapeutic to your digestive track. Iyengar yoga subscribes an “asana” called Supta Vajrasana. It is a laying pose that should be done with props: bolster/pillow, a blanket, and a belt if available. It looks crazy but I can testify that it is actually very relaxing. Trikonasana is a standing pose that promotes healthy digestion by stretching your side body, organs, and hips. Five minutes of yoga each morning is all you need to feel the benefits.

Nutrition impacts health, disease and our state of being. Stay healthy an take care of your body. It’s important.