Can Dietary Changes Reduce Inflammation?

Can dietary changes reduce inflammation? I can’t help thinking about inflammation this morning. My left thumb is swollen and throbbing thanks to an ant that was eating the okra pod I reached in to harvest before I noticed it. (Yes, I have gloves and I know I should wear them.)

Inflammation is detrimental to health especially when it becomes chronic. What I’m experiencing at the moment is acute inflammation that should subside in a few days. But before I knew I should be gluten-free, I experienced chronic inflammation.

Research has shown chronic inflammation to be associated with heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis. Not only is it a possible contributor to serious disease, chronic inflammation makes you feel bad.

For me, it developed slowly over a period of time. I knew I had inexplicable pain that kept me awake. More than likely, that was related to inflammation. It went away when I eliminated gluten from my diet. After a few weeks, I was acutely aware that I no longer felt “tight” in my skin. Once I realized how much lighter I felt, I never wanted to go backward.

But because my condition changed gradually over a period of years, I became desensitized to the overall changes in how I felt. I knew something was going on because I was weak and tired and I ached, but the acute symptom that kept me seeking answers was an itchy rash.

With chronic inflammation, your body is constantly responding as if it’s under attack. The immune system pumps out white blood cells and chemical messengers that are helpful for a time after an injury or illness like a virus, but if the process lingers, they become detrimental. Just typing that makes me feel tired. It seems obvious that constantly fighting itself would not result in optimum health.

Diet and exercise are key to managing chronic inflammation. For me, eliminating gluten was what it took to rid myself of chronic inflammation and eventually my itchy rash. Even now, after 17 years, it doesn’t take much accidental gluten ingestion to trigger another round of blistery itching. Maybe that’s a good thing. It certainly keeps me on the straight and narrow.

To reduce chronic inflammation, eliminating foods you recognize irritate your system is a good place to start. Anything that produces an allergic reaction, stomach discomfort, swelling, redness, or rash can go in the first round. Dairy, eggs, soy, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish may fall in this category.

Next up, consider limiting consumption of processed foods. The chemicals in soft drinks, deli meat, baked goods, and preformed meals may trigger an undesired response from your body.

Beyond that, it may be helpful to eliminate sugary, starchy foods like white bread, pancakes, doughnuts, and pasta. This will help prevent blood sugar spikes. Keeping the body even keel allows it to use available energy to repair itself.

You may want to increase other foods like cherries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, plums, red grapes, onions, turmeric, green tea, spinach, and Swiss chard. Kale is a great option if you like it. All of these foods are high in polyphenols which are antioxidants that reduce inflammation.

Exercise plays a part in preventing conditions associated with chronic inflammation and research has shown it can directly reduce inflammation as well. Of course, movement will be more pleasant as inflammation lessens. I am intensely reminded of this when I try to move my thumb.

A change in diet can result in reducing or even eliminating chronic inflammation. Sitting here with a reminder of how inflamed tissues feel, I am grateful that it only took eliminating certain foods to bring me relief. That makes the dietary changes worth it!

Stop and Smell the Memories

Do you ever take a moment to stop and smell the memories? My tomato plants are covered in tomatoes so heavy they tipped the trellis over this morning. As I was setting them back up surrounded by the smell of the plants, I was reminded of gardening with my grandmother when I was small. There’s a strong connection between smell and memory. There’s a strong connection between memory and comfort. And there’s a strong connection between comfort and food.

Have you ever had a chance to stop and consider how smell and memory influence your food choices? Most of us don’t even have time to stop and smell the roses, much less the memories. But an awareness of our relationships to smell memory can be helpful with compliance when we need to follow a specific diet in order to be healthy.

A few years ago, a gluten-free bakery opened in my city. My response upon first visiting it was to feel disappointment that there was no yeasty smell in the air. For me, the joy of a bakery lies in the smells-yeast, coffee, cinnamon. The visuals are great too, but while I might be hesitant to eat an oddly shaped cut of meat or deformed looking vegetable, I’d never refuse a misshapen cookie or a torn piece of bread.

Much of the joy and comfort of cooking come from familiar aromas. The first time I cooked fresh green beans in my home, I remarked, “This is how this house should smell.” The house is over 100 years old. Somehow, the smell fit the hardwood floors, carved wood doors, transom windows, and 12-foot ceilings. And I knew it.

When smell is a reminder of family, comfort, and tradition, it can be especially compelling. That’s because smell goes directly to an olfactory bulb that’s connected to the amygdala where emotional processing occurs. All of those warm feelings can end up being connected to related smells.

The idea of giving up a certain food may trigger a feeling of loss or separation as if you’re giving up family or comfort. Knowing this up front can help inform your choices and give you enough insight to recognize and overcome emotional memory stumbling blocks.

And perhaps knowing this can help you process through a diagnosis of celiac disease, diabetes, IBS, or Crohn’s disease without feeling as though required dietary changes will be dire. You will quickly recognize that you can enjoy the warm memories associated with the scent of a cinnamon roll without actually eating one. This knowledge will increase your sense of power, confidence, and choice.

It may also mean you value your memories more because you take time to smell them.

I’m Saying Cheerio to Cheerios®!

I’m saying cheerio to Cheerios! In fact, I already have. I don’t plan to ever eat them again. Why? Let me show you…
dh
I’ve been struggling with one of my worst breakouts of dermatitis herpetiformis (DH) in years. By struggling, I mean it’s all I can do not to claw myself until I bleed. I can’t sleep because I itch. I can’t concentrate because I itch. I’m irritable, you guessed it, because I ITCH!

If you have this skin version of celiac disease you know what I mean. There is nothing that itches like this. Sixteen years ago, it was the itchy rash that drove me to the doctor with celiac disease. That wasn’t my only symptom, but it was the one that was hardest to ignore.

Now I am aware I just need to find whatever it is that’s triggering my immune system and stop consuming it. By process of elimination, I finally landed on oats. Since Christmas, I have eaten Glutenfreeda instant oatmeal, Nature’s Path Organic instant oatmeal, and Cheerios. All are labeled gluten-free.

According to glutenfreewatchdog.org, both General Mills and Nature’s Path begin with oats that have been contaminated with wheat, barley, and/or rye. They then mechanically and optically sort the oats to remove the contaminants. General Mills tests and validates the resulting flour, then at the end of the process again tests gluten levels.

In order to label a product as gluten-free, it must contain less than 20 parts per million gluten. In 2015, General Mills recalled 1.8 million boxes of Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios due to wheat contamination. One sample in that lot tested at 43 parts per million gluten.

I don’t necessarily believe that another accidental contamination has occurred. It’s much more likely that I encountered a hot spot of contamination in the cereal. This could be true and the tests could still be compliant.

In other words, General Mills is not misrepresenting test results. The question mark comes from the way the contaminants are removed and the tests are conducted.

After contaminants are removed from the oats, Cheerios begin with validated gluten-free flour. This validation is based on the mean test results from a 24-hour production cycle of flour. Once the Cheerios are cereal, the product test is also based on the mean results of a 24-hour production cycle.

Gluten Free Watch Dog describes the protocol for determining a lot mean as:
(As reported to Gluten Free Watchdog and confirmed October 12, 2018)

To arrive at a lot mean for gluten-free Cheerios, the following protocol is followed:
Twelve to eighteen boxes of cereal are pulled during a production cycle or “lot”.
The contents of each individual box are ground.
A sub-sample of ground product is taken from each box.
The sub-samples are composited—meaning they are combined.
The combined sub-samples are subject to additional grinding.
A minimum of six, 1-gram sample extractions are taken from this combined, ground sample (Note, formerly this was a minimum of twelve, 0.25-gram sample extractions).
Extractions are tested using the Ridascreen Fast Gliadin (R7002) and cocktail extraction solution.

Once the product is ground and mixed, the test is no longer necessarily giving an accurate representation of what may be in your spoon or bowl. It is also worth noting that the number of samples taken decreased from 2015 to 2018.

Testing protocols like this could help explain why a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2018 found that celiac patients adhering to a gluten-free diet typically consume up to 244mg of gluten per day. The study estimated the average inadvertent exposure to be 150–400mg using a stool test and 300–400mg using a urine test.

This inadvertent exposure is significant. A mere 15mg can cause symptoms in some of us. The damage underlying the symptoms undermines our attempts to be healthy. We certainly don’t spend our time reading labels, asking uncomfortable questions, missing out on our favorites, and enduring eye rolls just to end up ingesting gluten anyway. It is disheartening to know that labels may not present an accurate representation of the amount of gluten contained in food.

Of course, packaged foods are not the only source of gluten contamination. Restaurant food is a gamble as well. Some kitchens are better than others at avoiding cross-contact.

No matter how much awareness of gluten sensitivity increases, there is an ever-evolving question regarding the best way to navigate everyday life and avoid gluten. It isn’t realistic to think I can grow my own gluten-free grains, nuts, and seeds and grind my own flour. It is too isolating to never consume restaurant food.

I can cook the majority of my food at home. I can observe adverse reactions to specific foods. I can research sources of oats and testing protocols. I can eliminate Cheerios.

Due to my recent experience, I will no longer purchase “gluten-free” oat products that come from known contaminated sources. That means the remaining Nature’s Path oatmeal in my pantry is being donated. Once this round of DH heals, I will try Glutenfreeda oatmeal again…maybe. The memory of this itching will have to fade first.

The good news is, my rash is diminishing and I learned something about gluten-free oats. I cannot go backward. I must trust that my body will heal as miserable as I may be while it does.

I could have chosen to visit a dermatologist who may have prescribed Dapsone. That approach might have given me temporary relief, but once I quit eating Cheerios, I was better as quickly as the rash would have responded to the prescription. For me, a long-term solution is worth the time it takes to find it. You may not feel the same.

Each of us has unique tolerance levels, priorities, and health goals. We have to find the balance that works for us. Information is critical to finding that balance.

Now that I know more, I’m saying cheerio to Cheerios!

https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/news/updated-testing-protocol-from-general-mills-for-labeled-gluten-free-cheerios/

https://www.cheerios.com/our-gluten-free-process/

https://www.allergicliving.com/2015/10/06/gluten-free-labeled-cheerios-recalled-due-to-wheat-contamination/

https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/news/oats-produced-under-a-gluten-free-purity-protocol-listing-of-suppliers-and-manufacturers/

https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/107/2/201/4911450

https://consumer.healthday.com/diseases-and-conditions-information-37/celiac-disease-962/one-third-of-gluten-free-restaurant-foods-in-u-s-are-not-study-738383.html

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/dermatitis-herpetiformis-leaves-little-rough-around-edges/

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

And So This Is Christmas…Sipping Chicken Soup

christmas cookiesAnd so this is Christmas…sipping chicken soup. My grandchildren have had a virus. Now I have it. I am self-isolating in an attempt to stop passing illnesses back and forth. FaceTime visits will have to suffice.

We all get the occasional virus, especially when the children we’re around start attending daycare. Most of the time, the symptoms come, annoy us for a few days, and resolve themselves. We may be miserable for a brief period of time, but we don’t really expect any long-term effects.

While we may not always put two and two together, some viruses can trigger other diseases. One of those diseases is Celiac Disease. Researchers have discovered evidence that indicates a reovirus infection may set the stage for, or trigger, Celiac Disease in those with a genetic predisposition for developing it.

For anyone who’s new to this blog, Celiac Disease is the result of an autoimmune response to exposure to the gluten protein found in wheat, rye, and barley that tells the body to attack itself. Gluten intolerance causes a variety of symptoms and can eventually lead to Celiac Disease. Diagnosis begins with screening tests for antibodies in the blood and is confirmed through intestinal biopsy. In those with the skin version Dermatitis Herpetiformis, a skin biopsy testing for the IgA antibody is sufficient for diagnosis.

Reovirus is a seemly innocuous intestinal virus – a stomach bug. There are different strains in this viral family known as Reoviridae. These viruses are hosted by plants, animals, fungi, and microscopic organisms.

One strain commonly found in humans was shown to cause an immune inflammatory response and loss of oral tolerance to gluten in mice. Patients with diagnosed Celiac Disease reviewed in the study showed a higher level of reovirus antibodies and IFR1 gene expression. The researchers believe that this suggests an infection with a reovirus can leave a permanent mark on the immune system, setting the stage for a later autoimmune response to gluten. If further research confirms this hypothesis, it opens the possibility for developing and recommending a vaccine for children at high risk for developing the disease.

I’m tired of coughing on my keyboard and I mostly want to sleep so I’m going to cut this short. There are links below if you’d like to read more about this study, Celiac Disease, or a gluten-free diet.

If you suffer from any of the following symptoms, you may suffer from gluten intolerance or Celiac Disease. One in 133 people in the US are affected, but a high percentage remain undiagnosed. For a definitive diagnosis, do not eliminate gluten from your diet prior to screening tests or biopsies.

To assist your doctor with diagnosis, you can begin with a DNA screening from 23andMe along with a home screening blood test. Home tests are for screening purposes only and cannot replace the training and expertise of a physician. Take any indicative results to your doctor along with a list of your symptoms to begin a conversation and receive a definitive diagnosis.

Symptoms Caused by Gluten Intolerance or Celiac Disease:

General
Vague abdominal pain
Diarrhea
Weight loss
Malabsorption (Abnormality in digestion or absorption of food nutrients in the GI tract.)
Steatorrhea (Formation of non-solid feces.)
Behavioral changes
Fatigue or malaise
Growth delay

Hematological
Abnormal coagulation
Anemia (Lack of healthy red blood cells.)
Hematologic diathesis
Skin/Mucous Membrane
Dermatitis Herpetiformis (Skin manifestation of celiac disease.)
Alopecia (Baldness – both universalis (from the entire skin) and areata (diffuse hair loss))
Aphthous ulcers (canker sores)
Abdominal or generalized swelling
Epistaxis (nose bleeds)
Easy bruisability
Cheilosis (Scaling at the corners of the mouth.)
Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (Chronic dry eye.)
Stomatitis (Inflammation of the mucous tissue of the mouth.)
Scaly dermatitis (Inflammation of the skin.)

Musculoskeletal
Bone deformities
Broken bones
Non-specific bone pain
Joint pain(8)
Osteopenia (Low bone mineral density. Possible precursor to osteoperosis.)
Tetany (A combination of signs and symptoms due to unusually low calcium levels.)
Hyperreflexia (Overactive neurological reflexes.)
Carpopedal spasm (Spasms of the hands and feet.)
Cramps
Laryngospasm (Spasm of the larynx, the voice box.)
Osteopenia
Osteoporosis

Neurological
Ataxia (coordination problems)
Epilepsy
Myelopathy (Damage to white matter that carries motor signals to and from the brain.)
Peripheral neuropathy (Numbness and pain in hands and feet described as tingling or burning.)
Seizures

Gastrointestinal
Abdominal pain
Anorexia (poor appetite)
Bloating
Constipation
Cramps
Diarrhea
Dyspepsia (Recurrent discomfort or pain in the upper abdomen.)
Flatulence, distention
Foul-smelling or grayish stools that may be fatty or oily
Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
Steatorrhea (Formation of non-solid feces.)
Stomach upset
Malabsorption-Related
Bowel is less able to absorb nutrients, minerals, and the fat-soluble vitamins A,D,E, and K.
Bacterial overgrowth of the small intestine
Failure to thrive (Poor weight gain and physical growth failure over an extended period of time in infancy.)
Fatigue
Growth Failure
Swollen joints
Iron deficiency anemia
Malnutrition
Megaloblastic anemia
Muscle Wasting
Pubertal delay
Vitamin K deficiency
Weight loss

Miscellaneous
Hepatic disease (liver disease)
Hyposplenism (small and under active spleen)
Hyperparathyroidism (Excessive production of parathyroid hormone because of low calcium levels.)
Depression
IgA deficiency (Means you’re 10 times more likely to develop celiac disease, AND gives a false negative on screening.)
Increased risk of infections
Irritability

Autoimmune disorders
Sjogren’s syndrome
Thyroid disease
Diabetes mellitus type 1
Autoimmune thyroiditis
Primary biliary cirrhosis
Microscopic colitis
Infertility
Miscarriage

mug of soup
Okay, I’m going to return my attention to my mug of chicken soup. Wishing you a peaceful, happy, virus-free rest of the holiday season!!

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170406143939.htm

http://science.sciencemag.org/content/356/6333/44

https://celiac.org/about-celiac-disease/screening-and-diagnosis/diagnosis/

https://celiac.org/about-celiac-disease/screening-and-diagnosis/screening/

https://imaware.health/

https://blog.23andme.com/health-traits/new-23andme-report-celiac-disease/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2642513/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/cut-bite-size-pieces/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/top-ten-myths-gluten-free-diet/

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”