When Eleanor came into my life, I took gluten out.
Last Friday, we placed the ashes of my kind and thoughtful mother in-law, Eleanor Sincevich, to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. She was 82 years old. She joined her husband, a WWII veteran.
Throughout her life, Eleanor had struggled with numerous health problems, including: rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, celiac disease, atrial fibrillation, sleep apnea, hyperthyroidism and cataracts. Despite the many challenges she faced, Eleanor always had a smile on her face and something cheerful to say. She would often say; “I know there are many people struggling even more than I am, so I’m lucky.” My dear mother-in-law had a way of ‘staying calm and carrying on’ no matter what. We were all lucky to have her in our lives.
Eleanor took her health seriously. She kept impeccable records of her doctor and hospital visits, her procedures, medications and supplements. She devoured information about medicine and health. She had drug encyclopedias and health books at the ready. We called her the human computer. She had an insatiable appetite for health magazines, new recipes and she’d call me frequently, eager to discuss the latest trend, breakthrough and gluten-free food find.
Eleanor was the first person I ever met with celiac disease. In fact, she was her gastroenterologist’s first patient to be diagnosed with this disease in the mid 90’s. At that time, hardly anyone knew about celiac and gluten. When Eleanor received this strange diagnosis, she read, questioned, studied and experimented with her diet passionately. At that time, of course, it was very hard to find products without gluten and most people looked at her with a blank stare when she tried to explain that her diet was ‘gluten-free’. I remember her ordering special gluten-free foods from an obscure company in Washington State. She subsisted on rice crackers that tasted like cardboard. I was intrigued with her new diet and the changes it was having on her health. She was the ‘go to’ consultant for her gastroenterologist’s subsequent patients who were diagnosed with celiac or even gluten sensitivity. In many ways she was a pioneering ‘health coach.’
The gluten-free food landscape has of course transformed since then: gluten-free foods are everywhere, restaurants offer gluten-free options, and awareness around celiac disease and gluten-sensitivities are now mainstream.
Eleanor’s diagnosis led us to discover my husband’s gluten sensitivity. Consequently, I became an early adoptor of the gluten-free (GF) lifestyle – although the kids and I are not 100% GF, 100% of the time. Over the years, I’ve seen gluten-free products flood the market, and the label gluten-free become synonymous with ‘healthy’.
The prevalence of GF foods has made finding food for our family easier, but also opened my eyes to a few new truths.
Seeing the opportunity, the food industry met this new demand by offering gluten-free pizza, crackers, bagels, and all sorts of wonderful new gluten-free treats. And people bought them in massive quantities. They assumed they were healthy because they had that new health villain, Gluten, removed. The problem was no longer cardboard consistency and bland flavor, but the solution was suspicious. Now, a traditional product containing 5 ingredients was replaced by a gluten-free version containing 10-15 ingredients – many of them lower in fiber and protein, and higher in fat and sugar. And that was a turning point: We now have gluten-free junk food!
Here people thought they were eating by eating gluten-free, and were surprised to find themselves gaining weight, losing energy, and still feeling sick despite their new gluten-free diet!
Thanks to Eleanor’s curiosity, dedication to research, and avid label-reading, I learned quickly that not all gluten-free foods are created equal. So I teamed up with a very enlightened colleague to create a Gluten Free Bootcamp (if you want to learn more about it click here) for people who wanted to learn to live a gluten-free lifestyle without falling prey to the gluten-free junk offerings out there.
For all of you with an Eleanor aka a human computer/heath enthusiast in your life: the celiac’s, gluten-sensitives, carb-adverse friends and family — I encourage you to look at what you’re eating, read the labels, and try earnestly to cut back on refined grain carbs or completely cut them out from your diet, rather than falling prey to the idea that you can simply replace traditional gluten containing carbs with gluten-free carbs.
And if you’re still suffering, stay tuned. Gluten may not even be the real villain. We’re now learning that there may be a new culprit causing digestive issues found in our grain and sugar supply – but it’s NOT gluten. I’ve got some surprising information that I’ll share next time!
Yours in health,