Are you reacting to your dinner ?

If you constantly have an upset stomach, headaches or skin problems chances are you have thought about whether something you were eating was triggering your symptoms. So what options are there for finding out whether a food is upsetting you ?

The medical testing for allergies consists of either skin prick testing to determine if a substance provokes a reaction or blood testing for antibodies to Immunoglobulin E known as RAST testing. Naturopathically there are a number of other options including an Elimination Diet,  Food Intolerance Panel or Bio Compatability Hair Testing. So what are the advantages of each of these forms of testing ?

Skin prick testing involves scratching the skin with a range of allergens to see what generates a reaction. Usually done by a specialist you do need to be under supervision if a topical reaction causes full on anaphylaxis to an allergen so that you can be treated appropriately. Understandably many parents are not enthusiastic about this option however it does accurately identify  true allergens. A blood test to detect antibodies can be done where the skin prick testing is too invasive. It detects antibodies to specific allergens such as dust, pollens and foods.

Another option for determining intolerances is to use an elimination diet. Basically you eat very simple plain foods for 7-10 days  and then gradually introduce new foods to determine if it provokes a reaction. The elimination diet generally takes up to 6 weeks but has the advantage of being focussed on real food. Ideally you would also exclude any of the foods below that triggered a reaction.

What you can eat on a food sensitivity elimination diet:

  • Vegetables, well-washed (preferably organic), eliminate nightshade vegetable (such as eggplant,tomato and capsicum) if you suspect they are a problem
  • Fruits, well-washed (preferably organic), start with berries initially
  • Meat and fish (preferably organic and free range meats and wild fish)
  • Fats and seasonings – Extra-virgin coconut oil for cooking, and extra-virgin olive oil for dressings and other low-temperature applications, sea salt, herbs
  • Drink: only water (filtered if possible)

Naturopaths often conduct a food intolerance panel which looks for an immunoglobulin G reaction. It’s useful but will usually only tell you about foods you have been eating in the past few months. So if you haven’t had wheat for a year it may not show up.

Recently I have also looked at Biocompatibility Hair Testing conducted by Naturopathic Services. It has the advantage of not requiring a blood test and covers 500 widely available foods including a significant list of health foods. The test is reasonably priced and far less invasive for young children. It also has the advantage of covering foods which the client isn’t currently consuming. Blood testing will only reveal antibodies to a food that you are currently eating.

Other practitioners I know who use the test advised that it was making a big difference in cases involving skin and irritable bowel syndrome, two conditions I see frequently in clinic. Certainly in the last few months I am already seeing some significant changes in symptoms simply from removing aggravating foods from the diet.

If you have any questions about testing for food intolerances email me at Christine@elementalhealth.net.au or you can make an appointment on 8084 0081.

 

 

 

 

 

http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/test-ige.html

Gluten Free Made Easy

 There are a lot of people who need to change their diet and go gluten free. Whilst approximately 1% of the population need to go gluten free as a consequence of coeliac disease another 6-8% of the population suffer from non-coeliac gluten senstivity. Many people who suffer from other auto-immune conditions also find that removing gluten from the diet assists in managing their condition.

You realise that you need to make this change but you don’t really know where to start? This blog will help you get started with those changes. Lots of recipe ideas are contained in my page Gluten and Dairy Free Dinners and the recent blog Seven gluten and dairy free breakfasts.

The best way to start a gluten free diet is to do it after restocking your pantry and freezer. Look at what you usually eat and then prepare a shopping list to enable you to stock up on alternatives.

Ideal suggestions could include the following;

  • Replace bread and crackers with suitable gluten free alternatives. Suitable alternatives for bread could include gluten free bread from Country Life, Dovedale, Healthybake, Schars or gluten free bakeries. Choices Bakery at Turramurra has a wide range and Deeks Bakery in Canberra provides online ordering across Australia. Gluten free bread is best served toasted and should be stored in the freezer so you can use it as needed.
  • There is already a good range of gluten free crackers including rice crackers and corn cakes available in most supermarkets. Just read labels to make sure that there are no  other ingredients that are problematic particularly if you have multiple food intolerances.
  • Breakfast cereals often include gluten so its important to ensure that you have a suitable alternative. Commercial rice bubbles and cornflakes for example can contain gluten so its best to find alternatives such as puffed rice. Making your own muesli is an easy and cost effective option using a range of gluten free puffs and flakes as well as dried fruit, nuts and seeds.
  •  The porridge below is from Brookvale farms and is served with stewed plums and coconut yoghurt. Its tasty and only takes a few minutes to prepare.
  • Pasta might be a good option for quick meals and there are several gluten free pastas to choose from including Orgran who have an excellent lasagne as well as San Remo. Ideally when cooking gluten free pasta keep stirring it whilst cooking to stop it sticking together. Also make sure that you rinse it well before serving.
  • Baking is easier with gluten free options at hand such as gluten free plain and self raising flour plus gluten free cornflour. These can often be substituted in baking however generally if you don’t have gluten free flour you are better off using a mix of different gluten free flours to really improve results.
  • Stock up on a range of rice including basmati and risotto rice so that you have a few different alternatives for meals.
  • Check the Celiac organisation website for lists of foods which may have some gluten. Often it can be surprising with things such as soy sauce and BBQ sauce containing gluten which doesn’t seem quite unnecessary.

Do you have any other tips for going gluten free easily? Please post them in the comments section below.

Need help deciding if you need to change your diet? Christine Pope is practicing at Elemental Health St Ives and can be contacted for appointments on 8084 0081.

 

 

 

Gluten free Canterbury NZ

Seafood Platter with Gluten Free Bread, The Trading Room, Akaroa

A trip to the South Island of NZ is a great short holiday but what impressed me on this trip was how well food intolerances were managed. It’s obviously easier with a common language to discuss menus but consistently I saw staff who were across the issues and could advise on alternatives.

One of the good things around the Canterbury region of NZ was that menu’s were often marked gluten free (or dairy free or vegetarian). Even in fairly small towns with two or three cafes there was often at least one cafe with allergens marked.

The first night we landed in Christchurch around 11pm so we were happy to eat breakfast in the hotel  restaurant and I was thrilled to see a gluten free vegetarian slice on the menu. I ordered it with a side of bacon and it was very tasty. They also had a water urn with fresh citrus which was such a good idea when you are dehydrated after a flight.

We stayed at the Commodore Hotel near the airport and I can highly recommend this option for travellers. From the shuttle driver who picked us up late at night with a string of helpful instructions to the staff on the front desk who basically insisted on driving us to the car rental the next day and the restaurant staff who went out of their way to organise tea for me at midnight. It was a well run hotel with a great team!

 

The next day we travelled via a little town called Springfield to Arthur’s Pass where we had booked in at a wilderness lodge for New Year. Trip Advisor had flagged a gluten free cafe there but it had shut for the holidays which was disappointing. The Yello Shack cafe, which sat next to Springfield’s major attraction (a big donut) did offer a range of gluten free treats, including a gluten free caramel slice that was almost as good as my brother’s.

 The lodge at Arthur’s Pass was a bit of a treat for our anniversary and provided all our meals for a few days. They catered well to allergens for entree’s and mains but were not quite as comprehensive on desserts. They also had a nice gluten free sourdough the first night with olive oil which I really appreciated. The packed lunch with sandwhiches made with a seeded Vogel loaf were also excellent.

My favourite entree was a Salmon and Potato Fish Cakes which was made with mashed potato and was fresh and flavourful. We also enjoyed fresh venison and other local specialities. Must remember to send them some gluten free muesli slice , quinoa choc chip cookie recipes and a few dessert options to round out their offerings.

 

Salmon and Potato Fishcakes, Arthur’s Pass Wilderness Lodge

From Arthur’s Pass Wilderness Lodge which had included guided walks we repaired to Hanmer Springs to soak our tired limbs. On the drive we stopped at the Red Post Cafe in Culverden which had a sign up inviting you to ask about their gluten free options. We both enjoyed a Smoked Chicken salad with a cranberry style dressing, sweet but tasty.

Hanmer Springs is a popular tourist spot with lots of dining options including our hotel which had quite a formal restaurant. The Braemar Lodge was a recommendation from my youngest sister from her last trip to NZ and its a luxurious spot if you want to indulge. They have very large rooms, spas on the balcony’s and their own Beauty Spa, which was largely priced better than the one at Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools. The only downside is its about 3km of dirt road to get there and it really isn’t easy walking distance to the Springs.

The standout meal for us whilst we were there was at Malabar, which is advertised as Asian Fusion. The menu was clearly marked with gluten and dairy free options and when queried staff could easily explain when a dish wasn’t marked gluten free. We started with onion and spinach bhaji which was in a chickpea batter and followed it with caramelised pork belly (gluten containing ingredient was soy sauce) and wok fried fish with some poppadoms. It was all delicious and we would happily have eaten there again.

There were a lot of other options for gluten free dining in Hanmer Springs with options such as salads, nachos and the option of gluten free bread for sandwhiches and our hotel also provided gluten free cookies and gluten free bread at meals which were really appreciated. The major surprise for me was that when I walked into the cafe at the thermal springs they had quite a range of gluten and dairy free items, including a delicious ginger slice which went very well with my cup of green tea.

 

Fresh caught fish

 

A day trip to Akaroa, which is a lovely little French town about 100km’s from Christchurch brought us to the Trading Room restaurant with a very reasonably priced seafood platter served with gluten free bread and salad. It included generous quantities of prawns, calamari, two types of fish and the local specialty Green Lipped mussels.

We did a little bit of shopping for picnics and generally found the best gluten free options in the New World Supermarkets. We did try Pak n Save once but never again!!

My advice to people travelling in this region is to do a little bit of research on gluten free options online before you travel however Trip Advisor turned out to be the most useful app giving reviews for local restaurants and I was glad that I taken up Vodafone on their $5 a day NZ plan to access my usual data as Trip Advisor and Google Maps really made the trip a lot easier.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12 Changes for better health

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Its the time of year when gyms get very busy as people try to live up to their New Year’s resolutions. Instead of being active for a couple of weeks and forgetting it until next year I have developed a list of 12 changes so that at the end of the year you have made significant improvements in your health. Usually maintaining change requires at least a month so try to really adopt this change for at least a month until it becomes part of the routine.

First up see how many you are doing and then figure out how much you have left and then project out the number of months it will take you. Post that commitment on your facebook page or somewhere will you will be reminded regularly.

  1. Drink enough water – writing this today its 38C and hydration just seems the most important thing to focus on. How much is enough water? Well it depends on your size and activity levels but generally 1.5 to 2 litres a day plus 1 litre for every hour of exercise. So for a small woman it may be more like 1.5 litres plus whatever you need for the exercise you are doing.
  2. Find an activity you enjoy and commit time to it 4-5 times a week. It could be walking the dog, cycling, yoga classes, tennis or spin or a combination of all of the above. Block it out in your diary. Just remember if you are starting an activity start at a beginners level and build up slowly. 
  3. Add one cup of leafy green vegetables to your diet daily. It could be spinach with your poached eggs or a salad instead of a sandwhich at lunch or add chopped kale to a curry at dinner. Greens are a great source of essential minerals that many people lack. If you struggle with the taste try looking at the website Simple Green Smoothies for some great recipes.
  4. Declutter – spend a week focussing on each major room and start with three boxes. One box is for garbage, one for recycling and one for stuff which lives somewhere else. Its critical to ensure you fill the third box before putting things back where they belong or you get distracted. Spend 1-2 hours a week on each room and then at the end of the month notice how different it is to be in a clear and productive space. Decluttering can really reduce stress levels.
  5. Manage your stress – By this stage if you are hydrated, exercising regularly and improving your diet you may already have noticed that your stress levels are better. If not its probably time to start identifying what causes stress and whether it is still serving you. It could be a job you no longer enjoy, an employee who is driving you nuts or a friendship which leaves you feeling exhausted. Time for some change. Figure out where the issue is and make a plan to deal with it. If its really overwhelming find someone to talk to – a coach or a counsellor could really help you break those stressful patterns.
  6. Get rid of your allergens – environmental ones may be challenging. If you suffer from reflux, bloating and flatulence, constipation or diarrhoea, chances are something in your diet needs to be removed for a while. The most common suspects are wheat and dairy with up to 70% of adults unable to tolerate lactose (milk sugar) as they age.
  7. Laugh – go to the park and watch how children are constantly chuckling or giggling. When was the last time you enjoyed a good belly laugh? A few years ago I did a laughter yoga class and we laughed for 22 straight minutes – you feel amazing afterwards except the aching stomach muscles.
  8. Health Checks – see your GP for those tests, get your teeth checked and get your moles mapped. Spend a month making sure you are dealing with problems before they become serious. gf products
  9. Swap your snacks for healthier choices. Switch the milk chocolate to good quality dark chocolate, replace the potato chips with activated nuts, the coffee for a herbal tea and the soda for a vegetable juice (perfect for an afternoon boost too).
  10. Train your brain – read a different book every week or try crosswords or sudoku as a way to improve your brain’s health and stay mentally healthy.
  11. Catch up with friends – having a social support network can make all the difference to our health. If you find it difficult to catch up for a meal just try scheduling in a coffee on a weekly basis or a play date with your children. 
  12. Time out – plan and take at least two weeks vacation doing something you enjoy. It could be 2 weeks by the beach or 2 weeks hiking in the mountains. It doesn’t have to be expensive and is you can travel out of peak season there are often some great deals available. Most importantly try and disconnect from your work as much as possible to really maximize your down time.

Keep me posted on how you go and let me know what makes a difference for you.

If you are interested in looking at your health holistically I have a range of tools in my clinic which can assess nutrient levels, such as minerals, as well as looking at body parameters such as fat mass, muscle mass and energy quality. I am in practice at St Ives and appointments can be made on 02 8084 0081.

What do you do when your child can’t eat egg, potato, dairy or wheat?

Health food ingredients in white porcelain bowls over papyrus ba

Recently I have seen a few children with an interesting range of food intolerances. In fact one recently was such a challenge it made gluten and dairy free look easy!

So how do you make changes when your child’s diet is so restricted ? What the hell do you put in their lunches for school?

First up don’t focus on what they can’t eat, focus on what they can eat. Typically there is a long list of fruit and vegetables plus meats and fish. Not a bad start. Then look at substitutes for foods. One tougher example is egg however there are a number of options in baking including “no egg” replacer by Orgran. I also found vegan recipes have some good substitutes including 1/2 a mashed banana or soaked chia seeds in lieu of eggs. Orgran also offer vegan options in many of their baking mixes which are helpful. This vegan website has a great range of egg replacment options http://chefinyou.com/egg-substitutes-cooking/ .

Coconut oil and fresh coconutIn a previous post I have already covered options for dairy free in detail so have a look if you need some more information http://wp.me/p4iTIZ-2g .

Secondly make sure you spend time working on gut repair. Many minor intolerances fall away when you repair the gut with adequate glutamine and support effective digestion with herbs and probiotics. Continue providing support with home made stocks and fermented foods. Fermented foods are a good source of probiotics for the gut and often cheaper than supplements.

Home Made Cultured Or Fermented Vegetables

Now the school lunches – gluten free breads are available but often include rice and potato flours which are also increasingly common intolerances. Some options here could be;

1. Use firm lettuce as wraps for fillings or hollowed out cucumber or corn cakes.
2. Consider salads with a firmer leafed green such as wombok with chicken, Waldorf salad with chicken or Thai roast beef salad with cos lettuce.
3. Drumsticks are a great option with a simple marinade.
4. Meatballs – Recently I made baked chicken meatballs which were very popular. Ingredients were bacon onion and tomato paste.
5. Vegetable sticks with hummuus, avocado or mashed bean dip.
6. Leftovers are always good, specially roast meats or sausage with a roast vegetable salad.

Pinkfarm’s facebook and website have great ideas and lots of information on fermented foods. Have a look at http://www.pinkfarm.com.au/lunchbox-ideas/ for some more ideas on lunches and also their fabulous stainless steel lunchboxes.

Whilst it may seem like a lot of work initially I find a little more preparation in the evenings makes the morning rush much easier. I usually pack up lunch size portions of leftovers for my children for the next day and then it can be grabbed out of the fridge before I drive them to the train station.

The extra work really pays off when you see the change in your child’s health as a result of making these changes. I often have parents telling me how sickly kids no longer get every cold that’s going or how much their skin has improved as a result of making these changes. Its really worth giving these changes 3 months to see the full benefit. Particularly if you can work on gut repair at the same time.

Would love to hear your stories about how dietary change has made a difference to you or your child. Please leave a comment on the blog below.

Christine Pope is in clinical practice at St Ives in Sydney and if you need help managing or identifying food intolerances you can make appointments on 8084 0081.

Brain Fog – is your brain suffering?

Those of us who have given up gluten are often familiar with the concept of brain fog. Basically that’s what used to happen to us every time we had gluten ( the big protein found in grains such as wheat, rye, spelt, barley and oats).

However there may be other reasons you get a foggy brain, problems with your memory or keep losing things like the shopping or even the car at the shopping centre! Many of us just blame it on getting older or being really busy but what about if its something more concerning? Really what if the brain is starting to struggle and it needs more support?

Recently I have been reading a lot about the concept of a “leaky brain” , in many ways a similar concept to that of a “leaky gut”. The blood brain barrier is supposed to be relatively impermeable to protect our brain. There are a whole range of factors which can damage this barrier including not surprisingly diet but also infection and toxicity.

Diet is a relatively easy example. In the US Cyprex labs tests include a wide range of gluten intolerance testing including transglutamaninsases 2 ,3 and 6. Each of these is associated with different types of gluten intolerance reactions and only one of them is a gut type reaction, commonly associated with coeliac or gluten intolerance. If you have antibodies to the transglutaminase 6 for example you can be reacting to your central nervous system – on other words autoimmunity to brain tissue. Some early indications suggest this is what may be happening in the case of MS where the sheath around nerves starts to unravel.
Bakery Bread on a Wooden Table. Various Bread and Sheaf of Wheat
How do you support brain health if you are having problems? First up if you have coeliac or gluten intolerance in the family get testing done to ensure you are not coealiac (much easier to do whilst still eating gluten) and then do a food intolerance panel to eliminate any other allergens. Unfortunately the testing done in the US is not available here yet but you can easily get gene testing done on a couple of genes which do indicate a strong possiblity of gluten intolerance.

Next try eliminating gluten and dairy for 6-8 weeks. I know it seems like a long time but it takes a while for damage to be repaired and for you to see a shift in your symptoms. Make sure they are eliminated and not just reduced and also include any foods which come up in the food intolerance panel. During this period make sure you are eating a lot of vegetables ( 3 cups a day) and a couple of serves of fruit a day. You may even find smaller meals more often will support your energy levels better.

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In addition some basic anti-oxidant support in the form of fish oils as well as resveratol may also be useful but at a minimum ensure that you are eating good quality fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, flaxseed oil and including sources such as nuts and seeds and avocado.

Then see how you are going? Is your memory better, gut less upset etc. If it shifts it might be time to say goodbye to gluten!

Field trip – the gluten free expo

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Last week I went to my first gluten free expo. Not sure what I was expecting but I was surprised when I got to Homebush to find people queued up around two sides of the building waiting for it to open at 12. Also many of those people had those wheelie trolleys ready to stock up on gluten free goodies.

At the entry we were handed a Coles green bag with a few goodies in it, which was a great idea as I came away with a bag full of new things to try.

First up, my biggest success as far as my children were concerned , were the Genius brand croissants that actually tasted flaky and buttery. Subsequently found them in the freezer at Coles and I am now trying their puff pastry. They have a range of other gluten free breads and muffins and even pain au chocolat!

Bakery Bread on a Wooden Table. Various Bread and Sheaf of Wheat

The other big success was a “paleo” version of a protein bar, called Paleo Bars. There were two flavours and they are gluten, dairy and soy free. The key ingredients are walnuts, dates pecans, cocoa and coconut oil in the original and apricots, almonds and ginger plus the coconut oil in the ginger bar. They both taste good and don’t have that dehyrating after effect that you usually get from a protein bar. The website is http://www.bdpaleo.com and you can order both in boxes of 10 or 25. My son was quite impressed with the taste and said he had more energy at the gym when he had a bar before training. The Medicum Chain Triglcyerides in the coconut oil are used preferentially by the body for energy.

Another favourite and portable gluten free snack was the corn crunch. I am sure you could easily make these at home but the roasted corn kernels are rather tasty and a good snack that fits easily into the handbag or school bag. I know with so many schools gluten free this type of snack is going to become more popular and I would also recommend the roasted chickpeas and broad beans you can find in the Woolworths health food section.

Next year when I go back to this expo I will make sure I am prepared to make a couple of trips to the car with bags as well as coming on an empty stomach so I can do lots of tasting!! All the stallholders were very generous with their tasting supplies and it does make things easier if you can graze and grab lots of flyers so you know where to order it from in the future. I am sure since Coles were one of the major sponsors that there will be a number of the products carried in their stores but for others it was great to know you could order online.