This book was written for the health-minded, frustrated, or curious person interested in gaining a better understanding of the health issues food intolerance causes and the story behind why today’s gluten is toxic. It’s for people who want to find a healthy way to go gluten free while at the same time gaining valuable insight of optimal nutrition in the healing transition. We include allergy friendly mouthwatering recipes and tips on converting recipes to allergy friendly.
The connection between gluten intolerance and dairy intolerance often go hand in hand. With dairy affecting the large intestine and gluten affecting the small intestine, it makes sense to heal the body by eliminating both. We will talk about intolerance verses allergies and how food intolerance is not always a GI disorder but can be a condition that reacts systemically. Studies show 50 percent of people with celiac disease also have issues with dairy. In addition, only 8 percent heal on a gluten free diet alone. This is why it’s so important to address the triggers and holistically focus on the underlying issues.
Nutrition plays a critical role in the healing process. By making appropriate diet changes suggested in Beyond Gluten you will be able to manage chronic disorders and eliminate systemic reactions.
Can you imagine a six-year-old child with migraine headaches? That was me. I would be outside playing and my head would start pounding. My vision would get distorted and I would start feeling sick to my stomach. I’d have to come inside, take an Excedrin—which I now know helped set the stage for digestive issues to come—and cover my head with a pillow until the pain passed. As I got older, migraines became the norm. They would typically last three days and then start over again. My mom also had severe migraines. She would have to go to the hospital and get pain meds injected into her neck. I figured this would be something hereditary I’d have to deal with for the rest of my life. Ouch! I ended up on heavy painkillers later on that put me in a continuous mental fog and created continuing constipation problems. It was the first of many health issues I would have over my lifetime.
In my early teens, I developed thirteen cysts in my reproductive organs, which created hormonal issues and more pain and required me to have a partial hysterectomy at age 16. We were on the way to a doctor’s appointment and my mom took a detour to the emergency room after I went into shock in the car. I remember feeling out of control and so scared. My mom held my hand the whole way and kept saying “You’re going to be okay—hang in there!” I can’t imagine what was going through her mind. During the operation, they also removed my appendix and a foot of my intestine. The surgery left me with massive scar tissue that caused a great deal of internal injury and severe pain off and on for years. One morning shortly after I got married at age 20, I was bent over in excruciating pain to the point where I couldn’t stand up. My husband took me to the ER and I was in intensive care for a week. I ended up having a full hysterectomy—including removal of both ovaries.
Like most couples, we were looking forward to having children but needless to say, the surgery made that impossible. Our marriage ended a few years later. I went through a lot of emotional trauma and physical pain during this time, not to mention having to deal with hormonal changes brought on by the loss of my ovaries at such a young age. I remember chatting with my grandmother about menopause—which was quite odd at my age, to say the least, but who else could I go to for advice? My mom was still in her forties. And this was all before I could legally sip a glass of wine! My mom was such a great support. She helped me get through this time with a lot of humor and a lot of love. Even now, in my fifties, I wonder what it would have been like to have had a child of my own. It’s a void that will never be filled, so I have put that energy into helping others. I’ve had the blessing of being able to be a mentor a young woman I call my “love child.” She calls me her “soul mama.” She has gifted me with a glimpse of what it feels like to love and care for someone like a daughter. I’ve seen her grow into a beautiful woman with a free spirit who reminds me of myself in some ways.
After dealing with the ups and downs of menopause and the weight issues that went with it, I was determined to rid myself of the 60 pounds of excess weight I had begun accumulating in my teens. I committed myself to health and fitness and lost six dress sizes—but still had chronic gastrointestinal (GI) conditions that played havoc with my daily life. So, although I looked pretty good on the outside, I was suffering on the inside. I kept the weight off but had a lot of systemic issues. I was still missing important pieces of the puzzle for optimal health.
In my thirties, I was diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease. Sjogren’s syndrome often accompanies other immune system disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus and can also be related to celiac disease. In Sjogren’s syndrome, the mucous membranes and moisture-secreting glands of the eyes and mouth are usually affected first, resulting in decreased production of tears and saliva. My eyes dried out so bad I almost went blind. I tried punctal plugs (tear duct plugs) and used Restasis drops—but the burning only made things worse. I was tired of relying on doctors for answers, and tired of medications that gave me side effects with no relief. It was a vicious cycle I had to stop.
Watching my father and grandfather develop cancer was a red flag for me—but watching my mom suffer and pass away from that dreaded disease knocked me to my knees with devastation and inspired the path I’m on today. Interestingly enough, my mom suffered from GI disorders like I did. So, after struggling most of my life with chronic migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, muscle and joint pain, fatigue, brain fog, asthma, and a slew of other ailments and frustrations, I decided to take a closer look at the underlying causes rather than just the symptoms. To be fair, I have to mention a couple of friends who kept hinting for me to seek an alternative route—so thank you, Irene and April! I’m blessed today that I finally listened to you. I know you are proud of me for taking things many steps further by going back to school and starting my practice. I know I have finally found my calling in life—my purpose—and with all I’ve been through, I can certainly relate to my patients on many levels. It’s such an honor to share my experience.
Through a holistic approach, I learned many of my health problems were caused by my body reacting to not only gluten but also cow dairy. I hadn’t known enough about food intolerance, GI disorders, or allergies to put the facts together. I couldn’t believe that foods I had always seen as healthy—such as whole wheat bread and yogurt—could not only have a negative impact on my overall health but even be a trigger for my disorders. I am so thankful that I started on the path in understanding the GI connection. My hope is that after reading this book you, too, will understand this connection—and the fact that true healing requires going beyond a typical gluten free lifestyle. It’s about finding all the triggers and eating whole, organic, functional foods that you do not react to, in addition to living a healthy lifestyle. Our environment plays a huge role as well. Our genetics may have set a foundation, but it’s our lifestyle that dictates how our genes respond.
Another interesting learning is the connection between gluten intolerance and dairy intolerance—they often go hand in hand. With dairy affecting the large intestine and gluten affecting the small intestine, it makes sense to heal the body by eliminating both. We will talk about intolerance verses allergies and how food intolerance is not always a GI disorder but can be a condition that reacts systemically. Studies show 50 percent of people with celiac disease also have issues with dairy. In addition, only 8 percent heal on a gluten free diet alone. This is why it’s so important to address the triggers and holistically focus on the underlying issues.
Nutrition plays a critical role in the healing process. By making appropriate diet changes, I’ve managed to eliminate migraines, asthma, brain fog, and joint pain, and I have my Sjogren’s syndrome under control. In fact, in my most recent lab work, nothing showed up for Sjogren’s—which means my body is no longer attacking its own tissue! Yeah! Even better, I have eliminated all pharmaceuticals.
This book was written for the health-minded, frustrated, or curious person interested in gaining a better understanding of the problems food intolerance causes in the body. It’s for people who want to find a healthy way to go gluten free while at the same time learning and understanding the important aspects of optimal nutrition. Please note: although the main focus of this book is gluten intolerance, much of the information here can be applied to any food intolerance or allergy.
Thank you to my husband Mark who has been a great support for me and is a true blessing. I love you so much! And thank you, God, for guiding me on this path. You have given me purpose through all the trauma.
So, let’s get started—the details of why it’s so important to understand gluten and its relation to diseases—and how to start and maintain a healthy, allergy friendly diet with functional foods.
Sandi J. Star, HHP, CNC, CCMH