Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Imagine a Life Without Wheat

Domesticated wheat cultivation originated in the Fertile Crescent of Western Asia around 10,000 years ago. It is said to be responsible for the origins of agriculture which resulted in ancient populations abandoning their nomadic lifestyles.

Today many of the staples of the western diet are based on flour made from ground wheat. Wheat flour is an essential ingredient in doughs that are used to make various forms of bread and pasta. Food items that have their basis in wheat flour are numerous: Bread, biscuits, pancakes, bagels, noodles, dumplings, pizza crust.

Wheat was important source of nutrition for the prehistoric farmers of the Fertile Crescent. It provided sources of energy from its carbohydrate, protein and fat content. The protein component of wheat comes from the proteins gliadin and glutenin. The composite of these proteins is known as gluten. When dough is made from ground wheat, gluten is important for providing viscosity and extensibility to the mix. This is what makes bread and other wheat flour products springy and light.

There is a small portion of our population that is intolerant to gluten. In some people the body creates an inappropriate immune response to gluten. This can result in a range of digestive responses including malabsorption of nutrients, cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea. Intensive long term antibiotic therapy is also a major stress on your digestive system. In order to eliminate any contributing factors, a gluten free diet is commonly encouraged for those who are subject to antibiotic protocols.

Dr. J prescribed a gluten restricted diet for Lynette on her first visit back in April. Lynette has been very compliant with this recommendation. She does cheat once in a while, but it is never something that I would consider a major dose of gluten. Keep in mind that Lynette has never shown any sign of gluten intolerance, but it is always a good idea to follow doctor's orders.

Several months ago when Lynette was severely debilitated, many of our generous friends wanted to bring us food to help out with our situation. We appreciated their generosity and appreciated what they did for us. I personally find solace and therapy in cooking. While I don't want to discount the thoughtfullness and generosity of others, the donations of food somehow infringed upon my well being. Furthermore, we received food that violated the dietary recommendations of Dr. J.

We surely miss many of our favorite dishes that we've eaten over the years that include gluten:

Muffaletas, Steak and Cheese sandwiches
Fajitas, Quesadillas
So many breakfast foods -- bagels, toast, English muffins, french toast, pancakes, biscuits

Faced with the task of conforming to a gluten free diet, it is actually not that hard. We can eat all the potatoes and rice that we want. We have found some gluten free (GF) substitutes for some of the the things we miss. We found a GF muffin mix that made some pretty good muffins, once with blueberries, and again with sweet potato, cinnamon and pecans. We have found some GF pasta that approximates the real thing, but I have had more luck with the larger pastas, than the stringy ones. All of our Mexican meals have included corn tortillas these days. Unfortunately we have not found a suitable substitute for wheat flour based bread. And we have just given up on most of the breakfast foods that we crave, instead relying on the occasional use of potatoes or grits.

Unfortunately none of this is helping with Lynette's weight loss. Her appetite has come and gone, but her weight has only gone. She's not emaciated, but she wishes that she wanted to eat more and that she could gain some weight back.

I suppose she is getting enough nutrition though, because she has been tearing through this house like the Tasmanian Devil. Since Lauren and Danielle have returned to college, Lynette has seen the opportunity to declutter. There are garbage bags stacked amongst the hallways and doorways of the house. There are items lined up along walls to be taken to Goodwill, donated to the Disabled Veterans, and readied for a yard sale. I've made a couple of trips to the post office to mail items to lucky eBay auction winners.

Lynette has also started exercising again, a passion that she has had all of her life. She has been doing some things at home with televised programs and other self employed routines that she has learned about over the years. Today she visited a local gym with her sister-in-law Jonna where she was able to use some weight machines that most people don't have access to in their homes.

Lynette made it through her last cycle of antibiotics without any major adverse affects. We are once again looking forward to our next visit with Dr. J which will be coming up this Friday. Lynette will be receiving the first dose of the last of her IV antibiotics. I think we are starting to see the light at the end of the IV tunnel.

(The picture at the top of this post is the gluten free pasta dinner that we enjoyed tonight)

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