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‘Gluten free’ seems to be the new buzz. Leaving grains out of the diet is a big part of the Paleo diet that you may have heard people talk about. There are those of us who may be Celiac (5-10% of the population are) and those who may just be a little sensitive to it and by largely avoiding it can see numerous health benefits. People with sensitivity can range from feeling very ill to completely symptomless. What is it and why should we get caught up in the buzz?

Gluten is found in grains (wheat, rye, spelt, barley, kamut, semolina, durum) and can be present in oats through cross contamination. It largely adds texture and chewiness to foods (like a glue!). It is also a thickener and in some cases a flavour enhancer so is found in a multitude of products. In susceptible people the Gliagin (secalin in rye or hordein in barley) portion of gluten (a chain of amino acids essentially the protein part) can damage the lining of the small intestine where most of your food absorption takes place and create an immune response.

It is this immune response and inflammation that is what causes the damage rather than an action actually done by the Gliagin.  These individuals may find absorbing vital minerals (iron and calcium), vitamins (mostly b vitamins like niacin and folate), proteins (essential amino acids) and essential fats (mostly fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K) difficult.   This may cause malnourishment which can then lead to a whole host of symptoms you may not have associated with gluten insensitivity such as iron (anaemia) or Vitamin D deficiency. Gluten can also contain opiod-like proteins making gluten products such as bread addictive to some people.

Most individuals who do have an intolerance will also have an intolerance to dairy products (70% of the population cannot digest lactase in milk). This is mainly due to the damage to the small intestine which produces the necessary enzymes to break down the components in milk that people are intolerant to. So generally it is recommended to reduce these products at the same time – this can make some people’s lives even more difficult. Other food intolerances may also be experienced because of gluten’s resulting inflammation increasing the permeability of the gut which results in a greater opening of food into the blood, which in turns triggers an immune response.

Celiac disease  is genetic and so if a child is diagnosed it is possible one of the parents is also and vice versa. It is difficult to test for as in order for the marker to show up, gluten must have been eaten recently. An elimination diet is where I would start. Normally when eliminating it from the diet obvious changes should be noticed within days. However it could take up to 4-6 weeks for the digestive tract to heal before any real change can be experienced.   Changes you may experience are less abdominal bloating, less pain in the abdominal area after eating, less urgency in needing to go to the toilet, less gas and firmer stool. However increased energy, better skin, a reduction in psoriasis or eczema, less headaches, improved sinus’, enhanced breathing (asthma may be reduced), enhanced sleep and mood is also reported by those with either celiac or an intolerance to gluten.

Gluten is found in many products you may eat everyday such as sausages, seasoning mixes, gravy powders, soy sauce, ketchup, instant coffee, salad dressings, processed meats (including vegetarian imitation meat), cheese and ice-cream. Of course it is also in the obvious breads, pastas, cakes, beer and cereals. So going completely Gluten-free can be a massive change to a family’s lifestyle. This is especially the case when it is a child who is experiencing these symptoms.

However replacements are easy to find. Try to stay focused on what you can eat and with a little creativity and patience, it can be easy to make little changes here and there to greatly reduce if not remove Gluten from your diet.

All nuts, rice and beans can still be eaten as can seeds like quinoa, amaranth and millet; also fresh fruit and vegetables as well as all fresh meat, fish and eggs.  Flours like rice, tapioca, quinoa, chickpea, coconut and almond are a big favourite in my house! Gluten free All Purpose flour can replace normal flour in almost all recipes and you can also buy Biscuit and Baking gluten free mixes, pancake mixes and pizza base mixes around Hong Kong. Gluten free pasta is readily available and almost indistinguishable from wheaten pasta. Bread can be hard to replace but I have found adding a vegetable such as courgette, banana or pumpkin can have a big effect on the graininess and crumbliness you normally find in readymade and homemade gluten free breads.

We’ve put together some great gluten free recipes to help you to create food that tastes great and is good for you.  Check them out here.

Pumpkin bread

Quinoa Flatbreads

Chia porridge

Chocolate Cupcakes

Gluten Free Bread

Banana Flax Crackers

Lentil Burgers

Cookies

Slow Cooker Lasagna

Pumpkin donuts

Beetroot brownies

gingerbread

Mince Pies

Soda Bread

Eating out can be a challenge but many places if you call ahead can make changes for you. Join Gluten Free in HK if you are on facebook for some great advice and support. Also Healthy Living HK has great tips from people making the same changes. Personally I am 80-90% Gluten free and feel 100% better for it, as does my waistline as my body shape has completely changed. Contact me for any further tips and recipes.

Article written for The Hub

I loved school. I loved the friendships, the learning process , the sports and the arts. I pick up things pretty quickly and  have always cruised through life. I was not bothered with grades so much, just passing with minimal effort! I was lucky it suited me. My brother is way more intelligent than his grades used to show him as. He changed schools loads of times and had real problems with some teachers.  I don’t think people appreciate just how brilliant his mind is. He also wasn’t prepared to conform for others. I think my daughter is similar. She knows her own mind and is not afraid to express it. She is 3. Her current kindergarten suits her- it is open plan, classrooms and classmates are not restrictive and if she doesn’t like what’s going on in her class she is free to roam and join in somewhere else. She is thriving. What is going to happen in a couple of years when she goes to Primary school?

She is a challenger, she pushes limits, she is independent, intelligent and very very funny.  She is physical, she has a short attention span (mostly because she has worked it out and wants to move on) and she can get frustrated very quickly.  In other ways she needs to let concepts sit with her, pushing them makes her push back. She will surprise me with her memory everyday and the detail she remembers is astounding sometimes. She is awesome and while at times a challenge to parent, I wouldn’t have her any other way. I worry about her future in school and I never want her to have a teacher set upon crushing her spirit like my brother encountered. I saw this today;

Hackschooling

and I loved it and I think it may be sending me on a path I am very scared to go on.

Why am I scared? Because it relies on me to provide everything myself. When will I work? I love my job it is a vocation, a need to fill. When will I have my time- isn’t when they are at school when you get to do all the other stuff like the shopping, cleaning, washing, reading, resting? I need space to recharge when will I get that? Homeschooling will consume everything I have. I get excited about it and sick with dread at the same time. What I do know is it is not allowed in HK, people do it I know but it seems to be a very closed shop. I know right now she is thriving, there is no point in worrying about what might happen. She has a great teacher right now and she may continue to have teachers who love and inspire her throughout her schooling- as I did. I am making sure I am helping her to recognise emotions and be able to talk about how she feels and to communicate what she wants and needs and constantly working on my own reasons for finding her so challenging. But this morning I was inspired and saw a whole different life ahead and I was compelled to share!

Really keen to hear feedback about what you have done in this situation!

hummus

Hummus

 

One of my favourites snacks with cut veg, and as an addition to flatbreads salads, falafel, or halumi. Super nutritious and really easy to make. Kids love it, especially babies!. This is my version, I have been making it for years but I know some women who have had recipes handed down and make it as part of their heritage for longer than me- I hope they approve of my recipe and welcome their comments and suggestions.

2 cups drained soaked and well-cooked or canned chickpeas, cooking liquid reserved if possible (or you can sprout it)

2 tbs  tahini, or more to taste

2 tbs extra virgin olive oil, plus oil for garnish

1-2 clove garlic, peeled, or more to taste (I tend to roast mine in the oven first for a sweeter taste)

Juice of 1 lemon/lime

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

paprika and chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish

 

Put the chickpeas, tahini, garlic, and lime juice in a food processor (or a blender for even smoother hummus), sprinkle with salt and pepper, and begin to process; add oil and chickpea-cooking liquid as needed to produce a smooth purée.

Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more salt, pepper, or lemon juice as needed. Serve, drizzled with some olive oil and sprinkled with a bit of paprika and some parsley.

Baked Falafel

Baked Falafel

1 can Chickpeas (you can also use dried chickpeas that have been soaked/sprouted)

½ cup fresh coriander

½ cup fresh parsley

2 cloves of garlic

Salt and pepper

1-2 tbs olive oil

Mix all the ingredients in a food processor adding the olive oil until the right consistency to roll into balls. Heat oven to 180 degrees and brush falafel with olive oil and bake for 10 mins until you can turn them. Bake for 10 more mins. You can also fry them but this way is much healthier! Seen pictured above with Quinoa flatbreads and home made hummus

5 Reasons To Shop Locally:

In season;  Chinese Kale, Cabbage, pea shoots, lettuce, carrots, spinach, cucumber, watercress, radish, broccoli

1. Foods in season generally have the nutrients in them to support the body’s needs at the time, thus boosting the immune system. Eating local honey can help reduce hay fever and asthma. Try the locally produced Honey and visit where they make it in Shatin at Wing Wo Bee Farm.

2. Indigenous varieties are normally hardier to the local environment and so less need   for interference (ie pesticides). Also you eliminate the environmental damage caused by shipping foods thousands of miles (food miles); for example organic milk at Hong Ning Dairy production is limited to 6000 bottles a day keeping it only for locals.

3.Taste Better. Picked when ripe and ready so given the right amount of time to develop flavour by soaking up the soil’s nutrients for longer. Eating foods fresh and unprocessed can have huge health benefits

4.Cheaper. More abundant easier to grow in season. Less travel means no increase to price.

5. More convenient.  Not only do most of the farms deliver to you, wet markets are often closer than your normal supermarket. Pick up a guide to wet markets that include descriptions of the local produce available at your local district office. It’s fun to discover new foods and search for ways of cooking them for our families. Also its more likely your food dollar goes directly to the farmer thus supporting the local community and promoting more investment into a greener local area.

Try a green smoothie to use your local veg especially the Chinese Kale and watercress.

Buckwheaties: (these can also be used as snacks in themselves as I discovered when my 3 year old kept coming back for more! and also are used as cereal or added to muesli. They are really crispy and are seeds derived from a flour so are completely grain free. Ground they are also a great flour and are used in alot of baking recipes- they are really quite moreish! You may have come across Buckwheat in Japanese buckwheat noodles, Russian pancakes (Bilini’s) and are used in beer production too!)

1 cup of Buckwheat Groats (very easy to buy I got some in Green dot)

Water

Pyrex bowl

Tea towel

This takes a little time, but is worth it. Rinse the groats in some water and leave to soak (preferably in filtered water) overnight. In the morning drain them and set in a glass bowl and cover with a tea towel. In the evening- rinse the groats and again place in the bowl and cover with the tea towel. In the morning they should have sprouted. Now they are ready to dry. I put them in the dehydrator, but you can use the lowest setting on your oven. Spread out the groats and dry until crunchy- takes about 6 hours in the dehydrator at living foods temperature.

  

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Pumpkin Bread

Works best when making mini loafs as they stay moist and not too dense.

4 tbs coconut sugar, 2 tbs coconut nectar

2tbs Olive oil, 2tbs coconut oil

400g Pureed pumpkin

¼ lemon squeezed

Thumbnail size of grated ginger.

1 cup Almond Flour,

½ cup Quinoa Flour

¼ coconut flour

1 cup All purpose gluten free flour.

1tbs poppy seeds

1 ½ tsp cinnamon,

½ tsp grated nutmeg,

1 tsp Xanthum gum (or Chia gel- 1 tsp chia to 3tsp water let it sit for 10-20 mins till gel consistency)

1 ½ tsp baking soda,

½ tsp Salt

Mix all wet ingredients (everything on list till grated ginger) in the Kenwood or with a hand mixer.  Mix dry ingredients together in another bowl. Slowly fold in dry ingredient to wet ingredients. Meanwhile grease some mini loaf tins. When fully mixed, put into loaf tins. Pre-heat oven to 200C and cook for 15-20 mins. Turn out onto cooling rack when finished.

Does that look so bad!

I had a tough time adjusting after my daughter was born. I felt weepy, resentful, confused, out of control and I had no idea what mothers instinct felt like. All I felt was very overwhelmed and under-slept! I thought ‘no wonder people are labelled with Post Natal Depression’.  The immediate change in your life, so completely, is very difficult to adjust to. Your body is still not yours. You are breastfeeding and your needs are very low down on the list of things to do. It was not until a year had past that I started to feel like myself again. My blood sugar levels were all over the place, my moods were awful, I was constantly confused, groggy and I had zero energy. I was on fish oils, calcium, zinc, pro-biotic capsules and magnesium and I felt like these nutrients were keeping me together.  I had heard of Placenta Encapsulation whilst studying to be a Naturopath; however children were off of my radar then, so it was one of those things that came and went.

When I became pregnant with my second baby I was watching a programme (in the UK) on alternative parenting and one of the women was a Placenta Encapsulation specialist. A friend of mine had said she had contacted her local one and that she was going to do it. I looked into it and was very interested. Thinking about how I felt the first time round, I knew with a toddler and a baby I was worried I would not have the time or energy again to be able to look after them and nurture them both. When I was moving to Hong Kong in the middle of my pregnancy, I was so relieved to find someone did it here. When I met Lizzie I was convinced it was for me.

However I was still undecided whether I would have the smoothie. I was happy taking a powder in a capsule, however knowing the fresh one was in the drink I was worried it would taste like blood, metal, liver… I remember reading someone saying that right up to their birth the thought of drinking their placenta in a smoothie was too much to think about. The minute her child was born she craved it. I was sceptical. However the very same thing happened. I had a home birth here, so when my husband asked me what I would like to eat/drink after labour- it was the first thing that came to mind.  Bless my husband he was going to have a go but it completely eluded him so when Lizzie arrived I had had no sleep and was still on an adrenaline rush! She made me two smoothies, I drank one straight away (promise you taste nothing but fruit) it was actually the most delicious thing- I had the other one a few hours later. My pills arrived a few days later and I started taking them. The energy, combined with calm is truly remarkable. It was so completely different. I felt like me, I felt whole again.

I unreservedly recommend it. It makes sense. The nutrient deficiencies I see on a regular basis post partum (especially post partum hypothyroid/hyperthyroid) alone recommend it. There is no easier way to replenish what your body has lost, than to put it straight back in again. I also have the homoeopathic pills which I have given my daughter when she has started to feel the pressure of the change for her. Her reaction after taking them was also obvious, calmer and back to her loving self. She felt part of it again and it has helped us to grow into being a family of four from 3. I wish I had done it the first time, but having felt how I did, it might not have been so obvious feeling the opposite?

Benefits:

Everything it is suggested it is good for has been and still is experienced by me;

Increased energy

Balance (both mood and hormones)

Very fast milk supply (the next day and even through mastitis and feeding from 1 boob for months, I met demand)

Lighter post bleeding (only heavy for a couple of days and gone completely much quicker)

Quick healing (from tearing and abdominal muscle tone and separation was back before 6 weeks- That was also due to exercises!)

I took them 2-3 times a day for the first 6 weeks and now I take my pills every now and then, when I feel run down, like everyone wants a piece of me, stressed and angry. They do calm me down. I took them with me on my recent trip to the UK at Christmas and took one a day and my milk supply did not suffer from the jet lag at all. My friend I mentioned at the beginning is saving hers for her menopause, so is not taking them any more  However I believe that by taking them all when needed  post-partum  you will replenish your body and not need them during menopause (a time hopefully too far away for me to consider freezing them for that long). If not I will still always have the homoeopathic potency to use and the mother tincture. I use the mother tincture also at times of need and also put a little in the bath. Again I fell nourished and energised, generally nicer and calmer!

Nutrient Value of a placenta useful post-partum:

Gonadotrophin: the precursor to estrogen, progesterone and testosterone,
Prolactin: promotes lactation,
Oxytocin: for pain and bonding; produced during breastfeeding to facilitate bonding of mother and infant. In pharmaceutical form this is a very addictive drug because it promotes a feeling of connectedness with others,
Thyroid stimulating hormone: boosts energy and helps recovery from stressful events,
Cortisone: combats stress and unlocks energy stores,
Interferon: stimulates the immune system to protect against infections,
Prostaglandins: anti-inflammatory,
Hemoglobin: replenishes iron deficiency and anemia, a common post-partum condition,
Urokinase inhibiting factor and factor XIII: stops bleeding and enhances wound healing,
Gammaglobulin: immune booster that helps protect against post-partum infections.

(source)

Benefits that attracted me as a nutritional therapist that you can’t get from any other supplement or food!

The best thing I have read about placenta encapsulation and echo here is-

What’s the harm!

In my opinion, it’s ‘Why wouldn’t you?’

To see how contact IPEN or in Hong Kong see here