Ep. 127: Are gluten-free grains right for you?

Fed & Fit
Fed & Fit

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On today's episode, I'm chatting with Reverse Interviewer Elena about how to know if gluten-free grains are right for YOU.

Fed and Fit podcast graphic, episode 127 how to know if gluten free grains are good for you with Cassy Joy

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Episode 127 Sponsors

  • Pride of Bristol Bay – be sure to enter the promo code “fedandfit” (one word, all lowercase) at checkout for a discount during the month of October (2017).

Episode 127 Transcription

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Cassy Joy: Welcome back to another episode of the Fed and Fit podcast. I am your host, Cassy Joy Garcia. And today is another wonderful reverse interview with the lovely Fed and Fit listener. And if you're unfamiliar; if you're new here, with the reverse interview concept, it’s pretty simple. Fed and Fit listeners and readers write in with really great questions, and when I get an especially good question, instead of responding to their email the way that they’ve asked, or however they’ve contacted me. I’ll ask them if they’ll come on the show so we can chat about it, in the hopes that maybe it helps other folks.

So today I’m joined by Elena. She lives in Brooklyn, and she works in communications. She’s also applying for nursing school. Welcome to the show, Elena!

Elena: Hi! Thank you so much. I’m very excited to be on this podcast.

Cassy Joy: Yay! I’m very excited to have you. Well if you don’t mind telling folks a little bit more about yourself. Your background, and what you wanted to chat about today.

Elena: Yeah, absolutely. So I guess in terms of my background and why I contacted you. I have had eczema my whole life, and I’ve also had IBS for most of it, as well. And for the whole time, I’ve had doctors be like, “Your skin has nothing to do with what you eat. We’ll just give you some steroid creams. Take antihistamines, and that will help.” But it has never really helped. And the same thing with the IBS stuff. They’re like, “Well you don’t have celiac, and you don’t have Crohn’s, so just eat a high fiber diet and that will fix it.”

But it didn’t, as you will probably not be shocked to know. And so recently I sort of stumbled into; I started reading Practical Paleo, and found this whole scene of wonderful people who have provided so much educational information. And I also found an integrative doctor that I started going to. So I have been doing a low FODMAP paleo-ish diet. And my skin got so much better, it was amazing. It wasn’t perfect, and my doctor was still like, I think we can make some improvements.

My stomach got better too, but still not all the way. So the nutritionist that I see had me do the MRT LEAP food sensitivity test. And so I had been eating some white rice, but nothing else. And when I took that test, it came back; like all the gluten containing grains came back reactive, which is not surprising at all. But it said that I could have quinoa and oats, but not rice.

So I was confused, because rice is something that, as a starch, white rice is accepted among people who eat more primal and being less inflammatory. And I had been eating rice. Because I’m pretty active. I workout every day, not like crazy. And I’m in a time in my life where I’m working out less than usual, which is good. But I still do workout every day, and I walk a lot. So I didn’t want to cut out more carb sources than I needed to, since sweet potatoes are off limits for the low-FODMAP diet.

So anyway. It said I could have quinoa, and oats. And when I was thinking about it, I was like, should I add this back in to keep my carbs up? Or should I keep it out because it is still a grain? I know what the thinking is around white rice. But I’m a little bit confused about the other grains, the non-gluten containing ones. Because I may be a little too perfectionist about this. But I want to give myself as good of a chance of feeling really good before I start messing around so I have a good baseline.

Cassy Joy: Awesome! That was great. That was really good. This is a great question, a really great topic. Just a quick question, before you took that food sensitivity test, were you also eating quinoa or oats?

Elena: I was not.

Cassy Joy: Ok. Had you been at all recently?

Elena: I tried to eat everything that would be on the test. So there were a few things; I didn’t eat barley. But I ate almost everything else that was on the test before I took it. Because I wanted it to be in my body.

Cassy Joy: Yeah, smart. Good. Awesome. Just curious. And I’m asking that, because for folks who are unfamiliar maybe with the science of it. If you haven’t eaten it, then you won’t actually have those antigens present in your body. So it may show up as nonreactive when you could be reactive. You just haven’t eaten it recently. So that’s really good to know.

Ok, awesome. This is such a good question. So, I’m going to take it two directions. Let’s talk about, first. {laughs} Elena and I are doing a video, so I don’t know if she can see me making all my notes. I’m such a visual person, I wrote two directions and like an arrow with a Y {laughs} so I can remember what I’m doing.

So, first let’s talk briefly about, I think, just the chemistry makeup of the different kinds of grains. I’m going to keep it super superficial. Super superficial. {laughs} I’m going to keep it very superficial at first on the science of that, and maybe we’ll dive into it. We’ll save it for another podcast topic. We’ll really jump into the chemical makeup of different grains and what’s out there. I’ve done one on rice before, I don’t know if you listened to that one.

Elena: I have.

Cassy Joy: Ok, yeah. That’s a good one. So we can do that for quinoa and also oats in the future. But talk briefly about the makeup, and then let’s talk about alternatives. To really touch on your ultimate question is; what do I do to really feel the best for myself. So that’s the million-dollar question.

Ok, so I would say number one; and I’m sure, Elena, you know this. And I’m sure so many listeners dialing in know this also. But it’s worth repeating just for the sake of setting the context. So when it comes to the chemistry makeup of different kinds of foods. Right? They’re all going to have their own unique proteins. Their own unique chemical structure that allows quinoa to be quinoa, oats to be oats, and rice to be rice. Right?

The same is true for wheat. The wheat granule, obviously, which has the protein we know of as gluten in it has that in it where that gluten protein isn’t present in rice, quinoa, or oats necessarily. Oats, just for the sake of throwing it out there. A lot of oatmeal is not labeled as gluten free, if you're wandering around in the grocery store and you're wondering why that is. It’s probably because a lot of oats are processed in the same facility as wheat, where wheat is processed. So there’s just heavy cross-contamination that goes on there. Just FYI. But at their core, oats are generally considered gluten free.

Ok, so just as oats and quinoa and rice don’t have wheat gluten in them, they also have their own special proteins that make them unique. And it’s possible that there’s a protein in rice that just does not agree with you. And it may not be quite as severe as your intolerance to maybe wheat gluten, right? But it could be just severe enough to have to sort of an impact. While your body is, I don’t want to say broken. Because you're not. You’re a very healthy, vibrant young woman. But while your body is trying to overcome this thing that’s manifesting as eczema and IBS. Right? It’s possible that whatever little protein there is in rice that you're having a negative reaction to is just aggravating that problem.

It’s kind of like having an open sore on your palm, and you just, you thought you fished out all of the debris, and there’s one teeny tiny little splinter left. You know? It may not be the biggest splinter, but it’s one in there and it’s just aggravating it and maybe keeping you from healing entirely. Ok? And those proteins may not be present in quinoa and oats. So you might be fine. I don’t know if you’ve experimented with eating those. Have you, since you’ve gotten the test results?

Elena: I have a little bit. It’s hard to say. Oats have always made me really bloated, so I just haven’t touched them. But I have tried quinoa, and it seems to be fine.

Cassy Joy: Ok, that’s great. You know what? And that’s a really good marker. So we know our bodies best, right? And at the end of the day a food sensitivity test isn’t actually; I wouldn’t consider to be the end all be all. I would say that what you know to be a reaction from your body to be an even better marker. So I’m the same. I would love to eat oats. I went on an oat kick recently, and I had my mother-in-law. She was out shopping, and I don’t know why. I was really wanting to change up my breakfast starch components. I was like, could you pick me up two cannisters of oats? I had this very specific brand in mind. And they made me; I was super bloated from them. So I’m with you. It just doesn’t work for me.

But it works for some. And quinoa might be the same. There might be something in there that is so minor that it won’t show up on a food sensitivity test necessarily, but you can feel it in your body. So I would pay attention to those. I would keep a journal so that obviously you know oats are out, because they make you feel bloated.

But for folks listening, if you're wondering, “I wonder if quinoa works for me.” Try having a scoop or two at dinner. If you're at a restaurant, you don’t want to buy it, you can just order it. Pay attention to how you're feeling. There are other variables if you are out at a restaurant because you don’t know what oils they’re cooking things in. But if you can, try to reduce as many variables as possible. Try to incorporate that new food. And see how you feel immediately after, two hours after, the next morning, and the day after that. That’s kind of the general food sensitivity reflection journal I walk folks through.

Because sometimes I, for example. If I have; my reaction to wheat gluten. I recently had a pancake; man, I feel like I’ve talked about this pancake a lot lately. But I had a pancake that was supposed to be gluten free, and I realized it wasn’t later. But my reaction wasn’t immediate. It was not 2 hours later, it was almost 10 hours later. And it was severe. So, I would keep a journal so that you can remember those things. And when I got sick, if I hadn’t been thinking, “This is probably something I ate related.” And I rewound the clock, and I realized that the kitchen messed that up, it was just a really good insight.

So keep those journals at those times, and see how your body is feeling. And then also when it comes to eczema; because our skin changes more slowly than necessarily our digestion does. Because we can feel bloated in two days and fine 8 days later. Our skin usually takes; it’s a much slower, longer cycle. And it’s much more frustrating because you don’t know if you’ve pulled out the thorn or not.

Elena: Yeah.

Cassy Joy: You have to wait weeks to see. And so I get that. And I would also incorporate that into your notes, if you do decide to really give quinoa a try. I’m just focusing in on quinoa, because it sounds like oats are out. I think if you really decide; yes, I really want to give quinoa a try because I really want to have some sort of a grain in my mainstay diet, then I would try to incorporate it at a pretty regular interval. Maybe one serving every day every two days, half a cup being about a serving. And do it for a month. But take notes on how your skin has changed over that month from the beginning and towards the end.

So that would be really helpful just to kind of give you an idea. And if it gets worse, and that’s the only variable you’ve changed. And it’s hard, because we live in a changing world. The seasons are changing, and there’s allergies, and who knows what’s out there. But to the best of your ability, try to narrow that down. So that would be one way to go in terms of trying to figure out if quinoa works for you.

Now the other thing to think about is; now, if you’ve followed my brand for a while and what I talk about. And the folks listening here, this isn’t going to be brand new information. But I’m not a paleo purist, by any stretch of the imagination. That being said, there are sometimes when following a paleo type template for a period can really help us heal. So what that means is trying to avoid grains. It depends. You're the only person who can make this call, right. And there’s no right or wrong call.

But if you really decide, “I want to try quinoa. I feel it in my gut this might be a good direction for me.” Then go that way. But if you're also hesitant and you're nervous that you're going to have some sort of a reaction, and it’s going to postpone your progress, then maybe try to get starches from starchy vegetables. And spend a couple of months, maybe three, doing that. You don’t have to be legalistic about it. If you're out and it’s a date night and it’s once a month and you want to have sushi, and you know rice isn’t great for you but you still want to have the sushi; go for it, right? No reason to be too dogmatic about what you set yourself up with.

If it’s helpful for you, because it sounds like you’re a very type A and you like to follow. I do too, I’m the same. You can set yourself up those parameters. You can say, “Once a month I can have white rice.” Whatever it is. You come up with those numbers that you feel good about. That you know your body can tolerate and bounce back from. But let the majority of your starchy carbohydrate intake come from root and the squash kind of vegetables. So those are just to kind of throw a blanket out in case anybody is scratching their head wondering, what are those vegetables? Those would be, and we’re in a good season now because they’re finally available mostly everywhere. That would be the butternut squash. That would be acorn squash. Spaghetti squash is actually kind of low carb. So don’t eat a big bowl of spaghetti squash and think you're going to feel the same as if you had pasta. I kind of put it in the low carb starchy category. But butternut and acorn are good. Kabocha, how do you even say that?

Elena: I don’t know. I want to say Kabocha, but who knows.

Cassy Joy: I don’t know either. I have a recipe for it on my website for a soup, and I don’t know how to pronounce it. It’s a kabocha chorizo and shrimp soup. It’s really yummy. But that would be a good one. Beets are good. That would be another good source. Carrots are actually a relatively good source, as are parsnips. What else? Plantains are really wonderful.

Elena: Rutabaga, one of mine.

Cassy Joy: Perfect. I love it. Rutabaga is a great one. And potatoes, if you tolerate potatoes. Sweet potato, white potato, purple, whatever tickles your fancy. Of course, all that has to do with your particular food sensitivities. You’ll choose the ones that work for you. But I would say, especially because you're an active girl and you know that you do well with carbohydrates in general. Just as a macronutrient in general. I would make it a priority to have plenty of those around.

And you could try that for a couple of months and see how your skin responds. But it would be the same journaling activity, where you are keeping kind of macro level notes of what you're eating. Just what you ate. Not necessarily I ate X amount of grams of sweet potato today. But I had potatoes on this day, and on Saturday I ate quinoa, or whatever it is. But keep macro level notes on what you're eating, how you're feeling, and then watching your skin progress. Is that helpful?

Elena: That’s super helpful. Yeah. That’s great. I think it really does come down to this; it’s all about how you feel. And it just; we don’t spend a lot of time in our society slowing down and thinking about that. So it’s really helpful to just set it up with the journaling. Which I have to admit, I tried to do and I often just don’t. So {laughs}.

Cassy Joy: You know that’s ok. That’s so normal too. I’m the same. My goodness. I can’t tell you how many books sat on my bedside table. It’s not exactly the same, but. “I’m going to read this book every night. I’m going to read a chapter of it to wind down.” It’s kind of the same concept. And at the end of the day, my books just pile up.

So what I would recommend doing, if you do have a hard time journaling every single day, give yourself a break there and maybe just journal your aha moments. Right? And that’s ok too. That still counts as a journal. You can a really high-level journal, where it’s just you journal when there’s something significant enough to write down that happens. “I feel bloated today.” And then to the best of your ability, you write down what you think might have had an impact on that. Right?

Maybe you're just looking at your skin, and you have one of those moments where you realize, “Wow. My skin is actually doing really well right now. I’m going to write this down. I’m going to write down what I have and have not been eating.” Those kinds of things. And in the moment, we think we’re going to remember them forever. And for whatever reason, the details slip away from us. So just writing it down will kind of help. So I would write down those big aha moments.

Or, if a patch does show up that was surprising. Or IBS does tend to come back after a certain period, just kind of write down those things and that will really be powerful. When you read them altogether, it will start to tell a story.

Elena: Yeah. That makes total sense. And I think I just need to stick with it long enough, even if I’m not perfect about it, so that I can get that sort of pattern.

Cassy Joy: Absolutely. The body is resilient. You know? It really is. I think that if we eat kind of over a map that’s like this, and maybe every once in a while. I’m showing her because we’re doing video. But let’s say, describe it to listeners. If we’re staying as much as we can within the certain parameters of a dietary protocol that we write for ourselves. So let’s say Elena says sweet potatoes, rutabaga, and plantains. Those are my jam. I’m going to eat tons and tons of those. And then occasionally I’m going to have white rice. And occasional I’m going to have quinoa. And maybe I’ll have a bowl of oats. Right? So those would be deviations outside of what we’re eating, but our body, for the most part, is resilient and we’re going to be able to temper those deviations. So it’s ok.

I guess I’m trying to get a point across is we don’t have to be perfect in these pursuits to see big results and to see big things about your body.

Elena: That’s really helpful to hear as someone, like you said, is kind of type A and wants to be perfect. To just know that the body is resilient and it will adjust in doing every once in a while something that’s not allowed is ok.

Cassy Joy: Yeah, it is. And if we start to think of it as this is part of my plan, it makes it so much more fun.

Elena: Yes.

Cassy Joy: Anyways. My puppy just woke up from a nap. I walked into this room. I was telling Elena before we started recording that I’m in my office, which is turning into the nursery, and there’s lots of furniture in here, and it’s a hot mess. And I walked in here, and I looked under a coffee table for whatever reason is in this room right now. And I thought, “What is that white fluffy thing under that coffee table?” it was Gus. {laughing}

Elena: So cute.

Cassy Joy: Anyway. Well thank you so much. Was that helpful?

Elena: That was super helpful. I really appreciate it.

Cassy Joy: Good. I’m so glad. That was a really good question. I’m sure that other listeners definitely got something out of it. I’m going to let Gus out of this room. So he can go see his friend. Well thank you so much for coming on. Do you have any other questions while we’re still together?

Elena: No, that’s all. Thanks so much, Cassy.

Cassy Joy: Thank you, Elena. For all the listeners here. As always, you can find a complete transcript of today’s show over at www.FedandFit.com. And as always, we’ll be back again next week.


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