Thursday, July 18, 2013

Living Wheat Free in Hawaii

Bread is expensive in Hawaii and often hard to find fresh, so it was easy to note that my gout attacks occurred after eating a lot of bread.  When researching the relationship between wheat and gout in November 2012, we could find no evidence that wheat caused gout, but we decided to try a wheat free diet anyway.  Though many people report immediate weight loss on a wheat free diet, we both put on 10 lbs.  The wonderful upside has been no gout attacks and the swelling and inflammation I usually have in my feet is gone. The spaces between my toes, where I usually get gout, is now much smaller as are the joints in my fingers.

The problem with modern wheat is thought to be the gliadin protein which acts as an opiate; it misdirects the immune systemincreases appetite, and causes emotional highs and lows from surges in insulin production.   

Though gluten intolerance is often seen as a  digestive problem, eating wheat can also cause joint inflammation, skin problems, and respiratory distress without a person having digestive symptoms.  Dr. Kenneth Fine, a researcher at Entero Lab, uses stool samples, rather than blood tests, to detect antibodies in the digestive tract from a reaction to gliadin.  His research has found that 35% of Americans cannot tolerate wheat and more than 80% have genes types that are more likely to have problems with wheat.

Instead of wheat pasta, we now eat brown rice pasta.  We also replaced wheat tortillas, bread, and pancakes with our own dough consisting of rice flour and ground flax.  Ground flax makes dough easier to roll out, so we don’t have to use additives like guar gum or xantham gum. We use almond flour and coconut flour to make cookies and pie crusts.  (We use maple syrup and fruit as sweeteners.)  We also add green pea and buckwheat (which is not wheat in spite of its name) flours, which are actually fruits, in our tortilla and pancake dough. 

The wheat-free diet is challenging as one must totally avoid wheat because the immune response to the gliadin protein can last up to 6 months each time wheat is consumed.  It took us about 6 months for our bread craving to stop and we are just starting to feel that a wheat-free diet is worth all the trouble.  We have found wheat in all sorts of products, even some yogurts and cheeses.  We cut back on our almond flour and nut consumption to get back down to the weight we were before we started the no-wheat diet.  

From a gout perspective, getting rid of wheat has been wonderful.  For the first time since I can remember, my feet and toes are not swollen.  Our skin has changed remarkably; it looks younger and tauter.  Our hair looks glossier, but that may be just from eating so much flax.   Experiences of other 50-something guys is that it takes 4 years to get the ultimate benefit of a flat stomach.  Though our bellies have shrunk, we still have 10 more pounds to lose to gain the full benefit of being wheat-free.  


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