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Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the difference between wheat and gluten?
A: Wheat is a grain (a specific plant species), and it contains a protein called gluten. So gluten is a component of wheat. Gluten is also found in other grains such as rye, barley, kamut and spelt.

Q: How do you know what you are allergic/intolerant to?
A: There are a number of diagnostic tools available such as electro-dermal testing, allergy scratch tests, IgG blood tests, biopsies and more. The cheapest way to find out, though, is to first eliminate common allergens, and see if your condition improves. Start with gluten, dairy and refined sugars. If that doesn't help, eliminate corn, soy, alcohol, caffeine, yeast and nightshade plants (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers). Once your symptoms improve, you can then reintroduce foods one at a time to see if they cause a reaction.

Q: Will avoiding gluten/dairy/sugar help me lose weight?
A: If you are intolerant or allergic to gluten/dairy/sugar but still eating it, your digestion will likely be sub-optimal. This can manifest in a number of ways, from sinus problems, to leaky-gut syndrome, IBS, body odour, inflammation, learning disorders, eczema and more. Before you can reach your ideal weight, I believe that you first have to reach a better state of overall health. This starts with your diet. Diet is not about "healthy" and "unhealthy" foods; it's about what foods are healthy for you.

Q: How do you manage a family with different dietary restrictions?
A: I've seen a few people around me try to manage multiple dietary needs in the family (a gluten-free son with autism, a vegetarian daughter and a meat loving husband) by cooking three separate meals, three times a day. Needless to say, it was simply unmanageable and they gave up after one or two months.

The easiest way to manage multiple needs is to cook food that everyone can eat. Instead of thinking about meals as "one dish wonders", prepare them as mix and match buffets. Cook veggies, meats and grains separately, and let everyone pick and choose what they can eat. The simpler you keep your meals, the more you'll be able to share, and the easier it will be for you.

Ultimately you also need to choose between spending some more money to make meals that accommodate everyone; or to save money by buying and cooking separate meals. For example, serving everyone gluten-free pasta vs. cooking two batches of gluten and gluten-free pasta. You need to find the solution that works best for you and that is sustainable for your lifestyle.

Q: Where do you go out to eat?
A: I am not Celiac, and I can tolerate small amounts of gluten and sugar, so I mostly go to Asian restaurants that have rice based dishes. There are a lot of places that do have strictly gluten-free options like Il Fornello (GF pastas and pizzas). You can visit glutenfreeontario.ca for a listing of local restaurants with GF options.

Q: Can I eat bread if I am also trying to avoid yeast?
A: Yes. You can make bread that is gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free AND yeast-free. I have not yet found any bread like this available commercially, so I make it myself (recipe is in my book). I make what is called a "quick bread" which uses baking powder to make it rise in the oven like a cake, instead of using yeast.

Q: Why is eating yeast a problem?
A: Yeast is a living organism that naturally occurs in our bodies. As women, I'm sure we all know that too much yeast can be a problem. But beyond the dreaded yeast infection, it can also contribute to other conditions like fatigue, brain fog, and leaky-gut syndrome. If you're trying to get rid of excess yeast, you can go on a short detox, generally 2 weeks, where you take certain supplements and eliminate all sources of yeast as well as food sources for yeast. This includes all fermented products, all sweeteners (except stevia) and high glycemic index foods.

Q: What kind of natural sweeteners do you recommend?
A: The sweeteners I most often use are: honey, maple syrup, rice malt, molasses and stevia. Each can add a different character to the food you're making.

Q: I've tried stevia and it was horrible! How do you use it?
A: Stevia is an extract from a plant leaf that is about 800 times sweeter than sugar. Often, people complain about a strange and unpleasant aftertaste. From my experience, the aftertaste is more from the product's additives than from the stevia itself. Look for pure liquid stevia mixed only with water, or for pure powdered stevia with no additional ingredients. Stevia that comes in alcohol, glycerine or silica have aftertastes. When using powdered stevia, it should be dissolved with your liquid ingredients, not mixed in with your dry ingredients.

Q: Why do people develop intolerances to wheat, gluten or dairy?
A: A dietician once told me that people can develop intolerances or allergies to foods that they eat everyday. The more often you eat a food, the more likely you are to develop an intolerance to it. Food intolerances may also be increasing because of genetic modification of foods and pesticides. Since wheat, gluten and dairy are in virtually every North American dish, it's no wonder that more and more people seem to be complaining about reactions to them. The best thing to do, avoid developing food allergies in the first place is to rotate foods and not eat them everyday.

Q: My naturopathic doctor has told me to avoid wheat/gluten/dairy. Does that mean I have to do it forever, or can I start eating it again later?
A: Food allergies can change within six months if you stop eating the offending food for that period of time. So, you may indeed find that you will be able tolerate foods that once bothered you. It really depends on your situation and what caused the reaction in the first place. If you are Celiac, you must strictly avoid all gluten for the rest of your life. If, however, you are simply allergic/intolerant, your body may change, and you may be able to tolerate eating some foods again. The key is to understand your condition and to listen to your body.

Remember also that yo-yo elimination (where you cheat and have something you shouldn't once in a while) will likely cause cravings and make it much more difficult for you to be successful with your diet in the long run. I eliminated gluten, dairy and refined sugar from my diet and have felt so much better since doing it that I just decided to continue doing so. I know that when I eat gluten, I don't feel as good, so it has become a personal choice.

Q: Do I have to be so strict with avoiding cross-contamination?
A: That depends. If you are Celiac, yes. If you only have a slight intolerance, probably not. If you are trying to detoxify, yes. Understand your condition, the importance of strict adherence, and commit to making the changes you need to achieve your health goals.

Q: What kind of symptoms can food allergies/intolerances cause?
A: Food allergies/intolerances can cause or contribute to a wide range of symptoms. Generally, if you're eating things you shouldn't, you are damaging your body and your body responds by creating inflammation. You may also experience a wide range of mental issues as well. Symptoms can include: fatigue, brain fog, poor concentration, learning disabilities, rashes, eczema, dry/oily skin, indigestion, leaky gut syndrome, IBS, joint pain, tendonitis and more.