Where am I and why am I not writing?

So, why haven’t I updated my blog regularly this month?

Good question, and the answer is: I have been sick. First with some sort of cold, then with some sort of virus, and this week I was glutinated by something. I don’t know what. When I’m sick I don’t write coherently, and I don’t want to cook or take photos of my food. I’m just grumpy and you don’t want to be anywhere near me!

Previously I mentioned that I didn’t get intestinal distress from gluten, just the rash. Well, apparently being gluten-free for the last while has changed that fact. Not only did my stomach revolt but I had a severe, severe, severe headache for 2 days straight (you try using a microscope and counting chromosome aberrations all day long with a headache. Its not pleasant).

Now that my stomach is better, the dermatitis herpetiformis has again erupted with gusto all over my elbows, knees, scalp, back of the neck and in the scar I have on my right cheek. I’ve had to wrap my elbows in bandages just so I cannot scratch because my new insane short term goal in life is to scratch off all 30 layers of dead cells on my elbows and destroy the underlying basal lamina. Will this result in permanent scarring? Hell yeah, but at least I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that I stuck it to the man! Or rather, my elbows. My knees are also itchy, but since it snowed AGAIN last night I will be wearing jeans again today, and its really hard to scratch knees while wearing jeans. I am going to work, and I should maintain some sort of decency. Plus its a biology lab, and not wearing pants in a little dangerous.

And no, I don’t know what I ate. This makes the whole situation even worse.

Any road, as previously mentioned it snowed again last night. So I must go clean off my car and get to work. Hopefully I won’t feel like mud and I’ll be back to the kitchen soon. I’m getting a little tired of Lara bars. But not the cherry pie Lara Bar *bliss*.

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Celiac disease and intestinal parasites

Last week I wrote a post about the latest research in celiac disease. Today I received a comment about that that post from Kristina:

“I just read your summary of the latest CD research and am wondering what your thoughts are on this- my fiance and I lived in Nicaragua for two years. I drank water from the tap, from wells, whatever, no intestinal parasites, no giardia, no nothing for the entire time- whereas he (a non-celiac) was sick all the time (and he was careful about boiling his water). Our theory is that being a celiac, I have some sort of protection against amoebas and what not. What do you think?”

I thought this was extremely interesting. I wrote her back:

“I think that its possible that celiac protected you, but celiac disease is not the only explanation for your lack of tummy troubles. Consider:

— Many parasites would need something to latch onto in order to grow and inflict disease. If your intestines were not healed, there might not have been enough villi for the parasite to create a home, thus your illness may have prevented another illness.
— your digestive system may also have developed a unique way of dealing with changes to the intestine because of your celiac. Its amazing how your body will work around problems. Perhaps your unique work around helped you say healthy
— your stomach might have been sick, but you’re so used to feeling sick that you didn’t actually notice being ill. Your boyfriend who hasn’t had years of illness would never have experienced this type of feeling and therefore extra sensitive to the problem

— However —

– there is the possibility that you may never have actually ingested a live parasite. The incidence of parasites are actually quite low, its just the few that float about in the water are really good at causing disease and you usually only need one to get sick. Statistically you might have been lucky.
— you may have done a better job of disinfecting the water you drank than your boyfriend. My boyfriend is lazy and impatient — there is no question in my mind that he would have made himself sick!
— you may have genes coding for super parasite killing proteins or cycles that genetically pre-dispose you to survive parasitic attack.
— your stomach acid may be stronger than your boyfriend’s and you killed the parasites before they actually invaded your intestines.”

I also told her I’d do some digging to discover the real scoop. Here’s what I discovered:

Behera et al. Dig Dis Sci. 2008 Mar;53(3):672-9.

“The pathogenic parasites detected in (celiac) adults were Giardia lamblia 12 (24%), E. histolytica / dispar 5 (10%), Ancylostoma duodenale 4 (8%), H. nana 2 (4%) and Cyclospora cayetanensis 1 (2%). The pathogenic parasites detected in children with malabsorption syndrome were Giardia lamblia 8 (16%), Cryptosporidium 7 (14%), E. histolytica / dispar 3 (6%), Ancylostoma duodenale 3 (6%), Isospora belli 1 (2%), and H. nana 1 (2%). None of the stool samples from healthy controls were positive for Cryptosporidium spp., Cyclospora and Isospora belli. All the patients infected with intestinal coccidia were HIV sero-negative. Conclusion: Celiac disease is the most common cause of malabsorption syndrome in both adults and children. These people harbour significantly more pathogenic parasites and are more frequently colonized with harmless commensals as compared to healthy controls.”

I also found a study that suggests that the T cells that cause the villi to flatten in celiac disease are not the same T cells that flatten the lining in a giardia infection. Same symptoms, different pathway.

Unfortunately, that is all of the evidence I could find. This does not lead us to any conclusion, but it does give us another hypothesis to explain why Kristina was not ill — Kristina may have already had a giardia infection! If the numbers in this study are statistically correct, she has a 24% chance of being infected with giardia as I type. In fact, if the stats are correct, I have a 24% chance of being infected as I type! There is also a chance she has another intestinal parasite that was not allowing the parasites from Nicaragua settle.

I would like to point out that the study was small, and that the statistics might be much higher or lower than 24%.

This whole thing brings home something I’ve already said — I really have to get my microfora back in order! This can easily be accomplished through diet and by taking high quality probiotics on a regular basis. Please note that yogurt, cheese and other foods containing probiotics are NOT good probiotics.

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Latest Research On Celiac Disease

For those of you who are unaware, I am a biologist. Because of this I frequently read the latest scientific research papers on subjects of interest. Being a celiac, I am obviously interested in the latest developments in celiac research. While I know I cannot explain a lot of the research in layman’s terms (sorry, too much jargon) I can still let you guys know some interesting facts about celiacs you may not have known. If you have questions just ask. If you want sources, I have listed them at the end, just click the “read more >>” link.

  1. The lining of the small intesting in celiacs is inherently different in comparison to the lining of non-celiacs. Even if the disease is not active, the proteins in the intestinal lining have a different set and formation of carbohydrates (sugars). These sugars known form what is known as a glycosylation pattern on the surface of the intestine and are responsible for interaction with many body functions, which means that the interaction with other body functions and the intestinal cell wall is different between celiacs and non-celiacs. Exactly what this means is not yet known.
  2. All humans have bacteria in their intestines which help them digest and metabolize certain foods and nutrients. Celiacs have more rod shaped bacteria in their gut than non-celiacs. They have a different bacterial flora than non-celiacs. This difference is still evident even after being on a long-term gluten-free diet. I am definetly continuing my regimen of probiotics (BioK all the way).
  3. There is a hypothesis that the immune system in the intestine of celiacs have a hard time discriminating between pathogens and benificial particles (i.e. gluten peptides) which suggests that gluten might be mistaken as a pathogen. Although not proven, there is strong evidence to suggest that this hypothesis is correct.
  4. A group of researchers have determined that some non-human primates (apes/monkeys) are also celiacs. Specifically they found a group of rhesus macaques that displayed celiac like symptoms, including production of anti-gliaden antibodies, when they were fed gluten. The researchers suggest that these macaques could prove useful in further celiac studies.

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Moist almond, orange coffee cake — a recipe adapted from Louise Blair’s “Great Gluten-free Baking”

Gluten free moist orange almond cake Gluten free moist orange almond cake I just bought a new gluten-free cookbook: “Great gluten-free baking” by Louise Blair.This is an excellent book. Lots of yummy, easy and very tasty baking recipes. Beautiful photographs for many of the recipes, and easy to follow instructions.Here I have made one of Blair’s recipes, modified it a bit as I didn’t actually have enough ground almond to make the cake as written, nor did I have large oranges. I had one medium orange and a bunch of clementines. This recipe contains no added fat — the moisture comes from the oranges, and the only fat is from the almonds, and that is ‘good’ fat (but that doesn’t mean you should eat the entire cake!). Delicious with coffee — actuall just delicious anytime. YUMMY!

Moist Almond Cake
adapted from Louise Blair’s “Great gluten-free baking” — I have written the recipe using the measurements I used, if you want to use the actual measurements, please buy the book (or go to the library).

Ingredients

  • about 1/2 lbs (0.2 kg) orange type fruits (oranges, clementines mandarins), preferably seedless
  • 1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups (415 mL) ground almonds
  • 1 1/2 cups (590 mL) brown rice flour
  • 1 tsp gluten-free baking powder
  • 6 eggs

Directions

  1. Place whole oranges in a pot full of boiling water and simmer for 40 minutes – 1 hour (40 minutes for smaller fruit, 1 hour for large fruit)
  2. Pre-heat oven to 350F (180C), grease a DEEP 8 inch cake pan or spring-form pan (I used spring-form)
  3. Put the oranges into a food processor or blender and blend until pulpy. Make sure there are no large chunks of peel. Also make sure there are no pips (in case you used seeded oranges, or you ran into a not-so-seedless seedless orange)
  4. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake 40-50 minutes or until just set. I think the cake tasted better a little dry, so I left it in for 50 minutes.v
  6. When finished cool on a wire rack. Don’t try to remove it from the pan until cool — it will fall apart!
  7. ENJOY!

The book suggests serving with whipped cream. I suggest drinking coffee.

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Jerusalem artichoke dip

jerusalem artichoke dip

jerusalem artichoke dip

This dip is thick so you can dip crudites or GF bread sticks or spread this on a lovely GF bagel. I’ve heard you can also use dip/spread recipe instead of using pesto.The artichokes have quite a strong woodsy flavour, so if you do not like strong flavours you’re not going to like this dip/spread — again, think of pesto — if you add too much pesto the flavour is FAR too strong to eat.

Some more background: Jerusalem artichokes are not actually artichokes. They are the tuber a native Canadian (and American) wild sunflower. They can be eaten like a potato but have a much stronger mustier taste.

Jerusalem artichokes are very high in inulin, they help your body absorb calcium and magnesium and will promote the growth of healthy beneficial bacteria in your tummy. This is great for people who have had some sort of intestinal damage — does this sound like you? Because they affect your intestinal tract JA’s can cause.. er… wind, similar to that experienced if you ate too many beans.

Another warning: even though the Jerusalem artichoke is a native to Canada (and parts of the US), Agriculture Canada considers this plant to be an agricultural weed — it competes with crop plants. So, if you compost like me (i.e. I don’t turn over my compost, so the compost does not get very hot) do make sure you cut your unused tubers into tiny pieces before composting, if you don’t you may have a weed problem. That being said, the flowers of the Jerusalem artichoke are marvellously pretty, so maybe you do want a weed problem?

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 lb (340 g) Jerusalem artichokes
  • 1 bunch green Swiss chard or spinach (I used chard)
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) GF mayonnaise
  • 3 tbsp (45 mL) extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) real Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) lemon juice
  • 1/2 bunch parsley
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro (coriander leaves)

Instructions

  1. With artichokes with a brush, they tend to be dirty so scrub really well. If you cannot clearly see the rings around the tuber then you haven’t scrubed them enough. Dry them with a tea towel.
  2. LIGHTLY rub artichokes with oil. I cannot stress lightly enough. If you rub too much they will be a real pain to peel.
  3. Bake in a casserole dish or on a cookie sheet for 30 minutes at 375F (190C)
  4. Meanwhile, remove the stems and the hard centre vein of each green leaf (of chard or spinach) and steam until wilted. This shouldn’t take more than 3 minutes. Let leaves cool.
  5. When the artichokes are finished, remove them from the oven and let them cool.
  6. When cool enough to handle, peel the artichokes. This is the worst part of the whole recipe. Its a pain, but its worth it. Discard the peel.
  7. Put all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and pulse until the mixture is nice and smooth.
  8. ENJOY!

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Greenbeans with scallions and ground almonds (for two), naturally gluten-free

Today I’m too lazy to write an intro for this recipe. The photo speaks for itself. YUMMY!

green beans with scallions and ground almonds

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lbs (220 g) green beans
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) sliced scallions (green onions), whites and greens
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) ground almonds
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) butter, olive oil, or non-dairy substitute. I used butter.

Directions

  1. Boil green beans in a pot of water for about 4 minutes, until bright green but still crunchy
  2. Place beans in a bowl of cold (or iced if you have it) water to stop the cooking process. To be honest, I just shoved the beans in cool tap water and placed them on the porch. Its -22 F (-30C) outside today.
  3. In a skillet, sauté scallions (medium heat) in butter/non-dairy substitute/olive oil, when soft and the whites have become transparent add the ground almonds
  4. Continue to sauté on medium heat until almonds are toasted a light brown
  5. Add the green beans to the skillet and cook until just heated through
  6. ENJOY!


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Gluten-free pancakes because today is Shrove Tuesday/Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras — aka PANCAKE DAY!

shrove tuesday pancake

Today is shrove Tuesday/fat Tuesday/Mardi gras — the day before lent where Christian households got rid of all the fat in their household by making things such as pancakes. And while I’m not at all religious, I do enjoy a good pancake.

I’ve tried a number of recipes in the past while, and this one is by far the best I’ve come across. I can’t say its the best — it is obviously not a pancake made with wheat — its really not bad! My partner smothered his in table syrup, while I smothered mine in homemade papaya & strawberry jam. YUM!

I wish my photograph could truly tell you how lovely these little beasties are, unfortunately this was the only one that didn’t end up blurry. A bit of a disappointment, but oh well. Just make the recipe, and the taste will speak for itself.

MAKES 14 (or so) PANCAKES

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 cups (335 mL) brown rice flour
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) teaspoon tapioca starch
  • 1/3 cup (85 mL) potato starch
  • 1/3 cup (85 mL) rice milk (like ryza) or almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) honey
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon (3.75 mL) baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon (3.75 mL) salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon (3.75 mL) xanthan gum
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) apple sauce (or melted butter)
  • 2 3/4 cups (690 mL) water

Directions

  1. Sift together all the dry ingredients, stir in eggs and apple sauce (or butter) until most of the lumps are gone. I use a hand mixer, but you can mix by hand if you desire.
  2. Heat a non-stick skillet or griddle to med-high heat. Spoon batter onto skillet. I use a 1/4 cup (60 mL) measuring spoon so that each of my pancakes are roughly the same size, but thats just me being picky. When the top of the pancake is bubbling, and the sides are just turning brown, flip the pancake and continue cooking until both sides are golden brown.
  3. If making a large batch place pancakes in a warmed oven to keep warm until serving. If making a small batch, serve immediately.
  4. ENJOY!

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