• Marisa Barsotti RD,LD, A.H.E., RYT

Gluten. Yes.


As most people fell of the gluten band wagon, myself, husband, and children geared up and on it full throttle. I had so many people lecture me in regards to how I was hurting myself and my children for feeding them gluten containing foods. I had a woman at the yoga studio I work at stand in front of me and explain to me that it was my motherly responsibility to protect my children and keep them away from gluten.

When folks ask if I feed my children gluten:

Don't get me wrong. We've given a great effort and shelled out plenty of cash towards gluten free foods for extended periods of time, but felt absolutely no difference. My girls did come out of our gluten free efforts loving rice pasta, and still have a favorite rice pasta meal that they look forward to each week. What I discovered is our love of all grains in general. We each have our favorites; basmati rice, wild rice, wheat berries, barley, quinoa, in addition to lentils and beans. Our bellies are consistently filled with a wide variety of grains (I make 2 loaves of sourdough bread almost every Sunday), lentils, and beans.

And we are GASP! Happy and healthy. So many folks immediately dismiss gluten without a proper diagnosis, and without properly examining their diets. I am so grateful for the documentary, "Cooked" by Michael Pollan, and the recent publication of John Douillard's, "Eat Wheat" book as it discusses our need to examine the strength of our digestion before dismissing certain food groups such as wheat and dairy.

What if, instead of blaming dairy and gluten we, and hold on, don't get angry; hold ourselves accountable for the way we have treated our digestive tracts for most of our lives?

From an Ayurvedic standpoint, unless we have an auto immune disorder that begins to view gluten as something to attack, or a lactase deficiency worthy of wearing diapers for; are we TRULY treating our digestion in a way that can properly digest and absorb food?

What is the Ayurvedic way of eating you ask?

Ayurveda is a simple, ancient way of holding ourselves accountable for our own actions and how they effect out mind, body, and spirit. Holding ourselves accountable for our own behavior; hmmmmmm, that's REALLY hard, sometimes! When we do things we know are bad for us; say for example, binge eating Halloween candy (what? NEVER me!), or staying up REALLY late to watch EVERY episode in one season of our favorite zombie series it's know in Ayurveda as 'intellectual blasphemy' or Prajnaparadha. Crimes against the intellect can be the root cause or the manifestation of illness which can lead to disease.

We not only digest food, but we digest EVERYTHING in our environment that we not only taste, but see, hear, touch, and smell. So when we consistently abuse what we know or sometimes don't know (Marketing is sneaky! How long did YOU walk around thinking those breakfast bars with the person climbing up a mountain were healthy in the early 2000's??) is healthy for us combined with stress and demands of our daily lives, our digestion suffers. Our agni (or digestive fire) becomes variable or sluggish. We stop absorbing food in a way that maintains wellness. And this low agni results in mal-absorption which manifests into symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, dry flaky skin, red rashes, constipation, bloating, gas, diarrhea, heart burn etc, etc. And when these symptoms don't go away, we rightly so, become bothered by them and start to search for WHY? But what often gets pushed to the back of the line is our BEHAVIOR causing these symptoms. Our lack of personal accountability for why. We start to point fingers, or we see specialists who point fingers, in this case, at duh, duh duUUUUUUHHHHHH: WHEAT! And the cascade continues, and we start eliminating suspect foods. But food for thought: might eliminating foods be covering up symptoms the same way we start popping prescription meds to cover up symptoms? There needs to be the discussion of our behavior and WHY our body is rejecting an entire food group.

How do we begin to strengthen our digestion to have the ability to digest gluten?

Dr. John Douillard, DC, CAP, is a globally recognized leader in the fields of natural health, Ayurveda, and sports medicine. He is the creator of LifeSpa.com, and leading Ayurvedic health and wellness resource on the web; seriously, check the doctor out! I've completed a year of his Colorado Cleanse program, and while I still have work to do, I am leaps and bounds away from the gas and bloat I was plagued with a year ago. His newest book, "Eat Wheat" has a helpful section (in addition to the book being highlighted with tips on healing digestion), on how to boost digestion with 6 quick tips to get you started:

1)"Probiotics with strains that HELP digest the part of the gluten protein molecule (Lactobacillus plantarum and Bifidobacterium lactis)."

Keep in mind, when you first start taking probiotics, you might feel a little extra bubbling in your belly, which is just the bacteria eating the healthy probiotics. If it's too much, maybe back off the amount you take in a day.

2) "Eat gluten seasonally." This was a new one for me, that I'll definitely push for in my life, but perhaps you've instinctively done in the past. Reduce or avoid gluten in the spring, small amounts in the summer, enjoy them in the fall and winter. Makes sense; this is after they are naturally harvested.

3)" Eat your largest meal at the mid-day (noon) with wheat, when digestion is strongest." The days ebb and flow with the elements and doshas; fire and water being most prominent between 10-2. Avoid eating heavy past 6:00, when digestive fire is lowest (water and earth are most prevalent-water + earth= MUD. Hard to digest in 'MUD').

4)"Grow some food if possible or support your community by purchasing local. Each as much organic, local, and fresh as possible." But don't stress and break the bank over it. Seasonal organic supports the change in the digestion with the seasons.

5) "Eating organic, sourdough bread with no preservatives". Michael Polan's "Cooked" documentary and book also go into the importance of lactic acid and probiotic strains used to make sourdough which help with the digestion of the gluten protein molecule.

6) "Learn how to make your own healthy, homemade, sourdough bread."

My son, for years, now, have used the cold winter months (maybe some instinct there) to practice our bread making skills, and this year we've been experimenting with sourdough (we even 'caught' our own!), and now share the ever growing sourdough starter with friends!

All this being said, it's just barely scratching the surface on the need to heal our guts in order to have a healthy body, but probably more importantly a healthy mind and spirit.


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R.D., L.D., R.Y.T., 

Ayurvedic Health Educator

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