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Gluten Pain: The Best Teacher

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Pain is the best teacher, but nobody wants to be the student.

I have met hundreds of people who are now on gluten-free diets. My daughter used to be one of them. Gluten pain can make life difficult and become a heavy load to bear. How can this grain that has been around since time began suddenly wreak such havoc on so many individuals? Well, it is definitely causing a lot of problems, but I was never one to do something without understanding the reasoning behind it. I want to know the answers for myself and not just take someone’s word for it. When my daughter developed IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and couldn’t eat wheat, and every week the list of foods she couldn’t tolerate kept growing, I became a woman on a mission to understand what was going on.

One of the things I have always hated about modern medicine is that they slap a band-aid on problems such as blood pressure, cholesterol, and a host of other problems. My question is, why do you have high blood pressure and why can you suddenly not digest wheat and other foods? What causes the body to develop these symptoms? This is the best part of our beautiful bodies. They call out to us with problems to get our attention. They are our best teachers and when we start having trouble there is much to learn. The only way to learn is to go within and become attentive to something we take for granted – the inner world of our bodies. I will share with you what I learned. This is my journey to understanding – yours may be different, but maybe I can shed light on some things that will help you.

I never feel good Mom

My sixteen-year-old daughter would climb out of bed every morning and drag herself to the kitchen. Each morning I would pray that she would feel better that day. Her words were always the same, ”I never feel good, Mom.”‘ It broke me. She was only sixteen and she hated getting up every day to a life filled with pain. I took her to doctors and they wanted to remove her gallbladder for no good reason. It was just a guess. Then I took her to an acupuncturist. This was my first lesson in the body’s ability to talk to you. With much kindness, our Chinese acupuncturist talked with Maci. He said things to her like, ”You have too much hurry worry and your body is hurting because of this.” I remember as those words came out of his mouth, I fought back tears, because it was so true. She came home that afternoon and broke up with her boyfriend, and then the journey really began.

Starving microbes can change your gut

I started researching the foods that hurt her gut the most and eliminated them from her diet, but that was only a temporary fix – the underlying problem was still there. Here is what I found – the reason she was having so much trouble digesting grains was really a three-fold problem. First, her gut lining was damaged. Years of antibiotics had stripped her of all her good bacteria. Stress, certain foods she was eating, and a lack of nutrient-dense foods was destroying her gut lining. The lack of the proper bacteria to turn her foods into vitamins and fatty acids was causing changes in her gut. There was nothing to protect her gut lining. She had been on an extremely low carb diet for several years, and her microbes were in dire need of fiber in the form of prebiotic carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains to thrive and grow. She was only eating 30 carbs a day, essentially starving her microbes and was taking antibiotics. When your microbes don’t have any food, this can cause the pH in your gut to shift. This shift can favor the growth of less healthy, negative endotoxin-producing gut bacteria such as Bacteroides, and reduce the growth of positive bacteria that are “more healthy” for your gut. Jeff Leach from the American Gut project states, 1 “As pH shifts, prospects for opportunistic pathogens increase, as do opportunities for gram-negative bacteria like Bacteroides and Enterobacter. When you add this up – and a lot more shifts in the microbial ecology of the low-carb gut – you most certainly have a classic case of microbial dysbiosis – as the name implies, an imbalance. This dysbiosis can lead to issues associated with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, autoimmune disease, metabolic disorders, and so on.” This now makes sense to me since it was the perfect storm – she was a perfectly normal teenager with no food allergies, and suddenly she developed all kinds of symptoms and food allergies she’d never had before. Antibiotics had stripped her of all her good bacteria and left her defenseless. This, along with starving her microbiome with a lack of fiber to feed her microbes, was changing the world within, causing great pain and symptoms that changed the course of her life. We also found that just eliminating the offending foods will eliminate the pain to a degree. but then you need to fix the microbiome to re-establish a new inner microbiome.

Developing food allergies after antibiotics

Recently, researchers at New York University Medical Center made some exciting discoveries regarding food allergies and intestinal bacteria. Not only did they discover why children develop food allergies, but they also found a way to solve it. The study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that young children who were given too many antibiotics early on were at greater risk of developing food allergies. The researchers identified naturally occurring bacteria in the human gut that keep people from developing food allergies; if these bacteria were killed by antibiotics early in life, children became more susceptible to food allergies later on. 2

The scientists tested this theory by feeding antibiotics to young mice and found they were more likely to develop a peanut sensitivity than the control group. When the young mice were then given the good bacterium Clostridia (a diverse group of bacteria), like magic their allergic reactions vanished. Many more studies are confirming the same thing. For years I didn’t know why Maci began to heal when she started having cultured foods at every meal. It was working so well that my friends noticed and then their kids began to heal, too. Fast forward years later, science caught up and explained to me what was behind the magic in these cultured foods.

Cultured food and prebiotics were key

Maci had a cultured food at every meal – kefir for breakfast and one to two tablespoons of cultured veggies at lunch and dinner, then kombucha or coconut kefir to drink at every meal. She also had a lot of bone broths made into soups. They are healing to the digestive tract because of the collagen in the broth. Maci also began drinking a tea that she said soothed her gut. They no longer make and sell this tea but here is another drink that is very similar called,Teeccino. She drank this every day, sometimes several times daily.  I later realized this special drink actually had several prebiotics (food for bacteria) in it which were feeding the good bacteria in her gut. The combination of cultured foods consumed with every meal along with this prebiotic drink made her gut heal and her food allergies became a thing of the past.  This particular tea had a blend of the prebiotics – barley, dandelion root, and chicory root, along with just a touch of carob, coconut, and cinnamon – and was delicious. Dandelion root, chicory root, and barley are all huge prebiotics that helped her flora grow, flourish, and heal. All these foods are healing to the gut. Each one plays a different part in the healing.

Grains are not the same as they used to be

As she got better, I happened to discover why we have such trouble with grains now. Grains are not the same as they used to be. For hundreds of years, they would cut the sheaths of grain and stack them in the fields, leaving them to be gathered the next day. The dew would make the grains sprout – this sprouting would unlock the nutrients as well as deactivate the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors. Then the workers would gather the grains and take the seeds off the stalks to be used. Today we have combine machines that take the seeds off instantly, never allowing the grains to sprout. Then for years, and still today in European countries, we used sourdough starters to raise our breads. Sourdough transforms the bread in the same way that sprouting does. It puts lactobacillus into the bread and the breads rise slowly over seven to twenty-four hours, transforming the bread through bacteria. These wonderful bacteria not only change our breads into healthful foods, but they also change our bodies the same way. However, we now have instant yeast and the bread never has a chance to transform. Couple this with guts that are so damaged they can barely digest anything, and you have a recipe for disaster. Grains take huge amounts of B vitamins to digest and when you are under a lot of stress, you don’t have what you need. Sprouting or using a sourdough culture changes the grain and activates all the B vitamins that are locked in there, giving you what you need to digest it. Grains are prebiotics too, but often you need to take care in how your grains are prepared or wait till your gut is healed before adding them in. Maci added sprouted and sourdough grains while she was healing and seemed to thrive on them, but if they weren’t sprouted or made with a sourdough culture that had a long, slow ferment, her body couldn’t handle them.

The formula

So, the formula: remove or deal with stress, then heal the gut with fermented foods and prebiotic foods. This is what I did and have watched many others do. My daughter can now eat anything and is free from a life sentence of having to live without grains. She loves life and can’t wait to get out of bed. Food is not something that she is afraid of – food is now something that brings her great joy. If you are reading this blog, chances are your body is trying to tell you something. Your body is your best teacher – are you listening?

References:

  1. http://humanfoodproject.com/sorry-low-carbers-your-microbiome-is-just-not-that-into-you/
  2. Andrew T. Stefka et al., “Commensal Bacteria Protect Against Food Allergen Sensitization,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111, no. 36 (September 9, 2014): 13145–13150: www.pnas.org/content/111/36/13145
63 Responses to "Gluten Pain: The Best Teacher"
  1. Donna, you might not know the the USA dry harvests the wheat grown here. That means that right before harvest, they treat the wheat stalks with Roundup, then wait a few days, and then harvest the wheat. The USA, as far as I know, is the only country that does this. The farmers here say it makes it easier to harvest the wheat. No wonder we have such issues with gluten! We’re eating wheat with toxens on it!

  2. So informative. For 12 years we have had to deal with my husband wheat intolerance and untill just recently found out he also has a whole grain intolerance. UGH! I swear by using kiefer milk because I had battled with reoccurring BV. And Kiefer milk really knocked it out for me. Recently I had to go on antibiotics for an abscessed tooth and YEP UGH – bv is back. So my question to you is. Will this kiefer( milk or water ) help with my husbands intolerance to wheat and whole grains?

  3. Hi Donna!
    My son is now 20 and was diagnosed with severe Crohn’s disease 4 years ago. He also has lots of food sensitivies. He cannot eat any grains (except rice), dairy, eggs, the list goes on and on. I read your story about your daughter’s sensitivies. Could you please tell me how long from the time she started drinking the kefir until she could handle all those foods again? Thank you so much.
    RaeAnn

  4. Donna, I am so glad I watched your video. You gave me such hope. I actually did (month ago) purchase your ebook and register. I got discouraged because, running a business and life in general does not allow me time to make anything and not being able to do the dairy. I have been a year off of gluten, dairy, wheat, oats and pork. Having been told I am intolerant of these. I have been struggling over a year and given up on anything working. Is there a way to talk with you? Tricia (Patricia Moore)

  5. Donna- I have found that eating wheat makes my eyes puffy and draining continually until sufficient time has elapsed after consumption. So I avoid it completely, unless I have a weak moment and then must endure the physical consequences. I generally have kefir daily (my beagle gets it too!), and cultured veggies and kombucha from time to time. Am eating much better now, but still get puffy, leaky eyes (also makes me cough because drains in throat). Ugh! Have you heard of these symptoms before?

  6. Hi Donna,

    I have a 6 year daughter old with debilitating asthma. Since she was born I have been looking for an underlying reasons and a solution to this problem. No one in our family besides her has it. I read a lot on the subject and have come across a book called “Eat Right for Your Blood Type”. My daughter is Type A+. The book suggests that all types A cannot consume any dairy, because all type A produce excessive amount of mucus to begin with and Dairy makes it 100% worse. I took her off dairy and she got considerably better, yet not completely cured. We have had allergy testing done for dairy and nothing showed up. She gets sick often with upper respiratory and stomach bugs. I’m Type O+ and should not consume any dairy including yogurt, or anything in brine (which I think includes cultured foods) according to the book. I have been buying Lifeway Kefir and Synergy Kombucha for 4 months now. I give 2 oz of Kombucha to my daughter at breakfast, but I’m afraid to give her Kefir. Have you had any experience with this. Do you know if this blood type diet which excludes Dairy for Typer O and A has any merit? Types AB & B apparently do great with Dairy. What blood type are you, if it is not too personal? I’m just trying to help my poor child anyway I can. I greatly appreciate and respect any input you may have on this matter.

    • I did that diet many years ago and I have found I flourished on cultured foods and I am type O which is not suppose to have dairy. Kefir is so different than regular dairy that I think it is a completely different food.

      • Thank you so much for your response. 🙂 My digestion is much better when I have the Kefir. I will try to give it to my little one, but I will start will small amounts.

  7. Hi Donna,
    I have a question about the Strawberry Gingerade Coconut Kefir. Should the bottle be left unopened for the entire 3-5 day fermentation process or should it be opened to allow gases to escape? If it is opened during the process… does it effect the fermentation of the coconut water?
    Thanks again,

  8. My son who is seven has been battling leaky gut syndrome. I know everyone is different, but how long did it take to really cure your daughter, where should could eat whatever. Love all the culturing advice, tips , and recipes!!

    • Hi Dana, it depends on how damaged the gut is but in about a year she didn’t have any food allergies anymore.The pain in her stomach every time she ate stopped in about a month. I am having a heal your digestion and allergy class that I am giving away when anyone buys my book. It will give you a planner and a class video and I think it will help you a lot. I fed her a cultured food at every meal and it made all the difference. It has helped many others too and it is quite miraculous and it can help your daughter too.

  9. Hi Donna,
    I am really enjoying the recipe ideas on your site. In particular, my children are loving the fruit juice kefir whey sodas I am making – what a great idea. I am just using fruits we have and juicing them – apple and orange so far. I am just wondering if it’s possible for alcohol content to buildup. Do you know? As I am feeding them to my little kiddies, I wondered if there is a way to test? We have been doing kefir for a few years, and they are well and truly over the smoothies and strained yoghurt/cheese style, but now, thanks to your creative ideas, we are enjoying fermented tomato sauce, kefir sodas and christams kraut 🙂

  10. Hi Donna, this is the BEST most comprehendible explaination of this syndrome I’ve read yet and i have been reading for yrs! I need help with this, do you do consults?
    Thanks for a great blog!

  11. I just discovered your blog, and it is a gold mine of information just as much as kefir is liquid gold! I have been suffering from gluten intolerance for the past 5 years now and recently started to cultivate my own kefir knowing that it can put back some good bacteria back in my gut. Yours and your daughter’s story gives me hope that one day I, too, can again eat anything I’d like. Thanks for the information and recipes!

  12. I have been reading around your blog for a short time and just found this particular article. Very inspiring. My 7 year old son has been struggling and started having reactions to so many foods and it just wasn’t making sense to me. I finally got in to a doctor that was recommended to me, but it took a month. It was well worth the wait. She sat and talked to us for over an hour and at the end told us she thinks he has yeast overgrowth along with alot of deficiencies. well we are still waiting for the test results, but I am confident we are on our way! I have been having him drink coconut water kefir and hope that he will try some other things soon. He is a very picky eater so hope he will eat at least a couple other things. Thank you for all the great info and encouraging stories. It is nice to feel like there are people who are out there who understand what you are going through.

    • Hi Dana, I do understand and want to cheer you on. You will learn so much and it will be a journey but one that you won’t regret. You doing a good job helping you son. You should be proud.

  13. Hi Donna, This looks sooooooo good. I tried it…used the milk kefir powder packet (that seemed to be what was indicated). It sat on my counter into the 5th day…got nice and cloudy….but, alas, no fizz!!! It tastes on the tart/sour side and almost a bit salty. But, why no fizz….don’t know whether to use it…now been in the fridge about 3 days while I’m tring to decide???? Thanks for any info….

  14. Great article. I developed a sensitivity to gluten over the past few years, when I eat it every joint in my body hurts. And I *love* bread, pasta & rice!

    I already make and consume kefir, so I guess I’ll keep at it and see if I can’t get my body back into balance. I’ve got natural sourdough starter and I’ve also read that I can use my homemade dairy kefir, basically just mix with flour, let rise and bake.

    Thanks for you informative and uplifting article. Nice to know these types of changes work for folks… gives me HOPE!

  15. tHanks for sharing such a positive experience. I have gone through a similar experience. Have you tried to make your own kefir? I found that the Trader jOES BRAND WAS PASTEURIZED, WHICH SORTA DEFEATS THE WHOLE PURPOSE. tHE KEFIR i MAKE NOW IS SO MUCH BETTER, CHEAPER, AND VASTLY HEATHIER. i’D BE HAPPY TO SHARE SOME GRAINS WITH YOU, OR THEY MILK KEFIR GRAINS ARE COMMON ON AMAZON.

  16. I have been making kombucha tea for a while with great success.
    I am interested in making this yummy kafir drink. I was wondering if the kefir powder has dairy milk in it.? I am off dairy, as it doesnt agree with me.
    I dring only organic rice milk and use coconut milk and coconut oils in my food. Thank you for all the info I have learned here on your webpage.

    • Hi Suzie, Yes the powder packs have dairy but very little. You can make kefir with coconut milk or almond milk with the packages and after the first batch the dairy would be gone form that package. Each package makes 7 gallons so it is economical.

  17. Hi Donna,

    I am wondering if you can use boxed or canned coconut water to do this? Or does it need to be fresh from the coconut? I have a hard time finding fresh young coconuts in my area. Thanks!

  18. how long was your daughter without grains before you added them back in? She can now tolerate wheat? only soaked or soured or conventional wheat products as well? i restrict how much kombucha my kids drink because it’s made with caffeinated tea. is the caffeine eliminated in the culturing process, or is it possible to make kombucha with herbal or red teas? does she still consume 3-7 servings of cultured foods per day? my son is 1 yr into his cultured food consumption (2-3x day) and allergies/asthma are better, but not totally resolved. mostly cultured veggies, some kefir, very little kombucha.

    • My daughter added sprouted grains back in after 2 months. I not sure exactly, but that seems about right. We added sprouted grains and no regular grains. She handle the sprouted fine. Today she can handle bread of any kind, but mostly sticks with sprouted or sourdough but does have regular wheat and has no problems.The caffeine is greatly reduced in kombucha and you can make it with Roobius tea or naturally decaffeinated tea or white tea. I do not recommend herbal teas they don’t cultured well because they like the tea component and also have herbs that can kill the bacteria needed to culture the tea. She still eats a lot of cultured foods everyday and she does it because she likes them and she feels the difference when she doesn’t have them.

  19. Hi Donna,

    THis is the first time I make Coconut Kefir and I am unsure of what to expect.

    I made my first batch from coconut water and kefir powder – but forgot to remove the pulp – and left it for 5 days. I put it in the fridge once the smell changed from coconut to kefir-like. it took 2 days for it to transform further on its own. Now it is definitely fizzy and tangy tasting, but with the added bonus of it smelling rather like eggs and with a lot of white deposit on the bottom. Actually, I fear it may have turned for the worst. Or am I being paranoid? Is it because I did not remove the pulp that it may have turned?

    I appreciate any tips as I am just about to toss this batch just to be on the safe side.

    Thanks!

    • It is really fine it is just a little over fermented a little. You could always add a little more coconut juice to it to up make it less fermented. The white deposit is just the act of fermenting the pulp. Don’t throw it out unless you don’t like the taste.

  20. Donna, I have water kefir grains instead of the culture packages. Is this ok or should I use both?? I cant wait to use this recipe.

      • Can the grains be thrown right into the coconut water or do they need to be hydrated in sugar water first?

        Thanks so much!

        • You can just put them in the sugar water. They will quit working over time because they need lactose in milk to stay alive. You can always use the kefir whey and it does the same thing.

          • I have had my kefir grains for over a year and only use them for water and they have grown and multiplied like crazy and never have any died. so once your done using them to ferment it is fine putting them back in sugar water. 🙂

              • I”m talking about water kefir grains that are still in the box 🙂 I know when I’ve made water kefir in the past I had to leave them in the sugar water to get them “going” so I’m wondering If I need to do that again OR If Ican start them in coconut water and all will be good.

                • You know I don’t know the answer to that. They need sugar so if there is enough sugar in the coconut water you could do it. They need a strong dose of sugar at first to get them going.

  21. HI, I’m wanting to make coconut water kefir but where I’m at now I only have water kefir grains available that I have not used yet. Could you tell me how I can make the coconut water keifr with the grains? Do I need to hydrate the grains first before putting in the coconut water.

  22. Thanks for that clarification. I have a couple other questions. I would not call my kefir fizzy at all. Does that mean I should ferment longer before refrigerating? I went about three days… turned cloudy. My other question is that I used the juice from four young thai coconuts. I have to say the process of chopping the coconut to get the juice out is a rather rigorous endeavor. I noticed you used bottled juice. Do you think there is a preference for one over the other?
    Thanks in advance!

    • You should let it ferment longer if it isn’t fizzy. Turning cloudy is the process of fermentation and you actually want that. Making it from fresh coconuts is always better but made me crazy for the amount of juice I got compared to the work. Adding the cultures makes the juice full of enzymes and probiotics and is much easier.

  23. Hi there. I just made my first batch of coconut kefir. My friend started me out with a powdered kefir starter pack… most of it went in to the coconut water and some in to the coconut “cheese”. I was told that to do my next batch I could just save about 1/2 cup of the kefir liquid and add to my next batch and could do so for about 6 times before needing a new powdered package. This seems to be different information than what is posted in this article. Can you help me understand the best way to keep my kefir going?
    Thanks.

    • That is correct when you are using kefir packages to make milk kefir. When you are making coconut juice kefir with packages it goes longer. There is more sugar in juice than milk so the good bacteria seems to replenish itself. I have had one of the packages make 12 or 13 bottles of coconut kefir. When it stops getting fizzy you will need a new package.

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