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Gluten-free, celiac and allergy travel tips; grains impact weight loss, health

Get the dish on gluten-free diets.
Get the dish on gluten-free diets.
Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

As camping season spreads from coast to coast, it's almost a year since a young teen's death from a food allergy episode that occurred while camping. Those with food allergies need an action plan when traveling, reported KCRA News on Friday. And if you're on a gluten-free diet for weight loss or for health, especially if you have celiac, be wary as well.

"Particularly this summer with people out and about traveling. We want people to have an anaphylactic action plan," said Dr. Clifford Bassett, an allergy and asthma specialist.

And for those who associate allergies with a minor case of hives, the case of 13-year-old Natalie Giorgi's death reveals just how serious it can be. Allergic to peanuts, Giorgi ate a dessert that she did not know contained the substance.

For those who suffer from gluten intolerance or sensitivity or from celiac, the need to be cautious when traveling can be particularly tricky. From breakfast foods to dinner entrees, wheat in particular can be hidden. And for those with celiac, the result of eating something with gluten can affect mental abilities as well as physical health, reported Health 24 News on Friday.

Australian scientists discovered that eliminating all gluten resulted in higher scores in brain functions such as memory and attention. They linked the decrease in "brain fog" that many celiac sufferers experience to the healing of their intestines after they went gluten-free.

"Maintaining a gluten-free diet is essential not only for (patients') physical well-being, but for mental well-being also," said study author Dr Greg Yelland. Based on existing data, "we would have been surprised not to have found evidence of minor cognitive (brain) impairment" in those who were not treated.

Actress Jennifer Esposito was one of those baffled by how her entire body was impacted by celiac disease. In an exclusive interview, she told me that when she received her diagnosis, she "realized just how much my life would have to change. There is so much more to celiac disease than just cutting out bread and pasta from your diet."

However, she emphasizes that for someone with celiac disease, more is involved than a gluten-free diet. "Just one eighth of a teaspoon of gluten can have me sick for days," Jennifer revealed.

She's authored a book to help others. Entitled "Jennifer's Way: My Journey with Celiac Disease--What Doctors Don'’t Tell You and How You Can Learn to Live Again," it reveals why the condition is so "hard to define and diagnose. Most people who have celiac disease also form allergies to other foods. That’s why it’s so important for us to be on a rotation diet, which I talk a lot about in my book.

And Jennifer emphasizes the need to be careful when traveling. "Socially, it’s difficult to go to a friend’s house for dinner, or an event because I have to be so careful what I eat. It’s difficult to travel because everywhere I go I need a kitchen that hasn't been cross-contaminated, which makes holidays like Thanksgiving very difficult.”

The benefits of gluten-free diets aren't limited to those with celiac, however, says Dr. David Perlmutter. He revealed why he feels everyone can benefit from eliminating grains and boosting fat in an exclusive interview.

Author of "Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar--Your Brain's Silent Killers," Dr. Perlmutter recommends a high fat low carb diet for weight loss and health. Restricting carbohydrates can make a dramatic difference based the latest research.

"For most people, keeping total carbohydrates to around 60 to 80 g per day offers up the best in terms of keeping blood sugar in check and allowing weight loss and ultimately weight stabilization," he said. He suggests consuming 70 percent of your calories from "fat, including olive oil, nuts, seeds, grass fed beef, fish, and pasture raised eggs."

However, while he does recommend eliminating grains, he notes that "the Grain Brain diet is not focused on the idea of '10 strips of bacon topped with a stick of butter' mentality. Truly, for the most part, the Grain Brain program emphasizes lots of above ground, low starch vegetables, with the meat part of the meal being relegated to being the side dish or garnish."

And that diet applies to children as well, says Dr. Perlmutter. "As far as children are concerned, when their diets are changed as described in Grain Brain, their results are really quite remarkable as positive changes happen so much more quickly compared to us older adults."

While the scientists who conducted the celiac and brain fog study limited their results to those with the condition, Dr. Perlmutter noted that in his practice, he sees patients with a wide range of concerns respond to his diet plan.

"I continue to practice medicine," he said. "I treat patients each day with things like depression and Alzheimer's disease and watching patients respond to a low carbohydrate higher fat diet in terms of these and other issues has been incredibly exciting."

In addition to his own experience, "current well-respected scientific literature has made it clear that powering the brain with fat as opposed to carbohydrates offers the brain the best fuel to function at its highest level," says Dr. Perlmutter, who has an upcoming book "The Grain Brain Cookbook: More Than 150 Life-Changing Gluten-Free Recipes to Transform Your Health." He feels the concept of "healthy" whole grains should be discarded.

"Humans have always eaten a higher fat diet with minimal carbohydrates, as throughout our history carbohydrates were essentially never available in any significant quantity. It is absolutely time that we welcome fat back to the table, and abandon carbohydrates which are basically toxic to human physiology," he said.

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