Build a New Body with Allergy-Free CookingJulie Daniluk, R.H.N. September 1, 2008
For Weight Loss and Immune Boosting
Have you ever felt like you gained five pounds in a day? Do you find that you can’t squeeze into your favourite pair of pants after a night out for pizza with friends? You may be experiencing extra water weight – that classic bloated feeling when something we ate does not agree with us. You may also be one of the 14 million North Americans who suffer from food allergies.
As we get older, our immune systems become more sensitive. Our digestive juices do not tear apart our food as effectively as when we were carefree teenagers. The body holds on to fluid when it eats something that it has an allergic reaction to, retaining water in an attempt to flush it out of the system. If it is unable to detox successfully, the body may store the toxin in fatty tissue.
WHAT ARE ALLERGIES?
The classic definition of an allergy is a “reaction in which the immune system is involved and antibodies are produced.” An antibody is simply the security guard your body has hired to flag anything it sees as a potential hazard. Just like the team at airport security, antibodies are there to keep us safe from terrorists, but sadly they end up hassling old friends because they often stay on high alert.
Let’s use the example of your favourite food. You eat your cheese and noodle dish that has offered pure comfort since childhood and within an hour you have bumps on your arm and your sinuses get stuffy. For most people, the proteins found in food (such as milk, egg or soy protein) can be eaten without a reaction. However, for individuals who have food allergies, the body does not tolerate these common proteins. As a result, the immune system makes antibodies against these proteins, which leads to allergic reactions.
Continuing with the security guard analogy, the protein found in wheat (called gluten) and the protein in cheese (called casein) have hit the guards in the digestive tract who have flagged the proteins as a possible bomb, setting off the alarm. When an allergenic food is eaten, it acts as an antigen (a substance that can be bound by antibodies).
Antibodies are the molecules made by the white blood cells, a big part of our immune system. They work by binding to the antigen, which can come from food or the environment. Then the antibody (or immunoglobulin) and the antigen bind to mast cells and basophiles. These cells are responsible for the release of histamine, a powerful messenger that sends a sharp signal to the body when there is a breach in the defence and the body must go on red alert. Histamine is responsible for pain, inflammation, heat, swelling and redness.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ALLERGY AND INTOLERANCE
Intolerance is a non-immune system response to dietary substances caused by a number of factors like enzyme deficiencies. For example, many people are lactose-intolerant because they no longer produce lactase, the enzyme that digests milk sugars. A lactose intolerance can be caused by excess antibiotics, so be sure to replenish those lactose-feeding friendly bacteria like acidophilus to ensure continued enjoyment of dairy.
Both allergies and intolerances can provoke symptoms all over the body, and can produce symptoms up to five days after exposure. Common allergy/intolerance symptoms include: Weight gain; Bloating of the stomach and/or abdomen; Skin rashes; Diarrhea and/or constipation; Mental confusion or learning problems; Depression; Headaches; Muscle Aches; Itchy, runny eyes / blurry vision (Hay fever); Inflammations and Arthritis-like pain
REBUILDING A STRONG IMMUNE SYSTEM
More than 50% of the immune system is found in the digestive tract. People who struggle with bloating, gas, indigestion, reflux and other irritable bowel problems may not realize the root cause is associated with hidden food allergies. These unknown allergens, if allowed to continue, will trigger inflammation and weaken our immune system. It is this constant exposure to allergens that overworks and confuses our immune system.
Food allergens irritate and inflame the intestinal lining, which compromises our health and digestion. They reduce the ability to absorb nutrients from your food. Understanding this is a critical step in healing because the only way to heal and strengthen your body is to nourish it. If our digestive system is compromised, we can’t provide the body with an adequate supply of nutrients.
TIME TO FIX THE PLUMBING
A common symptom of food allergies is constipation. Many North Americans are lucky if they have one bowel movement a day. Realistically, if you’re eating 35 grams of fibre a day and drinking eight glasses of water, your bowels can move every time you eat a main meal. When you eat, it should move the food along the conveyer belt known as your digestive tract, and within an hour your body should be effortlessly moving out the meal it ate at the same time yesterday (it takes about 24 hours to move a meal from entry to exit). Sadly, most of us drink so little water that our kidneys and bowels cannot flush toxic material, and when the body cannot eliminate properly, it has no choice but to store toxic material within the tissue itself, building new toxic waste storage depot sites as needed. This supports the the popular belief that there is a connection between cellulite and toxicity. Some chronically constipated people can lose up to ten pounds in a week once they are able to rid the body of excess waste.
Another serious problem caused by allergies is lowered metabolism. According to Dr. Elson Haas, author of The False Fat Diet, “Food reactions create metabolic roadblocks to weight loss. Allergies can increase production of hormones like insulin that causes weight gain and hypoglycemia. This will result in a reduction of energy and metabolic rate. If your metabolic rate goes down and your immune system is on red alert from an allergic reaction, then you are more likely to get sick, which would dramatically reduce how much exercise you are willing to do.
HOW TO HEAL!
The first step in calming down your inflamed tummy is to stay away from potentially irritating foods. Try an elimination diet by avoiding dairy, wheat, corn, soy, peanuts, coffee, artificial sweeteners and MSG for four weeks. You need to remove all of these foods to give your digestive system a true chance to recover and repair. This is not a lifetime ban! In many cases, these foods can be re-introduced gradually after your digestive system has healed.
Here are some wonderful allergy-free recipes to get you started:
- The False Fat Diet by Elson Haas, M.D., (NY:Ballatine Books, 2000)
- Allergies. Disease in Disguise by Carolee Bateson-Koch DC, ND (Alive Books,1994)
Teff Breakfast Porridge
In Africa, people eat a nutritious ancient grain called Teff. This iron-rich alternative to oatmeal is easy to digest, and leaves you feeling satisfied the whole morning. (One big reason we reach for hormone disturbing drinks like coffee is our flagging energy. If we take care of our energy needs as a first task of each day, we are sure to be unstoppable in life’s demands.) Teff Porridge is a nutty gluten-free grain that is very low on the allergy scale because it has never been used in western diets.
- 1 cup Teff (whole grain)
- 1 Tbsp grapeseed oil
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 chopped green apple
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1 Tbsp of agave liquid
- 1/2 cup walnuts, almonds or hemp nuts (use seeds if allergic to nuts)
- Coconut or unsweetened almond milk for serving
1) Set a heavy, two-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the Teff and toast it, stirring frequently until the grains emit a mild, toasty aroma and begin to pop, 3 to 6 minutes. (You will notice little white dots of popped grain but may not hear the popping.)
2) Turn off the heat and stand back to avoid sputtering. Add 3 cups of boiling water, the oil, and spices. Stir well. Turn the heat to medium, cover, and cook at a gentle boil for 10 minutes. Stir from time to time to prevent the grains from sticking to the bottom.
3) Stir in the apple, salt, and agave to taste. Cover and continue cooking until the grains are tender and one colour throughout.
4) Serve warm with a drizzle of almond or coconut milk and enjoy.
5) Note: if you are unable to find teff in your local health food store, this recipe can be made with Quinoa.
Ginger Zucchini Salad
By slicing the zucchini with a peeler, it becomes so delicate that it soaks up the flavours of the dressing beautifully. The sesame oil and ginger are a super duo for fighting inflammation!
- 3 zucchini, peeled into large flat strips
- 1 large carrot, peeled into large flat strips
- 1 50g package pickled ginger
- 1 Tbsp sesame oil
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp black sesame seeds
- 1 tsp agave nectar
1) Peel zucchini with a peeler into large strips.
2) Add the rest of ingredients into a bowl and mix as a dressing.
3) Mix in the veggies. Can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
4) (Note: to enhance the flavours, any of the vegetables mentioned in these recipes can be grilled with an olive oil baste.)
African Nut Butter Stew
This stew is truly a one-pot meal because it is so rich and creamy that it will deeply satisfy. The rice and beans are combined to make a perfect vegetarian protein option.
- 4 cups veggie stock
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 cups diced pumpkin
- 1 cup white beans (great northern is good)
- 1/2 cup brown rice
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup almond butter
- 2 cups chopped kale
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp tamari (soy sauce)
- 1 Tbsp agave
- 1 Tbsp fresh ginger
- Note: Consider soaking white beans and rice overnight for easy digestion and reduced cooking time.
1) On medium, sauté onion and garlic in 2 Tbsp of veggie stock for 3-5 min. Add remaining stock, yams, white beans, rice and salt. Simmer, covered, for 45 min.
2) When stew is completely cooked, add the nut butter to prevent it from over cooking. In small bowl, blend almond butter and 1/2 cup liquid from stew to make a paste. Stir into stew with kale and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice, tamari, agave and ginger. Enjoy!
Mom’s Sweet Potato Pie
This is a staple in our house. As our dietary needs have changed, the ingredients keep getting healthier but the same great flavour comes through because of all the spices!
- 2 cups sweet potato or yam
- 3 organic eggs
- 1 cup of almond or rice milk
- 1/2 cup agave syrup or honey (can reduce if you prefer)
- 1 Tbsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp ginger
- 1/2 tsp all spice
- 1/4 cloves
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2) Mix all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl until smooth.
3) Pour into pie plate that has been oiled with organic cooking spray to prevent sticking.
4) Bake pie for 45-50 minutes or until a knife inserted in the centre of the pie comes out clean.
Sweet Potato Pie Crust
This pecan crust recipe adds a huge taste explosion to any pie filling. It is so easy to make and the high cinnamon helps to keep your blood sugar balanced. It really helps to start out with pecans from the freezer, because it helps to prevent the nuts from being over cooked. By the time they thaw out and get toasted, the pie filling should be cooked.
- 1 cup (250 mL) pecans
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) dates
- 1/2 tbsp (7 mL) cinnamon
1) Blend ingredients in a food processor with an ‘S’ blade until a ball is formed.
2) Pat ingredients into a 9-inch glass pie pan
3) Fill with pumpkin pie filling and bake.
Nutritionist Julie Daniluk, R.H.N., is a graduate of the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition. She hosts The Healthy Gourmet on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) in Canada, a reality cooking show that looks at the ongoing battle between taste and nutrition. Julie’s new book, Hot Detox, provides an easy and delicious way to cleanse. Combining groundbreaking science with ancient Asian wisdom, Hot Detox walks you through a 3-, 10-, or 21-day detox plan with amazing results. She has a 21 day course and extra book bonuses at http://www.HotDetox.com Her bestselling book, Meals that Heal Inflammation, advises on allergy-free eating that tastes great and assists the body in the healing process. Julie is also and in-house nutrition expert on the Marilyn Denis Show (CTV). Connect with Julie on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @JulieDaniluk and check out her amazing recipes and nutrition tips at http://www.juliedaniluk.com