January is often a time for new beginnings: adopting new health practices, negating certain behaviors, grand protestations of a totally new lifestyle. Unfortunately, they don’t often work. That new gym membership? NY Resolution-ers go an average of twice between January 1 and April 1. It’s as if people fall more in love with the idea of a healthier lifestyle than the behaviors that compose one. Willpower is short lived. You must see the trade off (ie, “I FEEL better when I…”) rather than white knuckling it through a change. Eventually, you choose the long game outcome (feeling better in your skin, less tummy woes, less pain, having more energy, a better mood, more stamina, better relationships) over a short term reward (sugar, alcohol, self sabotaging behaviors, negative habits, etc). It becomes second nature rather than a practice of discipline.
I have seen many people over the years who’ve presented with issues related to gluten or dairy sensitivity, as well as a variety of responses to my advice to abstain from them. Some have taken it in stride, some have run with it and one has cried. This is intended to be a resource to help with that transition. It is by no means exhaustive and I hope to add to it over time.
What is Gluten & Why is it a Problem?
Gluten is a wheat protein, and is derived from the Latin word for “glue” (also why gluten free treats tend to fall apart). It is found in wheat, wheat products and some grains. If this conversation is new to you, I’d highly recommend Grain Brain by Dr. David Perlmutter and Wheat Belly by William Davis. The shortest version of this conversation is two fold: one, grains in general are relatively new to us as a species. They tend to ferment in our bodies, we don’t fully digest them, and in no way are they nutritious or vital for survival. Two, wheat is heavily sprayed with glyphosate (the water soluble, active ingredient in Roundup). Among other things, this opens the tight junctions in our gut linings. (For reference, the tissues from our nasal passages throughout our guts is the length of two tennis courts yet only one cell layer thick. It’s delicate)! These junctions are the only thing separating our gut from our bloodstream, and when they are open (also called “leaky gut”) the contents of our gut can pass into the bloodstream. Our body then recognizes them as an antigen (an enemy, or not belonging) and launches into an attack with a storm of inflammation. If you have the genetic predisposition for autoimmune diseases, this can show up as eczema, rheumatoid arthritis, Raynaud’s, or anything else in the autoimmune family. Minimally, it impacts your nutrient absorption, digestion and (drumroll, please) your inflammatory response for 6 months. Yes, you read that right. That means there’s really no cheating with gluten. Additionally, your gut and brain are intimately related. Think brain fog! Finally, 90% of your serotonin and 50% of your dopamine are composed in the gut. This means that if your gut lining is damaged or inflamed, you will not be sleeping well and your mood can be crummy. After 8+ years of living gluten free, I firmly believe no one in this country should be eating wheat (studies show our glyphosate exposure is 10x that of the EU or UK). That said, signs of a gluten sensitivity include the following:
- Brain fog, especially after consuming gluten
- GI upset after consuming gluten (this is honestly rare)
- Skin rashes, dermatitis, eczema
- Any autoimmune condition
What about Dairy?
The true purpose of cow’s milk is to take a newborn calf into a 1000 pound cow within one years time. The human consumption of cow’s milk products is a novel trend for anyone outside Northern Europeans, and is why many humans of African, Asian or Native American descent do not produce the enzyme lactase needed to break down lactose (milk sugar). Another culprit is a sticky protein called A2 beta casein and the more toxic A1 form, both found in dairy. Even raw milk has exosomes intended for a cow and are disruptive to normal cell-to-cell communication and epigenetic regulation in humans. Through these exosomes, cow’s milk impacts immunoregulation and tips the body’s balance toward inflammation. Add to that the volume of hormones and antibiotics dairy cows receive and you’ll get a hard pass from me, thanks. Also, understand that you can develop an allergy over time. Something you may have tolerated when you were younger may cause you issues now.
Side note: the concept that dairy is needed for calcium is health propaganda. Seeds, leafy greens, bok choy, spinach, white beans, seaweed, blackstrap molasses: these are all great sources of non dairy calcium
Signs of dairy sensitivity:
- Diarrhea or gas following dairy consumption
- Congestion, post nasal drip, allergies (with chronic allergies, my chiropractor suggested I give up dairy at age 12 and I haven’t looked back)
- Joint pain
- Skin issues – rashes, dermatitis
Now for the fun part! I get to share all my favorite gluten free, dairy free products I love. Trust me when I say there has never been a better time to give up gluten or dairy. I recently made gluten free, dairy free, sugar free sugar cookies and no one knew the wiser. Often there is one item that makes people balk at this change – like pizza, bread or pancakes. Here are some of my favorite substitutes.
I’d also like to preface this with the following: recognize that a gluten free muffin is still a muffin, and probably has more sugar or fat in it to compensate for the difference. Switching to “gluten-free” processed foods, you still run the risk of cross contamination. I’d recommend going grain free when possible.
*for simplicity’s sake, I’ve linked these products from Amazon but of course buy local when available
Gluten Free Items
- Crackers. There are SO many of these now. Grain free, gluten free, made entirely of cauliflower or chickpeas.
- Mary’s Gone Crackers. Sea salt “real thin” are my fave
- Snacky foods.
- Rice pasta is your best bet consistency wise. Read preparation instructions and store leftovers separately (as they will continue to get softer over time).
- Lentil pasta – don’t waste your time or money here
- LOCAL option – Wild Olive on Johns Island will substitute gluten free pasta for any of their dishes. They are super accommodating with sensitivities in general. Most Thai/Vietnamese places also use rice or rice noodles.
- Caulipower cauliflower crust is my favorite
- Daily Harvest flatbreads – have pretty much replaced my need for pizza. Sweet potato, kabocha squash and cauliflower based – all vegan and organic.
- Trader Joes makes a cauliflower crust and a kale crust
- LOCAL option – Neon Tiger downtown makes the best vegan gluten free pizza I’ve had. Covers both gluten and dairy free checkboxes.
- I think I’ve tried it all here. Several good options:
- King Arthur Flours makes a good gluten free boxed option
- Birch Benders makes keto (contains dairy) and paleo (no dairy) options
- Purely Elizabeth is my personal favorite and totally grain free
- LOCAL option – The Refuge on Isle of Palms makes an incredible almond based pancake called The Surfer Bod (not sure how accurate that name is but they are damn good).
- 80×20 cookies by Blender Bombs
- LOCAL option – Metto in Mount Pleasant makes gluten free muffins and scones. The Harbinger downtown makes a variety of gluten free and vegan treats – my favorite is For the Birds!
- This one is again highly personal and also depends on what you’re making. Another arena where things have come a long way, from having to weigh out 4-5 different flours to now 1:1 cup for cup blends. Some options include:
- King Arthur
- Bobs Red Mill
- My mom swears by replacing with 2/3 gf flour and 1/3 almond flour
- Trader Joe’s cauliflower gnocchi (pro tip: do NOT follow cooking instructions – I love this in the air fryer. You could also likely bake on a high temp or broil)
- Grain free granola – my favorite recipe is Vanilla Almond Granola from Danielle Walker’s “Against all Grain” cookbook (not online, message me directly if you’d like it). I also go through a ton of Good & Gather grain free granola.
Dairy Free Items
- So many options!! Truly a personal choice but coconut or cashew is probably the closest consistency to cow’s milk. Avoid soy as it’s a phytoestrogen. Avoid gums and natural flavors (can mean up to 40 different ingredients) when possible. Check for added sugar; aim for less than 5g from all sources per day.
- Nut pods for creamer- unsweetened and carrageenan (gut bomb) free
- Whole Foods 365 unsweetened almond – probably my go to milk but definitely tastes like almonds
- Make your own! Super easy with Raw Almond Butter (Trader Joes makes a good one). Blend with water and use within a few days.
- Nutiva coconut manna is another creamer option – stir a tsp into your cuppa.
- Canned coconut milk is a good milk/cream replacement in baking since it’s naturally a bit sweet. I buy full fat organic from Trader Joes.
- Violife makes great mozzarella, colby jack and cheddar shreds
- Goat and sheep cheese – these are worth a try as they generally are not fed the antibiotics and hormones that cows are. The proteins are also smaller and easier to digest. Trader Joes has a good selection – their goat brie is my fave.
- Siete cashew cheese – great for their chips!
- Yogurt/Cream Cheese/Sour Cream
- Silk unsweetened vanilla almond yogurt is my absolute favorite. I can only find it at Target.
- So Delicious unsweetened vanilla is a good coconut option
- Go unsweetened always – sweetened packs SO MUCH SUGAR
- Kite Hill sour cream
- Kite Hill cream cheese
- Ice Cream
- Coconut Bliss is very dense and most similar to “real” ice cream – but has been difficult to find. Publix is your best bet.
- Cashew & Coconut have the most similar consistency
- Nada Moo & So Delicious are also good
- Daily Harvest makes some super clean ice creams with minimal ingredients, but they do taste healthy.
What did I miss? Let me know your faves! Email me here.