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This is Part 4 of my 8 Part Series on Healthy, Happy Eating for the Whole Family.  Part 1: SAD DIET: ARE YOU OR YOUR CHILDREN EATING ONE?  Part 2: THE YIN AND YANG OF SEASONAL EATING.  Part 3:  HOW TO INCREASE YOUR CHILD’S IQ AND ATTENTION SPAN WITH NUTRITION  Part 5: 4 TIPS ON HOW TO GET A “PICKY EATER” TO EAT  Part 6: THE CALCIUM MYTH: IT’S NOT WHAT YOU THINK  Part 7: WHY RAW FOODS FOR CHILDREN IS NOT THE BEST IDEA  Part 8: WHY ORIENTAL MEDICINE ROCKS FOR CHILDREN!

According to the nutritional wisdom of Chinese Medicine, dairy foods can be problematic for many children and adults. A dairy sensitivity can sometimes be a causative factor of some conditions that are often associated with lactose intolerance, such as digestive bloating and gas, diarrhea and constipation, and some nasal/sinus conditions such as post-nasal drip, chronic sinus congestion, and excessive mucus in the nose and throat. However, Chinese Medicine recognizes that the symptoms of a dairy sensitivity can cause other conditions too, such as brain fog, headaches, difficulty focusing or shortened attention span, lethargy or fatigue, and even overweight and obesity.

It’s not the lactose in dairy that Chinese Medical theory views as problematic. It’s the observation that excessive amounts of dairy – which for some individuals can mean any dairy at all – contributes to dampness and phlegm excess throughout the entire body. Therefore, symptoms are not just confined to the digestive tract. You may hear some Chinese Medicine practitioners referring to these symptoms as “dampness of the Spleen,” but they aren’t actually referring to a literal abundance of mucus or phlegm in the anatomical spleen (an organ in the upper left quadrant of the abdomen that creates and stores red and white blood cells and plays a role in immune function).

Modern biomedicine has also recently found that many of the dairy sensitivity symptoms that were  attributed to the lactose in dairy in the recent past are actually caused by a protein in dairy known as casein. Whey – the other protein found in dairy – tends to pose less of a problem for many individuals. Casein is a “gluelike” protein that is similar in structure to gluten – the protein in wheat and other grains. Casein is what lends the sticky, gooey qualities to melted cheese that many people enjoy when they eat a grilled cheese sandwich or a pizza, for instance. Likewise, gluten proteins in grains give bread its chewiness. Casein is often added to many “dairy-free” cheese substitutes to give them a meltable texture, and gluten is added to a variety of different foods as well to enhance the texture. This is one reason why it is so important to read the ingredients label on any processed foods before you purchase them.

Because casein and gluten are so similar in structure (as evidenced by their molecular structure as well as their characteristics of lending a gooey, sticky, chewiness to different foods), many people who have sensitivities to one often have sensitivities to the other as well. If you have tried a gluten-free diet, but are still consuming dairy or foods containing casein, or you have tried a dairy-free diet and are still consuming wheat or other gluten-containing foods, you may need to eliminate both of these proteins if you are still experiencing symptoms.

One important thing to note about casein is that the molecular structure lends itself to addiction.  What?  Addiction?  Yup, you read it right.  Casein, when consumed, turns into protein fragments called casomorphins.  Casomorphins has an opioid effect, as in the drug.  So see why the protein fragment has the name case”morphin”?  From morphine.  So it may not just be hunger making you want to eat cheese, but an actual brain addiction making you want to consume diary milk.  To learn more about this addiction, read this great write up.

This can seem overwhelming – or even impossible – especially for children. What can you feed them if familiar foods like crackers, cheese sticks, grilled cheese sandwiches, and everyone’s favorite – pizza and ice cream – are off-limits? The good news is that with a little creativity in the kitchen, combined with a few hours set aside once a week for meal planning and food prep, you will not have to feel deprived of all your favorite comfort foods.  I personally like to shop on the weekends with my family so that my son learns what healthy food shopping is about.  We also try to visit a farmer’s market so that my son also learns that food comes from farms and ranches and there are farmers and ranchers who work hard for us to bring these amazing produce and meats.  Then, once at home, we do food prepping so that the coming week becomes less stressful for our meals.

In today’s post, I’ve included a couple of recipes for pizza and ice cream, made with 100% real foods and none of the dairy and gluten. These recipes are kid-friendly and husband-approved!

Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free Pizza (Makes about 4 servings)

  • 3 Tbs almond butter
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 3 tsp olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup marinara or tomato sauce, with no sugar added
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tomatoes, sliced
  • your favorite toppings (artichoke hearts, anchovies, pepperonis, sausage, olives, pineapples, canadian bacon, etc.)

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350℉.

  1. Mix almond flour, almond butter, eggs and sea salt in a small bowl.
  2. Cover a baking sheet with 2 tsp olive oil, then spread the mixture over it, making a 1/4″ thick crust. Bake for 10 minutes.
  3. Add the remaining olive oil, onions, mushrooms, garlic, bell peppers, and your other favorite toppings to a large skillet over medium-high heat until browned and the onions are slightly translucent. Remove from skillet and set aside. Do not cook the veggies completely or they will be too soft when cooked on the pizza.
  4. Remove the crust from the oven and cover with marinara sauce. Add the sautéed vegetables, sliced tomatoes, and other toppings. Sprinkle with oregano and bake for 20-30 minutes.

Delicious Dairy-Free Ice Cream (Makes 3 Servings)

  • 1 can coconut milk (or approximately 1 1/3 cups of fresh coconut milk) Note: This recipe calls for the creamy coconut milk found inside mature coconuts, which is not the same thing as the “coconut milk” sold alongside soymilk in aseptic containers. Here’s an example of a good brand: http://amzn.to/1f4esho
  • 1/4 cup raw honey or coconut nectar (I used this one:  http://amzn.to/1bNHkvo)
  • Your favorite toppings or flavors (cocoa powder, cinnamon, strawberries, pecans, shredded coconut, vanilla extract, etc.)

An ice cream maker is needed for this recipe. Here’s an inexpensive one that gets the job done: http://amzn.to/1965FKB

1. Blend all ingredients.

2. Place in the ice cream maker and wait about 25 minutes.

3. Enjoy!