Friday, 5 August 2016

Gluten and Hypothyroidism

 When reading something completely unrelated, I came across a research paper that indicated an increased possibility of gluten causing Thyroid disease (Graves’ disease and Hashimoto’s disease) . A bit more of inquisitive search, led to me to four more research reports ( link to the abstracts at the bottom, which has a further link to the complete report, if interested ) that indicated the same.

In recent times, many medical practitioners are recommending their patients with thyroid disease to test themselves for Celiac disease. After all one never knows, if found positive, its better to live on a gluten free diet, than spend your life consuming medicines. Now the question arises what has gluten to do with thyroid.

The thyroid gland is a small hormone-secreting gland located in the front of the neck just above the breastbone (sternum). The thyroid helps regulate a great many different processes in the body. If the thyroid is under-functioning the condition is called hypothyroidism. According to research, the structure of gliadin, a component of gluten, is very similar to thyroid cells. When people are intolerant to gluten their immune system tags gluten molecules for destruction and in the ensuring melee thyroid cells get destroyed too, a case of mistaken identity. The more gluten you eat, the more antibodies you will make and the more the thyroid will be attacked!

Although one does not need to get off gluten in a panic or make a drastic life altering dietary change, it is always prudent to be aware that other than Thyroid disease (Hyper and  hypothyroidism) a higher percentage of population with the following diseases have been found to be gluten intolerant (in other words gluten can act as a trigger for these illnesses in some people).
Just listing a few, where the research was available, although the list seemed quite long.
Type 1 diabetes, Arthritis,  Addison’s disease, Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative colitis, lupus,  ADD (attention deficit disorder) or ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), Autism, Depression, Anemia, Osteoporosis, Osteopenia (low bone mineral density), Epilepsy and cerebral calcifications
Brain and spinal cord defects (in newborns born to mothers with celiac disease who are eating gluten)
Neurological problems, such as ataxia, neuropathy, tingling, seizures, and optic myopathy. There were quite some more, but perhaps more research is required into them.
Meanwhile increasingly many health care personnel are asking their patients with the above illness to check themselves for gluten sensitivity (or celiac disease). In many cases people themselves are staying off gluten to see if it helps them. In any case who would not like to have their unpleasant symptoms disappear without medication.  

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Pearl Millet Flatbread

When we stopped gluten in our diet and changed over to alternate grains, one of the first grain we chose was Pearl Millet (commonly known in India as Bajra, Bajri and many other names). After Rice and wheat, pearl millet is probably the most consumed grain in India (Wheat and rice constitute 70% of the grains that humanity consumes on earth) and we quickly incorporated it in our diet. But we soon realised that it was quite a challenge to handle this millet. The flour was sticky and messed up our kitchen and we soon gave up on it. There were more kinder grains to choose from and so we forgot about this millet for a few years.
After months of practice handling other grains. we felt we could give this millet another chance. The millet after all is very tasty, and has a very cheesy flavour. It tastes like cheese on a pizza, and is quite addictive.
Well, so here it goes, we got our hands on some organic Pearl millet, made flour from it, and Aarina managed to make some tasty flat-breads, that could be eaten without any accompaniment when hot.
I guess we finally have another grain in our ever increasing grain family.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

How Hard Can It Get?

When we decided to go off gluten in our diet- we thought to ourselves how hard could it be. After all India is blessed with a plethora of grains and millet and substituting one would not be so hard.
The first obstacle came, when we realised that it was near impossible to locally find flour that was not processed in a mill that did not process wheat or barley. So we then went ahead a purchased a small four mill and decided to make our own flours. This had an added advantage of ensuring all processing would be free from any chemical treatments.
This however was not the end of our woes, speaking to farmers we also realised that many millet and grains in India are grown close to fields that also grow wheat. This meant, cross contamination of grains was a real possibility. So to prevent wheat entering our food, we started to sieve all our grains before we milled them. This measure, may sound too far fetched; but it was not. Our fears came true yesterday, when we found four wheat grains the pearl millet (Bajra) that we were preparing to mill!
There you can see it in the photograph above. Fortunately, wheat germ is quite large compared to all other grains that we use, other than rice, which we physically check for any contaminants.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Navrathan Flatbread - Gluten free

We finally managed to get what we have been trying for quite a long time: To connect with farmers, who grow organic grains and use it in our breads. After a lot of searching we finally connected with some of them, and managed to finally get our hands on some wholesome grains. To celebrate our little victory, Aarina and I, roasted these flatbreads and we named them "Navrathan flatbreads". Navrathan translates as nine gems. 
Made from nine organic whole flours : White Sorghum, Red Sorghum, Pearl Millet, Buckwheat, White Pea, Red rice, White Rice, White Amaranth and Finger Millet. All freshly ground at home, a process that I have come to enjoy more and more. 

The flatbreads were quite soft and despite the nine flours the taste was not overwhelming. Considering some grains like Amaranth and buckwheat have a stronger flavour than the others, the flour connoisseur (Aarina) did a great job in balancing them well.