Published in the Devon Dispatch on January 23, 2014
59-year-old Sally Fairhead experienced nosebleeds everyday for as long as she could remember. She constantly had stomach issues such as pain, bloating and diarrhea.
But her doctors always said the symptoms were due to her allergies and couldn’t find a solution to her health concerns.
Also suffering from bursitis with joint pain in both hips, Fairhead visited Devon’s River Crossing Quest for Health store one day, hoping to find a solution. She talked to owner Sheryl Watson, who said gluten could be an inflammatory, and told her to try a gluten-free diet for two to three weeks.
Fairhead started her gluten-free diet on Friday, July 13, 2012.
“On Sunday morning when I woke up, I said to my husband, ‘I’m not the same person,’” Fairhead said. “I feel so good.”
The changes were drastic.
Her stomach improved almost instantly; there was no more bloating or grumbling.
She had skin issues all her life, but even her eczema disappeared as well. She lost 10 pounds in two weeks and 60 pounds in seven months. Dropping from a size 16 to a four, her friends had trouble recognizing her.
“I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been in my entire life,” Fairhead said. “I don’t want to go back to where I was; I don’t think I ever will.”
All of these positive changes were due to cutting back on one ingredient only: gluten.
Preventive cardiologist William Davis, MD, author of the New York Times bestseller Wheat Belly, has seen the health of a countless number of his patients improve dramatically by simply eliminating wheat or gluten from their diet.
Paradoxically, dietary guidelines issued for Americans by the US Department of Agriculture, US Department of Health and Human Services, as well as numerous associations have for years been advising the public to eat more “healthy whole grains.”
“Wheat is not the ‘healthy whole grain’ it was pretending to be,” Davis writes in his Wheat Belly Cookbook. “This is colossally bad advice. ‘Eat more healthy whole grains’ is among the biggest health blunders ever made in the history of nutritional science.”
“This is not a dietary precept like ‘get more fiber.’ It is an exposure of the genetic and biochemical changes introduced into this common foodstuff, all in the name of increased yield-per-acre, but with no questions asked about its sustainability for human consumption.”
Power decided to bridge this gap and cater to celiac customers searching for a comfortable place to eat and not feel anxious about cross-contamination.
“There’s no place to eat if you’re a celiac,” Power said.
“Unless they [employees working with food and drinks] understand cross-contamination, they can’t guarantee it’s gluten-free,” Power said.
If a gluten-free pie crust is thrown on a tray which just had a regular pizza placed on it, it’s no longer gluten-free, Power explained.
All of Grounded’s soups are gluten-free, as well as their sandwiches, cheesecakes, muffins, squares, loaves, and their most popular product: brownies. All the gluten-free items have the same price as the regular items.
“Just because you have a disease, I don’t think that you should be charged twice as much to be able to eat a meal,” Power said.
Many customers come in to visit Power for consultations; they often ask for suggestions on what to bring to dinner parties where someone might have celiac
Another reason why Power decided to cater gluten-free products was because the big businesses who try to “make money very fast” on the gluten-free trend sell products that are poor in quality with horrible taste.
But Power says, eating naturally gluten-free food such as fruit, veggies and dip are always a better choice than using replacements.
“If you go back to the way people used to eat, it was gluten-free. They had meat, potatoes and vegetables for dinner,” Power said.
It’s this “back to basics” which many with celiac or those who gluten intolerance resort to.
Fairhead makes her own food from scratch. Like at Grounded, she replaces wheat flour with a blend of various flours: teft, amaranth, quinoa and others.
Fairhead said it’s not as time-consuming as it seems when she organizes a weekly menu and freezes her food.
With a love for cooking and baking, it’s not a huge inconvenience as she makes her own pickles and tomato sauce with tomatoes grown in her own backyard.
“It was the right thing to do [going gluten-free] for me,” Fairhead said. “It’s not something I take lightly. A lot of people are going gluten-free so they can lose weight or because it’s kind of the in-thing to do. For me, it’s a life choice. Obviously, it’s a huge choice for me.”
For those who have been suffering with health problems, much like herself, Fairhead advises them to do research.
“Find out what’s best for you and go back to basics. Use whole foods; make it yourself if possible. And listen to your body.
“Don’t concentrate on the pounds, concentrate on how you feel.”
Through the use of genetic modification through hybridization, today’s grain is far removed from the grain of the 1950s.
Patients have written testimonials on Davis’ website wheatbellyblog.com, where they explain how cutting out wheat eliminated a myriad of health problems for them such as obesity, arthritis, migraine headaches, depression, asthma and even acne.
In today’s society, gluten is found in nearly everything from licorice to tomato soup. So, what can one eat?
Fairhead said she wouldn’t have been able to start a gluten-free lifestyle without the help of many knowledgeable Devon residents such as Sheryl Watson of the River Crossing health store.
“If you walk into any grocery store, I bet you that 80-90 per cent of products in the grocery store contain wheat,” Watson said. “So when you give up wheat, you just stop walking down the aisles because there’s nothing there that you can have.”
Watson knows how difficult it is at first to undertake this huge change in eating habits. She went wheat-free 25 years ago and operated a gluten-free food processing company in the 90s.
“Customers come in and they don’t even know where to begin,” Watson said. “They need someone to help them through the maze; people don’t know [about the gluten-free or wheat-free diet] and I help them to learn.”
Watson decided to become wheat-free after seeing dramatic changes in her son.
Watson’s son became depressed at eight years old and was often distracted in school. After he went wheat-free, his behaviour improved; he became more focused and happier. If he relapsed, he again became irritable and very difficult to be with.
As a former schoolteacher, Watson has seen this case in many children.
While some may be wheat intolerant, those with celiac disease have no choice but to stick to a strict gluten-free diet their whole life.
Celiac disease is a chronic inflammatory disease of the intestines, where the immune system reacts negatively to gluten, damaging the inner lining of the small bowel and fails to absorb minerals and vitamins.
According to the Canadian Digestive Health foundation, more than 330,000 Canadians are affected by celiac disease with only 110,000 diagnosed.
Felicia Tatarin, a Devon resident, has celiac disease but she suffered undiagnosed for three years from severe stomach pains, bloating and nausea.
Doctors misdiagnosed saying she had heartburn, an ulcer and at one point a doctor told her she had IBS [Irritable bowel syndrome]. But none of this turned out to be true.
She was correctly diagnosed with celiac disease in September 2013.
At first devastated when she found out, she now believes it was a “blessing in disguise.”
“Wheat, rye, barley, oats, it’s just crazy how much garbage is in there and how much it hurt me,” Tatarin said.
Since her diagnosis, she’s gone “back to basics” and prepares her own food, but admits it’s difficult to eat out with friends in restaurants.
Tatarin fell ill for days after ordering a “gluten-free” item in a restaurant in Edmonton; it was most likely cross-contaminated by employees unaware of the careful food preparation required for those with celiac.
Many locals who have celiac disease are glad to have the Grounded Coffee House and Cakery in Devon, where owner Donna Power serves a plethora of gluten-free products and pays special attention to never cross-contaminate the food.