Saturated Fats: Friend or Foe?

Share

For decades, we have been advised to steer clear of saturated fats. Several research papers published in the early 1950s implicated dietary fat as a key player in the development of heart disease. By 1961, the American Heart Association (AHA) published dietary guidelines that included reduction of saturated fats and in 1982, the Nutrition Committee of the AHA recommended no more than 10% of daily calories from fat.

So what are saturated fats? They are usually solid at room temperature and found in the foods we tend to like the most, that is, meat, cheese, ice cream, butter, and other dairyMeat Pic products. A few plant-based oils, such as coconut and palm oils, also contain saturated fats.

Scientists have recently revisited the role of saturated fats in cardiovascular disease and, as it turns out, the early studies may have been wrong. Authors of one paper published in 2010 and another in early 2014 analyzed data from a number of previous studies. The authors indicate that there is no relationship between dietary saturated fat and heart disease risk and, furthermore, the evidence does not support our current dietary guidelines that encourage “low consumption of saturated fats.” In fact, authors of a separate study found that a “low-carbohydrate diet was more effective for weight loss and cardiovascular risk reduction than a low-fat diet.”

Nina Teicholz, an investigative journalist, recently authored a book entitled The Big Fat Surprise (released in March of 2014) that corroborates the recent findings regarding saturated fats. Ms. Teicholz spent eight years sifting through previous research on the connection between heart disease and saturated fats. According to her, the seminal study that was the basis for our current dietary guidelines, or the ‘Seven Countries’ study, was severely flawed.

The study’s primary author, Ancel Keys, was a physiologist at the University of Minnesota in the 1950s. The story goes that Keys became interested in heart disease when he observed that American businessmen were experiencing high rates of heart attacks, Europeans had lower rates of heart attacks when food supplies were low following World War II, and then-President Eisenhower himself had a heart attack, bringing cardiovascular disease to the medical forefront. Following a series of smaller studies, Keys developed his theory that fat, particularly saturated fat, caused heart disease.

In 1957, Keys launched what came to be known as the ‘Seven Countries’ study. He surveyed people in 22 different countries, which were chosen for their contrasting dietary patterns. According to Teicholz, however, when Keys reported the study results, he only included data from seven countries that supported his hypothesis, which were the United States, the Netherlands, Finland, Yugoslavia, Italy, Greece, and Japan. Additionally, Keys visited Greece during Lent when people abstain from eating meat, which would have skewed his data. Thus, the data Keys actually reported to the scientific community were inaccurate and, when data from all 22 countries were included in the analysis, there was no support for a low-fat diet.

Keys ultimately persuaded the American Heart Association and the U.S. government that saturated fats Cheese Picwere the bad boys that caused not only heart disease but played a major role in the development of obesity and cancer as well. What followed are the national dietary guidelines that are still accepted today.

Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, at the Harvard School of Public Health, is one of many researchers who now believe that our current dietary guidelines need to be revisited. He says that “we can’t judge the healthfulness of a food [only] by how many grams of saturated fat it has.” Other experts aren’t buying the new findings. Walter Willett, MD, Chair of Nutrition and Mozaffarian’s colleague at the Harvard School of Public Health, says the conclusions of recent studies should be disregarded.

What does all of this mean for us? It is unknown when or if the current dietary guidelines will change and it will take more research and discussion to alter a long-held belief. If you have questions regarding these new findings and wish to revisit your own nutritional habits, please to talk to your doctor and/or a dietitian.

- Holly Hough, PhD

Please consult with your doctor before making any dietary changes.

References: American Heart Association; The Journal of Nutrition; Annals of Internal Medicine; American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; British Columbia Medical Journal; WebMD; Dr. Frank Lipman: Interview with Nina Teicholz

Images by Flicker users Yamashita Yohel and Anne Hornyak, via CC

A Time for Renewal, Part II

Share

This is the second in a special series on taking renewal leave by guest blogger Rev. Dianne Lawhorn.  Read the first installment here.

*******************

A renewal leave is an ideal time for you to develop rhythms that can be incorporated into your life when you return to work. You may never again have this opportunity to “try on” a new rhythm and see how it works for you. The rhythm I sought to embrace was to: eat healthy foods, exercise, get plenty of sleep, take a Sabbath, and have some fun! By doing these things over a short-term period, I was able to conceive of how this rhythm could become a reality over the long-term as well.

You might try incorporating a particular time every day where you can connect with God through a favorite spiritual practice. On my leave, my husband and I worked through the book The Cup of our Life by Joyce Rupp. This guide tea and booknot only provided readings but also included practices for prayer, reflection, scripture reading, journaling, and a commitment for each day. We found the use of this guide to be a great resource to us individually and as a couple!

A renewal leave is a wonderful time to reflect on your ministry journey. A book that I found very helpful in my reflection was Leading on Empty by Wayne Corderio. This book helped me better understand the challenges of life-long ministry and the effects it can have on our bodies, minds, and spirits. It also helped me learn how to navigate these challenges with greater ease.

A renewal leave is a great time to reflect on your personal life.  It’s a good idea to consider if the life you are living is the life you want to live. It’s a time for you to think about what changes might help you to more fully live into the desires you have for your life.

These questions may contribute to your reflection:

Where am I now?

What do I really want?

What is my next right step?

What is life-giving to me, helping me to give and receive love?

What is life-draining to me, hindering me from giving and receiving love?

 In this reflection, you may find needs that you don’t know how to provide for on your own. We all need help from time to time in processing what is going on with us at a deeper level. A book that I used to assist me in this discovery was Release by Flora Wuellner.

Renewal time is an opportunity to consider if you want to make use of a helping professional such as a spiritual director, counselor, or a coach. In the next article, I’ll provide some guidelines for selecting which resource you need at this point in your journey. You may even elect to participate in The Davidson Clergy Program, an excellent resource to build your resilience!  

Dianne

Dianne Lawhorn is the Minister of Spiritual Formation for the Lydia Group which is a resource for spiritual wholeness offering formational teaching, retreat leadership, and spiritual direction.

 

 

Image by Flickr user ienjoysushi via CC

What’s the Lowdown on Eggs?

Share

Are eggs making a comeback? For decades, we have been advised to limit egg consumption to reduce our risk of developing heart disease in spite of the fact that eggs contain beneficial substances like protein, Vitamins A and D, calcium, and choline (important for brain funEgg Picction). Eggs have gotten a bad rap, probably because just one yolk contains 187 mg of cholesterol, which is 62% of the recommended daily intake. While it is true that eggs are high in cholesterol, there is now solid research that shows no connection between eating eggs and heart disease.

For example, participants in the Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial that had a blood cholesterol level lower than 200 mg/dL ate more eggs than those whose cholesterol was greater than 220. In a separate study, individuals who ate two eggs per day for six weeks experienced no change in total or LDL cholesterol, or ‘bad cholesterol’.

The truth is, cholesterol is in every cell of the human body and is used to make hormones like testosterone and estrogen. The liver actually produces cholesterol and makes all the cholesterol your body naturally needs. There is no dietary requirement for more; however, when we eat foods high in cholesterol, the liver produces less of this natural cholesterol. So what foods are high in cholesterol?  Usually those foods that are also high in saturated fat, like animal products.  Since the American diet typically includes a lot of animal products, we consume quite a bit of cholesterol as a result.

Alice Lichtenstein, a professor of nutrition science at Tufts University, says that the major determinant of LDL (‘bad cholesterol’) levels is saturated fat and lowering saturated fat in the diet subsequently lowers LDL cholesterol.  While eggs are indeed high in cholesterol, they are low in saturated fat, which for many years has been accepted as the primary culprit in raising the risk for heart disease.  New evidence is surfacing, however, that shows no relationship between saturated fat and heart disease risk, a revelation contrary to long-held beliefs. Cholesterol Table1

So…based on what what we do know, how many eggs can you eat? Most experts agree that one egg per day is fine. The American Heart Association (AHA) no longer limits the number of eggs you can eat, but instead recommends limiting cholesterol intake to 300mg daily. People with diabetes who eat eggs may be at increased risk for heart disease, so if you have diabetes or very high levels of total and LDL cholesterol due to a genetic disorder, experts say it is best to limit your egg consumption to three yolks per week.

Perhaps it’s time to reevaluate eggs – they may be an egg-cellent choice after all!

- Holly Hough, PhD

Please consult with your doctor if you have concerns about your cholesterol or before making any dietary changes.

References: Journal of the American Medical Association; American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; The Boston Globe; Harvard School of Public Health: The Nutrition Source; Annals of Internal Medicine

Image by Flickr user Bryan Jones, via CC

A Time for Renewal, Part I

Share

This is the first in a special series on taking renewal leave by guest blogger Rev. Dianne Lawhorn.

***************************

Often in our ministry, after years of service, we find ourselves in need of being recharged. Current statistics say that most of us will experience fall at Starretteministry fatigue at some point in our journey. We shouldn’t feel guilty about taking the time we need because all of us will need a break eventually. Recognizing the need for a break is actually a sign of health. Taking a break allows us to be renewed for the journey.

Thankfully, the Methodist Book of Discipline recognizes the need for this time and provides for it in the form of a renewal leave.  I took this time of renewal back in 2012 and found that it gave me a renewed sense of vitality and purpose in ministry. I needed some guidance, however, in order to discern how to structure the time of my leave so that I could receive the greatest benefits from it.   I wondered if you might find yourself in this place and might like some tips for shaping this time.

A renewal leave is a time where we really need to give ourselves a break! For most of us, our tendency to over-schedule and over-commit has led us to the need of a break in the first place.  So, we don’t want to bring this pattern into our leave time. For this reason, I devoted the first and last part of my own leave to rest. It was great for me to spend that time simply being still, with stillness as my only task or accomplishment for those days.

A renewal leave is the perfect time for you to get out of your environment, especially if you live in a parsonage. You might go to a place that you have enjoyed before, where you can connect with God and with yourself. You might want to spend a few days in the mountains, at the beach, or at a local retreat center, where you can spend some time alone in a peaceful environment that nurtures your soul.

If you are married, this is also a great time for you to connect with your spouse. During my renewal leave, my husband also took time away from his job so that he could share in my experience. We felt grateful to have that unstructured time together as a couple in a place that we both love!

This could also be a time to connect with family and friends. Maybe you could go to see a family member or friend that you would like to connect with whom you haven’t seen in years. Shared experiences with people who are important to us can certainly contribute to our well-being, which should be a goal of our renewal time. Sharing this experience with others can truly give us strength for our journey.

In next week’s post, I’ll offer some reflection activities and questions that might be helpful to consider for your renewal leave.

Dianne

Dianne Lawhorn is the Minister of Spiritual Formation for the Lydia Group which is a resource for spiritual wholeness offering formational teaching, retreat leadership, and spiritual direction.

To Be or Not To Be Gluten-Free #4

Share

This is the fourth and final post in a series on gluten and gluten-free eating.  Click to read the first, second, and third installments.

The Final Verdict: If You can Tolerate Gluten, Should You go Gluten-Free?

More than half of gluten-free consumers don’t have a sensitivity to gluten and many are self-diagnosing, believing that gluten-free products will help them lose weight or feel better, even if they don’t experience digestive distress after eating wheat.

Do gluten-free diets lead to weight loss? Most experts say no. When manufacturers eliminate gluten from food, whBread Piceat flour is exchanged for a different type of flour, such as rice or bean. Gluten adds texture, but when that is removed, corn starch or xantham gum are added to give bread some shape. Gluten-free bread, for example, is often low in nutrients and supplemented with sugar and fat to enhance taste and softness.

Several prominent individuals have written and/or spoken extensively about issues surrounding wheat and gluten. Below are a few varied and sometimes conflicting viewpoints:

  • Mark Hyman, MD, author of The Blood Sugar Solution, says that wheat (not just gluten) not only triggers weight gain but leads to the development of diabetes, heart disease, depression, and many other illnesses. He says that modern wheat contains a “Super Starch”, or amylopectin A, that is used to make fluffy breads, such as Cinnabons. What’s the big deal? “Two slices of whole wheat bread raise your blood sugar more than two tablespoons of table sugar,” which increases your risk of diabetes.
  • Dr. Hyman and Dr. William Davis, authors of Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health, agree that wheat is addictive. Wheat proteins are digested into smaller proteins called ‘exorphins’, which “are like the endorphins you get from a runner’s high and bind to the opioid receptors in the brain, making you high and addicted”. (It should be noted here that wheat is not unique in this respect – foods such as milk, rice, and corn also contain exorphins.)
  • Daniel Leffler, MD, Director of Clinical Research at the Celiac Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, says “the average American diet is deficient in fiber” and if whole wheat is removed from our diet, the problem worsens. Other grains such as quinoa or brown rice can provide us with the necessary fiber, but preparation of these grains often requires more effort.
  • Alessio Fasano, MD, Director at the University of Maryland’s Center for Celiac Research, says that we do not have the enzymes to properly digest gluten. Dr. Fasano believes that gluten triggers an immune response in everyone, which can lead to autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis and irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Katherine Tallmadge, RD, author of Diet Simple, says that if yoVitamin Picu don’t have celiac disease, don’t go for gluten-free foods because you will be missing out on fiber, iron, folate, niacin, calcium, and Vitamin B12, among vitamins.
  • Donna Gates, creator of the Body Ecology Program for individuals with autism, advocates eliminating gluten from the diet as a means of treating autism.  Some experts theorize that children with autism may have an allergy to foods with gluten or casein (found in milk and dairy products).

All of these views carry more significance if you think about how much wheat most Americans eat. Many eat a bagel or toast for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, and bread or pasta (or both) for dinner. If you snack on cookies, cakes, or crackers in between meals, that’s a lot of wheat consumed in one day.

Keep in mind that gluten-free products such as cookies and cakes are still processed foods and, thus, higher in calories. Additional sugar in gluten-free bread and other products also means raising blood sugar and increasing the risk of diabetes. Processing and added sugar also result in a pricier product. It’s easy to pay more for something that isn’t very healthy, even if it’s gluten-free.

So now that you have the rundown on the major issues surrounding wheat and gluten…what’s a girl (or guy) to do? The bottom line is that you need to decide for yourself. If you want to experiment with eating healthier wheat and bake your own bread without additives, check your local area for farms that grow and grind organic wheat. Maybe the answer for you is to simply cut back on the amount of wheat you eat, but if you feel strongly about eliminating wheat and/or gluten from your diet, please talk to your doctor. It is also important to see a knowledgeable dietitian who can help you eat a balanced diet that has the fiber, vitamins, and minerals your body requires.

- Holly Hough, PhD

References: CBS News; Mail Online (the website for The Daily Mail, a UK newspaper); The Huffington Post; Authority Nutrition; Harvard Health Blog; Body Ecology; The Curious Coconut; US National Library of Medicine/National Institutes of Health; Kitchen Stewardship; Foundation for Alternative and Integrative Medicine; Scientific American; WebMD; Autism Speaks

Images by Flickr users elana’s pantry and Colin Dunn, via CC

Confessions of a Book Collector

Share

This is the second in a special series on Sabbath by our friends at Blessed Earth.  Today’s post was written by Rev. Mairi Renwick (see her bio and contact information below the article).  Read the first installment here.

*********************************

The most beautiful building on my seminary’s campus is the library. From the outside it looks almost like a castle with a tower. When you walk into the large foyer, you are greeted with high Inside Mortonceilings and a large circulation desk. Wooden tables with small reading lamps and comfortable reading chairs decorate the floors. Large portraits of former professors cover the walls. More than one person has stated it reminds them of Hogwarts.

After getting over the castle-like building, you realize that this is a library. A library with loads of books, commentaries, video recordings, DVDs, newspapers, and free access to online article databases.

After seminary, there is the harsh realization that commentaries are expensive. Online databases are expensive. Finding easily accessible materials from local libraries is difficult, and church libraries are rarely stocked with the newest books. While the internet provides useful resources, it is hard to know what is trustworthy.

This is a shame because clergy love books.

I recently talked with a group of colleagues who were also fellow PKs (pastors’ kids). We discussed what we wanted to inherit from our pastor parent. Was it money? A house? Of course not! We want their books, journals, and any other wonderful ministry items.

Aware of this love/obsession, Blessed Earth wants to help provide you with useful, reliable Sabbath resources.  Here are a few to get you started:

1. Our new website called Sabbath Living! Check out these tools you’ll find there:

2. 24/6: A Prescription to a Healthier, Happier Life  If you don’t already have a copy of Matthew Sleeth’s book, contact me, and I’ll make sure you get one. 24/6 is a great tool for congregation reads and small group study.

3. 24/6 DVD Email me for your own copy; the DVD makes it easy to facilitate a retreat, workshop, or Sunday school series.

Our biggest resource, however, is YOU!  If you or your church has a Sabbath experience that you are willing to share, we’d love to hear your story. How about a sermon series that you’ve outlined? Or simply a favorite Sabbath quote? We would to share tools that you’ve generated and additional helpful resources on the Sabbath Living website! Examples of content our UMC friends have already generously shared:

  • Rev. Jonathan Brake of Centenary UMC in Winston-Salem developed a Lenten devotional
  • Rev. Ryan Bennett of Bethlehem UMC in Franklin, TN, outlined a “Margins” sermon series
  • Bishop Hope Morgan Ward passed along some great Sabbath quotes to add to our list

I have a theory that pastors are professional collectors of books and resources. I invite you to continue your collection—AND add to our collection—on www.sabbathliving.org.

Mairi headshot 2Rev. Mairi Renwick, a graduate of Union Presbyterian Seminary, is Blessed Earth’s Sabbath Living Program Manager. Before coming to Blessed Earth, she was a hospital chaplain. While Mairi loves books and articles, she really admires her father’s card catalog of every sermon illustration, in alphabetical order according to topic, which he has used in 30+ years of ministry. Please feel free to contact Mairi at mairi@blessedearth.org.

 

Photo credit: The William Smith Morton Library at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, VA, and is used with permission.

To Be or Not to Be Gluten-Free #3

Share

This is the third post in a series on gluten and gluten-free eating.  Click to read the first and second installments.

What Causes Celiac Disease and is Genetically Modified Wheat to Blame?

So what really causes celiac disease? Some argue that, after cross-breeding wheat, the gluten content increased and subsequently triggered an increase in gluten intolerance. Dr. Donald Kasarda, who authored a 2013 report on gluten content in wheat during the 20th century, concluded that this is not the case and says that, instead, Americans are simply eating more wheat and processed foods, such as ketchup and mustard, where gluten is typically added as a thickener.  William Davis, MD, a cardiologist and author of Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health, argues that significant changes in the protein structure of the wheat itself are responsible.

There is also a faction of people who believe that this increase is primarily due to genetically modified, or GM, wheat, which is not the same as the cross-bred variety of wheat we currently consume. How is genetic modification different from hybridization? ‘Hybrid’ means cross-breeding from two parent plants. Essentially, plText Box GF Blogant breeders steer the process of crossing two varieties in the field using low-tech methods.

Genetic modification refers to plants that have been altered in the laboratory using complex technology to enhance desired traits, such as resistance to pesticides.  GM plants can include genes from several species, something that rarely, if ever, occurs in nature. Corn and soybeans, two of the most widely grown GM crops in the U.S., are approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and were introduced in the ‘90s by Monsanto, one of the biggest agricultural companies in the world.

For our purpose, though, the bottom line is that GM wheat is not currently on the market and, therefore, cannot be responsible for the increased incidence of gluten intolerance.  Will GM wheat ever be approved by the USDA? Monsanto tested GM wheat across the U.S. for several years and, in 2002, submitted an application to the USDA for approval. Two years later, the company withdrew the application because farmers feared that wheat grown from GM seeds would not be purchased by large markets in Europe and Asia.

As fate would have it, American wheat exports have decreased by approximately 85% due to GM contamination. On May 29th of 2013, the USDA announced publicly that genetically engineered wheat was found growing on a farm in Oregon.  Subsequently, South Korea and Japan, the biggest buyer of U.S. wheat behind Mexico, cancelled their contracts to purchase wheat.  The European Union also began testing shipments of U.S. wheat and blocked those containing GM wheat.

It is also notable that the type of seeds found on the Oregonian farm were Roundup Ready, which means they are genetically modified to be resistant to Roundup (which you may use to kill weeds in your yard). Plants grown from Roundup Ready seeds will grow even when sprayed with Ro12798763845_3204f39912_oundup and the surrounding weeds die.  Recently, however, ‘superweeds’ have sprouted in farmers’ fields that are resistant to Roundup and Dow AgroSciences is now testing seeds that are resistant to a stronger pesticide, 2,4-D (a component of Agent Orange that was used in the Vietnam war).

What does all of this mean for us? It’s difficult to say and no one really knows for sure, but are GM foods in your grocery store? You bet. Some estimate that more than 70% of processed foods, such as cookies and cereals, contain GM ingredients. Fresh fruits and veggies are GM-free as are meat, fish, and poultry, however, feed for livestock and fish is derived from GM corn and alfalfa.

Please consult your doctor if you suspect that you have celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, or a wheat allergy, or before making significant changes to your diet.

UP NEXT – Part 4 – The Final Verdict: If You Can Tolerate Gluten, Should You Go Gluten-Free?

- Holly J. Hough, PhD

ReferencesU.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health; United States Department of Agriculture; Rodale News; Dr. William Davis, Wheat Belly Blog; Mother Earth News (Hybrid Seeds vs GMOs); The Huffington Post (Top 7 Genetically Modified Crops); GMO Compass; Genetic Literacy Project; Scientific American; The New York Times (Modified Wheat in Oregon); Reuters; Collective Evolution; The New York Times (As Patent Ends, A Seed’s Use Will Survive); The Huffington Post (USDA May Deregulate Corn and Soybean Seeds); Mother Jones (5 Surprising Genetically Modified Foods)

Image by SARE Outreach, via CC

 

Preventing Ministry Burnout in a 24/7 World

Share

This is the first in a special series on Sabbath by our friends at Blessed Earth.  Today’s post was written by Nancy Sleeth (see her bio below the article).

*************************************

“I feel like I’m on call, 24/7.”

“Between my day job and a two-point charge, I haven’t had a real vacation in years.”

“My parsonage is next to the church, so I never have down time!”

Over the last year, my husband Matthew and I have spoken with more than one thousand UMC clergy in North Carolina. You may have crossed paths with us at one of our 24/6 workshops and retreats. What we’ve heard over and over is that clergy are feeling frazzled. Why? Too many demands and not enough time.

A friend of mine calls this problem “time debt.” And it’s not unique to the church. It’s everywhere. Each “yes” requires a future commitment of our time. Like a home mortgage, some of those payments stretch out for years into the future.

Fortunately, the Church holds an answer. The solution first shows up in Genesis. In Exodus, it becomes one of the top ten—the longest of the commandments and the most peaceful sky and water imageoft-repeated directive in the bible. We die if we don’t honor it, and we fly high if we do. (Isaiah 58:13-14) It’s called Sabbath rest.

One day out of seven, we’re invited to lay down our burdens—to be still, and know God. There are only two “rules”: pray and play. For me, that means no emails, no housework, and no shopping. Instead, I do the things that refresh me. I read. I walk. I spend time with family, friends, and God. I take holy naps.

Here’s the encouraging news: more and more of you are accepting God’s invitation to the Sabbath banquet. According to Clergy Health Initiative data, in 2012 only nine percent of UMC clergy in North Carolina were taking a regular Sabbath. Among the pilot populations we are working with, about thirty-three percent are now remembering the fourth commandment. And among our beta leadership groups, fifty-five percent are now keeping a regular Sabbath.

More good news: The Duke Endowment has awarded a generous three-year grant to the ministry that Matthew and I founded, Blessed Earth. Our goal is to improve the emotional and spiritual health of clergy by engaging in regular rhythms of work and rest. Like any habit, it takes repeated exposure to make sustained changes in our behavior.

The Sabbath Living Initiative is designed to support you in your Sabbath practices. First, we need to model the Sabbath ourselves. (Our best sermon is our own behavior)! Second, we need to extend the gift of Sabbath to others. You’ll find plenty of resources for both you and your congregations on the new Sabbath Living website.

In our next post, Rev. Mairi Renwick, Blessed Earth’s new Sabbath Living Program Manager, will share more about the sermon series outlines, small group studies, hymns, scripture, books, articles, and many other resources that are available to you and your congregations.

Until then, I wish you Shabbat Shalom—and a God-ordained Sabbath nap!

Nancy pic bwNancy Sleeth is the Managing Director of Blessed Earth and author of Almost Amish: One Woman’s Quest for a Slower, Simpler, More Sustainable Life. She and her husband, Matthew Sleeth, MD, started the Sabbath Living Initiative, which supports NC UMC clergy and their congregations in their Sabbath practices.

To Be or Not To Be Gluten-Free #2

Share

I had no idea that wheat was such a controversial topic until I began doing research in preparation for writing this blog series. After much reading and sifting through articles, I believe that, to really get to the heart of whether a gluten-free diet is appropriate for those of us that don’t have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, the discussion must become global and include some history as well as a few details on farming, biotechnology, and economic trading. There is a multitude of information on the Internet and, in my opinion, more to this issue than simply considering whether to include gluten in your diet. I have done my best to present all sides (in the following three parts) and provide, well, food for thought. Read the first part of the series here.

Part 2 – Your Wheat is Not Your Grandmother’s Wheat

You may be surpWheat Pic1rised to know that other parts of the world are way ahead of the U.S. when it comes to gluten-free eating. Argentina recently initiated a national program for the detection and control of celiac disease and, for residents, health insurance companies “must cover the cost of alternative flours and gluten-free mixes” for celiac patients.  Both Irish and Canadian citizens receive tax deductions for the extra cost of gluten-free foods and in the United Kingdom, people with celiac receive gluten-free products as part of their health plan benefits.  In Italy, all children are tested for celiac disease by age six and any Italian over age ten diagnosed with celiac receives a monthly stipend of 140 euros for gluten-free foods.

Even though celiac disease has been around for centuries, it was once considered very rare in the U.S. Joseph Murray, MD, a gastroenterologist at Mayo Clinic, saw frequent cases of celiac disease as a medical student in Ireland during the 1970s. When he moved to the U.S. in 1988, Dr. Murray saw one patient per year with gluten intolerance and by 1997, his celiac cases numbered 100 annually. He decided to investigate the phenomenon and compared celiac incidence in blood samples taken from 50 Air Force recruits in the 1950s with blood taken from young men living in Minnesota. The present-day men were 4.5 times more likely to have celiac disease, which means something in the environment has changed.

Enter wheat. No one really knows why celiac disease is affecting more people, but many believe that the transformation of wheat is to blame. Wheat products sold today are very different than wheat that was consumed in the early 20th century all the way back to Biblical times and, indeed, it seems that the incidence of celiac disease increased at about the same time as the changes in wheat.

So how has wheat transformed? And why? In the 1950s, Norman Borlaug, an American biologist, took an agricultural research position in Mexico and cross-bred wheat that resulted in high-yield, disease-resistant varieties that were cheaper to grow. By 1963, Mexico not only fed its own growing population but was also exporting wheat. At this time, large numbers of people were starving in both India and Pakistan; however, by 1970, thanks to the new cross-bred variety, wheat yields nearly doubled in these countries. Borlaug also gave China and parts of South America the ability to feed their burgeoning populations and is often credited with saving hundreds of millions people across the globe from starvation. (He is one of three Americans who won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Congressional Gold Medal.)

Plant researchers have discovered, however, that Borlaug’s wheat had fewer nutrients than before and became a refined wheat that raised blood sugar leOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAvels very quickly. Additionally, bread preparation is not at all similar to what it was at the turn of the century. Grains “…were soaked, sprouted, and fermented, and bread was baked using a slow-rise yeast.” Today, manufacturers bleach flour with agents like benzoyl peroxide (typically used to treat acne) and bake bread with quick-rise yeast, which results in bread with little nutritional value.

It turns out that Grandma’s bread was baked with more than love!

Please consult your doctor if you suspect that you have celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, or a wheat allergy, or before making significant changes to your diet.

UP NEXT – Part 3 – What Really Causes Celiac Disease and is Genetically Modified Wheat to Blame?

- Holly Hough, PhD

References: Eating Well; Celiac Disease Foundation; Mayo Clinic; Celebrating 100 Years of Norman Borlaug; The Washington Times; Authority Nutrition; Discovery News

Images from Flickr users Dace Kirspile and kochtopf, via CC

A Piglet Moment

Share

The following post is offered by Spirited Life Wellness Advocate, Lisa MacKenzie.

**********************************

“Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind; ‘Pooh?’ he whispered.
‘Yes, Piglet?’
‘Nothing,’ said Piglet, taking Pooh’s hand. ‘I just wanted to be sure of you.’”
- Winnie the Pooh, by A.A. MilneHand Reaching

Sometimes we all need to be sure that we’re not alone and that someone cares and is paying us some attention– especially when we’re feeling vulnerable. Some of us might even be having a “Piglet moment” right now.

I recently read an essay entitled Practicing a Life of Prayer by Sam Portaro,* in which he describes a spiritual practice of paying attention. Portaro says: “When I pay attention, I don’t have to remind myself of God’s presence in my life; God is nearly always present and manifest and recognizable in the other, the one in whom and to whom I have paid my attention.”

It takes practice to pay attention and to be aware in the present moment. Sometimes we don’t stop to think about our child who looks at us with longing while we’re racing off to a meeting, or the clerk who has been standing behind a counter for hours and sighs deeply as she bags groceries, or the pastor who has just moved his family to a new town this summer. Paying attention is one of the greatest gifts we’re given by God because it leads us to not only care for others but for ourselves as well.

When I was a young nurse, I’ll never forget a middle aged man with cancer who I cared for on the night shift. It was back in the day when patients had to wait for an injection of pain medication until the 4 or 6 hours were up. This patient was very uncomfortable, and I was in a hurry to request an order from his doctor to administer the pain medication sooner. As I hurried from his bedside, he reached for my hand and said, “don’t leave, please.” In that moment, my patient taught me one of the most important lessons I have ever learned- pay attention. He was scared and alone and needed someone to be present– to touch him, to hold his hand. And when I did that, for a moment his pain eased.

In his book Out of Solitude, Henri Nouwen wrote a meditation on care saying that we tend to look at caring as an attitude of the strong toward the weak, the powerful toward the powerless; yet the word “care” is rooted in the Germanic “kara,” which means to lament, to grieve, to cry out with. It seems that being present is the foundation of care, but to really be present we have to pay attention. We have to stop so that we, like Portaro writes, can recognize the presence of God in the other. Pooh understood this and willingly offered this gift to Piglet without giving advice or finding a solution– because sometimes we just need to be sure that someone is present with us.

*Sam Portaro’s article can be found in William S. Craddock’s All Shall Be Well: An Approach to Wellness.

-Lisa MacKenzieLisa-MacKenzie-90x120