Food for thought

three Klang Val­ley-based fam­i­lies talk about why they opted for gluten-free meals for them­selves or their chil­dren.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FAMILY -

LINA Esa, 43, and her hus­band Rickard Oberg, 36, a Swedish soft­ware en­gi­neer work­ing in Malaysia, started on the gluten-free diet about a year ago.

“What started it was very in­ter­est­ing as both my hus­band and I went through a detox pe­riod of two weeks, af­ter which we flew to Swe­den. There we had pizza and Swedish ‘sand­wich cake’ that was made from wheat.

“Then he got re­ally ill – se­vere headache and dizzi­ness. He had to lie down al­most the en­tire day. We made a quick Google search on the symp­toms and sus­pected that he was gluten-in­tol­er­ant.

“Then he was put on a gluten-free diet for sev­eral days. Af­ter that he took some wheat-based food. Again, he fell ill. So we sort of con­firmed that he is gluten-in­tol­er­ant,” she re­calls.

Lina finds gluten-free meals are not that hard to whip up.

“The usual sus­pects such as bread, pasta, noo­dles, crack­ers, pizza and so on are ob­vi­ous. The big­ger prob­lem is the ‘hid­den’ ingredients in many semi-pre­pared foods. So we had to read up on how to un­der­stand ingredients and food la­belling, and in so do­ing, found so much more about food that we would never have other­wise!

“We found out about the prob­lems with MSG (mono sodium glu­ta­mate), as­par­tame, HFCS (high fruc­tose corn syrup), colour­ing, and many more things. Apart from avoid­ing gluten we also learned to avoid all of those things.

“In the end, it comes down to mak­ing home-cooked meals based on raw ingredients, rather than us­ing pre-pre­pared canned food. As a rule of thumb, any­thing that has more than 10 ingredients is prob­a­bly not healthy,” she says.

A typ­i­cal meal for the fam­ily of five – in­clud­ing their three chil­dren aged 16, 15 and 10 – com­prises meat (steaks, minced meat, bone parts, liver, chicken), seafood (prawns, scal­lops, white fish, some salmon) and var­i­ous veg­eta­bles (asparagus, gar­lic, tomato, onion, some salad, bok choy or Chi­nese cab­bage).

For flour, they use tapi­oca, corn and buck­wheat flour. They avoid dairy as much as pos­si­ble (as it con­tains a mor­phine-like com­po­nent as well as a gluten-like sub­stance), but they found that goat’s milk-based prod­ucts are fine. They use co­conut milk as a re­place­ment for milk, but­ter and ghee in­stead of mar­garine and vegetable oils.

“With all this, there is an end­less amount of ex­cel­lent food you can make, and it won’t make you sick, obese or men­tally un­sta­ble!” Lina says.

One of the fam­ily’s favourite recipes is chili con carne, which is minced meat with gar­lic, onion, cap­sicum, tomato puree, sam­bal, fresh toma­toes and baked beans. They also like buck­wheat pan­cakes with salad on top, grilled salmon with hol­landaise sauce and asparagus, and more.

“With what we now know,” says Lina, “my hus­band be­com­ing gluten-in­tol­er­ant was prob­a­bly one of the best things that could have hap­pened to us. Some peo­ple be­lieve that gluten may cause (or trig­ger) many things, in­clud­ing chronic fa­tigue, joint pains, bloat­ing, nau­sea, weight gain, tin­ni­tus, mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis, Parkinson’s dis­ease, Alzheimer’s, autism, ADD (at­ten­tion deficit dis­or­der), de­pres­sion, epilepsy, ir­ri­ta­ble bowel syn­drome, bipo­lar dis­or­der, schizophre­nia and so on.

“Gluten-sen­si­tiv­ity is like the body’s alarm sys­tem that says ‘Don’t eat this, it will kill you!’ For most peo­ple this alarm sys­tem has been turned off, as the body is so fa­tigued with au­toim­mune prob­lems (joint pains, for ex­am­ple) caused by gluten and other things like dairy and su­gar.

“When my hus­band’s body healed up enough be­cause of the detox, it got enough strength to re­sist gluten once it was in­tro­duced again. That is def­i­nitely a good thing. We would not go back to our pre­vi­ous eat­ing habits, and we are feel­ing much bet­ter now, as many of the things listed above (like joint pains and chronic fa­tigue) are no longer is­sues with us.”

Lina sug­gests read­ing up on the vast re­sources avail­able online, par­tic­u­larly any­thing on the Pa­leo diet (which is a way of eat­ing that fol­lows how our hunter-gath­erer an­ces­tors ate – lean meats, seafood, veg­eta­bles, fruits, and nuts) as it ex­plains quite well why gluten is a prob­lem, and what to do in­stead.

Play­ing it safe

When Ce­line Yong’s only child Yan Kai was about one, he was very ac­tive. With her fam­ily’s his­tory in autism, she started him on a gluten-free diet – just to be on the safe side – though usu­ally autism is not di­ag­nosed un­til a child is two.

“I could see the change im­me­di­ately – he was more fo­cused and sta­ble af­ter a few days into the gluten-free diet,” she says.

Yan Kai, now four, was on a strict glutenfree diet un­til he was two, when Yong was cer­tain he wasn’t autis­tic. Be­tween the ages of two and three, his diet was still mostly free of gluten.

“How­ever, as he grows older, I want to ex­pose him to a va­ri­ety of foods, and he also started hav­ing lunch at his play school at three, so he is only on a par­tial gluten-free diet now. His fol­low-up milk is still glutenfree, as are most of his bis­cuits, ce­re­als and pasta,” she says.

Yong, 40, an editor, reck­ons gluten-free cook­ing is not hard.

“In fact, if you are cook­ing a Chi­nese meal from scratch, with fresh ingredients and nat­u­ral sea­son­ing, they are mostly gluten- free. Rice is gluten-free. For break­fast, you can eas­ily get a good se­lec­tion of ce­re­als from the or­ganic store. Lunch and din­ner will be mostly por­ridge and rice with veg­eta­bles, fish and meat. For Western meals, it will be gluten-free pasta in home-made tomato sauce,” she says.

Yan Kai’s snacks con­sist of mostly fruits. Yong is happy with the in­creased choices of gluten-free dried foods as com­pared to three or four years ago. But eat­ing out is still quite a chal­lenge.

“We used to travel with all his frozen food to Cameron High­lands and even to Cher­at­ing beach (Pahang).

“And when we eat out, we will pack his meal along, so I don’t think Yan Kai ever re­ally ate out un­til af­ter he was two-and-a-half. He only had his first taste of Oreo bis­cuits when he was about four!” she re­mem­bers.

Fresh food

When her son was di­ag­nosed with autism at age three, T.S. Chong learnt from med­i­cal jour­nals and the De­feat Autism Now (DAN) so­ci­ety the sever­ity of two forms of pro­tein in chil­dren who can­not di­gest them – ca­sein and gluten. And usu­ally, autis­tic chil­dren are the ones who lack the en­zyme to di­gest these two pro­teins.

“We didn’t im­me­di­ately do a ca­sein-free, gluten-free diet for him,” says the 40-some­thing mother of one, whose son is now 19.

“We started him on a gluten-free diet when he was five, and a year later, we also took out ca­sein com­pletely. Not only do the foods that con­tain these pro­teins not help them in their growth and ad­vance­ment, but also bring harm to them.”

Four­teen years ago, find­ing gluten-free prod­ucts on the shelf was cer­tainly harder than it is now. Chong had to make ex­tra ef­forts to make sure her son’s diet was such. She would pack his food if he was go­ing out over meal­times. Even when they went on hol­i­days, she would bring a rice cooker to boil his food and pack snacks.

It was dif­fi­cult as he had to forgo things like bread, bis­cuits, cakes and ice cream. But she says she was glad she started him young and in­stilled in him a cer­tain dis­ci­pline about food.

“It would be harder if he was older when we started the gluten-free, ca­sein-free diet. Also, when­ever he had cake, he would feel un­well, so he has learnt to avoid it as well.”

The meals Chong makes for him now con­tain mostly rice, rice noo­dles, por­ridge and gluten-free cook­ies she bakes her­self, fresh fruits and veg­eta­bles, fish and meat. The key is to have fresh food rather than pro­cessed food.

Since he’s been gluten-and ca­sein-free, the boy hasn’t strug­gled much with health is­sues and al­lergy re­ac­tions. He is also calmer, hap­pier and less ir­ri­ta­ble.

Healthy eat­ing: Lina esa and rickard Oberg with their kids, dar­ren azim, 10 (on Lina’s lap), Farah deanna, 15, and az­far daniel, 16. the fam­ily is feel­ing bet­ter with their changed diet.

Go­ing gluten-free has helped ce­line yong’s son, yan Kai, to be more fo­cused.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.