An Interview with Health Coach and Gluten Specialist Lisa Vasile

I am very excited to share some insight and information about eating a gluten free diet and living a healthy life from Lisa Vasile, Health Coach and Nurse Practitioner with over 20 years experience. Lisa is the creator of 4Betterhealth, a business she started to validate her clients and empower them to overcome their frustrations of not feeling well and fears of a present health condition or family history might mean for them.

She has a passion for helping people find solutions when told “nothing is wrong with you” and offers tips and tricks for a truly healthy lifestyle, focusing on all aspects of a client’s life and how they can drastically decrease the potential for cancer, heart attacks, or loss of jobs due to being ill and having to take time off from work. Lisa graciously agreed to share insight to why people may want to trial or need to live gluten free, her own journey with Celiac Disease, how nutrition can impact life (for good or for bad) and includes some great resources for teaching children about Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance too!

-You are a Nurse Practioner and a health coach and creator of 4BetterHealth. Tell us about your typical day. Is it all ‘gluten free’ or do you work with other needs?

I work with clients who are searching 4 Better Health. As an allopathically trained RN/NP we are taught diagnose and manage symptoms… but even years ago I always wanted to know “But why?” “What causes it?” “Isn’t there a way to prevent or reverse this?” and that lead me to a more holistic approach – finding why – and the passion with health coaching to help others find the WHY and HOW.

More than half the clients come to me because they want to lose weight but after working with me for a while realize that their weight is a reflection of their health. In working with me, clients are able to decrease cholesterol, high blood pressure and over the counter pills. Many don’t know they have an intolerance and after a while we trial removing specific foods and they feel better than ever.

People don’t pay attention to their eating, stress and self medicating habits. Millions of people in America are taking over the counter medications for heartburn, diarrhea, bloating, constipation, headaches, insomnia, arthritis pain, anemia and allergies and my job is to show them that a headache is not the body telling you “I am running low on tylenol or anemia is a low iron supplement level…please refill me”. The body is trying to give a signal that something is out of whack and I have the honor of helping them figure out the CAUSE not just manage a symptom.

My clients range from 28 to 65. 

One client was referred to me because she was told by a gastroenterologist, gynecologist, allergist and PCP that nothing was wrong with her but she had daily abdominal pain, bloating and excessive fatigue.

Another wanted to lose weight and after 4 months has lost 15 pounds, reversed her prediabeties, cholesterol, insomnia and heartburn.

Another was putting her daughter on a gluten free diet for short term memory issues (after testing that “nothing was wrong with her”) and we did a pantry makeover and gluten free grocery shopping/label reading.

I have many clients who just want to know how to shop and overcome packaging label misconceptions that are interrupting their health goals.
I also teach wellness advantage seminars to community groups and work with the school’s Wellness Policy in the goal of making an impact on school lunches, vending machines and helping people learn how to make foods available for those with allergies.

-You have celiac disease. What was it like to finally have that diagnosis?

Well, honestly? My first thought was “No more beer?!!”  haha

Seriously, I was so validated after a lifetime of constipation, rectal bleeding, heartburn, headaches, horrible fatigue, and infertility. I am 5’8″ and graduated high school weighing 115 pounds. I was told my whole life I had “Irritable bowels”.

I went completely gluten free and within a week ALL OF MY SYMPTOMS were gone! That was soooo exciting to me. I can give blood now without the use of iron supplements! For anyone who has had a lifetime of constipation, heartburn and headaches; they will fully understand why even now – 5 years later I am so thankful. 

I am thankful I don’t have to take medications or over the counter medications such as iron or stool softeners which can cause other problems – all I have to do is eat alittle different!! =)

I have accidentally eaten gluten about 2 times a year (we call that “being glutened”- haha).  It is usually from cross contamination and my body will tell me loud and clear with heart racing, days of brain fog and unbearable GI symptoms.

-And this runs in families?

Celiac is an autoimmune and can only be triggered if a person has the gene for it. Many people have the gene, but the body must have something happen to decide to ‘fight’ (build antibodies) against itself when gluten (the protein found in wheat, rye, and barley) is introduced to the system. So, yes. Celiac is an allergy and is genetic therefore runs in families…. about 1:110 people have Celiac. Sadly 97% are undiagnosed.  That is a lot of people who could prevent more autoimmune, medications, cancers, diabetes, etc.

Since my diagnosis, my NP office has diagnosed over 20 people and 2 other staff live GF with reversal of symptoms.

One for Joint pain and swelling (see inflammation below) and one who takes 4 OTC medications for ulcers, heartburn, bloating, and constipation and has monthly B12 shots low B12 and nueropathy. She also had an endoscopy result of “appearance of celiac damage but negative for celiac” and her GI said “your tests were negative” with no push to trial a GF diet =(

HOWEVER, Very important is to remember that people can have a gluten INTOLERANCE without having an allergy, antibodies or endoscopic changes. (my coworkers)

Humans actually do not have the enzymes necessary to process & metabolize gluten (we are not cows). But, over the years our bodies have adapted to tolerate and break down the grains. Unfortunately, many people have intolerance exhibited by skin disorders, bloating, brain fog, ADD/ADHD, GI symptoms, migraines, low iron, B12, neuropathies, joint pain, infertility, osteoporosis, and once they take out gluten – their symptoms vanish.

-Whats the best way to start removing glutens from one’s diet?

Easiest and cheapest would be to shop the perimeter of the store. Fruits, veggies, meats, dairy (however, some people have so much damage they need to remove casein for a few months until their gut heals) and eggs.
Read all spices/condiments in the cabinet and fridge – the labels should have a disclaimer of the 5 major allergens: Milk, Soy, Nuts, Wheat and Fish…. this does not include barley or rye- so read the INGREDIENTS.

There are soooooooo many Gluten free (GF) options now in all grocery stores. Those tend to cost a bit more, so I encourage my clients to find what they like and order it on Amazon.com (using the free shipping membership).

Breakfast: egg, fruit, protein smoothie, GF oatmeal (oats are naturally GF but usually grown and processed on the same fields/machines as the other grains – so it is best to find a GF oatmeal), GF cereal

Snacks: nuts, fruit, hard boiled eggs, humus, nutbutter and celery or apples, yogurt and gluten free crackers or protein bars.

lunch: gluten free rollup/tortilla with sandwich meats stated to be GF, rice & beans, salads with chickpea/beans/tofu/meat (*ensure salad dressing is GF).

Dinner: any meat, veggies, rice, quinoa, potato, sweet potato, corn, GF pasta, bread, taco shells, etc.
-Have you ever encountered any naysayers? Sometimes people can be doubtful an issue with gluten or food allergies are real. What do you say to someone that thinks its “all in your head”?

OH YES! my inlaws. 1 of my daughters has celiac (allergy) but the other 2 have ADD (intolerance). It isn’t that they don’t love our kids… it is truly a matter of understanding why gluten is an enemy in our kids’ bodies. It is reminding them that if the body is intolerant it can cause other autoimmunes, allergies, menstrual problems, infertility, nueropathies and cancer.

Even our pediatrician was surprised I put them all on a GF diet saying “Good luck with that- it’s alot easier to give Ritalin for ADD”…. we left that doctor.

-What was the best advice you personally received when removing gluten from your diet?

Actually, I didn’t get any. One of the reasons I am so passionate about education and sharing what I have learned and encourage people to be EMPOWERED by the diagnosis! We get to control our fate with a fork instead of injections or pill bottles! =)

My sister was diagnosed about 2 months before me and was amazing. We had been working together to help her, so I learned a lot.

I got the opposite from my PCP, the Gastroenterologist and Nutritionist they sent me to.  I heard “Its really hard”. “Most everyone cheats”. “Its really expensive”

My advice to others; “Empower yourself!” Don’t let others tell you that you can’t do something. It really is NOT hard. It is a learning curve, there is planning and preparation but feeling better and helping your body to work better – and being proactive/preventing chronic illness is an amazing gift!

-What advice do you give to people just starting out?

One step at a time.

start with the shopping tips I gave.

Google is amazing.  If you are questioning if a food is GF simply type in your food item such as: “Paul Newman Ranch, Gluten Free” in google and you will almost always find your answer.

Write a list of foods you love and find a GF alternative

DONT over eat – many people gorge themselves with the GF foods because “they can have this”.

Write a list of ‘every day’ foods and find GF alternatives

Write a list of favorite meals and recipes and adapt using GF ingredients.

Read labels (*soy sauce/terryaki sauce often has wheat)

Have snacks with you in the car/when you go to friends houses… It isn’t their job to know how or be prepared to know what you can eat and sometimes a well meaning friend thinks they understand but uses a spice, cross contaminates accidently or serves hummus and tortilla chips and offers you this because they ‘saw the hummus package said gluten free’.

Your home is gluten free. How do you and your kids handle eating foods at special events like a child’s birthday party or an event at school?

We bring it and luckily my kids are old enough to say ‘I can’t have that’.

With toddlers who take what they want  – I would bring all their foods and stay with my child.

-How do you teach your children about gluten and celiac disease?

I talked to them at length and reeducated daily.

There are books online:

http://www.amazon.com/Bagels-gluten-intolerance-Celiac-Disease/dp/0979770300

http://www.amazon.com/Gluten-Free-Friends-Activity-Book-Kids/dp/1889374091

http://glutenfreehelp.info/book-reviews/mommy-what-is-celiac-disease/

http://www.google.com/imgresum=1&hl=en&sa=N&rlz=1T4TSNP_enUS460US460&biw=1239&bih=558&tbm=isch&tbnid=yJSEwGicqrWPfM:&imgrefurl=http://glutenfreegimmethree.com/tag/childrens-books/&docid=0g60cIEGzywpVM&imgurl=

http://glutenfreegimmethree.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/celiac-cover500.jpg&w=500&h=500&ei=z_AnT5vmFKng0QHcz7msAg&zoom=1&iact=rc&dur=475&sig=107659655819610387689&page=4&tbnh=165&tbnw=165&start=59&ndsp=18&ved=1t:429,r:8,s:59&tx=82&ty=88

http://www.google.com/imgres?q=children%27s+book,+gluten+free&um=1&hl=en&sa=N&qscrl=1&nord=1&rlz=1T4TSNP_enUS460US460&biw=1239&bih=558&tbm=isch&tbnid=HhZae-TGoMoBYM:&imgrefurl=

http://www.sallysbooks.com/page3.htm&docid=1FhEwrhKaEFBkM&imgurl=

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-What are your favorite go-to gluten free foods?

snacks:

humus and nut thin crackers, mary’s gone crackers or veggies

popcorn

apple and peanut butter

fruit or cut up veggies

tortilla chips with salsa or guac

meals – pretty much anything can be made GF

-Gluten has been in the news a lot lately- what do you think about people choosing this lifestyle because they think its the newest ‘fad diet’?

Well, there are a lot of ‘fad’ diets- one of my patients recently even told me they were doing the “17 day” diet???

A GF diet, however, is not a diet- especially not one that will expedite weight loss.

The only thing that may help jumpstart weight loss is the decrease in readily processed foods with wheat, rye and barley (crackers, bagels, muffins, cookies, cake, etc) and it is not possible to grab a bagel at Dunkin, scone at Starbucks or hamburg at Mc’D’s. Those should places and foods should be avoided anyway if someone wants to lose weight. 

I have seen some people eat a GF diet to decrease bloating before an event… to me if they are doing it to fit in a dress for a big event and it works; they are gluten intolerant and should keep eating that way.

if someone is gluten intolerant or celiac and they have to eat GF; GF foods are no less in calorie in fat- and many times (as stated before) people over eat because “I can eat this” or they start metabolizing and absorbing the foods which cause weight gain.

-Say its my birthday, and I can’t eat gluten, someone asks me ‘Can’t you ‘cheat’ just one time?

 NO! not with celiac. This is a recipe for more autoimmune (M.S., Thyroid, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Psoriasis) and cancer.  It is imperative that a celiac be gluten free and their antibodies stay in ‘normal’ range. Perhaps with gluten intolerance – yet they will pay for it (similar to people who eat the buffalo wings or cheesecake even though they know they will have bloating and hearburn later).

-What do you tell clients first when they need to stop eating glutens? Do they ever resist with denial? What turns them around?

There is a saying that “Food and diet is more personal and harder to change than politics or religion combined”.  I would agree 1,000% with that statement.

It is something we learn from birth and all ‘celebrations’ revolve around food.

It is a hard change (which is why ‘diets’ don’t work).

It is a life style change and depending on culture, age and support from loved ones – it is a journey which requires motivation, persistance, trial & error and education.

Usually symptoms resolving (or backfiring) are validating to people and keeps them on track.

It is important for people to understand that one autoimmune increases the risk of others. Inflammation is caused by the body with autoimmune responses. Inflammation leads to many chronic illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, migraines, high blood pressure, dementia, infertility, etc.

-Do you recommend any special techniques to prevent cross- contamination at home? Or do you recommend the entire family eats gluten free?
This would be for a celiac?  Most people who are gluten intolerant don’t have symptoms if they have microscopic cross contamination… Celiacs would and do. This is a learning process.

Everyone in the family must be on board if they aren’t all GF.

My husband still has his gluten bread, cereal and pasta… everything else in the house is GF. When we were first learning he used a separate counter…. but now he is very careful never to put his food (uses a plate), never puts his forks, knifes, etc on the counter, keeps his bread on a counter in a plastic bag. If you have someone who is not GF – they can’t use the same spoon to stir their pasta and the GF pasta – nor can they use your pans.

 On that note – when someone in the house has to be GF, it is advised that the kitchen have a makeover…. steel pans only (no more telflon – especially if they had been used with gluten in the past), all plastic bowls, baking dishes, plastic spatulas, toasters need to be replaced.

Peanut butter, butter, jelly, etc which may have a knife going in and out of GF and gluten foods should be separated and labeled.

If there is someone who won’t be eating GF, the pans, utensils, etc they use should be labeled – or if only one person is GF, their things should be labeled. (unless someone is only using steel which the gluten will not stick to and can be placed in the dishwasher.)

-What about eating out?

Thankfully, most restaurants (not fast food) know about gluten these days. Some much better than others.

depending how sensitive someone is – I would suggest they not go out for the first month until they are more confident in the learning curve.

Salads with a grilled meat or fish or beans are usually fine dependent upon the seasonings on the protein and if the grill is cleaned before the GF meal is prepared.  Salad dressings are hard, too. If the restaurant has a CHEF who went to culinary school (not a cook who was trained to make dishes for that restaurant) they will understand GF cooking and be able to read labels on dressings or tell the waitress whether something is GF and/or can be prepared as such.

 Bottom line is to MAKE SURE the wait staff really understands that this is an ALLERGY and if they seem confused (like “oh yeah, that’s mikl?) ask for the manager or leave that restaurant.
Some well know restaurants that offer GF menus:

Legal Seafood, Bugaboo Creek, Outback steakhouse, Boston Beer Company, Olive garden, PF changs, 99, Longhorn’s, Uno’s, Bertucci’s

There are great resources for gluten free eating out: http://glutenfreetravelsite.com/, http://celiacrestaurantguide.com/

-What budget friendly ideas do you suggest for gluten free meals? Some specialty GF items can get expensive!
Yes it can be, however, premade GF foods are much more than if you make your own.

Order packaged foods online – I use Amazon. Market basket offers an array of GF foods for cheaper.

Keep in mind – most of the ingredients in the GF foods tend to be higher quality. It is refreshing to know that a Celiac is putting nutrients instead of foreign ingredients into their system which can lead to more inflammation and autoimmune.

As I say to my clients and patients “Pay now with higher quality food instead of foods loaded with chemicals; or pay later with medications loaded with chemicals and higher medical bills”.

– Even though I try to maintain a healthy diet, up until I made the switch to gluten-free, even my normal go- to foods like veggies and hummus, or clementines looked and tasted unappealing, and I was rarely truly ‘hungry’, despite watching calorie intake. Now they’re back to being delicious, my stomach is growling for every meal and I’m seriously thirsty. What gives? Is my body just ‘normalizing’?

This is a normal reaction when your body and gut are healing.

I usually suggest people take a probiotic to help them heal their guts as their bodies transition. Those are safe with pregnancy and nursing.

When I coach clients  – even those who are trying to lose weight – I never talk about calories.

I start with boosting their water with a MINIMUM of 7-8 a day.

I encourage adding fruits & veggies – especially greens (at least 7-8 a day), higher quality grains (Quinoa is a great GF grain loaded with nutrients and protein), and more beans. I have a bunch of yummy recipes on my website all of which can be adapted to GF diet.

This always helps with hunger due to the higher fiber, hunger, and healing.

I dont know about you, but I really enjoyed what Lisa has to say! You can learn more about the services Lisa offers at her website, www.4betterhealth.biz

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Post-Gluten Armageddon: Day Three? It doesnt hurt after all

“Food is the path to healing … There is no pill we can take, no surgery we can endure, and in fact, no cure other than living on an entirely gluten-free diet. Some find that distressing. I find it a blessing.

In order to be well, I have to eat well. I have to feed myself. I have to live in food.

Yes.”

So here I sit (on the morning of day four), three full days after removing glutens from my diet. It hasn’t been perfect, I have a half- eaten package of chicken breasts in my fridge I’m fairly certain contain injected broth which of course is not gluten free, and  I may end up having to eat it before my next trip to the grocery store. Or maybe not, I’m hoping it can go sit in the icy confines of the freezer for someone else to devour. I’ll put a big ‘X’ on it so I remember not to feed it to myself. Honestly, I’d be feeling perfectly okay with understanding the gluten-is-in-that game if it weren’t for the fact that I eat chicken for almost every meal. (And for the time being I have an answer: eat pork. Or steak. Or eggs. Done.)

Jax has handled not drinking out of my cup while he’s digging into his buttered noodles like a champ, at least after the first moment of rejection he felt when I shrieked at him. I’ve been needing to break him from his little habit of not leaving other people’s drinks alone anyways- a five year old blowing bubbles into my lemon water with mac-n-cheese lips is not my idea of ‘yummy’, gluten sensitivities or not.

Here’s the amazing thing. I looked at this idea of me going gluten free as some sort of crazy idea that could work, or it couldn’t. I’ve always been the professional skeptic- show me the facts but then back it up with good, solid evidence and reasons the counter argument may not apply. So I held on to the chance that this couldn’t make a damn bit of a difference. And then I’d be the silly girl left with some great understanding of how going gluten free works wonders for some people but apparently, not me.

But, so far, that’s not the case for me. THREE DAYS into this and I am FEELING AMAZING. What the hell! No one told me about this sooner!? I was a skeptic, no matter how much research I read or how much I could post about it either. I didn’t think at all a change like this could make a difference. Remember Joe vs. the Volcano? I’ve been walking around with Brain Cloud. And luckily for me, I feel like it has lifted. I’m not terminally grouchy with Jax. I’m getting things done (err, unless I’m on Pinterest). I took the kiddos outside to play two days in a row. No, seriously. I haven’t had that sort of energy. in. a. long. time. And we’ll do it all over again today. I’m not waking up with headaches- they went away. (The daily dose of Kale has helped. Honestly, who the eff craves kale?! Me, that’s who.) My skin is still sand paper-dry, and the eczema is a lot less red but not GONE, but its not so uncomfortable that I feel like it could walk on its own.

Really. I didnt actually think it was possible to feel better so soon. Shauna James Ahearn says it well on her website, Gluten Free Girl:

“I stopped eating gluten. I have never gone back since. At the end of the first day without gluten, I felt some energy. My stomach didn’t hurt when I ate. On the second day, I didn’t need a five-hour nap. On the third day, my brain fog cleared, as though my contacts had been cleaned for the first time.”

(www.glutenfreegirl.com)

I may have hit a tiny bit of a low point yesterday afternoon lusting after sugary, chocolatey brownies. But I’m pretty sure thats a combo of all the pictures of brownies I’ve seen lately on gluten free websites, promising they can deliver deliciousness, and PMS. (Sorry if thats TMI, but really? Get over it… …All better?)

I will definitely concede that some of why I am feeling good is probably connected simply to the fact that I’m not subjecting my body to the never- ending crash cycle of carbohydrates and sugars of bread and pasta. But the bananas, yogurt (yes it is a hefty source of sugar), sweet potatoes, brown rice, etc- while not hovering too high on the scale of glycemic index offenders- still provide plenty of carbs for my body to contend with. The long and short of it is that I might be eating LESS carbs, but not ‘no- carb’, like with South Beach or Atkins (where people face some serious sugar withdrawals for the first few miserable days). Thankfully, I usually lack the sweet tooth so many people have, and my biggest daily source of sugar was The Dreaded Vanilla Coffee-Mate, so I’m not left jonesing for sugar like its a druggie’s crack fix. (I also had been slowly weaning myself off of coffee mate over the past few weeks because its a  source of nasty, gross calories my body didnt need, so I’ve been mixing it gradually with first fat free half and half, then almond milk, and I now have my daily decaf with just half and half or just almond milk. Full disclosure.)

The craziest thing is that a few weeks ago, I was actually adding more and more whole grains into my diet, in an effort to make sure I was eating the healthiest choices I could for my fat behind. Kashi cereals. Whole Wheat pasta EVERYTHING. And I was feeling worse and worse. Whole grains are good for you! They contribute a lot of benefits to the breastfeeding mom’s diet! Heart Health! But I was feeling even more like shit worse and worse.

The moral to the first chapter of this story is that after a solid three days of not eating gluten, I’m glad I dove in. And so far, I’ve lived to tell the tale. Its exciting to do a little nutrition research and come out on the other side not only unscathed but feeling great. Now onto tackling the frightening pantry full of pasta, and Jax’s not so great chicken nugget habit…