How I got off gluten with the help of “Life Changing Crackers”

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I had read on many a PCOS group that gluten was not beneficial to those who struggled with PCOS. I would read that and say to myself, “Sure — that might be the case for you, but not me. I’m just fine eating gluten.” Why would I say this knowing that others with the same struggles were nearly screaming the need to get off of gluten?

Y’all, I come from a looooooooong line of wheat farmers. I even own land that produces WHEAT! Every summer, my family would help bring in the wheat harvest. Some of my favorite memories of those hot summers included riding in the dusty cab with my mom in the wheat truck and the times where she would let me crawl into the back of the wheat truck and play in the wheat with my brother while we waited for a wheat combine harvester to be full. (In fact, if you want to learn more about how wheat is harvested, you can check out this video which some might find interesting…) So, you can imagine why I was in denial thinking that even though my PCOS was flaring with cystic breakouts, weight gain, and hair loss, I thought that I only needed to get off of dairy and that would help. Can you say denial? That was me. Fully, 100 percent denial.

A little bit about my struggle with PCOS

I had come to the point where my joints hurt so bad, it was excruciatingly painful to walk the 15 paces from my bed to my bathroom each morning. I would grip the end of my bed frame, using it as a sort of crutch to help stabilize me and aid me in walking four paces as the pain shot up throughout my body. It got so bad, that my feet even began to hurt. I would comment to my husband about the pain and he wondered if I might have broken something in my feet – perhaps fissures. (Looking back, it was a major flare up for gout — I learned of this after reviewing my blood test results.)  So, every morning, after I fought thru the initial getting-out-of-bed pain, I would grab some Ibuprofen (thinking this would help my inflammation and reduce the pain). I would pop three of these pain pills in my mouth (not realizing this was hard on my liver and adding harmful metals to my body) along with two allergy pills and all my daily vitamins. Then, I would make my way to my chair where I would sit until the pain subsided as I sipped on tea (I use to sit and sip coffee before I got off caffeine) at least enough for me to get up and do a few things. I would avoid stairs. I would avoid getting up and ask for my kids to run and get me things. This. Was. Not. Living.

I felt horrible. And it just wasn’t a week or so of this, it was month after month. (And I write this not for you to have pity, but simply as a reminder to myself just how far I’ve come.) After fighting off three bad rounds of illness and feeling like I was constantly getting sick from November to February and tired of the pain, my frustration level with my health hit an all time high and I finally made an appointment with a naturopathic doctor my friend and recommended and it took her testing me and me seeing the results for me to come to terms that I was not only lactose intolerant, but intolerant to gluten, corn, and even rice. My doctor put me on the Blood Type Diet and gave me a list of foods that were beneficial and those to avoid based on how the lectins in each food interacted in my body based on blood type. She also adjusted my vitamins and helped me with a plan on when to take these nutrients throughout the day.

How I came across this recipe

I remember coming home that day and knowing that in order to make this transition and survive, I needed something that would resemble bread to me. I needed something to replace what I was taking away. I knew if I could find at least one thing, I could make it work in the short term. So I hopped onto Pinterest and began to deep dive into research mode, hoping to find something that would work for me. By the grace of God, I came across a post that featured a recipe that intrigued me on mynewroots.org and when I began poking around on her web site and looking at her recipes, my eye was drawn to her “Life Changing Cracker” recipe.  My eyes quickly scanned the ingredients. For the most part, I could have everything in it! Eureka! I found my bread replacement! I needed only to swap out the sunflower seeds (I chose to chop up some pecans) and instead of dividing the dough into two different kinds of crackers like she recommends, I added a mix of the two different cracker ingredients and loved the outcome.

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Did my tribe go for these “Life Changing Crackers”?

My husband, who is diabetic, really likes these Life Changing Crackers as a snack. We take some goat cheese and/or some sun-dried tomato spread and 2-3 crackers would hold us over until meal time and it truly does satisfy. They are tasty with a dried fig on the side, too if we are craving something sweet. What’s more, my kids like them. This is huge! My kids are some of the biggest food critics out there and if they eat it, that says something to y’all! We even like smoothing some almond butter on it if we were missing peanut butter (yes, that was on the avoid list as well.)

Great for on “the go” or as a snack

I make a batch once a week (sometimes a double-batch because I have a crew of seven to feed). I keep them in a Zip-lock gallon size bag in the fridge and the kids know they can go to this as a snack resource (and that they should only eat a few). These also are a great grab and go item if you know you’ll be out and about running errands. They will be a life-saver if you find your blood sugar levels crashing (you often feel nausea if you’re pre-diabetic or diabetic when this happens.) I sent a bag of these with my hubby when he took the boys out fishing and it (along with a few other healthy snacks) helped him manage his blood sugar levels throughout the day until they had a meal.

Here’s how I made them (a few changes from her recipe):

Life Changing Crackers Recipe created by Sarah Britton BFA, CNP and of mynewroots.org

  • Servings: 2 baking sheets of crispbread
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:
• 1 cup pecans, diced into small bits
• ½ cup flax seeds
• 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
• ¼ cup sesame seeds
• 1 ½ cups rolled oats
• 2 Tbsp. chia seeds
• 4 Tbsp. psyllium seed husks powder
• 1 ½ tsp. fine grain sea salt
• 1 Tbsp. maple syrup (for sugar-free diets, use a pinch of stevia)
• 3 Tbsp. melted ghee
• 1 ½ cups water
• 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
• ¼ tsp. garlic powder (depending on how strong you like it)
• 6 large dried figs (approx. 140g), diced
• 1 tsp. anise seed
• 1 tsp. cracked black pepper

Directions:
1. In a large bowl combine all dry ingredients, stirring well. Whisk maple syrup, oil and water together in a measuring cup. Add this to the dry ingredients and mix very well until everything is completely soaked and dough becomes very thick (if the dough is too thick to stir, add one or two teaspoons of water until the dough is manageable). Divide the dough roughly in half, and set aside one half.

2. Place one half of the dough back into the bowl and add any flavouring you like. Gather into a ball and place it between two sheets of baking paper. Using a rolling pin, firmly roll out into a thin sheet. Remove top layer of baking paper and using the tip of a knife, score the dough into shapes you like (I chose large rectangles but it’s up to you). Repeat with remaining half of dough. Let sit out on the counter for at least 2 hours, or all day or overnight.

3. She recommends setting your oven to 350°F and and baking for 20 minutes and flipping the dough on the cookie sheet (peel the baking paper off of the back and remove before placing back into the oven) and baking for another 10 minutes. Mine always came out a little chewy this way, so I found to make it more crisp (without burning them) if I set my oven to 270°F, and baked for 30 minutes one side, then remove cookie sheet from oven, flip the whole cracker over and return to oven to bake for another 20 minutes, until fully dry, crisp, and golden around the edges.

4. Let cool completely, then break crackers along their scored lines and store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

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Coming across this recipe was truly a boost in my faith and gave me the tools I needed to take a monumental step in saying goodbye to gluten as I sought to change my life. She did not stretch the truth when she named these crackers.

— Erin
PS: The wheat farmer’s granddaughter (that would be me) is gluten-free. And as a wheat grower, I may be looking into growing canola instead. Stay tuned on that one. 😉

First Taste: Overnight Oats

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I’ve seen these “Overnight Oats” recipes all over Pinterest and on many a blog. I would stare at the photo of a jar filled with oats, almond milk, and chia seeds and like Goldilocks and the three bears, I would scratch my head as to why it was so popular to eat a cold porridge.

Maybe it was the repetition of seeing it over and over, maybe I was just wanting to try an easy option to break up my two egg and sausage breakfast pattern, but when I saw Angela Liddon’s (Oh She Glows — ohsheglows.com ) recipe for vegan, gluten-free, no bake/raw, oil-free, refined sugar free, soy free overnight oats, I decided to give it a go.

Here’s what I put in mine:

Overnight Oats

  • Servings: 1 Mason Jar
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

PCOSbites

INGREDIENTS:
• 2 TBSP Chia Seeds

• 1/4 tsp Cinnamon

• 1/2 cup Gluten-Free Rolled Oats

• 3/4 cup Almond Milk

• 1/4 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract

Add the above ingredients to one mason jar the night before you want to eat them. Stir contents and place a lid on top and put in fridge. In the morning, stir and add more almond milk if necessary. If too runny, she recommends adding more chia seeds. I did not do 1 large banana like her recipe calls for, but that is something a type O can eat. My oat’s consistency was perfect in the morning and I added:

• 1/3 cup Blueberries (I like my blueberries frozen)

• 1 TBSP Pure Maple Syrup (optional)

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enjoy PCOSbites recipe footer

This recipe is refined-sugar free, gluten-free, corn-free, and lactose-free.

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The first time I bit into this concoction I had that split second of thinking oats should be hot, but I quickly reminded myself it is suppose to be cold and soon began to settle in and enjoy my easy breakfast. What’s more, I felt great that I got three highly beneficial foods in at the start of the day: cinnamon, blueberries and chia seeds. Here’s a breakdown of why you should be eating this several times a week if you have PCOS:

CHIA SEEDS

1 ounce (equals 28 grams or about 2 TBSP) serving of chia seeds contains:

  • Fiber: 11 grams (If you subtract the fiber, which may not end up as usable calories for the body, chia seeds only contain 101 calories per ounce.)
  • Protein: 4 grams
  • Fat: 9 grams (5 of which are Omega-3s)
  • Calcium: 18% of the RDA
  • Manganese: 30% of the RDA
  • Magnesium: 30% of the RDA
  • Phosphorus: 27% of the RDA
  • They also contain a decent amount of Zinc, Vitamin B3 (Niacin), Potassium, Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) and Vitamin B2

Chia seeds are awesome! The fibers are mostly insoluble (95%). Insoluble fibers have been shown to aid in lowering the risk of diabetes (78910).  Chia seeds have a high content of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids — they are even better than beneficial flaxseeds! Chia seeds also contain high-quality protein with all the essential amino acids, and are an excellent plant-based protein source (29). Chia seeds contain a number of beneficial plant compounds. The main ones are listed below (121437).

  • Chlorogenic acid: An antioxidant that may lower blood pressure (3839).
  • Caffeic acid: This substance is abundant in many plant foods, and may help fight inflammation in the body (40).
  • Quercetin: A powerful antioxidant that may reduce the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis and certain forms of cancer (414243).
  • Kaempferol: An antioxidant that has been associated with decreased risk of cancer and other chronic diseases (4445).

And as you know with PCOS, gluten is not tolerated well in our body, so here’s the good news — chia seeds are gluten-free!

BLUEBERRIES

1 cup serving (148 grams) of blueberries contains:

  • Fiber: 4 grams
  • Vitamin C: 24% of the RDA
  • Vitamin K: 36% of the RDA
  • Manganese: 25% of the RDA
  • It also contains small amounts of various other nutrients.

Blueberries are made up of approximately 85% water — an entire cup contains only 84 calories, with 15 grams of carbohydrates. Blueberries are believed to contain the highest antioxidant capacity of ALL commonly consumed fruits and vegetables. They protect our bodies from damage by free radicals — unstable molecules that can damage cellular structures to our DNA that create aging and contribute to diseases like cancer. What’s more, blueberries can improve cholesterol levels.  Did you know that a daily 50 gram serving of blueberries can lower LDL oxidation by 27% in obese individuals, after a period of eight weeks (17)? Another study showed that 75 grams of blueberries with a main meal significantly reduced the oxidation of LDL lipoproteins (18). Blueberries have been found to lower blood pressure. In one study, obese individuals who were high risk for heart disease had a 4-6% reduction in blood pressure, after consuming 50 grams (1.7 ounces) of blueberries per day, for eight weeks (19). Other studies have found similar effects, especially when looking at post-menopausal women (2021). Research also suggests that anthocyanins in blueberries can have extremely beneficial effects on insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism — this is GREAT for individuals struggling with PCOS. Blueberries have also been found to help with unitary tract infections. And finally, blueberries have been found to improve memory, so if you’re experience brain fog, these are your allies in lifting that fog!  So, bottom line, eat those yummy blueberries!

CINNAMON

Cinnamon is loaded with powerful antioxidants, such as polyphenols (345). In a study that compared the antioxidant activity of 26 spices, cinnamon was the clear winner, even outranking “superfoods” like garlic and oregano (6). Some studies even show that the antioxidants in cinnamon have potent anti-inflammatory effects, which may help lower the risk of disease (3). It reduces levels of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, while HDL cholesterol remains stable (8).  Cinnamon can also reduce insulin resistance, helping the hormone insulin, to do its job properly (1011). First, cinnamon has been shown to decrease the amount of glucose that enters the bloodstream after a meal. It does this by interfering with numerous digestive enzymes, which slows the breakdown of carbohydrates in the digestive tract (1213). Second, a compound in cinnamon can act on cells by mimicking insulin (1415). This greatly improves glucose uptake by cells, although it acts much slower than insulin itself. Numerous human trials have confirmed the anti-diabetic effects of cinnamon, showing that it can lower fasting blood sugar levels by up to 10-29% (161718). Many women with PCOS who are overweight or obese, are pre-diabetic so adding cinnamon to the food you consume each day is important. The effective dose is typically 1-6 grams of cinnamon per day (around 0.5-2 teaspoons). Just make sure you use Ceylon cinnamon whenever possible for greatest benefits.

IN CONCLUSION…

If you’ve never tried, cold overnight oats, I highly encourage them – especially if you have a tendency to need to dash off to work. But per my doctor, make sure this is only eaten 1x-2x a week at the most as rolled oats can act like gluten in the body.

They can also make an easy lunch option to pack if you have a fridge you can access to work. Drop it off when you get to work and they’ll be chilled by lunch. Let me know what you think if you try these. Or if you have some mix-ins you like, feel free to share!

— Erin