May 09, 2021   2:04am

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Stefanie Talks: Gluten and Gluttony — “I don’t drink. I eat cake.”

Our culinary nutritionist Stefanie went off Gluten-free and got a mean gluttony hangover.  Now she tells you how to do what she didn’t — going Gluten-free …

I recently turned 40. And, against my better judgment (caused by the “I can’t believe I am 40-blues”) decided to treat myself to the most delicious, amazing chocolate coconut cake in the WHOLE WIDE WORLD. Only major problem is that it was NOT gluten-free (GF). And, I have been pretty much 100% gluten-free for about 8 years now.

Should you be wondering, I discovered this cake before my GF days and haven’t been able to get it out of my mind.  I don’t drink. I eat cake.  The hangover from this gluten-laced cake was intense. My head hurt (major stuffy nose, eyes sensitive to light and headache), my joints ached, my stomach felt funky, I was exhausted and irritable. Not fun when you have a 7-month-old and a 4-year-old! I must add that this feeling was not just a “day-after” thing like most alcohol-related hangovers. It was more like a 2-3 “days-after” thing. I would have been better off downing a bottle of white!

Ok, so I realized I can’t tolerate gluten many years ago when I felt worn down all the time (experiencing the above symptoms on a daily basis including bloating and sharp stomach pains). My acupuncturist recommended that gluten be removed from my diet. Although I’m a professional chef (trained at The Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts) and, then, in my early nutrition training (for my Masters in nutrition at Columbia University), you’d think I would have been able to figure this one out!

Out went the gluten, and I was feeling better within a week — just applying what I knew about GF to my cooking. Finding the BEST GF products became my personal quest. With a private practice for 10+ years now and with my personal experience (as well as professional training), I’ve been able to guide all of my clients needing and wanting to go GF.

So, for all of you novices out there, here’s the low-down on gluten…


People often confuse wheat-free with gluten-free so let me add a little clarity to the situation.

Wheat-free means that a person avoids all foods containing wheat.

Why (should a person avoid)?: A sensitivity to wheat, typically in the form of gastrointestinal distress such as bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, reflux; skin issues such as rashes; and allergies/asthma such as congestion and wheezing.
If you’re symptomatic and eliminate wheat, typically, after a week symptoms should start to improve. It can sometimes be dramatic.

What (contains wheat)?: Foods containing wheat are anything made with white or whole wheat flour such as cookies, cakes, breads, tortillas, pizza, pasta, pancakes, waffles, most fried food, tempura, dumplings, wontons, etc.; anything made with bulghur such as tabouli; wheat berries; cous cous; sauces that are typically thickened with white flour; soy sauce (although San-J has a wheat-free option).

What (are the other options)?: Don’t worry, there are plenty of great alternatives to wheat (spelt, kamut and all gluten-free grains-see below) containing foods including breads, tortillas, pasta, pancakes, waffles, etc. Be sure to read labels. Most products that are wheat-free will say so on the package. Also, anything that says gluten-free is also wheat-free (even if it does not say so).

Gluten-free (GF) means that a person avoids all foods containing gluten.

What (is gluten)?: Gluten is the general term used to describe the protein found in many grains including wheat, rye, barley, spelt, kamut, oat, triticale, semolina, pumpernickel and farro.

Why (avoid)?: The absorptive surface of the small intestine is damaged by gluten resulting in malabsorption of carbohydrates, fat, protein, vitamins and minerals, all of which are needed for good health (Gluten Free Diet by Shelley Case). This condition, called Celiac Disease (or Celiac Sprue), is an autoimmune disease that can be very difficult to diagnose for symptoms can range from everything from diarrhea and constipation to chronic fatigue and depression. Celiac disease is a serious disease that can be diagnosed through blood tests and intestinal biopsy. Should you suspect that you have it, seek medical attention immediately.

Please note that there is a large population of people who are sensitive to gluten though don’t have full blown celiac disease. These people also benefit from a gluten-free diet. Again, seek medical attention if you suspect you are sensitive to it.

What (are the other options)?: Here is a list of gluten-free grains. Rice (all kinds but beware of rice pilafs and mixed grain rice mixes); millet; buckwheat (if it says buckwheat soba make sure you look at ingredient list, for most times the buckwheat is mixed with wheat); teff; amaranth; quinoa; sorghum; triticale; and corn (as in polenta).

Some people with gluten intolerance can also tolerate small amounts of oats.

These grains and other starchy foods such as beans, potatoes and tapioca are used to make all gluten-free products. There are many amazing products on the market that are gluten-free including breads, pastas, cookies, cakes, pancakes, waffles, etc. It is very important to read labels. Take note that a product that says “wheat -free” only is NOT necessarily gluten-free.

Living GF has totally changed my life. I feel alive and well every day.  I’ve never formally been tested for a gluten allergy; no need. I feel better off it, so I just stay off of it.

Except on major birthdays!

If you suspect a wheat or gluten sensitivity, I suggest first removing wheat. This may do the trick. If not, go down the GF road. I just contributed to a book, The Source, Unleash Your Natural Energy, Power Up Your Health and Feel 10 Years Younger by Dr. Woodson Merrell and Kathy Merrell. I created a 21-day plan and 70 recipes, all of which are nutritious, delicious (if I must say so myself) and GLUTEN FREE!

Feel free to e mail me any and all questions!

Here are Resources for some amazing GF products:

Products (GF favorites!)
Pamelas cookies, dessert mixes, pancakes
Georges baked goods
Whole Foods (the store) gluten free bakery

Food for Life (also rice tortillas)
Corn tortillas (found in freezer section of heath food market)
Whole Foods (the store) gluten free bakery

Make Your Own Bread
Bob’s Red Mill

Tinkyada (other brands too but this rocks!)

Snack Foods


You can also reach Stefanie at her own website:

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