A Brief History & Where We’re Going

The Celiac Handbook website was created in 2004 by Chris Armstrong. What started as a resource guide to help find gluten-free menus at restaurants as well as new gluten-free products has evolved into a portal for new (and old) ideas related to healthy and sustainable gluten-free living.

Celiac Handbook goes well beyond the latest cupcake recipe or even the most realistic tasting gluten-free sliced bread. The goal is to share information about minimally processed real food that helps people heal from what has usually been years of damage done by undiagnosed celiac disease. While there’s nothing wrong with eating a piece of gluten-free cake on your birthday, there are plenty of resources for these products online already. There are however, too few resources in the gluten-free community that focus on healthy living through real food — real food that promotes health as opposed to trading  one set of problems for another via the all too common gluten-free junk-food market.

The ideas you see here have their roots in many different philosophies and are broader than you might think. Some of the names and/or terms that you’ll see referenced on this site are as follows:

Ancestral Health

Ancestral health looks at human biology, our ecological niche, and all the signals and forces working both for and against the attainment of optimal life-stage health, from a perspective extending from our more proximate ancestry (the wisdom of our grandmothers), right back to more distal ancestry – that which gives us a more evolutionary perspective. This ancestral perspective offers a starting point of enquiry as we investigate solutions to the many biological mismatches our modern culture imposes on us. It offers a lens through which we can search for answers; a lens which can then be focused using modern medicine and individual lifestyle interventions. An ancestral health/evolutionary biology approach is perhaps our best, and most under-utilized tool, for addressing the big health issues we face, from the global diabetes epidemic, to antibiotic resistance, and the health implications of global warming.

Source: Jamie Scott

Paleo (Paleolithic) Diet

The Paleo Diet has been inspired by the study of our own human history. The Paleolithic Period began about 2.6 million years ago with the first use of stone tools by pre-historic humans and ended about 10,000 years ago. In the Paleolithic Period, humans formed small groups and survived by hunting and gathering food. The end of the Paleolithic Period is marked by human groups settling in one era, introducing agriculture, religion and culture that has survived to the current day. Humans clearly evolved during the long Paleolithic period, developing physically and genetically. The successful survivors of that era thrived because they were eating and living in a way highly compatible with their genetic structure. It is possible our genes have evolved to some degree over the more recent 10,000 years, but it is most likely that this change is small.

The Paleolithic Period was not entirely uniform: hunter-gatherer tribes varied in their use of fire or their ability to fish for food. Surprisingly, a great deal of evidence indicates that the hunter-gatherers, dependent on the whims of nature for their food, were actually healthier in many ways than the early farming communities that developed later. Controversies exist concerning what Paleolithic people actually ate, leading to some differences among adherents of the Paleo Diet.

Essentials of the Paleo Diet are well agreed upon, as well as the belief and observation that following such a diet, particularly in the setting of a Paleo Lifestyle enables one to prevent and even reverse many of the diseases associated with life in the modern world.

Source: Deborah Gordon, MD

Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF)

The Weston A Price Foundation (WAPF) is named for Dr. Weston A. Price, a Cleveland dentist who traveled the world in the 1920s, looking for the healthiest people on earth. What he found were people who ate the traditional foods of their ancestors,  and who – without modern dental or medical care – enjoyed excellent physical, mental, and dental health.

Dr. Price had a unique viewpoint in two ways. First, he was able to follow as traditional diets gave way to modern processed foods. He noted the appearance of dental caries and eventually more serious problems of dental structure (requiring orthodonture), as well as what are now called the “diseases of modern civilization”: cancer, heart disease and more. Secondly, he was able to perform a nutritional analysis of the traditional foods. He found them to be four times richer in minerals and water-soluble vitamins, and ten times richer in fat-soluble vitamins, compared to the modern diet.

The WAPF aims to educate the general public about delicious and convenient ways to incorporate nutrient dense foods as regular parts of a healthy lifestyle.

Source: Deborah Gordon, MD

Functional Medicine

Functional medicine addresses the underlying causes of disease, using a systems-oriented approach and engaging both patient and practitioner in a therapeutic partnership. It is an evolution in the practice of medicine that better addresses the healthcare needs of the 21st century. By shifting the traditional disease-centered focus of medical practice to a more patient-centered approach, functional medicine addresses the whole person, not just an isolated set of symptoms. Functional medicine practitioners spend time with their patients, listening to their histories and looking at the interactions among genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors that can influence long-term health and complex, chronic disease. In this way, functional medicine supports the unique expression of health and vitality for each individual.

Source: The Institute for Functional Medicine

Naturopathic Medicine

Naturopathic medicine (sometimes called “naturopathy”) is a distinct system of primary health care that emphasizes prevention and the self-healing process through the use of natural therapies. Naturopathic doctors (NDs) blend centuries-old knowledge and a philosophy that nature is the most effective healer with current research on health and human systems.

Naturopathic diagnosis is focused on identifying the underlying causes of disease, while naturopathic therapies are supported by research drawn from peer-reviewed journals from many disciplines, including naturopathic medicine, conventional medicine, European complementary medicine, clinical nutrition, phytotherapy, pharmacognosy, homeopathy, psychology and spirituality.

The therapeutic modalities used in naturopathic medicine (including physical manipulation, clinical nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathy and hydrotherapy) integrate conventional, scientific and empirical methodology with the ancient laws of nature. The underpinnings of naturopathic medical practice are in six principles:

  1. First Do No Harm – primum non nocere
  2. The Healing Power of Nature – vis medicatrix naturae
  3. Discover and Treat the Cause, Not Just the Effect – tolle causam
  4. Treat the Whole Person – tolle totum
  5. The Physician is a Teacher – docere
  6. Prevention is the best “cure” – praevenire

Source: Bastyr University

Wild Diet

The Wild Diet incorporates wild foods (i.e., non-cultivated and non-domesticated foods) into the dietary regimen and utilizes practices that maximize the benefit of those foods.  Wild foods, whether it be plant, fungal, or animal, are demonstrably the most nutrient-dense foods available to humans.  Further, these are the foods that have been consumed by anatomically modern humans, and their hominid ancestors, for most of their existence (until the advent of agriculture and genetic-modification through breeding).  Perhaps most importantly, the wild diet prioritizes available wild plants, which were altered to create the modern produce found in supermarkets and at farm stands.  Cultivated produce shows losses (sometimes profound declines) in nutrition, beneficial phytochemistry, and fiber content compared with their wild progenitors.

In addition to wild foods themselves, the Wild Diet utilizes practices developed by indigenous cultures to maximize the nutritional benefit of foods.  These practices seek to reduce antinutrient concentrations and heighten the bioavailability of macro- and micronutrients (where necessary and possible).  Types of processing include the use of drying, soaking, leaching, and/or cooking (along with other methods) to minimize compounds that prevent nutrient uptake (e.g., phytic acid, tannins).  These compounds are often ignored in modern food preparation (with subsequent effects to physical and physiological health).

The wild diet serves as the basis for the Paleo Diet and (in large part) the Weston Price Diet.  In other words, Paleolithic humans consumed only wild foods and many of the groups observed by Weston Price that demonstrated vital health and beautiful form consumed exclusively wild plants and animals.  Both of these diets currently emphasize modern foods that mimic wild foods (such grass-fed beef instead of deer or caribou, cultivated walnuts instead of acorns or hickory nuts).  The Wild Diet simply returns (to the extent possible) to the original foods of humans and consumes wild kinds, filling in the remainder of the diet with foods that most closely match wild foods (i.e., foods such as entirely grain-fed animals and large, seedless fruits would be avoided).  This diet can vary extensively with season and geographic locale, allowing people to develop menus that can mimic their ancestral diets both in terms of macronutrient ratios and specific foods.  The benefit of the wild diet can be supported in terms of historical observation and modern scientific study.

Source: Arthur Haines