Awareness Month: Interview with Lindsey Janeiro
Can you share a little bit about how you became interested in a career in nutrition?
I had a bit of a roundabout path to a career in nutrition. My first college degree was in music (I was a flute performance major), but partway through that college experience I realized I was looking for something a little different out of my career - I wanted to help people. When I graduated as the recession hit and my music degree proved unhelpful in my quest to find a job, I started reading and teaching myself more about nutrition and quickly became obsessed. It tied in nicely as I was experimenting more in the kitchen and learning to cook more, both in general and in healthier ways. I soon decided that if I wanted to make my career centered around helping people with nutrition, that I was going all in and needed to get the best education and experience I could. So I went back to university to embark on the path to become a Registered Dietitian. I haven't looked back since!
Tell us about your own diet and why you are gluten-free?
I'm a huge advocate of everyone doing what works for them when it comes to health and nutrition. We all have such individualized needs, and different foods that do and don't work for us. I personally eat gluten-free because I found a dramatic improvement in my Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) symptoms when I eliminated gluten.
When I was first diagnosed with IBS, my gastroenterologist gave me a prescription, told me to try a probiotic, and when I inquired about diet just told me to "avoid trigger foods". It took me a long time to figure out, but after a really long road I eventually tried eliminating gluten one day and it was literally a night-and-day difference in my symptoms. I woke up the next morning and after a few minutes it hit me that I felt different that morning because I didn't wake up with any pain! Soon the frequency and severity of my abdominal pain and bowel movements lessened, and I couldn't remember the last time I felt so great!
Why is it important to eat a diet that is anti-inflammatory and can you share more with our readers on what that means?
Anti-inflammatory is a popular buzzword in the health and wellness sphere lately, and it's mostly for good reason. Excessive, chronic inflammation is not a good thing. That said, it's important to remember that not all inflammation is bad. Some inflammation can be beneficial, like when you get an injury and your body experiences an inflammatory process where white blood cells and the substances they produce protect us from infection. Inflammation becomes a problem when there is an inflammatory response triggered, but nothing (injury, bacteria, viruses, etc.) to fight off. This type of chronic inflammation can be found in autoimmune diseases (like Celiac disease), arthritis, allergies, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, etc. Chronic inflammation can also be contributed to by other factors, such as poor diet, lack of exercise, stress, smoking, pollution, poor oral health, and excessive alcohol consumption.
Generally speaking, anti-inflammatory food choices follow many of the same guidelines for general healthy eating, with a focus on fresh vegetables and fruit, healthy fats (like omega-3 fatty acids), whole grains, and lean protein like fish and legumes.
That said, different foods can elicit inflammation in different people - we are all unique individuals! Case in point: for many individuals, gluten is fine to consume. For others, like those with Celiac disease, the excessive, chronic inflammation and subsequent damage caused from ingesting gluten makes it imperative to completely eliminate gluten. Even trendy anti-inflammatory foods and spices, like turmeric, don't always work for everyone. I once had a client who thought she was doing and eating all the right things, including turmeric for its anti-inflammatory health benefits. It turned out she was highly reactive to turmeric and it contributed to chronic inflammation in her body that made her symptoms worse.
Nutrition is highly individualized, especially when considering food allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities. I highly recommend finding a dietitian you can work with to make sure you're getting all of your nutrient needs met with foods that work for your body.
What kind of advice do you have for people who are first diagnosed with Celiac Disease?
When you are first diagnosed with Celiac disease, it is okay to feel whatever you're feeling. Some people feel completely relieved, because it means they have an answer and they know what they can do differently now (i.e. eliminate gluten). Some people hear "Celiac disease" and feel loss, like they've been given a life sentence. Some people fear the changes that will come for themselves, or even become fearful of what a Celiac diagnosis may mean for their children and entire family.
Whatever you're feeling, it's okay. Take that sigh of relief, grieve the foods and lifestyle that have been familiar to you, and do what you need to do to accept your diagnosis. But then take action. Different doctors offer varying levels of information and support when it comes to patients with new Celiac diagnoses, so don't be afraid to ask for a referral to a registered dietitian or to look for a local or virtual dietitian yourself. Knowledge is power, and meeting with a nutrition expert like a dietitian is one of the best ways to quickly familiarize yourself with what foods are and aren't okay for you, while still ensuring you're meeting your nutritional needs. The great news is that there are a LOT of delicious gluten-free alternatives available these days (like Canyon Bakehouse!), but it's still important to do your due diligence!
What other tips can you provide to people who have Celiac or are managing a gluten-free household for a family member?
Don't be afraid to ask lots of questions - to your doctor, your dietitian, a food brand, a restaurant, a friend or family member who has prepared food, or to anyone. And never feel like you're being an inconvenience by having to ask these questions to ensure the food you're eating is safe. You don't need to fear whatever food is causing you or your loved one problems, but it is important to be proactive and to have a sense of heightened awareness.
For family members: if you have a young child, try to keep things as normal and close to their existing routine as possible for them, and try to foster a sense of inclusion. So if you're used to French toast breakfasts on the weekend, continue the tradition, but use gluten-free bread so the whole family can enjoy it together. I can say personally that growing up with an anaphylaxis-inducing tree nut allergy, it was never a big deal at home because there was nothing that was off-limits and no separation of "Lindsey-only" foods vs. "everyone else" foods. We all ate the same things at home and I firmly believe it's why my childhood felt very normal and not full of fear and paranoia due to a potentially life-threatening food allergy.
If your loved one is facing a new Celiac diagnosis and they're an adult, please do not take it personally when they are questioning everything you prepare. They truly do need to ask if their gluten-free muffins were prepared in a different baking dish than the muffins with gluten, because cross-contamination may leave them feeling sick for days.
What is your favorite gluten-free recipe or meal?
Ah, that's so hard! I consider myself an equal-opportunist when it comes to gluten-free recipes or meals. I love a good egg and avocado toast for easy breakfasts, on either the Canyon Heritage Style Whole Grain Bread or the new Canyon Honey Oat Bread (so good!). I'm also a big fan of tacos, because they can often be easily customized for different food allergies and preferences, and are typically a crowd-pleaser. :)