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Chester County Press

The Messenger: Local author's new book shows how to live a gluten-free life

02/24/2021 10:11AM ● By Richard Gaw

By Richard L. Gaw

Staff Writer

The story of how Avondale resident Amanda Silver came to understand the potential dangers of gluten -- and how she eventually helped release her family from its grip -- is a tale told in several chapters.

Through her curiosity, research and dogged determination to share that story so that others may live healthier lives, every one of those chapters is now included in Silver’s new book, “The Joy of Gluten-Free: A Practical Guide to Live Gluten-Free and Thrive.”

Published by Newman Springs, its 196 pages serve as both an educational document and a love letter, meant not only to inform but to inspire, and told primarily through the author’s personal experiences.

In her chapter “Our Story,” Silver traces her introduction to gluten to the fall of 2011, when her husband Steve had been experiencing racing heartbeat, fatigue, brain fog and bleeding gums. A group of chiropractors he was seeing sent Steve for a comprehensive blood test and a separate gluten sensitivity test, and several months later, he was found to be gluten intolerant. He wasn’t the only one in the family; Amanda and Steve’s daughter and son also tested gluten intolerant. Soon after, Amanda herself tested positive for gluten intolerance.

“It was medically necessary to make that change, because we had found out all of the very far reaching effects that gluten has on the body, and we knew we had to make the change,” she said. “Before anyone goes gluten free, you must take all of the inflammatory foods out of your diet. It was a big lift and it was hard, but compared to our long-term health, a few weeks of adjustment was well worth it. We were all saved by this new diet.”

In 2012, the family began to pursue a gluten-free life through an elimination diet, and while the results showed an immediate improvement, Silver still knew very little about the condition. Then, while attending a lecture given by Dr. Thomas O’Bryan, a faculty member of the Institute of Functional Medicine and a leader in the field of clinical nutrition, she became inspired to know more. 

“Dr. O’Bryan quickly became one of my biggest heroes in the entire world,” she said. “I became completely adamant that gluten had to be entirely out of our lives,” she said. “It was a building snowball, a slow gathering of facts. I’m inquisitive. I want to know why we need to do this and why we need to that, and that’s where the writing of my book came from.” 

A major trigger word 

In current dietetic and nutritional circles, gluten – a group of seed storage proteins found in wheat, barley and rye – has become a major trigger word for what is ailing the digestive systems of millions of Americans. It’s everywhere: in soups, gravy, dressings, sauces, pastries, cookies, cakes, soufflés, pasta, cereals and breads, as well as in mustard, ketchup, barbecue sauce, flavored chips and crackers.

Americans are gobbling it up at alarming rates, and it’s making some of them very sick.

Most commonly, an excessive amount of stored gluten causes what is known as leaky gut, an immune system/digestive condition in which the cells lining the intestines and the space between them is damaged, allowing food to leak through and trigger inflammatory responses and decrease the proper absorption of food nutrients. Leaky gut has been associated with such chronic health issues as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, neurological issues (like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s), and cancer.

This condition can also lead to Celiac Disease, an autoimmune disease that can cause severe and life threatening health issues. Currently, about 1 in every 133 people in the U.S. has been diagnosed with the disease, but for residents who are gluten intolerant, it’s one person in every four.

“I know there are certain people who are seeing things happening in their family and cannot even imagine that they are all connected to this condition,” she said. “Gluten intolerance can be that factor that can kick more than 200 conditions into happening.

“I saw it as a problem for many more people than those who know that they have this condition, and so I have put my story and the story of my family out there because I really want them to know what this really is, and how to truly deal with it.”

Recipes from soups to main courses to desserts

“The Joy of Gluten-Free” is not only personal and informative, it’s delicious. Do you need a gluten-fee variation on potato leek soup, crispy roasted whole chicken or New England crab cakes? Silver devotes nearly 100 pages of her book to recipes for soups; sides, salads and snacks; dressings, sauces and seasoning mixes; main courses and sauces; and desserts. In addition, the book contains Silver’s ideas for planning meals, finding and using organic ingredients, preparing leftovers and school lunches, eating when traveling, and several options for cooking vegetables.

In a rapidly growing world library of books devoted to proper nutrition, fad diets and factoid-heavy tomes written in the often complex language of medical jargon, Silver looks at “The Joy of Gluten-Free” as a quiet, nurturing alternative, one that she hopes will become a dog-eared, marked-up, food-stained staple that will last on kitchen shelves for decades, written in the way one parent speaks to another.

“When you look this problem square in the face, you must not run and hide; you must stand,” Silver writes in the book’s prologue. “Your family needs you. Yes, it was difficult to feed everyone [in the family], but we have been managing for some years now and want to help others.”

Note: Silver, who is not a medical practitioner or a registered nutritionist, strongly advises that anyone pursuing a gluten-free diet or suspects that they are gluten intolerant to first consult with a functioning physician, medical professional or nutritionist.

“The Joy of Gluten-Free: A Practical Guide to Live Gluten-Free and Thrive” will be available on amazon.com, I-Tunes and Barnes and Noble.

To learn more about the book, email Silver at [email protected]

 

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].