Would I Eat Gluten If I Didn’t React Horribly?

For the first week on Hilton Head Island, I suffered with severe stomach pains, bloating and lethargy. I’d been vigilant about avoiding gluten, soy, dairy, and corn. I’d eaten at trusted restaurants and the waitstaff appeared attentive, communicating my dietary needs to the chefs

Had I developed another allergy?

Then, while having lunch with my husband, he started reading the ingredients on the bag of Whole Foods’ 365 Everyday potato chips we shared.

“Did you know these aren’t labeled gluten-free and are processed in the same facility as gluten, dairy and soy?”  he asked. (He’s been listening after all!)

Slap me on the side of the head. We’d left the chips in the house from our last visit; I’d assumed I’d checked the ingredients when we bought them. I’d broken my own rules for staying safe when eating processed foods: 1) Always read the ingredient list; 2) Look for an allergen warning; 3) Eat only certified gluten-free products.

Within days of avoiding the chips, I felt fine.

This mistake reminded me to never let my guard down. It also made me wonder, What if I didn’t experience horrible symptoms from being glutened? Without a debilitating reaction, would I be less vigilant about sticking to my diet–and maybe even intentionally eat foods I knew contained gluten?

The answer is NO! I have done my homework and I know the short- and long-term effects of celiac disease. Before diagnosis, I experienced many of these symptoms. Why wouldn’t I avoid gluten if it meant I’d feel better and stay healthy longer? Symptoms of Celiac Disease

Courtesy of Gluten Dude

Some People Do Cheat

In my week here on the island, two restaurant workers in their twenties told me they’d been diagnosed with celiac disease. They also shared they regularly cheated a little because their reactions weren’t that bad. I know kids and young adults aren’t the only ones who cheat.

I’ve witnessed adults who say they have celiac disease one minute and stuff a donut into their mouth the next. In my opinion, they are old enough to know better, so let them damage all the villi they want.

As a mother of two twenty-somethings, and who was once a twenty-something herself, I know health isn’t always a top concern. So when a young person tells me his or her celiac disease isn’t that bad and they eat a little gluten, I give them a short lecture about how any amount of gluten can cause longterm consequences. I’m sure they think I should mind my own business. I don’t care. If I help one young adult consider the damaging effects of a chicken nugget and choose a gluten-free burger instead, it’s worth a few eye rolls. Celiac Disease

Courtesy of the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center

Would I Eat Gluten If I Didn’t React Horribly? first appeared on Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

Spring Cleaning: How to Make Your Home More Allergy Friendly

Spring Cleaning: How to Make Your Home Allergy Friendly

A distinct mildew odor assaulted me as I entered the small rental house. Looking up, I noticed water spots on some of the rooms’ ceilings.  Mold dotted the kitchen counters and bathroom sinks.  I imagined the wall-to-wall carpeting hadn’t been vacuumed since renters moved out months ago.

My chest tightened and my throat itched. I started to cough and sneeze.  This house was a breeding ground for allergens. I quickly left.

I’ve been allergic to mold and dust mites since childhood and my oldest son inherited my allergies and asthma, so I’ve always  followed doctors’ orders for keeping an allergen-friendly home. Experiencing a reaction to this rental house reminded me of what would happen if I didn’t–and that maybe I should do a little spring cleaning.

The following infographic from AllergyCosmos offers many simple tips for eliminating allergy and asthma triggers from your home. I’m forwarding it to my son who is now living on his own. I hope you find it useful. Be sure to let me know what you do to keep your family safe from allergens.

How to Make Your Home More Allergy FriendlySource: http://www.allergycosmos.co.uk/how-to-make-your-home-more-allergy-friendly

Spring Cleaning; How to Make Your Home Allergy Safe originally  appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

FoodBabeWay_Book Cover 3D

New Book–The Food Babe Way–Can Help Those with Food Allergies

The Food Babe Way by Vani Hari hit number one on the New York Times bestseller list last week. This says a lot about how our country feels about the food industry. If you haven’t heard about Vani Hari, aka the Food Babe, you will.  She’s the lady who decided several years ago that she was sick and tired–literally–from eating crappy food, so she took on the momentous task of telling food companies to stop contaminating our food with chemicals and additives. With the help of millions of like-minded folks–which she calls the Food Babe Army–and in less than three years (three years!) she’s succeeded in getting companies like Chipotle and Kraft and Subway to eliminate controversial ingredients and be more transparent in labeling.

Vani Hari Grocery Store - Credit Kwaku Alston

I began following the Food Babe on social media and joined her activist army soon after I was diagnosed with multiple food allergies and celiac disease. I didn’t need a PhD in nutrition to figure out if my body was rejecting food, there must be something wrong with the food I was eating. Vani Hari’s blog shed light on the toxins I’d been unwittingly putting into my body for decades. Add these to the multiple rounds of antibiotics and painkillers I consumed for several years for a chronic health problem, it’s no wonder my gut sprang a leak. More importantly, Hari’s blog taught me what I should eat.

When her book came out this month, I was slightly worried that it would be another diet book by someone who was probably always slender. I mean she’s called the Food Babe and she is tall and thin and beautiful as the book cover clearly shows. Watch this video and you’ll see she struggled with weight like most of us. She is also smart–and a bit sassy which I like. Within the first few pages, I was underlining facts and figures, jotting down notes, and starting her 21-day program. Warning: Your significant other will not appreciate being told the same chemical used to make Silly Putty is most likely in the fastfood French fries he’s popping into his mouth.

About halfway through the book, I experienced an epiphany. Many of the good food and good habits that Hari outlines, I was already doing–because of my celiac and allergies! My body had rejected soy and corn and gluten and dairy, so I no longer eat GMO-infested processed foods. I eat organic as much as I can. I buy additive-free and antibiotic-free meats and wild fish. I cut back on soda and alcohol. I don’t eat fastfood.

The Food Babe Way

I often tell people the positive side of my celiac and food allergies is that I eat better foods and I cook more. But what if I’d done this long ago? In my teens and twenties, I thought the low-fat food I ate and the diet soda I drank were good for me; now I know I was swallowing fistfuls of chemicals and additives. When I was a tired mother, I was convinced it was faster to feed my family Taco Bell between hockey practices than make a homemade meal. When I went out to restaurants, I never questioned what was in the food I ordered. I snacked on whatever was available in airports and hotels.

All of these bad habits and bad food choices resulted in serious health consequences. I believe if I’d followed the 21-steps in The Food Babe Way in my younger days, I wouldn’t be facing the health issues I am today.  Of course, it’s never too late for any of us to make changes in our dietary habit and to start letting the suppliers of our food know we want accountability. It’s certainly not to late to teach our children good eating habits.

Here’s the other cool thing about Hari’s book–most of her advice for eating and cooking and shopping and traveling are fit for allergic foodies. So go get a copy of The Food Baby Way today and let me know what you think.

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Books A Million
Indie Bound (find your local store)

The Food Babe Way Can Help Those with Food Allergies first appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

Musings and Morsels from an Allergic Foodie (1-22-15)

I photographed this morning’s shadows on the snow-covered mountains before I’d even had a cup of coffee. If I waited too long, the sun would shift and the view would change.

Musings and Morsels of an Allergic Foodie (!-22-15)

I’ve been reminded this week to appreciate life’s moments. Life as you know it can change in an instant.

A friend I met through blogging, Kathryn Chastain Treat, passed away a few days before Christmas. Her daughter posted this news on Kathryn’s blog.  Though I’d never met Kathryn in person, she was more of a friend than some people I see daily. We supported each other through emails and Tweets and Facebook posts. I got to know Kathryn and her family while reading  her book, Allergic to Life: My Battle for Survival, Courage, and Hope. She was a vibrant and healthy woman until toxic mold changed her life forever. Learning about how she was forced to live in physical isolation made my food allergies and celiac disease seem silly. However, she never made me feel that way. Kathryn always had a kind word to say. I will miss her.

Kathryn Treat, Author

Kathryn C. Treat, author of Allergic to Life

I encourage you to read Kathryn’s book. You can find it on Amazon.

Book trailer for Allergic to Life

My reviews: Part I and Part II.

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Last week I wrote about the hidden risks of vegetable oil and received many insightful comments. Several readers shared their horrific experiences of anaphylactic reactions when restaurants served them food prepared in the wrong cooking oil. Please don’t just ask what cooking oil the restaurant uses–ask to see the bottle. If the restaurant doesn’t want to show you, leave. Don’t take a chance.

In this same post, I shared my frustration with highly refined soybean oil and soy lecithin being excluded from the FDA’s allergen labeling requirements. Some of you only react to soybean protein, but others of you are highly sensitive like I am. Maya Trimner of Maya’s Happy Place sent me this petition asking the FDA to include all soy derivatives in food and drug allergen labeling.

Anyone with any food allergies understands the consequences of eating the wrong food. Please won’t you sign this petition and share with your followers?

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Enough musing . . . . time for a morsel!

I’ve been wanting to share this new product since our lunch was served in it at the Food Allergy and Celiac Convention last November.

Solvetta: Flat Box-Lunch Box

This lunch box unzips and lays flat, serving as a place mat. As an Allergic Foodie who travels a lot, I love that I can keep my eating surface clean and free of potential allergens. Think about those disgusting airplane trays and the tailgate of your car. I also take my allergen-free meal into fast-food restaurants where my husband eats. Now I don’t have to worry about asking the restaurant folks to wipe down the tables. They especially like doing this when they see I’ve brought my own food. These Flat Box-Lunch Box are great for students, too.

Visit Solvetta’s website to see all the sizes and colors and order yours. I got pink.

In closing, remember to appreciate the moments.

Food Allergies and Vegetable Oil: What You Need to Know

Near our home in Colorado Springs is a Mexican restaurant called Carlos Miguel’s that people rave about. So last Friday evening, when the streets were icy and my husband and I didn’t want to venture too far from home, I called the restaurant to discuss my food restrictions.

“What type of vegetable oil do you cook with?” I asked the man who answered the phone.

“Vegetable.”

“What type?  Soy? Corn? Canola?” I asked.

“Just vegetable.” He seemed a little perturbed.

I told the man I couldn’t eat at his restaurant without knowing exactly what was in the vegetable oil because I was allergic to soy and corn. He didn’t offer to check the ingredients label so I said goodbye.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time a restaurant couldn’t tell me what was in their cooking oil. And I’m sure it won’t be the last.  How absurd it is for restaurants not to know what they are serving their guests!

 

 

I also have a hard time with processed foods containing soy and corn. In the United States, corn isn’t one of the top eight allergens required by law to be identified on labeling.  While soy is one of the top eight, the FDA exempts soybean oil and soy lecithin from being labeled.  The FDA and medical experts, such as Dr. Scott H. Sicherer, MD, author of Food Allergies: A Complete Guide for Eating When Your Life Depends On It ( Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013), say most soy oil is highly refined so there is little proteins left to trigger an allergic reaction. Cold pressed and expeller pressed soybean oil are not highly refined and may contain soy proteins. The experts also say soy lecithin, a derivative of soy used as a nonstick agent in baking, has minimal proteins and those with a soy allergy need not worry.

My body does not agree with these experts. I’ve learned the hard way that soy oil, soy lecithin and corn oil  will all cause a severe reaction, including eosinophilic esophagitis. Blend them together–use soy/corn oil in my salad dressing and spray the grill with cooking spray containing soy lecithin–and I’ll be in really bad shape.  Talking with the other soy-allergic folks at food allergy conferences and through social media, I know I am not alone. Of course,  if you react to soy (so far 15 allergenic proteins have been found in soy) but can tolerate soy oil and/or soy lecithin, I’m happy for you! And a bit jealous! But do watch and discuss any changes in your health with your doctor.

Food Allergies and Vegetable Oil

Soy oil, or a blend of oils including soy oil, is used in restaurants because it’s inexpensive. Soybean meal and vegetable oil consume around 85% of the world’s soybean crop. By the way, the soybean is not a vegetable–soybean is a legume–but soy oil is still  referred to as vegetable oil.  Other plant-based oils include:

  • Canola (rapeseed)
  • Coconut
  • Corn
  • Cottonseed
  • Flaxseed
  • Olive
  • Palm
  • Peanut (a legume, not a nut)
  • Safflower
  • Sunflower

Unless the label says the oil is 100 percent, it may a blend of other oils. Read my post The Olive Oil Controversy. People can be allergic to any of these plant-based oils.

So here’s what I do to avoid an allergic reaction because of a vegetable oil mishap:

  • I read the ingredients labels of all oils before I buy them, and I stick to companies I trust. For a cooking spray, I use Winona Pure which does not contain soy lecithin.
  • I avoid all restaurants that cook only with soy oil and offer no other options (even if I’m ordering a food that doesn’t require oil–it’s just too risky). If they cannot identify what is in their  “vegetable oil,” I leave. In my experience, most Mexican restaurants and many Asian restaurants use soybean oil.
  • If it’s a questionable restaurant, I ask if the olive oil or other oil is 100 percent. This doesn’t usually go over well, but it’s been a lifesaver on several occasions.
  • I read allergen menus with a magnifying glass. Because of the FDA exemption for soybean oil and soy  lecithin, restaurants do not have to list them under “soy allergy.” Some allergen menus note this exemption with an asterisk, but not all do.
  • I ask a lot of questions before I order. What oil do you use to cook with? Does your vegetable oil contain soy? Do any other foods contain soy lecithin? Do you use cooking spray?
  • If possible, I call the chef in advance and discuss my dietary needs. I have celiac disease and allergies to dairy, eggs and corn, but I always stress the soy allergy because it’s the one that gets missed by waitstaff the most. Untrained waitstaff think tofu and soy sauce.
  • When I make reservations on OpenTable, which I do a lot, I note I have a soy allergy including soy oil and soy lecithin. I also check out what people say on Urban Spoon and Food Allergy/Celiac Disease apps.
  • When I travel, I try to stick to chain restaurants that never use soy oil (these are usually higher-end chains).
  • When eating out in my hometown, I’m a regular at restaurants that don’t use any soy at all. I let them know how grateful I am to have a safe place to eat.

Food Allergies and Vegetable Oil: What You Need to Know first appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

The Case of the Gluten Free Corn Dogs–and a Giveaway!

I nervously answered my cell phone. The call was from our local neighborhood security company, and my husband and I were away on vacation.

“Ma’am, there are a lot of boxes on your doorstep . . . they appear to be . . . ugh, corn dogs.”

I let out a sigh. I’d forgotten Foster Farms had offered to send me their new gluten free corn dogs to review. I explained to the baffled officer that I was a food blogger and I’d have my neighbor put them in our freezer.

That was last October. Those corn dogs sat in my basement freezer until the College Celiac came home for his winter break a few weeks ago. Because they contain soy, corn and egg which I’m allergic to, I couldn’t taste them myself. Which was really frustrating because I once liked corn dogs–before allergies and celiac disease–and the photo on the box taunted me every time I opened the freezer door.

As soon as College Celiac dropped his backpack on the kitchen floor, I said, “Wanna corn dog?”  I really needed that freezer space for the Christmas ham.

College Celiac was more than willing to oblige. Corn dogs were always one of his childhood favs.

He quickly microwaved two. After I took the obligatory blog photos, he microwaved the corn dogs again because they got cold.

IMG_3422

 College Celiac’s review of Foster Farms Gluten Free Corn Dogs: Two Thumbs Up!

My college boy was happy the breading didn’t crumble like a lot of gluten-free breading–even after microwaving two times–and he said they were tasty. Well, what he said was: “They taste like the corn dogs I used to eat.” This is high praise coming from a guy who hasn’t eaten gluten in three years.  Of course, he added a little Cholula sauce–he and his brother eat everything with Cholula sauce!

Foster Farms GF Corn Dogs

So here’s the lowdown on these dogs. They are certified by the Gluten Intolerance Group, which requires foods to have less than 10 ppm of gluten per serving; a serving is one dog. GIG also evaluates every ingredient for cross contamination. A press release from Foster Farms says, “All ingredients are required to be gluten free and are labeled, stored and processed separately from other ingredients. Foster Farms Gluten Free products are manufactured separately from all other normal finished products. Analytical verification testing measures and sanitation practices are instituted, documented and confirmed with every production run.”

Kudos to Foster Farms for their gluten-free practices and their transparency. Wish more companies would publish statements about what they do to keep those of us with celiac disease and food allergies safe.

You should be able to find Foster Farm Gluten Free Corn Dogs, as well as gluten free breast strips and nuggets, at your local grocery store. If not, call Foster Farms at 800-255-7227 for help finding a retailer. Even better, tweet this post with #FFGlutenFree, like this post and/or write a comment below, or like my Facebook page and you can win a voucher for a free box of Foster Farms Gluten Free Corn Dogs.

The Case of the Gluten Free Corn Dogs first appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie