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.

Got Food Allergies? New Infographic Helps Food Allergic Folks

This infographic describing symptoms, prevention and treatment of food allergies comes from Sticky Jewelry, makers of medical ID jewelry.There have been way too many heartbreaking deaths related to food allergies this past year. The more we share information about food allergies, the more people we can help.  Let’s spread the word in 2014.

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What is this in my cheese?

Everywhere I go this holiday season, huge festive plates of crackers and cheese tease my allergic taste buds. BA (before allergies), I loved cheese! After all, I grew up in Vermont, the state that has more cows per capita than humans. As if it was yesterday, I remember enjoying thick cheddar on apple pie, melted Swiss on rye crackers, cream cheese swirled in broccoli, ricotta lasagna, parmesan sprinkled on spaghetti.

Glorious Cheese!

Then I was diagnosed with a dairy allergy.  Sigh.

Seeking help at the healthfood store, I discovered the most common alternative to dairy cheese is vegan cheese . . . made from soy.

I’m allergic to soy.

So I turned to nut cheeses. I’m not allergic to nuts. Nut cheese will do in a pinch (and some allergic foodies love them), but honestly I don’t find cheeses made from almonds and cashews and hazelnuts all that flavorful (I do like almond yogurt flavored with fruit though!).

This allergic foodie did a happy dance when she discovered cheese made from goat’s and sheep’s milk (this was a few years back, before goat cheese became so popular). I thought the goats and sheep had saved me

goat

until I got sick, really sick, after eating a goat cheese salad.  Imagine my disappointment when I read that many allergic foodies who can’t eat dairy also can’t eat goat’s or sheep’s milk.  C’mon!  Can’t a cheese-loving allergic foodie get a break?!

According to The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Food Allergies, “If you are allergic to one food group, you may also be allergic to another food in the same family because they share similar proteins.”   The authors include cow and goat under the listing of “dairy proucts.”  The Food Allergy and Anaphalaxis Nework states on their web site  that goat milk is not a safe alternative to cow’s milk.  Many other foodies I’ve talked with say they are indeed allergic to both cow and goat and sometimes sheep.

Cover of

Cover via Amazon

Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living provides some more positive info.  The author writes, “Goat milk is slightly closer in composition to human milk than cow milk is, with proteins that may be easier to digest. It is estimated that 20 to 40% of milk allergic individuals do not react to goat milk [my emphasis].” However, she goes on to say, “Milk allergic individuals should obtain an allergy test prior to trialing, as most people who are allergic to cow milk have similar reactions to goat milk. Plus, a rare few are in fact more allergic to [the casein or whey in] goat milk.”

cheese making

Ah ha.  Maybe it wasn’t the goat part I was allergic to, but rather the other strange-sounding and -looking stuff in my cheese.  I dug out my massive allergy-testing paperwork from ImuPro, as it’s been a few years since I’ve read the results. Under the category of “milk products,” I had no allergic reaction to camel’s milk and mare’s milk–those should be easy to find on the grocery shelf!–and [insert drum roll here] I had no reaction to SHEEP’S MILK AND CHEESE.

Reading on . . . it appears I have a slight reaction to goat cheese (blame my allergy-induced brain fog for not remembering that one!).  I am also quite allergic to halloumi, rennet, kefir, and whey.  Huh?  I’ve often seen these ingredients listed on the labels of dairy products, but since I’m not sure what they are, I put on my investigative hat. I discovered a lot of ingredient and allergy crossover, which probably explains my reactions to most types of cheeses.

Halloumi is a semi-hard and unripened brined cheese made from a mixture of cow’s, goat’s and sheep’s milk (gotta read those labels carefully).  It is set with rennetTrader Joe’s has a handy list of rennet definitions.  Basically, animal rennet is an enzyme that comes from the stomach (yuck!) of a suckling calf, lamb or goat; vegetable rennet is derived from plants (soy alert!); and microbial rennet is derived from microorganisms (fungi and bacteria; mold alert!) through a process of fermentation.

Kefir, according to my ImuPro test, is a thick and slightly alcoholic fermented milk product that is often used for milk mix drinks, sweets or sauces.  I’ve seen kefir advertised lately as a health benefit, but certainly not for those of us who are allergic to it.  Finally, whey is the watery liquid that separates from the solid part of milk when it turns sour or when enzymes are added in cheese making.

Wow.  Cheese is not my friend.*  My best guess is that when I developed leaky gut, I was eating a lot of cheese and crackers with my wine.  This holiday season I’ll be grabbing the grapes.

* In Italy, I ate mozzarella made from water buffalo–no reaction!

Resources:

Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Nework

Go Dairy Free

What Is This In My Food?

Cow’s milk can be disguised under the labels of:

  • Buttermilk
  • Butter (Many restaurants I’ve encountered don’t realize butter is dairy!)
  • Casein
  • Hydrolysed milk
  • Lacatalbumin
  • Lactoglobulin
  • Lactoserum
  • Milk proteins
  • Whole milk, dried whole milk, concentrated milk
  • Sour cream

(Note: Lactic Acid is not derived from dairy.)