The Allergic Foodie Rap

The Allergic Food Rap


See those  girls at the bar banning gluten to look fit?

They’ve got no clue how rye and wheat make a celiac sick.

They sip their Skinny Girl martinis and Omission beer,

Feeling like Gwyneth Paltrow when it was cool to be her.

Even Dr. Oz can’t decide if gluten-free is good or bad,

But smart chefs sure know how to profit on a fad.

Every corner restaurant got wheat-free spaghetti,

Even the waiters say no bread’s made them skinny.

“Well good for you,” An Allergic Foodie wanna say,

“I haven’t lost a pound since eating this way.”

Neither can the girl eat dairy, corn and soy–all make her sick.

Ah, yes dude, take out your pen and pad–this isn’t a trick.

This girl’s diet has nothing to do with the media craze,

For most, this gluten-free thing is just another phase.

But after the gluten-free menus are long gone,

A.F.’s need for A.F. food will still be goin’ strong.

So treat her right–don’t give that girl food without checking

That nothing she eats will be a reaction in the making.

Your tip will reflect the attention you’ve given,

To make sure that girl leaves your restaurant livin’.

But see those girls at the bar skippin’ the crackers?

They don’t get how for celiacs gluten-free matters.

At the end a meal, celiacs will pass on the cake.

But NOT  the girls at the bar cuz their GF diets are fake.

(C) Amy E. Tracy

The Allergic Foodie Rap originally appeared on Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

An Allergic College Student You Just Have to Meet

One of the things I love best about being a blogger is meeting remarkable people who are making a difference in the food allergy community. Recently, I met such a person, a college student about to graduate named Amanda Merrill. Amanda won the giveaway Amanda’s Own Confections and I ran a few weeks back. Coincidentally, she shared the first name of the owners’ daughter, which the company was named after.

As Amanda and I emailed back and forth, I knew right away that I had to share her story. Though Amanda was in the middle of final exams at Tufts University, in Boston, she took the time to answer my emailed questions.

An Allergic Foodie: Congrats on winning the allergy-friendly chocolate bars, Amanda! In an email, you mentioned your senior honors thesis has to do with food restrictions  . . . can you elaborate?

Amanda: Happy to, and I’m thrilled to win the chocolate bars because with my allergies it’s almost impossible to find chocolate I can eat. The title of my thesis is “Is Gluten-Free Worth the Price?” Basically, I looked to answer two questions: 1) if consumers are willing got pay extra for gluten-free certification, and 2) if so, how much are they willing to pay? This is the first study in this area, and I devised my own survey to distribute. In short, I concluded that consumers are willing to pay a premium. I am planning on publishing my findings in a journal.

An Allergic Foodie:  I know you came up with this topic because you yourself have many food restrictions. Did you always have food allergies?

Amanda: As a young child, I was first allergic to tomatoes, potatoes and chocolate, which was very hard for me because my dad is Italian and my mom has an Irish heritage. I couldn’t eat any of their traditional dishes. Luckily, I mostly outgrew these allergies –especially the chocolate!

Around middle-school, I started becoming violently ill after eating and I broke out in this terrible skin reaction that left me unable to even open my mouth. I saw many dermatologists who couldn’t figure out what was going on, and I did all sorts of dye and metal allergy tests. My mom was the one to ask for food allergy testing; that’s when I found out I was allergic to soy, nuts and beans. I still wasn’t feeling 100 percent and with more testing, I found out I was allergic to wheat. I have luckily never been hospitalized for a reaction, but I always carry an epi-pen because some of my allergies are life-threatening.

An Allergic Foodie: You said you “outgrew” some food allergies, have you developed any new ones and/or other health issues?

Amanda: I get tested for food allergies yearly. I am now only “borderline allergic” to tomatoes and potatoes so I can usually handle then in moderation and in small amounts. Unfortunately, some of my other allergies are worsening, and this year I discovered I’m allergic to apples, pineapple and sesame. I also have extreme seasonal allergies to everything from grass, pollen, dust, and mold to dog, cats and rabbits. I also suffer from IBS as well as a slow-moving colon and stomach-emptying processes, which constantly leaves me feeling bloated.

Amanda Merrill with Tufts University Mascot Jumbo the Elephant

Amanda Merrill with Tufts University Mascot Jumbo the Elephant

An Allergic Foodie: Your food restrictions must make dating and eating out difficult. How do you do it?

Amanda: If I am going on a date that involves going to dinner, I often spend hours researching restaurants, menus, policies, and contacting managers to coordinate a meal. One time, I was out in Boston and when the waiter brought over the manager, I began going through my allergies and making adjustments, etc. At one point, the manager, jokingly, told me that he might as well put me in a rabbit cage with a piece of lettuce and a water bottle. The funny thing is, I’m allergic to rabbits as well!

An Allergic Foodie:  I have a son in college dealing with celiac disease and I’d love to hear your tips for eating in a school setting.

Amanda:  When was looking at schools, I was really concerned about how I would eat.  When I arrived at Tufts, I met with a nutritionist/dietitian on campus. I’d advise any student with food allergies to research everything they can about the potential school’s dining services and to meet up with a nutritionist to discuss an eating plan.

In Tufts University’s dining hall, a nutrition card is placed above every food and condiment; the cards list every ingredient and has an allergen statement. The problem I run into is that Tufts, like many other dining halls, have all sorts of sauces, marinades, breading, etc. that contain wheat, soy, or another one of my allergens. I often cannot eat much or anything offered for meals and often end up eating a lot of salads and plain grilled chicken.

Since I cannot eat many dinner food items, the chefs prepare a separate meat for me–chicken, pork, or steak. They use a separate pan and just cook in olive oil, salt and pepper. Tufts had never had to deal with a student with so many allergies before, so I worked with the nutritionist to get more allergy-friendly choices. Now there is a separate refrigerator/freezer for items such as gluten-free breads, bagels, pizza crusts, and other baked goods as well as a special shelf with gluten-free cereal, granola, ice cream cones, and peanut butter and jelly–there’s even Sunbutter for those of us allergic to peanuts. I have my own special area for my foods that don’t contain my extensive allergies, and I even got the school to change to a soy-free cooking spray.

An Allergic Foodie: That’s so great that you’ve made a difference for future allergic students going to Tufts. I think you also are involved with FARE . . .

Amanda: I put together a team to walk in the Walk for Food Allergy Boston to raise money to assist in research for a cure. I hope to continue researching and advocating for food allergies in more ways post-graduation and would love to get more involved with FARE. I try to pass along their messages and awareness information as much as I can.

An Allergic Foodie: I love that you don’t let your food allergies hold you back! What are your plans after graduation?

Amanda: My double major is in Mathematics and Quantitative Economics. I will be working in a pricing and risk analyst position while taking the actuarial exams. My goal is to become a certified actuary. Also, I have been dancing since the age of three, taking ballet, tap, and jazz. At Tufts, I joined the ballroom dance team and competed in all ballroom and Latin dance styles. After graduation, I want to get back to studying classical ballet and pursue my dream of taking classes at Boston Ballet. Dancing is and has always been one of my passions aside from academics.

An Allergic Foodie: Thanks so much for making a difference, Amanda, and good luck with your job and dance– you are an inspiration to other college students with food allergies.

An Allergic College Student Your Just Have to Meet originally appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

Communion wafers must have some wheat to be valid

Communion Hosts for Celiacs: Yes or No?

Communion wafers must have some wheat to be valid

This Easter Sunday I will not be taking the communion wafer. Yes, not even the low-gluten host. It’s not a decision I make lightly.

According to the Catholic church, the wafer must contain some wheat to be valid (“bread of life”) and a low-gluten host is acceptable for celebrating the Eucharist because it has some wheat. A non-gluten wafer is not valid. For more information, go to the Catholic Celiac Society.*

For several years I did take the low-gluten host and I didn’t notice any reaction. I figured the wafer contained such a minuscule amount of gluten that I could get by.

I was wrong.

Some of us with celiac disease, like my son, suffer recognizable symptoms after eating a crumb of gluten. Other people like me have so many other food allergies we often aren’t sure what food caused what reaction, or they don’t have noticeable reactions. But even if we don’t react with a stomach ache or a rash or lethargy, that tiny bit of gluten can wreak havoc on our bodies and lead to longterm healthcare issues.

Having a little bit of gluten every Sunday is like an alcoholic having a sip of vodka every Sunday.

Watch this video from Dr. Tom O’Bryan, a celiac disease expert.

I know many Catholics with celiac disease who will celebrate the Eucharist with a low-gluten host this Sunday, but I won’t be one of them. Will you?

*In 2003, the Vatican did say Catholics with celiac disease can celebrate the Eucharist by wine only, so Catholics have that option.

Doesn't always pay to be polite when you have food allergies

The Evolution of An Allergic Foodie

Lady in food counter overhears An Allergic Foodie regurgitate her litany of allergies and says: I would just die if I couldn’t eat cheese!

An Allergic Foodie smiles politely because her mother taught her if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.

Waitress at upscale restaurant: How do you not eat bread and butter?  (She may have really been thinking, You look like you eat a lot of bread and butter.)

An Allergic Foodie smiles politely because her mother taught her if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.

Cafeteria server during son’s college tour: Lady, you sure are picky.

An Allergic Foodie smiles politely so as not to embarrass teenage son and because she taught him if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.

Waitress at Japanese Restaurant: You can eat the tofu (I’d just told her I was allergic to soy).

An Allergic Foodie smiles, stands up, loudly tells the waitress that tofu is soy, tells the manager he needs to train his staff, then stomps out of the restaurant because her mother never had to cope with food allergies or celiac disease.

If you don’t have anything nice to say, LEAVE THE RESTAURANT.

The Evolution of An Allergic Foodie first appeared at Adventures of An Allergic Foodie.

How My Leaky Gut Changed My Life

Before the holidays, my family was in a funk. My oldest son, who graduated from college last May, still hadn’t found a real job. My youngest son, in college, wasn’t getting any responses to dozens of internship applications he sent out. My husband and I were spending our holiday family time fighting with the City of Colorado Springs over a cell tower being erected in the center of our mountain view.

We were all out of sorts.

Then, as the new year approached, I started saying “2014 is going to be a good year.”  I said it over and over again.

And you know what happened?  Oldest got a job on December 31st, in Denver where he wanted to  be.  A week later, youngest got an internship with a big concert promoter in Nashville. Even the cell phone tower has been stopped for now.

The power of positive thinking. I’m no Pollyanna, but I do believe attitude makes a difference.

How My Leaky Gut Changed My Life

Occasionally I’ll get an email from a reader thanking me for my positive take on food allergies and celiac disease. This means a lot to me. You see my upbeat outlook didn’t come overnight. Before diagnoses, I was in a lot of physical pain. Looking back now, I realize I was also depressed, and with each medical procedure and doctor’s visit, my attitude got worse. I don’t think you would have liked me much back then.

The day I was told I had multiple food allergies along with celiac disease was the happiest day I’d had in a few years. How weird does that sound? But it’s true. I finally knew what was wrong with me. If I changed my diet, I would feel like my old self.

Of course, when I realized how many foods contain dairy, soy and gluten, a lot of tears were shed, even a tantrum or two. I’m not going to pretend it was easy. But today, I feel like my leaky gut changed my life for the better.  Here are a few reasons why:

• When my youngest started getting sick from gluten and my oldest started reacting severely to dairy, I knew exactly how to help them.

• I’m a good cook. Not Cybele Pascal caliber, but I can find my way around a kitchen now. No more meals from boxes (except for Amy’s dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free mac and cheese!).

• I avoid fast-food like it’s the flu. Oh how I wish I could take back those Taco Bell meals between hockey practices. What was I thinking?

• I buy mostly organic and shop the outside aisles of grocery stores (with an occasional trip down the gluten-free aisle).

• If it weren’t for food allergies and celiac disease, I’d never had tasted quinoa, or thickened a sauce with rice flour, or discovered coconut yogurt, or drank almond milk, or splurged on 25-year-old balsamic, or made noodles out of zucchini.

• I found my voice. When my kids were little, I authored two parenting/healthcare books, but I’d been struggling for years to find another topic to write about. Enter food allergies and celiac disease and I can’t stop writing.

• Finally, I met you. Before blogging, I thought I was the only person in the universe who developed food allergies as an adult. Boy was I wrong. Because of you, my dear readers, I never feel alone. I hope you feel the same.

How have food allergies or celiac disease positively impacted your life?

Could Wheat Have Caused My Son’s Early Birth?

During an ultrasound the doctor told my husband and me that our son was too small for his gestational age.  I’ll never forget his words: “Your baby isn’t growing; the placenta looks old.”  He sent me home on strict bedrest. But being a couch potato didn’t last long. Within a week my blood pressure and weight spiked and my feet and hands bloated like water balloons. A visit to my OB confirmed what I’d already self-diagnosed from reading What to Expect When You’re Expecting.  I had toxemia and needed to go to the hospital immediately.

The minutes, hours, weeks and months that followed were like riding on a frightening rollercoaster without breaks.  Uncontrollable vomiting (all over the staff!), dizziness, and a pounding headache.  A noisy ambulance ride to a second hospital with a better neonatal intensive care unit.  My husband’s ashen face and shaking hands when a doctor we had never met before said matter-of-factly, “If the baby isn’t delivered now, both your wife and son will die.”

Daniel arrived three months early weighing one pound 11 ounces (a baby his age should weigh over two pounds).  He could literally fit in the palm of my hand.  I’ll never forget the overwhelming feelings of guilt and failure when I first saw my son.  His chicken-size body was covered in a web of wires and a respirator breathed for him.  I fled the NICU.

Throughout my pregnancy I’d done everything right: no alcohol, daily prenatal vitamins, exercised and ate right.  So why did this happen?

Twenty-two years later, it breaks my heart to learn something as simple as eating wheat could have caused our son’s early delivery as well as my other pregnancy complications.  (Prior to Daniel, I’d had a late miscarriage followed by rare life-threatening bleeding during a D&C. Our second son, Steven, arrived after complications and bedrest.  Pregnancy and my autoimmune system are incompatible, to say the least.)

I wasn’t diagnosed with celiac disease until long after my childbearing years.  Funny, what first popped into my head when I learned gluten wasn’t my friend was how I reacted to wheat during pregnancy–I craved starch and carbs and ate lots of spaghetti, lasagna, and bread!  Mealtimes often ended with stomach pains, diarrhea, heartburn, and indigestion, which the nurse practitioner said were “common symptoms of pregnancy.”

I now know these are signs of celiac disease, too.   In fact, they were probably my first symptoms.  Experts say that CD symptoms often first appear during pregnancy.  Too bad I didn’t have a doctor who knew that.

While some studies have found little or no connection between CD and pregnancy problems, recent data supports a link.  An ongoing large study by Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, still to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, indicates women with celiac disease report a higher likelihood than other women of having difficulty with conception and pregnancy, including a greater chance of preterm birth.  Surveying 1,022 women, they found:

* 43 percent of women with CD reported miscarriages prior to CD diagnosis compared to 37 percent without celiac disease, and

* 23 percent of CD women gave birth prematurely compared to 14 percent of non-CD women.

A 2010 Danish study found that mothers with untreated celiac disease gave birth to smaller babies and delivered early compared with women who didn’t have CD.  On the positive side, after mothers were treated for CD with a gluten-free diet, they had healthy deliveries.

Of course, these women needed to be diagnosed with CD first.

I can’t help but wonder how things might have turned out differently for my children if I’d know about my disease. While Daniel is a healthy college senior now, his childhood was plagued with respiratory illnesses, surgery, hospitalizations, and developmental therapy.  (Ironically, it’s our full-term child Steven, now a college student, who has celiac disease.)

And what about the baby we lost?  Could something as simple as eliminating gluten from my diet have saved him or her?

Soon after Daniel and Steven’s births I wrote and published two books, Your Premature Baby and Child and The Pregnancy Bed Rest Book.  During substantial research and interviews, I never came across untreated celiac disease being a risk factor for infertility, low birthweight and preterm birth.  This needs to change!  Obstetricians must recognize the symptoms of celiac disease and listen to their patients–not just brush aside a woman’s complaints as pregnancy related!  Books, websites and other literature should inform pregnant women of the risk of untreated celiac disease during pregnancy (keep in mind, 1 in 133 people have CD!).

I can’t do anything about the outcomes of my pregnancies, but I might be able to make a difference in the life of another young woman and her family.  You can too. Please won’t you join me in getting the word out about celiac disease and pregnancy?

Further Reading

The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, “Pregnancy and Celiac Disease,” by Amy Burkhard, MD, RD

Celiac Disease Awareness Campaign, “Women with Celiac Disease More Likely to Have Trouble Conceiving, Pre-Term Births”

Living Without, “Why Can’t We Have a Baby? Unexplained Infertility and Celiac Disease” by Christine Boyd