The Return of an Allergic Foodie

How difficult can it be to write a blog post once a week? After all, I LOVE to write. I enjoy helping others with food allergies and celiac disease. I don’t mind sharing embarrassing details about my life with complete strangers.

So why haven’t I written anything these past weeks . . .  uh, months. I’d like to tell you I found a cure to my food woes and have been travelling around the world teaching others how they, too, can cure their leaky gut. I’d like to tell you I discovered a magic pill to make my and my son’s celiac disease disappear. I’d like to tell you I’ve been out promoting a book that remedies food allergies within weeks.

Of course, none of these things are true. The truth is I haven’t felt like focusing on my health issues.

I got SICK of being SICK.

When I was first diagnosed with multiple food allergies, I was told I could stop my leaky gut by eliminating offending foods. Once my gut was healed, I could slowly re-introduce those foods.

Didn’t happen. I am STILL allergic to soy, dairy, corn, capers, asparagus, vanilla, nutmeg. I know this because every so often some waiter or a well-meaning friend poisons me with one of these foods.

I recently began Weight Watchers. Yes, even though I cannot eat anything, I am fat. I sit in those meetings listening to the leader say how I can eat ANYTHING if I just keep track of those points. Pizza. Cake. Cookies. Nothing is off limits.

Uh, she hasn’t met anyone with severe food allergies or celiac disease or eosinophilic esophagitis, has she?

Having so many food restrictions as well as a broken metabolism just doesn’t seem fair. At least if I have to eat fish without butter sauce, or ribs without barbecue sauce, or rice noodles without teriyaki sauce, let me look good in a bathing suit!

In addition to getting sick of being sick, I also started a pity party.

Without making any sort of formal decision, I took a break from blogging. Rather than read the latest allergy studies, I went to the golf range. I stopped writing and began a new boutique business. I read fiction instead of allergy-free cookbooks. I helped a foster care mom with her foster kids and took over my elderly mother’s finances.

Doing all these things rejuvenated me. I may have a lousy autoimmune system, but I can still swing a golf club. I can build an entire business from the ground floor. I can make a difference in other people’s lives.

What I discovered while taking a break is this: My illness is a part of me, but it does not define me.

Though I hadn’t written anything new in months, people continued to read my old posts and comment. They emailed me their food allergy stories. They told me I helped them.

And this is why I am returning to blogging–to help. In return, you always help me.

I’d love to hear how your food restrictions don’t hold you back from living life to the fullest.

The Return of an Allergic Foodie” first appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie

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.

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.

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 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

Eat, Drink and Be Weary

So I think I ate too much turkey and gluten-free pie over Thanksgiving because I can’t seem to snap out of this funk I’m in. Or maybe it’s because the season of holiday parties is upon us and I hate, hate, hate having to do the food two-step every time a well-meaning host offers me a plate of cheese . . . and then a plate of  sliders  . . . and then a plate of desserts.

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I usually love the holidays, but this year I want to hibernate in my Snuggly with my Netflix subscription until New Year’s Day.

I think I know why I’m feeling so blue. And it’s not just that I can’t bake cookies without buying a college education’s worth of allergy-friendly ingredients, or that Breakfast with Santa means no breakfast at all.

It’s because I’m tired of the people I love STILL NOT GETTING IT.

There. I said it. On the Internet. For everyone to read.

It’s been almost six years since I first learned the food I was eating was making me sick. Six years! I’ve had time to adjust. My loved ones have had time to adjust. Yet Dear Old Mom still reminds me how I ate everything and anything as a kid (yes, I was on the plump side). Is this her way of saying the numerous doctors I’ve consulted are all wrong about my dozen plus food allergies? Does she think my celiac disease–which was passed on by my parents’ genes!–is a figment of my imagination?

Then there’s Darling Husband, the Eater of Everything. Unlike Mom, he doesn’t dispute that my allergies and celiac are real and he supports my need for a special diet.

He just doesn’t want my restrictions to restrict him.

He still insists on eating at his favorite restaurants–including the ones that gluten or soy or dairy me every time I eat there. He loves Italian food, and he doesn’t understand–or want to try to understand–why I’m fearful of restaurants that can’t help having wheat flour floating in the air. Nor does he get how monotonous the plain salmon and spinach gets after eating it every Friday night year after year.

Recently, during a rather heated discussion about where to go for dinner, Darling Husband, Eater of Everything, said, “Can I  pick the restaurant this time?”  As if I’d been choosing the places to eat these last years for fun–not out of the need to stay healthy and keep breathing.

And then there are those “friends,” the ones who think it’s funny to mock my special food requests after I place an order.  It is not funny. It is annoying. It is hurtful.

A fellow allergic foodie recently expressed in an online support forum how upset she was when her family didn’t want to come for Thanksgiving because they didn’t like her allergy-free food. I’m pretty sure people have passed on dinner at my house for the same reason. But this was THANKSGIVING. A time for loved ones to come together and be thankful.  My heart broke for her.

The one present I would like this Christmas is for my family and friends to accept and respect my food restrictions.

Otherwise, just wrap up another Snugly.

Eat, Drink and Be Weary first appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

Renewed Faith: A Waiter Who Cared

The smiling white-coated waiter glided up to our rooftop table and introduced himself as Paul.

“I understand there are some food allergies at this table,” Paul said,  handing  us leather-bound menus.

When I’d made the reservation for Watermark Restaurant in Nashville on Urban Spoon, I listed my son’s and my celiac disease as well as my allergies to soy and dairy. We were driving through Nashville on our way home to Colorado and wanted to have a special family dinner with our college boy. Watermark was on our bucket list of restaurants to try.

“I’ve gone over your food restrictions with the chef and I’ve marked what dishes have your allergens.” I looked down at the extensive menu where Paul had placed an X for not gluten-friendly and crossed out the items containing dairy. “Of course, we can also make accommodations, such as leaving off butter. And you don’t have to worry about soy here.”

The chef marked what I could and couldn't eat before I arrived

His words were music to An Allergic Foodie’s ears. I told him how much I appreciated his efforts. Little did he know I had recently had a terrible experience when a chef didn’t want to communicate with the waitstaff and didn’t take my food restrictions seriously. I actually think this demon chef, as I’ve come to call him, intentionally “poisoned” me by including allergens in my food.

After taking our drink orders, Paul then told me because we had decided to eat outside, he didn’t have our table. I panicked. I wanted Paul! The waiter who had done his homework to provide a complete stranger with a safe meal. We considered changing to an inside table, but after a day in the car driving for eight hours, we were enjoying the pleasant evening air.

Watermark Restaurant in Nashville

Paul returned with our drinks. “Well, looks like I’ll be your waiter after all.  The other waiter is uncomfortable with your food allergies.”

This was a first.  A waiter who fully admitted food allergies alarmed him. I appreciated the other waiter’s honesty, especially since it meant I got Paul back. I’ve often witnessed  a waiter’s anxiety over serving me, but I’ve never had someone pass the reigns to a waiter who was more experienced and comfortable with special dietary needs. Kudos to the waiter who didn’t want to serve me for the right reason–not because I was a pain in the neck, but because he wanted to keep my son and me safe.

Executive Chef Joe Shaw’s  food was heavenly. Each of our appetizers and main meals were a work of art and just as delicious as they looked.  For appetizers, Steve had pan-seared scallops with duck confit over a sweet potato puree and poultry demi glace. I had New Orleans style barbecue shrimp, and George had corn and duck egg custard with pan-seared foie gras.

Watermark Restaurant

Watermark uses a wood grill–absolutely no gas–that lended my main dish,  a Niman Ranch pork chop a mouth-watering hickory flavor. Even the rapini melted in my mouth. Steve had lamb on ratatouille and George had his usual ribeye though he said there was nothing usual about it.

Renewed Faith: A Waiter Who Cared

Since developing food allergies and celiac disease I’ve had more terrible experiences than good ones. But Paul gave me hope that there are those in the restaurant industry who do take my son’s and my health seriously–and who take pleasure in serving us.

Thank you, Paul, for renewing my faith.

Renewed Faith: A Waiter Who Cared first appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

Musings and Morsels 11-07-14

What a week! I spoke during the online Food Allergy Wellness Summit on a topic close to my heart: Living with food restrictions in college. As a nonfiction writer, I love to research and I read everything available to prepare for this interview. I have enough material to write a book! Well, at least a few blog posts.

I’d like to thank the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness and Food Allergy Research and Education for providing PDFs of their college-related handouts. Also, my appreciation to Well Amy, Surf Sweets, and Carrie S. Forbes, author of The Everything Gluten Free College Cookbook, for generously donating giveaways for those who signed up to follow this blog. (A little bribery never hurts. Wink, wink.)  Lastly, kudos to Crystal Sabalaske of Cluttershrink for organizing this valuable summit to help families with food allergies and for including me with such an impressive list of speakers.

Musings and Morsels 11-07-14

Last night I grabbed a glass of wine and a Daiya pizza–by the way, the crust has been greatly improved!–and listened to NFCA’s webinar on Gluten-Free Labeling with Tricia Thompson, RD. She’s the dietitian behind Gluten Free Watchdog, which if you aren’t following you should be! I learned so much about the FDA’s gluten-free labeling rules and I’m going back today to re-listen. It’s a lot to digest (pun intended)!

Good News: NFCA will be providing the webinar on their website. so you can listen, too. Check here later today.

On a sad note, this week I also learned a nonprofit task force I’ve co-chaired with a good friend would be ending. For 12 years my friend and I provided support to high-risk pregnant mothers on bed rest in local hospitals. We’d both been on bed rest during our pregnancies, and I delivered a baby 12 weeks early. We were the substitute families for these women whose families weren’t always available (we live in a military community). It’s hard to have the door close on something we believed in so much.

But as the saying goes–when one door closes, another opens. I truly believe helping others with celiac disease, food allergies and EoE is my new calling. This blog is just the start. If you have ideas for how I can do more to help you, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

Okay, enough musings–on to a few morsels!

As I’ve mentioned more than a few times here, I react to soy worse than any of my other allergens. So when I saw Soy Allergy Survivor’s helpful one-page soy list I immediately printed it. Because I have so many allergies including corn and dairy which can hide in many, many foods, I always appreciate guides like this one.

Musings and Morsels 11-07-14

Speaking of hidden allergens and labeling, which seems to be a theme this week, a new FDA consumer report, Finding Food Allergens Where They Shouldn’t Be, says the FDA is working to reduce undeclared allergens on labels by:  researching the causes of these errors; working with industry on best practices; and developing new ways to test for the presence of allergens. From September 2009 to September 2012, about one-third of foods reported to FDA as serious health risks involved undisclosed allergens. This is frightening, to say the least. You can help the FDA by reporting  food-allergic reactions to the FDA consumer complaint coordinator in your district. 

I’ll end with a little gossip. Who doesn’t like gossip? A little bird told me that the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference would be held in a different state than Nevada next year. Turns out it’s true! Pop on over to their Facebook page to learn more. If you aren’t familiar with FABlogCon, it’s a wonderful conference and opportunity to connect with the food allergy community and learn from experts. It’s for everyone–not just bloggers.  I, for one, am pretty excited about a new venue in a new state.  Come to think of it Colorado would be an excellent choice . . . hint, hint.

Musings and Morsels 11-07-14 first appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.