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

Christmas Vegetable Tree

Appetizers for an Allergic Foodie

Flashback Tuesday: I’m enjoying the holidays with my family as I hope you are. This post appeared last year. The appetizers from my friend’s party were a hit. Enjoy! And Happy Holidays to you and your family.

It took another Amy–my friend Amy Brown–to teach me it’s okay to serve your nonallergic guests allergy-friendly foods.

Maybe it comes from having a husband who has yet to embrace gluten-free, dairy-free foods (to be fair, he doesn’t have to) that makes me think everyone else will feel the same way he does: Not going to try it if  I don’t have to.

So I often go to the trouble of serving “regular” food at our social gatherings. A few years ago when we moved into our new home, I hosted a potluck open house where everyone brought an appetizer.  As you might guess, there was very little for me to eat.

Then last year I hosted a holiday cookie exchange. I figured this was a fun way for my kids and my husband to get treats without me having to touch a stick of butter or sift flour. Ironically, it was over Christmas break last year that my younger son realized gluten was making him sick and my oldest son gave up everything dairy.

So when this holiday season came around,  I decided to skip hosting a party. With our sons home, I just didn’t want to have foods around that they couldn’t enjoy.  And frankly, I didn’t want to do all the work of preparing both allergy-free and regular foods.

Then I went to Amy Brown’s party.  Take a look at this table of yummy appetizers:

Delicious appetizers for an allergic foodie

Photo by Amy Brown

 

The food was incredible!  Amy and her husband, Brandon, follow a “Whole30” diet, eliminating grains, dairy, sugar, and legumes. This made many of the appetizers free of  gluten, soy, and dairy!  They did include some macaroni and cheese the kids devoured and deviled eggs that my husband devoured.

My favorite appetizer was incredibly simple: A BLT on a toothpick!

Bacon, Lettuce, Tomatoe Appetizer

Photo by Amy Brown

 

Then there were these adorable olive penguins.

Gluten-free treats

And the zucchini wrapped around sausage with pesto and olive oil were fabulous.

Delicious sausage/zuchinnin wraps

Photo by Amy Brown

 

Amy also made several types of dips, including one with eggplant and red peppers that she found at She Cooks . . . He Cleans  (recipe follows). I’m not a big fan of eggplant, but I’ll be making this dip soon.  I eat a lot of veggies and hummus, so–cover your ears, Amy–I wasn’t that excited to try the black bean hummus. But I did, and it was delish!

And who wouldn’t want to eat their veggies when presented this way?

Christmas Vegetable Tree

Amy also served the gluten-free crackers on a separate plate and labeled them!

None of the guests seemed to notice the appetizers were “different” or “allergy-free” or “gluten-free.”  The food was just good . . . actually, better than good.  And oh so cute.

Roasted Egg Plant and Red Pepper Dip

(Note this recipe includes sesame seeds)

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 2 red bell peppers, seeded
  • 4 garlic cloves, whole, peeled
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (to start with…)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt; freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons tahini paste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • cayenne pepper, to taste
  • juice of one lemon
  • lots more good extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 400F.

Cut the eggplant up into 1-inch square pieces.  (Before cutting, I like to take off some of the skin in stripes around the eggplant.  Up to you.)   Cut the red bell peppers into 1 inch strips.  Toss the eggplant, peppers, and garlic in a large bowl with olive oil, salt, and several grindings of pepper.

Spread the vegetables on a parchment-lined baking sheet in a single layer.  Roast for 35-45 minutes, tossing once during cooking, until the vegetables are soft and lightly browned.  Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.

Place the vegetables in a food processor; add the tahini, cumin, cayenne, lemon juice, and another glug (or two) of olive oil.  Process in pulses until blended.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  (Try to avoid over-processing or it will become paste-like in texture.)

Drizzle with more olive oil on top, and serve warm or at room temperature.

Appetizers for an Allergic Foodie originally appeared at Adventures of an Allergic FoodieRoasted Eggplant and Red Pepper Dip originally appeared at She Cooks . . . He Cleans.  Thank you to Amy Brown for sharing these treats and photos.

Maltodextrin: What Is It?

What Is This in My Food? Maltodextrin

“Do you know the source of maltodextrin in this chicken?” I asked the guy behind the deli counter.

“Maltodextrin is just sugar, it’s perfectly safe,” he said impatiently.

“But it comes from corn and sometimes wheat. I’m allergic to both.”

He shook his head as if I was speaking a different language, then he assisted the lady next to me.

I didn’t buy the chicken.

Maltodextrin is one of those ingredients that confuses me. Sometime it makes me sick, sometimes it doesn’t.  So today I decided to put on my sleuth hat and do a little investigating.

In terms fit for an allergic foodie who didn’t do well in science class, maltodextrin is simply a food additive produced from a starch. While the name has “malt” in it, maltodextrin does not contain any malt (phew!). It comes in a white powder or a concentrated solution.

What Is This in My Food? Maltodextrin?

What’s important for those of us with allergies, sensitivities and celiac disease to know is this: Maltodextrin is derived from corn, rice, potato starch, wheat, and sometimes barley.  So if you have allergies or sensitivities to any of these, you may react to maltodextrin. I know I sure do! This is why I don’t use Splenda–it contains maltodextrin from corn.

If you have celiac disease, you need to stay away from maltodextrin derived from wheat and barley. This is easier said than done. For instance, the other night my husband was eating barbecue ribs and maltodextrin was listed on the label. According the FDA Regulations, if the maltodextrin contained wheat, wheat should have been included on the ingredient (maltodextrin (wheat)).  It wasn’t. But I still didn’t feel safe because “gluten free” didn’t appear on the packaging either. And since I’m also allergic to corn anyway, I decided not to take a chance on those ribs.

Honestly, unless I’m eating food from a allergy-friendly company, I’ve never seen the source of maltodextrin listed. The reason maltodextrin derived from wheat can be listed as plain old maltodextrin, even though the FDA has labeling rules for the top-8 allergens, is a bit complicated. The Gluten Free Dietitian has a good explanation here.  I’m sure she did better in science class than I did.

Something else to consider: The amount of gluten in maltodextrin is usually less than 20 ppm; this means the FDA allows the food to be labeled gluten-free. For those of us who are super sensitive, 20 ppm is way too much.

So I’m glad I didn’t buy that chicken or bite into those ribs.  Unless the ingredient list identifies the source of maltodextrin, I’m staying away from it.

What Is This in My Food? Maltodextrin first appeared in Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

Food Allergy Blogger Interview: Amy from Adventures of An Allergic Foodie

AmyHappy Friday, everyone! We’ve been pretty blessed to have had some great food allergy advocates on our blog recently, and we’re proud to share with you our latest blog interview with Amy from Adventures of An Allergic Foodie!Amy has been diagnosed with multiple food allergies, and is in the unique position of having developed them later in life. Her blog focuses on living your life to the fullest and not letting food allergies hold you back. Her story is inspiring, and she was kind enough to share some of it in this interview.Kitchology: What was your first encounter with food allergies?

Amy: Well, I kind of have a long history with food allergies; it took me a long time to develop them. I started getting sick in 2003, and got a bunch of different diagnoses from doctors. I was 39 then, and they were saying it was fibroids, endometriosis, all kinds of things! I had a lot of procedures in my 40s, and I’m not sure if the surgeries triggered my celiac and food allergies or if they were symptoms. I wasn’t officially diagnosed with celiac disease until 2008, and after that I was diagnosed with multiple allergies.

I think that the surgeries and my food allergies are linked somehow. I had gall bladder surgery at one point, and the doctors were always saying I had reflux, but after being diagnosed with celiac disease and cutting out gluten, I have no reflux! Also before I was diagnosed with eosinophilic esophagitis, food kept getting stuck in my throat. It was painful– I was choking, couldn’t breathe. But that also turned out to be from food allergies!

I’ve been dealing with a lot of these symptoms since 2008, but once I took wheat out of my diet it all stops.

Kitchology: Well it’s really good that you found out what it was!

Amy: It took a long time! I share the history because I always thought deep down inside my problems were being caused by something else. I felt bad after each surgery, had the same problems I had before, and knew deep down inside it was something else. So I just kept persevering until I figured out what it was.

I think a lot of women get gallbladder disease in their 40s. I remember my doctor once told me to go to a fast food restaurant and eat fried food to see if I would react. I knew I would react! I did do it, and I did get a reaction, but I’m allergic to dairy, gluten and soy, so either way I would have gotten sick. So these problems, they can be food allergy related and you wouldn’t necessarily know.

I always thought you had celiac all your life, but I found out that some things trigger it. I like to share this with other woman because they may think they need a surgery, like gall bladder surgery or a hysterectomy, but it might be celiac disease or food allergies causing similar symptoms. I had all these procedures and surgeries but the gastrointestinal symptoms and the stomach pain continued; no healthcare practitioner ever mentioned celiac disease or food allergies as a possibility.

Kitchology: How have you dealt with being diagnosed with multiple food allergies? What are the biggest changes you’ve had to make?

Amy:

You know it’s funny, I came across these notes from when I was first diagnosed. I’m allergic to dairy, soy, gluten, I can’t have corn and a lot of other ones, and I was trying to learn the different names for processed foods that would have corn, dairy, etc. So I made these lists of all the different technical names for these food items, and I just recently found them again.

Some people might have one allergy, and that’s difficult, but having all these allergies, and figuring out all the foods, is overwhelming! At first I thought I could eat some processed foods but I eventually realized I had to avoid processed food and go paleo/caveman. That was hard for me because I grew up not being a very good cook. I had kids and was busy.

Honestly, the most positive thing from having food allergies is that I’m now feeding my family better. We’re eating better, buying organic, because of my food allergies. My husband jokes we go to better restaurants because the better restaurants cater to allergies!

The other positive thing is that I am now better able to help others who have food allergies. I just blogged about this; when my son started having stomach pain, right away I knew how to help him with taking gluten out of his diet. My older son has symptoms of dairy or lactose intolerance which have been getting worse and worse, and I knew exactly how to help them. It stinks that they have the allergies, but at least I know what to do about them instead of having to put my sons through tons of tests and surgeries.

Kitchology: What motivated you to start blogging?

Amy: Well I think I started a blog before AA; I did one called allergy free eating, but it was so overwhelming. I started it to figure out what I could eat. The thing is, I’m not really a chef– I’m a pretty good cook but not someone who can develop recipes. So it took me awhile to find my voice, to figure out what I wanted to write about.

With the kids off to college, and the hubby and I starting to travel, I didn’t want my celiac and allergies to hold me back from doing all these things I had planned. I’d finally gotten healthy after being sick for 10 years! So I decided to take a positive approach to celiac and food allergies, and that became the theme of my blog: don’t let celiac disease and food allergies hold you back. I started thinking with that, and hopefully it’ll help people. It’s a great outlook to have, to make the most of it.

When you first blog, it’s for yourself or your family. My first blog was whiny, and so I ended up deleting it. 2 years later, I’m a writer, an author of several new books, and I thought having a blog would be a good launching point to build a platform for a new book. I really wanted to write a book about dealing with food allergies. But now that I’m blogging, I find that I really like it! I’ll probably still pursue the book but I like blogging. There’s more interaction, which I like. I get feedback all the time, and I’m constantly in contact with my readers.

Kitchology: How is your blog doing?

Amy: Good. One thing I try not to think about—and that I figured you were going to ask me about!—is the stats. I just try not to analyze them too much. But I did notice all of a sudden that I’ve been getting more responses. I think it’s because the writing’s become a little more honest, more true to myself. I measure the success of my blog according to how many responses it’s getting. I feel like it’s a more reliable indicator.

Kitchology: Do you have any advice you’d like to offer aspiring bloggers?

Amy: Find your own unique voice. There’s a lot of blogs out there and there can always be more. Everybody knows something different, so find your niche, figure out what you want to write about. Like for me what I wanted to write about more is living life to the fullest with allergies, because I’ve reached that middle aged point and want to enjoy life and didn’t want health issues to hold me back. I want to be a role model for kids dealing with similar issues.

I think about my son, who’s only 20; if he eats a tiny crumb of he’s doubled over, lethargic, in terrible pain. He’s very skinny, and he’s in college right now. When I was in college I drank beer and pizza and had a great time! It’s kind of sad that he can’t do those things, and so I want to be a role model for him and teach him how to make choices. He can’t just get hungry and eat  whatever he wants to eat. Hee’s an audio engineer, and if he’s on set or doing a gig and gets hungry he can’t just go grab something with the guys. When he was in a dorm room he really couldn’t eat; there weren’t a lot of gluten-free options. It’s tough because he’s got a lifetime of living with this, whereas I didn’t get diagnosed until I was in my 40s. So I really want to do the best I can for him.

With my blog, it’s the same thing. I know there are other people out there dealing with the same kind of situation that might not have much of a support group, or someone to push them through and get them to live their lives the way they want to. So that’s what my blog is all about. Once you find out what your blog is about, what message you want to send, blogging will be easy. You just have to find your voice.

Thanks for stopping by! We hope you enjoyed this interview. If you’d like to learn more about Amy, visit her blog at Adventures of An Allergic Foodie.

This interview originally appeared at Kitchology Blog by Jessica Cue

Gift Ideas: Good and Bad for Friend with Celiac Disease

Check it twice: A list of gifts NOT to buy for the gluten-free folks you love this Christmas

What NOT to get an Allergic Foodie for Christmas! Love Molly’s funny and truthful list.
If you want some gift ideas for the allergic foodie in your life–hint, hint–check out my GIFTS FOR AN ALLERGIC FOODIE on Pinterest.
Five shopping days left!

Based on a Sprue Story

It’s December! Snow is falling, friends are calling, and ’tis the season for every blogging boy and girl to post their personal Christmas wish lists, disguised as suggestions of what totally unrelated people might want to buy for some other person who happens to be extremely similar to them.

Look around, and you’ll see gift suggestions for fitness freaks (compiled by fitness freaks), tech geeks (compiled by tech geeks), book lovers (compiled by book lovers), home cooks (compiled by home cooks), and the one who has everything (compiled by people who wish they had everything).

And, of course, you’ll see them for the gluten-free, by the gluten-free. Here are just a few sites with intriguing lists of these-are-not-hints for gluten-free kids like me:

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From an Allergic Foodie

To Eaters of Everything from an Allergic Foodie

Dear Eaters of Everything,

I remember what it was like to be you.

Once upon a time, not so long ago, I sipped my Starbucks soy latte while nibbling on a blueberry muffin, waiting for my kids to finish their guitar lessons. On shopping excursions, I picked up a fast-food salad without worrying about the croutons or the shredded cheese or the dressing with soy oil.  During football games, I ate deep-fried chicken wings not once considering what else had been fried in the fryer.  At movies, I shared buttered popcorn with my husband.  I even munched on prepackaged cookies–without reading the label!

From an Allergic Foodie

Some people can eat whatever they want.

Once upon a time, not so long ago,  I was also intolerant of people with “food issues.”

(Please don’t hate me my dear readers who have very real food issues, but it’s time I come clean.)

I, An Allergic Foodie, once rolled my eyes when my girlfriend passed on the bacon-wrapped melon appetizer because melon made her “tongue feel funny.” I believed people who were lactose intolerant just didn’t like the taste of milk. I thought my sister-in-law who ate only organic veggies and fruits and grass-fed meats was a pain in the neck.  I thought my friend who was constantly running to one doctor after another for stomach pain was a little bit of a hypochondriac.

Payback is hell.

Dear Eaters of Everything, while I certainly don’t wish you any harm, someday your stomach may betray you just as mine did.  I was well into my life when I developed multiple food allergies, celiac disease, and eosinophilic esophagitis. On top of that, my youngest son also developed celiac disease and my oldest son started reacting severely to dairy.

I had to learn a whole new way of grocery shopping, preparing foods, ordering out, reading labels.  I studied nutrition, the gastrointestinal system, and naturopathic medicine.

Grocery Shopping

Grocery shopping is tough when your allergic of wheat/gluten, dairy, soy, corn, etc. (Photo credit: Bruce A Stockwell)

As I said, payback is hell.

But as I became informed, something wonderful happened.  I became empathetic to those with food issues. And that’s why I am writing to you, Eaters of Everything.  I don’t want your lack of information to cause you to be  intolerant to those with food-related illnesses.  Don’t make the same mistake I did.

Please recognize and accept that some foods make some people sick.  And so, when we take ten minutes to order in restaurants, we are being picky eaters for a reason. When we eat in your homes, we are not trying to cause you extra work in the kitchen–we’re just trying to stay healthy. Sometimes, we are trying to save ourselves or a family member (or you)  a trip to the emergency room.  Don’t be afraid to ask us questions. We don’t expect you to know all the ingredients where allergens hide, or how to keep foods from being contaminated.  We don’t mind explaining our special food needs; we want–no, we need–you to understand.

Eaters of Everything, thank you for taking the time to read this.  I wish you continued good health.

Happy Eating!

An Allergic Foodie

Some of my other posts you may like:

Celiac Disease Wasn’t a Part of the College Plan

I’m a Picky Eater. And Proud of It!

Living Life with Food Challenges

To Eaters of Everything from An Allergic Foodie originally appeared in Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

Will This Cell Phone Hurt My Family’s Health?

They are putting a cell tower in front of my house.

towerWhile researching how I could fight it, I came across this article about environmental conditions that impact our health.  I thought you’d find it as interesting–and alarming–as I did.

 

Truth11

Why Do Smells Make Some People Sick?  Jan. 22, 2012 — Science Daily

Do you get a headache from the perfume of the lady next to you at the table? Do cleaning solutions at work make your nose itch? If you have symptoms prompted by everyday smells, it does not necessarily mean you are allergic but rather that you suffer from chemical intolerance. According to Linus Andersson at Umeå University, this hypersensitivity can be the result of an inability to get used to smells.


Normally your smell perceptions diminish rapidly, as when you enter a friend’s apartment. Even though you clearly notice smells just inside the door, you don’t think about them for long. For people with chemical intolerance, on the other hand, smells seem always to be present. Psychology researcher Linus Andersson has exposed both intolerant and non-intolerant individuals to smells and compared their reactions.

“The hypersensitive individuals felt that…

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