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

Questions about Celiac Disease? A Helpful List

I recently attended my first local Celiac Support Association meeting. The library conference room was full of newbie celiacs along with some old-timers; I fell somewhere in the middle. Coupons, recipes, pancake mix, and a grocery store’s  gluten-free directory were distributed. The speaker was a nutritionist, one I had visited during my first months following my diagnosis of celiac  and multiple food allergies. Being a regular speaker, she seemed to have run out of material and spent the hour talking about other autoimmune diseases–all of which those of us with celiac disease are at greater risk for.

Talk about a downer.

When it was time for questions, hands shot up. “Is there a link between celiac disease and depression?” “What probiotic do you recommend?” “What do you think of the Paleo diet?”

It was obvious: Those of us with celiac disease have a lot of questions.

Looking around the room, I noticed most of the attendees were silver-haired, reminding me of my mother who doesn’t own a computer. This also explained why it had taken me six years to find this group–they didn’t have much of an online presence. Without a search engine, how do folks find information about this life-changing disease?

Of course, a medical professional would be the ultimate resource, but how many of us have gotten no more direction from our doctors than “Don’t eat gluten.” A monthly meeting–if you can find one–is helpful, but probably not enough.

So I decided to make a list incorporating both internet and non-internet resources, many of which I have personally found useful. Later, I’ll do one for food allergies.


 

An Allergic Foodie’s Favorite Gluten-Free Resources

Books, Medical

I stick to books specifically about celiac disease and less about how gluten causes us to be overweight, stupid and evil.

The Autoimmune Epidemic: Bodies Gone Haywire in a World Out of Balance–and the Cutting-Edge Science that Promises Hope by Donna Jackson Nakazawa (Author), Douglas Kerr (Foreword)

Celiac Disease: A Hidden Epidemicby by Peter H. Green, M.D. and Rory Jones

Mayo Clinic Going Gluten Free by Joseph A. Murray, MD

Books, Memoir

Celiac and the Beast: A Love Story between a Gluten-free Girl, her Genes, and a Broken Digestive Tract by Erica Dermer (Note: I appreciate Erica’s blatant prose, but not everyone will.)

Jennifer’s Way: My Journey with Celiac Disease–What Doctors Don’t Tell You and How You Can Learn to Live Again by Jennifer Esposito

Conferences

Conferences can be a great way not only to learn from healthcare experts but also to connect with others with celiac disease. Many nonprofit organizations, listed below,  host national and state conferences and/or symposiums. Of course, they can take time and money; look for one close by or tie into a business trip or a family gathering. 

A good list of upcoming events: http://www.celiaccentral.org/community/Upcoming-Events/78/

Celiac Disease Foundation Conference:  http://www.celiac.org/get-involved/conference-expo/gluten-free-expo/

Gluten-Free Drugs

http://www.glutenfreedrugs.com

Organizations

Celiac Disease Foundation: https://www.celiac.org

Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG):  https://www.gluten.net

National Foundation for Celiac Awareness:  https://www.celiaccentral.org

Magazines

Some of these magazines can be found at grocery stores and bookstores.

Allergic Living: http://www.allergicliving.com

Journal of Gluten Sensitivity:  http://www.celiac.com/store/journal-gluten-sensitivity-c-47.html

Living Without’s Gluten-Free and More: http://www.glutenfreeandmore.com

Simply Gluten-Free:  http://www.simplygluten-free.com

Gluten-Free Conventions and Expos

A convention is a gathering of folks who have something in common and typically occurs every few years. Companies with products, such as gluten-free food, come to educate attendees about their products in an exhibition hall. This is a great way to meet people, form friendships, and taste test. If you’re traveling to an expo, always pack light as you’ll receive lots of giveaways. I can’t possibly list all the conventions and expos, but since I’m an official blogger for this one, I’m including it.

Food Allergy and Celiac Convention, Orlando, Nov. 3-6, 2014: http://www.celebrateawareness.com

I also think this one is really cool because you can go in your pajamas and a 17-year-old blogger came up with the idea.

Gluten Away Online Expo: http://www.glutenawayexpo.com

Gluten-Free Food (Where to Find)

Conventions and Expos (which you just read about)

Gluten-Free Food Fairs at grocery stores, such as Whole Foods, Natural Grocers, Trader Joe’s

Gluten-Free Buyers Guide by Josh Schieffer, updated yearly: http://www.glutenfreebuyersguide.com

Some grocery stores have printouts of gluten-free products the store carries; ask customer service

Mail-order (http://www.wellamy.com; http://www.tasterie.com)

Pinterest Boards

Support Groups

If you can’t find any information online, ask local gastrointestinal medical offices and nutritionists.

Celiac Disease Foundation: https://www.celiac.org/chapters

Celiac Support Association:  https://www.csaceliacs.org

Online Support Groups

Go to your favorite social network–Google+, Facebook–and run a search.  Type in “Celiac Disease Support.”  Consider the size of the group. For instance, Celiac Disease Support Group on Facebook has over 7,000 members. You may want to define a group you join by size, location, age (adults-only or families). Be wary of groups for gluten-free dieters who don’t have gluten sensitivity or celiac.

Summits and Webinars

Online summits, such as the recent Food Allergy Wellness Summit, are typically free for the first week of release and then the organizer will sell tapes. I have participated in several–both as a participant and as a speaker. I find them beneficial, especially when medical professionals participate.

Some organizations, such as NFCA, offer free webinars on various topics. They are often archived so you can watch at your convenience.  I recommend  http://www.celiaccentral.org/community/Free-Webinars/110/

Websites/Bloggers

The following websites regularly update their lists of bloggers.

Freedible : http://www.freedible.com

Gluten-Free Global Community:  http://www.simplygluten-free.com/gluten-free-global-community

Celiac Central (NFCA): http://www.celiaccentral.org/Resources/Gluten-Free-Bloggers/125/


Looking for Answers about Celiac Disease: A Helpful List 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.

I Have Exciting News! (Hint: Big Ears)

My sons have shown very little interest in my blogging–except for when complimentary allergy-friendly cookies arrive in the mail. My husband likes to good-naturedly poke fun at my blogging at cocktail parties: “My wife gave up her day job to write a blog–for free.” Such a comedian, my husband.

But now they all think my blog is pretty darn cool.

You see I’m going to the very first  FOOD ALLERGY AND CELIAC CONVENTION in WALT DISNEY WORLD!!!!

I may or may not take the family . . .  they have four months to be really nice to me.

Here are the top reasons why I’m so excited about going–and why you should meet me there on November 22.

1. It’s WALT DISNEY WORLD people . . . c’mon who wouldn’t want to go to a convention in the magical kingdom?

2. I’m AN ALLERGIC FOODIE— I LOVE allergy-friendly and gluten-free food! FACCWDW promises food demos by topnotch Disney chefs and culinary professionals.  I’m pretty sure they’ll hand out samples, don’t you think? This means free food–food I can actually eat.

3. Experts–people who know more than I do about celiac disease and food allergies–will be speaking and answering questions. I’ve got lots and lots of questions.

4.  The behind-the-scene fairies of FACCWDW are two smart gals who look extra cute in those wings: Laurie Sadowski and Sarah Norris. Their desire to “celebrate awareness of food allergies and celiac disease” started it all. How could I not join in?

5. There will be a nondairy ice cream buffet.

6. I get to hang with the rest of the  Blogger Street Team. People like Erica of Celiac and the Beast, Janice of The Adult Side of Disney, and Christy of Celiac 411 . . . these and all the other bloggers are people I’d like to have a glass of wine with at the end of the day–wouldn’t you? I’ll introduce you to more of the Blogger Street Team later.

7.  The sponsors of the event, including Enjoy Life Foods and Allergic Living Magazine and many others, are companies that make my food-allergic/celiac life better. I’d like to shake their hands (and yes, maybe get a free chocolate chip cookie or two from Enjoy Life).

8. Disney is known as the “gold standard” of special dietary food preparation. Not only do I get to go to an awesome convention in an awesome hotel in an awesome setting, I get to EAT and not WORRY about getting sick. Magical? I’d say so.

Disclaimer: FACCWDW is not affiliated or hosted by the Walt Disney Company, or any of its affiliates or subsidiaries.

I’ve Got Exciting News! (Hint: Big Ears) first appeared at Adventures of An Allergic Foodie.

Happy Hug a Blogger Day!

An Allergic Foodie Gets a Facelift

I blog for one reason–and one reason only–to help people.

When I discovered I had celiac disease and multiple food allergies and eosinophilic esophagitis–all in the same year!–I felt incredibly alone with myriad questions. How would I prepare meals for a family who ate EVERYTHING when I couldn’t eat ANYTHING? Would I ever be able to eat in a restaurant safely? What about travel? What would I say to friends who invited me over to dinner?

And the biggest question of all: WHAT WILL I EAT?

An Allergic Foodie Admits Mistakes

 

Two years ago, I turned to blogging because I needed to voice my fears, frustrations and foibles. I also hoped that maybe, just maybe, some kind soul out there with similar issues  would write back and tell me everything would be okay.

Both happened.

I found a safe place to vent–and do so often!–and I met other food-allergic folk like me. I even attended a conference for Food Allergy Bloggers. I’ve received and given hundreds of virtual hugs.

I am no longer alone . . . and I’ve found a purpose.

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Still, blogging is time-consuming. Learning how to make a “Pin-It” button is exasperating! Will someone teach me please? If you want to make money blogging, you’ve got to put even more hours in. Then there’s all the social media required to promote your blog and gain readers. Social media sucks the minutes out of your day like my vacuum would if someone powered it on.  How did I know I’d become addicted to Instagram? When I returned a lovely necklace my husband gave me so I could get a new camera with Wi-Fi capability.

 

Instagram

 

After your readership grows,  your mailbox fills with requests to review products. This is not a bad thing. I’ve learned about allergy-friendly foods and cookbooks I might never have discovered on my own. By readers’ responses, they like learning about these products, too. They especially like the giveaways!

A side note to marketing gurus: If you are going to send me a gluten-free product, check my allergies. I am an allergic foodie–not a gluten-free foodie.

Here’s the ugly side of product reviews.  Sometimes when you give a “bad” review, you get slammed. Read what happened to Gluten Dude. If bloggers can’t be truthful, what’s the point of blogging at all?

At some point, a blogger looks around at the piles of paperwork, laundry and dishes and says, “Maybe I should do something this morning besides writing a post.”

Or the blogger’s partner says, “Maybe you should do something this morning besides writing a post.”

So you sit down your iPad or iPhone or walk away from your computer.. . but wait! Was that the ding of a new message? It’s an unfamiliar name–a message from a follower thanking you for your latest post!

Your heart leaps.

We bloggers want to know we are making a difference. It’s what sustains us. Especially those of us who are doing this for free.

The other day a friend with a soy allergy told me on the phone how my post on soy-free eggs allowed her to enjoy eggs again. Then she mentioned her husband who is gluten intolerant liked my post Breaking up with Dr. Oz. I’m glad she couldn’t see the happy jiggle I did . . .  or the dishes in my sink and the laundry on my floor.

Because of her kind words and the kind words of so many readers, I once again set aside the book I’ve been writing for the last five years and wrote this post.  I even gave Adventures of An Allergic Foodie a facelift; after two years, she looked a little tired.

It’s not really “Hug a Blogger Day.” I made that up.

But go ahead–hug a blogger anyway.

Happy Hug a Blogger Day! originally appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

By istolethetv from Hong Kong, China (alien abduction Uploaded by Princess Mérida) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Battling My Leaky Gut

Lately I’ve been feeling like my leaky gut is an alien that’s taken over my body, like in one of those sci-fi movies my boys watched as kids. My leaky gut and all its accompanying symptoms control me physically and emotionally. My gut dictates my family life, my work life, my social life. It tells me where I can eat and what I can eat. It makes me tired and angry. It keeps me from traveling and doing the things I used to do. It makes my brain feel like mush and the wrong words come out of my mouth.

I wish I had an antidote to cure my leaky gut, so that I could return to the person I once was, the one who felt Super Human. Of course, back then,  I didn’t know I felt Super Human. I did not appreciate my health, my energy, my memory, and my non-eczema skin  because I didn’t know any different.

If I could go back in time,  oh how I’d live my life differently. I wouldn’t starve myself in high school because I wanted to fit in 28-waist Levis. I wouldn’t have lived on lettuce and beer in college. As a young mom, I’d skip the processed convenient foods and focus more on the outer aisles of the grocery stores. I’d follow the advice of my sister-in-law, an osteopathic doctor, who touted organic and non-GMO foods way before it was cool.

I would have eaten more organic foods

In my thirties, I’d take probiotics when I took antibiotics along with prescribed painkillers for the first medical procedure  . . .  and the second . . . and the third. I wouldn’t have believed the first two doctors who diagnosed IBS; instead, I would have listened to that voice in my head that said something else was wrong. Nor would I have believed the next two doctors who diagnosed gall bladder disease and not celiac disease and food allergies. Yes, the cheese sticks made me sick but not because they were fatty!  Because they were full of wheat and dairy!

When my father died, I would have taken long walks in the Vermont woods instead of drowning my sorrow in wine and Ben and Jerry’s. I would have believed that stress does impact your health.

But I can’t go back.

None of us can.

We can only go forward.

We can do all the things we should have been doing all along. We can continue educating ourselves about our leak guts and accompanying illnesses. We can stand up for ourselves at our doctors’ offices. We can listen to the voices in our heads when they tell us something isn’t quite right, or maybe I need another doctor’s opinion or test, or maybe the diet I’m following isn’t working.

Most importantly, we can support one another.

When you’re having a bad day, reach out to someone who understands; there are dozens of online support sources. Check out the websites, bloggers and nonprofit organizations who dedicate themselves to educating and supporting various autoimmune illnesses.

And when you’re feeling good–maybe not quite Super Human, but good nonetheless–help someone who is having a bad day.

It’ll make you feel even better.

***

After writing this post, I realized you could replace “Leaky Gut” with  “Celiac Disease” or “Food Allergies” or “Multiple Chemical Sensitivities” or “Lupus” or “Lyme Disease” or an other autoimmune illness and the meaning of my words would be the same. Coincidentally, it happens to be “awareness week or month” for just about every autoimmune disease. So if you want to substitute “leaky gut” for the illness you have and share this post (with a link back to me), please feel free to do so.

Battling My Leaky Gut first appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

Help an Allergic Foodie Learn to Cook–please!

One of my goals this summer was to learn some new recipes that my husband might like.

My husband, George, is the one person in our family who does not have food allergies.

Here he is concentrating on some crab legs in a restaurant in Rome (I know he’ll really appreciate me including this flattering photo).

George Eating in Italy

Unlike George, I have a laundry list of foods that can’t pass through my lips. And, if you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know our oldest son gets ill from dairy and eggs, our youngest from gluten. Even our Lhaso Apso Lucy can’t eat grains without breaking out in hives!

Here’s a picture of Lucy (I can’t pass up the opportunity to show you how cute she is).

November 2011 018

So why then, you may be asking yourself, am I trying to cook for the one person who can eat everything?

It’s simple really. If George likes what I serve, he’ll be more receptive to eating at home–less time in restaurants means less chance of cross-contamination. If George enjoys my gluten-free, egg-free pasta, he’ll forget all about that old wheat pasta his mother used to serve (by the way, George is Italian and loves his pasta!). Keeping wheat out of the kitchen helps me keep a clean–free of contaminants–kitchen.

Most importantly, if I can change my husband’s mindset–anything gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, corn-free must taste like cardboard–then I’ll only have to prepare one meal for the four of us!

You’ve been there, haven’t you? One (or more) of your family members is newly diagnosed and you’re cooking two (or more) meals–every mealtime! The wheat pasta and the rice pasta. The GF burger buns and the regular ones. The salad with Croutons and cheese, a salad sans Croutons, one with only Croutons, another without either Croutons or cheese.

Ugh! No wonder I drank a lot of wine in those days!

crazy-woman-drinking-wine

(This really isn’t me.)

Well, sad to say, I did not meet my goal. I ended up making allergy-friendly foods during the week, while my husband was travelling for work, then by the time he got home, I was tired of cooking! On the weekends I often opted for grilling a steak or piece of fish and serving a veggie and a salad. Not bad, but kind of gets boring. I even found myself agreeing to eat out (who doesn’t want an evening without dishes!?).  Of course, I more often than not found myself sick the next day, and the third day and the fourth . . .

But it’s the season of going back to school!  So today I publicly announce my goal of educating myself on allergy-free recipes and learning to cook better!

This IS me--in the 1950s.

This IS me–in the 1950s.

I vow to study every one of the wonderful allergy-friendly cookbooks out there, to read as many of marvelous blogger-chef websites I can find, and to create a smorgasbord of recipes all of us can–and want–to eat.

Now I’m not talking baking GF cookies and breads. I am not a baker, never have been. I much prefer to leave the baking to our local GF bakeries (we have two in Colorado Springs!) or purchase the yummy breads at the health food stores. (Bless you, allergy-free bakers, everywhere!)

What I want to learn to make is home cooking. A tasty meatloaf with a side of mashed potatoes. Shrimp Pad Thai that’s better than the one I can have at Noodles and Company. Oh yes, and Asian chicken lettuce wraps because I sooooo crave the ones I used to eat from P.F. Chang’s. Also, dairy-free, gluten-free mac and cheese that doesn’t come out of a box. Fried chicken for my husband. Pizza for my son who studied in Rome and misses “real” pizza. And easy dishes that my celiac college boy can fix himself.

It’s a tall order.

My first step is to treat myself to a pile of cookbooks. I happen to have a $100 gift card to help me get started–an investment in healthful eating seems like a great idea!

I need your help!  What allergy-friendly cookbooks can you, my fellow allergic foodies, not live without?

Tell me! Tell me!

P.S. If you visit Colorado Springs, don’t miss our gluten-free and allergy-friendly bakeries: Outside the Breadbox and Tabor Mountain Bakehouse.