Posts tagged ‘gluten free’

March 11, 2019

I’m Saying Cheerio to Cheerios®!

I’m saying cheerio to Cheerios! In fact, I already have. I don’t plan to ever eat them again. Why? Let me show you…
I’ve been struggling with one of my worst breakouts of dermatitis herpetiformis (DH) in years. By struggling, I mean it’s all I can do not to claw myself until I bleed. I can’t sleep because I itch. I can’t concentrate because I itch. I’m irritable, you guessed it, because I ITCH!

If you have this skin version of celiac disease you know what I mean. There is nothing that itches like this. Sixteen years ago, it was the itchy rash that drove me to the doctor with celiac disease. That wasn’t my only symptom, but it was the one that was hardest to ignore.

Now I am aware I just need to find whatever it is that’s triggering my immune system and stop consuming it. By process of elimination, I finally landed on oats. Since Christmas, I have eaten Glutenfreeda instant oatmeal, Nature’s Path Organic instant oatmeal, and Cheerios. All are labeled gluten-free.

According to, both General Mills and Nature’s Path begin with oats that have been contaminated with wheat, barley, and/or rye. They then mechanically and optically sort the oats to remove the contaminants. General Mills tests and validates the resulting flour, then at the end of the process again tests gluten levels.

In order to label a product as gluten-free, it must contain less than 20 parts per million gluten. In 2015, General Mills recalled 1.8 million boxes of Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios due to wheat contamination. One sample in that lot tested at 43 parts per million gluten.

I don’t necessarily believe that another accidental contamination has occurred. It’s much more likely that I encountered a hot spot of contamination in the cereal. This could be true and the tests could still be compliant.

In other words, General Mills is not misrepresenting test results. The question mark comes from the way the contaminants are removed and the tests are conducted.

After contaminants are removed from the oats, Cheerios begin with validated gluten-free flour. This validation is based on the mean test results from a 24-hour production cycle of flour. Once the Cheerios are cereal, the product test is also based on the mean results of a 24-hour production cycle.

Gluten Free Watch Dog describes the protocol for determining a lot mean as:
(As reported to Gluten Free Watchdog and confirmed October 12, 2018)

To arrive at a lot mean for gluten-free Cheerios, the following protocol is followed:
Twelve to eighteen boxes of cereal are pulled during a production cycle or “lot”.
The contents of each individual box are ground.
A sub-sample of ground product is taken from each box.
The sub-samples are composited—meaning they are combined.
The combined sub-samples are subject to additional grinding.
A minimum of six, 1-gram sample extractions are taken from this combined, ground sample (Note, formerly this was a minimum of twelve, 0.25-gram sample extractions).
Extractions are tested using the Ridascreen Fast Gliadin (R7002) and cocktail extraction solution.

Once the product is ground and mixed, the test is no longer necessarily giving an accurate representation of what may be in your spoon or bowl. It is also worth noting that the number of samples taken decreased from 2015 to 2018.

Testing protocols like this could help explain why a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2018 found that celiac patients adhering to a gluten-free diet typically consume up to 244mg of gluten per day. The study estimated the average inadvertent exposure to be 150–400mg using a stool test and 300–400mg using a urine test.

This inadvertent exposure is significant. A mere 15mg can cause symptoms in some of us. The damage underlying the symptoms undermines our attempts to be healthy. We certainly don’t spend our time reading labels, asking uncomfortable questions, missing out on our favorites, and enduring eye rolls just to end up ingesting gluten anyway. It is disheartening to know that labels may not present an accurate representation of the amount of gluten contained in food.

Of course, packaged foods are not the only source of gluten contamination. Restaurant food is a gamble as well. Some kitchens are better than others at avoiding cross-contact.

No matter how much awareness of gluten sensitivity increases, there is an ever-evolving question regarding the best way to navigate everyday life and avoid gluten. It isn’t realistic to think I can grow my own gluten-free grains, nuts, and seeds and grind my own flour. It is too isolating to never consume restaurant food.

I can cook the majority of my food at home. I can observe adverse reactions to specific foods. I can research sources of oats and testing protocols. I can eliminate Cheerios.

Due to my recent experience, I will no longer purchase “gluten-free” oat products that come from known contaminated sources. That means the remaining Nature’s Path oatmeal in my pantry is being donated. Once this round of DH heals, I will try Glutenfreeda oatmeal again…maybe. The memory of this itching will have to fade first.

The good news is, my rash is diminishing and I learned something about gluten-free oats. I cannot go backward. I must trust that my body will heal as miserable as I may be while it does.

I could have chosen to visit a dermatologist who may have prescribed Dapsone. That approach might have given me temporary relief, but once I quit eating Cheerios, I was better as quickly as the rash would have responded to the prescription. For me, a long-term solution is worth the time it takes to find it. You may not feel the same.

Each of us has unique tolerance levels, priorities, and health goals. We have to find the balance that works for us. Information is critical to finding that balance.

Now that I know more, I’m saying cheerio to Cheerios!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

September 15, 2015

Dermatitis Herpetiformis Leaves Me A Little Rough Around The Edges

This pineapple may be a little rough around the edges, but it’s also totally cute! In fact, it was the best find of my grocery shopping trip this week. Since then, every time I get dressed and feel the roughness on the back of my elbows I like to think of this pineapple. Why? Well, I have dermatitis herpetiformis (DH) – a skin manifestation of celiac disease, which sometimes leaves me rough around the edges. Thinking of this adorable pineapple reminds me that this annoying and ugly rash doesn’t prevent me from being the highlight of a meeting, the life of the party, a creative soul, a compassionate person, a smart cookie, or even a cutie pie.


DH on my elbow today.

I’m not saying I love having DH, but I am grateful that my long-term gluten-free lifestyle means that when it appears now it barely itches. In fact, now I often don’t notice the rash on my elbows until I run my hand across it when applying lotion. This wasn’t even close to true in the days when I consumed gluten. At that point, my rash was so unbearably itchy it required intense concentration at all times to keep from clawing at it. Sometimes I still couldn’t resist. It was driving me crazy!

I mean, it was seriously distracting. I had inflammation, pain, weakness, severe gastrointestinal symptoms, and my hair was falling out, yet the thing that drove me to the doctor was that itch. If you’ve had it, you understand why. If you haven’t there’s no way to express how pervasive it is. In spite of the fact that my case was a classic presentation, my doctor never considered celiac disease as a possible diagnosis. He prescribed an antihistamine and sent me on my way.

It was a long road from that point to one where I began healing. Looking back, I’d say the symptoms had been gradually increasing for at least 10 years. I know that the length of time it takes in the US to get a celiac diagnosis has dropped from 11 years to 4 years, but 4 years is a very long time to spend with a sixfold greater likelihood of death. Four years is a long time to deal with unnecessary daily pain, weakness, malaise, diarrhea, or the itchiest rash in the universe!

It’s become quite popular to debunk the benefits of a gluten-free diet for anyone other than the diagnosed celiac. While that might seem prudent if more than 17% of the 3,000,000 estimated celiacs in the US had been diagnosed, it is a bit presumptive at this point in history and it discourages people from trusting what their body is telling them. While I know that some of the self proclaimed gluten-free community is ill informed (as Jimmy Fallon discovered:, perpetually whiny, or over promotes itself, it’s worth pausing a moment before discouraging or challenging someone’s dietary choices. It could be that they feel on the inside like I felt on the outside when this rash, triggered by the iodine in radioactive dye used for a CT scan, covered 2/3 of my body.

As you can see, I was more than a little rough around the edges. If someone is feeling like that on the inside, I just want them to feel better, don’t you?



July 5, 2015

Gluten-Free Summer Freeze-Out Diet

Enjoy a gluten-free summer freeze-out diet! My list of preferred summer food includes all things really, really cold! Perhaps it’s because my kitchen and favorite sitting room hold heat late into the evening, or perhaps it’s because it’s, well, really hot outside. At least once per summer I resolve to eat nothing but ice cream until the leaves turn orange.

Today, I’ve been making a list of all the things I want to include in my Specialized Gluten-Free Summer Freeze-Out Diet. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

Lepops Gourmet Iced Lollies
These delicious frozen pops are handmade using locally grown produce and herbs. If you buy several, they throw in an insulated bag. My grand dog Stewart likes many of the flavors including Cucumber Jalapeño.

red mangoRed Mango® Frozen Yogurt
What I love about Red Mango is that the frozen yogurt retains the tanginess of regular yogurt instead of tasting just like ice cream. I don’t really have a favorite flavor here. I try whatever sounds good. My next choice will be the Taro flavor.

gelatoTalenti® Gelato
I especially like the Sea Salt Caramel flavor with its chewy chunks of chocolate I’m totally curious about the Black Cherry and Black Raspberry & Chocolate flavors too, but they never seem to be available at my local store.

cherrygarciaBen & Jerry’s Ice Cream
The names may be better than the ice cream, but Cherry Garcia® will pass in a pinch.

bbtattooBlue Bell Ice Cream
We can only hope Blue Bell gets its problems worked out. I like their flavors and the party they hosted at the facility in Broken Arrow.

I don’t much like sweet tea, but I’m still intrigued by Chef Andrea Litvin’s recipe for Sweet Tea Granita as published in Garden & Gun: I think it’s the ice in the photo that keeps luring me in.

Ice cold anything is appealing to me when the mercury tops 100. Later this week I’m going to a fundraiser featuring ice cream cocktails that combine locally distilled spirits with locally made ice cream. It sounds like the perfect way to enjoy giving back!

I may not be totally serious about eating nothing but ice cream this summer, but I love the idea! Have anything you’d like for me to add to my list? Let me know and I’ll try it out.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

June 2, 2015

It’s About to be Hot, Hot, Hot in the kitchen!

Before you know it, the spring storms will be through delivering this year’s unusually strong punch and it will just be hot, hot, hot in the kitchen. In my house in summer, I feel like I’m baking before I even start cooking!
A couple of days ago I lost my shade tree, so this year may prove even more brutal. In anticipation of this possibility, I’ve been playing with some simple microwave recipes that will keep me out of the heat as much as possible.

This Left Over French Fry Breakfast Casserole takes less than 10 minutes in the microwave AND it gives me another reason not to finish all the fries on my plate. I’m calling it a breakfast casserole because it contains ham and eggs, but it is hearty enough to serve for dinner.
breakfast casserole
Left Over French Fry Breakfast Casserole
Makes 4 – 6 Servings

Olive oil spray
1 8 oz package diced ham
1/2 cup Creole mix fresh chopped green peppers, herbs, and onions
1 1/2 – 2 cups left over french fries, cubed
4 eggs
1 tbsp water
Sprinkle of salt
Sprinkle of pepper
1/2 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese

Spray a pie pan with olive oil spray. Place ham, creole mix, and fries in pan. Stir together. Cover and microwave for 3 minutes. While mixture is in microwave, break eggs into small bowl, add water, and stir briskly with fork to mix yolks and whites until uniform. Sprinkle eggs with salt and pepper.

Remove mixture from microwave. Pour eggs over mixture, and stir. Once mixed, cover and microwave for 3 minutes. Remove and stir. Microwave for an additional 2 minutes.

Remove pan from microwave. Stir in cheese and press top with back of spoon to make the top level. Let stand for 1 minute. Serve hot.

I make this using 96% fat free ham and ingredients that contain no gluten. It can be easily adapted to fit your eating plan. Later today, I’m going to try a version using left over gyro and Feta cheese in place of the ham, Cheddar, and Mozzarella.

Have another version you’d like for me to try? Submit it below and I’ll let you know how it turns out!