Happy Halloween!

It’s Halloween and I’m in a bit of a stormy mood. I think that’s appropriate, but others who must deal with me may have a different opinion. I understand. But at least I’m feeling stormy on a holiday filled with witches, ghosts, and zombies! I fit right in.

Like everything these days, Halloween may require some last-minute adjustments. Ingredients in candy may have changed due to supply shortages. Some neighbors may not hand out treats because they’re sick. Others may not be able to afford to buy candy when the price of food is so high.

But Halloween can still be fun!

If you’re on a specialized diet, rereading the labels of your favorites may be the only adjustment needed.

Gluten -free kids can switch to Halloween cookies at the last minute. Deconstruct some gluten-free Oreos and use orange and white icing to decorate them like jack-o-lanterns.

Popcorn Balls may be another quick-change option if you’re gluten-free.

For those who limit sugar, Brach’s® offers a variety of Gummy Bears and individually wrapped Fruit Slices jelly candy and Hershey’s has zero sugar chocolate bars. These sugar-free options may contain alcohol sugars that need to be avoided on a low histamine diet.

Last year, my grandkids and I turned Rice Krispy treats into ghouls with the help of cookie cutters and some black and green frosting. Then we made a burrito into a headless character from a cartoon we’d just watched.

Your cupboard and pantry are probably full of Marshmallows and trash bags that can become ghosts at a moment’s notice. Black microwave containers can become mini cauldrons filled with cheese dip or chocolate witch’s brew.

Spaghetti and red sauce can look like bloody intestines. Pixie Stix® may be filled with goblin ashes. All it takes is a little imagination and collaborative suspension of disbelief to make Halloween magic.

I took a 6, 4, and an almost three-year-old for a ride through the neighborhood to look at Halloween decorations a couple of days ago. I had a bag full of prizes. We held a contest to see who could find the most of an assigned category – bats, spiders, witches, and ghosts. The first one to find 5 in their category got a prize.

After a quick first round, it was clear that jack-o-lanterns would be the best category, so the 6-year-old teamed up with me to find pumpkins. We counted over 200. He practiced adding numbers together. I kept the other two engaged and we all earned prizes. It was great, spur-of-the-moment fun.

Today has already required many adjustments. I’m not feeling good about some of those, but overall I’m happy it’s Halloween and excited to see all the trick-or-treaters this evening. And if they don’t show up, I’m happy to eat their candy.

Happy Halloween!

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.”

ad

Grab & Go

How can I grab & go if I must avoid gluten, histamine, FODMAPS, and dairy? It’s a great question! And a pertinent one if your family gets hangry like mine.

While it may seem be easier than ever to avoid gluten, the task becomes more difficult as restrictions compound. Some restaurants offer a salad base to turn a sandwich into a salad. That’s great unless the salad contains a significant amount of mushrooms, spinach, or finely chopped tomatoes that are high in histamine. And you’ll probably have to ask them to hold the cheese to avoid dairy and problematic plant-based cheeses. Then there’s the matter of fruit in salads – some are high in histamine and some are full of short-chain carbohydrates known as fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols or FODMAPs.

Of course you can eat at home, but grab & go can be complicated there too. Canned tuna & chicken, deli meat, sausage, polish sausage, ham, and hot dogs are typically high in histamine. Pickles are out. Packaged salad toppers with candied nuts and dried fruit are out.

Although it requires a bit of effort, there are ways to mitigate the inconvenience and have grab & go options at the ready when mealtime slips up on you.

Here are some ideas:

Gluten-free instant oatmeal is shelf-stable, filling and easy to carry. Keep some in the pantry to fill in gaps when someone gets too hungry.

Imagine® shelf-stable chicken, bone, or vegetable (contains a small amount of tomato) broth can be heated in the microwave and served in a mug as a satisfying drink to take the edge off of hunger.

Keep some gluten free bread or bagels on hand or in the freezer and nut butters in the pantry. If you haven’t tried peanut butter on warm toast, give it a try. It’s surprisingly good!

Replace sandwich meat with pre-grilled or blackened thinly sliced chicken breasts or steak. Trim away any fat, season with salt, pepper, and garlic. Bake or grill the chicken just until done. Sear the steak in a skillet and finish in the oven. Cook two or three times as much as you normally would. Freeze in daily portions. Thaw a day or two before you run out of easy-to-grab foods.

Chicken can be eaten on a sandwich with lettuce, fresh cucumber slices, and fresh basil leaves. It can be sliced or shredded and served inside a wrap with hummus (if tolerated), and fresh red bell pepper slices.

The fastest, easiest way to have these proteins available is to buy and prepare larger than normal quantities when you’re cooking the items anyway. The same is true of beef or pork roast which can be sliced and then frozen for later use on salads, sandwiches, and in wraps. Purchase an additional pound of roast to prepare when you’re making roast for dinner.

Keep a supply of low histamine vegetables that can be enjoyed raw – carrots, zucchini, cucumber, lettuce, green onions as well as low histamine/low FODMAP fresh fruit – blueberries, kiwi, and raw nuts (if well tolerated).

Purchase an extra half-dozen or dozen eggs along with your regular purchase. Boil the extras and keep them in the refrigerator. You can even pre-peel them once they’re cool so that they’re truly grab & go. They can also be used in egg salad or a green salad.

Bake and freeze a dozen muffins. Thaw in the microwave as needed or take a weekly portion out of the freezer and allow to thaw in the refrigerator for everyday use.

You can also make and freeze pancakes fitting your needs that can be used as a wrap for breakfast sandwiches.

As long as you keep it simple, staying ahead of the game doesn’t require too much time and effort. Tack a few tasks onto things you already have planned. Keep a few strategic items in the freezer and pantry. Before you know it, dietary compliant grab & go will seem like a piece of cake.

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.”

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…
dh
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 glutenfreewatchdog.org, 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!

https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/news/updated-testing-protocol-from-general-mills-for-labeled-gluten-free-cheerios/

https://www.cheerios.com/our-gluten-free-process/

https://www.allergicliving.com/2015/10/06/gluten-free-labeled-cheerios-recalled-due-to-wheat-contamination/

https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/news/oats-produced-under-a-gluten-free-purity-protocol-listing-of-suppliers-and-manufacturers/

https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/107/2/201/4911450

https://consumer.healthday.com/diseases-and-conditions-information-37/celiac-disease-962/one-third-of-gluten-free-restaurant-foods-in-u-s-are-not-study-738383.html

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/dermatitis-herpetiformis-leaves-little-rough-around-edges/

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.”

Dermatitis Herpetiformis Leaves Me A Little Rough Around The Edges

pineapple
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.

elbow
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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AdJFE1sp4Fw), 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.
DHSM

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?

{}

Resources
http://www.celiac.com/articles/22028/1/Increased-Mortality-Rates-for-Celiacs/Page1.html

http://www.cureceliacdisease.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/CeliacDiseaseFactsAndFigures0614.pdf

http://sciencelife.uchospitals.edu/2014/02/05/dr-faq-stefano-guandalini-on-the-rise-of-celiac-disease/