Gut Instinct: Finding Stealth Gluten

I’ve delayed writing this post because I wanted a big reveal. Last post I talked about the surprising news from the gastroenterologist that my serology showed evidence of ongoing gluten exposure. I’ve been reeling, trying to find the source. Where is the stealth gluten?

Where, oh where, is the stealth gluten?

After emailing several manufacturers to get reassurances on some beloved faves, and getting no reply from a few (I’m talking about you, Dial soap: just because you’re my husband’s fave doesn’t mean I can’t kick you to the curb), I put my new Nima sensor to work.

Note: I receive nothing, no money, no discounts, no freebies, no perks whatsoever for talking about Nima. I bought my sensor with my own money and to my knowledge, the company has no idea I write this blog.

I tested more than a dozen different products, both those labeled gluten free and those touted online as gluten free by their manufacturers but not labeled as such. Each time, I wJoy Cupsaited the requisite three minutes, excitedly hoping this would be the product I’d unmask as harboring stealth gluten.

I started with the following products labeled as gluten free and new in the past six months to my diet:

  • Mission Gluten Free Corn Tortillas (they say gluten free but aren’t “certified gluten free” so I wanted to be sure)
  • Arctic Zero Peanut Butter Swirl frozen dessert (this is the most amazing non-dairy, gluten free, low-glycemic frozen dessert ever. OMG. I want to eat it for every  meal and at 75 calories a serving or 300 calories for the entire pint, I probably could…but don’t)
  • Up & Up Calcium Chews (vitamin supplement)
  • Aldi Mango Salsa
  • Joy Gluten Free Ice Cream Cup Cones

They all produced the signature smiley face confirming no gluten lurked in the product. Whew!

I then tested the following products identified on the manufacturer’s website as gluten free:

  • McCormick Spices: roasted ginger, cinnamon (separately tested)
  • Ricola Honey Lemon Cough Drops (this one says the product tests below the 20 parts per million threshold)

They tested negative for gluten.

I then tested the following products that no one said were or weren’t gluten free:

  • Archer Farms Dried Ginger Powder
  • Publix Dried Onion Granules
  • Publix Fruit on the Bottom Yogurt Black Cherry (my husband eats this. I envy him because I can’t do dairy)

They also tested gluten free.

A little frustrated (I want a source!) and a lot relieved (I love these products and would hate to forgo them), I took a break.

And then I thought about three new prescription meds in our medicine cabinet. Even though my pharmacist is amazing and always checks the gluten status of any drug before she fills my prescriptions, I tested them because the manufacturer of the generic can change from month to month and two of them didn’t show up on glutenfreedrugs.com, the indespensible online listing I discussed in another post.

Everything tested negative for gluten.

Rats. And yay!

In a bit of serendipiosity (not a real word, I know; I’m borrowing from one of my all-time favorite movies: Serendipity), during a shopping trip to Aldi over the weekend, I discovered a can of Fit & Active low sodium diced tomatoes that previously was labeled “naturally gluten free” no longer contained a gluten free designation.  Hmm.

What does “naturally gluten free” mean, anyway? In my previous post I wrote how, according to one manufacturer, its frozen vegetables could not be labeled gluten free. Although the veggies themselves contained no gluten ingredients–and no ingredients other than the vegetables–they were processed on lines that processed gluten-containing products and, therefore, could pick up traces of gluten during processing. This also was true of a popular line of sparkling ciders, as I shared in another post.

Maybe, I thought, one of the foannies-label.jpgods in my pantry labeled “naturally gluten free” aren’t gluten free after all. I pulled out a few to test.

First up was Aldi’s Rice Cakes with Sea Salt. Gluten free!

The next suspect was Annie’s Naturals Organic Dijon Mustard.  The back label says “naturally gluten free.”

This time, Nima begged to differ.Annie's Gluten

I actually did a happy dance, even though we just used this mustard yesterday and the day prior. We frequently use this mustard. It’s the secret ingredient for both our cole slaw and our potato salad, plus it has given a zesty kick to several chicken dishes. In the last month, I’ve ingested this mustard at least 16 times, if not more.

I now know why inflammation and pain are bloating my little belly. I have a reason why I have a new outbreak of DH (dermatitis herpetiformis, aka the gluten rash some of us with celiac disease get) on my knees. I know why I’ve felt incapable of thinking straight. I know why I feel so tired, why my muscles hurt and spasm (exacerbating fibromyalgia). I might even have some explanation for why I’ve been losing my hair. Yes, these all are symptoms and effects of celiac disease.

And I’ll be able to tell my gastroenterologist on Thursday when I go in for an upper endoscopy and biopsies to check on the damage in my small intestine I really am following the gluten free diet. I just got outwitted by inaccurate labeling masking stealth gluten.

 

Gut Instinct: In Search of an Answer

My gut has been roiling for the past two months and not because of national politics. I got worried about the persistent pain and the degree to which my abdomen appeared to be swollen, so I made an appointment with a new gastroenterologist.

If you have gut issues, you probably understand how stressful it can be to go to the doctor. An MD is no guarantee the person you trust with your health is kind or even competent. As my mother used to say, there’s a top 1/3 and a bottom 1/3 in every medical school’s graduating class, as well as the top 1/3 and bottom 1/3 of medical schools themselves.

The gastroenterologist who diagnosed me with celiac disease in 2009 did so by mail. A week after the endoscopy I received a form in the mail with the following words scribbled on it: Evidence of celiac disease. Restart gluten free diet.

That’s it?

Continue reading Gut Instinct: In Search of an Answer

Complicit in Oppression: What I, a White Person, Must Do to Stop It

I have not written for this blog in the past year because I was busy being a newlywed. That silence ends today with a post that doesn’t talk about gluten. It talks about something even more sickening.

This post sprouted from a conversation I followed on Facebook. The conversation was started by a beautiful woman I had the privilege of learning from when she was a student at the university that employed me (and also is our alma mater). I still learn from her, ten years later, as she challenges white people me to understand and confront our own racism and its crippling, killing effect on her and all people of color.

She said she doesn’t trust white people. A large number of her friends admitted their distrust, too, a distrust we white people have earned with our mercurial support for civil rights and equal rights. We show up when it suits us, and when we show up, we twist the whole thing to suit us. We want “credit” for supporting Black Lives Matter with our signs and bumper stickers but where were we in the demonstrations and marches against racist police brutality? We marched en masse for women but our pussy hats all were pink (didja think about the colors of women of color down there?)

Continue reading Complicit in Oppression: What I, a White Person, Must Do to Stop It

Accessorize Snow Wise

There are so many pretty ways to realize your theme for a wedding without causing yourself to cringe when you later look at the photos. I’d be cringing right now if I’d gone all out, say, with a wedding gown or even bridesmaids’ gowns embroidered with snowflakes. I did investigate options for about a day before deciding classic with a sprinkling of snowflakes was the much better way to go. Looking now at the pix, I am glad I did.

I can thank my my dearly departed mother, who had strong and wise opinions about how far to take a theme. I remember her planning a Halloween-themed birthday party for my sister one year when we were kids. She went all out on the decor but drew the line on serving guts in blood (spaghetti and sausage in tomato sauce). It’s all fun and games, she said, until a kid runs home crying about being forced to eat a bowl of guts and a piece of bone meal cake. Who wants to answer that call, my mother asked, especially if the little party-goer ended up barfing on the new sofa once she got home?

I never forgot that bit of advice and it’s served me well.

Continue reading Accessorize Snow Wise

A Little Flakey on the Decor

With Winter Wonderland as our wedding theme, and our wedding scheduled for January 3rd, we made things easy (and inexpensive) on ourselves with respect to decor and accessories. Planning the wedding during the Advent season meant both online and bricks and mortar retailers were all flaked out, and willing to discount, for the season.

The ridiculous popularity of the Disney movie Frozen contributed even more snowflake-themed products to the marketplace, both a boon and a bear. Sure, there were  more flakes available in September and October, but the aqua and purple hues didn’t quite  complement our wedding palette of midnight blue, silver, and grey, nor did the ubiquitous character visages. “I do and Olaf does, too,” just didn’t seem romantic…or age-appropriate. Talk about the need to let it go.

A word about snowflakes. The snowflake seemed the perfect symbol for our wedding. Each one is special, with its own design and its own purpose. One snowflake by itself is nothing much but when it joins with another snowflake its power and purpose are multiplied. Like the snowflake, we are stronger together than we are on our own, yet we retain our unique purpose and design within the relationship. We are snowflakes and even when it gets warm and we might melt, we simply change shape and flow on. It’s an imperfect simile but it worked better for us than guns and grosgrain. Continue reading A Little Flakey on the Decor

Let’s Makeup

When’s a good time to try new makeup? A) When the dermatologist tells you the ridiculously itchy, scarring rash on your elbows, knees, shoulders and shins is dermatitis herpetiformis, an autoimmune disease linked to celiac disease; B) when the gastroenterologist tells you the DH diagnosis is spot on because the biopsies of your small intestine plus the blood tests all say celiac disease; C) it’s the holidays; or D) you’re getting married.

I go with E) all of the above.

When dermatologist said I had DH, I had no idea how radically my life would change. When the GI doc handed me the celiac disease diagnosis–wait, he didn’t hand it to me or even tell me face to face. I got the happy news in a form letter sent by snail mail: “the results are consistent of a celiac disease diagnosis. Start the gluten free diet,” was all it said.

Given no guidance by the doctor, I dug up everything I could about the two diseases on the Internet. I ordered books from IMG_7865Amazon. I subscribed to magazines like Living Without, the Gluten Free Living, and Simply Gluten Free.

I learned that I had to change not only my diet, but also every pot, pan, utensil, and dish with which I cooked and ate.

After a month of constantly being glutened and having no idea how it happened, I realized I had to change all my health and beauty aids, too. Some posts and pamphlets I read said not to worry about your soap, shampoo, body lotion, facial moisturizers and even makeup, except for lipstick, because you don’t ingest them. Others said absolutely be fanatical about them because, honestly, how many times a day do you touch some part of your skin or hair without even thinking about it and how many times do those same fingers put something into or touch your mouth?

Plus, how do you keep the rinse water away from your mouth when you cleanse your face or wash your hair? I can’t.

If there’s a chance that even tiny bits of something could end up inside me, it has to be gluten free. End of GF soapboxing. Continue reading Let’s Makeup

Gut Reaction to Fashion: Choosing a Painless Gown

Twenty-one days after my reproductive organs were yanked through my birth canal, I  accidentally went wedding dress shopping.

I don’t recommend this.

I don’t recommend any kind of shopping three weeks post surgery, unless you traverse said shopping emporium by way of velvet-lined, pillow-packed coach and are accompanied by people who fetch what you want and bring it to you. Bonus points if they pay for it, too.

I especially don’t recommend jamming yourself into couture created by camouflaging cinching corsets with swaths of satin and silk that some commission-currying consultant will clamp so snugly to your corpus you can’t cough, all to show you how to look like a million skinny bucks. Continue reading Gut Reaction to Fashion: Choosing a Painless Gown

Receptively GFree (No Cross-Contamination)

Finding a caterer who not only understands what gluten free means (it’s not, “just avoid the  couscous on the buffet”) but also has the knowledge and expertise to cook 100% gluten free is a challenge. Finding a caterer who can cook delicious AND affordable gluten free food–no $2 upcharge per GFree roll–sounds like an impossible task.

When planning my wedding, I queried a dozen independent caterers as well as in-house caterers at special events facilities in and around metro Atlanta. Several didn’t even bother to answer me. A few seemed to confuse gluten free with the Atkins diet. “We’ll do an all meat and no carbs dinner,” one offered.

Another said I could just take the rolls off my plate and they wouldn’t put gravy on my chicken breast but everyone else should have the gravy because not having the gravy would made the dish less spectacular.

Uh, no, thanks.

My favorite response was, “Well, the bride never eats at her wedding, anyway. You could just bring snacks for yourself and let us make an unforgettable banquet for your guests.”

Really? Continue reading Receptively GFree (No Cross-Contamination)

Piece of Cake!

Finding gluten free cake isn’t as difficult as it used to be, thanks both to entrepreneurial bakers yearning to share with others the tasty spoils of their kitchen wars and big food factories eager to cash in on the gluten free “craze.” Too often, however, the cakes look less like dreamy confections and more like clumsy claymation.

Finding a baker who can produce yummy, truly gluten and dairy free cake suitably beautiful for a wedding is no easy task. The gluten free bride can go with a strictly gluten free bakery or go with a wedding cake baker who offers both traditional and GF cakes. She also can make it herself or have a family member make it, or she can go to the nearest GF food grocer and purchase frozen confections to serve.

I quickly crossed off the bakers who make both traditional and gluten free cakes. I just don’t trust anything made in the same building where durum wheat wafts in the wind. I’m so sensitive, I once got glutened at a tasty national sandwich-bakery chain and I didn’t eat anything. How do they prevent flour from settling into the crevices or coating the work surfaces even if they clean the place with a fire hose and thick suds? How are they segregating ingredients so they don’t commingle on the apron or in the oven?

I also wasn’t going to make my own cakes. I already was DIY’ing the planning, the flowers and the decor, plus relying on family for hair and makeup. The cakes had to be professionally done and done so well no one would say, “Well, they’re that weird gluten free fad stuff; of course they taste like cardboard iced in muslin.” Continue reading Piece of Cake!

Planning a Gluten Free Wedding on a Budget

Apologies for the dearth of posts the last two months. I wasn’t sick or in jail, thank goodness. I was super busy planning a wedding. My wedding. Yes, I planned and pulled off an entire wedding—from appetizers, bridesmaids, and cake to tuxedos, underthings, a veil and white gown…and everything in between—for 100 guests in four months.

It wasn’t that hard. I mean, what else is there to do while recovering from surgical removal of one’s womanly innards and resulting complications thereof?

Sure, I could have wallowed in self-pity: woe is me (or, more correctly, I) for being in pain for five months and counting (I have gotten a bit peevish about the pain on a few occasions). How awful to be in menopause when I’m not even fifty (I got over this pretty quickly). Rue that I’ll never have children of my own (this does prickle me with sorrow from time to time and then I think of all the kids I’ve helped as a teacher or adviser in the past twenty years plus being an aunt is pretty danged awesome). Wallowing is boring and surprisingly exhausting. I prefer to look on the bright side of things.

There were and are a lot of bright sides to the surgery. Number one, I don’t have cancer. We can end the gratitude list right there. What else do I need to feel immensely grateful? The surgery and cancer scare reminded me that life is unpredictable and short. There are no guarantees that I’ll have next year or any years after that, or even next week. Life can change in an instant. The doctor could have found cancer and I could be dying or dead right now.

Given that uncertainty, as well as the good news that, at least for now, I’m not dying, why not go for it and get married to the most wonderful man in the world? And why not do it sooner than later? Continue reading Planning a Gluten Free Wedding on a Budget

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