The ups, downs, and runarounds of Celiac Disease and food sensitivities

Archive for the category “Deglutition”

Leak in the gut?

I’ve broached the subject of leaky gut with my gastroenterologist and DO, but neither seems to want to talk about it. I’ve even mentioned research I’ve read, yet they just brush me off. Based on the numerous exclusions from my diet and continued GI and systemic symptoms, I do not think my gut is healed. I know a handful of Celiac folks who, like me, are 99.999% certain of no gluten contamination for whom this is also the case.

So what’s the dealio? Check out this podcast posted on http://www.glutenfreeschool.com/ with Dr. Amy Myers, MD.

Also see her checklist of the symptoms of leaky gut and how to address the issue. Let’s increase discussion of this condition!

Food For Healing

Food For Healing

An interesting discussion of foods that heal (VEGGIES) or harm (processed food).

“When it comes to food, we have all heard plenty about what is bad for us. But what about food that is especially good for us…. foods that keep you happy, satisfied, and might even be used to cure illness?

We pursue just such nutritional possibilities.”

Jeremy Akers, Ph.D., R.D.
 – Nutrition researcher.  Registered Dietician. Assistant Professor of Health Science, James Madison University. Former Obesity Prevention Nutritionist Coordinator for the Virginia Department of Health.

Robyn Coale, R.D. – Registered Dietician. Author of the nutrition blog The Real Life RD. Director of Nutrition for the Scottsville, Virginia based medical group Revolution Health Center.

Additional Contributor:
Gregory S. Gelburd, D.O. – Family practice physician.  Co-founder of the Downtown Family Health Care Center in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Fine Flours Kickstarter!

The lovely folks at Fine Flours are trying to expand their farmer’s market sales and custom orders to a gluten-free deli! They make great things, and they are sweet people!

Check out their page on kickstarter.com and the video below! Also, their regular website for current gluten-free (and some vegan!) offerings!


I wanted to share a sampling of the lovely loaves I’ve trialled in the last month. In the interest of full disclosure and aspirations of replication, SG-FBP (standard gluten-free bread practices, e.g. spooning flours/starches into measuring cups & the leveling off with a knife, mixing dry & wet ingredients separately, speedy transfer of dough to oven following said mixing, judging doneness via food thermometer in the middle of the loaf reading 210 degrees F) were utilized across all loaves.

First up, the contender from Living Without. This was a bit of a high-maintenance loaf, and definitely requires a careful setting out of all ingredients, greasing & flouring of pan, and beforehand cooking of quinoa or millet (I used millet). In order to avoid the magical fruit flour, I replaced it with grain flours of equal weight. This loaf ended up containing millet, sorghum, teff, and brown rice flours with tapioca, arrowroot, and potato starches. In place of the sparkling cider I used a can or two of pomegranate Izze sparkling juice (purchased at a major discount from a local bargain supermarket); sparkling juices or plain old carbonated water also work well in bread or other baked good recipes calling for water by providing the e’er elusive loft and soft qualities of “real” bread to the gluten-free, vegan counterparts. I also subbed in brown rice syrup for the honey, simply because it’s what I had on hand. I mixed the dry & wet ingredients by hands, which resulted in a few clumps of cooked millet spread throughout the baked product. I only have a hand mixer that is on its last leg, so next time I would puree the cooked millet or quinoa in a food processor or blender prior to adding it to the rest of the ingredients. This bread rose quite nicely for a yeast-free loaf, surely aided by my recent purchase of a 9 x 4 x4 loaf pan specifically designed for gluten-free bread. I have yet to bake a loaf that rises to the extent of the picture on the King Arthur website, but it certainly yields higher loaves than my other loaf pans. The gluten-free loaf pan is unique in that it’s sides are all perfectly perpendicular to the bottom of the pan; most standard loaf pans have a slight tilt to their 4 sides. The right angles of the gluten-free loaf pan somehow (witchcraft? nah, science) support a more effective environment for the dough to climb up the sides.

And how did it taste? In the words of my significant but gluten-consuming other, “This tastes like bread!” Now, I’ve made what I would deem “good gluten-free bread” in the past, and I in fact enjoy the prominent tang of certain gluten-free flours (e.g. amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat), but this loaf really did taste like whole wheat. I think the combination of multiple flours and starches (instead of the typical 1-2 flours + 1 starch) really shaped the end result into a mellow wheat-y hue.

GE DIGITAL CAMERANext up we have the soaked quinoa loaf. I’d made soaked quinoa pizza crust and soaked grain pancakes/dosas, but this is a veritable LOAF. Super easy! Very short ingredient list! No mussing about with flours/starches (I can’t seem to measure my starches without dusting the entire kitchen and myself with a thin layer of snow)! This loaf could technically be called a two-day process, but soaking quinoa overnight is a fairly passive step. I would imagine it would work just as well with any other soaked grain. The end result did not have that bitter taste of un-toasted quinoa flour. In fact, it had a very light and sweet sourdough element. The outside was crunchy, and the inside was nice and moist (without being mushy). My gluten-free loaf pan wasn’t able to work its loft-giving magic with this loaf, probably because there just wasn’t enough dough. If I make it again, I would probably use mini-loaf pans or even make the recipe as muffins. I would also measure the chia seeds, then grind them, so that digestion would be an easier task (if you can handle digesting full seeds/nuts, then no need to do this). I didn’t use a topping of any sort. Yum! Oh and check out that wonky little crater!

GE DIGITAL CAMERABringing up the rear in fine form, we have the teff pumpkinseed loaf. This is currently cooling and I am currently attempting to resist its allure beyond the two small slices I’ve already savored. This loaf was easier to pull together than the first one, but it did require a few little prep steps, such as toasting and grinding the pumpkin seeds (Have you heard of nuts.com? Have you experienced the wonders of their extensive list of CERTIFIED GLUTEN-FREE bulk items?? If this means nothing to you, imagine not being able to safely buy things in bulk anymore, anywhere, after a diagnosis of Celiac Disease. Yeah, raw pepitos in bulk are a big. DEAL.). Other than that, there’s the standard soaking of flaxseed meal, to which we bakers of egg-free goods have grown accustomed. This loaf rose nicely, though I didn’t do a great job of creating a flat surface prior to placing it in the oven (it’s the whole “rustic” look, right?). And taste = wow! Moist, hearty, mellow. Teff is one of my favorite gluten-free flours (aside from the less pronounced “base” flours such as millet and sorghum), but due to its high cost, I typically sub 1/4 to 1/2 of the amount called for with buckwheat, as I did with this loaf.


In case you were wondering, I do in fact make food other than bread… Currently working on some carrot ketchup in the crock pot and some zucchini pizza sauce in the oven! Also enjoying a cauliflower cheese sauce I’d pulled out of the freezer this week, atop spaghetti squash with broccoli, spinach & chicken.

In other news, I killed my coffee grinder making walnut butter… It lived a full life, grinding spices, seeds, nuts, and grains. I was going to purchase a refurbished Vitamix, but decided to hold off and hope that Santa brings one. I know that $329 is a great deal for a Vitamix, but it’s not exactly within budget. I bought a $10 coffee grinder to carry me through til then. I am probably the only person whose coffee grinders never see the light of actual coffee, but hey, they sure can rustle up some smooth cashew cream!

International Celiac Disease Symposium 2013

In case you wanted a preview of some of the topics discussed and conclusions reached at this annual conference devoted to all things Celiac & gluten, here are few links!

NPR just broadcast a story on results suggesting that changes to strains of wheat and altering gluten content of wheat are not to blame for the increase in cases of Celiac Disease/gluten sensitivity. After reading Mary Roach’s Gut, I find it much more palatable and believable that, as the NPR article concludes, there is so much we still don’t know about the gut, genetics, and autoimmune functions of the body (meant to protect us, but in the end self-destructing- I imagine little GI Joe antibody troops who’ve lost their leader blindly shooting off rounds into our bloodstreams). Also, if you have no symptoms (and ARE NOT RELATED TO SOMEONE WITH CELIAC/NCGS/AUTOIMMUNE CONDITIONS), keep on glutening on!

Celiac and the Beast dispels several gluten myths as addressed during the conference.  Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a point to my habit of taking a gluten enzyme on the rare occasion I dine away from home to counter the appearance or intensity of my reaction to a dust particle of stray gluten. Womp womp. But promising things to come? Also, I didn’t realize that some folks thought coffee contained gluten. I never thought it did, but I certainly cannot consume it (or other sources of caffeine) and expect to spend my day off the commode and out of bed. Celiac = busted gut. Poop transplant, please? And finally, gluten in shampoo (yep, wheat was in my shampoo and conditioner when I took the time to read the ingredients shortly after my diagnosis) and other toiletries  is not capable of somehow permeating the skin and stealing your soul like a bloodthirsty extra-terrestrial (by which I mean shriveling the villi). BUT. Some of us are bad at, say, putting on lotion, then proceeding to pick up a snack to eat. Or rinsing out the shampoo-y residue in the kitchen sink (which, admittedly, may have just one tiny dirty dish or two) prior to discarding the container in the recycling bin. When it comes to playing the odds of being laid up in bed with an intestinal on/off switch unpredictably yet violently maneuvered by a trigger happy 2 year-old, I’ll go with gluten-free everything, permeability or no.

Lastly, the ever-credible Living Without has posted a brief blurb about the conference; I certainly look forward to their follow-up (they really top the GF ‘zines when it comes to reporting research).

Zen Cat Bakery Review

If you are ever in the vicinity of Durham, NC, you MUST get your hands on some baked goods from Zen Cat Bakery! Whether plagued by food allergies or no, this stuff is for you and your belly! All products are gluten-free and vegan, minimally refined and/or organic, with no soy ingredients. Upon perusing the website and thinking this had to be too good to materialize into some form of a reality into which I could sink my sweet tooth, I emailed with the gracious owner and found that each baked good is individually wrapped in plastic at the exclusively gluten-free production site before delivery to various cafes and restaurants in the Durham/Greensboro area! Cross-contamination BE GONE. Aside from the carrot cake, that is, but when I visited Cocoa Cinnamon, the cake was in its own stand, with its own, gluten-free spatula! Joy was undoubtedly me! Where to even begin with the numerous menu items... I snuck the carrot cake into a wedding reception (to which I was invited, no sneaking in!)- wow, what a treat!

IMG_0406 IMG_0405 IMG_0404 IMG_0403 IMG_0402 IMG_0401 IMG_0400 IMG_0399 IMG_0398

A few food firsts

A first attempt at a galette, combining the results of a “gluten-free vegan galette” Google search for the crust with strawberry rhubarb reduction (a little bit of gory overflow):

galetteFirst time trying sorghum as a whole grain. Despite its popularity as a flour in gluten-free baked goods as well as in my own kitchen, I don’t really hear or read much about sorghum as a whole grain. Well, it can indeed to purchased, cooked, and enjoyed. Sort of a milder buckwheat-type flavor. Unlike other grains, sorghum requires 4 cups of water to 1 cup of kernels, and takes a bit longer to cook (similar to millet). As with all of my grains prep, I soaked it overnight before cooking for 2 rounds in my rice cooker. Another gluten-free grain option!

sorghum sorghum cooked


While some might balk at this confession, I miss cheese more than I miss bread. Enter baked almond feta! Tangy, creamy, FETA-Y! Be sure to grind the almonds in a coffee grinder if you don’t have a high-powered blender or food processor to achieve maximal smoothness. I found that it wasn’t quite baked after 50 minutes in the oven (I have a thermometer, so certain of the temp), but it crisped up nicely after a few additional minutes in my toaster oven.



So good that there was not an ounce of shame, but indeed immense pride, in serving it with a new-to-me french bread recipe. I’ve found more comfort with yeast-free breads, and thankfully recipes such as this very simple french bread exist, and deliver! And yes, I chose the countertop to match the bread.

french bread


Glutenfrei etc. in Berlin

So, Berlin! Such a great time exploring botanical gardens, graffitied alleyways, cathedral and crypt, festival of cultures (9 hour parade!), coffee shops, independent movie theaters, former Nazi then US Air Force airport… and so much more! Really, I don’t think anyone could go to Berlin and not find at least 1 thing of interest/merit, yet despite its size and cultural offerings, it is full of quiet, suburban pockets merely 5 minutes away from an attraction such as Alexanderplatz. Yes, I could definitely live there (though I’d prefer that the locals at least allow me to practice my shoddy German before automatically switching to fluent English). But, what about that niggling little thing that drives this entire blog?

What about the FOOD???

Well, I am happy to report that the situation is generally much brighter than what I had gleaned from preparatory internet perusal. So let’s get the negative over with first. I ate out twice (which is an anomaly, I don’t eat out in the U.S., unless I know that my 50+ list of problem foods/consistencies can be avoided), and those meals were certainly NOT reason for excitement, as I felt a bit sickly afterwards (one place said everything was gluten-free, but SOY SAUCE was an ingredient). I also idiotically ate the gluten-free airplane meals, which seemed safe enough (plain green beans, quinoa salad, gluten-, dairy-, egg-free cookie, mango chicken), but this is what really propelled me into severe symptoms of glutening on the way home (I was to the point of walking around the airport in search of a clinic- do they have those? In my desperate mind they did, but I didn’t find one). The thought of eating a meal that I did not prepare or supervise is such a luxury, of the pipe dream variety, and I still need to get over it. I did have to chow down on some serious baby food and sardines when on the go (hence the current hiatus from both), but open-air markets allowed for quite the selection of fresh fruit (and vegetables, if you can handle them uncooked).


The truly exciting food news is that Germany has quite a few brands that produce certified gluten-free grains, sauces, and bread-y goods! Ok, so does the U.S., but they have other allergens… In Germany, several brands are hyper-aware of individuals with MULTIPLE FOOD SENSITIVITIES. This seems to be the case across Europe, as many allergen-free products in stores came from Italy, the U.K., France, etc. I could purchase certified (< 20ppm, designated facility) plain gluten-free grains, but I didn’t, because there were so many exciting variants to try! Buckwheat flakes (like corn flakes) with JUST BUCKWHEAT NO SUGAR NO PRESERVATIVES JUST 1 INGREDIENT were my absolute favorite. Puffed millet (1 ingredient) was also quite exciting, as I can’t seem to find a cold cereal in the U.S. that suits. Rice cakes with puffed quinoa, millet, amaranth, etc. made it hard to return to plain old rice-rice cakes. The brand Werz is definitely the forerunner in certified gluten-free and allergen-free goods (one of the few brands that did not use cornstarch in everything); it was always present in organic “Bio” stores and Reformhaus natural shops. They offer several grain, cereal, cookie, and cracker options, with egg-, dairy-, and fructose-free products also (I have never seen a gluten-free product in the U.S. that was labeled as fructose-free, even though this is a rising digestive problem!). Some online reviewers claim that anything from Werz tastes like sand, and yes, I would not recommend their cakes unless you need to be rendered speechless by a palatal coating of dry, dense baked good, but their cereals, whole grains, and cookies were a delight. Learning the names of ingredients is crucial, though, because Werz does produce gluten-containing counterparts with spelt and kamut, but GLUTENFREI is gluten-free, and very clearly stamped on packages, along with the x-ed wheat symbol (official gluten-free symbol in the EU).

I found a most lovely loaf of gluten-free bread with pumpkin seeds from a bakery called “No Gluten”; it was nice and crisp on the outside, soft and bread-y on the inside. This GF vegan bread was in a special wrapper in the bakery section of a Bio Company store, and they offered other varieties. I was initially skeptical of cross contamination, but finally persuaded my German-fluent host to ask a bakery worker, who was incredibly knowledgeable of the bakery’s practices (they deliver fresh loaves to Bio Company, and also make cake, which I sadly was not able to track down) and cross-contamination precautions. We even found gluten-free beers at several natural food stores, though I only tried a tiny bit of each as alcohol doesn’t sit well. But just the presence of gluten-free goods, even if I couldn’t tolerate all of them over some additional digestive issue, was so comforting. My favorite store was Veganz (yes, vegan with a “z”), where we found rice cheese from Italy, certified gluten-free carob powder (AHHH!!! So hard to come by here!), and cashew-based ginger ice cream with FOUR INGREDIENTS (cashews, ginger, agave, vanilla). It seems that preservatives are more of a concern in the EU, as they should be. And now for some eye candy.

Gluten-free beer made from organic millet; gluten-free crumbs on tableIMG_0341

Gluten-free beer from organic rice, and some Euro change


Gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, fructose-free whole grain rice dwarvesIMG_0345Gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free buckwheat rounds; kind of like a thicker pita


I would buy stock in this bread: gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free sourdough bread with teff, millet, and buckwheat flour. Thin slices, regular size, comparable to the sourdough bread that Germans eat all the time (had to double-check package as it tasted like the real deal to both of us!). How I wish I could find you in my country…IMG_0347

What IS gluten-free?

Let’s just say that if I can’t give you a straight answer, then Ask.com will likely fail as well. We could just leave it at wheat-, rye-, barley-, oat-free, but can anything really be guaranteed to be free of traces? I mean, carrots grown in a field with none of the gluten grains around, harvested in a designated… harvester? Processed in a facility and on a line that has never seen the light (or dark) of gluten, packaged in a facility sans gluten- THAT is truly gluten-free. Bread, cookies, crackers, chips, sauces, soups, GF flours etc. that say “gluten-free” mean (if you’re lucky and they’re certified by GIG or another organization) a random sample of the product tested at less than 20 ppm of gluten. And oh do you hope the ELISA or other testing mechanism was accurate, and that you scored one of the loaves that was 20ppm and not one of the ones that wasn’t tested but is higher, and that you aren’t one of those Celiacs with hypersensitivity to levels below the 20 ppm limit (AHEM). Now, absolutely “gluten-free” for a Celiac is not as critical as “peanut-free” for someone with a deathly allergy to peanuts, yet it is still frustrating that “gluten-free” typically means “includes microscopic amounts of gluten.” I still don’t know what to make of labels stating “packaged/processed on a line/in the same facility as wheat” because this is discretionary, say-so-if-you-want-to, totally unregulated disclosure. So if one package sports this statement, it may or may not be safer than a package that does not even make an allergy statement. By law, wheat must be disclosed on the ingredients list, but not rye, barley, or oats. And I could go on… So, what IS gluten-free, you ask? What a rhetorical question!

Update: Check out what this apropos post has to say about gluten cross-contamination with fresh fruits n veggies (and try not to get too paranoid).

Celiac Awareness Month and Egg-free Meatballs

If you have Celiac Disease and you follow a handful of the top gluten-free bloggers, you may already know of some of the great posts and resources available for Celiac Awareness Month. I was a bit thrown off because there’s a national Celiac Disease day in September, but oh well, I guess I’ll take a month + a day! The NFCA has put together a wonderful page of resources for anyone who’s interested. As with any cause, an awareness month educates those who do not know about it and strengthens the ties between those who do. While I am more than happy to share anecdotes, tips, tricks, research articles, blogs, publications, and a comforting shoulder to anyone curious about the gluten-free lifestyle or Celiac disease, I have struggled with how having Celiac Disease fits into my identity as a whole human being. There are times to talk about it, and times to let it sit. There are people who really want to know more, and there are those who balk at the thought of discussing health issues (and poop). From my experience, it is important to promote awareness in the most efficient, effective way. This means supporting new inductees, or discussing the possibility with those who have unresolved GI issues. Maybe throwing out a few of the clenching facts, like the prevalence, the wide variety (or lack) of symptoms, or the importance of testing before going gluten-free at a get-together IF the current topic allows. But no one wants to be beaten over the head with a credo. Unfortunately, people with health issues are perceived as weak, whiny, and hysterical. I would normally say a big stinkin WHO CARES, but perceptions DO matter in employment/professional situations. In the first few months after my diagnosis I found myself spilling my woes to anyone and everyone. This is not effective advocacy (and it wasn’t all that therapeutic, either, because not many folks know how to handle such a serious topic, so they kinda just avoid you). Effective promotions of awareness include alerting an employee when a rice/quinoa mix is not gluten-free because it has barley, so it should not be in the labeled “gluten-free” section, telling a bar that if they don’t know the specific ingredients of a beer then they shouldn’t claim it is gluten-free, interacting with fellow bloggers in a supporting manner, going to support group meetings, and patiently correcting inaccurate perceptions (e.g. WEIGHT LOSS, wheat-free = gluten-free, Celiac is contagious…) So, in sum, I try to be aware of how I promote awareness, so that the accurate message is heard and appreciated in as tolerable a morsel as possible. Oh, and of course it is a YEAR LONG endeavor, this month just serves to remind us of that.

Check out a thoughtfully succinct message about the month!

That said, I threw together some turkey meatballs that seemed worthy of note. There are lots of online egg-free meatball recipes to choose from, but I pretty much went with instinct on these puppies.



1lb ground turkey (I used 99% lean, any kind will do)

1/2 c. breadcrumbs (I have a large cache of failed, pulverized gf baked goods in my freezer for this very purpose; I believe today the sample came from carrot sweet potato muffin rejects)

1 to 1.5 c. spinach (I used frozen spinach, thawed and well-drained)

1/2 c. shredded/grated vegetable of choice (I did carrot, to stick with the rejected bread crumb theme)

spices/herbs to taste, e.g. parsley, ginger, onion powder, garlic powder, tarragon, fennel…

1 flax/chia or Ener-G egg (mix 1 Tbsp ground flax or chia with 2-3 Tbsp hot water and let sit, or 1 1/2 tsp Ener-G egg replacer with 2 Tbsp hot water and let sit until egg-y)

Preheat oven to anywhere between 350 and 375 (my oven likes to jump around). Mix everything up in a large bowl. The mixture should be somewhat cohesive once you mix in the egg replacer. Use your hands to form small balls and place on greased or parchment papered baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes or so, checking and flipping baking sheet at the 10 minute mark. Use a kitchen thermometer to test done-ness (160-165 degrees). These can also be made into larger patties and baked or fried. Hooray! Expanding the borders of a “restricted” diet yet again!

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