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

Archive for the tag “food sensitivities”

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


Travel… oh boy

Let’s just start with this little fact: I bought baby food. Not for a baby. For me. While this might sound super depressing, I am LOOKING FORWARD to eating vegetables on the go that I didn’t have to peel, slice, and cook until soft (or puree) myself (as I do on most days). I was alarmed to see the fruitlessness of a Google search for “Celiac baby food” and “certified gluten-free baby food,” so I’ve got my fingers and villi crossed that cross-contamination won’t be a factor. Ingredients are typically “carrots, water,” so can’t go wrong there. So, why did I buy baby food? Well, when you’re traveling as a tourist with food restrictions, there really aren’t a whole lot of options for on-the-go meals. Most granola bars are out due to dried fruit and nuts. Can’t do raw vegetables. I will be floored if I can eat 25% of the gluten-free meal on the plane (did you know that you can only place one dietary preference request on airplanes? So it’s either gluten-free or vegan, and with the utterly random list of foods I avoid I am keeping expectations low). However. Some fresh fruits can be purchased and peeled! I’m packing packets of sardines, salmon and tuna in water. Rice cakes, of course. Seaweed snacks made with olive oil. I’m getting used to eating steamed vegetables cold, but I’d rather do baby food than carry mushy cooked vegetables in my backpack while sight-seeing. I may even pack a loaf of gluten- (et al.) free bread and veggie latkes in my carry-on luggage to throw in the freezer for the week. I’m a bit paranoid about fixing food in a shared kitchen, so my spatula, cutting board, and colander get to cross the ocean blue, too. Packing Herbamare (lovely salt/seasoning blend) and a few other dried herbs/spice blends. I’ve asked my host to purchase foil, parchment paper, plastic wrap, and disinfecting wipes. Oh and I invested in some Gluten Defense digestive enzymes (BTW be very careful with digestive enzymes- lots have barley!), which I will take at every meal. A member of the Celiac ranks gave me some Alka Seltzer and charcoal tablets for relief in the case of glutening. Trying not to think of pots and pans… How to avoid making oneself sick by freaking out about getting sick?? I may eat out while overseas, which is a bit of an oddity since I categorically do not eat out on the home turf anymore. I found an exclusively paleo restaurant at my destination, so no gluten would even enter the premises; my only concerns are eggs/nuts/raw veg, but it seems like the appropriate place to ask for a plain slab of meat and a side of cooked spinach. There’s also a little chain that makes onigiri, or Japanese triangular rice packs stuffed in seaweed; they are certified gluten-free by the German equivalent of GIG. I believe I may be able to avoid other food allergens with this chain as well, as the ingredient lists seem very succinct and made up of whole foods. Traveling in Germany with Celiac Disease sans other food issues looks to be pretty doable, as many stores carry brands like Schar. I don’t mean to be all my-fate-is-so-much-worse-than-yours, so I’ve strapped on my big girl panties and… bought baby food. DO WHAT ONE’S GOTTA DO, AMIRIGHT?

Clarification: If you have Celiac Disease and plan to travel, you do NOT need to resort to eating baby food. I have intolerances to corn, soy, casein, eggs, nuts, tomatoes, beans, etc…. as well as major digestive issues with any food that is not soft.

annaB’s Gluten Free

While the number of local gluten-free bakeries in Virginia has exploded in recent months, many do not offer options for those wishing to also avoid dairy, eggs, and other common allergens. This curious phenomenon makes AnnaB’s willingness to cater to additional allergy/sensitivity needs all the more remarkable and appreciated! With a designated gluten-, soy-, and peanut-free bakery located in Mechanicsville, annaB’s makes quite the rounds in the the Richmond area, providing bread and baked goods to Ellwood Thompson’s, Whole Foods, Good Foods Grocery, and several local restaurants. They also participate in Relay Foods, allowing residents of an expanded locus (e.g. Williamsburg and Charlottesville) to partake. Everything can be made-to-order, but you can get a general idea of their offerings by checking out their online menu and photo gallery.

I had the pleasure of trying their white rolls and chocolate chip cookies, made dairy-, egg-, and corn-free, just for me! Unfortunately I could only enjoy a limited number of these items because of the bean flours (forgot to specify this sensitivity… ugh, even I can’t keep up with my no-no list), but they were both delicious (and did not taste of beans like some bean-flour products)! Be sure to check out annaB’s products, and in the meantime look at this lovely cookie and luscious roll to get you in the yummy-food mood!

GEDC0794 GEDC0800 GEDC0793

First GIG of Charlottesville, VA meeting this Thursday! And brief musings on the mind-body connection of multiple food sensitivities.

Ok, so Richmond has it’s own GIG division, and there are many wonderful non-GIG support groups spread across the state, but the first meeting of the Charlottesville GIG should have all ye gluten-freebies hustling to sample the wares of not one, but FIVE local bakeries! I know I’ll be making the trek, and I am particularly excited that some of the bakeries can produce egg-free, dairy-free goodies as well! Check out their Facebook account for additional resources, information, and updates! Details below.

Speaking of additional food sensitivities, I was successful at avoiding problematic ingredients at the Gluten-free Expo in Roanoke (What a lovely event! Thanks to the Carilion healthcare system, VA Tech’s dietetics students, one of my blogger idols, Ginger Lemon Girl, and numerous vendors for making this happen!) this past weekend- BIG accomplishment. Now, I would never consume gluten (in fact, I am probably a bit over-the-top with my fear and loathing), but I had fallen into a trap of “treating” myself to gluten-free food containing dairy, egg, soy, corn and other ingredients that an elimination diet showed really can’t just get along with my gut. A recent visit to a dietician renewed my motivation to avoid problem foods (it sounds easy… but those little buggers called taste buds get cravings sometimes) to overcome the cycle of sickness and malaise. And hey, it’s been a week, and I feel good! The dietician also stressed that moderation is key (yeah, who didn’t know that already, but again, putting it into practice can be difficult) to avoiding crazed OMG I CAN EAT THIS binges (or in my case, I can’t, but since it’s not life-threatening, maybe just a little?). So I’ve been going for the frozen banana “ice cream” a bit more often, just in smaller amounts. Or making alternative cheese sauces to hit the cheese-craving spot. Vegetable-based vegan alfredo anyone? How about some dairy-free, soy-free, nut-free ricotta? Both were so lovely that I made extra to store in the freezer. Handling the I-can’t-have mentality by creating alternatives can be dangerous, because nothing will taste like a nice block of brie or Camembert, but I think it is emotionally healthy and nurturing to find new combinations of tastes that are in the same mouth-feel, flavor category (Oh why didn’t I just go in to that Girl Scout cookies knock-off recipe thinking “I am making a yummy cookie” vs. “This will taste exactly like a samoa”? All in the head, indeed!). The importance of the mentality with which we approach eating ties in to the concept of mindfulness, by which one sits down to a meal, focuses on each individual bite, and sloooows down to really achieve maximum satisfaction and nourishment. The mind and body are not quite as separate as Descartes would have had us believe- how you intellectually analyze a physical sensation impacts the experience of that sensation, and vice versa! Not to mention the effect of emotions, whether it be denial, longing, or anger (GAH gluten, GAH!) which I would argue all need expression at some point, but it might be better to set oneself up for success at mealtimes, thinking with joy, ah, a new kind of bread! vs. this had better darn well taste like the French baton I used to make or I will be so very sad! This discussion of intellect-emotion-body ties in to a great book I’m reading, and will eventually review!

UPDATE: Not five, but SIX local bakeries!!!!

Sheila Cerelloni of Bakery Box              Sue and Stephanie of Stevie G’s Gluten Free Bakery

Linda Newman of Mixing It Up Gluten Free Bakery       Angela and Kimi of annaB’s Gluten Free

Susan Feller of 3 Flellers Gormet Gluten Free

We will also be introducing the NEWEST- GF Baker  Jessica Loura of just opening the doors, Indulge GF Bakery.  Jess is donating a bakery gift as a door prize.  There will be Restaurant and vendor door prizes too!”

Gluten Intolerance Group of Charlottesville is hosting

 5 Gluten Free Bakeries for an evening of tantalizing tastings!

Where: Hollymead Elementary School

2775 Powell Creek Drive, Charlottesville

When: April 18th at 7:00 P.M.

Come Taste bakery offerings from

3Fellers Bakery, anna B’s Gluten Free, Baker’s Box,

Mixing It Up Gluten Free Baking LLC,

and Stevie G’s Gluten Free Bakery

Calendar of Events:

April 18th 1st GIG meeting in Charlottesville!

June 2nd Car Pool or Van/ Bus up to DC Gluten Free Expo http://www.dcglutenfreeexpo.com/

June 22 GF Chili Cook Off

Summer Picnic TBD

September 19th Keeping Kids GF: A Professional Panel Discussion

October 31st GF Halloween Party

November 14th “What to do when you get dosed”

     aka: Surviving the Holidays: A Professional Panel Discussion

December 12th GF Holiday Party and Cookie Exchange

January 16th Gluten Free Affordably: Save Time and Money

February 13th Valentine Party

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