Always a critic

Lately there have been a lot of articles written that are anti gluten free or anti any “free”:  dairy free, etc.  People saying that it’s all in our heads and that the incidences of these conditions aren’t real.

A New York Times author, I won’t say his name because he doesn’t deserve the recognition, just wrote an article on how a restaurant overseas blatantly said on its menu that it doesn’t have anything gluten free and then the writer went on his “everyone is faking it” rant.

First, I’m glad that the owner put that on his menu.  It makes it easier for me to not go to that restaurant.  I don’t waste my time or waste the owner/manager/server’s time by asking questions.

Second, it’s his prerogative to not serve anything gluten free.  It’s what he wants to do and I will NEVER piss and moan because someone makes that their choice.  I know it’s gotta be a pain to stock foods that you aren’t sure if you will ever use and to try to keep cross contamination to a minimum.

Third, if you don’t get it, don’t talk about it.  This writer has never eaten something and then been cramping for days on end, lived in the bathroom, couldn’t think clearly, etc. because the smallest particle of gluten affected him.  He thinks it’s all in my head and, this is evil, but I wish people who write about things like this could live in my shoes for a month.

I bet he wouldn’t be poking fun.

So until you get it, don’t write about it.  Knowledge is power, don’t be a jerk because you don’t get it.

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The Great Cheerio Debate

Earlier this year Cheerios came out saying that they would start making their products gluten free and the whole gluten free community was excited…until they came out.  We found out that their testing methods weren’t the best, that batches were tested together, etc.  If you want to read all about it check out my Facebook page or to go the Gluten Free Watchdog‘s website.  They are on it.

This evening I saw that Fox News had reported on it and had posted it on their Facebook page.  I wanted to know what people were saying about it but wish I hadn’t.  I started reading comments and was first angry, then hurt.  People are on there making fun of people with “made up” gluten allergies, saying it’s a fad that everyone is now jumping on, etc., etc.  “Give me the extra gluten” and more comments like that.  Even making fun of a little girl that has a service dog that detects gluten and keeps her safe (yes, it’s a real thing and I think it’s cool).

I think the thing that irritates me the most are the people who have NO idea what it is like to live in my shoes and others with Celiac Disease as well as gluten intolerance and wheat allergies.  Celiac isn’t funny.  Celiac almost cost my dad his life.  Celiac disease made me super sick for years and I should have just eaten my meals in the bathroom.  That is the honest truth.  It pisses me off that people make fun of something that they no NOTHING about.

Maybe I shouldn’t get so worked up but this is my life and this is something that is important to me.  I work hard to bring awareness to this disease and then a bunch of idiots comment on Facebook and I feel like I’ve been set back and all of my work is for nothing.

All this over a box of cereal.

This is what I want to say to all of them:

You’re Ruining Everything

Most of my friends really get why I’m gluten free.  They know that eating anything with gluten can make me sick and sick is not where I want to be.  They really don’t want me to be there either, I’m a hot mess when I ingest gluten.  I start cramping up and then my tummy hates me and I end up either in the bathroom for long periods of time (I will let your imagination go and it probably would be accurate) or curled up on my bed because the stomach cramps are so horrible.  Women, just take the “that time of the month” cramps and ramp it up.  Men, imagine getting kicked hard in the you know where…and I’m pretty sure you know the pain I go through.

I still have people in my life that, from statements made, think I’m overreacting.  The other day I posted a story about there being a lot of gluten free restaurants in Italy on my personal Facebook profile.  I had a friend say “you people are ruining everything”.  Ruining everything?  How?  By being excited that I can go out and eat?

I wasn’t sure if this person was joking or not, it’s hard to tell via social media sometimes, so I made light of it and said that I wasn’t looking for a constitutional amendment and it was each restaurants right to have a gluten free menu or not.

I guess I’m still puzzled as to why “us people” are ruining things.  Anyone that isn’t gluten free can still get beer and get it at a fraction of what I pay for beer.  Anyone that isn’t gluten free can go anywhere and eat whatever they please.  I guess I don’t get it.  I’ve never said that I am going to make every restaurant have a separate kitchen for gluten free because it’s my right.  (It isn’t, don’t take that wrong).  And, even if a restaurant doesn’t have anything I can eat, I will still go there with my friends because I’m a social person.

Yes, I do get excited when I read that Europe is very gluten friendly and that, someday, when I get to go there I will be able to eat and eat well.  Better bring my stretchy pants!  And I do get excited when a new item hits the shelves and I can have egg rolls again.

The thing is that people really don’t know what they miss…until they can’t have it anymore.

I would challenge my friends that thing that gluten free is easy to go one week gluten free.  Read the labels, eliminate all wheat, barley and rye from your diet and see how “easy” it is…I’m sure you’d be more than surprised.

Starting the Journey

There’s a reason why Celiacs aren’t always in for a social event.  Think about it, every social event has food: employee lunches, dinner with friends, birthday parties, and picnics. They all have the same element: eating. When that goes away, what do you do? All of a sudden you are either the outcast and people don’t invite you out anymore, or the world revolves around you and your disease. Both of these give you attention that you don’t want or need at most times.  I mean, I live with Celiac Disease, and it’s one of my biggest platforms, but I don’t always want to talk about me, me, me.  (Que the Toby Keith song).

Here are some tips for those that are starting on their gluten free journey, to make social events much more positive:

  1. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to bring your own food. Don’t be afraid to speak up when someone says “let’s go to restaurant xyz” if you know you can’t eat there. I do this a lot and while it does attract attention, it’s fair that you get to eat too!  Also, don’t be afraid to ask your hostess what they are serving.  I did this for a birthday party I was going to last night, got the menu as well as the name of the BBQ sauce they were using, etc.  I was able to eat it all and if I hadn’t asked, I wouldn’t have known!
  2. Be strong. Going gluten free isn’t easy, for sure not in the beginning. I would tell you it is, but you’d be disappointed. It gets easier. Shopping gets easier, eating out gets easier and, hopefully, your friends and family will become sensitive to your needs. You will need strength to not bend and eat that pizza that you used to love. It will pay off if you stand strong  because your body will thank you for it as it heals from the damage that gluten has caused.  Always remember that!
  3. Ask for help.  If you don’t know where to shop, what to shop for or what brands are better than the next, just ask.  Find a group online or a local gluten free group and ask people their opinions.  As people that are GF, we have plenty of them!  In Grand Junction, we have an online Facebook group called Gluten Free Grand Valley Gluten Free Grand Valley but have people from all over so if you need support, just join our group.  We love to help!  Don’t want to ask in a public forum?  Email me.  I’m more than happy to help someone via email.
  4. Take the attention. Hopefully that means that people care about you and want to do what’s best for you. If they ask what restaurant you want to go to it means they want to hang out with you and keep you safe. I know that’s why my friends ask and I’m so grateful for their care. If it’s negative attention, take it as an opportunity to educate them on why it’s so important. Sometimes people just don’t understand and when they are told, it changes their opinions.  And with people saying that GF is just a fad diet, it’s a great time to tell them that not all people use it that way.
  5. Wear it proud.  Yes, being a Celiac isn’t easy and isn’t always fun but we are different and have a lot to offer the communities we live in.  We can show people that having an autoimmune disease doesn’t mean that we can’t still LIVE.  I love it when I’m introduced to a little girl with Celiac and get to tell her all of the things I do even though I have this strange, food related disease with a funky name.  I wear the Celiac ribbon a lot and get asked what it’s for.  Educate the public!

Things get easier as you get rolling and as more people understand, your life will get easier as well.

The Struggle is Real

I’ve been putting off writing on this topic for a while.  I mean, who wants to talk about depression, being sad and struggling?  No one.  When someone on the street, in the store, in your social group says “How are you?”  they really don’t want to know for the most part.  What would they do if you said “Actually, I’m going through a rough patch, am struggling with depression and don’t know how to pull myself out of it.”  Eyes would get huge and they would probably stumble through a “I’m sorry you’re going through that” and find the nearest exit.  And who can blame them?

At the beginning of the year, there were a lot of changes in my life.  We had major change at work that resulted in a lot of stress at work and with that came a bit of depression.  I started researching the Celiac-Depression connection at that time.  Then quit researching and from time to time have gone back to the research.  For some reason, now is the time to write about it.

Because I promised myself, and my readers, transparency I’m going to write things super honestly in this starting with the fact that I’ve struggled with depression on and off throughout most of my life.  Most people who know me, if you ask them to describe me, will say that I’m an outgoing and happy person.  Which I am most of the time but there are times, sometimes weeks where I struggle to even pretend that things are ok.  In fact, there are few friends, when I’m like that, that can pull me out of my shell where I’m hiding.

In my research I found some interesting things.  The first is that there is a strong connection between Celiac Disease and Depression.  People without Celiac do get depressed but there was a higher incidence with those with the disease.  In fact, a 1998 study showed that there was a 31% higher chance of an adolescent with Celiac having depression, compared to 7% in an adolescent without Celiac. (Carta, Hardoy, Usai, Carpinello, and Angst, 2003).  A survey of 177 women (yes, I know that’s a small pool) with Celiac showed that 37% of them met the diagnosis of depression.  (Arigo, Anskis, and Smyth, 2011).  Now that is a HUGE number!  And yes, women with Celiac are more likely than men with Celiac to be diagnosed with depression.  I am assuming that this is because more women than men have the disease.

So WHY?  Why the connection?  There are a few ideas on why.  Some say that it’s a B vitamin deficiency, that because of the malabsorption of this vitamin, there is a link to depression.  Others say that the malabsorption of tryptophan (which is needed for production of serotonin and helps with moods) is a cause.  Another reason could be that, even though you’ve gone gluten free, you are still getting “glutened” and that is a cause for depression.

I think one of the biggest reasons is the gluten free diet all together.  All of  sudden you can’t eat the things you love, when you go out you are “that person” asking for a gluten free menu and modifications to your meal.  When you go to a friend’s house you have to ask about EVERYTHING on the table or be left out or bring your own food which leads to odd conversations.  Nothing is normal anymore because all social events revolve around food.  The birthday cake in your office is off-limits and you have to explain why even a little piece could hurt you.  All of a sudden you feel like an outcast…and it’s painful sometimes.

So sometimes the easiest thing is to hole yourself up in your house and not go out because you know that you’re safe in your own kitchen.

This has been a long, emotional journey to get me to write this.  I honestly sit here writing and crying and thinking about a couple people I’ve been talking to the last couple weeks who are struggling with the isolation and my heart hurts for them.  My heart breaks all of the people who deal with this because I understand how hard it can be and I hate that we have to live like this but the struggle is real, folks.  And you’re not the only ones going through this.  Just KNOW you are not alone.

If you are struggling with depression, get help.  Find someone to talk to, have friends who can sense that something is going on and that you need someone to talk to or a shoulder to cry on.  Have people in your life that you know you can go to.  If it’s advanced, PLEASE seek medical help.  While the world is a tough one, there is SO much good in it.  Let’s find the good…

My hope and prayer in writing these blogs is to help people.  To see the good in the world despite the fact that we have to eat differently.  To become stronger despite the fact that we are different.  Together we can make a difference it the world, I believe it.

By the way, there is a lot more research out there on the Celiac-Depression connection.  I’d be happy to share it with you if you are wanting to know more.

Summer Eatin’ Tips

I wrote this article for a local newspaper a couple years ago but the tips stay true to this day.  Enjoy!

Summertime conjures up thoughts of barbeques in backyards, picnics over the 4th of July and company parties. Food items that are often served at these functions can be quite frightening for someone who is gluten free: hamburger and hot dog buns, pasta salads and many desserts are just a few to list. Here are some tips for eating gluten free yet enjoying the summertime festivities!

First, find out what will be served. If it’s pulled pork, find out if the BBQ sauce will be on it, if there was a marinade, etc. Hamburgers could have seasonings in them that have a wheat product as a filler. Hot dogs may not always be safe to eat and you may need to call the manufacturer. Finding out what will be served, and doing your homework, will make eating so much easier. It’s always a good idea to ask and plan ahead!

Second, bring your own. If buns will be part of the meal, bring gluten free buns. Udi’s makes a great gluten free hamburger and hot dog bun. If you aren’t sure about salads being served, bring a small portion for yourself.

Third, watch contamination. That knife that is in the mayo may have just been on a “normal” bun. It may be a good idea to bring some condiments that you know are safe.   Also ask that your hamburger or hot dog be cooked in a totally separate area on the grill as cross contamination can occur there as well.

Fourth, ask about any marinades or spices that might be on the food. Many marinades use wheat as a thickener and spices sometimes use wheat products as a filler. These hidden sources of wheat can be a concern. Just as to see the labels to make sure they are ok.

If your host or hostess has told you “not to worry about it”, just remember to have a back up plan. A good snack in your bag like Glutino’s pretzels or Nut Thins chips will be a great idea to keep you on track with your gluten free diet. You can also bring along something that you know will be ok for you to eat such as Mission Tortilla Chips and a jar of salsa.

Just remember: it’s ok to ask. Don’t be afraid to protect yourself this summer by asking what is in the foods you are about to put into your body. Then after you’ve asked, enjoy your summertime foods!

How do you do it?

This week we decided, at work, to start rotating and each Friday we take a little “brunch break” at work.  Not only does this give us a little break in the morning but each one of us gets to make something and share the recipe with the rest of the bunch.  One of my co workers was searching recipes and kept asking “can you have this?” and “can you have that?”  Of course when it comes to biscuits, pancakes and so many other breakfast foods, they are off limits for me.  The poor girl was trying so hard and I kept having to say no.

She then said “I don’t know how you do it, I would starve.”  Interestingly enough, when I asked friends what things they heard the most when you’ve explained your gluten free diet, the most common were “how do you do it?” and “you can’t eat anything.”

I will start with the question.  You do it because you have to.  Believe me, this isn’t something that I’d choose.  I do miss eating pancakes at a restaurant, biscuits and gravy on a buffet and egg rolls.  Oh, how I miss egg rolls.  But it’s something that is necessary for me to live.  To not live in pain.  To remain healthy.  You read labels, all of them, because wheat is hidden in so much.

Then to “you can’t eat anything.”  Well, if you mean you can’t get a Big Mac from McDonald’s, then yes.  Not that I’d eat that if I could…nasty.  You can eat, you just have to do research and, yes, it does take time and effort.  But I eat, I eat a lot.  You just learn what you can and can’t have.  You learn to shop around the outside of the grocery store, which is typically the healthiest choice anyway.  I eat lots of brown rice, quinoa, veggies and chicken.  I get creative.  And yet, I don’t look all skin and bones.

I feel bad for my co workers and anyone else that tries to cook for me.  Some of my friends have become experts in reading labels, in asking and, when all else fails, in sending me pictures of the labels of foods I may eat at their homes.  It isn’t the easiest thing in the world but it’s done because it’s needed.  And that’s how I do it…the short version!

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Make no bones about it

I have a friend who is constantly chastising me for not getting enough calcium. I’m not a milk drinker, I don’t eat yogurt, and, in general, don’t have a lot of dairy in my life.  I know there are other natural sources to get calcium from but I don’t think I get enough from those sources either.  So the other way is to take a supplement, which is not my favorite thing to do.

After many conversations with my friend, he brought up a good point about me having Celiac Disease and how the lack of calcium intake could hurt me.  I hadn’t thought about it past the “you should take calcium because you don’t drink milk” thing so I started doing some research on calcium deficiencies in those of us with Celiac Disease.

An article from celiacdisease.about.com stated that, once you have Celiac Disease, the chances of a dairy intolerance rises.  Unfortunately, I know that to be the truth as many of my friends who are Celiac are also lactose intolerant.  With lactose intolerance, you get less calcium and vitamin D so your chances of brittle bones and osteoporosis increases dramatically.

Another thing that plays into this is that the longer Celiac Disease goes undiagnosed or untreated by a gluten free diet, the less our bodies absorb minerals and vitamins.  This means that it will take longer for our bodies to play “catch up” on the necessary nutrients our bodies need.  It also means that our bodies have a chance of breaking down and they may not ever “catch up” to where they should be nutrient wise.  Damage sometimes cannot be undone.

Not surprisingly, women take in only 31% of the daily allowance they need.  This was according to an article from Gluten Free Living.  So, being a woman and being Celiac really raises my chances of having osteoporosis or brittle bones or clotting problems or a myriad of problems that go along with a calcium deficient Celiac.  Sigh…seems like it’s always something, right?  This picture lays it out pretty good:

http://www.slideshare.net/lsmuedu/celiac-disease-by-lugansk-state-medical-university

So where do I get calcium naturally, especially if I’m not a dairy eating/drinking person or if I’m lactose intolerant.  What if I HATE taking vitamins?  Both articles mention sardines (ick), tofu (not a fan of soy products), some greens (collards, turnip greens, kale) or vitamin fortified orange juice (just make sure it is gluten free).  Almond and soy milks are now sometimes calcium fortified as well.

I’m honestly pretty good with my vitamins.  I take a spray vitamin B12 and D (yes, I said spray and it’s the best thing ever invented) and now I take calcium too.  I’m sure there are other vitamins that I should be taking like zinc, etc. but it’s all about baby steps.

Now my friend can rest easy because I take my calcium.  And I can rest easy that I’m trying to prevent a health catastrophe in my life.

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Fighting the good fight

A lot of what I do is education:  education on eating gluten free, education on what Celiac disease is and education on why it’s important for me to remain gluten free.  There have been many people lately that have taken stabs at those eating gluten free (one of my earlier blogs speaks to the ignorant Joy Behar) and the most recent is NBC.

As a news agency, along with an entertainment portion, they have done stories on eating gluten free, on Celiac disease and why the sudden boom in the gluten free food industry.  They have done studies on why the importance and, as someone who once worked for the local NBC affiliate, I was embarrassed and saddened when this Super Bowl ad made an appearance online.

Luckily, a fellow blogger by the name GlutenFreeDude took matters into his own hands and started circulating a petition that would remove this ad from TV.  Kudos to him for doing this as it caused a ruckus and the ad was edited.

For all the education I try to do in my community, it’s things like this that seem to be a set back…or is it?  Maybe, in some weird way it’s actually bringing the topic, the reality, to light and gives me a platform to be able to talk to people about WHY it’s important to be gluten free.  Why it’s not a funny topic, just like other medical condition aren’t.  You wouldn’t joke about cancer so why joke about this?  Celiac disease can be deadly, ask my dad who nearly died before being diagnosed.

As frustrated as I was when I first saw the ad, and as frustrated as I was today reading how those who reacted to the ad were “pansies” among other verbiage, I see an opportunity to give reality to what some people think is “all in my head”.

So I will continue with what I feel has been given to me, a torch to carry.  And I will continue helping people through struggles…this is how I feel, this is only the beginning, just one battle.

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Getting rid of the bad

Tomorrow I start a detox. Yup, with the new year, it’s time to get back into line. I had been doing pretty well until the two weeks before Christmas and then it was all bets off. It’s so easy to get into bad habits of eating things that aren’t good for you or having a few more beers a week than you used to. All of a sudden you’ve gone from pretty in shape to having a tire around your middle that wasn’t there just a few short weeks ago.

I know that the New Year typically means that people hit the gym more, make resolutions to eat right or start a diet and just to be healthy overall but why does it take the New Year to push us in that direction? And how many of us stick to our “diets”?

I started with Arbonne almost a year ago. For those that don’t know, Arbonne is a health and wellness company and, through the consultants, we do a 28 Day Detox Bootcamp as I call it. Others call it a Clean Eating Program, it’s all the same.

I did my first one in May of 2014. I sell the products, I should know how they work, right? Boy, was I in for a treat. It’s an amazing program where you eliminate foods that are known allergens (dairy, gluten, soy) as well as other items that are acidic to your body like coffee, alcohol, soda and the like. I’m already gluten free so that part was easy for me. The hard part, I thought, would be giving up soda and coffee since I knew I was addicted to both. What I learned about myself and what I put into my body was amazing!

For one, our bodies store the acidic items in our fat cells and is why we gain weight. Think about a water balloon as a fat cell. As you add acidic items (water) to the cell (balloon), it gets bigger. As you remove acidic items (water) from your diet, the cell (balloon) shrinks. Another thing I learned was that our bodies will go through a withdrawal process when eliminating items but my biggest one wasn’t caffeine, it was sugar. Sugar is in EVERYTHING. It’s crazy. Third, I learned what was important to my body and when to listen. For the first few days I felt like I was in a fog and couldn’t think right. I figured out that I was missing healthy fats and when I incorporated almonds and avacados into my diet almost every day, I was a wiz!

Most people lose weight on this detox but they lose inches and that’s what I was most impressed with. I also felt better and my dad, an almost 40 year diabetic, was able to reduce his insulin to the lowest he’s ever seen.

I’m not trying to sell this product, I’m saying that I’m ready to get back to healthy. I’m ready to get back to feeling good and getting rid of my spare tire I’m developing. It’s not a New Years resolution, it’s a lifestyle change. I’m not saying, after my 28 days, that I won’t have a drink here or there, eat some nachos, or have a cupcake but for the most part I’m going back to healthy and getting rid of the bad that’s lurking out there.

By the way, if you haven’t read the book “Wheat Belly”, I highly recommend it. I am in the midst of reading it and you will be amazed at how food production has changed and will make you rethink what you put in your body!