Friday, October 12, 2012

Food Labels

   The other day a friend sent out a link to my school. It was an email asking for signatures on a petition to implement new guidelines for gluten free labeling. Here is the email I got.
Healthy Villi Logo Blue
Help move the Gluten-Free Food Labeling law forward by signing the American Celiac Disease Alliance's online petition to finalize standards for Gluten-Free labels.

Support Gluten-Free Food Labeling

The White House has a process for citizens to share their concerns or issues via an online open petition. Petitions which garner a pre-determined number of signatures, are reviewed and responded to by Administration officials.

The American Celiac Disease Alliance (ACDA) has started a petition to finalize standards for Gluten-Free labeling.

The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act required Health and Human Services to set a gluten-free labeling rule by 2008, but this has not happened. At this point in the regulatory process, high level officials MUST get the message that the celiac community NEEDS these rules. The petition process will help us convey that message and provide additional visibility for the issue.  

How can you help?
You can go to the ACDA homepage and read the background information about the petition, go to theWhite House website to create an account (it only takes a moment) and sign the petition. Then you can share the link through your respective networks. 25,000 signatures are needed by November 1, 2012. 

The rules are within our grasp, this has the potential to put them squarely in our hands. Please take a few minutes to sign this online petition and support gluten-free food labeling.  

Contact Us

The Healthy Villi

This email was sent to by  
Healthy Villi | c/o Catherine Mirick | 65 Kingsbury St | Wellesley | MA | 02481

   This is really important because accurate labeling can help me, and other people with celiac find good food. Also it can prevent things like this from happening:

   This may look awesome, the bars are labled gluten free, but if you flip them over you will find the allergy warning stating "Contains coconut, peanut and soy ingredients. Manufactured in a facility that processes eggs, milk, tree nuts and wheat."
In addition to the allergy warning stating that these bars may have been cross contaminated the peanut crunch bars contain oat flour, which is not specified as certified gluten free, anther reason these are likely not safe.
   The reason that these are labeled gluten free is really just a ploy to attract health junkies. These are the people who often consider "gluten free" to be a diet fad, something that will make them lose weight. There are many reasons this is false, but that's another post. Hopefully labeling such as this will eventually be regulated those of us with celiac will find it easier to navigate the grocery store. In conclusion please consider signing this petition, its easy and all it can do is help!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Silent but Deadly

     In an earlier post I mentioned that I don't have very visible symptoms of Celiac disease. In some ways this is awesome, if I mess up and have something containing gluten, I'm fine. If something I eat has been cross contaminated then I won't suffer from debilitating stomach pain. Really if I wanted I could get away with eating wheat bread and pasta. However, just because I can eat wheat without painful consequences doesn't mean I should. Gluten damages my body whether or not I feel it immediately. Hopefully this post can clear up why it important for me, and you (if you are someone who has celiac) to eat gluten free no matter what.

     First there is actually a name for celiac with very few to no symptoms, it is called silent celiac. With this type of celiac the differences between life without gluten and a life with gluten are less marked. Maybe you will have a bit more energy, and perhaps paying attention is easier, but the wonderful relief shared by our counterparts with much more painful symptoms is not familiar. So if there isn't a marked improvement switching to the gluten free diet, then why should you bother?

     Well firstly there can be improvement in your overall health. Problems you never knew you had may disappear: lack of energy, a nagging stomach pain, and lack of concentration name a few that I found I had been suffering from. Then there is the fact that even if you don't feel it a celiac diagnosis means every time you eat gluten your intestines are damaged, so you can develop serious complications. Damaged intestines cause malabsorption increasing the risk of osteoporosis, infertility, other autoimmune disorders and arthritis. Possibly scariest of all, left untreated the damage to your small intestine increases your risk of stomach cancer. Neglecting to adhere to a gluten free diet will land you with symptoms and complications in the end even if you feel fine now.

    Also it is important to note that celiac is different from an allergy or a sensitivity. An allergy has varying degrees. One person with a peanut allergy can touch nuts while another will be rushed to the hospital for touching a desk that has had peanut butter on it recently. A sensitivity is where eating the food is never a good idea, but a little cross contamination or even a little of the food can be tolerated by your body. In some cases it just means avoiding the culprit food for a while. Celiac however is an autoimmune disease and even trace amounts of gluten set off the intestinal reaction whether or not your stomach hurts.  I'm going to do a more in depth post about this later.

    I have certainly been guilty of ignoring cross contamination, and once or twice eating things I knew were bad for me, but I'll try to be less hypocritical from now on. Thus, this is my message to myself and to others with silent celiac. Eat gluten free, and read labels, act as though your disease is life threatening even though it isn't. Just because you don't feel it doesn't mean you are not getting hurt. In fact it means you have to be more careful because you can hurt yourself by accident, and you may never know. So make sure you eat gluten free no matter what your diagnosis.


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Super Bowl Sunday

First if all Go Pat's! I was born in Massachusetts, and grew up here, so this is a pretty important Super Bowl. The  Superbowl also provides an occasion to spend with family and friends, and to eat lots of game food. We usually have Chili before sitting down to watch the game with Chex mix, chips and salsa, and other delicious snacks.
This isn't what we'll be having, but its pretty cool huh?
Now some of you may be wondering where to find gluten free Chex mix. That's easy, we make it. When I was younger, we bought gluten free all natural imitation chex from an organic food store, and then adapted the recipe on the back of the Chex box. Now we still have to adapt the recipe a little, but we can use real Chex. This is the approximate recipe we use.
4.5 cups Rice Chex
4.5 cups Corn Chex 
Extra 1.5 cup added to each makes up for the lack of Wheat Chex
1 cup mixed nuts (or not mixed)
2 cups gluten free pretzels
Extra cup of pretzels makes up for the lack of bagel chips
6 tbsp melted butter
2 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
3/4 tsp Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp Onion Powder
1.5 tsp salt (seasoned)
2 tsp Chili powder if you like it spicy
Directions: Mix all of the ingredients except the butter in a giant bowl (or a roasting pan) add the butter, mix until evenly coated, then put in a roasting pan, and spread it evenly. Bake for an hour at 250degrees stirring every fifteen minuets. Let cool spread out on paper towels to ensure maximum crispiness. 

Hope ours turns out this well!
Ours is in has been in the oven for about twenty minutes, and already smells delicious. There is a lot of freedom with this recipe so feel free to add more nuts, less pretzels, more chili powder... Finally I hope your Sunday is great, and may the best team win! (That would of course be the Patriots)
Sources for Pictures:

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What is Celiac

   Today I was presented with a rather pressing question "What happens when you eat gluten?" My response was "I explode." It's the simple, comical answer that I often give. Then when the questioner says "really?" I assure them that my reaction really isn't that bad, before delving into the scientific synopsis of what goes on inside my stomach when my immune system encounters gluten.
   The scientific and rather confusing explanation is : "The villi in my small intestine s begin to shut down, so I don't absorb nutrients form my food and the long term effect is I stop growing." Another response might be simply "my small intestine begins to shut down." The awkward part for me is when someone says "so you get a stomach ache." I have to say "Well... no."
Yes guys, a supernova occurs inside my stomach if I eat wheat :p
   I don't have many visible symptoms. As a little kid I got carsick, and bruised easily. I was also rather spacey. The main symptom, which prompted my mom to test me, was that I didn't grow for two years. This sounds very dramatic, but I didn't really realize there was something wrong with me. If I eat wheat now, I have no idea. This means I can damage my intestines unknowingly for a long time, eating food I think is safe. That's because no matter what the visible symptoms are, the intestinal reaction is the same as with anyone diagnosed with full Celiac Disease.

   Celiac is an autoimmune disease. This means that what the immune system is supposed to see as normal it sees as a poison. In this case, gluten appears as a poison, so when gluten enters the intestine, the body attacks itself. This causes the small intestine to be shut down and the villi to be destroyed. With the small intestine shutting down, it can't absorb the nutrients the body needs to grow and thrive. This is why I stopped growing, why people with undiagnosed celiac often look underfed.
The small intestine
   There are many symptoms associated with Celiac Disease. The most common symptom is probably stomach pain, and anything that goes with it, bloating, vomiting, you get the idea. Anemia (low levels of iron in the blood, its the thing that makes your gums look white) is often associated with celiac, as is malnourishment. Because of the malnourishment spaciness is also a symptom. There is also a skin rash, called "Dermatitis Herpetiformis" that is associated with celiac. These are only a few of many many symptoms linked to celiac, if you're still curious googling "celiac disease symptoms" will help you find more.
  All in all celiac is a very complicated disease and its hard to explain. So when someone asks you what happens when you eat gluten just say "I explode" and watch their face.
The face of whoever I just told about my 
incredible reaction to gluten
Sources for Pictures:

Friday, December 30, 2011

Shopping Gluten Free

When I was diagnosed my mom and I had to go to a "health food store" to buy bread, snacks, and flour mixes. Now it is much easier to find gluten free food at your local grocery store,  if you know where to look.
Look at signs like these for directions
   First find out if your store has a section for gluten free food, this is a good place to start, although not  necessarily stocked with things that will become your favorite.
   Next go to the "Asian food" section, here you can find rice crackers, rice, and many dishes made of rice noodles.


   After you've looked there head to the "organic" or "health food" section. Some cereals and granolas may be found here. All of the granola bars may also be found here. Look for Kind Bars Lara Bars Think Thin Bars and Luna Protein Bars all of these are gluten free, and most can be checked easily for other allergens. Explore the options, these bars make great breakfasts on the run, or snacks in between.
   Next head to the frozen food section. Look for frozen breads, pizza crusts, waffles and meals, you'll be surprised how easy these are to find.


  Before or after you've done all this make sure to check the ingredients of your favorite foods, or see if there is a gluten free option. Annie's has a very good GF Mac and Cheese, fruity pebbles is gluten free and makes fruity pebble treats (great alternative to rice crispy treats, and dessert to bring with you). Snyders now makes gluten free pretzels. Additionally rice crispies has a gluten free option (they are also brown rice) and General Mills has made a lot of gluten free Chex. Betty Crocker has four gluten free Mixes as well. General Mills has become really good all around with their labeling too (fruit roll-ups are gluten free, and say so). This is only what I can think of off the top of my head, so there is plenty more. And don't forget, vegetables, nuts, and fruit are all naturally gluten free!
Happy Shopping!

Picture Sources:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tis the season to make Gingerbread

The holiday season is upon us, and what better way to get in the holiday mood but to bake gingerbread cookies? To make ours we use a regular old gingerbread cookie recipe and substitute the flour with a mixture of gluten free flours and add xanthan gum. You can either make your own mix or use your favorite multi-purpose flour.

Ginger and Molasses Christmas Cookies
Cream together: 1/2 cup sugar                        Use an electric mixer
                          1/2 cup brown sugar
                          1 cup shortening
Beat in:              2/3 cup molasses                
                          1/2 tsp vanilla
Sift in:                4 cups flour *                         Pre-mix with whisk, then add in slowly as you mix
                          1/8 cup baking powder          the liquids              
                          1/2 tsp salt
                          1 tsp xanthan gum
                          1/2 teaspoon baking soda
                          1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
* We use Bette's Gourmet Featherlight Rice Flour Blend (I recommend this because it doesn't contain bean flour)
Chill dough. Roll out on a floured board, 1/8 inch thick. Cut into desired shapes (use your favorite christmas cookie cutters!)
Place shapes on lightly greased cookie sheets (we use crisco to grease things, or line trays with parchment paper)
To make eyes buttons etc, we use Currants and Cake Mate cinnamon decors, make sure to put these in before you bake them so they are cooked into the dough. Other candies may be used if desired. Sprinkles also go on before baking (unless they go on the icing)
Bake at 350*F for 10 minutes allow cookies to cool, then decorate with icing.

Our favorite icing recipe (for cookies) is as follows:

Confectioner's Sugar Icing

2 tbsp butter, softened
1 3/4 cups sifted confectioner's sugar
3 to 4 Tbsp heavy cream

Cream the butter. Gradually add the sugar. Gradually add the cream and beat until smooth and thin enough to pipe. (add more sugar or cream until it reaches the desired consistency). Transfer to a pastry bag, pipe onto the cookies to decorate. ( A pastry bag can be found at a grocery store).

So enjoy your holidays Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah (which starts tonight) and Merry Kwanzaa!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Food for Thanksgiving!

Here is the food my mom and I baked to bring with us for Thanksgiving. My mom was named "captain of food" for the holiday to insure a safe meal for everyone. In addition to our Celiac Disease, my cousin is gluten intolerant and allergic to dairy, and another cousin has a tree nut allergy. Everything we baked was wheat, gluten, nut, and dairy free! 

Left to Right, top to bottom: Corn Bread: Bob's Red Mill Cornbread mix - made with Earth Balance Buttery Spread and Original Soy Silk. Spice Cake with Lemon Icing: Betty Crocker's Gluten Free Yellow Cake Mix -spices added, made with Earth Balance Buttery Spread, icing is made from Earth Balance, Confectioner sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Orange-Cranberry Muffins Gluten Free Pantry's Muffin and Scone mix- orange juice (substituted for milk), Earth Balance Buttery Spread, and Craisins added. Pumpkin pie: made with Earth Balance, and the filling has Vanilla Soy Silk instead of milk. Stuffing: Udi's Gluten Free Sandwich Bread Earth Balance. Apple Pie: made with Earth Balance. Brownies: Betty Crocker's Gluten Free Brownie Mix- made with Earth Balance Buttery Spread.
As you may have noticed, we used this in every dish. We have been using Earth Balance for a while as a butter substitute for general things. The fact that it is dairy free just adds to the benefits. Doing my holiday baking with it is easy, and you really can't tell the difference. It comes in sticks too, making it easier to measure. 
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!