Bulking up is hard to do.

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For years, my husband and I went down the ethnic food aisle to get cheaper spices. For $2 a package you can get spices like cumin and oregano. Compared to the actual prices in the spice aisle, it is the logical choice. Well, we recently ran out of cumin, and instead of making the trip down to our discount spice and gluten free flour shop we went to get some at down the ethnic food aisle. My husband picked up those familiar red, green, and clear packages hanging there and was about to put them in the cart. We hadn’t made the trip to this spice section since my celiac diagnosis, so we hadn’t ever needed to check the purity of these spices. A quick peek at the back of the package, and everything was put back on the shelf and we were walking over to the spice section to seek gluten free cumin.

It seems like there shouldn’t be a reason for cumin to have gluten in it. Its cilantro seeds that have been toasted and ground. In a pure there should be no reason for wheat to be involved. Then again there’s no reason for a package of cashews or trail mix to have gluten, but sometimes they do. All of these labels have some of my least favorite words in the English language, “packaged in a facility that also processes wheat.” It’s part of the labeling standards that we discussed back here, and for the gluten sensitives, it’s not a deal breaker. For us Celiac’s is cross contamination hell. It means that nuts, grains, rice, or anything else that can be sold in bulk is just not 100% safe. You always have to check.

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This also means that the bulk bins at your local supermarket are off limits. Even though we can find psyllium husk powder or xanthan gum in bulk, we still need to march ourselves over to the Bob’s Red Mill display to buy them. Why, because bulk bins are cross contamination hell. There’s the obvious part of it, everyone using the same scoops no matter what they’re getting. There’s nothing stopping someone from putting that scoop in to the wheat flour and then dipping the same scoop into the brown rice flour. There’s no reason to wash the scoop between each use. But there’s more to it than that.

Supermarkets aren’t required to clean bulk bins between uses. So bulk bins often don’t get cleaned between uses. This mean if they rearrange the bulk bin order, there’s never any need to actually clean the bin. So your rice flour could have been wheat flour at one point in time. There is no requirement for supermarkets to be careful with their bulk bins either. They can keep the rice flour or trail mix bins open while their filling up the wheat flour. Really it’s just not prudent. Don’t do it.

So, how does a Celitariat save money and stay safe from the glutens? You have to find pre-packaged bulk items. Near me, there is a wholesale market for bulk items. There’s no bins there, but they buy spices and flours to re-package into re-sealable plastic bags. The market also sells spices to other markets, so going there cuts out the middle man of the grocery store. This particular market is really safe, and I’ve never gotten sick from their flours before (even though they sell wheat flour and bulger in the same store.) We get super cheap gluten free flours, rice, beans, and even dried fruit, all things that are verboten in a normal supermarket. There’s no scoops, so there’s no cross contamination. Plus they have a really nice gluten free section with a variety of flours, pastas, crackers, and bars.

I know it’s going to sound sketchy and scary to walk into one of those wholesale markets, especially when it’s not a buyers club like Costco, but check it out. Sometimes places show up on Find Me Gluten Free as being gluten free markets. Read what other people say about them. You can also speak with the owners about their processes. It never hurts to ask questions. Because gluten free food requires extra care for preparation and processing it is always going to be more expensive, unless everyone goes on a gluten free diet, this is just a fact of life.

There are also some websites where you can buy bulk gluten free flours. I haven’t used any of these services, mostly because we have our market. I suspect that I might if we were further away. If you have any experience these websites or services, comment with which ones you like best.

But if it’s not healthier, why would anyone eat gluten free?

Right before I started this blog we went to a gluten free class at our local co-op market. It was a class on what it meant to be gluten free and a taste test of some gluten free products, so a starter gluten free class. Considering that we had be living gluten free for almost a year, we didn’t really expect to learn much and would get a chance to try some gluten free products (which is always a bonus.) We learned a lot more than I expected to, some about gluten free living and some about the Gluticrats who want to be Celitariats.

So, let me start this out by saying that the only Celiacs in the class were me and the instructor. We had a couple of people who might have been non-Celiac gluten sensitives (they really need a better name). I wasn’t sure about the rest of them (some where there because they read that gluten free living could cure arthritis or give them magical powers or something) but considering some of the questions the instructor was asked and their reactions to some of his questions, I feel safe lumping them in with the Wheat Belly crowd.

It came to the point while we were discussing how gluten free starches were more calorically dense than their gluten containing counterparts that one of the attendees in the class asked “If gluten free isn’t healthier, why would anyone eat it?” I have two problems with this question. One, the instructor has just spend 20 minutes discussing what Celiac disease was and how gluten effects those afflicted with it, and two, it sounded like she was asking “if this new food trend didn’t magically make me lose weight why is everyone trying it?” Welcome to the world that invented such wonderful diets and the Lemon aid cleanse and the gummy bear diet. We shouldn’t really question why fad diets exist just what, if any, benefits there are to them.

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I totally loved the instruction at this point in time, because he pointed out a really interesting Canadian study that was compared the athletic performance of athletes who were non-celiac and not diagnosed as gluten sensitive. The study basically found that that was no impact on the athletes performance when eating gluten free. They studied the effects of inflammation and overall performance. Go and read it because the whole thing is super interesting. It was a small study, but it’s part of the beginning of debunking some of the gluten free myths out there.

This starts to go down a road that I’ve touched on before, how many people out there are actually eating gluten free when they don’t need to. A recent article in Live Science stated that about 3 times as many people are following a gluten free life style than actually need to. Between 2009 and 2014 the number of diagnosed cases is celiac desease in the America remained staganit (at .7%) yet the number of people following a gluten free diet has risen during the same time period (here’s the abstract of the actual study  for you to look at.)  The biggest culprits young adults between ages of 20-39, non-hispanic whites, and women.

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So why do these people think that eating gluten free is better, well they’re eating less grain in general when they go on a gluten free diet. More fruits and vegetables. Less fast and processed foods. I mean, when we stop putting a bunch of junk in our bodies we’re going to feel better. Good food is good, it tastes better and makes you feel better because you’re giving your body what it really need and not just some processed cheese dusting (I’m looking at your Burger King and the monstrous things you’re doing with Cheetoes.) Sure I miss being able to go out to grab some McDonalds on a long weekend house hunting. But you know what, I feel a lot better going to the grocery store and getting some veggies and hummus and pretzels. Or grabbing a salad. Every whose ever eaten some junk food knows the ache of that stomach shame, and when you’re eating a lot of junk, you feel it all of the time. Just eating better food makes that go away right away. If you do that because you think going gluten free will make you healthier, and you get that placebo reaction, of course going gluten free is making you healthier. And if you’re eating better food and it makes you lose weight, well then eating gluten free makes you lose weight.

I don’t think we need to get into how that starts rumors and myths start, but I’m pretty sure that exactly what we’re seeing here.

Now, there’s been some pluses and minuses for all of the faux Celitariats in America. That rising number of gluten free diets means that more people are eating gluten free foods, meaning there’s more demand. More demand means more supply, so we have them to thank for all of the new gluten free products on the market. But it also means that we have a harder time eating out in the world. We can go to a restaurant and say, “I need gluten free food” but all of these faux Celitariats who are not confined to strict gluten free diet make cross contamination issues much harder on the rest of  us.

So, eating gluten free doesn’t make you healthier, unless you have celiac or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, but paying attention to what you eat does make you healthier. So pay attention to what you eat and start eating gluten again. This doesn’t mean go out and eat fast food all of the time, but go out and eat better. That is how you will feel better.

 

 

 

You will literally get the barley flu.

I had a teacher in college who at the beginning of the term would tell all of his students that sickness was only mind over matter and therefore there wasn’t any reason to not be in class, this especially went for anyone who was sick with the “barley flu.” I took courses with him several times, and it always took a couple of seconds for the class to catch onto the fact that barely flu really meant being hungover. Of course, for those of us in the Celitariat, this is something that we can literally come down with.

I spent part of last week with one of my worst cases of glutening. For me, I’m really sensitive to the glutens (some of you may have gathered that from previous posts) but my symptoms are not very severe. I have never had the intestinal bleeding or have needed to go to a hospital for a glutening. I basically turn into a frat boy with a really bad case of the flu. Let me explain a little bit better. When I got my endoscopy, I had a lot of blunting in the place where the stomach transitions to the intestines. This, amazingly enough, is right where your gallbladder is (the upper right quadrant of the abdomen) or the same location that someone whose having a heart attack will have pain. This blunting caused a lot of gas. A LOT of gas. It was to the point that I joked with my nephews that I had a burp button. They enjoyed pushing it and getting me to belch like Homer Simpson. I also got borborgmus, which is a very technical, very onomatopoetic way of saying tummy rumbles. So, I would have some gas that would run through my intestines and come out either end in a very melodious way.

We always can tell when I get glutened, because it starts out with burps. Lots and lots of burps. They start little and then turn in to full fratboy within a few hours. Sometimes I even get hiccups, because of the trapped gas. Hours and hours of body wrenching hiccups that don’t stop no matter how many times my husband suggests Donald Trump doing the hula in a pokadot speedo.

Don’t tell me that this doesn’t sound frightening to you.

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Or maybe just the naked Trump statue in Seattle is enough to do it.

Anyway, the best way to combat gas is activated charcoal. Seriously, I didn’t get this tidbit until after I saw a Gastroenterologist for the first time (and seriously I see it all over the place at this point in time) and it was a literal lifesaver. Overnight, I was starting to feel better. Well, not overnight, but as least the gas and the borborgmus were better. And those are the things that would keep me up at night.

It’s kind of amazing that gas could catch in the twists and turns of the intestines, and just be THAT painful. I know you all know what I’m talking about, because it’s happened to you all too. But it’s worse then the gas it try to rise or fall but both of those directions don’t lead to a hole, because that’s just how it happens when you lie down and it’s literally the worst. (By the way I had that last week, and it’s been a while since I needed to run to the bathroom and just sit up for a few hours in the middle of the night.) Honestly, I can deal with a most of the rest of the symptoms, but that one is the worst, so the charcoal is a very welcome reprieve. Of course this generally only lasts one day.

Phase two is my absolute least favorite, this is the true flu part of the barley flu, the body aches and foggy head and lightheadedness. If day one is about decay, I feel like day two isavengers the beginning of the repair. It’s like my body has finally figured out that something is wrong. It makes sense. On day one, the body starts fighting what it perceives as an infection (aka the gluten) and attacking everything that is nearby. It’s kind of like the end of the Avengers, fighting the Chitari and leaving New York in ruins. Day two is the body catching up with the infection, saying “Hey, you stay over here and keep out of trouble like a good civilian bystander. We’ll take care of this.” So I turn into a vegetable on the couch and watch a whole lot of Netflix.

I’ve tried to work through day two. I wind up sitting at my desk with the world spinning and barely able to lift my arms. Usually I get super goofy. Oh, and I’ll still be burping like a drunk. Really, I kind of act like I’m drunk. I can drink a lot of water. I can take take Aspirin and Advil, but y body is still going to protest and say “Hey, you’re supposed to be resting.” And because this isn’t an infection there’s really no way to speed it up like taking vitamin C. You just gotta ride it out and hope it’s all okay. This is a good time to take a some iron. We all know that celiacs are anemic, this is because our intestines are not able to ingest nutrients, so it help to replenish some of those at this point in time. Kind of combats the virago, a bit. Still haven’t figured out how to get it gone the rest of the way.

Now the body aches, I have a really interesting solution for. I eat popcorn. Yup popcorn. There’s no scientific reasoning behind this one, but I suspect that the fiber in the popcorn helps…um…bind things up and pushes some of the gluten through. No idea if this is real and scientific of whatever, but it works pretty much every time. Try it and tell me if you get the same reaction, but popcorn…never get glutened without it.

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Phase three lasts the longest. That’s the part where the body is trying to get it’s self back to normal. Hormones are re-asserting themselves, because those are regulated by the intestines, and so I’m moody. There’s always a couple of aches and pains that linger, and that foggy brain stays around. I tend to like to be in control of my faculties and emotions, so this bothers me, but there are far less physical symptoms, so we don’t really think about it. Phase three is the part that my husband hates the most, because it’s the one where he has to be the most careful. I get cranky and easily offended, so he walks around for a few days trying to not make me cry. It’s super fun.

Of course, during all of this, there is the poop. We don’t like to talk about poop, and I’m
not sure why. In Japan, people pay attention to their poop as a way to track their general health and well being. Heck, in America, if we discussed poop, I might have gone to thedownload doctor YEARS before saying, “my poop isn’t normal” and might have gotten tested for Celiac (this probably would have been in the late ’90s early ’00s so it’s a toss up.) I mean, until a year ago, I don’t think I understood what a normal bowel movement was supposed to feel like. We don’t discuss long ropy poops or what the consistency of tarry stool is like (what does that phrase even mean?) So, here we go. Normal poop you have to wipe once or twice. It holds it’s shape when it does in the toiletpoop. It even will fold over it’s self when it does in the bowl. Oh, and it’ll float. That’s how you know it’s healthy. Gluten poop is none of those things. It’s sticky and loose and generally all of the not healthy things. Or it can get really hard and causes constipation. Or sometimes both in the same BM. The last thing to recover will be your BM, so when you’re back to normal your bath habits will be back to normal too.

And then it’s mostly life as normal again. I know that people say there’s no way to really treat the symptoms of getting glutened, but we all have our tricks. I would really like to hear how other people experience the gluten and what you do to combat it. So feel free to comment below with your experiences and solutions.

It’s my party, and I’ll cook if I want to

Sorry that I’ve been dark for a week. A lot happened in real life, like we’re buying a house and my husbands grandmother passed away. Of and my husband turned 40, so we had to throw him a party. Well, because he was turning 40, and a total geek, I spent weeks putting together a Cthulhu birthday party ( you know because he’s 40 so he’s now an elder god…it made a lot of sense to me.) And it was a partially mixed gluten party. We had a baked potato bar and cupcakes. One of our friends makes amazing cupcakes, so she baked gluten filled cupcakes and I made some gluten free ones. The potato bar is inherently gluten free, but the cupcakes are full of gluten.

Because we really like having people over and feeding them, my husband wanted to be a party of cooking for his party. I don’t know if you’ve ever had someone try and throw you a gluten free party, but anytime you have to start explaining cross contamination to people, you may have already lost the battle. But there’s one more things that happens when someone else wants to cook for your party, you lose control. In the instance of his husband’s party, there was a lot of control. We kept the gluten cup cakes on a cupcake stand. I kept the gluten free ones on the other side of the kitchen. They showed up after I had eaten and made my potato, so there was no problems there. Literally, it was like my husband having glutened bread for his po’ boys, you just have to be careful where you put your hands and clean the counters.

The pitfall is someone else cooking for you in their kitchen. It can be done. It really can, but you have to put your faith in your friends and give them some really specific guidelines. For people who have friends in the Celitariat, or are part of the Celitartiat themselves, you feel like you can trust them. But control is out of your hands, and I know it’s not just me when I say that is scary. You can’t clean the kitchen for the other person, or make sure their dishes are 100% clean, or read the ingredients  of everything that goes into the meal…well to me that’s a little crazy making. I’m a really sensitive celiac but I don’t have as sever of reactions as most people, so the smallest amount of gluten can make me sick, but I won’t end up in the hosptial with bloody bowels. Still, I don’t really look forward to 3 days of stomach pains, body aches, and sitting on the toilet.

I know that my friends want to share their foods with us, and I’ve worked out a good way to get other people ready to cook for us. It’s just a couple of simple rules for cooking for me.

How to cook for a Celitariat:

  1. Clean your kitchen: you don’t need to wash everything, but make sure you wipe down the food prep surfaces or anything that might touch the cooking tools. Use a clean towel, sponge, or paper towels.
  2. Wash everything that you will be cooking with. This can and should include your oven. Just running an oven or barbecue grill through an oven clean function (as long as the oven gets hotter than 500 degrees). Cutting boards should be run through the washing machine, along with anything you use to clean your knives or pots and pans (if you don’t run them through a dishwasher).
  3. Put away the flour. Like in a sealed container. Put that container away, and keep it away from at least 24 hours before you cook for me. This makes sure that everything can get clean and there’s no possible way for there to be any particulate in the air.
  4. Google if your friend. Even if the package doesn’t say it’s gluten free (and you can point them to this post for what that means) there is a lot of gluten free food out there that just don’t put it on the box. Best way to find out, well that would be the job of Google. You can google just about everything with the words “gluten free” and you can find out if it is or isn’t.
  5. If you have a question, ask me. I’m more than happy to put a little bit of work into making sure I don’t get sick. Trust me, I’m really invested in it. Plus, I have that best kind of experience, life experience, to tell you what I react to and don’t. Since every celiac has different levels of sensitivity, you can’t really judge one person’s reaction by another. So just ask. Really, just ask.
  6. Buy fresh containers of anything that will be shared. Mayo, sour cream, butter just get a new one. Basically, if you have already dipped silverwear in, get a fresh one. We do it in our own houses, please do this in yours to

I know that sounds like there’s not that much there, but that’s pretty much all you need your friend to do. It’s time consuming enough, and there’s a bit of monetary outlay, so I always feel that it’s probably better for me to cook for my friends. I just feel bad asking anyone to have to do all of that, when I’m already doing all of it. Still, if they really, honestly, want to cook, have then follow those 6 rules. I mean, you can’t cook for yourself forever right? And until one of those celiac pills comes out, we have to live and die by our cross-contamination rules.