Shelley on March 1st, 2012

different ways to travel, boat, airplane, car, bus

So my husband and I were down in Southern California visiting family (just a one hour flight) and although I was pretty well  prepared food-wise, trips like this could bring terror to someone who is just  starting out on a gluten free diet.

Leaving home when newly diagnosed as gluten intolerant can be a daunting thought to a lot of people.  I recall the first time I had to travel – all I could think about was,  “What am I going to eat?”  “What if the family I’m visiting makes something for dinner that I can’t eat?”  “Where can I buy gluten free food items?”  A bunch of thoughts like this went through my mind.  Before the trip I even looked up locations for Whole Foods in the state I was visiting to see if they were within a decent driving distance.  My Mother-in-law mentioned that there were a couple of stores that might carry the foods I was looking for.  As soon as we landed we visited some of these stores where I did find a lot of the food I could eat.  I bought a bunch of it so I wouldn’t run out during my stay.  Ahhhh.  I felt better.  My anxiety had vanished.

On this past trip, I brought some gluten free turkey slices, some cheese, a Lara Bar, and some fruit with me on the plane.  My husband had also packed some salami (Columbus brand) that happened to be gluten free as well.  Day 1 was very good; I had some turkey slices to stave off my hunger after our flight, but we weren’t going to dinner until about 6 hours later.  We had to go to the wine store and get some wine for dinner so we also bought some olives and some crackers for my husband.  We went back to our hotel and had olives, salami, and some cheese (and my husband had some crackers).

Day 2 was a little different.
I was at a family member’s house most of the day for a baby shower and then into the evening.  Although there were some gluten free dietary food choices, like spinach salad and cheese, everyone else at the party were enjoying sandwiches, pita bread stuffed with hummus and cucumbers, cupcakes, etc.  I was satisfied with the salad and cheese but when it came to dinner that was another story.  Actually it was kind of a funny story to tell.  So the conversation was about whether we should go to the pizza place or Vietnamese for Pho or go to the Chinese restaurant.  Well, one of the family members can’t have dairy.  Her boyfriend can’t have yeast.  I can’t have gluten, corn, or white rice.  Everyone was concerned with each other’s sensitivities.  It was decided that we would go to the pizza place because it was the closest and I could get a salad (which I was totally fine with) and  the person with the cow dairy sensitivity and her boyfriend with the yeast sensitivity could both get spaghetti.  Problem solved!  On the flight back I ate the rest of the turkey.  All was good.

I would highly recommend traveling with food that you can pack yourself.  But don’t fret, you can get gluten free food at almost any store these days.  And if you can’t, you could just pick up some fruit to tide you over until you can find another store in the area that may carry the items you need.  More and more stores are carrying gluten free food options – and it’s only getting better.

Shelley on February 19th, 2012

small intestines

One of the symptoms of gluten intolerance, it turns out, is malnutrition. Yup, you read that correctly.

The definition of malnutrition is: The lack of adequate nutrition resulting from insufficient food, unbalanced diet, or defective assimilation. Defective assimilation? What is that and how can that make someone lack adequate nutrition? You may think to yourself, “But I’m eating really healthy, non-processed, clean foods – aren’t I reaping the benefits of all that healthy food?”

Turns out, no, you aren’t. No matter how healthy you may be eating, if you are still ingesting gluten, chances are you may be malnourished and not know it.

So what does defective assimilation really mean? It means that the process of converting absorbed food in the substance of the body is defective. In very generic terms, for those with gluten intolerance, ingesting gluten causes the small intestines to become damaged by the gluten protein. In other words, the disease causes poor absorption by damaging the lining of the small intestine, and stimulates the immune system, which creates an inflammatory reaction. This disorder also causes hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), diarrhea, slow growth in children, and autoimmune diseases such as thyroid disorders and Crohn’s disease.

One of the reasons I sought out a specialist was because of inflammation in my body that was showing up on some blood tests. Previously my OB-GYN had ordered a standard blood test and my CRP (Cardio Reactive Protein) came back as elevated. He didn’t pay much attention to it at the time but then the following year we tested it again and it was even higher. So the specialist ran some nutrition tests on me to see if she could find out what may be causing the inflammation. The nutrition tests came back indicating that I was not absorbing all of the nutrients I was eating in my very healthy food diet.

The next step was to test for food allergies. Yikes, I was “sensitive” to 14 of the 15 foods tested with wheat being one of them. Needless to say, after performing the challenge test and getting tested for gluten intolerance, I had to give up gluten for the rest of my life. As for the other foods I’m sensitive to, I try and limit my intake on most of them. No more corn and very limited potato (some potato starch in gluten-free products).

Shelley on February 12th, 2012

tamari sauce is a gluten free substitute for soy sauce
What common condiment contains gluten? It still surprises people when I tell them.

When I embarked on my gluten free diet, I had to start reading labels to see if gluten was hidden in some of the foods I was eating. I had heard that there were some foods that had ingredients like “natural flavors” that would send chills down the spine of celiac and others sensitive to gluten. There were also foods that no one would ever think of containing wheat. Did you know that red licorice contains wheat?

One of the foods that I had heard of earlier on was soy sauce. Did you know that it is made with wheat? Fermented soybeans, wheat, water, and salt are the main ingredients in soy sauce. So what does that translate to? No eating foods that use soy sauce or are marinated in teriyaki sauce since it contains soy sauce. There are so many foods that use teriyaki sauce!

And what about when you want to go out for sushi? How will you survive? Well, there’s really good news for soy sauce lovers – Tamari sauce. Yup, it’s made from soybeans but without wheat! I even did a blind taste test on my husband, an expert at eating sushi with plenty of soy sauce and wasabi and not even he could not tell the difference!
And the other good news is you can even buy the tamari sauce in travel packets – bring those to the sushi restaurant and you can eat the sushi!

One side note and a plug for my buddy Patrick in Moorea, Tahiti (we traveled there last year) – Patrick runs a chicken truck cooking rotisserie chicken fresh daily. But when we talked with him about purchasing some of his rotisserie chickens he mentioned that he marinates them with soy sauce. We asked him if he could cook some chickens without soy sauce on a clean skewer and utensils and he said yes! Of course we had to ask him in French first – sans soya – but then discovered that he spoke English as well. Needless to say, we bought 5 chickens during the 2 weeks we were there! They were awesome. If you ever find yourself there, say “Hi” to Patrick for Shelley.

Enjoy sushi and other foods with tamari sauce.

Shelley on February 9th, 2012

So, after I freaked out about eliminating gluten from my diet, I realized that there were many choices out there regarding the various alternatives for finding gluten free bread. At first I thought that I might have to start making my own bread since I didn’t know if gluten free bread would be readily available at the grocery store. But I didn’t have a bread maker. I started researching different bread makers online and found that a few of them even had a gluten free setting! How cool was that? My husband and I even looked at a few of these bread makers at the store in the mall. I didn’t purchase one though because I found out that my parents had a bread maker (and my parents were both tested for gluten intolerance after me and both came back positive). My Mom had started making bread in her bread maker with Pamela’s Gluten Free Bread Mix. She said that it was really good so I tried some the next time I went over to visit. Yummy! Oh the joy of having freshly baked bread, still warm from the oven, with butter on it! I asked her if she would make me a loaf so that I could take it home for future use. I kept it in the freezer for long term keeping. As I mentioned, my parents love the bread but, of course, I was searching for that replacement for my beloved sourdough bread. The kind my parents were making was different and I found the texture to be a bit eggy and soft. So my search continued…

I tried one of the brands at the grocery store and didn’t really care for it – it tasted way too eggy. Gluten really does add a nice texture that I miss. Well, after a many more months I discovered Udi’s bread. Oh My! Udi’s bread is excellent! I think it was almost a year since I had eaten a BLT – wow; it was fabulous to finally have some bread that held up to the tomato on the BLT.

Then I tried Udi’s plain bagels. Let me tell you, they are absolutely awesome! Spread some cream cheese on them and enjoy! That is one of the treats I allow myself every once in a while for breakfast. I think I’ll have one for breakfast tomorrow!

Just this past year, I discovered another (local to Northern California called Mariposa’s in Oakland) bakery that also sells bread and other gluten free items online and at the local farmers markets. Their bread is very tasty. They also sell baguettes and buns (that I occasionally use for hamburgers) that are fabulous. And bruschetta can once again be eaten! Can’t wait for those heirloom tomatoes this summer! Enjoy.

Shelley on January 31st, 2012

“You need to eliminate gluten from your diet,” my Doctor said to me. Wait, what!?! When I heard those words, that I had to go gluten free and follow a gluten free diet, I thought to myself, “How on Earth am I going to do that? I love bread, I eat sandwiches all the time for lunch, what about spaghetti, and turkey gravy? What about those foods containing gluten that I don’t know about? What about all those foods that my husband cooks and our friends cook when we are at their houses for dinner? This is going to be so hard – where do I even start?”

Do you remember the day you were told that you had to give up gluten forever? Were you as shocked, scared and confused as I was? Did you immediately think about all the foods that you would never again be able to eat? And how much of a pain it was going to be to tell friends or relatives about how you can’t eat this or that? And what about going out to eat? How will I know the restaurants know what contains gluten or not when I tell them I’m gluten free? Will I have to “chance it” every time I eat out? When I tell the waiter or waitress that I’m gluten free will he or she know what I’m even talking about? And what about cross-contamination? What if they use the same utensils on other foods and then on mine? What about sushi? Can’t have soy sauce because it’s made from wheat! I love sushi and so does my husband! It’s all too much to think about!

Do you feel this way too? I understand. I’m here to guide you through the ways to live gluten free daily. It may be shocking and may sound impossible, but I’m here to tell you that it’s much easier these days to live gluten free. Even in the past few years since I went gluten free, there’s so much more awareness about gluten and how it affects us. The amount of foods that can be made to be gluten free is outstanding. You don’t have to give up any of the foods you love to eat.

After I got home from the doctor’s office, I immediately went online to look for gluten free foods. I started ordering all sorts of things like pizza, cheesy bread, gluten free gravy, gluten free vanilla extract, etc. I thought that gluten free items were few and far between to find but this is absolutely not the case. There are so many choices for gluten free living these days in even the regular supermarkets that it should be much easier for you to find gluten free substitutes.

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