Friday, March 28, 2014

The many shades of gluten-free eaters

The Wall Street Journal ran an article titled 'At Restaurants, Gluten-Free Is a Tough Recipe' in mid-December, 2013. It gave some good insights on what restaurants are doing to promote their gluten-free offerings. Also, over 175 readers posted comments with many shades of association to being gluten-free.(

Shade #1.  A few of these posters or their loved ones have Celiac disease (defined this way: "...About two million to three million Americans, or nearly 1% of the population, suffer from celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder in which the ingestion of gluten interferes with the absorption of nutrients, according to the Center for Celiac Research & Treatment in Boston.") 

Shade #2. More posters have a sensitivity to gluten which is also known as Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity - or NCGS (described this way: "...The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness estimates that another 18 million Americans have a gluten sensitivity, meaning they experience diarrhea, anemia and other symptoms similar to those of celiac disease, but lack the antibodies and intestinal damage found in those with the disease.") 

Shade #3. Some posters just choose not to eat foods with gluten because of the inherent carbohydrates that they feel are not healthful for their diet.

Shade #4. A couple were crack-pots - the kind that will jump on any bandwagon to arbitrarily delete a food group for reasons of vanity or need to follow what they consider a 'hot trend'.

Reading through all the comments and researching other news items on gluten-free topics in the last six months, I found a disturbing development:  the crackpots - the most vocal with a disproportionate amount of press were actually marginalizing the legitimate need of many of us.  Personally, I have seen more than my fair share of eye-rolls when I tell someone I cannot eat food with gluten in it.

It occured to me that on many issues in our lives - and going even bigger, in our world - we allow the crackpots suck up the face-time on T.V. and the bandwidth on the internet.  

Regardless of the shade of gluten-free eater you or your loved ones may be, we each have an opportunity to be remain compassionate and empathetic to those whose needs may be different than ours in every aspect of our lives.  And thankfully, the crackpots have a short attention span. 


Friday, March 21, 2014

Free to be gluten-free, you and me

I was reading an interesting article this week that listed several things that are good to know if you have to eat gluten-free for health reasons (because of Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity) or choose to follow a gluten-free diet.  At the end of the list of tips and advice, readers could post comments or questions.

I expected to read some additional or even repetitive information.  I was surprised to see many snarky and a few downright rude comments.   To what end?

Would someone hurl negative remarks at a person who couldn’t eat sugar for health reasons?  Perhaps people who abstain from certain foods for religious reasons would be the next group to attack with insults?

If the nasty comments had been limited to one malcontent, I could just chalk it up to that one bad apple in the bunch that mother warned me about when I was a kid.  But, there were more than a few people who took the time to comment. One person said, “What’s the matter with these people? Haven’t they ever heard about fruits and vegetables?!?”


Most of the people I know who are gluten-free eaters are not afflicted with Celiac disease, but are NCGS (e.g. Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitive) and have significant physical and health issues if they do not.  They are not crackpot fad dieters. 

Yes, food is primarily necessary for survival. And, it is also social and familial in its uses.  Each one of us has a ‘favorite dish’ and some of those homey favorites originally were made with gluten-filled products. It is normal/sentimental/thoughtful to want to find replacements (or similar ingredients) to enjoy these recipes in a way that doesn’t affect health. Eating is also about enjoyment and ‘breaking bread’ with others in addition to nutrition. 

Kudos to those who ignore the grumpy-ugly folks out there… and take the initiative to find out how to help make gluten-free recipes that everyone can enjoy.

Tip for the weekend:  Finding great tasting bread, pizza crust, rolls, and cinnamon buns isn’t easy if you’re a gluten-free eater.  The soft chew-y goodness to these foods comes from gluten.  But, there is a substitute.  It is called xanthan gum and Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods (a gluten-free food product and ingredient manufacturer) not only provides suggestions on the side of this product, but also has You Tube videos to show you how to use this ingredient. See for more information on the wide variety of fine foods.

Friday, March 14, 2014

You are not crazy. You have NCGS... which just sounds crazy.

I grew up in a family that worshiped bread.  My Italian side served it at every meal and would often refer to it as 'the staff of life'.  My Slovenian side would actually kiss a piece of bread before it was thrown away (because of mold or whatever). The sentiment was that it was a sin to throw out something that was so precious.  I think it all had something to do with a reference to Christian Communion and the featured entree of... bread.

When I discovered through trial and error (and then medical confirmation) that I had a sensitivity or allergy to wheat, my relatives and many friends responded with comments like "What do you mean you can't eat bread? Why can't you have cereal?  No pasta? Pasta is not bread. That's crazy!"

Although less than 1% of the U.S. population has Celiac disease (an immune disease to wheat and other grains with gluten), many more people have ‘Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity’ (NCGS). NCGS is suspected to affect one in every twenty Americans - that's about 31 million people.

My nearest and dearest have learned a lot with me on this gluten-free journey and now they love to point out all the restaurant menus and commercials they have seen that advertise their gluten-free selections.

Food manufacturers are not shy about seizing upon a need and a huge potential customer base. Since Americans eat 3 or more meals a week out, the restaurant industry is also courting the growing gluten free customer.  

Maybe we should change the acronym to mean: Not Crazy-Gluten Sensitive :)

Tip for the Weekend:
       I’m a loyal, rabid fan of Trader Joe’s Supermarkets because they will give you (FREE) a complete list of every product in their stores that is made without gluten.  They will use shelf tags that will identify products in their stores with the symbol ‘GF’, and in their monthly flyer will they will promote their gluten free products in addition to their other items. 
      If there isn’t a TJ’s near you, consider making the drive to the closest one you can find.  You will be amazed at what you can find there and how little it costs to eat healthfully and well... and they won't think you're crazy, either.  ( )


Friday, March 7, 2014

Na-Na, Hey-Hey, Kiss That Bread Bye-Bye!

It took two years to figure out I had an intolerance to wheat (diagnosed by a nurse/girlfriend - and not any of the 3 doctors who gave me $10,000 worth of tests that were all 'negative'). It took another two years for me to accept it  and live it 100% of the time.  For the last two years, I've felt great eating gluten-free.

What I haven't felt great about are a few issues that came along with eating gluten-free... Here they are in no particular order:

1) People assume I'm "on a crazy fad diet."  Most don't know that someone does not have to have Celiac disease to be negatively affected by gluten.

2) Some people think that I'm being "high maintenance" because I question ingredients in restaurants - they don't realize the extreme gastro-intestinal pain and symptoms I will suffer if I eat gluten.

3) Some gluten-free product manufacturers think I'm stupid enough to buy lousy tasting gluten-free products at 3 times the price of the same "regular" product... like crackers.

4) At first when you eat gluten-free, you lose weight.  Then, when you break down and buy some of those high priced gluten-free products to 'eat normal things,' you put on a ton of weight.  No doctors gave me any nutrition suggestions either.

Some things that I learned that made it easier to be gluten free were...

1) I saw a certified nutrionist.  She looked at the ingredients of what I was eating and made a very wise observation:  Most gluten-free foods that try to mimic 'regular' products have white rice flour as the key #1 ingredient in them... AND - a body metabolizes white rice flour just like SUGAR.

2)  There are many naturally occuring gluten-free products on the grocery store shelves that don't cost a fortune.

3)  There are great places on the web to find products that are delicious, nutritious, and fairly priced that everyone can enjoy.

So, come along with me on this journey to explore living and eating gluten free in Plano, Texas... and BEYOND!


Tip of the Week:  Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwich shops are located all across the USA.  You can now order any of their combos as an UNWICH.  The entire ingredients of a great sub sandwich are wrapped in lettuce leaves.  My favorite is the Tuna UNWICH with tomatoes... yummy!  (There are 3 locations in Plano, but you can visit their website for all locations and ridiculously fast delivery service too.)