Archive | September, 2012

No Lefse or Lutefisk? That’s Ludicrous!

6 Sep

Not the rapper by the way^ although I did create a pretty mean rhyme. 😉  Okay this title is misleading, which wouldn’t be the first time I’ve done this [See “Hunger Games” post from March], but it was too damn catchy not to use.  Despite my Norwegian heritage, I have no particular attachment to lutefisk whatsoever.  Frankly, it freaks me out.  Lefse however…pass me the butter and sugar! (But not until next month of course ;-))

I drew one of the allergen months out of the bucket for September.  From there, I drew for one plant and one animal allergen.  Wheat and fish are to avoided like the plague for the next 2 weeks.

Allergies are the result of an overactive immune system.  Harmless proteins are attacked with an influx of histamine to try to flush out the perceived “invaders”.  Allergies (and food allergies in particular) are on the rise.  One theory as to why this might be the case is coined the hygiene hypothesis.  It seems that children who are exposed to more germs while growing up (such as those who live on farms or have pets) tend to exhibit fewer allergies.  Translation = throw away your bottle of Purell  and let your kids play in the dirt for cryin’ out loud!

Symptoms of wheat allergy:

*Abdominal pain & loose stools (12-72 hrs after eating) – most common

*Asthma (ingested/inhaled wheat flour)

*Rhinitis (Stuffy/runny nose)

*Conjunctivitis (pink eye)

*Hives and tissue swelling (especially of the face)

*Anaphylactic reaction (severe allergic response involving most organ systems) has been reported in young infants but is a very rare occurrence. [In extreme cases, anaphylactic shock may result in heart failure.]

*Exercise-induced anaphylaxis is more common. [This can occur up to 2 hours after eating/drinking and appears to be related to the stress of exertion during digestion.]

Wheat allergies are more commonly seen in children than adults.  Luckily, children with allergies to soy, egg, milk, & wheat can outgrow their allergies & ~85% are no longer allergic at the age of 5!

Guidelines for fish allergies:

If there is no risk of an anaphylactic reaction,  a person need only avoid the fish species that have caused a reaction when consumed.  If there is a risk of an anaphylactic reaction, a person should avoid all fish and their derivatives.*

*For the purposes of my experiment, I will be avoiding all fish.

What I ate my first day with wheat and fish allergies:

Breakfast: Gluten-free oatmeal with blueberries & vanilla powder; hard boiled egg; gluten-free chocolate glazed doughnut dipped into hazelnut coffee [Mmm…lazy weekend breakfasts!]

Lunch: Bowl of veggie chili + 2 hard boiled eggs with dijon mustard; glass of almond milk

In the car: a few sunflower seeds before noticing this disclaimer: “Manufactured on equipment shared with milk, soy, & wheat products”.  Whoops!…

Snack/mini meal: small slice of watermelon; baked corn chips with salsa; homemade dill pickle spear; potato chips with 3! different kinds of hummus [“3 Pepper”, “Roasted Garlic”, & “Artichoke & Garlic” – what luxury!  Derek and I stayed at a friend’s lake cabin and his awesome family fed us well!  The excitement I experienced over the 3 kinds of hummus matched that which I used to feel during childhood summer visits to my aunt’s house.  Cocoa Pebbles?!  Cinnamon Toast Crunch?!  OH MY GOD!!!  At home, it was generic Cheerios and Raisin Bran!]

Supper: corn on the cob, beets, green beans, tomato slices, watermelon, strawberries, raspberries, vinegar & sour cream doused cucumbers, turkey burger, 3/4 small hamburger with crushed corn & potato chips on top (mock bun?) – [I made Derek wash the grill spatula between uses as there were salmon burgers on the grill as well.  Cross contamination?!  Not on my watch!  I caught it just in the nick of time!  He rolls his eyes at my neurotic requests but grants them regardless.  I can read his thought process & it goes something like this: First you move the toaster and ask me to cut my bread on a different counter & now this?  But you don’t have these allergies!  A simple reminder at my aim for authenticity doesn’t seem to have him convinced.  Oh well! :)]

Midnight (literally) snack: same components of earlier snack/mini-meal minus the pickle + a few pistachios

Holiday binge fest!  Eat more?  Move less?  ‘Merica!  I find it funny how we tend to stuff ourselves and move less than usual during the holidays.  Gotta fuel up to sit on our butts!


Joneja, J. (2003) Dealing with Food Allergies

Larsen, L. (2008) The Everything Food Allergy Cookbook


4 Sep

I failed to provide the gluten-free resources and tips I meant to this past month, but here’s the thing: I’m busy!  It’s summer and my wedding is less than a month away, so I hope you can all forgive me!  The good news is that when I write the book, I will be much more thorough.  Let’s get down to business.  Here’s the gluten-free diet report:

Cravings experienced: I wanted cookie dough!  I found some gluten-free cookie dough, but there was almost a bug spray-esque aftertaste to it. :-/  I’m guessing the undercooked potato starch was the guilty culprit.

Sins to confess:  As the year progresses, I am getting lazier (and hungrier!).  At the beginning of the experiment, I was more likely to shun absolutely everything unless I was 100% sure that it was 100% safe!  Lately, I’m more apt to glance at the ingredients list and eat things that I feel I can reasonably assume are safe.  For the most part, my assumptions have been accurate (I would look things up after the fact out of guilt and curiosity).  Here are a few specific sins I am still tormenting myself over:

*I drank some hazelnut flavored coffee and THEN emailed the company to ask if it was gluten-free.  Some flavored coffees are flavored with malt (which is derived from barley).  This particular brand turned out to be gluten-free.

*I ordered off of a gluten-free menu at a sushi restaurant, but failed to double check with the waiter about the fried tofu I ordered.  Cross-contamination is a concern as other breaded items could have been fried in the same oil.

*I found a report from 2009 claiming that Almond Joys were gluten-free, so I happily munched on the snack size bars Derek brought home.  Later, I found an updated gluten-free candy list and discovered that Almond Joys are no longer guaranteed to be safe.  Ey yey yey!

Here’s what I ate my last day on the Celiac’s disease (gluten-free) diet:

Breakfast:  Cooked gluten-free oats (soaked overnight in apple cider vinegar – don’t knock it until you try it!) with 1/2 banana, blueberries, strawberries, butter and chia seeds; 1 hard-boiled egg

Lunch: Big bowl of vegetarian chili with tomatoes (duh!), zucchini, black beans, tofu, jalapeneos, serrano peppers, & potatoes; chunks of cantaloupe

Supper: Lentil soup (with mushrooms, collard greens, tomatoes, tahini [gluten-free soy sauce], carrots, celery, ginger, & lemon juice + Sunshine Burger brand Garden Burger (sunflower seeds & carrots are the base for this surprisingly simple and tasty gluten-free veggie burger); cantaloupe carob smoothy with almond milk

Lessons Learned:  The gluten-free diet has the advantage of being better known than many of the other diets I’ve undergone.  It was fairly easy to find gluten-free alternatives almost everywhere I went.  Sometimes I had to go out of my way to acquire specific things.  For example, if I wanted gluten-free hamburger buns, I had to make a special trip to the health food store as the grocery store located near my house doesn’t sell any.  However, there is still a gluten-free section at this grocery store, so I could buy bread or rolls instead if necessary.  I went to a training session and was able to order a gluten-free version of the menu selection of my choice, but my hotel restaurant had very limited options (I was told that grilled chicken was my only guarantee).  For all pervasive food allergies and intolerances, traveling with some safe options is a fail-safe survival tool.  I brought canned fish, fruit, popcorn, gluten-free bread, & an almond butter packet on my training journey.  I ended up eating all of it, so it seems I planned accordingly!

As a dietitian, I had enough background knowledge to be able to identify obvious gluten sources, but I learned that certain additives are not so cut-and-dry.  Modified starch can be derived from a number of different sources, one being wheat.  If one intends to be as careful as possible (which should be the ultimate goal of a gluten-free celiac’s diet), manufacturers should be contacted if the sources are unspecified.

My approach during this diet was probably similar to that of a person who is just getting a feel for exactly what a gluten-free diet entails.  I learned as I went.  I have been so busy lately that I was stuck doing the best I could rather than the best possible.  I am disappointed in the number of sins this month but am proud about the vigilance I maintained toward certain practices:

*Always using tin foil underneath my gluten-free breads when using my toaster oven (which Derek uses to toast gluten-containing breads)

*Cleaning out my cupboards at the beginning of the month and attempting to segregate gluten-containing foods in the lazy Susan (although I later discovered a jar of barley flour in my “safe” zone – I don’t know if I thought this was buckwheat (which is gluten-free) or what happened there…)

*Avoided sharing peanut butter and butter containers with Derek (due to cross-contamination concerns)

*Using water (rather than my tongue) to seal envelopes [The glue may contain gluten.]

*Not purchasing foods (such as popcorn) out of bulk bins (which may be cross-contaminated with gluten)

Meanwhile, I’m eating as though I have a parasite lately.  It’s been fun tasting all of the different versions of commercially available gluten-free goods including: waffles, muffins, doughnuts, breads, etc.  My love of food has transformed into a somewhat terrifying obsession, adding a new element of understanding to my empathetic repertoire: eating disorders and dieting.  It turns out when I am told that I can’t have something, I really really want itBased on what I have heard and read from others with certain food restrictions, this can lead to denial and binging.  For many, there is a definite struggle towards acceptance when informed “You know this thing that you’ve always loved?… Yeah, you’re just done with that!”.  With gluten being my only roadblock during the month of August, I gorged on all things previously restricted.  Trying to sort out emotional eating and hunger gets even stickier when dietary restrictions are imposed upon someone.  I expect even more enlightenment in this department as the experiment marches on.

I didn’t get around to the macrobiotic diet mini-experiment as I had intended, so I’ll have to squeeze that in somewhere else.  Finally, I have officially given up the factory vegan lifestyle I was aiming to follow.  Ultimately I (finally!) decided that trying to restrict one category of food at a time is hard enough!  In the beginning of the year, I asked this question: “How long can we fight with our what our bodies demand and what our mind has made up?”  The answer I discovered?:  Not very long if you want to maintain your health and sanity.

Upcoming post: 2 week wheat and fish allergy