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Friday, February 27, 2009

Ugh - here we go again!

Yesterday, I missed my celiac post. Guess why?

Nope. No alien invasion.

Nope. No sick kids.

Nope. No good TV.

YES! Because I am dumb. I got glutinized. (whee) Back when I first was diagnosed, I was afraid to eat ANYTHING I didn't make myself. Even then, sometimes, I wasn't too sure. As I've come along these 9 months, I've become braver and started eating out again. Turns out that a dish I thought I had verified as safe is really not safe.

Wednesday night, I ate one of my favorites from the local Chinese place. It was SO good that I had two servings. I got a full 8 hours sleep, but woke exhausted the next AM. Weird, but whatever, right? I took the rest of the Chinese with me for lunch. After dinner, I crashed. I completely missed the rest of Thursday night. I slept, and slept, and slept. I slept so hard that I missed Jim leaving, coming home, leaving again, coming home again, working on video editing, Annie running a remote control toy, Jimmy coming in and out of the room.... I was asleep, face down in a pillow. According to Jim, he's never seen anyone actually sleep face down before.

I woke up long enough to watch a movie with Jim, and then went to bed. I woke up today feeling logy and I couldn't concentrate and I had trouble following complicated thoughts (aka brain fog) and my face was red and itchy and my insides ache and I'm having an acne breakout.


...and I was so happy that I didn't have a breakout this month, too.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Oh, my -- It all makes so much sense now.

I was reading one of the gluten-free blogs I follow: Gluten Free Homemaker. Linda wrote a post called "How Gluten Affects Me Mentally," and I swear it gave me chills because it reminded me SO much of problems I have had. (and sometimes still have! maybe I'm still getting gluten, even though I don't think I am?!?)

The part that got me the most was this:
"When gluten is carried by the blood to the brain, it causes problems. Dr. Fasano explained that the gluten molecule is similar to endorphins which, along with other things, give us a sense of well-being. The gluten molecules will dock where endorphins are supposed to dock. In effect, the gluten blocks endorphins and the positive feelings they can give us."

Translation: Gluten leaking into your system can turn you into an angry, moody, unhappy beast! Whoa. No wonder I felt so out of control.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

My Celiac Journey -- Part IV -- Changes

Just beginning the series? Here’s what you’ve missed.


Thanks for being understanding about my taking a break last week. I hope you’re enjoying my story. This episode picks up where Part III left off: I had just received my diagnosis after a series of Thursday appointments with my doctor. In the face of the unknown, my husband was comforting and encouraging. I was scared.


From fear to uncertainty.

Once the initial trauma of a confirmed diagnosis passed, I had to face the fact that I really had no idea what to do to deal with my new requirements in life.
Celiac disease (if you don’t know already) is an autoimmune disorder. People with celiac are gluten intolerant. If we ingest anything made with wheat, rye, barley, or one of its derivatives, our bodies react by attacking the gluten. This attack occurs in the digestive system - the small intestine to be exact. For more info, visit the National Institutes of Health’s Celiac Awareness page.
I had to start my very own awareness campaign, reading web pages, books (thanks to my mom-in-law!), recipes, a listserve, blogs… anything and everything I could get my hands on. I had never heard of Celiac, much less met anyone else with it. I had no one to turn to, no one who had been there. I forged my own way through information towards knowledge.
(Need info? Email me! I’ll send you whatever you need.)

From uncertainty to training
I tried to approach this new phase of my life much like I approached being an athlete when in high school. I set aside time every day to work on this problem. I adjusted what I ate immediately, focusing on pure, whole, simple foods. I made it a priority, and strove to become the best -- the best cook, baker, shopper, experimenter, and researcher.

One of the first things I did was purge and sort my pantry. I gave away much of what I could no longer eat. Jim voluntarily gave up much of his gluten-filled foods to help me through the transition. It helped so much to have it almost completely out of the house for a while. For my favorite items, I went to the websites and looked them up. They were sorted into keep and don’t keep piles.

The first time that I went to the grocery store, my shopping time more than doubled: from one hour to about two and a half. I armed myself with lists of acceptable, questionable, and forbidden ingredients and additives. I took my kids with me for moral support. I took my cell phone. I took a cart full of patience.

Produce section: EASY! Woohoo!

Gluten free shelves! Hooray!

Gluten free macandcheese?!? AWESOME! ($4.25 a serving?!? SO WORTH IT.)

Dressings, marinades, and sauces. Oh, crap. From that spot forward, until I got to meats and dairy at the end, I was in super-slow crawl mode.

Many items I could quickly decide yes or no. All of the rest of the items I called the 800 number on the packaging. I asked for verification of gluten or no gluten. The customer service people -- ALL OF THEM -- were super helpful and most of them took my email address and sent full gf product lists to me.

That last paragraph doesn’t really capture the drudgery of this first trip. So many of my absolute favorite items went back on the shelf. So, so many. By the third aisle, I was in tears. Often, this scene was played:
One of the kids would bring me an item.
I would read the label while they stood in front of me, their little eyes fixed on my face, waiting.
Sometimes the wheat or barley was clearly labeled, sometimes I double checked my lists.
Then once of them would ask, “Well?” so hopefully.
My throat would close up, I would shake my head.
“Put it back,” I would whisper. “Put it back.”

Read, sort, repeat
Read, sort, repeat
Read, sort, repeat

From training to toddling
It wasn’t long - a week, maybe two - before I felt more in control. I started cooking with more confidence, ruined fewer dishes, started finding a little variety in my meals.

It WAS long before I was willing to try any sort of processed food, junk food, multiple-ingredient food, or mixed beverages. I was a purist for a long, long time.

It was hard, but it tasted good.
I felt good.
I looked good.
My skin was good.
My hair was shiny.
The shadows under my eyes faded.
The swelling in my gut disappeared.

I cheated once: when Little Ceasar’s pizza opened nearby. It was NOT worth it. I haven’t cheated since. It doesn’t matter how good something tastes: if it’s going to rip apart your digestive system, it’s NOT worth it.

Once I was comfortable with maintaining my new lifestyle, it was time to change again: from toddling to running. It was time to start experimenting. Oh, yes. Time indeed.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Celiac Disease has gone to my head (and wallet)

Just beginning the series? Here’s what you’ve missed.

Part I -- The Diet Contest


Thanks for the comments last week. I'm glad you’re enjoying my story. This week, I don't have the next episode ready: It's been a crazy week. Instead, I'm going to share with you a current snippet of my life with celiac sprue.


I went to the grocery store today, and like I always do, I looked for new gluten-free products in the freezer case. I didn't really expect to find any; I don't shop at a specialty store or anything, so I usually just make do with what I can find or simply do without.

Today, I found two - TWO - technically FOUR if you count variants - new products! Oh, happy happy happy day. I almost did a little dance right there in the freezer section. I mean I would have, but I kinda forgot how joyful I felt in the midst of the shock. Three of the four items WERE ON SALE! $2.99 for a box of gluten free Van's toaster waffles! Oh, happy day!


I bought these.

$6.95. Not on sale. TOTALLY worth it. I haven't had doughnuts since last spring.

And these.

And these.

This, my friends, is what we call "stocking up". Did I mention they were on sale?

Happy day.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Check out this new GF Magazine (and a recipe)

Ooo! I love cooking. Don't you?

I made Chicken and Rice last night, and was all proud of myself for finding a gf soup base so that I could make a cream of chicken soup and actually eat the same dinner as my family. (Whoo!) It was awesome.

But, as often happens, with a small victory comes a reminder of how things used to be. I used to be able to flip randomly and happily through cookbooks and magazines, and simply stop at what caught my eye. Then, I would just make it. So long as I knew what the ingredients were, I was golden.

I feel that I am taking a step back in that direction today. Today, Linda over at The Gluten-Free Homemaker posted some interesting links, one of which was about a new magazine: Delight GF Magazine. I looked at the pages they had available online, and I bought a subscription. I cannot WAIT for the first one to come, especially since one of the editors is the Celiac Princess.

I'll tell you how it is once I get a copy! For now, here's the recipe I promised you:

Chicken and Rice, traditional (NON-GF: see below for GF soup mix.)

1 stick butter
1 can cream of chicken
1 can cream of mushroom
1 can cream of celery
2 cans water
1 package boneless chicken, 6-8 pieces (white or dark meat)
1 cup of rice

1. Mix together the first 5 ingredients in a saucepan, heat until bubbly.
2. Pour a little soup into a 13x9 baking pan, just enough to cover the bottom. Lay the chicken evenly in next, then sprinkle the rice evenly over top of the chicken. Finally, pour the remaining soup in, taking care to completely cover the rice. (If any rice is sticking out the top of the soup, it will dry out and become crunchy instead of absorbing the soup.)
3. Bake at 350 for about an 40 minutes - hour; bake longer if you want the soup to be more completely absorbed. The top will brown up and get bubbly.

**For my non-chicken eating friends: feel free to substitute! Use boneless pork (tenderloin or sirloin chops), and replace the cream of chicken with a second can of the cream of mushroom or the cream of celery soup.

**For my non-gluten eating friends: You only need to change out the soup. Baking time is the same. The soup recipe that I used was super simple, and comes from The Gluten Free Gourmet Cooks Comfort Foods book.
Cream soup base: (p.277)
1 cup milk powder (or milk powder substitute)
1 cup white rice flour
2 T dried minced onions
1/2 t pepper
1/2 t salt
3 T powdered soup base

To make the soup (makes 1 cup soup):
1. In a small saucepan, blend 3 T of the base with 1/4 cup cold water.
2. Add 1 cup water or chicken stock and cook over medium heat, stirring, until soup thickens.

NOTE: I could not find a powdered soup base, what I found was more of a paste, and I simply added 1 t of the base for each cup of soup that I was making. This particular base says "gluten free" on the front left of the label and does not require refrigeration. I found it near the spaghetti sauces. It took me forever to find it because I had no idea what I was looking for, so I thought I'd include a picture for you.

Enjoy your chicken and rice!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Shameless Self-Centered Moment!

My Uno Chicago Grill review is up now on Gluten Free in Baltimore, in case you were waiting for it....... (like me!)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

My Celiac Journey -- Part III -- It was Thursday

Just beginning the series? Here’s what you’ve missed.

Part I -- The Diet Contest

Part II -- “You look allergic.”


Thanks for the comments last week. I hope you’re enjoying my story. This episode picks up where Part II left off: Tests and more tests. What was wrong with me, anyway?


How is it possible for life to move too fast and too slow all at the same time? It was about a month from that first Thursday visit when I met Dr. Schultz before I knew for sure what was going on with my body. The time dragged endlessly before me, but now, remembering, I can’t recall having had the time to do a thing. Where did the time go?

I had returned for my follow-up appointment. The tests had come back negative, just like they always had. Dr. Schultz was sure I that I was experiencing problems from something in my diet, and based on our conversations he decided that it was wheat that was bothering me. However, he was not sure that the wheat problem was actually an allergy.

He decided to let me try eating wheat, to judge my reaction to it. It was quite awful - all the ickiness I had been experiencing returned after just a day and a half of eating wheat. So Dr. Schultz tested me for Celiac Disease: a simple blood test would check for the two antibodies produced by those with celiac disease. It would just take a little while to run the tests. I went to the lab. The technician drew more vials of blood. It was a Thursday.

One week later, I was standing near the phone, talking with my husband, debating how long it would be before the test results came back. I had spent the week researching Celiac Disease and its effects, and I was stressed. I didn’t WANT to have an incurable auto-immune disease. (Who does, right?) At the same time, I couldn’t deny that I had many of the symptoms.

I think I was hoping for a simple allergy. We have some weird dietary allergies in my family - what was one more? I could picture us all, sitting around the table, trying to one-up each other’s allergies. Yeah.

The phone rang.

We tensed.

It was the doctor. The tests for both antibodies were positive. VERY positive. I hadn’t eaten wheat for weeks, except for two days when I added it back it to see if it would affect how I felt. Two days, and the results were super high.

I don’t know what I said on the phone. I remember the sunshine in the windows. I remember the look on Jim’s face. I remember hanging up the phone and saying, “Well! … I guess … Aw, crap.” And then I cried. I don’t remember him moving, but suddenly Jim was there and hugging me. It was going to be Ok. It was. We could do it. We could do it together. We could.

There are very few moments that are frozen in my memory. This added one more to my list.

It was Thursday.

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