Wednesday, May 8, 2013

May Product of the Month

Virtuous Living Spice Blends

While I attended the Gluten and Allergen Free Wellness Event this past weekend (read recap here), I had the opportunity to meet several amazing people and they introduced some great products. My favorite find was the spice blends created by Nichole Thomas. Nicole wanted her family to be able to enjoy a meal together despite some dietary restrictions. Nichole has Celiac Disease, her daughter has gluten intolerance, and her husband requires a lactose-free diet. She felt that they should all be able to sit down as a family to the same great meal and experience it's taste together. Like anyone modern mom, Nichole has a busy household and found that developing a few spice blends helped her meal prep go quicker but didn't skimp on the flavor. The results? Her family loved them! In fact, they enjoyed them so immensely that they encouraged her to share them with others and her company, Virtuous Living was born. With the belief that food has the power to heal the body but quiet often, the way our food is processed, causes illness, Nichole created a "line of all-purpose spices that are 100% organic, gluten-free, kosher, wheat-free, halal, and non-GMO." Nichole knows that eating with restrictions can be stressful but, with the addition of her spices, she is hoping it is still a fulfilling and freeing experience.

My favorite part about the company though has to be its spiritual overtones. My faith is a big part of my Celiac Disease story and why I am so ardent about raising awareness. Virtuous Living also believes in clean, simple, and wholesome meals. They want to filter out the fake and fill your belly and sooth your soul with the amazing flavors. The spices are aptly named Faith, Hope and Love. Take a close look at the ingredients too - Faith is made from cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla bean, kindness, and warm thoughts. Hope is made with rosemary onion, cayenne, smiles and laughter. Love is made with Himalayan pink salt, black pepper, garlic, hugs, and kisses. Whether you are a spiritual person or not though, its just plain cute! I also love the fact that they do not contain loads of salt to obtain their flavor - perfect for a heart healthy diet. I want them in my cupboard for their sheer cleverness of the ingredients! For more information on Virtuous Living and their products visit their website

Monday, May 6, 2013

Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event Atlanta recap

As many of you know, Atlanta holds a special place in my heart. It is where I went to graduate and undergraduate school and where my immediate family lives. Over the years, I have called multiple places home but Atlanta and the state of Georgia just give me a sense of peace like no other place. So, when I was invited to speak at the Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event, I was elated. Not only would I get to hang out with my family but I would get to visit a much warmer climate! (Currently residing in Alaska, I am sure you can appreciate where I am coming from.)

I was excited to be able to present my favorite topic, Living a Heart Health Diet with Celiac Disease as well as hang out with some old friends and meet some new ones! If you want to get a little snapshot of my lecture, you can check out this article I published in the Tender Foodie blog.

My first stop upon entering the Expo was GlutenFree Cutie! The are a 100% gluten, soy, dye, peanut, egg, and tree nut free bakery! They also have a large selection of dairy-free items. James and his wife Natalie opened the bakery after they found their daughter, Savanna, had a lot of food allergies. The first time I heard of them, I drove straight to the bakery and bought everything that had left. (I'm not kidding). It was later in the afternoon and I resorted to my old ways when I was first diagnosed of buying everything gluten, dairy, and soy free in sight fearing someone else might get it and I may starve. It was a party at my house when I got home. My family and I have been hooked ever since. 
For this event, James and Natalie brought their Campfire Cupcakes (one of my favs) and some of their Cinnamon Streusel bread. They sold out of the loaves of Cinnamon Streusel about an hour after the doors opened (if that tells you anything about how good it is). Their daughter Savanna and I have become good buddies. In fact, we are sister queens. I gave her a crown on one of my visits and I have it on good authority she wears it everywhere (like a proper queen should).

I also met the awesome cookbook author and blogger, Pam Jordan. You would never believe it but Pam has three kids. She lives in North Carolina and stopped by to sell her super cool t-shirts and promote her book. She was kind enough to let me have a shirt and I went home and washed it so I could wear it right away. These shirts are not available online yet so I feel pretty exclusive. Her book, Gluten-free Family Approved Recipes, is available online though and I highly recommend it. Check out her recap of the event here

I also met someone who has lived down the street from my parents FOREVER and I had never met in person. What are the odds that there was a gluten-free blogger living near me and I had no clue until I moved to Alaska and we found each other on twitter. Christy of TrulyMadlyFreely blog was there helping out at the Udi's table. It was so great to finally meet her in person. 

Of course, there are always the stable gluten-free companies there like Udi's and Glutino's. As much as I see them at the expos, I still love to visit them and it always seems like there is a new product available. 

This time, it was the gluten-free toaster pastries. My sisters went gaga over them. In fact, they still are and I had to go on a quest to Whole Foods, Target, and Publix today looking for more. Have you seen them? They are excellent at room temp or toasted. My little sister even likes to put a little icing on them and says that makes them perfect. 

Want to know the other items that made my sisters go a little delirious? Earth Balances new popcorn - especially the vegan aged white cheddar flavor. My sisters avoid dairy just like I do so the fact that they can get a cheesy flavor in one of their favorite snacks, thrilled them. I have to say I liked the taste too. However, I am not the one who ran to Whole Foods and purchased three bags and ate one for dinner (cough**Candice** cough) but, I can testify that they are indeed delicious. 

There has never been a gluten-free function where I didn't attempt to steal all the Plentils from Enjoy Life and this one was no exception. I normally stand at the booth and tell people they taste horrible so there are more samples left over for me but I was a little short on time at this event so I had to resort to sending my sisters over occasionally to swipe some when no one was looking. ;) The light sea salt ones are my favorite but the dill & sour cream are a close second. With 40% less fat than the average potato chip and free of the top 8 allergens, Plentils are definitely a staple in our house for the occasional snack. 

I am sad to say that I did not get too many more pictures. I was either busy talking or eating. (Its the truth). I did find a new product that I liked from a company called Virtuous Living. To read more on my review of them, click here. I did find a lot of new twitter friends though and people I think are worth following. Here is a list of them below:

Anne Steib - @Gfreemusings

Christy - @TrulyMadlyFreely

Leah McGrath - @InglesDietitian

Jules Shepard - @JulesGlutenfree 

Pam Jordan - @ImACeliac

GlutenFree Cutie - @GlutenFreeCutie

Jennifer Harris - @jenniferGFinGA

Nikki Everett - @GFirresistibly

Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event - @GFAFWellness

Taylor Miller - @GlutenAway

For more info on the Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event, visit their website! I'll be at their next event in Raleigh! Hope to see you there!

Friday, May 3, 2013

May Recipe of the Month

Going to a Cinco De Mayor party this May? Maybe you are just having a few friends over for a party. Either way. This recipe makes for an amazing meal. I have referred to Simply Recipes on my blog before. I really like the website because most of the recipes are wholesome with simple ingredients and I have yet to find one that didn't taste yummy. Sometimes, on the bigger recipes sites the recipes are submitted by all sorts of people and the measurements and directions can be off and result in a less than average tasting meal. I've never used a recipe from Simply Recipes that I didn't love.

Carne Asada
  • 2 pounds flank or skirt steak
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Marinade:
    • 4 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 jalapeƱo chile pepper, seeded and minced
    • 1 teaspoon freshly ground cumin seed (best to lightly toast the seeds first, then grind them)
    • 1 large handful fresh cilantro, leaves and stems, finely chopped (great flavor in the stems)
    • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 2 limes, juiced
    • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
    • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
    • 1/2 cup olive oil

Lay the flank steak in a large non-reactive bowl or baking dish. Combine marinade ingredients and pour the marinade over the steak. Make sure each piece is well coated. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-4 hours.
carne-asada-3.jpgPreheat your grill over medium-high flame (you can also use a cast iron grill pan on high heat for stove-top cooking). Brush the grates with a little oil to prevent the meat from sticking. Remove the steak from the marinade. If you are cooking indoors, you may want to brush off excess marinade as the bits may burn and smoke on the hot pan. Season both sides of the steak pieces with salt and pepper. Grill the pieces for a few minutes only, on each side, depending on how thin they are, until medium rare to well done, to your preference. You may need to work in batches. Remove the steak pieces to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes. Thinly slice the steak across the grain on a diagonal.
(Optional) Serve with warm corn or gluten-free tortillas and perfect guacamole (see below) or place over chips and melt cheese on top for some amazing nachos!

Original link here.

Perfect Guacamole
  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 1/2 red onion, minced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1-2 serrano chiles, stems and seeds removed, minced (I have also used a jalapeno pepper in a pinch)
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro (leaves and tender stems), finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh lime juice (you can use lemon in a pinch too)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • A dash of freshly grated black pepper
  • 1/2 ripe tomato, seeds and pulp removed, chopped finely

Cut avocados in half. Remove seed. Scoop out avacado from the peel, put in a mixing bowl.
Using a fork, roughly mash the avocado. (Don't overdo it! The guacamole should be a little chunky.) Add the chopped onion, cilantro, lime or lemon, salt and pepper and mash some more. Chili peppers vary individually in their hotness so, start with a half of one chili pepper and add to your desired degree of hotness. Be careful handling the peppers; wash your hands thoroughly!
Chilling tomatoes hurts their flavor, so don't chop the tomatoes or add to the guacamole until ready to serve.
Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the guacamole to prevent oxidation from the air reaching it. Refrigerate until ready.
Just before serving, chop the tomato, add to the guacamole and mix.

Yield: Serves 2-4.

Original recipe found here

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity: An Interview with the Experts Summary

Many people often ask me what the difference is between Celiac Disease and gluten sensitivity. Here is an excellent article I ran across awhile back that was published in the Huffington Post that may help shed some light on these two similar conditions. It also helps that one of my favorite celiac disease experts, Dr. Alessio Fasano, was interviewed for this piece. 

Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity: An Interview With Medical Experts

Posted: 09/13/2012 8:11 am

In honor of National Celiac Disease Awareness Day and to kick off my William Edwards book series, a new series of novels for kids ages 8-12 years in which the main character, William Edwards, has celiac and a food allergy, I'm writing a series of posts about celiac, gluten sensitivity and food allergies, including interviews with actress Jennifer Esposito (Crash) , musician Allie Moss(Corner), and Disney's Kenton Duty.
What follows are email interviews with both Alessio Fasano, M.D., medical director of the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research, and Daniel Leffler, M.D., director of clinical research, The Celiac Center at BIDMC. Both are NFCA scientific/medical advisory board members.
S.Z. Berg: What is the difference between gluten sensitivity and celiac disease? Is it a spectrum? Can you have gluten sensitivity and not have the gene for celiac?
Dr. Alessio Fasano: Think of gluten ingestion on a spectrum. At one end, you have people with celiac disease. This autoimmune disorder triggered by gluten causes intestinal damage leading to malabsorption of nutrients, which results in a wide variety of symptoms and potential complications. It can affect the gastrointestinal system, the central nervous system, and other areas of the body. It can affect anyone at any age and is treatable through the implementation of a strict gluten-free diet for life. People with celiac disease can't tolerate one "crumb" of gluten in their diet.
At the other end are the lucky folks who can consume all the pasta, bread and beer they want with no ill effects whatsoever. In the middle, we have this murky area of gluten reactions, including gluten sensitivity. This is where we are looking for answers about how to best diagnose and treat this recently-identified group of gluten-sensitive individuals.
Although symptoms of gluten sensitivity (particularly gastrointestinal) are often similar to those of celiac disease, the overall clinical picture is less severe. Recent research at the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research shows that gluten sensitivity is a different clinical entity. It doesn't seem to result in the intestinal inflammation that leads to a flattening of the villi of the small intestine that characterizes celiac disease.
The development of tissue transglutaminase (tTG) autoantibodies, used to diagnose celiac disease, is not present in gluten sensitivity. A different immune mechanism, the innate immune response, comes into play in reactions of gluten sensitivity, as opposed to the long-term adaptive immune response that arises in celiac disease.
We use the term gluten sensitivity when celiac disease, wheat allergy, and other clinically-overlapping diseases (Type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel diseases and Helicobacter pylori infection) have been ruled out. Symptoms in gluten sensitivity are triggered by gluten exposure and alleviated by gluten withdrawal.
In gluten sensitivity, there is often a prevalence of extraintestinal instead of gastrointestinal symptoms, including behavioral changes, skin rash, bone or joint pain, muscle cramps, leg numbness, weight loss, "foggy mind," and fatigue. Typical gastrointestinal symptoms include abdominal bloating and gas.
Typically, the diagnosis is made by exclusion, and an elimination diet and "open challenge" -- we carefully reintroduce foods with gluten -- are most often used to evaluate whether the patient's health improves with the elimination or reduction of gluten from the diet.
Through clinical data from the Center for Celiac Research, we estimate that approximately six percent of the U.S. population, or 18 million people, suffers from gluten sensitivity. This group reacts with some of the same symptoms as people with celiac disease, but gluten-sensitive individuals typically test negative for celiac disease in diagnostic blood tests and show no signs of the damage to the small intestine that defines celiac disease.
Contrary to celiac patients who almost invariably (the percentage is close to 100 percent) express the HLA DQ2 and/or DQ8 genes, only 50 percent of subjects with gluten sensitivity are positive for these genes (compared to approximately 35-40 percent of the general population).
Dr. Daniel Leffler: Celiac disease is an immune-mediated disease triggered by gluten, which results in significant inflammation and damage to the small intestine as well as formation of antibodies, which can attack tissues in your body. Gluten sensitivity is a disorder where people have symptoms related to gluten exposure that may be indistinguishable from celiac disease but does not damage the intestine or result in abnormal antibody production. Whether gluten sensitivity is more related to celiac disease or irritable bowel syndrome is unclear, though most investigators currently favor the latter. One reason for this is that it is clear that you can have gluten sensitivity without the gene for celiac disease, while it is very rare for people with celiac disease not to carry these genes.
S.Z. Berg: What are the tests for diagnosing both of these conditions? What tests are available for people who are already gluten-free? How accurate are the tests? What's the gold standard?
Dr. Alessio Fasano: Blood tests are used for the initial screening of celiac disease to measure specific autoantibodies that develop in the blood in reaction to gluten. If these tests are positive, an endoscopy is conducted to confirm the diagnosis by showing the intestinal damage typical of celiac disease (blunted villi).
The endoscopy has long been considered the "gold standard" for the diagnosis of celiac disease. But if the other diagnostic indicators are all strongly present (typical symptoms of celiac disease, positive blood tests, positive genetic markers, and symptom alleviation on gluten-free diet) sometimes the endoscopy can be avoided, particularly in the pediatric population.
There are currently no evidence-based tests to measure biomarkers for gluten sensitivity. The Center for Celiac Research is currently conducting very promising research to develop a reliable evidence-based test.
There are no screening tests available for people who already are on a gluten-free diet, since the biomarkers used to diagnose celiac disease (anti-TTG antibodies, anti-deamidatedgliadin antibodies) disappear once the gluten-free diet is implemented.
Dr. Daniel Leffler: For celiac disease, modern blood tests including tissue transglutaminase (tTG), anti-endomysial antibody (EMA), and deamidatedgliadin peptide (DGP) are all quite good, with accuracy about 90 percent. However, it is both possible to have positive results to these blood tests and to not have celiac disease and conversely have celiac disease but not have positive blood tests. For these reasons, small intestinal biopsy is still the gold standard for celiac diagnosis. Currently, there are no tests for gluten sensitivity; however, if someone tests negative for celiac disease but has clear symptomatic improvement on a gluten-free diet, gluten sensitivity is quite likely.
For people already on a gluten-free diet, options are somewhat limited at this time. Our typical recommendation would be to have tTG and genetic testing done first. If the genetic testing is negative, you can be confident that this is not celiac disease. If genetic testing is positive and tTG is positive, this is likely active celiac disease and you can proceed to endoscopy with small intestinal biopsy. However, if genetic testing is positive and tTG is negative, the only way to sort out if someone has celiac disease is through a gluten challenge, which should be conducted under the guidance of a physician experienced in celiac disease.
S.Z. Berg: Why are the symptoms so varied? What are the cascade of events that lead to symptoms?
Dr. Alessio Fasano: That's a very good question. Although we have a fairly good understanding of celiac disease and the mechanisms, we're just learning about gluten sensitivity. One of the interesting -- and surprising things -- about gluten sensitivity is that it seems to be less related to the intestinal permeability -- leaky gut -- that characterizes celiac disease.
We're still trying to figure out precisely what triggers the onset of celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, or wheat allergy in genetically-susceptible individuals. The immune system, along with possible environmental triggers, including the microbial makeup in the gut, presents a complicated puzzle in that regard that we're trying to unravel. By studying the timing of introducing gluten to infants, we're shedding some light on this area, as well.
Taking into consideration all the current knowledge in the field, we can hypothesize that exposure to gluten fragments can activate immune cells that, once activated, can stay in the intestine, causing local inflammation and, therefore, gastrointestinal symptoms. They can also migrate to other districts where they can cause local inflammation leading to skin rashes, joint pain, foggy mind, etc.
If the inflammatory response is exclusively driven by cells of the innate immune system, then we will have the clinical outcome typical of gluten sensitivity. If the adaptive immune system, including immune cells expressing HLA DQ2 and/or DQ8, also is involved, then the inflammatory process progresses to autoimmune damages typical of celiac disease.
Dr. Daniel Leffler: Symptoms are so varied, because celiac disease is a complex disorder, and the small intestine is a complex organ, and the intersection of these two can be quite unpredictable. For instance, the intestine has an advanced nervous system that controls sensation, motility and is highly connected to the brain so that anything that affects the intestine can cause changes in motility (diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, etc.), changes in sensation (abdominal pain, cramping, etc.) and also affect the brain, causing fatigue, difficulty concentrating and raising the risk of mood disorders, including anxiety and depression. Then, add to this the fact that in celiac disease the immune system is activated and chronic inflammation can affect bones and joints as well as predispose to infections and cancer. Also, as noted above, the antibodies to tTG, which are produced by people with active celiac disease, can attack other parts of the body, causing rashes and possibly also contributing to neurologic dysfunction, thyroid disease, and adverse pregnancy outcomes. Finally, when the intestine is damaged, nutrients are not properly absorbed and various vitamin deficiencies can have different manifestations. Each person with celiac disease has a different combination of these effects and thus will have a different clinical presentation.
S.Z. Berg: What is the link to these conditions and neurological symptoms?
Dr. Alessio Fasano: As I said above, celiac disease can affect any organ or system in the body. So that gluten can cause neurological symptoms is not surprising to us at all.
In our clinic, it's very rare to see a patient who doesn't have symptoms involving the brain or nervous system. The most frequent symptoms include headaches, migraines, anxiety, depression, tingling of the fingertips, and "foggy mind." Loss of coordination or "gluten ataxia" is a less-common manifestation of the effect of gluten on the brain.
At the Center for Celiac Research, we are currently conducting some very promising research into the efficacy of the gluten-free diet in a subset of patients with schizophrenia and autism-spectrum disorders.
S.Z. Berg: What are the symptoms people should be aware of?
Dr. Alessio Fasano: Certainly the classic gastrointestinal symptoms of diarrhea, constipation, bloating, nausea, and discomfort should be evaluated in terms of gluten-related disorders. But it's even more important to evaluate the extraintestinal symptoms discussed above, such as headaches, fatigue, anxiety, depression, and other neurological manifestations.
Of course, many of these symptoms can be related to other conditions. This is what makes diagnosis so tricky, especially with gluten sensitivity.
Dr. Daniel Leffler: Beyond the classic symptoms of diarrhea, weight loss, anemia, and abdominal discomfort, I believe that whenever someone has a chronic medical problem that is not readily explained by another condition, celiac disease testing should be considered.
**Find the original article here