Friday, May 29, 2009

Hemp: A replacement for common food allergens?

I'm all about the hemp lately...I have been eating Hemp Seed (also called hemp hearts) for weeks now, and I made the switch to Unsweetened Hemp Bliss Hemp milk.

I couldn't ignore the nutritional facts. Hemp is an
easily digestible, gluten-free protein. It has an overall protein content of 34.6 g/100 g, with a low carbohydrate content. Of the shelled hemp seed carbohydrate, 6% is in the form of fiber. The fiber content of hemp seed flour is 40%, which is the highest of all commercial flour grains. In addition to containing the basic human nutrient groups, hemp foods have a high content of antioxidants (92.1 mg/100g). The high content of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids make hemp foods beneficial to cardiovascular health (the chart above compares hemp milk to soy, rice, and almond alternatives - click on it to see a clearer image). Additionally, hemp seed contains a wide variety of other vitamins and minerals.

The most basic hemp seed product is the shelled seed. The other major hemp food products are hemp seed butter, which resembles peanut and other nut butters, and cold-pressed hemp seed oil, hemp seed flour and hemp protein powder. In their natural state, hemp foods do not contain any peanuts, milk, wheat, soy, fish & seafood (including crustaceans), eggs, tree nuts, sesame seeds or sulphites (always check the label just to make sure - every manufacturer is different).

My verdict is that I love hemp milk! It tastes great and is quite creamy. Also, I'm finding the hemp hearts to be a welcome addition to many of my recipes (soups, chili, homemade sausage, sprinkled on cereal, alternative crust for meat/fish)...most days, I just sprinkle them on my yogurt. They add a nutty taste that I've been missing. Also, I have noticed an improvement in my digestive health, which is always welcomed! Hemp products seem to be a perfect replacement for common allergens. I can't wait to try hemp butter...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

My experience at Uno's

To support celiac disease research, me and two friends headed out to Uno's Chicago Grill in Manchester, NH this past Saturday night. I had heard mixed things about the GF pizza, so I thought I would check it out for myself. The GF menu was prominently displayed at the entrance. When the host saw us looking at it, he greeted us warmly, asked if we had been there before, etc. I said no and showed him the voucher (20% of our bill would go towards celiac research). I also quizzed him a bit - it's been my experience that some places w/ a GF menu don't really get it. I asked about possible cross-contamination, food prep area, hand washing, etc.

To my delight, he answered all my questions correctly! He said that understanding food allergies/intolerance/sensitivities is not new to fact, he said that they have been participating in training on this topic for three years. (Rather, he said "we've been hit over the head with this stuff for three years.") Great news for me! I told him that it paid off because, were it not for their GF menu and partnering with the American Celiac Disease Alliance, the three of us would not have come in...the one with the food challenges ALWAYS gets to pick the restaurant. Always.

Turns out that our host was a manager. He relayed my dietary needs to our server (I did, too, just to be sure). I ended up ordering the veggie pizza. The manager brought my meal out, and reiterated that it was gluten free and prepared carefully to eliminate possible cross-contamination.

The pizza was yummy! It was on the thin side, but no too thin. It was crispy and springy at the same time. The toppings were very flavorful.

We were checked on by both the server and the manager to assure that all was well. Their welcoming attitude and depth of knowledge made this a very pleasant outing. Plus, because it was my first time there, I got a $5 off the purchase of $15 for next time. I am thinking that there will be a next time.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Food Allergies & Childhood Obesity

I've blogged before about the potential connection between food allergies, being overweight, and the role of inflammation (click here to see that entry). I am a big believer in this theory due to my own personal experience, and the experiences of many of those I've helped.

Monday, the NY Times ran a short story new research published in the Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology on the link between childhood obesity and food allergies, stating that

"Researchers studying more than 4,000 children ages 2 to 19 enrolled in a larger survey of childhood health found a significant association of overweight and obesity with allergic reactions to eggs, peanuts and other common allergens. For example, overweight and obese children were over 50 percent more likely than those of normal weight to be allergic to milk. Over all, the obese and overweight children were about 25 percent more likely to have one or more food allergies...The scientists also found an association between being overweight and levels of C-reactive protein
, a marker of inflammation, which suggests that systemic inflammation may also play a role in the development of allergies. "

Could it be the other way around? That food allergies/intolerance/sensitivities could cause systemic inflammation, which leads to obesity? I know it was a brief article, but I was disappointed that this potential link wasn't mentioned. The good news is, more research is being done on this topic, so I'm hopeful that we will know more in the near future.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A perspective on food challenges

A few things have happened lately that have helped to remind me to keep a positive perspective about food challenges. First was an article in the most recent issue of Living Without, entitled "Living with Allergies: Food sensitivities can help us live with passion and purpose." The author, Jax Peters Lowell, reminds us to embrace the flip side of having food challenges - that we must slow down and "live more mindfully" in order to keep ourselves safe and maintain good health. He challenges us to see that "moderation, patience and self-control—[which are] qualities in short supply at this period in time" are a by-product of adjusting to food challenges...and these are actually good things!

I recently read the book "The Omnivore's Dilemma: A natural history of four meals" by Michael Pollan. Pollan asserts that, because humans can eat just about whatever they want, this causes a dilemma - he calls it a "national eating disorder," where we mindlessly consume foods that are low-quality. We give no thought to what is in them, where they came from, and how they got to our grocery stores. This type of zombie-like behavior has contributed not only to the rise of major health concerns, but also to the demise of the American farmer who, thanks to our demand for fast and cheap, can no longer afford to produce delicious, nutritious, organic, local foods. I found the book to be sobering, and I definitely look at the grocery store in a much different light. My husband read it, too, and we both agreed to make some changes to our eating habits as a result.

Society is moving at such a fast pace these days. No one stays still for very long. Food that is quick and convenient is in high demand. Countless studies have shown that the kind of lifestyle Americans lead has had a direct impact on the rise of many dangerous health issues. When you have food challenges, you must think long and hard about what you put into your body. Having dinner with friends this past week reminded me that, in a sense, I am lucky. Out of necessity, I have to prioritize my health. I cannot be a zombie when it comes to eating. The silver lining here is that I am much healthier for it. One of my friends said that he is trying to eat a GF diet because he knows it's much better for him. Many studies are starting to support his thoughts on this.

Lucky? Huh...that reframe helps. Our thoughts influence our feelings, which then influence behavior. If we are thinking "this stinks, I hate this, it's not fair" about our food challenges, well, this will lead to negative feelings and not-so-helpful behaviors. However, if we can switch our perspective to be more positive, then our feelings will improve, and, in turn, our behavior will improve. Try it and see for yourself.

Monday, May 25, 2009

It's BBQ Time! Here are some tips:

You can still enjoy yourself at a summer BBQ...even if you have food challenges. Here's how:

* Talk your host ahead of time and explain what your needs are.

* While giving the list of what you can't eat, give a list of what you can: for example,
plain grilled chicken no sauce or marinade or a burger without burger seasoning.

* Offer to bring something to share with everyone (and that will be safe for you). I love it when people remark "Wow, that's gluten free?! It's so good!"

* Now is the time to discuss cross contamination, what it is and how to prevent it. [Cross contamination occurs when, for example cooking utensils like flatware, tongs, pots, pans, sponges or a cutting board is in contact with both a problematic food and then in contact with any other food thus contaminating it.].

* Explain what your known symptoms are if you do in fact ingest something that causes problems, and what to do if you get sick. Especially if you are at risk for anaphylaxis, tell your host what this looks like and what to do if it happens.

* Always have your medications with you. Make sure you have a safe person with you, someone who knows you and your allergies and what to do in case of an emergency. Have a card in your wallet that lists your allergies and their possible reactions or wear a medic alert bracelet

* Go to the party early. Offer to help with set-up. Help your host prepare your dish so you can ensure it's safe for you.

* Ask to see the ingredients - marinades whether purchased or homemade can have many unexpected ingredients in them. When in doubt, leave the marinade out. You can also ask to see the package and read the ingredient list carefully or call the manufacturer's toll-free number. When in any doubt, just ask for your dish to be plain - my fall back choice for a BBQ is olive oil, cumin, salt, & pepper.

* Ask your host to cook yours first before anything else has touched the grill. If you got a peak at the grill and it doesn't look clean, offer to clean it, or ask your host to cook your food in a clean pan or on aluminum on top of the grill, which will minimize cross contamination, but still give you that smokey BBQ taste.

* Make sure nothing has touched your plate that could present a cross contamination issue. For example, someone will often put a roll on my plate before remembering that I cannot have it.

* Remember that BBQs are not only about the food. If you are very sensitive or nervous about this kind of outing remember: you are at a party to socialize, eating is only one part of the fun. You may just want to eat a safe meal at home and go for the fun and games. Or bring your own meal and eat on site something safe and yummy that you've prepared. Never succumb to feeling pressured to eat food you don't feel 100% safe about; no one wants you to be sick.

Here's to summer!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

1st Celiac Disease Conference to come to New England

Mark your calendars: Saturday, October 3, 2009 - it's an important date for the celiac community in the New England area...the first New England Celiac Conference will be hosted by The Healthy Villi and the BIDMC Celiac Center.

When: Saturday, Oct 3 from 8:00 AM - 4:30 PM (reservations open July 1st - go to the Healthy Villi website)

Where: Best Western Royal Plaza Hotel 181 Boston Post Road West Marlboro, MA 01752

What: This day-long conference will provide information about celiac disease to both patients and professionals. Leading authorities will present a broad range of topics including medical care, research, nutrition, coping skills, and cooking techniques.

Cost: Plans are still being finalized, but the estimate is $35

What's included: GF continental breakfast, GF lunch, vendor sampling & product sales, cooking demos, 5 different afternoon workshops, and 14 speakers from various disciplines.

Sounds like a bargain to me! See you there!

Undeclared pecan product recall

Brent and Sam’s is recalling “Simply Enjoy Brand Pina Colada White Chocolate Gourmet Cookies” due to undeclared pecan.

The product was distributed to Stop & Shop stores in Connecticut, Maine,
New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island.

The 7-oz. metallic packages have the date code 1ASep 26 2009 carton UPC 6
8826705538 and case UPC 6 8826745538.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Product review: Nutribiotic Nasal Spray

If you are looking for an all-natural nasal spray to help relieve sinus pressure and stuffiness, you might want to try Nutribiotic Nasal Spray. The formula contains grapefruit seed extract (GSE), which is said to be a safe and effective multipurpose (broad spectrum) compound with countless uses.

Here is what I've found out about GSE:
*It is being used successfully in humans and animals alike to eliminate many types of internal and external infections caused from parasites (single and multi-celled), viruses, bacteria, fungus and more. (This is why it's used to treat Candida, which can exist in the sinuses)

*It naturally detoxifies, enhances and supports the immune system. If you have food challenges, chances are your immune system could use a boost!

* GSE contains high levels of vitamin C and E, and bioflavonoids. The important substances have an antioxidant action and can neutralize free radicals that damage cells and cause a number of illnesses.

* GSE is effective at very low concentrations. During 1989-90, an international research team (reported in the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine, Volume 5, No. 3, USA, 1990) examined the effects of GSE and compared this with 30 effective antibiotics and 18 proven fungicides. GSE was found to perform as well as any and all of the tested agents. Without the harsh side effects. It is a natural alternative to strong antibiotics!

* GSE is nontoxic. According to an independent laboratory testing "Acute Oral Toxicity", it would take at least 4,000 times the normal dose of GSE to produce a 50% chance of poisoning (called LD50).

I've used it for over a year now. I like to do 2 squirts in each nostril after using my Netti Pot. It doesn't have an odor, nor does it sting or tingle. It feels gentle like a saline solution. I experience an immediate difference in my nose and sinuses that lasts most of the day.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Product Review: The Organic Bistro

While enjoying myself at the Healthy Villi Spring Meeting this past weekend, I was able to try out several new products. One of my favorites was from The Organic Bistro. They make healthy, nutritionally rich, gluten & dairy free, convenient frozen meals. I tried the Chicken Citron: "Chicken breast on spinach with herbed quinoa and sundried tomato edamame - All natural grilled chicken breast delicately seasoned with lemon-herb glaze, served with thyme scented quinoa pilaf and a warm edamame-sundried tomato salad."

One word: FABULOUS! The flavor was incredible! I felt like I was eating a gourmet meal...nothing plain or ordinary about this dish! Usually I'm not a fan of frozen meat coming out of a microwave, but the texture was wonderful. It did not appear to be frozen at all. The quinoa was light and fluffy. The edamame was tasty and not mushy. I wanted to have more, but stopped myself at just a few bites due to still being on in the elimination phase. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I'm happy to have found an organic, healthy convenience food.

From their website: "We recognize that many people are looking for healthy alternatives that are also gluten free and dairy free. The ingredients in Organic Bistro Whole Life Meals are carefully selected to provide all of the flavor, texture and healthy nutrition you need, while remaining both gluten free and dairy free. Whether you need this level of purity in your diet or not, rest assured that no flavor or nutritional sacrifices have been made to achieve this status.

The recipe development team at Organic Bistro recognizes the struggle gluten-intolerant individuals experience when searching for truly gluten-free choices. We are committed to providing gluten-free meals. All eight of our Whole Life Meals are gluten-free. As we develop future meals, we will continue to expand our gluten-free offerings. "

A true find!

6/3/09 Update - received an email that, due to fast expansion, the location tool on the website is under construction, but should be ready by mid June. They sent me a very long list by state of stores that are carrying their products. Email me at for a copy of the list.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Elimination Diet Day 45: Challenge Phase

Phew! Day 45 and finally ready to challenge. It won't necessarily take everyone 45 days - it all depends on how soon your body starts to recover once you have removed potential foods that are causing problems. For me, I also had to re-balance the bacteria in my digestive track (candida was a bit out of control). Not everyone will need to do that.

So what does being in the challenge phase mean? That many of your symptoms have been reduced significantly or have gone away as a result of being on the elimination diet. For me, it's the three S's: skin, stomach, sinuses. Although not at 100% good health, all three have made significant improvements. Now it's time to figure out what hidden food sensitivities were causing these problems for me in the first place.

One food is challenged at a time. You essentially remain on the elimination diet adding in only the food you are challenging. You eat one bite of the food. Wait 10 minutes. If all goes well, have a 2nd bite. Wait 1 hour. If no symptoms emerge, have an entire serving. Then wait about 3 days and notice any symptoms (some take longer to show up than others). Once you've cleared the 3 day mark, challenge another food.

How long this phase lasts is up to you - depending on the number of foods you suspect may be causing problems. My list is about 12 long, so it's going to be a little while. A small price to pay for good health (maintenance phase)!

The first food I am challenging is rice. Wish me luck!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Take 1 minute to promote Celiac Awareness

Only a fraction of the 3 million Americans with Celiac Disease are diagnosed.
Sharing your story will educate others. It will help find allies for our awareness efforts. Most importantly, your story advocates for those still struggling to find proper medical care.

The American
Celiac Disease Alliance has made it easy to write to your congressional representative about supporting
H.Con.Res. 110, the National Celiac Awareness bill. Simply click here to fill in a few fields and send it off. It's that simple.

Thank you for your support!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Uno's fundraiser for Celiac Disease

Uno's National Dough Rai$er for Celiac Awareness May 25-31

Uno Chicago Grill has partnered with the American Celiac Disease Alliance to host a National Dough Rai$er for Celiac Awareness the week of May 25 - 31. This the perfect time to highlight the restaurant's gluten-free menu and for friends and families of those with celiac disease to try out the new Gluten-Free pizza! It was launched earlier this year to rave reviews. Check the map for your nearest location. Before you go, print out this coupon to save $1.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tips for flying with food allergies

I couldn't say it any better myself, so here are tips for flying with food allergies from Allergic Living Magazine:

Before you fly:

  • Call the airline and ask about their allergy policy before you book your ticket. You don’t want to find out by surprise that peanut satay is being served on your flight to Hong Kong.
  • Look at the airline’s website or call customer service to find out what foods are served or sold on board.
  • When you book, make sure to tell the reservations or travel agent about your allergies, and what specific accommodations you need.
  • Book a flight that’s earlier in the day, because the planes get cleaned overnight, and there is less likelihood nut snacks will be consumed in the morning. This means less chance of encountering the allergen on seats and in seat pockets, etc.
  • Book direct flights if possible, so you’re not dealing with multiple planes and flight crews.
  • Bring your auto-injectors and/or asthma medications with you onto the plane (do not check them). Security may require that these medications show a prescription label in the name of the patient/traveler.
  • Transport Canada also advises carrying an official doctor’s note stating that the medication is required for severe allergies or asthma. For sample notes, see

When you fly:

  • Tell everyone you deal with – the check-in agent, the staff at the gate, the flight attendants – about your child’s or your allergies. Even if the booking agent said you will be accommodated, play it safe and make sure everyone knows.
  • Arrive at the gate early and talk to the staff before they’re too busy. Be clear, calm and polite.
  • If you’re concerned about contact with small amounts of an allergen, ask to pre-board and wipe down the seats, tray tables and armrests. You can also cover the seat with a blanket or a seat cover. Bring wipes to wash your hands.
  • Bring your own food. Don’t eat meals prepared by the airline’s caterers, even if a flight attendant tells you there are no nuts or other allergens. Make sure to bring extra food in case of delays.
  • Keep medication with you; do not store it in the overhead bin.
  • If someone near you is eating a food that is dangerous to you, politely explain your situation and ask if they would be willing to stop. If they are, say thanks and offer to buy them some food that is safe.
  • Keep your hands out of your eyes and mouth.
  • Have a plan for what happens if you react.
  • If you are reacting to something, tell the flight crew. It is important that they know about your condition.

After you fly:

  • If you had a good experience, make sure to thank the flight crew for their efforts, and tell them you’ll definitely fly with the airline again. Write a letter to the airline (copying the company president), expressing your appreciation, and noting that you will certainly travel with the company again and will encourage others to do so.
  • If you have an unpleasant experience, write to the airline and politely explain what happened. Tell them that you and your family will think twice before flying with the carrier again. Also include information about what could have made your flight better.
  • You can also lodge a complaint with the Canadian Transportation Agency:, or the U.S. Department of Transportation:
Allergic Living Magazine also published a helpful chart comparing airlines allergy policies. Click here to view.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Local raw honey helps food sensitivities? News to me...

In my search to get my digestive system behaving so that I can take the leap from being on the elimination diet to actually challenging suspect foods, I wandered into The Herbal Path Pharmacy in Portsmouth, NH. It was a mixed experience. The first time I went in, the lady (I didn't get her name, which I regret) was helpful and showed me hemp hearts (give me a little more time with these and I'll blog about my thoughts), gave me a free sample, said they would help. I found her to be a little too sure about the information she was providing - I'm always skeptical when someone - with great conviction - says they know what will help b/c food allergies/intolerance/sensitivities are not an exact science. Everyone's body behaves differently and she didn't have one drop of info about my LONG history...

Anyhow, I liked the taste of hemp hearts and I did a lot of reading about their claims, so I went back to buy a container of them and to try a new probiotic. There were 2 women working that day and I felt as though they tag-teamed me a bit. When reading the label of the probiotic they recommended, I commented that it contains rice, and that I'm avoiding rice as a part of an elimination diet, so I would need to pick another one. The woman who is studying some advance degree launched into how she just went to a class lecture and that rice is the safest grain in the world. I explained that my research has shown that too, but a rice sensitivity is not unheard of...I've had great luck w/ previous elimination diets and I'm testing out less common foods. They got quiet and shrugged their shoulders in a way that made me think that they were thinking "she's nuts."

Then the other woman said, "You've got food sensitivities? You need raw local honey. That'll cure them." I explained that my research has shown that raw local honey might help with environmental allergies, but I hadn't seen any regarding food sensitivities. She said that I had nothing to lose by trying it...At this point, I was in a hurry and felt that it would go no where to explain that I've been working on restoring the balance of bacteria in my system and that honey would be sure to throw that off again, so I kept quiet. Not to mention that "cure" is a very strong word. Because I was in a hurry and I'm getting desperate to challenge, I did follow through w/ making my two purchases, though today I regret it.

I went home and researched raw local honey again, and found the same results as before - nothing ties it to helping food sensitivities. I'm not saying it doesn't - I'm saying I don't know, and I'm saying that to make this claim with such conviction doesn't make sense. ...and then not to really listen to a customer with a different opinion doesn't feel good.

The morale of the story is - be careful of folks who no doubt want to be helpful, but who don't have all the information. There are very few absolutes when it comes to discovering and adapting to food allergies, intolerance, and sensitivities. This is why we need to support & advocate for more research, and to carefully experiment and listen to our bodies. I'm going to add this pharmacy to my list of places to gently educate...

Friday, May 8, 2009

A call for action - food labels need improvement!

Back in September of 2008, a petition was submitted to the FDA to include rye and barley in the list of most common allergens which must be disclosed on packaging. Right now, only wheat has to be disclosed, but as we all know the gluten of rye and barley is just as offensive to celiacs as that of wheat. So to include wheat in the list without including rye and barley was nonsensical. The list needs to be amended so that rye and barley sources are also disclosed.

Without this disclosure, such things as "modified food starch", "flavor," "natural flavor" and other ambiguous ingredients may be derived from rye or barley without disclosure. This means that currently we cannot buy or eat anything with such "ambiguous" ingredients without a great deal of risk. After a 6 month delay, the petition is now available to be seen and publicly commented upon at: Despite what this website might say, it is not an expired petition, and you can comment on it.

I hope you will go there, and read the petition, and leave a comment in favor of it for the FDA's consideration. The more positive comments we get stored in FDA's database, the sooner we are likely to get action on this.

Thank you!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

General Mills product update

General Mills must have experienced some success with their reformulation of Rice Chex to be gluten free, because they are now in the process of reformulating 5 more cereals to be gluten free:
  • Corn Chex
  • Honey Nut Chex
  • Strawberry Chex
  • Chocolate Chex
  • Cinnamon Chex
All 5 products should be widely available across the U.S. by June 1, 2009.

As always, make sure to carefully read the labels. During a transition like this, there can be the non-GF formula mixed in on shelves with the GF formula.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Elimination Diet Day 33 - My Special Granola Recipe

So it's day 33 and I'm seeing the beginnings of my digestive track getting well - I removed avocado from my diet and added hemp hearts, which are said to be a miracle food. After I've had more time trying these little wonders, I will give you a full review in a future blog. For now, though, I'm loving my new elimination diet-friendly, free from many common food allergens Special Granola:

3 C quinoa FLAKES (usually come in a box and not sold in bulk)
3 C puffed Millet cereal (I like Nature's Path brand - it contains no sugar)
1 C raw sunflower seeds
1 C raw pumpkin seeds
1 C unsweetened flaked coconut
1/4 C agave nectar
1/4 C canola oil
1/2 t salt

Heat oven to 225. Grease a large roasting pan w/ some oil. Place the first 5 ingredients in the pan and toss around. Pour agave nectar and canola oil all over. Add salt and mix around. Bake at 225 for 2 hours - stir a few times during the cooking process. Turn oven off and let the granola cool down and dry out. Store in air tight containers.

Ways to change this up according to your needs & tastes:
* use puffed rice cereal in place of the quinoa and/or the millet puffs
* roasted soy beans/soy nuts can be used in place of all or some of the seeds
* if you can eat nuts, use those instead of all or some of the seeds
* add some grated orange peel for more flavor
* sprinkle on some cinnamon
* when I'm not doing elimination anymore (in the Maintenance Phase), I will add some dried fruit after the 2 hours of baking

It's great as a cereal or a snack on the go!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Food Sensitivity Resources

Today, my professional website,, is officially up and running! On it, you will find

* Personal coaching services
* Business consultation services
* School consultation services
* Advocacy work
* Events

Let me know what you think!