Trick or Treat!

When I was growing up, Halloween was one of my FAVORITE times of year. Come on! You get to dress up in a cool costume and get candy from your neighbors? That’s a pretty sweet deal!  After my cousins and I would finish going door to door, we would dump all of our candy out into piles and start trading for our favorites.  For a kid, that was amazing!

It’s been a LONG time since I’ve gone trick or treating and I don’t have any kids of my own, but my heart breaks for kids with food allergies. I know how scary it must be for their moms and dads as well. I try to give the best advice I can to my own patients- let kids be kids. Do NOT prevent them from trick or treating. Do NOT take all of their candy away (unless of course they come home with an obscene amount- then donate it to a shelter or food pantry). My recommendation for dealing with food allergies actually falls back on my childhood memories- candy trading. Okay stop laughing, I’m serious. Pick up a bag or two of gluten free snacks your kids love and start trading with them. Offer a pack of m&m’s for their kitkat bars, etc.

There are studies that show children with food allergies can sometimes be alienated from their peers.   So check out this list provided by the Celiac Disease Foundation and get your kids out there!

Happy Halloween!


Perfectly Imperfect

Anyone with celiac can relate to the awful moment when some gluten has managed to get past their lips. For me, those have always included being pretty angry and disappointed in myself. I would think: I’m never going to figure out this diet. I don’t want to go out to eat anymore. I don’t trust anyone with preparing my food except myself and, honestly, sometimes I didn’t even trust myself. After about 5 years of the diet I think I have finally gotten the hang of it. While I know its bad to cheat on the GFD, I will be honest and say I have done it in the past. Is it worth it? Nope. Seriously- the food wasn’t as good as I thought it would be and I would be sick for days! Plus, there’s always the long term consequences associated with NOT following the GFD! I don’t know about you, but infertility, osteoporosis and CANCER do not sound like a great trade off for that pizza or cookie! 

So for the first few months I would CONSTANTLY beat myself up about my mistakes. It made the processes pretty miserable for myself. I now know much better and give myself some slack. When I talk to people who are new to the diet, I try to warn them that mistakes are bound to happen. It’s a part of life and you just need to quickly identify your source and get rid of it. I can’t tell you how many times I have taken everything out of my refrigerator or my cabinets and gone over every label. EVERY SINGLE LABEL. It may sound like an overkill, but hey, sometimes the ingredients change! 

About 6 weeks ago I started to have trouble sleeping. I was increasingly fatigued and had various joint and muscle aches. I’m one to end up with mouth sore with my “flares” and I ended up with a few of them on and off over the past few weeks. My personal life had been pretty damn stressful lately so I pretty well attributed it all to stress. That is until the cramping and stomach pains kicked in. Apparently, after 5 years of the diet, things still manage to slip past me. I had changed my kcups for my keurig and apparently not realized that one brand “contains trace amount of wheat.” One or two k-cups each week had not done too much damage but it was a whole different story when I started having them daily, then twice each day, and finally 3-4 times each day! Oh come on! The more tired I was, the more coffee I would drink! Now I know there are concerns out there about coffee in general being a source of gluten and let me tell you that is FALSE! In fact, most (almost all) are gluten free! It’s the fancy-shmacy flavored ones you need to double and triple check! (In case you’re wondering, I was pounding cafe escapes french vanilla cafe au lait)

The reason I decided to take a moment and post this is because I’m sure there are many other celiacs out there that have had to deal with accidental ingestion. It’s frustrating, but it happens to the best of us! None of us are perfect no matter how hard we try.  


Bottoms up!

So after a pretty rough week at work (okay it’s technically only Wednesday but it’s been a REALLY rough week) it is safe to say that I’m already looking forward to going home tonight an enjoying an adult beverage. Or two. Maybe three.   During my BCD (before celiac disease) days, I never gave much thought to going out with friends and ordering a drink. However, thanks to Mr. Gluten, I had to do a little extra thinking, read a few (okay tons) of labels, and ask the bartenders way too many questions for their liking. When I was first diagnosed, the gluten-free world was a little narrower, less defined, and definitely less user-friendly. My go-to drink had always been a half and half (Guinness/Harp for those not familiar with lager) but suddenly it was no longer an option.  I was never a big mixed drink kind of girl so needless to say I was a bit frustrated.  Thanks to some awesome friends, I was introduced to the world of gluten free beer.  I don’t want to sound too judgmental here, but let’s just say it was a world I wasn’t too crazy about.  New Grist, Bards, and Redbridge were the three that were most readily available and they just weren’t doing it for me. Now I wouldn’t say that they were bad, in fact, I would occasionally pick up a six pack.  They just weren’t for me. (Though Redbridge is a surprisingly good lager, but again, you have to like lagers to appreciate this!)  I know, what you’re thinking. Yeah there are plenty of delicious fruity drinks mixed drinks that I could try, and I did. Most were fabulous just like me, but let’s face it, I’m a Midwestern girl.  Holding a vodka soda during a football game just won’t do!  Oddly enough, Irish pubs though were always a great option for finding a suitable substitute- cider! I’m not talking about the apple cider you drank as a kid. I’m talking about the grown up version- hard apple cider.

Over the past two years, I have noticed an increase in different brands on the market. It has become my go-to-drink when I’m out with friends since most places have at least one cider on their drink list.  Woodchuck is one of my favorites. There are PLENTY of different flavors to choose from, including raspberry and pear. Of course they also make seasonal blends and, since its fall, PUMPKIN! I know it sounds *interesting* but it’s actually pretty tasty.  Another fabulous brand is Angry Orchard.  They also have different flavors including crisp apple, traditional dry, green apple, and apple ginger. Likewise, they have seasonal blends too! So this fall, if Woodchuck’s pumpkin doesn’t do it for ya, try Angry Orchard’s Cinnful Apple!  

In case you’re wondering, this weekend while I’m cheering on my Chicago Bears, I’ll be enjoying my favorite cider- Angry Orchard Crisp Apple. Yum!  Bottoms up!


National Down Syndrome Awareness Month

imagesDid you know that October is National Down Syndrome Awareness Month? Did you also know that children with Down Syndrome are more likely to develop celiac disease than other children? According to some studies, the number can be as high as 10%, compared to 0.7% of the general population. That’s a huge deal!  Children (and adults) with Down Syndome are at a higher risk of autoimmune disorders, the two most common being hypothyroid disease and celiac disease. In autoimmune diseases, your body gets its signals crossed and takes its aggravation out on itself. Yup- your body basically attacks, well- your body. In celiac disease, antibodies are made when we ingest gluten. They then turn and begin attacking the small intestine and prevent our bodies from absorbing important nutrients.  The only way to prevent this from happening is by following the gluten free diet.


Now, while celiac disease is definitely addressed more frequently now by doctors, it may not be one of the first things they think about in their patients with Down Syndrome.  My point? Well, sometimes parents need to be their children’s advocate, even with their pediatrician. So, if you’re concerned that your child may have signs or symptoms of celiac disease, bring it up at your next appointment! You may be right.


ImageAnyone that knows me is well aware that fall is pretty much my favorite season. Not only do the leaves begin to change and makes everything look amazing, but the weather begins to cool and I can finally bring out my cozy sweaters and cute boots! (Oh and please note that I LOVE when the leaves change color but I may love them slightly less when I have to rake them out of my yard!)

This past weekend I was able to finally do one of my favorite end of summer activies- apple picking! Galas? Honeycrips? Oh my!  When I was a kid, my mom would end up with way too many apples in the house by the end of the season and I would be spoiled with some of the best pies and treats ever! While yes, gluten free pies are not only possible but pretty yummy too, there are plenty of other gluten free options out there as well!  This week I’m going to try to provide some recipes for you to try at home. The best part is that they are all very kid friendly- so get your little helpers out and get started!

Apple Chips

2 medium apples (use your favorite variety but gala’s are my favorite and this is seriously your only ingredient)


Preheat oven to 225 degrees

Slice apples into THIN slices. I use a mandolin to make it faster and the results are way better than if I had to use a knife. You can use a knife to push out the seeds as well. If you’re worried about the seeds you can easily core the apple first but that’s an extra step I’m too lazy to make. Plus I think the star shape center you get from slicing the whole apple looks pretty! (Oh and note the mandolin is totally not kid friendly- adults only please)

Arrange apple slices on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Do not overlap the apple slices or they end up sticking together

Bake for 90 minutes, then flip them and bake for an additional 60 minutes.

Remove chips and allow to cool completely. You can store them in an airtight container for 5-7 days.

Cinnamon Sugar Apple Chip

Prepare the same way as the above recipe but sprinkle slices with cinnamon sugar (1tsp cinnamon with 1 tsp sugar). It doesn’t add too many calories but definitely ups the wow factor of these chips!



The sub hub

Well as I eluded to in my last blog, the gluten free world has pretty well exploded! You can find GF certified foods in just about any supermarket and there are plenty of GF substitutes out there. From pasta, to bread, to pizza, if you can dream it, I’m pretty sure you can find it!

That being said, there’s a caveat that you should know! Gluten is a great thing. If you ignore what it does to those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity it is wonderful- its found in wheat, rye, spelt and loads of other sources and its what gives bread a nice fluffy texture. Now, yes you can buy gluten free breads and some of them are pretty tasty (I said SOME, not ALL- unless you like cardboard). The problem with a lot of these gluten free world substitutes is that they generally have more things added to them to make them seem like the “real” thing. In most cases, this means more fat, more sugar, and, in the end, more calories. Lesson here? Eat responsibly.

Speaking of eating responsibly- do you remember when you would get excited to make cookies at home with mom? If you were really good you got to eat some of the raw cookie dough (or sneak some of the raw cookie dough if mom was yelling about the dangers of raw eggs!) When I was in college I realized that pillsbury also sold premade cookie dough where you just needed to break off a chunk and toss it in the oven (or my mouth). Wouldn’t you know it, I recently discovered the gluten free version?!?! Pillsbury now sells the same thing in small tubs in the refrigerated section of my local grocery store. Of course there’s the infamous “Do not eat raw dough” label, but I may *occasionally* ignore it. Just don’t tell my mom.

Looking at the plate half full

I think one of the hardest parts of celiac disease is learning to navigate the gluten free diet. I’ll admit, the first month after my diagnosis I had the same thing every day: scrambled eggs for breakfast, a salad for lunch (with no dressing because I was scared), and grilled chicken with avocado and rice for dinner. Everyday. Every. Single. Day.

Finally I decided to tackle the diet head on. One of my dietician friends had explained that it would be a “roadmap” for me to navigate. Umm, hello!?!? I felt like a needed a GPS to find my way! I decided I needed a new outlook on the GFD (that’s gluten free diet- I can’t help it, I’m a doctor- we like the alphabet soup abbreviations). I had been mourning the loss of the foods I couldn’t eat- cakes/cookies *doh*, pasta *eek*, deep dish Chicago pizza *OMG*. Instead, I had to change my outlook and appreciate the foods that I could enjoy and that I loved- tacos (corn tortillas of course), steak *yum*, chocolate *double yum*, and… wine! Score!

And, truth be told, after the first month or two, I stopped missing my gluten goodies. In fact, I felt so good that I realized it really wasn’t worth it. Not only did I have all these amazing foods that I could enjoy, but I felt fabulous! Plus, the gluten free world is expanding so quickly that gluten free substitutes are popping out everywhere you look!  Need a GF cake? No problem! Pasta? Absolutely!  Now, not only is my plate half full, its practically overflowing…

Pumpkin lovin’

Ahh fall! It’s my favorite time of year! Bring on the warm cozy sweaters, hot apple pie, gorgeous leaves… and all things pumpkin! That’s right! Pumpkin pie, pumpkin bars, pumpkin chocolate chip cookies! Yeah do you see conundrum? Most of the time you’re gonna have a hard time finding the gluten free version readily available. Then of course there’s the all important symbol of the season- the wonderful, spectacular pumpkin spiced latte! (Inset applause here)

So Starbucks lovers out there are all aware and in love with this yummy fall treat.  However, for you gluten-challenged folks out there, beware! Starbucks claims that nothing prepared can be guaranteed gluten free. While the syrups are mostly gluten free, they cannot guarantee cross contamination- likewise with the yummy toppings. So, if you’re someone that reacts to small amounts of cross contamination or just do not want to risk it- stay away! These are definitely to be enjoyed at your own risk!

That being said, pumpkins are one of my favorite things! So if you want to take advantage of all things pumpkins, I have a little treat for you! If you’re looking for super soft skin and enjoy papering yourself- try this pumpkin based mask! Just don’t eat it as the Bentonite clay is not edible. The mask lasts for a few days if you seal it and toss it in the ‘fridge. I usually use it every 2-3 days on my “rough patches” like my elbows and legs and once/week on my face. Trust me. You’ll thank me later.
Pumpkin mask
1c  pumpkin purée
1/2c bentonite clay
2tbsp honey
4tbsp water
3tbsp  almond oil
3tsp cinnamon
*super easy! Just mix it all together!


The numbers game…

Did you know that 1/133 Americans has celiac disease? Thats huge! The sad fact though is that 85% of them are still unaware of their diagnosis. I cannot stress enough how important it is to be tested. I dealt with celiac disease for YEARS before having a diagnosis. As a physician, I can tell you how little doctors learn about CD in medical school. At that time (and it wasn’t that long ago!) it was either overlooked or seen as unimportant because it was “rare.” Yes, rare.  Does 1/133 sound rare? That goes to show how much we have learned about the disease in just a few years. Doctors are now more aware and the idea of “gluten free” is not nearly as daunting as it had once been. While at one time I dreaded going out and dealing with the confused face of the waiter when I asked for a gluten free option, I can now go to a baseball game, order a gluten free beer or cider and enjoy a hot dog! Amazing!
Now some other quick facts for you. Did you know that the number of men and women with celiac disease is essentially equal? However, us ladies are diagnosed more frequently than our men! We tend to go to the doctor more and we are more upfront with our physicians about our ailments. Lesson here girls? Get our boys to the doctor! STAT!

Learning to be fabulous!

Fabulous is an incredible word- dontcha think? I mean, who wouldn’t want to be fabulous? And, if I can be completely honest here- I wasn’t always fabulous. Shocking, I know! See, for a long time I had to deal with the unknown and for me it came with a price. I never understood why I always felt sick, why I felt horrible after eating certain foods, or why I was having horrible migraines. I avoided social situations, developed a fear of food, and well, at times, became miserable! That all changed a few years ago when I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. What? No gluten? You’ve got to be kidding. Nope, they weren’t.

I’m sharing my story and journey here to shed some light in on a subject I hold close to my heart. Celiac Disease isn’t fabulous but once you learn to embrace it, make some changes to your lifestyle (okay a lot of changes), you’re given a chance to finally embrace life and truly live it. Now when people ask “how are you doing?” I don’t have to think twice- I simply tell them, “I’m fabulous.”