… And Then Cancer Moves Up On My List Of Health Concerns (and why I’m ok with it)

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Two years ago I figured out that a severe gluten intolerance was the culprit of my ill health (as a side note, I’m still awaiting determination if it’s Celiac Disease). By strictly modifying my diet, my ill health improved drastically.

Just over a year ago I suffered a mental breakdown and began treatment for clinical depression. Again, huge results in my mental and physical health after I started on a low dose anti-depressant.

Now, Cancer is on the forefront of my list of health concerns that I need to keep an eye out for. Warning: This is a bit of a long story.

Remember the kids’ story “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day“? The particular day in question wasn’t quite as bad as that … but it was the start of the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week.

I woke up the last Monday of March and it was just one of those days. It was one of those days where I just feel like all I want to do is sit down and cry and there was absolutely nothing that I could think of that had set it off. Once upon a time it was a regular occurrence. Now, it only happens from time to time. I’m not sure what exactly it is that spurs it on … it could be that my anti-depressants were taken too close together or too far apart. Perhaps it was related to my monthly cycle. Who knows what triggered it. I just knew that if I got up and carried on that it would likely pass at some point throughout the day and if not, my mood/state would be reset the following day after waking up after a long nights sleep.

Later on that day I had a message from my mom saying that my dad had went for an ultrasound and something had shown up. The next day, he returned for a CT scan and the results indicated that most likely one of the polyps in his stomach had turned cancerous.

This was not 100% entirely unexpected. My father has a condition called Attenuated Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (AFAP). If left untreated, growths (called polyps) can form in the colon and turn cancerous over time. A regular colonoscopy can check for these growths and if present, they can be removed at that time. My father had his first polyp show up at the age of 40. By the time that he had turned 50 the number had multiplied so rapidly that there were hundreds of polyps in his large intestine – too many to “burn off”. As a preventative measure, he had all but a few inches of his large intestine removed. The following year polyps began forming in his stomach. And similarly, they multiplied to the hundreds. At first there were talks about removing his entire stomach, connecting his esophagus to his small intestine, a process referred to as a gastrectomy . But it would be such a huge impact to his body considering that there was only a few inches left to his large intestine, and in his particular case they expected him to be on a liquid diet and probably have to use a feeding tube. They decided to monitor at 6 month intervals with the intent that they would be able to do the surgery the minute (figuratively, that is) that the polyps started to turn. He was due to go back in a few weeks for his 6 month “inspection” but over the Fall he wasn’t feeling well, having a lot of pain, and that past week he was starting to get nauseated, in addition to the other new symptoms that he was experiencing. That’s when they put him on the fast track for the ultrasound and CT scan.

I ended up calling in to work that Wednesday and said that I wouldn’t be in. I had a lot to process.

My first thoughts were just getting him through his surgery and treatments. Then I started to think about what was to come next. I thought about how his life would be affected by no longer having a stomach (I suspect I inherited my ‘foodie’ personality from him). And then it occurred to me that if I ever do get my restaurant idea off of the ground, that my dad would not be able to enjoy the food that is prepared there. And it made me sad. My dad has always been super proud of my accomplishments and I would hate for him not to experience it in its entirety.

And then my thoughts started to shift from my dad … to my eventual fate.

I, like my dad, am gene positive for AFAP. I’ve known that I’ve had the condition since I was little, due to genetic testing. Screening for polyps started for me while I was still in high school. My dad didn’t get his first polyp until he was 40. By age 50, he had the majority of his large intestine removed. I had my first polyp at age 26. The next year I had my first polyp in my stomach. So I worry, if it progresses at the same rate as my father, will I be looking at the removal of my large intestine by age 36? Or, like with his stomach, could the polyps in my stomach multiple so quickly that I have to deal with cancer and/or have my stomach removed before I hit 40? It was a lot to take in.

Then I started to wonder “What if I get cancer and/or have my stomach removed? What happens to my restaurant dream then??”

This blog has been a component of that dream and I’ve been having so much fun doing it. My blog and dream restaurant is my passion right now. It’s what drives me.

It’s funny. That Monday morning when I woke (before any light had been shed on the extent of the worsening of my dad’s health), I had read an interesting post on Offbeat Home, “I caught that dream that I was chasing. Now what?“. I could relate to the post because: 1) the writer deals with “Imposter Syndrome” and 2) I’ve also been wondering that exact same question. Despite waking up that morning feeling bad from the start, this post was just what I needed to make my bad day feel a little brighter. I felt encouraged that morning to continue after my dream.

Despite reading that post and feeling better about my bad day, after receiving the news of my father’s predicament, it fast-tracked my future-fears of battling cancer myself. In addition to that, I started to worry about what would happen if I had to have my stomach removed. Would I even want to continue to develop this blog and/or my restaurant dream if I were unable to partake in the pleasures of food? Or, if I did achieve my dream restaurant, would I come to resent it??

Then I started to wonder “What if I can no longer enjoy food? Will I become a social hermit?”

I thought about how we love to entertain and its always based on food. True to Newfoundlander form, we’ve always been known for our “kitchen parties”. For this reason, our new home is being designed with our kitchen as our focal point of the house. It’s where we will spend the majority of our time. What if I start to despise those kitchen parties because I would feel out of place because I can’t enjoy dining with my friends?

My not-so-final thought: “Should I give up on my dream?”

This was a lot to digest for one day. I felt lost and I felt like I should give up on my dream rather than face the possibility of my dreams eventually being crushed. I had an overwhelming feeling of “what’s even the point?“.

Then I received an email response to a previous request to do a guest post on my blog. They said that they wanted to do a post on Celiac Disease and Depression, and that they had found my blog by doing a Google search. I think it was what I needed to snap me back out of the funk that I had found myself in. I started this blog as a means to help others through sharing my experiences. By labelling my blog “Food Allergies Etcetera”, the etcetera portion has allowed me to delve into the topic of mental health. And I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from people who have read my posts related to mental illness because they could truly identify with what I had experienced, and they found that they now had someone else who knew what they were personally experiencing. So what, if at some point I may not be able to enjoy food and share in foodie experiences. Perhaps this blog will morph into something else that is useful to others … perhaps it will serve as a connection point for others with AFAP/FAP, or perhaps it will be a vessel to share my future story of cancer prevention and/or survival.

On the first Friday of April (funny how April just happens to be cancer awareness month), my dad received confirmation that, since his last 6 month inspection, he had cancer in his stomach. His GI surgeon advised that he would not be doing  the gastrectomy at this time and that chemo was the better treatment option. A referral was made to see an oncologist, to discuss chemo. Things have moved very fast and it’s already been just under three weeks since he started treatment and he is doing well with it. Other than being fatigued, he’s not felt sick, has no pain, has stopped losing weight, has regained his appetite and is able to enjoy food just as he always has. And best of all, he still has a full head of thick hair that any 58 year old would be envious of 😉. Hopefully this is an indication of the effectiveness of the treatment!

It’s been a month since that horrible, no good, very bad day … but since then, I’ve stumbled across this article about a young woman in her 20s who decided to have a gastrectomy, and it was quite positive. I also found the No Stomach For Cancer website which has a lot of valuable information, including this overview of a Gastrectomy (You’ll find a lot of useful info related to life during and after a gastrectomy. Just hover over “Gastric Cancer” at the top menu, then hover over “Life Without a Stomach” and you’ll find 4 subpages). In addition to this, I was connected with someone (who I’ll be meeting in the coming weeks) who also decided to have a gastrectomy because she knew that stomach cancer was imminent (due to genetic markers) and she claims that the surgery saved her life (in addition to many other of members of her family). I think she will be a huge resource should I ever decide to go that route in the future. As a result, I’m starting to feel that although having a future Gastrectomy would be life altering, it wouldn’t be the end of the world.

My final thought: “You know what? … this situation isn’t as bad as it sounds”

I know the information that I’ve laid out in this post is a bit much to take in … and it sounds like a sad story. But I’m not letting it manifest that way for me. I know our family can beat this. I had a bit of an epiphany moment and its really helped me to deal with the whole situation:

Everyone has their expiry dates. If my eventual fate was to be hit by a bus and killed in a months time, I’d have no idea … And would go on living as if I had years to accomplish what I want to accomplish in life, only to be cut short of those accomplishments. Now I get to live as though I don’t have all the time in the world, it will motivate me to be healthier, appreciate life more and make the best of it.

I wouldn’t come out and be as cocky to say “bring it on!” to cancer … but if it happens to me I’ll be ready for it. I live a relatively healthy life, and am consciously aware of my physical and mental states. I’ve learned over the years that I need to listen to my mental and physical needs. If something seems to be wrong, I’ll immediately arrange to have it checked out. Perhaps in the years to come I’ll be pro-active and have a partial or full gastrectomy, if it looks like it will reduce my risk of developing cancer. I’m upbeat and positive and have an amazingly huge support network in my life, including a fantastic local-gone-national Non-Profit Organization called Young Adult Cancer Canada. I’ve been supporting this group since I’ve discovered it in 2009 and take comfort in knowing the fantastic support that they give to young adults dealing with cancer. I’m not in despair by the recent series of events … I am motivated and I am ready for whatever life has to dish out to me! 🙂

Have you, or someone close to you, had a gastrectomy, been affected by stomach/colorectal cancer, or are a cancer survivor? If so, care to share any advice?

Thanks for reading. As you may or may not have noticed, I recently took a short hiatus from blogging. I have a feeling that for the time being I might continue with this break or at least not blog as actively … although there is potential for some guest posts to pop up from time to time.

Also, positive thoughts are appreciated for our family at this time.

xo

Krista

Having suffered through depression, I’ve been guilty of more than one of these Cognitive Distortions.

Amanda, from Celiac and Allergy Adventures has done a great job of making the connection between Cognitive Distortions, Celiac Disease, Food Allergies and Eczema! Check out the whole article on her blog 🙂

Glutino Gluten-Free Toaster Pastry … A Surprise From My GFF!

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This week I discovered a new term from Glam Without Gluten, that I love: GFF … i.e. Gluten-Free Friend.  I thought this was very clever to use a phrase that is equally as catchy as the widely recognized phrase, BFF. Glam’s blog is full of great posts and videos. You should check her out!! 🙂

A few weeks back I first mentioned my GFF in my post titled “Become A Promiscuous Shopper“.  Once again, she returned from the States and this time she surprised me with Glutino‘s take on a gluten-free version of the popular Pop-Tart. She picked up a box of each variety, and split between us. The pastries are individually wrapped with no markings, so when she swapped two Apple Cinnamon toaster pastries from my box with two Strawberry pastries from her box, I had no idea which flavour it would be until just before popping it into my toaster bag at work. Quelle surprise! 😉

Glutino Gluten-Free Toaster Pastry

Now, it’s been likely 15, if not 20 years since I ate my last Pop Tart. I went through a spurt of eating them when I was a kid but I found (for me, personally) that the texture was a bit too dry, and the ones that were coated in icing were too sweet while the plain ones seemed like they were missing something. I later started eating Toaster Strudels, and fancied those more because the pastry was slightly more moist, the filling was a little more gooey, and it came with a pack of soft icing that I could apply to my individual liking. Like I said, it’s been at least 15 years since I had either of these … so my memory isn’t quite as reliable for comparing to the non-gluten-free versions of the Pop-Tart and Toaster Strudel … but the Glutino version reminded me somewhat of a cross between the two (minus the packet of icing). This quick breakfast option isn’t available in Newfoundland yet (and perhaps even Canada), but hopefully they start popping up on shelves soon as it’s a quick and easy breakfast option when you’re too busy to prepare breakfast ahead of time, and unlike the majority of the population where you can’t just pop out to the nearest coffee shop to get a quick snack.

Thanks again to my GFF for my GF Surprise!! 🙂

Have you had a chance to try these breakfast toaster pastries out? What did you think? What’s your favourite flavour?

Uh-Oh! (Gluten Free) Spaghettios!

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Remember Spaghettios?? They were a staple for me when I was a kid.

That is, until I developed an food allergy (or intolerance) to tomatoes. At the time I was suffering from severe gastro pain and would be up sick several nights throughout the week for hours on end until the pain went away. On a few occasions the pain was so bad that I thought I would pass out. It was a little scary for my parents because there’s a long line of bowel cancer in my family due to a condition that we have called F.A.P (Familial Adenomatous Polyposis) and it wasn’t anticipated that it would affect me until I was much older (I was about 10 at the time). But all of the tests came back clear for any signs of cancer but I was still having issues. I remember going back and forth to the hospital on numerous occasions, when finally a new doctor recommended that it could be a food allergy. Months later I had the allergy test and it concluded that I had an allergy to tomato and egg yolk (in addition to several non-food allergies).

In hindsight, it made perfect sense. On average I consumed 3 or 4 cans of Spaghettios a week. I stopped the Spaghettios and other tomato based foods and I got better. It was hard to give them up cold turkey. I went tomato free for many years and eventually I was able to wean my way back to tomato based foods.

But then I grew up …. and grew out of Spaghettios.

Now, I am severally gluten intolerant (if not Celiac … which I’m in the process of trying to determine). I’m usually pretty good with not pouting over the foods that I can no longer enjoy. But the other day I passed the canned section and a can of Spaghettios caught my eye. And it was discouraging that I was able to “grow out of” my tomato allergy … only to be affected by a severe gluten intolerance as an adult. For a minute, I just wished that I could have a can so that I could feel like a kid again. Sadly I dropped my head and carried on.

On my most recent trip to Toronto, I picked up a pack of GoGo Quinoa Anelli vegetable pasta, while at a natural food store, because it looked interesting and I wondered what it was like. It’s completely organic and consists of Organic white rice flour, organic quinoa flour, organic beets, organic spinach and organic tumeric. It’s wheat-free/gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan. The pasta was in my pantry for over a month while I wondered what I would do with it. … Then it hit me! SPAGHETTIOS!! Yes, his was a most excellent idea!

So I woke this morning, excited because I was going to attempt gluten free Spaghettios!

IMG_1787 1

I decided to google “Spaghettios Recipe” and found several hits. One of which, seemed straight forward so I decided to try it out. Get the recipe here: http://www.examiner.com/article/make-your-own-homemade-spaghetti-o-recipe-frugal-recipes-for-picky-eaters

Ingredients:

  • 3 cans (10-3/4 ounces each) tomato soup
  • 1 soup can water
  • 1 soup can milk
  • 1 pound small pasta rings, alphabets, or stars
  • 6 ounces Velveeta cheese (processed cheese), cut into very small cubes
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • Pinch of sea salt, optional

Directions:

  1. Cook the pasta according to package directions, minus 3 minutes. This will ensure that the pasta, once added to the tomato soup, does not become mushy. Drain pasta.
  2. In large pot, add tomato soup, milk, water, butter, cubed cheese, and salt. Bring to simmer over low heat until cheese is melted. Stir in cooked pasta. Bring back to a simmer over low heat, stirring often, until heated through and thickened.
  3. Yield: approximately 6 to 8 one-cup servings

I had used ingredients that I readily had available in the house such as: PC Brand Blue Menu Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper soup, almond milk, Havarti cheese, and the Anelli pasta. The can of soup that I had was 591mL so I had to scale the above recipe back somewhat. I also skipped the additional water.

The result was tasty but there was an obvious lack of sweetness to make it just like the Franco-American version that I grew up on as a kid. I decided to add a little bit of Ketchup to sweeten the taste. I think this is a trial and error basis, so I’d start out with a 1/4 cup of Ketchup and add more to suite your taste.

I also recommend waiting for the dish to cool a little before you dig in. The cheese will solidify slightly and the texture will seem that much more familiar if you just wait a few minutes for it to cool down. Trust me, your tongue will thank you! 😉

Spaghettios

The Anelli was fantastic and the sauce worked out well. It really did look and taste like Spaghettios and I really did feel like a kid again while eating it…. minus the severe gastro distress! 🙂

Let me know if you try out something similar!

Cheers!

Krista.

Become A Promiscuous Shopper

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There’s been several things that I’ve learned since having to adopt a gluten-free lifestyle due to my severe gluten-intolerance.

  1. You’re gonna have to do a lot more shopping for supplies
  2. You will likely have to become a “promiscuous shopper”.
  3. It’s best if you familiarize yourself with whats out there.

… well, if you live in larger centers, then you might not have to be so promiscuous when it comes to shopping to accommodate a food allergy or dietary restriction, but if you live here in the St. John’s and surrounding areas you can expect the need to shop around in order to find all of your groceries.

First, lets look at Supermarkets.

Not only does the variety in the Natural Food Section (or as I lovingly refer to it as, “The Freaky People Aisle”) vary between Supermarket chains … it also varies within each chain.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m a creature of habit. So I’ve always stuck to Sobey’s stores … and in addition, I’ve also gravitated to the same location. I like familiarity and efficiency. The minute I have to go to a different store I feel like I’ve landed in “Shelbyville” and I suddenly can’t find the items that I’m looking for as easy as I would in my regular  store . I end up getting distracted, it takes me twice if not three times as long to find what I’m looking for, and if my guy is waiting for me in the car …. I can expect to receive “Focus!!” texts to ensure that I’m not dillydallying and stay on task.

That all changed when I discovered my food intolerance.

Over time I realized that Dominion has a great selection in their Freaky People Aisle. So I now break up my shopping between Sobeys and Dominion. I also realized that the selection varies from Sobeys store to Sobeys store (and similarly with Dominion). What would show up in the freezer section in one location, might show up on shelves in another. Dominion’s brand, President’s Choice has introduced it’s own gluten-free line and these products show in the regular bakery section. At my regular Sobey’s location, delicious Udi’s products show up in the bakery section whereas in other locations I have to go to the “Freaky People” freezer section.

I recommend:

    1. Scoping out the various supermarket chains and various locations to see what products you are interested in.
      When you are ready to restock your pantry, you know exactly where to head to successfully find your favourite products; and
    2. Making note of the days where the natural food shelves/produce/dairy /meat & poultry sections are restocked.
      I find that the poultry section seems to be better stocked on a certain day but there’s a slim chance that I’ll find my favourite variety of Greek yogurt in stock.

Nourish Gluten-Free Bakery

When I was first advised by my “Quack” (i.e. Naturopath) to go gluten-free, the first thing that she recommended was that I check out the newly opened 100% gluten-free bakery, Nourish in Paradise. I enjoy their selection of bagels, tea buns, flatbreads, brownies and various other goodies. I also enjoy Ashley, the owner & operator, who I’ve interacted with on many occasions since I first became a customer. I like that they use all natural ingredients and avoid preservatives. You can purchase from them directly, or you can order a limited number of their products online from Real Food Market which I’ll discuss next. You can also enjoy several of their products when dining out around town. One of the places not mentioned on their list is Post Espresso where you can enjoy several of their tea buns, lemon loaves, coffee cakes and brownies (on occasion) to go with their delicious espresso based drinks.

Real Food Market

I first learned of Real Food Market from my Chiropractor of all places, lol. He had mentioned that he had a patient who was in the process of starting up an online organic market for the St. John’s area and asked if I would like to pass along my info to that person. He couldn’t provide me her name at the time but I did give him permission to share my info and Melissa later contacted me once he mentioned me and the fact that I want to start a restaurant that caters to people with food allergies and dietary restrictions. Melissa has been great to chat both in person and via email.

Real Food Market is an online organic grocery store that either delivers direct to your door, or allows pickup at their warehouse if you prefer. They have a dedicated Gluten-Free section as well as a dedicated Vegetarian/Vegan section. Within the DairyGluten-Free, and  Vegetarian/Vegan sections you’ll also find a Butter & Butter Substitute sub-section. Dairy milk substitutes are found in a sub-section in the Vegetarian/Vegan section. Check out the Vegetarian/Vegan section for all of the available sub-sections.

From my experience, the Gluten-Free section tends to be items that are marketed as gluten-free. I’ve found other products in the non-GF sections that were naturally gluten-free and confirmed to be so after digging further into the companies website/email. Check out the other sections and if there’s something that interests you, do some research to see if it is in fact, safe for you to eat.

Winners Homesense

I would never have thought to check Winners Homesense for Gluten-Free, organic or alternative foods. My neighbour’s sister worked at Winners Homesense in the Avalon Mall for a period of time and she mentioned to me that her sister had said that there were gluten-free items available there. Sure enough, I discovered that they also have a “freaky people aisle”. The only thing is that it’s never consistent. You’ll find that the different locations carry different products and the selection various nearly every single time that you go. If you are there and you see a product that you like, snatch it up! … you’ll never know when you’ll find it in stock again. I liken their selection to that of a “grab bag” or “surprise package”.

I apologize to those of you who have been unsuccessful in finding CocoMira’s products. When I see these in stock … I stock up. I buy whatever is left on the shelves.

As a side note, I have since discovered that you can find Coco Mira products at Chapters (if not in store, it’s available on their website). If I happen to be buying books online from Chapters, I usually top up my order with Coco Mira if I haven’t already reached the free shipping status 😉

Bulk Barn

I had avoided Bulk Barn like the plague after going gluten free … The thought of the bins and potential cross-contamination terrified me. That is, until one day my co-worker asked if I knew that Bulk Barn had a dedicated Gluten-Free Section. My reaction was immediately “Is this a joke??” but sure enough, he advised that they actually have labels to identify the gluten-free item bins and they are all confined to one area. That weekend I checked it out, and not only were there dedicated gluten-free bins of bulk GF flours etc., but they were also carrying other packaged GF goods as well, such as Go-Go Quinoa Chocolate Chip Cookies which are my new go-to cookie. They have a variety of food alternative products that you can find in their “health food” section.

Health Food Stores

There are several Health Food Stores around the city that you can check out. My favourite would have to be Whole Health … mainly because it’s close to my office and I enjoy dropping in occasionally on my lunch break to pick up some GF snacks for my stash at my desk … and to also chat with Megan, the owner, who I also enjoy. Lovely girl! Other Health Food stores include The Natutral Health Shop on Stavanger Drive, and Food for Thought on Duckworth Street.

Farmer’s Market

The St. John’s Farmer’s Market runs from June to mid December, and have several vendors which cater to various food allergies, one of which is Gluten Free Treasures because 1) the treats are delicious (especially the pumpkin cinnamon rolls!), and 2) Valeria is a sweetheart!

Other regular vendors who cater to dietary restrictions include: A La Tarte! and Le Doyen, to name a few. I DO NOT recommend getting a “Almost Gluten-Free” waffle from The Waffle Lady. She has a gluten-free waffle mix but uses it in the same waffles irons as the regular non-GF waffle mix. Anyone who have Celiac Disease or a gluten intolerance should not eat them. If you one of those who are eating gluten-free because it’s the new fad diet …. fill your boots. If you are gluten free because your health depends on it, stay away).

Costco

I don’t have a Costco membership myself, but from what my co-workers have told me they carry a lot of GF products, and I’ve seen that on the blog “Living Gluten Free in St. John’s, NL”, Janelle has many posts on gluten-free items that she’s picked up from Costco.

Various Online Websites

Well.ca is one site that a Facebook friend introduced me to. I enjoy that they have a dedicated Specialty Diet section which includes Gluten-Free, Dairy Free, Vegan among several other sub-sections. They also provide free shipping on all Canadian orders over $25 (unless you live in a remote area).

The “Buddy System”

If you have friends travelling out of province or out of country, see if they would mind picking up a few items if they stumble across them in their travels. I  have a good friend who I’ve met through the CCA-NL Chapter and every time she travels to Ontario or to the States, she always manages me bring me back some form of gluten-free goody … and if I’m really good,  it might be several goodies … on one occasion she brought me back a basket full of goodies! I also get surprises from my non-GF friends and family as well. There is no shortage of cake mixes in my pantry! ha 🙂

Canadian Celiac Association Meetings

I’ve been a member of the CCA-NL since June of 2012… and I’ve yet to be to a meeting where I didn’t come home with free stuff. I’ve lost count the number of times that I’ve come home with free pancake-, cake-, pizza-, and bread-mixes. Who doesn’t love FREE??

So, what caused me to compile this useful list? My quest to find Certified GlutenFree Cornbread in the city. It was impossible to find any without a ‘May Contain’ statement. I could find Bob’s Red Mill GF Cornbread Mix, but not the coarser corn meal. I figured that when I was in Toronto recently that I’d be able to find it. The Whole Foods store near my friends house in Toronto were much like St. John’s in that the only versions that they carried had ‘May Contain’ statements. It should be noted that Bob’s Red Mill produces two versions of Corn Meal: a certified GF one and a NON-GF one. It took several attempts while in Toronto to find the GF version and I found it at the 3rd health food store that I visited. They had 2 packages of the Bob’s Red Mill certified GF Corn Meal and I stealthily “squirrelled” them up! 🙂

I hope that you find this list useful.

Let me know if you’ve found places around town or online that have helped you cope with your food allergies and dietary restrictions. I’d love to hear of them so I can amend this list.

Are you a promiscuous shopper??

2 Food Allergies, Etc. Bloggers to Follow! Celiac and Allergy Adventures + The Allergista

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Originally, I introduced Amanda & The Allergista through a different post (don’t bother to go looking for it. By the time you read this post, the original would have self-destructed). In that original post, I attempted the unthinkable … a reblog of a reblog of a guest post. Surprisingly, it seemed to have worked … for the most part. When you reblog something it takes a snapshot of the post and you can add comments to it. Your post (or reblog) assumes the title of the original post, and there’s nothing you can do to change it. When you reblog a reblog … you are taking a snapshot of the comment which was a part of the original reblog so there is no title for your post (or reblog) to assume. So you end up with a post without a name … or a titleless post. This is what happened to me when I reblogged Amanda’s reblog of her guest post on The Allergista’s blog. And as a result, I was left with a post titled “919” as you can see in this screenshot:

My original post (or, reblog of a reblog of a guest post) which since self-destructed

My original post (or, reblog of a reblog of a guest post) which since self-destructed

And the fact that those 3 little numbers were there instead of an actual title that actually had meaning for people, drove me absolutely crazy. I may be a little OCD. Maybe.

It was also brought to my attention that people wouldn’t be able to “Like”, “Tweet”, “Pin”, “Press”, “Submit”, “Tumbl”, Email, Print, etc. etc. the reblog. The idea that people wouldn’t be able to easily share with the world the blogs of these two fantastical ladies seemed like an epic fail. Both Amanda and The Allergista have incredibly informative blogs which deserve to be passed around the internet for all to enjoy.

If you’re still confused at this point, forget everything I said. I’ll now jump into the important segment of this post:

Say hello to Amanda of Celiac and Allergy Adventures. She recently did a guest post on The Allergista blog. I’ve been following Amanda’s blog now for several months and I thought that she had some excellent tips for the recently diagnosed Celiac in this guest post. In addition to Celiac Disease, Amanda also suffers from food allergies (some severe enough to cause anaphylaxis), asthma and eczema. If you find yourself in the same boat as Amanda …. or simple just suffer from one or two of the above ailments …. then I definitely recommend that you follow her blog!

Amanda’s reblog also introduced me to The Allergista … who suffers from a long list of food and skin allergies. I’ve only been following The Allergista for a few days so my knowledge of her posts are still a bit limited … but according to Amanda’s reblog, The Allergista has very informative posts … especially when it comes to Allergic Contact Dermatitis. She also has a passion for fashion, which actually gets interesting considering her skin allergies.

And get this: The Allergista did a guest post on Amanda’s blog. Which can only mean one thing … They are internet friends!

I really enjoy these two bloggers and their associated blogs. If you aren’t already following them, you’re missing out! Head over to their blogs and check them out! 🙂

Glutened, Days after attending Gluten Free Expo (… and no. it was unrelated)

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One of my favourite experiences from this year was travelling to Toronto to attend a Gluten-Free Expo (which I randomly became a last minute volunteer for)…. and I had a blast! You can read about it here.

My least favourite experience from this year? Getting “glutened” a few days later in the same city, during the same trip. Oh, the irony!

Luckily, getting glutened was totally independent of attending the Expo (…. Margaret & Ellen: if you are reading this, you can start breathing again 😉 ….. Margaret was the organizer and mastermind behind the expo and Ellen supported her remotely from BC. It was a pleasure to help them out during the event!).

Like I said, the Expo was amazing and I was very much looking forward to hanging around for a couple of extra days so that I could hang out with one of my BFF’s, Jenny, who had just returned from a trip to India.

Celiacs will go completely out of there way to go to a restaurant that has been identified as safe for Celiacs. I had consulted The Celiac Scene maps to look for a safe restaurant that had a brunch option for Jenny and I before we took on an afternoon of shopping. She had mentioned that there was a place called Mitzi’s that had gluten free options as far as she was aware. I remembered going there before I realized that gluten was making me sick and I remembered how delicious the food was so I agreed that we should definitely go there, even though Mitzi’s wasn’t showing up on The Celiac Scene. But I know that the “Scene” is only as good as those who actively contribute to it …. so if you’re in an area where there aren’t a lot of Celiacs using the Scene, then chances are you could miss out on a fantastic restaurant with safe options because there’s been no one to providing feedback to the Scene in order to get that restaurant on the list. Perhaps, I figured, this was why Mitzi’s wasn’t showing up on the list.

When we got there and I had a chance to peak at the menu, I was SOOOOOO excited to see Gluten Free Buckwheat Pancakes! Generally, I don’t get the luxury of having someone else make me gluten free pancakes, unless they are made by my guy in our kitchen at home. Better still, the pancake of the day was topped with an espresso cream, maple syrup, whipped cream, and pralines – HELLO DELICIOUSNESS!!

I was delighted! That is, until the waitress popped back to our table and said that the pancakes were actually made with oats. I asked if they were certified gluten-free and she said that she didn’t think so. I asked if I could see the package to have a look at the ingredient list. Turns out it was Quaker Rolled Oats and there was a “May Contain” statement for wheat.

I don’t know if I have Celiac Disease or not. It was suggested by my naturopath that I was sensitive to gluten and I immediately went on a gluten-free diet. It was amazing the difference after years of bloating and digestive discomfort. I later realized that you should be tested for Celiac Disease before going on a gluten-free diet because gluten needs to be present to cause the the inflammation in the small intestine in order to get a positive diagnosis. So, although I do not know if I have celiac disease, I have so many of the symptoms that I’m almost certain that I do. I eat as strictly as a Celiac does …. with the exception of this instant. I totally let me guard down. In hindsight, I was being absolutely naive.

When I saw the “may contain” statement, I thought “Oh, it’s probably just a liability disclaimer. It’s likely that it’s made in a totally separate area, but because they process wheat in the same building they have to list a May Contain statement” ….. I normally DO NOT eat anything with a “May Contain” statement but the idea of eating those buckwheat pancakes with the espresso cream and other delicious toppings made me let my guard down. I kept telling myself, “I’m sure it’ll be fine …. maybe just some light swelling of my belly”.

I ate the pancakes and they were DELICIOUS!! When I left, I noticed that my stomach was swollen and I felt very nauseated….. but my stomach didn’t feel like it was ripping apart like it normally does when I accidentally ingest gluten. So I thought perhaps there was very little trace of the wheat in the oats. Boy, was I wrong. At about 3:30 that afternoon all hell broken loose on my digestive system and I was back and fourth to the washroom off and on for hours afterwards. My stomach was still not 100% back to normal when I went to bed that night. I think this is a very likely sign that I do in fact have Celiac Disease.

So, it turns out that the Gluten-Free buckwheat pancakes were not actually not gluten-free at all. This is not the first time that I’ve been exposed to glutenous buckwheat breakfast items. I learned the hard way that the buckwheat crepes at Cora’s also contain wheat. In fact, first when I went gluten-free and was learning about all the things that I need to keep an eye out for it took me a while to clue in to the fact that the sausages that I was ordering contained gluten …. then I discovered that the breakfast potatoes were coated in a flour mixture. And after the third time going and coming home feeling nauseated and sick to my stomach, I decided to do a little googling. And sure enough, I found a Celiac Disease forum that stated that Cora’s buckwheat crepes actually contained wheat (despite wheat being in the name, buckwheat does not contain gluten). Every gluteneous mishap is another opportunity to learn from it. I learned a lot in the first few months of going gluten-free.

Because the food was so delicious, I wanted to provide suggestions to Mitzi’s so that they could improve their awareness of the dietary restrictions that surround Celiac Disease so that they could be a safe place for Celiacs and that we could get them added to the Scene. Here’s the suggestions (and pleas) that I emailed to them the next day:

  • PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do not offer them to anyone who is Celiac or gluten intolerant/sensitive until you can take measures to ensure they are gluten-free (if you have to, Tell them that you ran out off your ingredients).
  • Purchase certified gluten-free oats.
  • Confirm if your buckwheat is gluten-free, if not, purchase one that is certified as gluten-free.
  • Ensure that any other toppings for the pancakes are gluten-free (for example, the pralines shouldn’t have a may contain statement).
  • Use a separate pan and separate spatula.
  • There’s a guide for food allergies available on the CRFA:http://www.crfa.ca/foodhealthyliving/#foodallergies . If you follow this link, it will take you to the guide on Restaurant Central (http://www.restaurantcentral.ca/FoodAllergiesGuide.aspx).
  • If you offer Gluten-free toast, don’t use the same toaster that you use for regular bread. Even if you use a convection heater, there’s still risk of cross-contamination. I found this statement on the restaurant guide for food allergies: 

Did you know: It is commonly believed that extreme heat during cooking will change the make-up of the food being prepared and remove the protein that can cause a reaction. This is not true. Cooking the food using extreme heat will not make the food safe for allergic individuals.

  • To help with toaster cross-contamination, you can get Toaster Bags, such as these: http://www.amazon.com/Set-NoStick-Toast-Toaster-Bags/dp/B0012XGM92 .
  • Be mindful of is crumbs in the butter and other condiment (such as mayo) containers. It’s best to use a separate container that’s designated as gluten-free and use a clean knife for cutting and spreading and a separate cutting board when slicing the bread (if it doesn’t already come sliced). I also recommend washing your hands and applying disposable gloves prior to handling the gluten-free bread.

I sent off my recommendations and feedback to the cook and the general email for the restaurant but I never did hear back from anyone. When I get a chance, I’ll call them up and see if they did implement any of my suggestions. I hope, for their sake and for mine that they do, so that I can enjoy another delicious meal when in Toronto and that we can recommend them to be added to the Scene.

I know there’s a bit of a learning curve when it come’s to gluten-free knowledge so I’m willing to give a second chance if I know that an establishment has taken the necessary measures to make positive changes. There is only one place that I have boy-cotted and that’s because I became sick for the third time after ordering a supposedly gluten-free item. Hence my adopted rule of thumb:

Gluten-me once: Shame on You. Gluten-me twice: Shame on Me. Gluten-me a third time and it’s automatic blacklist, buddy.

One thing that I’ve learned over the past year and a bit is that you can never be too safe when it comes to dining out gluten-free (or with any restriction for that matter). There’s no such thing as too many questions when it comes to your health and wellbeing. And such experiences reinforce the need (and my desire) to start Etcetera …. a safe-haven restaurant for people with food allergies and other dietary restrictions! 🙂

Cheers,
Krista 🙂