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Archive for 'Food Allergies'

Unless you’ve been living far away from civilization, you’ve probably noticed a trend of folks avoiding grains or more specifically, gluten. While we can debate the merits or harmful effects of gluten/grain consumption, one thing is certain, there are those that simply can’t eat gluten. Who are these people? Well, two of them are my friends; a mother and daughter, who for years suffered from unexplained stomach, digestive, and other “IBS” systems. Last year, they were finally tested and and low and behold, were diagnosed with celiac disease.  For those of you who may not be aware, here is what celiac disease is:

Celiac disease is an autoimmune digestive disease that damages the villi of the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. What does this mean? Essentially the body is attacking itself every time a person with celiac consumes gluten…Left untreated, people with celiac disease can develop further complications such as other autoimmune diseases, osteoporosis, thyroid disease, and cancer.

- National Foundation for Celiac Awareness

Um, I don’t know about you, but the thought of a bagel causing my body to “punch itself” sounds downright miserable. My friend on the other hand, is feeling better than she has in years.  Even though it is difficult finding her way through living a life and raising her daughter without gluten (aka pasta, beer, bread, pastries, cookies, cake and essentially every other addictively delicious carb), finding an explanation for all her intestinal issues is such a relief. Note that people with celiac cannot tolerate any gluten. Even a few crumbs can have an effect and trigger an internal attack.

I have a family member who is also gluten-free. He doesn’t have celiac disease, but notices a marked difference when he eats gluten and when he doesn’t. He’s always been prone to having nose-bleeds and won’t have one for months, accidentally eats some gluten and voila, his nose starts dripping.  He has chosen to skip the gluten completely and since he visits regularly, I’ve gotten used to checking packaging for hidden gluten.

Apparently, I’m not there quite yet. We needed some more garlic salt and picked up this jar at Whole Foods. It is their store brand, 365. On the label is says “Garlic Salt,” which to me, should be mean garlic and salt. One would think it would be so simple (remember my Lawry’s Garlic Powder post awhile back? What is it with this seasoning!). Here is the actual ingredient list on the Whole Foods 365 Garlic Salt jar:

Ingredients: sea salt, garlic, breadcrumbs (unbleached wheat flour, calcium carbonate, salt, leavening [ammonium bicarbonate]), onion, silicon dioxide (to prevent caking), parsley.

Sea salt – check. Garlic – check. Breadcrumbs – check…wait, what the heck? Why oh why would there be breadcrumbs in garlic salt? The only reason I can think of is it is cheap. It’s a filler, one that makes this 6oz jar look like a great value. Except, I’m not really getting garlic salt, it’s more like I’m buying ground-up garlic bread. While it irks me that I’m getting bread in my seasoning, it makes me more annoyed that people like my brother and especially people like my dear friend and her daughter, could be eating gluten without realizing it due to sneaky practices like this. The Whole Foods garlic salt is only one example of hundreds of “hidden” gluten sources in packaged foods. This reminds me yet again, that the only true way to know what you are eating is to make it from scratch, grow it from seed, and only buy from farmers/vendors/sources you trust and always, always read the label.

Quick Tip: Buy plain garlic powder (be sure to check the label!) and mix in your own sea salt to make basic garlic salt.

 

Living Free in An Allergen World

This is a guest post by Darcie Sosa. Know of a food blogger, nutrition guru, farmer or passionate storyteller who may be interested? Contact us or provide details in your comment.

Being diagnosed with a food allergy can be very overwhelming. You know that you have to avoid certain foods in order to feel better, but reading food labels and cutting out foods you’ve always eaten can be confusing. Let’s talk a bit about why and how you need to avoid certain foods in order to live a healthy lifestyle.

A food allergy is an autoimmune disorder. What does that mean? It means that your body’s immune system produces antibodies (which normally protect against infectors) in reaction to a food which is normally found and tolerated by the body. According to the FDA, each year 30,000 Americans go to the emergency room; 2,000 of those are hospitalized and 150 deaths occur each year from severe food allergies. I’m not using these numbers to scare or intimidate, but the avoidance of food allergens is the best preventative way know to curb these sometimes serious reactions. The symptoms of an allergic reaction can range from non-existent, to gastro intestinal disorders, to anaphylaxis (which can be life- threatening). Whatever the symptoms are, it’s very important to avoid your allergen and the foods that contain it.
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Updated 4/19/12: Starbucks has announced that due to the controversy surrounding the use of cochineal extract, that they will use lycopene to color their Strawberry & Creme Frappuccino and Strawberry Banana Smoothie.  Starbucks is also dropping cochineal extract in their Raspberry Swirl Cake, Birthday Cake Pop, Mini Donut with pink icing and Red Velvet Whoopie Pie.

Starbucks Stawberry Frappuccino

Virtually every news outlet is reporting that Starbucks is using cochineal extract in their popular strawberry beverages.  When I read this, my first thought was, how did people find out? Starbucks doesn’t post or provide any of their ingredients to consumers (only allergy information and the required nutritional information). Apparently, a vegan Starbucks barista notified the site, www.thisdishisvegetarian.com, that Starbucks had changed the formula of their Strawberries & Cream Frappucinos and Strawberry Smoothies to contain cochineal extract. The barista also included a few cell phone pics of the packages to show the ingredient lists.

So what’s all the fuss about cochineal extract? It’s made from…bugs.  It’s used as an alternative to artificial dyes and can be found in many foods including yogurt, candy, applesauce, baked goods, and other red processed foods. Here is an excerpt from our Cochineal Extract Ingredient Report on exactly what this dye is and how it’s made:
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So what’s the big deal if the majority of our food contains soy? Well, if you’re like Kathy Kottaras’ daughter M, it may mean yet another ear infection and up to six months of antibiotics. Why? Both M and her dad, Matthew Frey, have soy allergies.

Matthew and M struggled with constant illness. For Matthew it was digestive problems and for M it was sinus infections, ear aches and congestion. Matthew’s visits to the doctor always led to more antibiotics and it was only after an elimination diet that he finally figured out he was allergic to soy. I chatted with Kathy Kottaras of Subtract Soy Now to understand what’s going on with soy in our foods, why it’s problematic, and why she’s fighting to get soy out of America’s most popular cookies.
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Are you hosting a Superbowl party? Need a kick-ass recipe to impress your guests?

Try this food-allergy friendly recipe for Slow-Cooked BBQ Chicken Thighs.

Last week we interviewed Kathy Kottaras of Subtract Soy Now (article coming tomorrow) and she shared this recipe with us. Not only is it a fabulous recipe, it’s also free from common allergens making it an excellent entree for friends with food sensitivities. Kathy explains how she came up with the recipe:

Why soy-free? Because my husband and daughter are both allergic to soy (it’s a top eight allergen), and because most BBQ recipes call for Worcestershire, which contains soy, AND most bottled sauces contain soy. I had to figure out something. The chipotle adds the smoke flavor but leaves out the soy. And family can eat BBQ again! Hallelujah!

 

Slow-Cooked BBQ Chicken Thighs (Food-Allergy Friendly Recipe)

Serves 6-8
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The word “poop” either makes people squeamish or they just start laughing. It’s funny how something we all do virtually every day, is so tabu to talk about amongst adults (except when talking about your baby’s poop and then it is totally normal to talk about every aspect of it). In this video, Suzanne Somers interviews Brenda Watson, “poop expert” and they discuss how often you should have a bowel movement, what color it should be and even how it should smell.

It should come as no surprise that your poop can be an excellent indicator of overall health and especially of your digestive health. Watson reminds us of how our toxic food of today (antibiotics in food, GMOs), lack of essential minerals and low levels of omega-3s are killing all our beneficial gut bacteria. It is pretty tough for our bodies to function properly without the good bacteria. She also discusses the effect of food sensitivities and how many of us are walking around with inflamed digestive systems that are causing everything from digestive issues to weight gain.If you’ve ever wondered if your poop is normal or what could be causing those long, painful sessions in the restroom, watch this 6 minute video.

Related: Raw Milk Gets a Raw Deal

Opera Girl Goes Gluten Free

This is a guest post by Opera Girl Cooks. Be Food Smart showcases voices from all fronts of the food movement. Know of a blogger, farmer or passionate food writer who may be interested? Contact us or provide details in your comment.

The last month has brought many changes to my life. I’ve graduated with a masters degree, moved to San Francisco, ditched my car for a bike, and met Gluten-Free Boy, a wonderful guy who happens to eat a gluten-free diet. If I’ve learned anything in this last month, it’s to take things as they come, as life is bound to throw you curve balls when you least expect them.
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