Category Archives: Health

Did JFK Have Celiac?

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Via Irish Central, an article that talks about what we’ve suspected for years. That President John F. Kennedy most likely had undiagnosed Celiac disease.

Green wrote, “John F. Kennedy’s long-standing medical problems started in childhood. In Kennedy’s adolescence, gastrointestinal symptoms, weight and growth problems as well as fatigue were described. Later in life, he suffered from abdominal pain, diarrhea, weight loss, osteoporosis, migraine and Addison’s disease. Chronic back problems, due to osteoporosis, resulted in several operations and required medications for chronic pain.

Green says that by the standards of the time Kennedy was extensively assessed. ”He was extensively evaluated in major medical centers including the Mayo Clinic and hospitals in Boston, New Haven and New York. Among the multiple diagnoses were ulcers, colitis, spastic colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, and food allergies. His medications included corticosteroids, antispasmotics, Metamucil and Lomotil.

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While there are many medical records on JFK’s many health ailments, he was never put on a strict food elimination diet, something that might have shown that he suffered from a food-related illness.

It’s very interesting to consider the President of the United States having an undiagnosed health condition, considering he received the best medical care in the world at the time. But it shows the relative ignorance toward Celiac disease at the time.

Is a Gluten-Free Diet Okay for Non-Celiac Sufferers?

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Is a Gluten-Free Diet Okay for Non-Celiac Sufferers?

In North America, the gluten-free industry is now worth billions a year. Gluten-free cereals are being introduced by companies such as Kellog’s and General Mills; and Wheat Belly has been included in the list of bestsellers. Gluten-free diets are now becoming fads among many people. But what makes it so popular?

Going gluten-free is a way to wellness for those who suffer from a celiac disease. Celiac disease is a reaction of the immune system to the gluten that can damage the small intestine and prevent food absorption. The common symptoms of celiac include intense abdominal pain, fatigue, joint tissues, and vitamin deficiencies because of the inability of the intestinal wall to efficiently absorb nutrients due to damage. After practicing a gluten-free diet, the symptoms will diminish quickly most of the time, although it can take around six months to two years for the intestinal wall’s lining to completely heal. Constantly checking out aviva’s Home of Health or WebMD can give you enough information about the latest health news today. These websites also have health guides such as tools and calculators to find out more about your well being. Alexandra Anca, a Toronto-based dietitian, said that celiac disease is a relatively recent phenomenon. For the last five years, people haven’t heard of gluten-free diet or celiac disease. The media and celebrities, such as Adrienne Palicki and Jennifer Esposito, brought the disease into the limelight. The condition even attracted more attention from the public when improved diagnostic procedures were discovered.

For those who want to lose weight, gluten-free diet is also recommended even if you don’t suffer from celiac disease. There are many products and restaurants who are displaying their gluten-free status through their labels. Gluten is the protein that is found in wheat, triticale, rye, and barley. If you are going to practice gluten-free diet, you are going to exclude these ingredients, along with anything that could have come in contact with them.

Cutting gluten in your diet alone will not generally help you in shedding a few pounds. Most people see weight loss when they cut out gluten because they also change other parts of their diet. According to Nancy Patin Falini, “often times what we’re seeing is when they change their diet they may be cutting out a lot of the processed foods that are naturally high in calories and fat.” The tendency to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and whole foods like seeds, beans, and nuts.

FDA FINALLY Rules on Gluten Free Labeling

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Call it bureaucracy in action, but a mere nine years after they were told to rule, the FDA finally laid down some rules on gluten-free labeling.  Officially, 20 parts per million and under of gluten will be allowed to be labeled as “gluten-free”. Up until now, it has been entirely voluntary and left to marketers to spin as they see fit.

Via National Geographic:

The regulation comes almost a decade after the FDA began requiring food packaging to list wheat and other major allergens under the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004.

“Many people think that developing a labeling rule is an easy thing to do, but a lot goes into it,” says Felicia Billingslea, the FDA’s director of food labeling and standards. Years were devoted to researching a safe threshold for consumers with celiac disease. “We have a standard definition now, and it’s consistent internationally with Canada and the E.U.”

The rules also ensure that companies can’t label products “gluten-free” if they could be cross-contaminated by other foods processed at the same facility. Manufacturers have until August 5, 2014, to comply.

Sprouted wheat, as seen by a scanning-electron microscope

Sprouted wheat, as seen by a scanning-electron microscope

Some terms on food packaging may still confuse consumers—”organic” versus “all-natural,” “cage-free” versus “free-range.” But the “gluten-free” label now stands to ease the minds of millions suffering from serious food allergies.

“My son was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2008, and now I can feed him and not worry about it. It’s something every mother would hope for,” says Geller.

Top Cities for Gluten Free Diets

A cool graphic produced by Huffington Post and GrubHub has a listing of cities that cater best to gluten-free diets. While in no way an authority on the issue, it’s a neat breakdown.
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We were a little surprised to see Detroit at the top of the list for cities, but perhaps it speaks to use of GrubHub, the source used in the study. Of course, good ‘ol Portland is near the top of the list for cities ordering gluten-free options, and we’re proud of it! And with more and more people joining the gluten-free ranks everyday, we’re sure to see options continue to grow.

Gluten Free in the Wilderness

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The time for hiking, backpacking and camping is here. Yay! I try to spend as many days in my tent each summer as I can, and my friends and I have competitions to see who can spend the most time outdoors. When it comes to eating on camping trips, fast and convenient often wins out over carefully crafted meals. And many of us have experienced group camping situations where the gluten-free options are slim to none. That’s never fun. Luckily, gluten-free options are ever-expanding, and it’s not hard to pack delicious and fun meals and snacks for that weekend in the woods. I always bring corn tortillas along for the trip, they are versatile. You can make simple wraps that are tasty, and an egg-bacon-tortilla wrap in the morning is an excellent camping breakfast.

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Trail mix is an obvious choice for hiking and backpacking, as all the ingredients are easy to see. If your trail mix includes fancy stuff like yogurt-covered raisins/chocolate, make sure to check the ingredients. Trader Joe’s has a ton of trail mix options that are gluten-free, and tasty!

Backpacking meals often aren’t gluten-free, even if they claim to be a rice dish. Many of the easily-found freeze-dried meals are pretty oldschool, in terms of ingredients. Steer clear of most of them, unless you’re careful to read all ingredients. Backpacker’s Pantry does have a number of gluten-free choices, and REI’s website has a pretty comprehensive listing.

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And how about the good old fashioned S’more? For years I was the one at the campsite who had to have just a marshmallow, and skip the graham cracker. Luckily Kinnikinnick sells S’moreables brand graham crackers that are gluten free. Yes!

What other gluten-free foods do you like bringing to the woods?

Accidents Happen

forkI recently had a meal at an italian restaurant that was overwhelmingly glutenous, but made mention of “gluten free pasta available” in small print at the bottom of their menu.  I carefully pointed out the waiter that I was strictly gluten-free, and I requested one of their pastas GF, with a spicy mussel sauce.  When the meal arrived, it looked amazing, though the gluten-free penne was unlike any I had seen before. It was all fancy and detailed, and at first bite, had way more spring to it than the pasta I’ve had in recent memory.

My eating partner and I agreed I needed to be sure it was gluten-free before I devoured the whole plate. When I inquired “is this really gluten free?”, the waiter took a closer look and got red in the face, and grabbed the plate from my table and ran back to the kitchen.  He was extremely apologetic for the rest of the meal, saying there was a mixup with the order, and when the proper order came out, it was clearly gluten-free, with plain white penne which wasn’t nearly as tender. 😉 He tried to make up by giving me ample free pours of wine and a free dessert, and though I knew I’d “feel it” later on, I wasn’t mad.  He’s human, made a mistake, and felt really bad about it.

Do you encounter this type of mistake often? Do you catch it a bit too late like I did? What’s your reaction?

GlutenFreePDX on The Gluten Minded

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A friend of ours up in Seattle just started a new website called The Gluten Minded, and wanted to feature GlutenFreePDX’s own founder on their opening week. Ben was happy to oblige, and it’s great to have a new resource that features cooks, entrepreneurs, and others in the Gluten-Free community.  Thanks to Becky for reaching out! Below is a portion of the interview.

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Name: Benjamin VanderVeen

Location: Portland, Oregon

Tell me a bit about yourself and your special involvement in the gluten-free community.

I’m a freelance documentary filmmaker and designer. I’m lucky to work with clients in all walks of life. I have a website, benvanderveen.com, and I run a design blog called Moss and Fog.

I also started GlutenFreePDX as soon as I was diagnosed with celiac disease. I wanted a place where I could list restaurants that cater to my diet. The site has grown and evolved in the past five years. I have lots of daily readers and an active social media community. It’s made me stay on top of stories and news related to the gluten-free lifestyle.

Why are you gluten minded?

I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in 2008 and have followed a strict gluten-free diet ever since. I have a condition called dermatitis herpetiformis. It manifests as terribly itchy rashes and seriously affected the quality of my life. Because I had symptoms that weren’t stomach-related, I didn’t immediately make the connection that food was the cause. I had a skin biopsy that showed my only course of treatment was a strict gluten-free diet.

What was life like before you stopped eating gluten?

I wasn’t a very mindful eater before becoming gluten-free. I was also in my mid-twenties and still had a metabolism that let me eat just about anything. I liked food a lot, but wasn’t all that into quality.

How did life change after you stopped eating gluten?

Certainly the diet is a major change and I had a period of several months where it was difficult to adjust mentally. I experienced frustration, some denial and anxiety. I still feel frustrated at times, but I’ve learned to deal with my strict diet pretty well. Beyond these challenges, my health has improved dramatically and I’ve begun taking better care of my overall diet and lifestyle.

I also think my sense of empathy has grown since becoming gluten-free. In the past, I didn’t give much credence to strict diets was impatient concerning food allergies. Being on the other side of the issue gives me a sense of vulnerability that has made me more empathetic towards people with food restrictions. I’ve gotten into cooking a bit more, but also GlutenFreePDX requires that I keep up with the Portland food scene, which is fun and motivating.

What is the most challenging part of the gluten-free lifestyle?

I hate to cause a scene with my diet. I don’t like inquiring about what’s in a dish at a restaurant and I don’t like people making extra effort for me. But I’ve had to become vocal, inquisitive and careful. I think standing up for yourself while not being self-righteous is key. Also, I’ve had to stop eating some of my favorite foods, which is tough.

Which foods do you miss the most?

I miss some boxed cereals and really good pies. My mom is a tremendous baker and it’s a major bummer that I can’t partake. And of course, I miss the occasional beer. Beer is pervasive worldwide and it’s a pain in the butt that I can’t saddle up to a bar in Belgium or Argentina or Botswana and just have a beer.

What is the best thing about being gluten-free?

I think the community of gluten-free people is pretty inspiring: lots of people coming together to make their diets interesting and tasty. Plus, you become aware of all the glutenous junk that you used to eat and it feels good to avoid it.

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