Pissing In The Gluten-Free Cheerios

CheeriosADDENDUM: Since writing this post I started a petition on Change.org as more and more stories of people in gluten-free community kept pouring in. Please sign it and share. The only thing that you have to be to sign this petition is a human being who believes Celiac/gluten-sensitive people should be able to enjoy labeled gluten-free foods safely.

There is so much controversy surrounding gluten-free Cheerios right now. They are all over store shelves and it’s causing a divide. On one side are people who are encouraging people to eat them and eating it themselves. On the other side are people like me who are staying far from them and will never encourage anyone with any type of issue with gluten to eat them.

First, General Mills is mechanically cleaning oats instead of using certified gluten-free oats. This could change based on Tricia Thompson’s (Gluten-Free Watchdog) last conversation in which they stated they were looking to source “some” oats from growers following purity protocol. I quoted some because it’s not all. If you’re like me, if a product containing oats isn’t using 100% certified gluten-free oats, then I put it back on the shelf. My hope is that GM’s will move from some to all.

Second, some of the tests have had results as high at 90ppm. My thought is that if you are making a gluten-free product, the test results should be in a small cluster with an occasional slightly higher result (this is my opinion based on my psychology classes in statistics and methodology). Knowing that there has been one result that high, I don’t feel comfortable…because with my luck, I would get one of those boxes and be sick for weeks. NothanksIlikenotbeingsickallthetime.

Third, just because other people say it’s okay, I never jump on the bandwagon. I weigh the facts and the options carefully. You should too. Just because people say they don’t react, doesn’t mean the gluten isn’t doing damage while they enjoy bowl after bowl of cereal. There are a lot of things we all miss, but I refuse to do more damage to my gut just for something I might miss. I still won’t eat Domino’s gluten-free pizza.

It is a fine line to be in the public eye, blogging and using social media to spread the word about gluten-free living. It would be irresponsible of me to say, “Hey, gluten-free Cheerios are safe to eat because we have those awesome labeling regulations now.” No, it doesn’t work that way, especially with something this controversial and iffy. Research, dig, do due diligence. You owe it to your health (and that of your family if you’re the one making decisions for gluten-free family members) to do so and not just take someone’s word for it who you happen to follow on Facebook or read their blog.

If someone has to use a qualifying statement like, “If you have Celiac or are extra sensitive, you shouldn’t eat/drink this.” IF it is that serious, no one who is gluten-free should be eating or drinking said product. I won’t use gluten-free Cheerios until I’m certain they will be safe for EVERYONE.

Some articles by Tricia Thompson on gluten-free Cheerios:

General Mills “Gluten-Free” Cheerios: Comment from Gluten-Free Watchdog

More Thoughts on Gluten-Free Cheerios

Gluten-Free Cheerios: Take Two

After some discussion on the gluten-free easily Facebook page, Shirley has encouraged everyone saying they reacted to the gf Cheerios to contact General Mills and the FDA. I feel it is important to contact both and not just one. GM needs to know that their product and how they are processing and testing it is not meeting true gf needs. The FDA needs to know that a labeled gf product is making people sick. 



Chocolate Cinnamon Chia Pudding

I want to share something real quick before I get to the recipe. As some of you already know, May 1st kicked of Celiac Awareness Month. I plan to make a conscious effort to pose a question on the Facebook page daily regarding symptoms and experiences. Make sure you stop in there to join the discussions.

Gluten Dude put out this wonderful infographic for those of us who like something visual. I compiled a list of symptoms a while back for an article I did for a friend’s newsletter. I realized the other day that I never shared that list here. They are listed in no particular order.

  • High/low blood pressure
  • High/low body temperature
  • Migraines/frequent headaches
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (or frequent stomach aches, diarrhea, and/or constipation)
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Abdominal pain/distension, bloating, gas/flatulence
  • Neuropathy/ataxia/Alzheimer’s/restless leg syndrome
  • Diabetes
  • Osteoporosis
  • Osteoarthritis/rheumatoid arthritis
  • Vertigo
  • Heart palpitations/chest pains
  • Mood swings/Diagnosis of a mood disorder
  • Brain fog/inability to concentrate or focus
  • Difficulty remembering things, especially if you used to be able to remember a lot
  • Fatigue/Adrenal Fatigue/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Rapid weight gain/loss
  • Inability to lose weight with exercise
  • Family history of colon cancer, stomach cancer, pancreatic cancer, lymphatic
  • Other food allergies/sensitivities (lactose intolerance is common)
  • Diabetes/hypoglycemia
  • Gall bladder issues
  • Eczema, rosacea, dermatitis herpetiformis, or other skin issues
  • Anemia/iron deficiency
  • B vitamin deficiency
  • D vitamin deficiency
  • Diagnosis of Sjogren’s, Fibromyalgia, Hashimoto’s, Hyper/Hypothyroidism, or other autoimmune disorders
  • Diagnosis of Schizophrenia
  • Diagnosis of ADHD/ADD
  • Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Family member diagnosed with Celiac or gluten sensitivity
  • Epilepsy/seizures
  • Acid reflux/heartburn
  • Environmental and seasonal allergies
  • Frequent infections/colds/flu
  • Asthma/respiratory problems
  • Other joint/bone/muscle pain not listed
  • Infertility/miscarriages
  • Dysmenorrhea/other pre-/menstrual issues
  • Failure to thrive/developmental delays in childhood
  • Hair loss/thinning/alopecia/balding
  • Dental enamel deficiencies/irregularities
  • Canker sores
  • Bruise easily
  • Nosebleeds
  • Inflammation not listed already
  • Night blindness

If you are new to this blog, newly diagnosed, or still trying to find the right diagnosis you should know that not all people who end up diagnosed with Celiac present with gastrointestinal symptoms. I had thirty-two of the symptoms above. THIRTY-TWO. Looking back once my symptoms started resolving themselves I realized that I had ataxia from childhood but no one ever picked up on it. I was labeled a clutz and my mother, thinking it was funny, would call me Grace whenever I tripped over air. I think being a gymnast and involved in a lot of active/sports play and later, martial arts, helped prevent ataxia from becoming as bad as it could have been. Right before I discovered the gluten connection it got really bad and I realized some of my tripping over air was really my right foot not fully coming up while taking a step and instead the ball of my foot would skid across the ground causing me to trip. I was walking into walls more frequently than before which was a great laugh for everyone because there is nothing like walking a straight line down a hall then BOOM! Oh, hello wall. So nice to see you again.

My earliest memory of tripping over air was at about six years old. I was in 1st grade and we were living in an apartment in Beaverton, Oregon, waiting for our house in Aloha (not the Hawaiian aloha, but American Indian. The h is silent) to be finished. We were close to a K-Mart and my dad walked me over there to get an Icee. We were walking on a dirt path along the road and either on the way there I tripped over air and stumbled. I looked down as I tried to catch myself with the stumble steps and spotted a snake curled up in the grass. I screamed and bolted. I was freaked out walking back because I knew the snake was there. Even if it was only a garter snake, to the six-year-old me a snake was a snake was a snake was a snake and snakes were no good.

I bring up my earliest memory because looking at all my symptoms it is the one I remember before all the tummy aches started in the mornings. I say tummy aches because it started as a kid. Not feeling well in the morning after eating breakfast (usually cold cereal) then trying to convince my mother that although I was ready for school, I was too sick to go. I was forced to go to school feeling ill more often than not. Once I was in college I wasn’t eating cereal for breakfast. It was usually Spam, eggs, and rice for breakfast and it was several years later after graduation when I was working for the YMCA that IBS symptoms started and about five more years before I was actually diagnosed with IBS.

These days my breakfasts are full of protein and vegetables like my Winter Hash. In my egg eating days it would be Black Bean Breakfast Tacos, Gluten-Free French Toast with Blueberries, Bananas, Walnuts, and Pure Maple Syrup DrizzleEggs en Cocotte, or an Omelette with Veggie filling. Sometimes a smoothie was enough for me (Banana Papaya, Chocolate Cherry Almond, Green Chai, Mint Chocolate Chip, Make It A Meal, Peachy Keen Cinnamon Toast Crunch, or my favorite, Super Berry).

Choc Cin Chia Seed PuddingOne of my favorite additions to breakfast is chia seed pudding. I use it like a breakfast side. Or a snack. Or dessert. It’s versatile enough to be any of the three. I like it as a breakfast accompaniment because I can shake it up in a mason jar the night before and it’s ready to go in the morning.

My love for pairing chocolate and cinnamon is no secret. Before I discovered all the new alterations I would have to make to my diet I was making this chia seed pudding.

If you have a mason jar with measurements marked on the side, you will save yourself from washing a measuring cup. I have one that I use just for chia seed pudding because it makes it even easier because I can pour my dairy-free milk right in the jar without measuring it out first. Also, there is no sugar added in this recipe. If you need to add a sweetener, feel free to do so. Chocolate Cinnamon Chia Seed Pudding

Chocolate Cinnamon Chia Pudding – serves 3 to 4

1 1/2 cups dairy-free milk

4 tablespoons chia seed

1 tablespoon raw cacao powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Add all ingredients to a mason jar, cover tightly then shake vigorously with both hands for five minutes. This will help keep the chia seeds from clumping together. Refrigerate for at least an hour. Top with fruit of your choice if you choose. It will help add some natural sweetness without adding sugar if you need the sweet.

See how easy it is?

This post is linked to Raw Foods Thursday at Gluten-Free Cat, Whole Foods Fridays at Allergy-Free Alaska, Wellness Weekends at Diet, Dessert and Dogs, and Slightly Indulgent Tuesday at Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free. 

Spent on Spelt

Display of spelt at my local Winter Farmers Market on Saturday

Display of spelt at my local Winter Farmers Market on Saturday

Last week Wednesday night I happened to watch Not My Mama’s Meals as it aired (1/9/13) rather than recorded as I normally do.  I was actually at the laptop going through emails and messing around on Facebook, but I perked up when I heard Bobby say he was going to Babycakes NYC.  My knowledge of Babycakes NYC and owner, Erin McKenna, up to that point was she did gluten-free baked goods and I owned her cookbook, Babycakes Covers the Classics.

I got excited because I thought, Hey, gluten-free baked goods on a national cooking show.  Plus, as one of the owners of The Lady & Sons in Savannah, Georgia, known for their Southern cooking  (Chaz and I can personally vouch for that Southern cooking) I thought Bobby was bringing a little bit of our gluten-free lives to the world.

Erin started off by introducing herself and saying, “We specialize in gluten-free and vegan baked goods.”  Again, that internal YES went off in my head.  They chit-chatted for a minute, then she took Bobby back into the kitchen and had a big plastic container of flour on the counter that said, SPELT.

Wait, something’s not right.

“I like to use spelt flour.” She tells Bobby.

Wait, spelt isn’t gluten-free.

“It acts a lot like wheat.” She explains.


“People like me with a wheat-intolerance have an okay time with it.” She adds.

Are you KIDDING me?

I started posting on Facebook and had a conversation with Shirley and Johnna about it.  It would seem Erin’s first cookbook wasn’t entirely gluten-free and contained recipes with spelt flour.  I had to run to the dining room and grab the one I have off the shelf to check it.  Babycakes Covers the Classics is the second book and all the recipes are gluten-free.  No spelt flour, but she has conversions in the book for converting from the gluten-free flour to spelt flour.  On page 19, Erin writes, “As most of you might know by now, spelt is a distant cousin to wheat that many wheat sensitive folks, including me, don’t have a problem digesting.”

Two things.  First, she says on Not My Mama’s Meals that many have an “okay” time with it.  Okay doesn’t mean great or that no one reacts to it.  In fact, I would bet that many people with wheat intolerance, gluten-intolerance, or Celiac are reacting but not having digestive symptoms.  Remember that wheat can affect other body systems other than our digestive system.  It affects our neural, respiratory, circulatory, reproductive, endocrine, and integumentary (skin, hair, fat, and nails) systems.  I certainly had multiple symptoms affecting each of those systems.  Second, she says spelt is a distant cousin to wheat.  Spelt is in the same Triticum family with wheat.  Dr. Stephen Wangen has a great graphic in his book, Healthier Without Wheat, on pages 26 and 27 that puts wheat and spelt in the same immediate family.  He states later on in the book on page 99, “…it should be pointed out that spelt is extremely closely related to wheat and may not be an acceptable alternative.”  Again he says, “Spelt, although a different grain, is an extremely close genetic relative of wheat and my not be acceptable for those who cannot tolerate wheat.  Little research has been done on this issue, so proceed cautiously.” (p.131)

Some people might read Dr. Wangen’s words to mean it is okay to have spelt.  No.  It means it is your choice to make a responsible decision or not.  From the Celiac Sprue Association, “Spelt is a subspecies of wheat. The genus-species of modern bread wheat is simply ‘Triticum aestivum.’ Spelt wheat is a subspecies belonging to, ‘Triticum aestivum speltoides.’ Thus, there is no basis to say spelt is different from ‘wheat.’ The proteins in spelt are essentially identical to those in modern bread wheat; only the amounts are slightly different.”  Wheat itself is capable of producing over 23,000 unique proteins.  That is not a typo folks.  Over twenty-three thousand unique proteins.  From what I could find on wheat intolerance, it is not really known what it is in wheat that causes the wheat intolerance reactions.  Having over 23,000 unique proteins can make it difficult to pinpoint.

There are many similar symptoms for wheat intolerance that are similar to gluten intolerance, Celiac, and other food allergies or sensitivities.

  • stomach bloating, stomach pain, diarrhea, constipation, flatulence
  • headaches, memory loss, behavioral difficulties, depression, irritability, anxiety
  • frequent infections/colds/flus, mouth ulcers
  • stiff joints, prone to allergies, arthritis, colitis, thyroiditis
  • psoriasis, eczema, itching flaky skin
  • food cravings
  • chronic fatigue
  • heart palpitations

Also, like those of us with Celiac or gluten-intolerance, the symptoms being exposed to wheat for people with wheat intolerance is not always immediate.  In fact, from the sites I went to and the books that I have addressing wheat intolerance, the majority of them pointed out that most of the time the symptoms have delayed onset of up to 3 days later.  So an “okay” time with spelt for those with wheat intolerance is not okay after all. People may just not be reacting to it immediately.

There is also damage being done on the inside that you may not realize if you are non-symptomatic.  This is for anyone with a food intolerance, not just wheat or gluten intolerance.  Many of us are walking around with leaky guts which is what leads to most cases of food sensitivity and is also triggered by food reactions.  I am going to take a bit from a great book called Get Well & Stay Well: Optimal Health through Transformational Medicine, by Steve Amoils, M.D. and Sandi Amoils, M.D., for anyone not familiar with leaky gut and why it is important.

“In order to absorb our food, we start breaking it down in the mouth as we chew and mix it with saliva and then in the stomach with acid.  Digestion continues with the addition of enzymes by our digestive tract, and then the action of the flora in our food. But the final step in digestion is the absorption of the microscopic food particles as they diffuse into our bloodstream through the tiny junctions or pores between the cells that line our intestines.  From there, these particles are transported to the liver for further processing before they are sent out to the cells to finally be used as fuel.

When looking for the steps in the process where function breaks down, permeability turns out to be a major piece of the puzzle.  Normally, the ports in our gut allow only small molecules to pass through.  However, if the body is under stress, these pores can expand and open too wide, allowing larger molecules that haven’t been completely broken down to pass through and enter the bloodstream.  Increased gut permeability can happen under a lot of different circumstances: infection, intense physical stress, shock, surgery, injury, or food poisoning are all common examples.  It can also occur with excessive alcohol consumption, radiation therapy, excessive sugar consumption, anti-inflammatory medications, nutrient deficiencies, premature birth, and whole food exposure before the age of four months.” (pages 104-105)

When food molecules pass through the larger pores our immune system sees the food as foreign invaders making us sick and then attacks the food molecules setting off an immune and inflammatory response.  It’s not surprising for me that the different triggers for leaky gut are shared with triggers and cumulative events for adrenal fatigue.  Food intolerances are a common symptom of adrenal fatigue and if our adrenals are not working right, we open ourselves up to even more illness in our lives.  I see food intolerances as going hand-in-hand with adrenal fatigue.  You can’t get better if you aren’t treating both of them at the same time and a lot of that is dependent on the food you choose to eat.   “Food intolerance weakens the body, especially the lining of the stomach and intestines, which means that the body expends more energy than normal to assimilate and metabolize foods.  Then, the already stressed adrenals are unable to maintain the energy supply to the body.”  (page 330, Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome: Reclaim Your Energy and Vitality with Clinically Proven Natural Programs, Michael Lam, M.D., M.P.H., Dorine Lam, R.D., M.S., M.P.H.)

I know I haven’t written too much about my adrenal fatigue.  If you are still puzzled about what it is, here is a nutshell.  Our adrenals are responsible for making the stress hormones, adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol.  They also make our sex hormones.  When our bodies are undergoing constant stress emotionally, mentally, and physically, it is cortisol that is flooding our bodies.  Adrenal fatigue is most often cumulative and can be triggered by any of the above mentioned triggers for leaky gut.  For me, years of accumulated stressors that I never recovered from hit me even harder when my cousin took his life last September.   Even after my diagnosis and making efforts to consciously manage stressors, the physical stress of my job was too taxing for my adrenals to make a full recovery.  I was also dealing with adding eggs to my list of foods to avoid.  Easy enough to avoid for the most part, but stressful as I was missing having eggs for breakfast in the morning. When our adrenals are taxed there is even more fatigue, difficulty waking and getting out of bed in the morning, feeling tired most of the day, difficulty getting to sleep at night, waking throughout the night, heart palpitations, compromised immune system, increased inflammation, increased irritability and decreased tolerance to things you once handled without problems, increased PMS symptoms, brain fog, loss of memory, weight gain around your midsection, decreased ability to manage stress, craving salty and sweet foods, craving protein, positional hypotension, depression, decreased libido (when your adrenals are too busy pumping out cortisol, it has no energy to produce sex hormones because it is in life saving mode), and lack of enjoyment of life.  Continually eating the foods we are intolerant to when we have leaky gut just continues to stress our adrenals.  Avoiding the foods we need to is what is need to heal leaky gut and to help support the adrenals.

Choosing what we eat has a cascade effect on our health that is negative or positive.   My body cannot recover and heal if I keep sneaking cheese or have an egg over leftovers for breakfast.  I cannot heal my leaky gut and over-worked adrenals if my body stays in a constant state of stress like it was before.  It is up to me to be responsible for my choices if I want to continue my journey towards healthy living.  You are also responsible for your choices.  You can choose foods that will heal you and keep you healthy and avoid the foods that does untold silent damage to your body or you can keep eating those damaging foods and remain sick.

Check out Shirley Braden’s Spin on Spelt at gluten-free easily.