Saturday, April 18, 2009

Because I Want to Hear You Scream...

I recently stumbled upon a medical abstract from France at, "Conduct Disorders and Food Allergies." Your problem isn't food sensitivities or allergies, folks. For people like us who keep insisting that certain foods make us ill, our real diagnosis is neurosis. The medical help we really need is psychiatric, but people of our ilk are so deeply in denial about our "conduct disorder" that we're unlikely to allow ourselves to be helped voluntarily. And if you happen to be a mom whose kids are reacting to certain foods and you keep them on a diet avoiding those foods? Food sensitivities actually aren't the problem requiring medical supervision. You are the problem requiring medical supervision. Why, your medical carers should suspect Munchausen by Proxy and monitor you!

I once saw an allergist who thought like this. She told me I needed to consume milk for my health (even though my internist had told me that I should "never eat anything from the udder of a cow" and I'd actually had a positive blood screen for casein before. But it wasn't her blood screen, so it didn't count). She, who happened to be the Head of Allergy and Immunology at a major teaching hospital, made it clear that she thought I was neurotic and irrational. I reported to her that consuming things made with seitan (fake vegetarian meat made of wheat gluten) made my throat swell to a frightening degree (accompanied by asthmatic tightening in the chest and violent itching), and that eating pasta and bread, among other things, made me feel ill in other ways, too. She literally rolled her eyes in irritation and told me, rather sternly, that I couldn't possibly be allergic to gluten too! (I should add that I was so ignorant then, I didn't even realize that gluten fell into the category of wheat. I knew nothing about celiac or gluten sensitivity or food sensitivities in general, and I didn't know anyone who did—and certainly not anyone I'd believe. But my throat was always swollen and I was sick and itched all the time.) This esteemed expert practically ordered me to consume milk, for the health of my bones, of course. I wanted to believe her. I didn't want to be on a special diet. So, feeling emboldened by this allergist's recommendation, I went out and had an ice cream. Doctor's orders! And, of course, this was immediately followed by a severe throat swelling incident. (At least I wasn't exhibiting signs of having a conduct disorder. I was following through with learned medical advice. This is a healthy sign of not being neurotic.)

A year after this Expert rolled her eyes at me, I had a positive gliadin antibody screen with another, more progressive doctor, and received a diagnosis of celiac disease. This was doubly confirmed, in no uncertain terms, by the dramatic positive reaction I had to a gluten free diet. I'll spare you the disgusting details, but I will add that the last time I accidentally ingested a small amount of gluten, not only did I have the usual uncomfortable and embarrassing GI symptoms, but my whole mouth blistered in sores and all my other inflammatory problems went wild. I was sick for days. Obviously, this must've been some sort of Pavlovian anxiety reaction provoked at the thought of eating gluten.
The list of things that will set off my reactions is fairly long, but when I avoid them, I have no oozing eczema, no uncomfortable throat swelling, and no head-to-toe violent itching all night. These are problems that plagued me, daily, for years before I discovered their connection to specific food triggers. Obviously, I'm sadly neurotic and am misunderstanding things that have no clinical relevance.
It's easy to write off medical idiots like this, but what's scary is that their opinions are mainstream, even here in supposedly progressive California.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

My Apologies

I'm too bleary from being in the kitchen too much. I made a mistake in the first recipe I so proudly presented to you, the banana muffins. That should've read 1/2 C. + 2 T. mix of flours, rather than the original 1 C + 2 T. I even got a nice (and much appreciated) comment from someone who made them with my original measurement, who said they turned out and that she liked them. I hope that just proves my point that recipes can be...uh, adaptable? I do apologize, though. And will try to remember that I have, indeed, begun to cross that age divide that makes reading glasses recommended.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Savory Baked Apple

A good side dish to go with rice and greens, this also makes a decent fake chutney for those of us who can't do citrus. There's a similar recipe in Vegetarian Planet by Didi Emmoms. Hers calls for half the amount of sauce poured over a whole apple. This is my take on it:

2 large or 3 medium apples, preferably something like a Granny Smith, cut up into chunks. Put aside.

Mix the following in a baking dish (using a wire whisk helps): 

4 T. honey
2 t. gluten free Dijon-style mustard (but plain will do in a pinch)
1/4 C. + 2 T. (6 T.) water

Add the apples and mix it all together. Bake at 400F for about a half hour. Give it a stir after 15 - 20 min. How mushy you want to cook the apples is partly a matter of taste, but I like  it when the sauce gets frothy and the apples have cooked down into very soft chunks. This does sort of stick to the baking dish (make sure it's not your turn to wash the dishes). But the apples sure do perk up an otherwise boring dinner. 

Someone told me that she uses this filling in rice-based spring roll wrappers. She makes little rolls and deep fries them to make apple tart-like things. I've never tried it, but thought I'd pass along the suggestion.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Graham Crackers

I was craving graham crackers for months, and finally caved in. A recipe search turned up this fabulous recipe from Erin at "My Aspergers Girl" (just looking for it again I saw some of her others, including one for biscotti I hadn't seen before. I'm salivating). My gluten eating friends love these too. I'll stop rambling. You should start baking.

PS I used coconut milk. If you're feeling really self-indulgent, after you open the can, skim off the globs of coconut cream and put it aside. Save this for dipping your warm grahams in after they come out of the oven. Make a  nice warm beverage too. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Beware of "Experts"

A little over a week ago, I heard a program on a local NPR station whose guest was a "nutrition expert." I'm still fuming. The host had said they were going to talk about all kinds of health and nutrition topics, including food allergies. So of course I stayed tuned to listen.

During the show, the topic turned to celiac disease. Or, rather, "celiac's disease," [sic] as our expert nutritionist called it. She even claimed to have it. My eyes grew large and my hairs began to stand erect as I heard her tell a caller that celiacs have to avoid "hybridized forms of wheat," but that "non-hybridized forms of wheat" are gluten free! She recommended spelt and kamut as acceptable alternatives for people who can't eat gluten. She also cited rye bread as something eaten "in Germany" that is ok for celiacs.

I've since discovered that this "expert" has offices in two states and claims to have extensive experience working with celiacs and people who have other food sensitivities. Frightening.

This "expert" uses some letters after her name that look like some kind of credential. After searching, all I can figure is that this might be some kind of diploma mill-style designation. At the very least, it's obscure. Beware of letters after names. They can look impressive, but not mean much.

That said, during my time in the world of the gluten free, I've also discovered that even a recognized certification is not a guarantee of getting competent knowledge about gluten intolerance or food allergy. I had a terrible experience with a licensed dietician when I was first diagnosed. This was someone my diagnosing doctor had actually sent me to. She knew almost nothing about the requirements of a gluten-free diet, gave me some out-of-date info, and read from a photocopied list—that another patient had given her!—of name brand foods she "thought" I "might" be able to eat. She also suggested that the food allergy-related throat swelling and rashes I kept having were really manifestations of a "food phobia," and that I should explore the psychological aspects contributing to this. (How fascinating, I thought. I have "phobic reactions" even when I've unknowingly ingested one of the suspect foods! And I don't have these phobic reactions when I haven't eaten any of the suspect foods. The subconscious mind must be powerful indeed.) I found out later that this dietician's specialty is working with anorexics. She sees mental health issues behind every food related disorder. Idiot.

But anyway, that's a digression from talking about our original idiot. The upshot is, beware of "experts," even when they are presented with awe and esteem on what you'd previously thought was a trustworthy current affairs show on your local NPR broadcaster.

For the record, that whole thing about "hybridized wheat" is complete and utter nonsense. Some people with milder sensitivities to wheat alone, but NOT people with gluten intolerance or celiac disease, claim they can tolerate spelt and kamut. Many health food stores and companies like to tout these as wheat alternatives. But people who are gluten sensitive can never eat these. Wheat is wheat. Spelt and kamut are forms of wheat. Rye and barley also contain gluten, as do most oats that have not been grown under strict processes that eliminate cross contamination (and even then, some gluten intolerant people still can't tolerate even these "gluten free" oats). To suggest that rye bread is gluten free is unconscionable.

Beware of nutrition "experts."