Self-proclaimed font of Celiac knowledge, Libby writes about the lifestyle of wheat allergics, gluten sensitivites, and Celiacs. Recipes, product reviews, and tips 'n tricks on healthy gluten free living can all be found here. A writer for healthline.com, this is Libby's personal blog space.

Mouth Ulcers and Gluten Intolerance

Posted on November 25, 2012

I wrote this a while back for healthline.com but now want to repost it here because I just got a mouth ulcer and had to put medicated gel on the inside of my cheek last night. Not fun!

My father recently read a fascinating study done on patients with gluten sensitivity who experienced recurring mouth sores. Whether it is Celiac Disease or just a intolerance to gluten, different symptoms can arise in different people. Of course, as you all know, my personal Celiac symptoms include headaches, brain fog, mood swings, severe stomach pain and cramping, diarrhea, and weight loss. However, this study done on mouth ulcers shows how gluten intolerance can present itself in strange and unusual ways. Though my experience being a Celiac can be most closely described as food poisoning to the average healthy person, only oral sores can be the experience for others.

After speaking to my father over the phone, I went and found the research article online to learn more.

Aphthous stomatitis, as it is medically coined, is defined as a painful open ulcer known to many Americans as a canker sore. Previously associated with stress and infections, ulcers can now be connected to gluten as the body attacks its own tissue as a result of an immune system response. What is so interesting about this research is the fact that a person may experience many mouth ulcers a year, and show absolutely no other symptoms, but still have a gluten sensitivity.

Though a positive blood test and a biopsy (showing the blunting of the vili in the small intestine) are the only ways to diagnose Celiac Disease, gluten intolerance can cause just as much annoyance and confusion and is much harder to diagnose. When left untreated, people can suffer for years with symptoms not commonly related to the protein intolerance, leaving doctors and patients alike perplexed.

My father has experienced frequent mouth ulcers for the majority of his life, and I too had some trouble with reoccurring sores when I was little. I remember my father putting ulcer ointment on the inside of my cheek more than once before bed. My father may or may not have gluten intolerance, but when I was diagnosed in high school, I inadvertently made my family more aware of gluten in our diets.

For the past few years, my father has experience fewer sores; granted, he may be less stressed out, but I feel strongly that it is connected to his gluten intake. The amount of bread, pasta, and flour our family ate was dramatically reduced while I lived at home and continued after I moved out. Who knows, but maybe my father has been gluten intolerant all these years and mouth ulcers were his only symptom.

Super Easy Gluten Free French Tart!

Posted on November 21, 2012

As the big Thanksgiving meal quickly approaches, I decided last minute to add a gluten free dessert to the mix. I originally wanted to make a traditional apple pie, but after research and getting input from family members, my plans changed to a classic apple French tart. Today, as practice before the main event, I tested out my crust method by making a mini strawberry tart for teatime.

   Using the ingredients available in my house (mainly because a trip to the grocery store just before Thanksgiving was less than appealing) and with the help of my culinary genius of a father, I managed to create an amazing berry tart out of kitchen scraps.

What you will need:

  • 2 cups of whatever gluten free flours you can get your hands on (I used ½ cup of King Arthur’s GF All Purpose Flour, 1 cup Pamela’s Pancake mix, ½ tapioca flour)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon of agave syrup
  • 8 tablespoons of unsalted butter, cold, cubed
  • A large pinch of salt
  • ½ cup of cold water
  • 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
  • Fruit of choice, neatly sliced
  • ¼ cup of applesauce
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • Leftover jam, citrus
  • Parchment paper

      Preheat the oven to 400F.

In a large, glass mixing bowl, add the flour, salt, and cubed cold butter. Using your hands, quickly mix together until the cubes of butter integrate into the flour and become small, flaky pieces. Make sure to act fast to stop the butter from melting due to the heat of your hands.

Then, in a separate bowl, beat the egg and add the vinegar and agave syrup. Add this eggy mix to the glass bowl and using a fork combine with the buttery flour. As the mixture begins to come together, drizzle the cold water into the bowl while still stirring in small intervals (an extra pair of hands might be useful at this point). Do not add the entire ¼ cup of water if the mixture seems to be sticky enough after one or two intervals.

Now, cut a large piece of parchment paper and place it flat on the countertop. Scoop out your dough mixture onto the parchment paper and using the container that you want to bake in, spread the dough into the correct size and shape. The thickness should be ¼ inch or so when in the final shape. Fold over the parchment paper that hangs off the side and using cling film (saran wrap), wrap up the shaped dough completely, and place in your fridge for 2 or more hours.

If you are really antsy to make your tart, you can stick your dough into the freezer while you cut up the desired fruit into slices. The dough just needs to contain chilled butter before going into the oven to bake.

Once completely set and cold, unwrap the plastic from the dough, leaving the parchment paper and place it into your pan. Make sure you smooth out any cracks that form and keep a small lip on all sides to keep the fruit center from sliding around. Bake just the dough in the pan for about 5 minutes, then pull out and quickly smooth a thin layer of applesauce on the crust. Then, in a nice design, lay the sliced fruit in a circular pattern. Stick it back in the oven for 20 minutes, rotating the tart half way through the baking process.

After 20 minutes, pull out the tart and spread a tiny amount of citrus jam on the fruit and lightly sprinkle the sugar on top of that. Place back in the oven again for another 10-15 minutes. You need to keep an eye on the tart at this point because you do not want the fruit to blacken. A little darkening on the tips of the slices is okay, but anything more is beginning to burn.

When the time is up, take it out and spread a small amount of agave syrup over the fruit for a nice glazing effect. Let cool for 5-10 minutes and enjoy!

My Macaron Obsession

Posted on November 16, 2012

Passing by a little bakery where brightly colored cookies with delicate labels in cursive script and little ribbons are displayed will make anyone’s mouth water and eyes melt at the sheer cuteness. It actually wasn’t until recently that I discovered these little colored macarons were gluten free, but when I found out, I went a little crazy.

Macaron, not to be confused with a different type of cookie, the macaroon, is a meringue pastry sandwich filled with creams ranging from thick ganache to sticky jam. This confectionery treat is quite tiny but the level of sweetness is so high that usually one eaten slowly will halt any sugar craving. Originally from France, these delightful desserts are made from egg white, a combination of icing and granulated sugars, ground almond, and sometimes food coloring, making this dessert naturally gluten free.

Macarons have slowly been on the rise as the new trendy snack item. Following frozen yogurt, or froyo as I like to call it, cupcakes, and freshly pressed juices, macarons are suddenly becoming the “it” purchase. Personally, I love this new fad, mainly because I never fully enjoyed the previous trend foods. Froyo never did it for me, probably because I have sensitive teeth and allowing customers to have free samples meant I never spent my money. I essentially perfected the art of giant samples in those tiny paper cups. Cupcakes, for the obvious reason, were tempting but dangerous. If a cupcakery offered a gluten free option, there was no way it was made in a separate facility or 100% gluten free. That fact didn’t stop me from buying the elusive gf cupcake from time to time, but it definitely was not a good idea. I’d call it Russian Roulette with cake. Juice, well, juice is just too expensive for five gulps and then done. I’d rather go to Costco and get a gallon of whatever is on offer, or seek out the delicious Barsotti’s  brand apple juice at a local grocery store.

But finally, here are macarons. Small, adorable, delectable morsels of cream and sugar to pop in your mouth with a big piping hot cup of tea. And for those who don’t want to venture out to a fancy, long lined purveyor of macarons, then head to Trader Joe’s for their version of this cookie. Their Macarons Au Chocolat are moist, rich, creamy, and crunchy and available everywhere. In the frozen section, there are Pumpkin Macarons as well, but the hassle there is the fact that you have to defrost them to eat.

All I can say is I hope this fad sticks around longer than the rest. Long live the macaron!

Adventures in the Frozen Foods Aisle

Posted on November 14, 2012

I am the type of person who has always turned their nose up at veggie burgers. The idea of eating meat substitutes has always made me feel a little uncomfortable. I tried to like tofu a while back, but my lack of tofu cooking skills combined with my lack of desire to eat it means that the soy favorite just never really grew on me. People, friends mainly, often ask if I would ever go vegetarian. I am around quite a few people on a daily basis who are either full blown vegan, vegetarian, or pescatarian, which means conversations about food and food ethics often arise.

I’ve always said that being a Celiac means that I cannot cut out any other food groups from my diet. As difficult as it is being gluten free and still enjoying the pleasures of a meal out or worry free cooking, I could not imagine what eating no meat and no gluten would be like…until yesterday.

I went to the local food co-op here in Davis, CA on Monday night to stock up on my weekly food supply and show a visitor some of Davis’s perks. The Food Co-op here is excellent for Celiacs and gluten intolerants. They carry an amazing selection of frozen and fresh gf items, even better than Whole Foods (which is usually hard to beat). I can never do all my grocery shopping there as I am not made of money and things can get seriously pricey very quickly, but I manage to buy gf crackers, frozen goodies, fresh loaves of bread, cheese, and veg without breaking the bank.

This particular Monday night, I was walking down the freezer aisle, trying to decide which gf doughnuts to buy (maple glazed or chocolate), when something caught my eye. It was a product made by Amy’s. Amy’s is not an entirely gluten free company, but they do make some delicious and easy gluten-free meal equivalents. For example, their lasagna I hear is delicious, but when I asked a friend to try their gf version as a comparison, she said the gf one was even better. It is extremely rare to find gluten-free alternatives that are better than the original, so I am not complaining!

Anyway, back to the freezer section of the Food Co-op.

Well, the Amy’s product that caught my eye were the Gluten/Dairy/Soy Free Sonoma Veggie Burgers. With a bright big banner across the front exclaiming NEW!, I went over and fished it out of the display case.The ingredients were simple: vegetables, quinoa, and walnuts, so I decided to buy it because I didn’t believe it could be any good. That’s right, I thought, this has to taste like nothing, because it is made from almost nothing. My skepticism drove me to adventure into this new realm of meatless burgerland.

I have to say, I think I am a veggie burger convert now. This Sonoma burger was delicious! Sure, I couldn’t see it as a beefy hamburger, but as the protein on my plate next to some grilled asparagus and a large butter lettuce salad, it was exactly what I wanted. I felt healthy and good after eating, not to mention it only took four minutes to cook in a pan, much faster than real meat.

I am not going vegetarian by any means, but it is nice to know that there are gf products out there that allow us to dip our feet into the world of meatless dining and still feel satisfied after a meal.

Helminthic Therapy

Posted on November 11, 2012

Helminthic therapy is a type of immunotherapy that is quite trendy right now in the treatment of autoimmune diseases. “Helminthic” refers to the helminths that the person receiving the therapy is inoculated with. Helminths, for those who don’t know, are parasitic worms, and the idea behind this therapy is that a small dosage of parasites will aid an immune system response that is lacking in people who suffer with certain diseases and disorders.

In western society, we have an obsession with being clean. Though this blocks out many harmful illnesses, there has been a backlash of problems surrounding the lack of exposure to certain germs and parasites while growing up. This “Hygiene Hypothesis,” which argues that this lack of exposure puts people at greater risk for illness, is now affecting all of the industrialized countries in a very negative way. Between allergies and asthma, autoimmune diseases and possibly mental illness, people everywhere are falling ill to diseases that have no cure.

I first heard about this therapy on an episode of This American Life, a free podcast put on by National Public Radio. The story followed a man who suffered from terrible airborne allergies. Over time, he got so fed up with his lack of relief through modern medical treatments that he began his own research. Long story short, he inoculated himself by walking bare foot over rural latrines in Africa where the parasitic worm eggs entered the soles of his feet and grew inside his body.

Research is now being done extensively on helminthic therapy for Crohn’s Disease, colitis, IBD, MS, asthma, allergies, and now Celiac Disease.

Two types of worms can be used, either hookworm or whipworm, and the patient is inoculated with a specific controlled number via a patch of eggs applied to the skin. The eggs entering the body is insanely itchy and causes a very rough rash that last for the full growth period from egg to adult (around 21 days). The rash is worse during the second inoculation and can even keep people up at night due to the itching.

Why do I know all this? Well, I was inoculated with 35 hookworms in the UK in the winter of 2010 and again with a few more in the summer of 2011. Pre-worms, I was sick what seemed like every hour of every day. Not exactly gluten sick all the time, but just run down and drained. My immune system was weak and I was constantly busy.

The worms obviously do not mean I can eat a slice of bread and be fine, and all you readers know that I still get sick from cross contamination, but the severity and frequency of sickness have been dramatically reduced.

If you are having a really hard time with your autoimmune disease, I suggest you do some research into this type of therapy. It has really helped me and though a little freaky at first, it is perfectly safe. The worms cannot multiply in your body and you cannot infect your loved ones. Even if it eases the burden of your disease just a little bit, then the therapy has worked and it is worth it.

Celiac Safe Comfort Food

Posted on October 31, 2012

First of all, here’s a quick update from last week: I did not get gluten sick from the Taco Bell experience on Friday, but it certainly did not make me feel very good. Fast food just does not sit well on the stomach, not matter how strong your digestive system is.

I had a wonderful, but strange lunch today, but before I go into detail, let me provide a little backstory (and a recipe!).

Yesterday, I made crepes using an old recipe from my father who adapted it from a friend, a quick look online, Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free all purpose baking flour, and the ingredients left in my fridge. It was piecemeal to say the least, but my crepes turned out to be delicious. My father’s recipe called for more butter and sugar than I had, so I just used less and substituted in some extra milk for liquid.

Recipe:

1 cup gf all purpose flour

1/5 cup of sugar

2 medium sized eggs

3/4 milk

1/4 a stick of butter, melted

Instructions:

Put the butter in a microwave safe container and cook on low heat until melted. Take it out of the microwave (caution because this will be really hot!) and let it cool down. Then, get out one large mixing bowl and combine the flour, sugar, eggs, and milk. I did not have a whisk or electric mixer, which are the ideal tools to combine these ingredients, so instead I used a fork and rigorously mixed the ingredients together. Once thoroughly integrated, add the melted butter. Add half to the bowl, mix it in, and then add the rest.

If the batter appears too thick, add more milk. Remember, crepes are very thin pancakes, so you want the mixture to be at a pourable consistency.

Let the batter stand for a few minutes to allow the mixture to set. Meanwhile, take out a medium sized nonstick frying pan and place on medium heat. There is no need to add more butter to the pan if it is a good quality nonstick because the batter has enough fat in it already. Take note that these are sweet crepes so the edges will burn quickly. Be prepared for a quick cook time.

Now pour the batter into the pan directly from the bowl, but be sure to catch the drips running down the side. Cover the pan 3/4 of the way with a thin layer of batter, and then pick up to swirl. The pan swirl will spread the pancake batter to cover the entire surface as well as create a perfect circle. Flip when the edges start to brown. The other side will not take as long to cook, so get your plate ready! These are delicious on their own with a cup of tea or served with fresh lemon juice and a little bit of sugar.

So back to my strange lunch…I had batter left over from yesterday and decided to make myself a couple of crepes. I then took out some gluten free chicken nuggets from the freezer and popped them in the microwave. These specific chicken nuggets are made by Applegate Organic & Natural Meats. I wanted to make my own version of chicken and waffles, a southern classic. It was a huge success, the combination of sweet and salty settled all my cravings for a comfort food meal.

It was so good, it was spooky! Happy Halloween, everyone!

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