Category Archives: Reviewing the Literature

What the heck is a FODMAP? (A low-FODMAP diet infographic and cookbook giveaway)

We’ve talked about FODMAPs several times here, but I have the feeling at least a few people out there still aren’t entirely sure just what they are. To help, my colleagues and I at The Experiment put together an infographic that I hope you’ll read (click on the image to view in full size) and share!

What-the-heck-FODMAP.Infographic.transparent

I know this is advertorial of me, since I edited the low-FODMAP books, but I truly believe the low-FODMAP diet is a game-changer for people with long-term, otherwise unexplained digestive problems. And it’s not just me who believes it—scientists, doctors, and dietitians worldwide support the diet.

Of course, folks should get tested for celiac disease and other gastrointestinal diseases before accepting a diagnosis of IBS and trying this diet. And of course, we should continue working to figure out why exactly people have these chronic gut issues and how to solve the problem for good, but in the meantime, this regimen might help.

Along with the infographic (design credit for which, by the way, really goes entirely to Sarah Schneider, who I think did a great job, don’t you?), I’m doing a giveaway of Sue Shepherd’s brand-new book, The Low-FODMAP Diet Cookbookto help spread the word. It has recipes for every meal and everyone, and as someone who has spent many a pre-lunch hour drooling over the photos, I can tell you they’re gorgeous. Enter using the Rafflecopter below, and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
//widget.rafflecopter.com/load.js

So, do you feel like you know what the heck a FODMAP is? What are your favorite low-FODMAP foods?

Advertisements

The ABCeliac of It: Why Children’s Books Matter, and Are Secretly All About Celiac Disease

Since the moment I heard it existed, I’ve meant to visit the New York Public Library’s exhibit “The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter.” Finally, on Sunday, Sprue Jr. and I found ourselves nearby while seeing our friend Jimena off on the bus back to DC, so in we went.

photo (31)On our way, we stopped in to the Winter Village at Bryant Park to look at knickknacks and watch the first of the season’s skaters wobble ’round the rink. We couldn’t resist stopping at a stand prominently displaying the phrases “gluten free” and “we bake it fresh daily”—music to our freezing-over celiac ears—and selling pão de queijo, a Brazilian cheese and yucca bread. (Another one of those “even better than the rolls you went in search of” naturally gluten-free foods.)

We tasted eight different delicious buns (they’re small!), among which my favorites were the pesto & goat cheese, chocolate chip, and pizza. If you’re nearby, I recommend you check it out, although I goofed on asking my normal questions about cross-contamination (taking it on faith, since the pão was the only thing being sold), so I suggest you do better due diligence than I did. For what it’s worth, I felt fine.

Now, to the exhibit. The library is beautiful; if you’ll be in New York around the holidays, you could get a wonderful afternoon out of the Winter Village plus the library, which is free to the public and as good as any museum (less crowded, too). We passed through another exhibit on games and plan to return soon for one on AIDS activism. There are murals and old books everywhere, and I didn’t spot a single typo in the descriptive placards (unlike at some otherwise awesome museums…cough MSI Chicago cough).

Because it was Sunday, the library closed at 5, when we were only halfway through the exhibit because we’d both been distracted by sitting down with some of our favorite books. I was struck, as usual, by all the hidden gluten-free plot lines waiting to be unearthed.

Take Madeline, for example.

Cheerful little Madeline is the smallest, bravest, and all-around coolest kid among all the girls who reside in that old house in Paris that was covered with vines. But one night, after a long day of adventures trotting about the city in two straight lines…

madelineLook at that cause and effect! First Madeline eats bread, then she wakes up, crying, in terrible pain. Of course, the devoted Miss Clavel rushes her to the hospital, where a well-meaning doctor promptly removes little Madeline’s little appendix. Afterwards, Madeline seems good as new, but I can’t help but wonder if they got it right. (You know doctors.)

photo (33)

Celiac disease is, after all, often mistaken for appendicitis (with this study showing that appendix-removal surgeries are superhigh in undiagnosed celiac patients compared to healthy controls—the very low “P” value, my scientist sister explained, indicates the result is significant). Madeline’s small stature is also suspect. And I looked closely at her hospital food and didn’t notice a bit of bread on her tray. Maybe that’s why she perked up.

Of course, whether Madeline felt better because she lost her appendix or because she went gluten-free, the story would end the same: all the other girls want to be her. That little trendsetter.

Then there’s In the Night Kitchen.

This book, by Maurice Sendak, explores the adventure of one little boy through a wild dreamscape in which gigantic chefs try to use him as milk in their “morning cake.” The illustrations are surreal and somewhat disturbing, verging on nightmarish—made even more so by my new perspective on the idea of being plopped into a huge bowl of batter. That’s one glutening I’m not sure I’d want to wake up from.

Click for a closer look at poor little Mickey sinking into the cake, but kindly ignore my “I’m still freezing even though I’m indoors” attire. New York got cold.

Click for a closer look at poor little Mickey sinking into the cake, but kindly ignore my “I’m still freezing even though I’m indoors” attire. New York got cold.

Bakers, please note: I’m not the milk, and the milk’s not me—I’m Molly. So take your enormous bags of flour and stay out of my dreams.

I also sat in a Phantom Tollbooth–style car, watched Alice grow till her head hit the ceiling, and paged through CorduroyThe Stinky Cheese Man, and other tales that still matter to me as much as they ever have. I won’t turn all of them into celiac stories, but I’ll leave you with one more:

That’s Harold and the Purple Crayon, of course.

photo (34)

With his crayon, Harold shows us what we should be doing every single day: creating around ourselves the world we’d like to see.

Do you, for example, want to see a more gluten-free world? What about a peaceful world, a happy world, a just world? Regardless, take a page out of Harold’s book, and get out there and make it. If just one children’s book inspires just one child or adult to change just one part of their world, I’d say that children’s books matter indeed.

What’s your favorite children’s book? Did you have any fun gluten-free adventures this past weekend? And when’s the last time you pulled out a crayon and started drawing?

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Don’t know much about chemical sensitivity?

Have you seen the movie Safe?

It’s about a woman (Carol, played by Julianne Moore) who develops a mysterious and steadily worsening illness—most likely multiple chemical sensitivity.

I watched it in college. Though it was a great film, it encouraged me to dwell on my own mysterious illness, which had begun earlier that year. The film set up questions like, “Is her illness even real? Will she ever get better?” Watching it, I couldn’t help but wonder the same things about me.

Later, of course, I found out I have celiac disease, and that it could get better. I just have to not eat some things (okay, a lot of things). Except for avoiding crumbs, I don’t have to worry too much about my environment. I won’t find gluten in the air anywhere besides a bakery, and the worst chemical I contend with is natural flavorings.

cover of Allergic to Life by Kathryn Treat

But I remained curious about chemical sensitivity, which I didn’t know much about beyond its portrayal in the film.

Now, I’ve learned about it from Kathryn Chastain Treat, one of my earliest readers and strongest supporters. She blogs about her extreme chemical sensitivity, and she’s just finished a book: Allergic to Life.

To celebrate her book’s release, I asked her a few questions about what is still a misunderstood and mysterious disease.

Readers, we’d love to hear your answers to these questions, too!

What do you feel your experience has in common with the experience of people with celiac disease, gluten intolerance, or food allergies? What’s most different?

Kathryn: I feel that in some ways we are very similar. We can’t just go and eat anywhere or anything. I have food allergies, which causes issues similar to those that someone with celiac disease encounters when dining out or with family and friends.

What makes me different is that I have not only food allergies, but also sensitivities to chemicals (perfumes, colognes, fabric softeners) and mold. I do a lot of dining at outdoor cafes if they can tolerate my food allergies (which include foods that may contain mold, like vinegar and soy sauce) and if I can manage to find seating far enough away from someone who is very scented.

What misconceptions do people have about your illness? Which get you mad? Which do you think are just funny? How do you respond?

Kathryn: I believe people, including many in the medical profession, feel that my sensitivities to chemicals and mold are not that serious. They believe that if I can manage a short time in a store (with my mask) that I should be able to go anywhere anytime I want. I also feel that people believe because I do not work and stay at home that I just sit and watch television and eat bon bons in my fluffy slippers.

What makes me the maddest is not taking my symptoms seriously. I think the perception that I have all the time in the world because I don’t work is probably the funniest. They have no idea how much work it takes to stay as well as I have managed to get and how long it takes to clean my house.

I have responded that my total load of what my body tolerates varies from day to day. If I am having a good day, then I can make a trip to the store. I can’t do this every day or spend all day doing this because despite my mask, my body gets too overloaded with chemicals and I end up sick. Sometimes I just ignore it all together because it is hard to convince someone once they have their own preconceived ideas.

What’s the funniest thing that has ever happened to you as a result of being ill?

Kathryn: My younger daughter was here for a visit and we were scheduled to visit my older daughter. My younger daughter had her hair done earlier in the day. Not thinking (I blame my off and on again companion—brainfog), we just jumped in my car. Of course she put on one of my required tyvek suits to avoid bringing any fragrances or chemicals into my car. We started down the road, and about ten miles into our trip I was having difficulty. I was getting a headache, congested, and my voice was slowly getting more of a crackle in it. Suddenly it dawned on both of us that her hair was making me ill.

As soon as possible I pulled to the side of the road and we both jumped out. How were we going to make it safe for us to continue on our journey? We couldn’t go on the way things were and I couldn’t call anyone to come help us. We searched the back seat and then the trunk to find something we could put over her hair.

Aha! There it was, a white plastic garbage bag in my trunk. I always keep some in the car for emergencies or having to put someone’s belongings in it before they can ride with me.

We got the bag out of the trunk and tried to put it over her hair. The wind was blowing and gusts of air would get under the bag and fill it like a balloon. We fought and fought the wind and the air in the bag. Here we are on the side of the road, she is already wearing the white tyvek suit, and we are now trying to put a bag over her head.

Enter the highway patrol cruiser. Just as I thought things couldn’t be worse or crazier than they were, the officer gets out to see if we need assistance. I have to explain as simply as I can without appearing to be a lunatic that I have sensitivities to chemicals and my daughter has just gotten her hair done, making me ill. I also explained that we were trying to cover her hair up with the bag but the air kept getting inside the bag. I purposely tried to ignore the fact that she was dressed in this white suit. The officer, however, noticed and made some funny comment about her tyvek suit and Ghostbusters and then calmly walked over and helped us get the bag on her hair. I was then asked to move aside so that he could write down my license plate number, which was required because he had stopped to check our status. As he walked away, he said it bothered him too when his wife got her hair done.

The story doesn’t end there. A few weeks later our tenant came to pay rent. He was talking about having coffee with his highway patrol officer friends. One had commented about these two women on the side of the road and how he had to help one put a bag over the other one’s head. I immediately started laughing and told him that I was one of the women he rescued that day. Our tenant knows all about my sensitivities and about my story. He started laughing and said he couldn’t wait to tell this particular officer that he knows the women.

I knew the officer would most likely go back and tell the story to all his buddies. I mean, how often does this kind of thing happen?

Okay, now what’s the least funny?

Kathryn: The least funny thing was when I made a quick trip with my daughter into Target. We were getting what she and I needed when we ran into a woman pushing her shopping cart with a little girl trailing alongside her. She saw me with my mask and made the fastest turnaround I had ever seen someone make with a shopping cart. I am sure she thought that I was contagious, and what she never knew was that I was more likely to get sick being around her than her from being around me.

What book or movie character would you nominate as the mascot for chemical sensitivity?

Molly: This was my final question, but we’ve both been wracking our brains and haven’t come up with anyone yet (there’s gotta be a Harry Potter reference in here somewhere). I don’t want to nominate Carol, because Kathryn and Carol don’t seem too similar (watch the film and you’ll agree).

Can you think of one? Let us know if so! Also, be sure to share your own funny and unfunny health stories. And, of course, check out Kathryn’s book.

She is offering a giveaway of three autographed copies through Rafflecopter, and her book is available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon (prices vary). Autographed copies (US Only) will be available on her website.

This is stop #7 on her book blog tour, and you can find the rest on her blog.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Riddikulus! Gluten, boggarts, and powerful magic

Are you sick of the Harry Potter references yet? No? Good, because there’s more where that’s coming from.

Recently, as I was cataloging the changes to my malleable psyche effected by my celiac diagnosis (nearly six months—that magical number—ago!), it occurred to me that were I to encounter a boggart in a dark alleyway, wardrobe, or Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, it would probably now take on the form of a gigantic piece of wheat bread shedding crumbs as it staggered toward me on crusty legs. (Before, it definitely would’ve been bedbugs.)

WalkingBread_original

This is a sticker I received in a Breaking Up With Captain Crunch giveaway. Too good not to share.

If you, like me, devoted years of your child- or adulthood to reading and internalizing the Harry Potter series, you already know that the only charm to defeat a boggart—a shape-shifter that instinctively takes the form of its opponent’s greatest fear—is Riddikulus. The charm, as dear Professor Lupus put it, “is simple, yet it requires force of mind.” You must close your eyes, concentrate hard, and dream up a way to make fun of your greatest fear. Once the boggart has taken on its new and hilarious form, there’s just one thing you must do to vanquish it: laugh.

hp3_16

That walking bread? Give it a big toaster-burnt spot in the shape of a mustache. Or envision a gigantic toddler picking it up and gumming it to smithereens—with a bib to catch the crumbs, of course. Or speckle it with freezer burn, open up a big air hole in the middle, and imagine it as gluten-free bread from the nineties—which, from what I hear, was either very funny or very scary. Cross-contamination, schmoss-contamination, and boggart begone!

Photo © kaylacasey | Flickr

Photo © kaylacasey | Flickr

At the NYC Celebrate Celiac event this past Saturday (more details to come), I talked to a bunch of great people, and speaking about my blog helped me to put into words a mission statement I hadn’t concretely realized before: Gluten-free is for life, so you’d better start finding ways to laugh about it.

Whether you’re newly diagnosed and afraid you’ll never fit in or eat well again, or a seasoned g-freer who dreads the idea of a waiter chirping, “Whoo-oops, I thought you said vegan!,” chances are if you have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity you’ve got a gluten-related boggart or two. It is my hope that my posts do less to feed your demons and more to dispel them, using the most magical weapon at our disposal: laughter.

I’m not saying being gluten-free is fun—I’m just saying it’s funny. It’s comical that I get twitchy about passing a dish of wheat noodles at the dinner table or standing too close to someone eating a bagel on the subway. It’s silly that I have to keep a sponge in my desk drawer and carry it to the sink to wash dishes at work. It’s hilarious whenever someone asks me, “What happens to you when you eat gluten?”

For me, every time the concept of Gluten-Free For Life starts to seem serious or scary, I can find a million reasons—starting with the word gluten itself—to laugh about it instead. I hope you feel the same way about celiac, or NCGS, or whatever else ails you. After all, as Dumbledore would certainly agree, to the well-organized mind, it all is but the next great adventure.

By the way, in case you were wondering: Yes, this blog is written pseudonymously by J. K. Rowling.

Tell me what your boggart would turn into, and how you’d defeat it. What’s the funniest thing to strike your gluten-free fancy recently?

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: