Tag Archives: celiac

A declaration of gluten independence

In honor of tomorrow’s Independence Day here in the good USA, I took a break from imagining gluten as my evil ex-boyfriend and personified him instead as the evil ex-king of England. If you too have declared independence from gluten, I hope you’ll join me in signing this important document.

Declaration-of-independence-broadside-cropped

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for a People to dissolve the bands which have connected them with a Protein, and to assume among the eaters of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nurture entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Something Else That I Would Remember Were It Not For the Brain Fog.

That whenever any Way of Eating becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the Eaters to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new Diet, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing their meals in such form, as to them seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Eating Habits long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the foods to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Inflammation, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such a Diet, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Such has been the patient sufferance of this Body; and such is now the necessity which constrains it to alter its former Systems of Nourishment. The history of Gluten is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these Guts. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

Gluten has refused its Assent to the absorption of Nutrients, the most wholesome and necessary for the body’s good.

It has forbidden the Intestines to pass Gases of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended till their Force and Odor be overpowering.

It has called bodies to the lavatory at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of its preferred-ply toilet paper, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with its peristalsis.

It has dissolved Intestinal Barriers repeatedly, for opposing with leak-free firmness its invasions on the rest of the body.

It has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause other tight junctions to be generated, whereby the Digestive Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the Body at large for their exercise; the Organs remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

It has endeavoured to prevent the population of the Toilet; for that purpose obstructing the bowel’s Naturalization of Movement; refusing to pass stools to encourage their migrations to the bowl.

It has sent hither swarms of Antibodies to harass our small intestines and eat out their tiny hairlike structures.

It has kept among us, in times of pizza, Standing Armies of Antibodies without the Consent of our bodies.

It has affected to render the Immune System independent of and antagonistic to the rest of the body.

It has combined with others to subject us to food intolerances foreign to our constitution; giving its Assent to Acts of pretended Immune Regulation:

For quartering large antibodies against tissue transglutaminase among us:

For protecting them from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Villi of these Guts:

For imposing Taxes on our energy without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Denial of Fury:

For abolishing the gluten-free System of Eating in neighbouring Restaurants, establishing therein a Standard American Diet, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render them at once examples and fit instruments for introducing the same foods into these Bodies

For taking away our Appetites, abolishing our most valuable Vitamins, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Excrements:

Gluten has abdicated Nourishment here, by waging War against us.

It has plundered our teeth, ravaged our skin, burnt our hearts, and destroyed our bowels.

It is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Proteins to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy a Food in a civilized nation.

It has constrained our fellow Cells taken Captive to bear Arms against our Villi.

It has excited digestive insurrections within us, and has endeavoured to bring on the merciless Celiac Disease whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions we have Petitioned for Recovery in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Protein, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the staple food of a people.

Nor have we been wanting in attentions to our Oaten brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their fellow grains to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement away from gluten. We have appealed to their native soluble fibers, and we have conjured them to disavow these usurpations, which would, inevitably, interrupt our consumption and enjoyment of them. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of grainkind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the celiac Guts of America, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the gluten-free Bodies, solemnly publish and declare,

That these united Bodies are, and of Right ought to be Gluten-Free and Independent Bodies; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to Wheat, Barley, and Rye, and that all connection between them and Gluten is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent Guts, they have full Power to levy War on Gluten, conclude Peace with Villi, not contract additional Diseases, establish Commerce with Companies Providing Gluten-Free Baked Goods, and to do all other Acts and Things which Gluten-Independent Bodies may of right do.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of FDA regulations, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Recipes and our sacred Honor.

Signed by
Molly Cavanaugh (and you, if you’d like, in the comments)

let gluten-freedom ring

Happy 4th to my fellow Americans, and to everyone else, a happy gluten independence day. I plan to drink these red, white, and blue “sparklers” and wish I were motivated (and air-conditioned) enough to make patriotic GF cake pops too. 

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What gluten means to me…mathematically

Once upon a time, I thought I wanted to be a teacher. Though I wound up in publishing instead (less public speaking), I hung onto some shreds of the dream. Most recently I’m turning them to—possibly—good use as a volunteer SAT tutor.

If you’ve ever wondered whether anything is harder than going gluten-free, teaching is. Apart from being confronted with your lack of any sort of coolness recognized by a high school junior, you also become intimately aware of every gap and shortcoming in your own training and memory. It’s humbling to flip through the tutor manual and realize you’ll need to reteach yourself the math before you can teach it to anyone else.

The manual, donated to the tutoring program by Kaplan, tells me to present the material in a way the kids can relate to. The same tactic comes in handy when reeducating myself. There’s a surprising amount of parallels between the SATs and gluten-free life. For example, “If you don’t know, skip it, because you’re only penalized for getting it wrong” is true of both unfamiliar food and unfamiliar SAT questions.

This also works for understanding specific concepts. Here, for example, is a thorough reintroduction to “systems of equations,” using gluten. If high school is a ways behind you, and your math score, like mine, was <800, you too may appreciate the refresher.

The problem: Solve the system of equations for gluten.

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To start, pick either equation, like this one:

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Next, subtract gluten from all sides (you got this) in order to isolate celiac (aww).

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So a celiac is an unhappy person without gluten. Sounds about right. Plug this definition into the other equation in place of celiac, like so:

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Clean it up…

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…and isolate gluten. Subtract the unhappiness from both sides…

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…and divide by –2 for the answer.

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Looks like gluten equals divided feelings, mostly negative. True enough, but we’re not quite through. Since the opposite of happy is unhappy, we can change the negative smiley into a frown…

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…add them up…

math9a

…and cancel the twos for the final answer:

math9b

There you have it. Gluten equals unhappiness. I’d say we don’t even have to check that answer.

Don’t worry, I’m not teaching the kids using gluten metaphors (talk about uncool!). Have you ever tried teaching or tutoring? Did/do you like it? How’s my math? And do you agree with the equations’ conclusion?

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What kind of celiac are you? (Personality quiz plus giveaway)

Do you like labels? You know who does? Celiac disease researchers. In 2011, the best of them from all over the world came together in Oslo to update definitions of kinds of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity (making me, for example, no longer “atypical”—see the new labels here).

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In the spirit of redefining categories, I thought I’d throw out some new ones of my own. (Maybe the Oslo crowd can discuss them at the next conference, to be held in Chicago this September, at my alma mater, though even the discounted rates are too expensive for this civilian!)

Now, whether or not you like labels, I think you’ll agree that often we’re defined by our illness. Some of us even call ourselves “celiacs.” But of course having celiac disease or being gluten-free isn’t all there is to know about us. Our personalities matter, too.

That’s why I’ve created a simple 10-question celiac disease personality quiz, just like the ones you used to see in Seventeen magazine. (Don’t worry, you don’t need to be a teenage girl to participate…or even have celiac disease. It’s inclusive.)

Take the quiz, then come back and let me know what you scored. To reward your participation, I’m offering a giveaway! In fact, just to make things confusing, I’m offering TWO giveaways.

The prizes are: remaining is:

1) A surprise swag bag from the upcoming Secaucus, NJ Gluten-Free and Allergy-Free Expo. Share your result in a comment, on Twitter, or on Facebook by the end of the day on Wednesday, September 11th, for a chance to win (or do all three, for three chances to win). Only US & Canada entries are eligible, though I hope you’ll check out the quiz even if you live elsewhere.

2) Two free tickets to the Expo for a day of your choice. You can attend on both Saturday the 7th and Sunday the 8th, or choose one day and bring a friend. To enter this one, comment by Friday, September 6th, letting me know your result AND letting me know that you’ve done one of the following:

Everyone who comments (and lives in the US or Canada) will be entered into the first drawing. You CAN be entered into both drawings—just be sure to do one of the Expo requirements to join the second.

There’s no better way to celebrate back-to-school (and expo) season than by taking a quiz…so what are you waiting for? Sharpen those No. 2 pencils and let’s get cracking.

The giveaway is no longer running. But you can still take the quiz here.

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The Week of the Nutter Butter

It was heartening to learn yesterday that not every doctor’s office gives out crackers after a celiac endoscopy. (There were also some less heartening doctor stories, but that’s pretty much par for the course—this is going to be another one, fair warning.) But the conversation raised another question for me: If you (or your kids) have been tested for celiac disease, did you eat gluten while you were waiting to hear the biopsy results?

Snide remarks about Keebler’s aside, I must admit—I did. While I waited for my results, I chowed on garlic naan; I slurped cookie dough pudding from Sunshine Happy Something-or-Other Bakery in Chinatown; I went to a dear friend’s apartment for dinner, where he served up mushroom-barley soup. (“It’s gluten-free!” he said. “Besides the barley?” I said. “…Oh,” he said.)

But, mostly, it was the week of the Nutter Butter.

I ate Nutter Butters almost every night of the week after my endoscopy before my diagnosis was confirmed (nine days, actually, not that I was counting). I’d get to the end of the day thinking, “Maybe I won’t do that again today,” and then I’d buy a pack anyway. The guy at the corner store came to recognize me and probably wonders where I’ve been lately. If I’d been more honest with myself at the start of that week, I could’ve bought one family-size package and done the whole thing much more cost-effectively. This may be pushing the limits of strange eating behaviors to which it’s okay to admit on the Internet, but on several of those nights I opened up the cookie sandwiches and spread them with jam. (Great with strawberry, and surprisingly good with fig.)

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I ate those things like I’d never be able to again—which, of course, I was correctly assuming would be the case. (Oh, sure, Pamela’s has a peanut butter cookie, and there are knockoff recipes all over the web, but if it’s not in the shape of a peanut and mass-produced it doesn’t count.) Do I even like Nutter Butters that much? I don’t know. It was a compulsion.

By Monday, going in to week two, I was ready to quit. I just needed to know I had celiac, wanted my doctor to get it over with and tell me to lay off the Nutter Butters. But Monday his receptionists put me off all day, so on Monday night I enjoyed my daily fix. This is the last time, I thought.

Tuesday morning, I called again, and hung up dejected at the response that my results still weren’t in. I spent the day playing phone tag with the two receptionists who took turns feeding me conflicting stories: “We’re waiting for a fax from the lab”; “We’re waiting for the doctor to get in and review the results”; “Oh, actually the lab still hasn’t sent them”; and, finally, “I have your results, and everything’s fine! You don’t have any bacteria in your stomach!” (Yeah.)

By that point, being told “Actually, everything’s fine” was not an option. What about my 97 (or 95, or 98, or 90, depending on what source you check) percent chance of having celiac disease based on my serology results? What about all the psyching up I’d been doing for the past few weeks? What about all those stupid Nutter Butters? I’d been eating them as a final hurrah! A farewell! And what the heck did bacteria have to do with anything?

I let myself get more and more frantic on the phone, thinking that would eventually get me my (real) results—which it did, when I strong-armed the receptionist into faxing me the results, found that they did indicate villous atrophy, and called back to demand another number at which to reach the doctor, who had by then left for the day (because I had “called too late”).

Even though I’d been sick for two and a half years and for much of that time accepted I’d just always be sick, suddenly the thought of spending even one more evening eating peanut butter sandwich cookies opened up a vast black maw above me. (An exaggeration? Fine, it was cloudy with a chance of Nutter Butters.) And whether I got my results that day or not, couldn’t I have just gone home and not eaten Nutter Butters? Couldn’t I have gone gluten-free at any time I wanted? Did I really need that harried 30-second phone call with my doctor to know, “You’re positive. Try to avoid wheat, rye, barley”?

Yeah, for whatever reason, I did. I needed certainty; I needed a real turning point; I needed closure. I’m pretty sure that without that lame conversation with my doctor, I would’ve gone home, bought my mediocre sandwich cookies, and steamrolled a few last villi. Then spent all of Wednesday trying not to let the same thing happen again. Funny how habits work, isn’t it?

Since receiving my diagnosis, I’m proud to say I haven’t (knowingly) eaten a single speck of gluten. And after a bit of a slump, the past few days I’ve even felt my cooking mojo stirring again. I’m looking forward to putting the finishing touches on my kitchen setup, feeling better, and eating well for life. Though it’s probably going to be a while before I try out a Nutter Butter imitation.

Tell me some of your food memories (fond or otherwise, -free or otherwise) in the comments! Do you miss Nutter Butters and or Oreos?

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