Tag Archives: Christmas

Sprue Stories: The Christmas Edition

You may have figured this out by now, but I love Christmas. It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Some of the most wonderful bits, in my opinion, are the songs, movies, and stories that go along with it. (You know, scary ghost stories and tales of the glories?)

So, I thought I’d share some with you. You’ve read the fairy tales; you’ve seen the Disney remakes; today, it’s time for the Christmas Edition, with a side of good cheer. Enjoy.

Note: I guest-posted a handful of these at Taste Guru’s blog today. If you’re incoming from there, you’ll want to skip straight to A Christmas Carol, with Gluten.

Santa with sleigh and reindeer

The Other Reindeer

You know Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder, Blitzen, Rudolph, and maybe even Olive, the other reindeer. But do you recall Ceecee, the celiac reindeer? Of course you don’t; no one does. Ceecee used to laugh and call Rudolph names just like everyone else, but then something in that North Pole air activated her celiac genes. Soon, she was breaking antlers like a much older deer, spending sleigh practice in the bathroom, and struggling with sinus infections that gave her a scarlet schnoz to rival Rudy’s.

Since celiac was dramatically underdiagnosed in Santa’s Village, Ceecee never learned what was wrong—everyone told her it was probably just holiday stress. Boy, did she ever feel bad when Rudolph got to guide Santa’s sleigh, and she got cut out of even the footnotes of reindeer history.

The moral: If celiac disease has to happen to someone, it might as well be to a bully.

*

Not So Jolly and Happy

Frosty the Snowman was a jolly, happy soul, until his latent gluten sensitivity manifested itself with symptoms of depression and anxiety. After that, all he did was sit in a nearby walk-in freezer, eat frozen pizzas, and complain that he was going to melt any day now. So much for laughing and playing just the same as you and me. Mind you, as a snowman, he ought not to have had a digestive system in the first place, much less a malfunctioning one, but there you go: he really was as alive as he could be.

*

What the Grinch Really Stole

The Grinch, as you’re likely aware, hated Christmas. So much, in fact, that he tried to stop it from coming. But Dr. Seuss, as doctors often do, got a few parts of the story wrong: it wasn’t a heart, but a gut problem. The Grinch had suffered through years of gluten cross-contamination at the table of those daft little Whos, and this year, he was ready to end it.

So, he stole into Whoville and packed up all the gluten in every house, except for a crumb that was even too small for a mouse (though not, of course, too small to make him sick, had he eaten it). Okay, yes, he did get a bit carried away and nabbed a wreath or two as well. And he did pitch it off a cliff with a maniacal glint in his eye. But then he stayed up all night preparing a totally gluten-free feast—right down to the marinade on the roast beast!

By the time the Whos were rolling out of bed, the Grinch was rolling back into town, tooting his horn and distributing quinoa cookies right and left. Little Cindy Lou Who (whose stunted growth and persistent insomnia suggest she might’ve been diagnosed with celiac herself if Dr. Who hadn’t been so busy holding hands and singing nonsense with the rest of the town) beamed, and they all marveled that, even without gluten, Christmas Day was still in their grasp.

*

Almost Twelve Days of Celiac

On the first day of celiac, my doctor gave to me…a positive endoscopy.
On the second day of celiac, my doctor gave to me…uhhh. Man, we really need to work on our follow-up care.

*

Underneath the Mistletoe Last Night

No one suffers from fad diets as much as Santa Claus. Maintaining that jelly-bowl belly isn’t easy, you know, and he doesn’t ask for much: just cookies and milk, and a carrot or two for his steeds. But first the low-fat craze brought him soggy applesauce cookies; then the low-carb people started leaving him no cookies, just milk; then the vegans got into the game and started setting out cups of hemp milk (with more applesauce cookies). Now the gluten- and grain-free crowd gifts him lumpy cookielike substances that disintegrate into his beard as soon as he takes a bite. Poor guy.

Still, when I saw Santa kissing my gluten-sensitive mommy, I hoped he had indeed gotten only gluten-free goodies at all the hundreds of thousands of houses he’d visited before ours. Otherwise, I knew that Mommy, weak Mommy, would be waking up on Christmas feeling considerably less than nice.

*

Wise Career Moves

It’s a good thing Hermey became a dentist when he did, because Ceecee the reindeer was just the first in a long train of undiagnosed celiac animals and elves, none of whom could understand why they suddenly had so many cavities. Hermey was there for the fillings and root canals, and eventually, Mrs. Claus went back to school, became a gastroenterologist, and diagnosed them all. Now, if only something could be done about Santa’s awful insurance policies.

*

A Christmas Carol, with Gluten

Old Scrooge was a rotter, but he had an excuse: he felt lousy. One gloomy Christmas Eve, the ghost of his old partner Marley appeared (not a figment of Scrooge’s imagination conjured by indigestion, though you could see why he’d think so). “You’re forging a chain of symptoms that will destroy your life and your afterlife,” Marley warned.

The culprit, as you might guess, was gluten. Since Scrooge was sunk in denial, Marley ushered in some backup.

scrooge2

“I am the Gluten of Christmas Past,” said the first apparition, showing Scrooge a nightmarescape of himself on Christmases gone by: running to the toilet, lying in bed with a cool towel on his forehead, and snapping, “What right have you to be merry? What reason have you?”

The Gluten of Christmas Present came next, showing cheery scenes of Christmas dinners with nary a speck of flour, even in the pudding. The last home belonged to Scrooge’s clerk Bob, whose tiny and mysteriously ill son Tim had found considerable relief from a gluten- and caseine-free diet (though his parents could ill afford to pay the premium for such foods).

Christmas Future drove in the final nail (door, coffin, whichever you prefer): Scrooge’s tombstone. “Lymphoma,” the ghost confirmed, gloomily. “Entirely preventable.”

Scrooge awoke ready to change his ways. He called out the window to a passing boy, “What food is gluten-free?”

“Why, turkey, sir!” the boy called back.

The matter decided, Scrooge sent the boy off for a prize bird for his clerk, dumped the remnants of his (questionable) gruel in the fire, and went gluten-free immediately (because, New Year’s resolutions? Bah, humbug). Weeks into his reformed diet, Scrooge’s rage issues dissipated, and he lived charitably and gluten-free all the rest of his days.

*

Let me know your favorite Christmas stories in the comments. After that, have a happy, healthy, cross-contamination-free holiday. See you next year.

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A Christmas update, with apologies to the Gluten-Free Capricorn

Somehow or other, tomorrow is December 21st, which means T-minus 4 days till we need to have all of our presents not only bought, but also wrapped.

But that’s not all. December 21st is also the first day of Capricorn, which means I owe you all a gluten-free astrology post. Unfortunately, for the first time, this flighty Gemini is blowing it off—for now. I’ll get to you guys soon, I promise! Just been a little too busy to get it together.

What’s keeping me so busy? Well . . .

A little of this . . .

Carols! (Listening in public, singing in private.)

Carols! (Listening in public, singing in private.)

A little of that . . .

Peppermint bark! (Easiest. Candy. Ever.)

Peppermint bark! (Easiest. Candy. Ever.)

Sweater parties! (But not ugly ones.)

Sweater parties! (But not ugly ones.)

And a whole lot of THIS:

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Now that's just mean, Google.

Now that’s just mean, Google.

Without lying, I could simply say Capricorns are the best sign ever at being gluten-free, and call it a wrap (seriously, no lingering intestinal damage 1.3 years after diagnosis for those guys—it is under. Control). But you know I’d much rather go on and on about personality traits, celebrities, deities, and all those other astrological tidbits that are quite possibly amusing only to me.

Besides, I imagine that if I’m this busy, then you’re all probably a bit too wrapped up in your Christmas wrapping-up to pay any attention to the blogosphere right now. So, I’m going to hold off till we can all give Capricorns the attention they know they deserve.

Just because I can’t resist, I’ll have one last Christmasy post for you on Monday. After that, I’ll be wishing you a happy holiday and checking out till next year (when Capricorn will totally get its due).

For those of you waiting: forgive my delay. (In the meantime, why not check out the astrological archives?) For those of you who couldn’t care less: forgive me for how close together this means my Capricorn and Aquarius posts will be coming.

Want to be sure you don’t miss “Sprue Stories: The Christmas Edition,” or all the nonsense that will no doubt ensue in 2014? Then join 1,592,337,805 other readers and subscribe via Twitter, Facebook, or email.

And, if you can find the time amidst your own cookie-baking and gift-panicking, let me know what you’ve been up to recently, too (links welcome!).

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Check it twice: A list of gifts NOT to buy for the gluten-free folks you love this Christmas

It’s December! Snow is falling, friends are calling, and ’tis the season for every blogging boy and girl to post their personal Christmas wish lists, disguised as suggestions of what totally unrelated people might want to buy for some other person who happens to be extremely similar to them.

Look around, and you’ll see gift suggestions for fitness freaks (compiled by fitness freaks), tech geeks (compiled by tech geeks), book lovers (compiled by book lovers), home cooks (compiled by home cooks), and the one who has everything (compiled by people who wish they had everything).

And, of course, you’ll see them for the gluten-free, by the gluten-free. Here are just a few sites with intriguing lists of these-are-not-hints for gluten-free kids like me:

I thought about doing a wish list myself, but what good is wrapping paper if you already know what’s on the inside? I’d rather be surprised.

Still, I don’t want to leave my loved ones or yours without any guidance at all. So, to supplement all those other lists itemizing stuff I certainly wouldn’t want anyone to buy for me, I’ve made a list of what NOT to buy for that special celiac someone, at least if you mean to avoid an awkward, awkward Christmas. (Never fear; if you already bought one, there’s still time to make an exchange.)

1. Anything that contains gluten. No, not even as a joke.

angry cat in Santa hat

Santa Cat would find that very naughty.
Photo © John | Flickr

2. While you’re at it, you might want to avoid any kind of food at all. To do it right, you’d have to really get gluten-free, do your research, and commit to heart all of the quirky criteria your personal celiac no doubt has (no oats, no dairy, certified by the NFCA is good but certified by GIG is not, low-FODMAP, feeling worried about arsenic in rice, no GMOs, xanthan gum is the devil, etc., etc.). Otherwise, that gift box will probably be going to the recipient’s coworkers in 2014. And then no one will be happy.

3. Restaurant gift cards—unless you know the person has eaten there recently and felt 100 percent safe and satisfied (or that a LOT of other gluten-free people have). Since even those of us in metro areas have approximately two restaurants like that in our lives, this one’s a toughie.

The lamest possible gift...whether gluten-free or not. Photo © 401(K) 2012 | Flickr

The lamest gift of all…gluten-free or not.
Photo © 401(K) 2012 | Flickr

4. Wheat Belly, by William Davis. Yes, your GF pal has heard of it. But he/she almost certainly considers it a load of reindeer manure.

Wheat Belly cover

5. Grain Brain, by David Perlmutter. Ditto.

Grain Brain cover

6. Bread Butt, by…okay, no one has written this yet. But when they inevitably do, let Amazon keep it.

7. Sketchy supplements, like GlutenEase or Glutenzyme. Though enzymes are being developed (!) that may be able to help in cases of accidental minute exposure to gluten (similar to Lactaid), they’re not there yet, and what’s on the market now doesn’t work. If you want to stuff that stocking with a placebo, sugar pills would be cheaper—and tastier too.

placebo effect

Or, you could just suggest they think about their health some more. That’ll make for some friendly dinner conversation.
Photo © Carmen Rodriguez | Flickr

8. I know I already said “no food,” but there’s one thing I’d like to call out to you especially—and it is with great sadness that I do. Lindor truffles, as I learned recently, contain barley malt, and no Lindt chocolate is guaranteed gluten-free. If you give these, you just might get tears.

angry Santa girl with candy cane

Better watch out, if you don’t want to come face to face with this in a dark corner under the mistletoe.
Photo © Nicola Albertini | Flickr

Want to help prevent a blue, blue Christmas for celiac folks like you and me? Then share: what else would you, as a gluten-free person, not want to find under the tree? (And, if you want to make it easy, share a thing or two that would make you merry.)

Want the elves to package up more posts like this for you? Follow me via Twitter, Facebook, or email, and you can have Christmas two or three days a week, every week.

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Have yourself a non-awkward little gluten-free Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas

Holidays are beautiful. They’re a chance for people to come together, set aside their everyday concerns, celebrate the passage of time, stuff themselves silly, and play a lot of board games (at least, that’s what I like to do at the holidays). They’re full of traditions, generosity, outpourings of love, and other great stuff.

But they can also be awkward. Even if you love and get along with the folks with whom you celebrate—as I do—there’s plenty of room for a little holiday tension. Stuff like:

  • Your date to the office party ditches you to hang out with your coworkers.
  • The dinner conversation turns to your future offspring’s religion.
  • The traditional pudding the vegetarians just ate turns out to contain suet.
  • Your entire extended family finds out you’ll be prepping for a colonoscopy the following week.

No, I’m not speaking from personal experience.

Pretty cool! Till you learn what's in it. Photo © Steve Johnson | Flickr

Pretty cool! Till you learn what’s in it.
Photo © Steve Johnson | Flickr

Food restrictions make holidays more awkward. It’s hard to confidently strike the balance between ensuring enough of your needs are met that you don’t pass out in the buffet line (and maybe even have fun), and not making those needs the focal point of everyone’s attention for the whole party. The perfect balancing point differs depending on who you are, who you’re spending your holiday with, and how you celebrate it. I can’t tell you where yours is, and, more’s the pity, you can’t tell me where mine is. We all just have to struggle our way through it, fingers crossed and awkwardness accepted.

But to tell the truth, I don’t feel too nervous about my first-ever gluten-free Thanksgiving and Christmas (and first-and-only-ever Thanksgivukkah*—GF or not, I don’t think any of us will live to see the next one).

That’s because, for one thing, it’s not my first family get-together since celiac disease (this was), or my first holiday season with “dietary issues.” For a couple, I’ve been vegetarian; for one miserable Thanksgiving, I considered myself “severely fructose intolerant” (to the point of eating almost nothing but meat, potatoes, rice, and spinach); and last December, well before my celiac tests, I found myself asking, “Can we sub in buckwheat groats for a low-FODMAP option?”

It’s also because I have an understanding family, and because I’ve started discussing the holidays with them already. Now, I know I said that I can’t show you your perfect balance point, but if I could offer you one piece of advice, it’s this: start looking for it early.

NFCA gluten-free holiday tip of the day

The NFCA is posting a daily tip, like this one from ME, throughout the holiday season. They can all be found here.
Image © National Foundation for Celiac Awareness

This is advice I need to learn to take, myself. I’m prone to putting off conversations that I anticipate will be awkward. It’s a bad habit, because inevitably, the putting-off makes the conversation more awkward when it finally happens. If you’ve ever waited until the last possible second to break up with someone, or fess up to a mistake you made, or ask for a day off, I’m sure you know what I mean.

Even if you’ve done this a million times and are totally comfortable both with your food restrictions and with the folks who will be carving your turkey, it’s still worth checking in with them now. Think about it: If you wait to discuss bringing a special dish until your host has already drawn up the oven schedule for the side dishes, they’re not going to feel very grateful. And Christmas Eve is not the time to heave a sigh and wish that someone had adapted that family sugar cookie recipe. Even if you’re not a planner, now is definitely the time.

Have the awkward conversations now, so you can enjoy yourself later. And if things still get awkward, remember that, after all, holidays aren’t really about the food. They’re about the board games.

Christmas Scrabble game

Bingo.
Photo © Mart | Flickr

Have you started preparing for the holidays? Are you hosting or guesting? And if you’ve been through this wonderful, awkward season of joy with food restrictions before, will you be doing anything differently this year?

*My family is as gentile as they come, but we’ve always celebrated Hanukkah. Why not? Mom likes lighting candles, Dad likes making latkes, and we all like playing dreidel. When it comes to holidays, I say gimel.

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