Tag Archives: cross-contamination

Insomnia: A Sob Story (with Gluten?)

Yawwwwwwn. If I’ve seen you lately, I’ve probably graced you with one of those. It’s not that I’m bored or being rude. It’s just that sleep . . . hasn’t been happening lately.

I’ve written before about such light, possibly celiac-related topics as bloating and hair loss. After several low-sleep months, I felt it was time to address this new one. I’ve tried writing this post many times already but kept falling asleep in the middle of a

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just kidding. Honestly, if I could fall asleep so readily, I’d welcome it (and then complain about it). But, I can’t. So, with all of us alert, let’s talk insomnia.

In the past, I’ve occasionally gone up to a few days having trouble falling asleep. Lately, though, it’s been constant.

Insomnia, among other sleep disorders, is on the laundry list of conditions associated with celiac disease. Jane Anderson has written it up for About.com. That said, like bloating and hair loss, it’s also associated with a million other conditions and sometimes exists on its own. (The NIH can tell you all about it.)

So, where’d mine come from?

Because my insomnia started long after I went gluten-free, I have a feeling, for once, celiac’s not to blame. However, in the past, I did wonder if occasional insomnia meant I’d been glutened. (I’ve never “caught someone in the act” of glutening me, so it’s hard to be sure. Still, certain blech patterns appear.)

Thus, my first thought was: have I been eating something new and contaminated that I didn’t properly check? I don’t think so . . . though I did eat too much gluten-free junk this winter. A dietary spring cleaning is underway, and way needed.

Insomnia cookies

Not gluten-free. Probably for the best.
Photo © Robyn Lee | Flickr

My next thought was to blame a new medication. Insomnia’s not a known side effect, but I wouldn’t put it past my body to react in a unique, idiotic way. It’s slimly possible that the medication was contaminated; though I checked with the manufacturer, I received the standard “We can’t guarantee it” response, since they don’t test their final product. Having stopped taking it, I’m waiting for changes. So far, zilch.

Or maybe it’s stress? It is a possible trigger for roughly 75 percent of bad things. A colleague gave notice and I got promoted right around the time this started. Not bad, except that I feel even more buried than usual underneath a mound of work that never shrinks.

At night, as I try to make myself a willing vessel to oblivion, my mind jumps to multiple unchecked to-do list items. I’m not going to do any of them in the middle of the night, but I do shift position, refluff my pillow, and worry about it. (Mindfulness gurus would say to keep a notebook on my nightstand to jot these things down. Setting this up is something else I never manage to check off my list.)

Sprue Jr says labeling it “insomnia” is the problem: that by expecting it, I perpetuate it. But I disagree. It is . . . what it is. And insomnia by any other name would still suck.

While I’m not sure what is causing my insomnia, I can tell you one thing my insomnia has caused. Sleeplessness, you see, leads to bloglessness. For some time now, I’ve been down to one post a week. And it’s not for lack of ideas or time, I swear. It’s lack of sleep.

insomnia digital clock

Watching the clock is another insomnia no-no. Seriously. Don’t do it.
Photo © Fairy Heart | Flickr

Sleeplessness spawns laziness in more ways than one. It saps your energy, motivation, and attention. Sleep is incredibly (though still largely inexplicably) valuable to humankind’s ability to think, learn, and generally function.

Staying awake too late the night before encourages endless snoozing sessions (a horrible habit, and not actually restful at all, but tell that to my half-conscious brain) and skipped morning workouts. Bummer, because “regular exercise” is another top tip for insomnia prevention.

After feeling tired all day, it’s inescapably appealing to go to bed as early as possible. Plus, standard anti-insomnia advice preaches not to stare at backlit screens at night, so I’ve been trying to power down earlier, even if it means no post the next day—and even if I’m likely enough to simply lie in bed, unable to nod off, for hours, wishing I’d just stayed up to write.

Sluggishness and sleeplessness: two miserable conditions that reinforce one another nightly.

I’ve tried melatonin, chamomile tea, and valerian root, which I must tell you smells like death. None worked.

Still, I’m hopeful this’ll be the last time I complain to you about sleep. It’s spring: time for regeneration, spending time outdoors, being active, and maybe less stress at work. Somehow, I feel this must get better.

But for the time being, at least, my posts will continue to come about once a week, possibly sporadically, and I hope you’ll keep checking in despite that (subscribe, even—make my day!). At heart, this blog is about health; and right now, for me, that means getting back to zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz . . .

Do you struggle with insomnia, or have you ever? Does it seem to be linked to gluten? What works or doesn’t work for you? 

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How often do you “contact the manufacturer directly,” REALLY?

“For the most complete and accurate information, contact the manufacturer directly.” Some version of this advice appears in every introduction to gluten- or allergy-free living worth reading—and for good reason. Getting the answer straight from the source allows you to dodge cross-contamination bullets and sample new products with confidence. It’s great!

So why does it feel so much like homework? Much like SAT vocab drills, it’s a chore that can only help me, yet still seems unbearable. I use every excuse to avoid it:

  • I’m busy.
  • I’ll just buy some other product I know is fine.
  • Customer service isn’t available because it’s a weekend/evening/holiday/they prolly just won’t pick up, man.
  • If I take it home, call, and find out I can’t eat it, I won’t want to return it. In fact, I know I wouldn’t return it. That’s wasteful!
  • All that information is online anyway.
  • Is this really my life?!

I’m curious: Am I the only one who feels this way?

Personally, if a label isn’t telling me what I need to know, I always turn to Google first. (It’s like the Seamless ad says: “The best part about having a smartphone is never having to call anyone.”) For most products, you can find bloggers who have written about their experience contacting the manufacturer, or lists on About.com, or debates on forums. Sometimes the manufacturer’s website even pops up with a handy FAQ (though said website is invariably mobile-unfriendly to the extreme). A lot of times, that’s probably enough. But not always.

You might think no one would find it in his/her company’s best interests to stop producing a line of gluten-free products or start processing a previously allergen-free food on contaminated lines, but you’d be wrong. Manufacturers change stuff all the time, for reasons both clear and abstruse (though almost all, I’d wager, connected to money). Case in point: our go-to gluten-free dried beans provider, Shiloh Farms, recently discontinued its entire line of GF legumes due to supplier costs.* (They still sell a few other certified items.)

It goes the other way, too, of course. Brands cited as no-gos in ancient Celiac.com threads have cleaned up their act, and both small and mainstream companies introduce new goods every day. Even the mighty About.com Guide Jane Anderson can’t keep pace with every recipe reformulation and label change. (She does, of course, advise us to “always, if in doubt about the gluten-free status of a product, contact the manufacturer’s customer service personnel directly.”)

We may be only 11 years away from falling in love with our computers’ operating systems (according to Spike Jonze) and 4 to 10 years away from a cure for celiac disease (according to Stefano Guandalini), but even so, the best source for accurate, up-to-date information isn’t necessarily the Internet.

girl on iPhone black and white

Unlike bittersweet photography subjects, we don’t have to confine all our interactions to typing and swiping. Hey, food issues are isolating enough as it is!
Photo © Shinichi Higashi | Flickr

You don’t always need to contact the manufacturer. You can look for reassuring label claims, trustworthy companies, and reliable certification organizations (though we all have slightly different ideas of what those are). We’re also getting ever closer to the time when manufacturers officially can’t put “gluten-free” on a label without it being, you know, true.

Of course, even if you trust a brand, you should check labels for anything new and troubling. You don’t, however, have to call every time (unless you’re in dire need of a hobby).

On the other hand, when:

  • something—like popcornshould be gluten-free, but doesn’t say it is
  • a label includes that sneaky GF-in-a-circle near-copy of the “certified” logo
  • you’re holding two cans of honey-roasted mixed nuts made by the same company and only one says it “may contain wheat”
  • you want to know why, in the name of god, Shiloh Farms would be so cruel as to take away your one source of dried chickpeas, out of which falafel absolutely must be made
  • you’ve read EVERYWHERE that egg- and bunny-shaped chocolates are usually wheat-contaminated, but you’ve found the one bag in the store that doesn’t say it is, and you need to be sure

. . . well. That’s when you call the manufacturer. Or email, if it’s available and you don’t mind waiting a day for a response. I prefer email, because I hate waiting on hold, like getting a response in writing, and am antisocial; but I do force myself to call sometimes, too.

And, you know what? In the end, it is a chore, but it’s a satisfying chore. Sometimes, sadly, you learn you can’t eat that thing (in which case—woohoo!—you didn’t waste your money on poison!). But other times, you learn you can. 

You learn, for example, that Soyboy’s online FAQ is out of date, and their products marked “GF” are not processed on lines with wheat. You learn you can open that tempeh, turn it into a Cajun stir-fry way too spicy for your sister to enjoy (sorry), and chow down. And that’s when it all—hold music included—becomes worth it.

gf-unsure-call-manufacturer-v2

When do you pick up the phone to call a manufacturer? Or do you prefer email? (Don’t be afraid to show me up, if you’re actually a responsible adult who makes phone calls and stuff.) Have you ever had a really negative, or especially positive experience with this?

*How do I know the legumes were canceled due to supplier costs? Because I contacted the manufacturer directly! Duh! And I’m glad I did. Although I was disappointed not to learn it was all some big mistake, I was pleased to hear they’re seeking new suppliers of gluten-free garbanzos. Falafel and I are not, I hope, through for good.

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Forget gluten-free Girl Scout cookies. Gluten-free summer camp is where it’s at.

It’s Girl Scout cookie season, and everyone I follow on Twitter is buzzing about the newest addition: the chocolate chip shortbread cookie. Why all the excitement over such an uncharacteristically boringly named cookie? Well, usually at this time, we GF folks only get to salivate and whine (I did both last year). This year, we get a cookie of our own. That’s right, it’s gluten-free!

Now, you wouldn’t know it from everyone I follow on Twitter, but Girl Scouts do activities all year, not just sell cookies. I can’t recall ever doing anything particularly impressive in pursuit of a badge as a Brownie, but many Girl Scouts do pretty cool stuff, from creating science clubs for girls to building houses for bats.

Courtesy of Sabrina DeVos, Girl Scout

Photo courtesy of Sabrina DeVos

Another very cool thing that one Girl Scout—sixteen-year-old Sabrina DeVos—is doing is putting together a new gluten-free summer camp in Ithaca, New York.

Celiac Strong Camp is Sabrina’s Girl Scouts Gold Award project and will be held annually, starting this year from August 1st through 3rd, 2014. Celiac Strong Camp is currently open to registration for both campers (boys and girls, age 8 to 15) and volunteers.

I learned about the camp through Carrie Balthasar of Basic Batters, and when I reached out to Sabrina, she kindly agreed to do an interview.

Read on to learn more about this brand-new camp, dream of summer, and feel jealous that you didn’t do anything close to this cool as an eleventh grader.

I never went to summer camp. What’s so great about it?

Summer camp is where you can be free, make friends, and have sleepovers every night. I absolutely love summer camp and recommend it to anyone. 

Why do gluten-free kids need a camp of their own?

When I go to summer camps that don’t have gluten free food for everyone it is kind of awkward. I feel like people think I’m getting special treatment because I’m eating something different. And at our camp, there will be no risk of cross contamination, many opportunities to try new food, and everyone will be eating the same thing. It won’t make kids feel different and will let them be worry free.

Tell me about your own summer camp experience. (Do you go to a specifically gluten-free camp, and if so, which one?)

I go to Camp Celiac all the way in RI, an eight-hour drive, and have been going since I was eight years old. I have made lifelong friendships and always look forward to the food, and having something in common with everyone that goes there (celiac). These people understand me and what I’ve gone through.

Can you briefly explain what a Girl Scouts “Gold Award” is, for those of us who didn’t make it past Brownies? 

There are levels of awards that girl scouts strive to achieve. First is the Bronze award, then Silver, and then Gold. This is the final step in girl scouts, and it is an honor to achieve it, and will always be. There are many steps to do it. You have to have an interview over the phone with council so they can approve it before you begin, and in order for it to be approved it has to be something unique that helps your community. It also has to be recurring; therefore Celiac Strong will be annual! And then they have to approve it again at the end to make sure everything went the way it was supposed to.

You’ve been gluten-free for almost as long as you’ve been a Girl Scout. Which is the more important part of your identity?

They’re both very big parts of my life, but I think celiac is more important, not that Girl Scouts isn’t important to me, it very much is. I just think it’s kind of my duty to tell everyone what celiac is and inform everyone as much as I can about it because not a lot of people know about it, at least they didn’t use to. A lot more people are educated now. But I always talk about it at school and have no problem answering people’s questions.

What sort of activities can kids expect to do at camp? Will there be gluten-free S’Mores?

It wouldn’t be camp without S’Mores. I’m planning on having a cooking demonstration happen at the camp, there will be swimming, camp fires, fishing, maybe archery, and I’m still planning out the rest. But expect fun times!

Boy Scouts toasting marshmallows

Wrong kind of Scouts, but aren’t they adorable?
Photo © vastateparkstaff | Flickr

What kind of food will the camp serve, and who will make it? Will you be able to accommodate vegetarian/vegan kids? (That’s a subject close to my own heart!)

Well, first and foremost, the food will be gluten free. We also are going to accommodate lactose intolerance. We’re still working on the menu. The menu will be approved by a nutritionist. My mom and her “team” are going to be making the food, and ask anyone who knows my mom, she is a great gluten free cook. Sadly this year we won’t be accommodating vegetarian/vegan kids.

Will you be accepting campers who don’t usually eat gluten-free?

I’m accepting kids who have the diet first. The camp is for them, if we have a lot of open spots and people registered who aren’t gluten free, then yes, but they will be eating gluten free with the rest of us.☺

You’re currently accepting volunteers. What will they be responsible for, and how many are you hiring? Can you describe your ideal volunteer?

I need volunteers for different things. I mostly need some to be counselors to watch the kids. I also need a volunteer to be a certified lifeguard, and a certified nurse (I already have one, but two would be fine too). The volunteers won’t need to pay to go to the camp, will need to have a background check, go through training, and will not be paid. I only need about 10 for counselors.

How can people or companies interested in acting as sponsors get in touch with you? 

They can email me at sabrina40154@yahoo.com. There is a spot on my website too for sponsors if they wish to contact me there. I’m looking for food donations and demonstrations/program activities.

Cayuga Lake, canoe

A probably-more-tranquil-than-any-camp-would-ever-be view of Cayuga Lake (which the camp is near). Boy, wouldn’t summer be nice right about now?
Photo © Katrina Koger | Flickr

Have you run into any tricky logistics so far in organizing the camp? What’s your advice to other young women (and men) interested in organizing something like this in their community?

It’s difficult to get the word out, we don’t have many kids registered right now and I really need to figure out a way for people to find out about the camp. Also, getting food donations is a bit tricky, but I’m sure it will be OK as it gets closer to August. My advice is to not put off reaching out to people and organizing things, you have no time to procrastinate.

Are you excited about the new gluten-free Girl Scout cookie? (Had to ask.) What’s your favorite kind of gluten-free cookie?

I’m very excited about the new cookie. Since we don’t have them where I live yet, I am having my friend from camp who is a Girl Scout mail me some. She says they are very good. My favorite cookie, that is a verrryyy hard question. I’d have to say Lucy’s chocolate chip cookies. They are really good.

Favorite campfire song?

I know so many campfire songs, it’s a little ridiculous. My favorite is probably the Pizza Man song.

What’s next for you?

I plan to graduate high school next year then off to college for music.


So, how cool is that? Kudos to Sabrina for organizing what I’m sure will be a great success. If I had kids, I’d definitely sign them up.

In the meantime, I’m seriously considering volunteering. After all, I missed out on camp as a kid. I’d never even heard of the Pizza Man song! (I just looked it up on YouTube and I’m glad I did. Hope it’s about gluten-free pizza, though.)

Tell me about your camp experiences, favorite camp songs and activities, and S’Mores-inspired GF recipes in the comments. If you have questions for Sabrina about Celiac Strong Camp, go ahead and contact her at her website—and spread the word to anyone you think might want to join. By the way, I didn’t mean it about forgetting the cookies—I know I can’t.

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Gluten-Free Astrology: Capricorn (born December 22 – January 19) AND Aquarius (born January 20 – February 18)

Since I missed posting my usual personality analysis, predictions, and advice for gluten-free eaters born under the sign of Capricorn back in December, I’m mixing it up this time with a special double edition of Gluten-Free Astrology.

I’ll cover all the need-to-know facts about Capricorn and Aquarius, then we’ll play a little game with celebrities. Got a goat or a water-bearer in your life, or are you one yourself? Then read on!

The GF Capricorn

Capricorn’s symbol is the goat, and there’s a good reason for that. GF Capricorns are surefooted, able to pick their way over obstacles to reach whatever peak they’ve set their sights on. Like Virgos, Capricorns are organized creatures who set goals, make plans, and proceed steadily toward them.

goat silhouette standing on mountain

Calmly looking back at the path you’ve trod.
Photo © BR0WSER | Flickr

But Capricorns’ ambitions are often higher than Virgos’, and always less negotiable. While a GF Virgo might set up a safe, tidy, 95% gluten-free kitchen and allow his/her family to keep eating Triscuits, the GF Capricorn—uncomfortable with ambiguity—won’t rest until every last crumb has left the building.

You’re diligentpractical, and as stubborn as a Taurus, which combine with your rigid sense of organization and clarity of thought to make you, as I’ve said before, basically the best sign ever at being gluten-free.

Self-sufficient, you may volunteer to handle the food at professional and social events, but after painstaking preparations you have trouble letting go and enjoying the secure gluten-free party you’ve planned. Others may see you as distant or even controlling, especially when you’re slapping their hands away from your tortilla chips. Naturally a loner type, Capricorns risk becoming even more isolated once diagnosed with a gluten-related disorder—too bad, because inside, you honestly long to be loved. Spend this month working toward your goals, for sure, but don’t be afraid to make companionship a priority, too.

Black and white goat behind fence

Don’t get trapped by your gluten-free diet and health goals.
Photo © Rachel Groves | Flickr

The GF Aquarius

Like our friends, the GF Capricorns, you can be obstinate when you’re sure you’re right (and, since Aquarius is the Ravenclaw of the astrology world, you’re right annoyingly often). Also like Capricorns, Aquarius can come off as distant—in your case, because you really do prize independence over all else. For the most part, the similarity ends there.

Uranus

Your ruling planet, Uranus, represents the unconventional and unexpected—and it’s really pretty too, right?
Photo © wstera2 | Flickr

Where Capricorn is steady, Aquarius is zany, constantly changing directions and cooking up wild schemes. You’ve probably had so many gluten-free business ideas, you’ve lost count. Maybe you’ve even tried to make some a reality: tossing ideas around and getting to know potential clients is lots of fun. Tying yourself down longterm? Not so much.

The GF Aquarius is outgoing, a traveler, and willing to experience just about anything other than boredom. You love learning and sharing ideas and information: your sign, the water bearer, represents that passion. If anyone can manage to enjoy going gluten-free, it’s you: learning all that new lingo and science, mastering the baking learning curve, and enlightening everyone you know about what exactly is a “villus”? A fascinating challenge!

You trade tips with every gluten-free person you meet, put your rapier wit to work when someone criticizes our lifestyle, and try all the new restaurants. (You might get glutened more often than average, but for you, that’s part of the journey. Yeah, you’re a little odd.)  There’s a decent chance you’re a gluten-free blogger—and, if so, you’re very good at it, besides a slight tendency to overestimate your own expertise.

A little more trivia

When it comes to health, GF Capricorns suffer from stiff joints, rheumatism, and orthopedic problems. GF Aquarius struggles with arterial troubles, as well as shin and ankle sprains and breaks. I probably don’t need to tell you these are all symptoms of gluten-related disorders.

Now, time for a pop (culture) quiz. Here are a few well-known faces, some Capricorn, some Aquarius, some gluten-free, some not. Take a stab at guessing who’s who, then scroll down for the answers.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Lewis Carroll

Lewis Carroll

James Joyce

James Joyce

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey

Drew Brees

Drew Brees

Ellen DeGeneres

Ellen DeGeneres

How’d you do?

  • Martin Luther King, Jr.: Capricorn (Jan. 15), not GF (he preferred southern food such as fried chicken and pecan pie—decidedly glutenous, but I’m sure you could find GF versions to make in his honor today)
  • Lewis Carroll (originally “Charles Lutwidge Dodgson”): Aquarius (Jan. 27), not GF (according to one biographer, he subsisted primarily on fruit, dry biscuits, and—in his younger, “greedier” days—cakes)
  • James Joyce: Aquarius (Feb. 2), not GF (suffered from mysterious stomach pains, often attributed retrospectively to syphilis, but who’s to say it wasn’t really that other “great imitator,” celiac disease?)
  • Oprah: Aquarius (Jan. 29), briefly GF (in 2008 she tried a 21-day “cleanse”; despite enjoying gluten-free waffles throughout, by the end she was “sure . . . happy to return to gluten”)
  • Drew Brees: Capricorn (Jan. 15), GF (and dairy- and nut-allergic too; if press releases can be believed, he loves So Delicious)
  • Ellen DeGeneres: Aquarius (Jan. 26), not GF (and rather annoyingly put down Gluten-Free Singles on her show in November)

Hope no one minded the double feature! (I’d never get away with it for Leo.) Next month is Pisces, the last in the rotation—hope you’re looking forward to it as much as I am.

Capricorns and Aquariuses (Aquarii?), duke it out in the comments, and if you liked the post, please share.

As always, the “information,” such as it is, in this post has been largely ripped off from The Only Astrology Book You’ll Ever Need, by Joanna Martine Woolfolk, which is in fact the only astrology book you’ll ever need (need here being a relative term). Celeb photos from Wikimedia Commons.

See also: AriesTaurusGeminiCancerLeoVirgoLibra, Scorpio, Sagittarius

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