Tag Archives: Omission

Gluten-Free Astrology: Sagittarius (born November 22 – December 21)

Some people have all the luck. GF Sagittarius people, specifically. Oh, you may not feel lucky, what with having to be gluten-free and all, but compared to the rest of us, your life’s a breeze! You manage to eat out more than the rest of us, yet suffer from unintentional glutenings far less often. Or you were one of those fortunate jerks who felt better straight after going gluten-free. Some people, the universe just loves more.

Okay, I’ll stop complaining and move on to the good stuff. This month, we’re looking at the GF Sagittarius, and really, what’s not to love? Good-humored, thoughtful, imaginative, and entertaining, you’re well-liked even by gluten-eaters. And you tend to like most people back…but from a distance. Above all, you love your freedom.

Your sign is the archer. Your aim is true; your skin is blue. (Probably a complication of celiac.) Photo © Migy illustration | Flickr

Your sign is the archer. Your aim is true; your skin is blue. (Probably a complication of celiac.)
Photo © Migy illustration | Flickr

Understandably, you’re therefore less than thrilled with your gluten-freedom and all of the constraints it entails. You love traveling, visiting new restaurants, and immersing yourself in interesting cuisines, and the idea of having to limit these adventures, even for your own good, really bugs you. You have a certain disdain for the mundane routines of everyday life—you wish to soar above it all—and upon diagnosis, likely felt shackled and dismayed. To cook for yourself every day, to lose the spontaneity you prize…! Oh dear.

Fortunately, among all the signs, you’re also the most optimistic, so I’m sure it wasn’t (or won’t be) long before you cheered up and began looking forward to the next adventure. Like your polar opposite, Gemini, you love new projects, but—unlike flighty Gemini—you engage whole-heartedly (or, rather, whole-headedly) with the pursuit, keen to fully understand it in all the minute detail that a Gemini would find unspeakably boring. Once you do understand it, you’re liable to move on before finishing, not because it’s boring, but because there’s always something even more interesting around the corner.

Though you and a Gemini may both have twelve different, opened bags of GF flour and a food scale collecting dust in your pantry, you would be able to speak earnestly and accurately about the nutritional and chemical properties of each, and what every gluten-free baking authority has to say about all-purpose blends. And if anyone has a question about flour, you’d be delighted to respond.

In general, the GF Sagittarius enjoys answering questions and doing favors. You’re the type to offer aid to a befuddled-looking fellow gluten-free grocery shopper, or to share your GF discoveries via social media. On the other hand, you’re not one to, say, lead a support group, or anything else requiring a long-term commitment. Just the idea of showing up for weekly meetings probably makes you itchy. Me, listen to the same people say the same things every Thursday night at 7 p.m. forever? you might think. Oh, no no no.

To some, this attitude makes you appear cold, breezy, or unreliable, but you’re not, really. (Well, maybe a teensy bit unreliable.) You just need to feel free to pursue your own gluten-free life the way you feel is best for you—and you extend the same courtesy to others. You’ll help when needed, but never badger.

Poised to puncture the gluten-free fad diet bubble, while a dejected (Cancer?) friend waits for you to pay attention to him again. Photo © Fabio Ricco | Flickr

Poised to puncture the gluten-free fad diet bubble, while a dejected (Cancer?) friend waits for you to pay attention to him.
Photo © Fabio Ricco | Flickr

You have high hopes for the future gluten-free community on a large scale, and big ideas for how to improve things, but you lack follow-through. Your enthusiasm is contagious, though, so if this month, you manage to partner with someone more attuned to the nitty-gritty (might I suggest a Virgo?), you might manage to effect some changes.

Given your love of eating out—which you’ve surely managed to continue after the initial shock of diagnosis—you might put your ability to think clearly and deeply through an issue (and to honestly lay bare the trouble spots therein) to a good cause by raising awareness in the restaurant industry. I’ve written about this topic myself, but geez! I’m a Gemini; I can’t be expected to stay interested long enough to DO something about it. If you lose steam, too, well…you at least will remain sure that it’ll all work itself out. That’s something.

Physically, the GF Sagittarius must watch for liver issues (which you won’t be surprised to learn are associated with celiac disease) and alcoholism. So put down that gluten-removed beer!

Finally, a long list of great Sagittarian writers proves how inventive and intelligent you all are: Jane Austen, Emily Dickinson, Walt Disney, to name just a few. (None of them were, so far as I know, gluten-free, but I’ve discussed what they might have written if they were.) On the GF side, there’s:

Ingrid Michaelson

Ingrid Michaelson

Ingrid Michaelson, born December 8, 1979, is an indie-pop singer-songwriter who writes fun Sagittarian lyrics (“The Way I Am” displays her love of new adventures, but is oddly accepting of romantic commitment). Back in 2009, she revealed herself to be GF by tweeting, “Why does everything delicious have to have gluten in it????” Again following her Sagittarian nature, she apparently immersed herself in discovering something delicious that didn’t have gluten in it, and in 2011 submitted a yummy-looking flourless chocolate cake recipe to Parade. Unlike some flourless chocolate cakes, it’s actually flourless.

Mark Twain

Mark Twain

Mark Twain, born November 30, 1835, led a decidedly non-GF life. His long list of favorite foods included “Hot biscuits, Southern style,” “Hot wheat-bread, Southern style,” “Apple dumplings, with real cream,” and “All sorts of American pastry.” However, in a birthday speech in his seventies, he shared that, “In the manner of diet—I have been persistently strict in sticking to the things which didn’t agree with me until one or the other of us got the best of it.” What this tells me is that Twain spent a lifetime battling with unpleasant consequences of eating things he shouldn’t have. Surely one of those was gluten.

I’d love to tell you more, but not being a Sagittarius, I’m unwilling to research this topic any further. If you or a friend are a GF Sagittarius, please share—and let me know what I missed.

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).

See also: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio

GF Sagittariuses, please share your ever-honest feedback in the comments. And if you want to get all of my future posts (astrology and otherwise), feel free to follow me via Twitter, Facebook, or email.

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Gluten in beer? Little is clear. (On Omission, “English beer,” the Gluten Summit, and other mysteries)

You know the old saying, “Beer before liquor, never been sicker. Liquor before beer, you’re in the clear”? Then you may also know that neither half is true: it’s not the kind, but the total amount of alcohol (and water) you drink that determines how ill you feel the morning after.

But, for those of us with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, beer—in any amount, before or after the tequila shots—contains enough gluten to make us sick. That, my friends, is true.

Or is it? This past week, the internet’s been abuzz about two surprising claims regarding gluten in beer.

various beers in glasses

Not gluten-free. (Right?!)
Photo © Cambridge Brewing Co. | Flickr

Omitting Omission no more?

On Monday, the Celiac Sprue Association (CSA), one of several organizations we rely upon—for better or worse—to certify gluten-free products, announced that it has recognized Omission beer as gluten-free.

If you happen to have missed it, Omission is a beer made with hops, yeast, water, and…malted barley. As I’m sure you know, gluten is found in wheat, rye, and barley. Going simply by that definition, one might suspect that Omission is not gluten-free.

However, there’s an added confusion (isn’t there always?): according to Omission, the barley has been processed in such a way that the gluten may be considered removed (or as good as removed). Any “small pieces” that remain supposedly won’t set off our jumpy immune systems the way gluten usually does.

Omission’s own website helpfully (and buttcoveringly) includes an archive of the tests they’ve run on every batch of beer brewed, where skeptical consumers can see for themselves that their beer tested below 10 ppm gluten. The only problem is…we don’t know for sure that the test they used (RIDASCREEN® Gliadin competitive ELISA [Art No. R7021], if you’re curious) actually works.

Gluten is not just one protein; it’s a composite, and slightly different versions of it appear in wheat (gliadin), barley (hordein), and rye (secalin). Although the test is intended to detect all of them, others think it might not be sensitive enough to hordein (in barley and, therefore, Omission). If the test can’t find the particles, there’s no way to know whether they’re there or not. The Omission website admits, “Although scientific evidence supports the testing, the evidence is not conclusive.”

Because of all the confusion over Omission (further explained, very well, here), many of us have chosen to skip it. So when the CSA gave its seal of approval to the beer, the outcry began. Posts at Gluten Dude and Gluten-Free Fun, among others, pointed out contradictions between the CSA’s described standards for certification and its stance in the press release on Omission beer.

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From my perspective, the main issue is the way the CSA gave us the news. The press release indicates that it tested Omission using not the perhaps-faulty ELISA test, but rather mass spectrometry testing, perceived to be more accurate for detecting hordein.

Unfortunately, the press release didn’t address the differences between the tests (and introduced further confusion by including a blurb, presumably provided by Omission, that references the company’s own ELISA testing). So for us reading at home, it’s hard to see why the CSA has suddenly reversed their stated position that “‘Ingredients ‘specially processed to remove gluten’ [are] not allowed—with present available commercial methodology the extent or consistency of the processes is not measurable.”

The CSA has now updated that portion of their “Defining the Term Gluten-Free” page to also read, “Allowed if documented absent of celiac toxic amino acid fractions.”

There are two problems with this revised definition:

  1. The old definition still appears, so it’s an internal contradiction. If available methodology can’t measure the extent of gluten in specially processed grain ingredients, then how could those ingredients be “documented absent” of gluten? The CSA needs to take a position on mass spectrometry testing as an improved alternative to ELISA testing, not just put both “It’s not okay” and “It’s okay” in their guidelines.
  2. The change went up after the press release. You can’t just change your standards to make way for a product you want to approve—and I’m not sure that’s what the CSA was doing, but it sure looks that way. If you’re updating your standards, update the standards first, then approve the product that now fits them.

We now have trouble understanding the CSA’s guidelines and less ability to trust their judgment. So is Omission beer really gluten-free? Hard to know.

Some people won’t eat or drink anything that contains a gluten-containing grain, no matter how processed. But most of us do drink distilled spirits (such as vodka) derived from wheat, rye, or barley, since they’re considered to be gluten-free according to the best possible tests.

If new, validated technology indicates that beer can now be processed similarly to vodka to destroy its gluten content, then fine. Great! But I’m not sure yet that the technology is validated, and the CSA hasn’t convinced me (or really bothered trying). We’ll see what statements come next, but they’ve already messed up by not making their position on mass spectrometry testing clear before stamping Omission as approved.

Oh, but actually, all beer is gluten-free. Wait, what?

On the other hand, Dr. Michael Marsh—yes, he of the “Marsh” I, II, and III classifications of villous atrophy, a celiac expert for sure—might say that all this hullabaloo is for nothing. At the “Gluten Summit” on November 11th, he went on record that it’s perfectly fine for those with celiac disease to drink “good English beer.”

I bet he doesn't know if it's gluten-free, either. Photo © Erik Gustafson | Flickr

I bet he doesn’t know if it’s gluten-free, either.
Photo © Erik Gustafson | Flickr

If you skipped the Gluten Summit, I don’t blame you. Such a mishmash of experts and quacks I have never seen united in one place. In the Marsh interview—the only one that I watched in full—the interviewer asked leading questions (which Marsh answered with such polite negations as, “Ah, [sigh], well, maybe it would be nice to think of that in that way. I’m really not sure [pause] that that is so”), and didn’t manage to establish an agreement with Marsh on the actual definition of gluten sensitivity (fair enough, since no one has).

So when Marsh announced there’s no evidence that beer (specifically English beer) contains gluten, I thought that either it was true (because he seemed like the reasonable one) or that he was pulling his interviewer’s leg. When I scouted around, I found:

  1. Dr. Marsh has made this claim before.
  2. No one else seems to be making the claim.
  3. The gluten content in beer has been tested—here, for just one example—and proven to exist.

Is “English” beer, like Omission, processed in such a way that the gluten is absent or no longer harmful? And have most sensitive measures (e.g., mass spectrometry testing) proved it? I don’t think so! So far as I can tell, the answer is “no.” English beer comes in as many varieties as any other beer, if Wikipedia can be believed, and English beer brewers such as St. Peter’s distinguish between gluten-containing and gluten-free varieties.

If there’s a loophole here, I’m not seeing it, and Marsh didn’t prove it.

To conclude…

The CSA and Dr. Marsh are experts, in their respective ways, on celiac disease and gluten. But I don’t just take the word of experts—no informed consumer does. We look to their evidence, and their standards for gathering it. In this case, neither Marsh nor the CSA has convinced me of anything. They’ve left me with more questions than I had before.

Now, I don’t even like beer. Never did. So while everyone else bickers about mass spectrometry vs. ELISA testing, English vs. Omission beer, I’m happy enough to just move on. If you, like me, prefer wine anyway, I hope that we can share a cheers to that, and work this out later.

Have you been following one or the other of these controversies, and where do you fall? Are you in favor of developing gluten-removed ingredients or would you rather steer clear? And what the heck is “English beer”?

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