Day 122: patty melt and thoughts of gluten-free living

At first I thought it was grilled cheese…
Wait, is that meat sticking out?
That’s a burger, folks!
Today’s menu: patty melt, baked beans, strawberry applesauce, goldfish
I put the tray down, took a picture and then noticed…it wasn’t a grilled cheese! This is the first time I’ve seen a pre-made burger instead of it being in its own little paper box. I think it might be an improvement because there is less waste. On the other hand it is heated in plastic… the jury is out…
I ate the patty and the beans, but I had trouble with the applesauce. The electric red gave me pause. It’s moments like these that I wish I had an ingredient list. I’d love to just double check the ingredients. If it’s apples and strawberries, I’d eat it (even though I would normally purchase organic for my consumption). But I can’t be sure it doesn’t have a red dye in there. Dyes worry me. I dipped my fingers in it to see how it tasted. I think there might have been real strawberries in there, but there had to be dye too. So I gave up on the applesauce.

Tough choice, but I threw most of it out
I went gluten-free yesterday as an experiment and I felt amazing all day in spite of not sleeping much this weekend. I also basically was gluten-free much of the weekend. That makes me wonder… I also chatted with Alison St. Sure about living gluten-free and how she was diagnosed.
You know, I have had major issues with gluten ever since I got serious Salmonella poisoning while abroad in 2002. I didn’t give it much thought — I just avoided too much fiber. In 2007 I had a little trouble getting pregnant so I went gluten free for one month in 2007. I felt good and was tested for Celiac at that time. It was negative so they told me it was IBS and prescribed an anti-spasmodic drug (I never filled the prescription… it seemed ludicrous to get on a med). I figured that if the test said I didn’t have Celiac and I went back on gluten. But this year I insisted on another blood test for Celiac. It was negative once more. Again I assumed that was the end of it and it must be in my head.
Alison told me that even though someone doesn’t get a positive on a Celiac blood test, it doesn’t mean they don’t have sensitivity to gluten. That blew me away. Using Dr. Google, I found that she is right. I’m thinking about ordering a test from EnteroLab or just simply go gluten-free at the end of the project. I’m already basically dairy-free since January (when the daily pint of milk in the school lunch upset my tummy). I hadn’t been drinking very much dairy and it finally clicked after I started the project.
I didn’t eat the bread from today’s lunch even though I know that it’s possible that the meat patty and the baked beans contain trace amounts of gluten. What next? Hmm, just thinking aloud. Please don’t try to convince me to stop the project. I’m determined to finishing out 2010. I have about two months to go. Then most likely I’ll go strictly gluten-free. Who would have thought? At the beginning of the project I was eating milk and bread and at the end I might be dairy-free and gluten-free!
Before I even chatted with Alison this weekend and found out about gluten sensitivity, I bought Gluten Free Girl and The Chef. Earlier that same day I had been chatting with Shauna and, you know, I just like her. So I bought her book. I can’t resist sharing the dedication page:
I might be doing a lot more cooking from it than I initially thought!

News You Can Use: Resources to Help Turn Your Food Writing into a Powerful Voice for Change — In a word: AMAZING!

School cafeterias to try psychology in lunch line – Ok, interesting…here’s my finding: they need more time to eat.
I put the poll up for September’s Titanium Spork Award (upper right) — I called Kate Adamick a chef, not sure that’s correct. Sorry about the typo!
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38 thoughts on “Day 122: patty melt and thoughts of gluten-free living

  1. Why are you against dyes? Maybe that is harsh…why would you not eat the strawberry sauce because it might possibly have dye in it. I'm curious. Email is in my profile.

  2. I love that gluten free living is getting the nod from non-celiacs. While I know several folks with celiac, I do not have it. But after my summer vacation eating all manner of crackers and cookies and snacks filled with wheat I was sick, literally sick. Though eating it once a day is fine by my tummy.

    I am not sure if I will ever get completely wheat free. But I am certainly going to limit it. And I encourage others to do so as well. As far as I am concerned, wheat, even whole wheat, doesn't have that much to offer us in the way of nutrition. I can certainly get what I need from other healthy sources in my diet.

    Hats off to you for going gluten free, even if the tests all come back negative!

  3. I was so excited to see a post about eating gluten free!! I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease a little over a year ago and my health and my eating have been craaaazy ever since but I love to see that gluten free eating and Celiac are becoming more widely know about. There has not been a single meal that you have eaten since January that I would feel safe eating! Even if a product doesn't specifically contain gluten, there is a very good chance that it has been cross contaminated at some point, so a child with Celiac would not be able to eat your school's lunches ever. Everybody seems to be so aware of things like peanut allergies and the risks of cross contamination, but I don't think many people realize how important it is for people sensitive to gluten to avoid every last trace of it just like people with peanut allergies do. If you ever need any information on eating gluten free I would be happy to help you!

  4. I don't have celiac. BUT. I did the EnteroLab test and was found to have a pretty significant gluten intolerance. Same with my oldest son. I feel so much better off gluten I can hardly believe it, and it's been two and a half years.
    Get through 2010 and go GF. 🙂

  5. You'll have a very very very tough time going gluten-free and doing this project. You wouldn't believe what they seak gluten into and it will pretty much rule out eating 75% of the foods available to you in the Cafeteria. If it's processed, it almost certainly contains gluten.

  6. I'm not gluten free but I do limit my gluten intake and I definitely don't eat any after 5pm. It's made a huge difference. Gluten not only effects people with Celiac's but it also can effect people with Lupis and Arthritis. It's nice to see that there is more awareness and more options for those going gluten free.

    I'm totally with you on the dyes. Food dyes can do horrible things to people who are sensitive to them. Unfortunately they can be found in many foods that you don't even think have dyes. Read those labels!

  7. I can understand the dislike of dyes – added chemical without any nutritional value. A note about red though. Red food dye is almost always made from the powdered exoskeleton of a beetle from south america called cochineal. This is problematic if you are a strict vegetarian or vegan but if that isn't your concern it is one of the less processed, more natural dyes out there. I have used it to dye fabric and it is quite pretty.

  8. I've been having stomach problems for the past two years and don't know how to get better. I've considered that I have a sensitivity to gluten, but I kept a food log and couldn't find a pattern (although a nutritionist told me you may not be able to since food can effect you days after ingestion). It's just very hard to eat a gluten-free diet, especially since I don't cook and am pretty lazy about what I eat, which may be the real culprit. But thanks for this entry! I'd rather take advice from someone I know isn't promoting lifestyle changes for individual gain.

  9. Good morning Mrs Q. I have a question. (If you have posted about this, please refer me to the post). I was thinking about the movie Super Size Me where the guy ate McD's for 30 days and his health was drastically affected. Are you getting regular checkups, blood tests, weigh ins, etc to see the real impact of eating this food everyday?
    Yesterday we served popcorn chicken with a (white) roll and tater tots which basically amounted to a tray full of little balls of unhealthy brown stuff which the kids then smothered in condiments. I just stared at it and wondered if we will ever serve healthy food to our kids. It's my job but sometimes it's very depressing. Sigh.

  10. I have never had celiac issues to my knowledge. However, I've been following for some time, and 3 months ago, my husband and I stopped eating wheat and other starches. No sugar either. We get carbs from fruit & veg instead and we eat nuts and high quality protein, like farm eggs and locally raised meat. I do occasionally use splenda to sweeten dishes (like the delicious crustless pumpkin pie I made for Canadian Thanksgiving this past Monday).

    I've lost over 16 lb without going hungry. What I thought was early onset arthritis has disappeared (makes sense, because wheat is inflammatory). Best of all, we're enjoying our meals a lot more than before. It feels like we're undoing the slow layers of additional weight that crept up since our twenties.

  11. Allison – as a parent of a toddler with multiple food allergies (including peanut), I can assure you that even peanut allergies are not understood by the majority of the public… let alone allergies to other foods.

    To me, I find people more aware of Celiac disease than anaphylactic food allergies.

  12. It seems so many people are sensitive to wheat and I'm curious why. Do we have GMO wheat? Is it the bleaching/processing/things added to fortify it? Does whole wheat have the same effect as processed? (Mainly just thinking out loud, but if anyone can direct me to answers or research on the subject that would be great.)

    Also I'm with you on the food dyes. Not necessary! Do not give extra chemicals unless they are absolutely needed for something important. (like medicine to cure a disease)

    Finally, -and I may have posted this before-my doctor is one that thinks IBS is BS (no pun intended). Yes stress can affect your stomach, but chances are you are sensitive to dairy, wheat, food dyes, artificial sugar, pesticides on your fruits, or something in processed food. This theory seems to make sense to me. The more I limit the bad stuff in my diet, strangely enough, my IBS seems to have gone away. I find it sad that people would just pop a pill without trying to figure out what is causing the problem in the first place.

  13. Hey Mrs. Q. I just wanted to respond to the above poster who referenced SuperSize Me…there was actually a really good documentary response to the tactics used by the SuperSize Me filmmaker and the obesity epidemic. It's called Fat Head and may be relevant:

  14. Hi Mrs. Q!

    I've had tummy troubles for as long as I can remember, so when a friend recently asked if I'd do an elimination diet along with her I was totally on board. Basically I stripped everything from my diet that could be problematic, including soy, gluten and dairy. I've gotta say that I've never felt better. Unfortunately I didn't stick with it as long as I wanted to (cheese is just too delicious), but now that I know how great I could feel, I'm really tempted to go back to it. It would be a great detox for you after this project ends!

  15. I agree with the last anonymous about the IBS being BS. The first several times I went to the doctor about my digestive issues they kept trying to brush me off and say it was IBS. In my experience, that is what doctors say when they don't know what the cause is. My doc wasn't even going to test for Celiac, but finally did it as an "elimination test" as a way to prove to me that it was just IBS. I think she was shocked to see that she was wrong.

  16. Lana, I feel your pain. My 22 yr old is allergic to peanuts and soy. She has grown up! Survived to adulthood. Still carries an epi-pen in her purse. Now the problem will be making sure her child doesn't get into peanut butter(the in-laws don't get it) and then come back to her and give her a smooshy killing kiss.

    refined flour is pretty much like sugar in the body, even with all the synthetic vitamins and stuff that is added back into it to fortify it.

    Whole grains are better but contain enzyme inhibitors that can interfere with digestion. If you are allergic to grains you may be able to tolerate them by sprouting and sour leavening(sour dough)preparations.
    I recommend doing this yourself, not buying from a store.
    Almost all store bought bread has enriched flour in it.

  17. "Everybody seems to be so aware of things like peanut allergies and the risks of cross contamination, but I don't think many people realize how important it is for people sensitive to gluten to avoid every last trace of it just like people with peanut allergies do."

    Peanut allergies can be fatal. Death from trace amounts. While I know trace amounts can make certain sensitive Celiacs ill for days, a Celiac will not die if someone eats bread within feet of them. That's why Peanut allergies receive so much attention.

    From what I've learned there is a whole spectrum of gluten intolerance – some need to merely avoid it and others get very sick from trace amounts. The different tolerance levels could cause some people to not take one person as serious as another.

  18. I realized about a year and a half ago that eating gluten free worked for me too. I realized that if I ate gluten it did indeed make me tired and sluggish. Usually that was it, but sometimes it would make me feel "full" even if I ate very little and if I eat whole grains, I even get queasy. I have only eaten gluten a few times since then and it has made such a difference for me. One other food that I noticed that makes even more tired than the gluten is corn. I had been eating popcorn for lunch for about 6 months and hadn't realized that it was the very thing that made me SOOOOOOO tired every afternoon. So tired that it nearly felt like a truck hit me. I took that out of my diet too and shockingly I don't feel nearly as tired. It amazes me that I am that effected by my food, but I am also thankful that I learned this so that I can feel well again! I am glad that you are finding your way through this project and that your sacrifice in bringing awareness about the school lunches has brought good for you too!

  19. Has any heard of the Candida diet?

    I had been having stomach problems starting the last year of high school all the way up to after graduation from college. I was gluten-free for two years but still seemed to feel sick after eating certain foods. My aunt suggested I go on the Candida diet. So glad I did!

    Basically Candida is the 'bad bacteria' in your stomach and it can become overgrown. Triggers for this growth include antibiotic use (which makes me wonder if it is coincidence that the blogger’s symptoms started after having salmonella). The Candida diet rids the gut of this overgrowth by “starving” the bacteria. Candida “eats” sugar and yeast mostly.
    So the diet? It is most similar to a ‘Cave Man’ diet…organic/grass-fed meats and fish, vegetables, nuts, seeds etc. Limiting: dairy, gluten, sugar, yeast etc.
    This is the only things that made me feel better. I can’t help but wonder if some people with gluten intolerance ( and not celiac) are actually experiencing a Candida overgrowth.
    Google it! There is tons of information online about it. Or you can visit here:

  20. To Anon @ 9:01:
    I wasn't trying to compare the seriousness of peanut allergies with Celiac disease– I know that some peanut allergies can be fatal or near-fatal. You're right that nobody is going to immediately die from gluten contamination. My point was that I don't think people understand that Celiacs need to avoid even the tiniest amount of gluten in the same way that peanut allergic people need to avoid the tiniest amount of peanuts. A lot of people don't seem to take it seriously and say things like, "oh one little bite of a cookie won't hurt!" but you don't often hear someone tell a person with a peanut allergy, "oh one little peanut won't hurt!"

  21. Jenna: Candida is a yeast not a bacteria. That's why antibiotic use can lead to its overgrowth – because the standard antibiotics kill bacteria but tend to leave yeasts, viruses, fungi, etc. alone and, without competition from the bacteria that are normally growing around them, they flourish.

  22. Justine, gluten is a protein found in many grains. When heated, gluten hardens enough to hold its shape. This is what allows bread to rise. The yeast creates bubbles of carbon dioxide while the bread is rising and baking. While the bread is baking, the gluten hardens around the bubbles. Once the bread is removed from the oven, the gluten strands cause the bread to hold its shape as the carbon dioxide escapes.

    My husband and I have both been having lots of digestive issues lately, and we've noticed they seem to be worse after eating wheat. We're considering trying an elimination diet ourselves just to see if it'll help.

    Personally, I think we just eat far too many grains. Even in their unrefined form, calorie for calorie they don't pack the nutritional punch of many other foods, certainly not enough to make them the backbone of our diets. I honestly think we'd be better off if we put grains on the same level of the "food pyramid" as meat and dairy. Eat too much of anything, and it's going to cause you problems eventually. All that starch, which is just a long chain of sugars, certainly seems like it could cause the same stomach woes as eating too many sweets if you have them as the basis of most meals.

  23. Anonymous @ 1:38
    Thank you for the information! What you said makes a lot of sense. I am not sure of the exact biology…I just know I feel better when I do it 🙂

    Gluten is a protein that is found in some grains (i.e. wheat, rye). Foods that contain gluten can include bread, pasta, flour, white vinegar, beer and MANY others…which is why eating gluten free can be so difficult. From what I hear, the body doesn't naturally process gluten very well, so even if you don't have an intolerance to gluten or celiac disease it may be best to limit your gluten intake.

    Does anybody else have more information?

  24. I watched Jamie Oliver's Food revolution all today! And well….America needs to have better school meals! They look foul I would never touch it…unless I was starving!

    I love what you are doing. And look forward to eat blog post :D:D!
    Thank you for taking the time to show us this!

    Kelly from England x

  25. Unfortunately, there's a lot of misinformation floating around out there regarding food allergies and intolerances. You can be sensitive to or intolerant of a certain food without being allergic – just like you can be mildly intolerant of wheat gluten without having celiac. Just to make things extra confusing, you can also be allergic to foods without going into anaphylactic shock. For example, I'm intolerant of egg yolks – fried/scrambled eggs will make me sick for a few hours, but baked goods are fine – and allergic to tree nuts, but only to the point that eating them will make me feel tired for the day and occasionally itchy for a while.

    I also think that gluten is getting an unnecessarily bad rap these days – a doctor I saw (a quack, to be frank), told me that eliminating wheat and dairy from my diet would magically cure my arthritis, severe allergies, suicidal depression and everything else that ailed me. I tried a couple elimination diets, and while I did turn up lactose intolerant, eliminating wheat did absolutely dick to help or harm my health. She didn't even consider that I might have been allergic to nuts, which I was eating on a daily basis at that point – after all, cavemen ate nuts, nuts are healthy! Feh. Gluten isn't the big, bad wolf, and foods that are generally deemed "healthy" aren't necessarily harmless; you have to find the mix of foods that are right for you.

  26. Mrs. Q, I'm so happy to hear that going GF seems to help you feel better! I know more and more people who have gone GF because of chronic digestive issues and a couple who are GF because it alleviates their arthritis. It's a complete drag when your gut misbehaves or your joints ache.

    I have anaphylactic allergy to kiwi fruit. A couple of years ago, a close friend had a brunch at her house and another of her friends brought a fruit dish that she made. It was sort of like whipped cream with fruit mixed throughout. I asked her whether it contained kiwi explaining that I'm allergic to it. She said it didn't contain kiwi. My first bite told me she had lied even though the bite didn't contain a piece of kiwi. My mouth, tongue, and throat immediately started itching and swelling. I broke out in hives on my neck and forearms. I couldn't talk and could barely breathe. Luckily, I had an epi-pen (I carry it for bee sting allergy) so I used it. After using it, I'm supposed to head to the emergency room for observation and additional treatment. The hostess of the party dug through the salad and found several pieces of kiwi so the juice from those pieces was enough to trigger my reaction.

    I think it must be horribly scary for parents of kids with anaphylactic allergies. Even though many people these days understand the seriousness of food allergies, not everyone does. I think this is something that needs to be covered in health and nutrition classes taught in our schools so the next generation learns that food allergies must be taken seriously by everyone.

  27. Hi, Mrs. Q. I have Celiac Disease, so obviously cannot tolerate any cross contamination. I wonder if someone who is merely gluten intolerant can handle the contamination of eating the meat off the bread like you did. The cutoff tolerance for Celiac is 20ppm in industry, so I wonder what a tolerated dose for gluten intolerance would be?

    Also, to some others: its not Celiac's disease, celiac is not a person! I hear this all the time. Celiac would refer to the celium, or the intestine.

  28. Mrs. Q,
    It was a pleasure to meet you last weekend. I applaud what you are doing to raise awareness about our school food system and I'm so glad you are considering the idea of gluten sensitivity seriously. So many more people are sensitive to gluten than anyone realizes, and I really think you are on the right path to feeling better (although your project is going to pose quite a challenge to eating gluten-free!) You have me as a resource any time you need help!

    To anonymous who was wondering about why so many people are reacting to wheat… you might be interested in an article I wrote: A brief history of wheat and why it is making us sick

  29. Please read "Going Against The Grain." It will change your views on eating ANY grains, not just gluten free ones.

  30. How funny- on another blog I was discussing with a few other commenters about several of us planning to try gluten free "after the holidays". My plan is to go two weeks without any grains at all, followed by two weeks of non-gluten grains. If I do as well or better without any grains at all as I do without gluten (assuming that I notice a positive difference), then I'm going to seriously look into SCD and GAPS. I don't want to be gluten free forever- I love good pasta and good bread (and other baked goods) too much, and some gluten and grain sensitive individuals can have it again after their guts heal.

    Thank goodness I love potatoes.

  31. no time to read past comments.. but Marks Daily Apple and Robb Wolf are both excellent grain-free resources. husband and i went mostly grain-free a few years ago – he's fully healed his spasm-y gallbladder with a GF diet and some additional enzymes (that he no longer needs!).

    gluten is a nasty nasty protein. grains wouldn't be so awful if we prepared them properly and ate them sparingly. but our fixation on grain-y carbs at each meal is doing us in.

  32. Mrs. Q, this is more for you and not a comment on the post. You might want to check out Ann Louise Gittleman's website and books for information about gluten, etc… her books have really helped me with various issues that I could not figure out. (or the drs) Just wanted you to know.

  33. "Marisa said… The cutoff tolerance for Celiac is 20ppm in industry, so I wonder what a tolerated dose for gluten intolerance would be?"

    From what I've read, both online and in a reputable book, the tolerated dose can vary widely. For me, I pretty sure I'm okay if I have the equivalent of 2 pieces of bread during an entire week. And I know I'll be in bad shape if I have 2 pieces of bread in one day. But I can't be more specific because I avoid it as much as possible, so that I can tolerate some of it when I can't avoid it.

  34. Applesauce related… I don't know why it has to be sweetened and flavored? Okay, maybe the flavored has appeal, but it doesn't need sweetening! I only buy the organic unsweetend for home use, but when we are out at restaurants, some of them offer applesauce as sides for the kids. Nice. Normal, brown, unflavored applesauce. But then you look at the ingredients – HFCS. Why????

  35. My mom has celiac disease and I have digestive issues so I've always thought that must be the problem. I tested negative with the IgA test and I just took the blood test to see if I had the genes for celiac disease, and it was also negative. (This website has a lot of information about it: However my doctor and many others say the gold-standard is still an endoscopy. As long as you've been eating gluten beforehand (maybe for 2 weeks?), if you have celiac disease they should be able to see scarring in your intestines (though there may be some controversy with this test as well — the book I mention below talks about all the tests).

    The thing is I prefer not to eat gluten most of the time, but without being able to firmly say "I have Celiac Disease" you may find yourself in a situation where you think maybe a little gluten will be ok (Because gluten is in everything; soy sauce, many flavorings, fries that have been cooked with onion rings…). If you don't have Celiac Disease, it probably will be. But if you do have Celiac Disease you're really hurting yourself every time gluten is introduced into your system. So I think it's wise to get testing done to be able to say whether or not you have Celiac. And then if you don't you may still feel better not eating it, but just realize that a person with Celiac shouldn't eat a burger that has been touched by a bun — just that much gluten could cause damage to their intestines. One time won't kill them, but it's like falling down and bruising your knee — if it happens over and over again it will really damage you.

    I would actually recommend Living Gluten-Free for Dummies by Danna Korn. I also just read Healthy Digestion the Natural Way by D. Lindsey Berkson which could give you some ideas on other things to do to improve your digestive health. Good luck!

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