Neutralizer Drops for Tummy Issues

Dropper bottle with label with golden brown liquid sitting on a desk.
4 ounce dropper bottle of Neutralizer for “Tummy Issues” compounded by Hidden Alchemist. Photo by Imei Hsu (Dec 2016)

How many times have you had one of these “tummy days”, when you’re even too tired or embarrassed to admit that you’ve been struggling with diarrhea, cramping, flatulence, and digestive problems?

Anyone who has mild to severe intolerances, a gastro-intestinal disorder (i.e.Crohn’s, IBD), or an Autoimmune Disease that creates a whole host of sensitivities and intolerances knows the painful reality of how many hours and days we lose in a battle against “Tummy issues”.

The reality of living with these symptoms often enough that you can no longer call them occasional should have you thinking that the best remedies aren’t always grabbing a bottle of Imodium. So what is a food-sensitive person to do?

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Eat Like You

During the holidays, we think about what we're eating more than ever (or, we try not to think about it!). How do you navigate the world of food when you have food allergies, intolerances, or a GI disorder)? Photo credit: Imei Hsu (2016).
During the holidays, we think about what we’re eating more than ever (or, we try not to think about it!). How do you navigate the world of food when you have food allergies, intolerances, or a GI disorder)? Photo credit: Imei Hsu (2016).

Stop trying to eat like everyone else. Just STOP.

On any given week, I receive well-intended yet unhelpful suggestions from people who believe they can “help” me. Sometimes it’s from a well-meaning Vegan person who thinks my Paleo options are not only immoral and cruel, they are unhealthy for me. As usual, I kindly ask that person to design me a minimum 1538 calorie meal plan free from nuts, dairy, seeds, soy, legumes,  beans, gluten (including no corn), alliums, goards (pumpkin, squash, cucumbers), and certain oils,  certain sugars, plus more calories on my training days that are easily absorbed, do not cause my guts to rebel and fall apart, and deliver iron, protein, and healthy fat well enough that I don’t suffer a loss in cognitive processing.

Every person I’ve encountered who has looked at that list usually tells me it cannot be done without severely compromising my health.

And so, here I am again, stating the obvious: nutrition is an individual matter. Stop eating like everyone else.

Instead, eat like only you can, and only you should:. Eat like you.

Among my friends, they have a reply to newcomers who mean well when they suggest a food or new recipe to me: “That sounds safe, but is it ‘Imei safe’?

They say this because I am my own canary in a coal mine: if it isn’t safe for me to eat, it might not be so good  for them either. Why? Because while all of the ingredients in processed foods are FDA-approved for public safety, a good amount of them will still leave me writhing on the floor, vomiting, cramping, racing for the toilets, or leading to poor nutritional status over time.

Yet the real truth of eating well and transforming your life is a journey of discovery, trial and error, and extreme customization. What we’re learning more than ever is that a nutritional profile that works for one may not work perfectly for another.

The good news: there exists one shared food factor among those who have autoimmune disease and food allergies, one in which no health expert would ever argue against. It is a simple equation: eat a natural diet free from highly processed foods.

By doing so, you will not eat in the manner of everyone else.  You will eat like you.

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Why No NSAIDs for You

ibuprofen-2
NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are standard treatment for inflammation and pain. But if you have GI “issues”, and Celiac Disease, take a moment to read why you should consider other options for treatment. 

WHY NO NSAIDs FOR YOU

If you have an autoimmune disease and/or gastrointestinal issues, strongly consider not taking NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) for pain relief or as an anti-inflammatory medicine, and discuss with your doctor other options for pain or inflammation treatment.

Yes, that’s you, even the one who is saying, “But I don’t have Celiac Disease,” but you do have GI “issues”.

I cannot tell you how many times medical providers over the years have attempted to prescribe me a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, also referred to as an NSAID, and then stare blankly when I remind the physician I have Celiac Disease.

*insert the sound of crickets*

Perhaps you too have wondered about this. The medication itself does not contain gluten in it; therefore, it is safe for people with Celiac Disease and Autoimmune Disease, right?

Um, nope.

Read more about why you want to avoid NSAIDs.

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Happy Allergen Free Halloween

Allergen Halloween FARE Sugar

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FARE’s Teal Pumpkin Project is way to signal Trick-o-Treaters in your neighborhood that you have a non-food treat bowl for kids with food allergies. But did you know what else you are helping them sidestep? Sugar, and high processed foods.

As we draw near to Halloween and the ritual of Trick-or-Treating across America, I thought it was time for me to speak personally about two related subjects: a safe, allergen-free Halloween celebration, and the problem with our sweet tooth.

OK, please don’t hate me, and I am sharing with you both things you should know and want to know, yet I am a realist about the subject! Many of us would just as soon bury our heads in the sand if we have to hear one more person telling us that we can’t have that decadent slice of gluten-free pie, or we can’t have that piece of candy from the candy bowl that says, “gluten free, made with corn syrup.”

It’s time to reveal how my project here at My Allergy Advocate on WordPress.com is different than the average, run of the gluten-free mill blog about living the “free-from” dietary lifestyle.

Let me give you a moment. Open up a search bar on your computer or device’s browser, and type in the words, “gluten free blog”. Do it now. Don’t take my word for it. The top ten search results on Google should pull up some well-followed gluten-free bloggers. While each has a different style, they all have one thing in common. It’s that one thing that will likely keep me from ever having my blog up near the top (so I’m aiming for in the Top 20 later in 2017).

Do you know what it is?

Read more to find out if your guess is as good as my answer! Continue reading

A Menu Redacted

A Menu Redacted

When I first started talking to others about food allergies and Celiac Disease, I began by trying to describe what food allergies are. As in, “Here are the medical definitions, and here’s what to look out for, and by the way, here’s how to keep me and others around me safe.”

End of story. I just want to eat, feel good, and not be sick.

And really, if that was all this was about — this website, these descriptions, and what I can’t eat — there would be nothing left to share, and no discussion. By now, you know that there is plenty of discussion, thus the many blogs on the subject.

Yet time and time again, I run into people who are truly curious about how I, and millions of others, live with a medically restricted diet due to both multiple food allergies and intolerances, and an autoimmune disease such as Celiac Disease.

After I found out I had Celiac Disease, I saw some improvement on the standard GF diet, which focuses on a strict adherence to a diet free of barley, wheat, and rye. I still had a Grumpy Tummy that would react to foods such as corn, quinoa, chia seeds, gluten-free oats, gluten free baked goods and breads containing soy and xanthan gum. Eating these foods didn’t cause the same widespread inflammatory response in my gut that gluten did, but they kept me sick, weakened, and fatigued.

You can understand that I developed this mental complex that maybe I was just a food pariah: a one-off person, alone in my experience of food intolerance. The problem with that kind of thinking is that it was not only counterproductive, it simply wasn’t true.

There are millions of us. There are millions of YOU, if you too suffer from one or more food intolerances, allergies, or a medically-restrictive diet.

During the “Grumpy Tummy” months,  I encountered others who would be perusing the same aisles of the grocery store, turning items over to read ingredients, and putting them back on the shelves. We’d introduce ourselves, compare notes, and have these, “Me too!” moments after one of us would say, “I can’t eat anything with soy in it,” or “Gluten free oats make me feel sick when I eat them.”

It wasn’t very long before I realized there were tons of people around me, all of us feeling alone, isolated, and freakish for having guts that just couldn’t handle the same foods everyone else seemed to eat without any problems. And I remembered thinking that someday I would figure out a way to convey to all these people how much we have in common, not just by comparing food restriction lists with judgment and criticism, but in some kind of creative image that allowed people to see through my eyes.

Thanks to a friend’s suggestion, I present to you just one of those creative images. I present to you, A Menu Redacted.

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Best Gluten-Free Pizza Pie Crust. Evar.

Two pizzas side by side on parchment paper and a baking sheet, ready to bake in an oven.
Making gluten free thin crust pizza, even while away on vacation. Try baking them on parchment paper for easy clean up.

Ever since I ate a gluten free pizza in a restaurant  ( since rebranded, “gluten friendly”) and landed in the hospital, I have understandably been reticent to eat another gluten free pizza outside of the one I mix, roll, top, and bake at home under my watchful eye. Even with medical insurance coverage, my total out-of-pocket expenses from start to finish, including vomiting and diarrhea, low blood pressure, electrolyte imbalance, and six weeks of brain fog, fatigue, Leaky Gut Syndrome, low appetite, weight loss, muscle weakness, joint inflammation and rashes, and medication added up to nearly six thousand dollars.

That’s one expensive gluten-free pizza, don’t you think?

That’s not to say I didn’t eventually put my big-girl panties on and head back to the scene of the crime, confront my fears, and try again*. It took over a year, but I did go back, if but to embed in my brain what I think a gluten-free pizza should taste and feel like, only without cheese, emulsifiers, alliums, gluten, or corn. In that reconnaissance mission, I was taking notes for the future gluten pizza I would someday create.

Then I bade that crusty outer layer of bread farewell, and moved on. Let’s just say, I might have walked out the door while flipping the middle finger. It was the last good-bye.

When I think of pizza, I think of a thin crust with uniform edges, chewy in texture, with a mixture of crunchiness on the very edges and a slightly spongy softness that allows you to embed sauce and toppings in such a way that if you were turn a wedge of it upside down, very little of the toppings, if any at all, should rain onto your plate.

The agony and the ecstasy of gluten free pizza crust is the dry-flour crumble factor versus the chewiness of dough when you add an emulsifier. For people like myself, and perhaps the majority of the Hungry Minions looking for gluten free pizza because of a medically-restricted diet, an emulsifier just isn’t going to work. The most common one, xanthan gum, which is often added to commercially pre-prepared gluten-free pizza crust mixes, is commonly sourced with corn. And if I didn’t mention it to you before, you should know that many people who aren’t directly allergic to corn, but are food sensitive and suffering from Leaky Gut Syndrome, are going to struggle with a Grumpy Tummy when they ingest xanthan gum.

What if I were to tell you that I believe I’ve stumbled across the solution: an emulsifier-free gluten free pizza crust that you can top with your favorite ingredients, and can be made egg free if you wish?

Read on!

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Menu Planning Like a Boss

It’s that time again. It’s time to travel, and cook for myself outside my own kitchen!

Next week, I’m climbing into a plane and flying with my road bike to Maui to participate in a triathlon camp. Unlike the last time I travelled for the same camp, I’ll be responsible for about 90% of all my food and snacks for a very active week full of epic bike rides, ocean swimming and snorkeling, hikes through bamboo forests and red dirt trails, and running on beaches and trails on this beautiful island.

My chiropractor mentioned a truth that I found ironic. He said that a successful Ironman competition was not just about who was strong enough to go the distance — a 2.4mile swim, 112-mile bike course, and a 26.2 mile run – but who could  eat and drink enough to cover that distance!

When 70% of all surveyed athletes state that they have experienced GI distress during a race or sport performance, it’s a serious concern. So the Sensitive Celiac takes food seriously! And of course, I make food fun again by showing you just how easy it is, once you know what you need to eat, to simplify the process, organize yourself, and make tasty and nutrient-dense meals and snacks that will help you take on the activities of life that thrill you.

You might not ever do an Ironman, but I can tell you, just snorkeling in the ocean makes everyone hungry! Everyone needs to eat. Having food allergies and intolerances or a special diet means planning, preparation, and if at all possible, cooking your own food.

So, wanna know how to menu plan like a boss?

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