Friday, October 28, 2016

A #Glutenfree Girl's Guide: How to Thrive Even When Your Body Isn't

You groan as you hear your alarm beeping. It’s six a.m., which means it's time to get up for work. Except when you try to move, your body aches, your head throbs and your limbs feel like cement blocks. You've probably felt ill like this before. For the 117 million Americans with chronic illnesses, however, feeling ill is part of their daily lives. I know because, as a woman with celiac disease and fibromyalgia, I am one of them.

How can you thrive even when your body isn't? Whether you have a chronic illness or a stuffy nose, here are Entity's (where this article first appeared) top six tips to cope.

casey the college celiac entity

1. Take an honest account of how you're feeling.

Before you can try to make yourself feel better, you need to establish a baseline. It's tempting to tell others, "I'm feeling fine!" even on awful days. Don't lie to yourself – it'll only backfire if you overexert yourself. Some people might like to place themselves on a 1-10 scale (one being dead, 10 being Wonder Woman). Others might prefer just noting whether they're better or worse than the day before. Find what system works for you, and use it to establish what you can and shouldn't do that day.

2. Make a to-do list with "big" and "small" chores.

Whether you're at work or lying in bed at home, most days involve a certain amount of chores to complete. To start checking items off without checking yourself out of commission, begin by separating chores into "big" and "small" categories. Activities like "take out the trash," "send emails" or "make a doctors appointment" are simple chores you can complete even on days you feel your worst. At the same time, reminding yourself to finish that report for work and take your car to the auto shop keeps you from worrying you'll forget and motivates you to save your energy for these big-ticket items. By the end of the day, make sure you've checked off at least one item from your list - big or small. This keeps you from feeling guilty for resting “all day” or from feeling anxious about not getting anything done.

3. Don't be afraid to say, "No" to activities.

As Adweek explains, "FOMO" or "Fear of Missing Out" is a legitimate psychological condition in which people worry about missing out on opportunities "more exciting" than what they're presently doing. In my experience, FOMO is especially prevalent when, because I don't feel well, I have to stay at home rather than go out with friends who are probably having an awesome time. As tempting as saying, “Yes” to everything can be, sometimes our bodies need rest more than excitement. Not to mention that going to a so-so event when you aren't feeling well could prevent you from going to an awesome event later on!

casey the college celiac entity
Like a late 21st birthday girl's night out...
4. Vent it out!

Sometimes a girl (or guy) just needs a good rant to feel better. Find a friend who doesn't mind hearing you vent about your cold, your chronic arthritis, your asthma or whatever condition is keeping your body from thriving. Don’t be afraid to cry if you need to. If I've accidentally eaten gluten and feel like a zombie, I'll call my mom and have her listen to my "Life's not fair!" rant. Bonus points if your friend is prepared to lay in bed with you, eat food and watch Netflix.

5. Find a (relatively easy) hobby you love.

For me, that hobby is baking. There's something comforting about the smell of baked cinnamon - not to mention the taste of homemade cookies, cupcakes or granola. Find an activity you enjoy (preferably one that you can do even on days you don't feel extremely well) and have fun with it! Though "thriving" should include getting chores done or working, it should also include some time for rest and self-lovePossible hobbies can include anything from Sudoku to gardening to taking a scented bubble bath.

6. Accept that your definition of "thrive" may differ from other's.

It's easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others and feeling inadequate. If Katie manages to work two jobs, volunteer part time and have a boyfriend, your accomplishment of getting out of bed and finishing three assignments for work may feel like a failure. While it hasn't been easy to accept, I've realized that I need to create my own version of success. I'm not like everyone else – in my personality or my medical history – and my view of "accomplishment" should reflect that.

casey the college celiac entity
Reaching for the sky...
It doesn't matter if other people think you're thriving; what matters is that you know you are.

**Though I wrote, "How to Thrive Even When Your Body Isn't," it first appeared at Entity Magazine!**

What tips do you use to thrive when you're body isn't? Have you used any of the ones that I shared? Let me know below!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

What "Learning From Your Mistakes" Really Means

Whether from your mom, a Hannah Montana pop song or countless philosophers through time, you've probably heard the words: "Everybody makes mistakes." Accepting that people make mistakes, though, can be very different than accepting your own errors. 

Perhaps no college semester has taught me that lesson more clearly than this one. I've taken sleeping pills four hours too early, effectively drugging myself out of attending my bi-weekly night class. And last night, I spilled water on my less-than-one-month-old, very expensive laptop - at just the right angle to ensure immediate digital death. Sometimes I think I'm going crazy. In fact, maybe I already am! But if the tears and guilt have taught me anything, it's what "learning from your mistakes"really entails. 

casey the college celiac

Because, unlike the typical view of "not doing XYZ ever again," learning from your mistakes actually means...

...exploring what made it a "mistake" in the first place. 

Now, in the case of water bottle vs. computer, liquids and electricity obviously aren't best friends. However, as I was frantically fanning my laptop and cursing like my computer's life depended on it (if only!), I realized something. It wasn't even the thought of making my wallet bleed for the second month in a row that made me want to cry

It was my embarrassment at letting the stress of school, work and grad schools apps make me reckless around my new computer. It was my shame at feeling like I let my parents down by being so irresponsible. It was my anger at being - to put it simply - stupid, when I know I'm not. 

casey the college celiac
Dead computer 1, 2 and my new baby...
As much as these feelings hurt, though, they have a purpose. They remind me what I value in life, like my parents' approval and my ability to be a capable, smart human being. "Mistakes," as crazy as it may sound, don't exist on their own. The values that we - and our society, family and friends - hold create them. As a result, you can't learn from your mistakes without learning about your own values at the same time. 

...choosing responsibility over self punishment

What is one mistake that you made years ago, but still wince at remembering? Whether it was harsh words to a friend or accidentally killing the class goldfish, if you're like many people, you might want to engage in "self suffering" as a form of redemption. In fact, studies have shown that people often consider physical pain one way to reduce guilt and restore feelings of "moral righteousness." 

Self punishment doesn't have to be intentional or physical, either. If you're like me, it can strike in the form of anxiety, constant flashbacks, mental self criticism, and generally feeling like you're an all-around not so great guy. 

casey the college celiac
My sad self in the Apple store...
When you immediately jump to self punishment, though, you avoid accepting responsibility for your actions - and avoid learning from your mistake. Instead of berating yourself, make actions to fix the problem - like offering an apology to someone you've wronged or, in my case, paying for (another) new computer with my own money. You'll learn more by being your own "corrector" than you ever would as your own "punisher." 

...realizing that you are more than any single act or error. 

As you're deciding the best actions to correct your mistake, learning from your mistake also involves correcting your mindset. Last night, all I kept saying was, "I'm so stupid." And perhaps if my whole life was summed up in that one moment, "stupid" would be an adequate descriptor. However, I am so much more than my mistakes - and so is everyone else. 

You are not that failed math test you (wrongly) thought would be easy, that engine light you decided to ignore for two months (until your car died on the freeway) or that tortilla you weren't sure was 100% gluten free, but ate anyway. As motivational speaker Denis Waitley says, "Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing."

casey the college celiac
Even the worst nights bring a new day...
If you have to define yourself by this mistake, remember to include the events that happened right afterward to: picking yourself up, making amends and deciding to kick ass the next day. 

...reflecting on what you want to do differently - and moving on

But maybe you're like me and your brain refuses to let you forget those horrible seconds, minutes or even days of mistakes. Maybe your stomach is still tied in guilty knots and you're spending so much time thinking of the past, you aren't even paying attention to what's happening now

In that case, reflect as much as you want. Ask yourself: Do I need to cry? Talk to someone else about what happened? Figure out what I would do differently? In a way, this blog post is my answer to that question. Yesterday, I wanted to keep the Niagara Falls vs. Casey's Computer battle a secret. Why would I choose to share what a silly mistake I made? 

But, when I was halfway through my classes the next day and still kept picturing water fly across my keyboard, I knew I needed to talk - or at least write - out my feelings. I'm certainly not celebrating this mistake (a computer mourning period is no joke), but I wanted to at least try to stop feeling ashamed or stupid because I'm not perfect. 

casey the college celiac
The lucky penny I found - which motivated me to write this!
And, hopefully, I can move on - and keep moving my water bottle faaaaar away from anything with an electric chord. 

The bottom line is that we all make mistakes, as cliche (and Disney) as that sounds. What separates us, though, is how we act and what we learn after we make them. 

For me, I'm deciding that "learning from my mistakes" means forgiving myself for actions I regret and focusing kicking booty in the future instead. What about you? 

What is one mistake you still kick yourself for? What tips do you have for moving past mistakes? Let me know - I'll take all the help I can get! 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Unique Gluten Free Products to Upgrade Any Smoothie Bowl

When it comes to smoothies, it may seem like they are Jack (or, more accurately, a snack) of all trades. They can be poured into glasses and enjoyed through straws, or blended into thick smoothie bowls worthy of a "nice cream" title. They can be green, purple or any color of the rainbow. And whether it's Christmas or summer, smoothies are always in style. 

casey the college celiac

Smoothie toppings often receive less attention, however. Before you decide to just throw on a handful of trail mix and fruit, though, take a look at some of these unique smoothie upgrades from Aloha and Dolci Di Maria Italian Desserts (both of whom kindly sent me samples to taste test and review.) Whether you're a superfood fanatic or a pancake connoisseur, prepare to drool over products that fit my three C's - crunchy, chewy and celiac safe! 

The Crunchy

Just picture it: biting into a creamy, cold smoothie bowl...only it's even tastier thanks to the crunchy toppings mixed in. When you add crunchy components, you do more than just make your taste buds dance. Crunchy ingredients can also boost your digestion because they remind you to chew - not chug - your smoothie. As several health bloggers have written, chewing your smoothie ensures that the food becomes covered with saliva, which contains the digestive enzyme of Ptyalin.

Besides regular goodies like puffed rice, homemade granola and trail mix, though, you can also experiment with more unusual treats. For instance, why not have dessert for breakfast by crumbling up a piece of Dolci di Maria's Vanilla Chocolate Chip biscotti? While this pastry is usually enjoyed with coffee, it offers the same sweet crunch to smoothies! 

casey the college celiac
Biscotti and coffee just got upgraded!
Not only is Dolci di Maria's biscotti gluten and dairy free, but it's also flaky, packed with vanilla flavor and full of large chocolate chips. (If you know you have a hard day coming up, this is definitely my suggested fuel!) I'll admit used that I used to consider biscotti an inferior form of cookie - but the rapid rate these goodies are disappearing suggests that Dolci definitely changed my mind.

This last crunchy trick might also change your mind about protein powder. Whether animal-based or vegan (like Aloha's protein powders, which features ingredients like pea, pumpkin seed and hemp protein along with various flavorings), people often complain of a gritty texture. Instead of only using protein powder inside your smoothie, though, why not transform it into a memorable topping? My favorite method is mixing a little melted coconut oil with a spoon of protein powder

casey the college celiac
Protein magic shell anyone?
Pour the sauce on your smoothie, leave your treat in the freezer for a few minutes and prepare to be amazed. The resulting magic shell offers just as much crunch as vanilla-(or chocolate)-flavored protein

The Chewy

Perhaps, though, crunch isn't enough to satisfy your taste buds. When I'm in a hurry or craving an extra filling breakfast, I've discovered another smoothie secret weapon: adding pieces of a snack or protein bar to my nice cream!

In the case of Aloha's Dark Chocolate Coconut bar, smoothie lovers can get the best of both crunchy and chewy worlds. Nuts and seeds dominate the bar, but are held together by chewy ingredients like maple and tapioca syrup. Basically, these taste like an addictive hybrid between bliss balls and granola - meaning that they lasted approximately 2.3 days in my pantry. 

casey the college celiac
Enjoying that last bite of the protein bar...
For smoothie lovers craving an extra hit of protein, just use your favorite protein bar instead. While I'm still a huge fan of Health Warrior's chia bars, Aloha's Chocolate Fudge Brownie Protein Bar has definitely joined my short list for favorite snacks! Besides boasting plant based protein sources (like cashew butter, pea and pumpkin seed), it also tastes indulgent without triggering a sugar high. 

One of my favorite chewy finds to top smoothies with, though, is actually Dolci's Morning Chai Pancakes. Using their gluten free (and optionally vegan) mix, I just added a mashed banana and coconut milk and wala - delicious, lightly spiced and super fluffy pancakes! I also loved  how easy these were to bake; they only took five or so minutes on the stove top and, even for a pancake-flipping failure like me, they came out perfect. My roommates were equally impressed; one even walked out of her room that morning, stopped, sniffed the air, and said, "What are you making!?! It smells like fall!" 

casey the college celiac
Just when I thought the view couldn't get any better...
If you've never tried adding pancakes pieces to your smoothies, you have a long way to go before becoming the queen of brunch. Trust me: mixing creamy and cold with fluffy, warm and chewy results in an addictive feast!

Celiac Safe

Finally, the most important "C": all of these smoothie toppers are as celiac safe as they are delicious. Although I would advise celiacs to read the ingredients of Aloha products carefully (since some of their items, like the granola and other superfood powders, contain wheatgrass juice), their vanilla and chocolate protein powder, chocolate protein bar and dark chocolate coconut bar all pass the celiac test - in safety and taste

As for Dolci di Maria, their entire bakery offers a variety of gluten free (and often vegan) goodies - ranging from pre-made cakes to pancake mixes to brownies. Like many businesses in the gluten free community, Dolci emerged from a mother wanting to bake gluten and dairy free options for her children with food allergies. Besides using only natural and organic ingredients, owner Mary Tantillo also draws inspiration from her Italian background. "Dolci" means "sweet" in Italian... and considering how hard I'm working to ration both their biscotti and their pancakes, the bakery's name is definitely accurate! 

casey the college celiac
Gluten free companies have never tasted so sweet!
Besides highlighting two brands that have recently won me (and my taste buds) over, though, this blog post has a bigger purpose: to inspire smoothie lovers to experiment with their toppings as much as their main ingredients. Not only will you upgrade the flavor, nutrition and Instagram appeal of your smoothies, but you'll also ensure that eating a healthy breakfast never feels boring again! 

Because if it isn't a smooth (pun-intended) move to add everything from protein bars to pancakes to your nice cream, I don't know what is! 

*Although I received these products for free in return for a review, all opinions and drool worthy pictures are my own!*

*Also found at What's Cookin' WednesdayWow Me Wednesday, Vegetarian MamaLet's Get Real, Saucy Saturdays, RunningwithSpoons, SnickerdoodleSunday and Allergy Free Thursdays!*

What is the most unique topping you add to your smoothie bowls - or even your oatmeal, yogurt or chia deed puddings? Tell me in the comments below!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Why Trust Makes Or Breaks Being Healthy with Celiac Disease

Now that Halloween is only weeks ago, terror fills the air almost as thickly as sugar. Haunted houses, spooky costumes - even creepy clowns are popping up all over the country like a bad Stephen King movie. Yet, three Octobers ago, a different kind of fear, one probably shared by 1 in 133 Americans, simmered in my mind: adjusting to a new beast called "celiac disease." 

casey the college celiac

Even several years post diagnosis, I'm constantly learning and accepting new aspects of my condition. My most recent realization? One of the reasons celiac disease can feel so flippin' scary is because of the trust needed to be healthy with it.  

Not sure what I'm talking about? I'll paint write you a picture. When living with celiac disease, you need to trust:

...that the chefs of the Instagram-worthy burger joint you're trying for the first time actually know that "a gluten free bun" doesn't mean "cross contamination" free.

casey the college celiac stacked
Stacked knows how to do both well!
...or that your favorite restaurant - cough, cough, Stacked - will deliver the same safe meal you've enjoyed countless times before. 

...that the boy you're seeing won't laugh off the need to brush his teeth before kissing you. 

...that your roommates or family members won't use your dishes or dive into your (gluten free) section of the pantry, especially without asking first. 

casey the college celiac
The roomies in question!
...that products labeled "gluten free" are telling the truth - cross contamination included. 

For other college students, having someone order them a burrito bowl at Chipotle and bring it back to campus is no biggie. In my case, though, I still remember how "weird" it felt to trust my now/ex-boyfriend with ordering safe food for me

But perhaps the biggest - and scariest - aspect of trust with celiac disease is trusting yourself

casey the college celiac
Throwback to freshman year of college!
I need to believe I am educated enough to know what I can and cannot eat; confident enough to turn down delicious-looking yet dubious offered food; and wise enough to always have a snack on hand. I need to know that I don't know everything about my condition, and not feel ashamed of researching ingredients online or asking for help from my family, doctors or gluten free community. Basically, I need to trust that I will advocate for myself and others facing similar obstacles - and never see myself as "lesser" for my dietary restrictions. 

Accepting responsibility for your own health - heck, your own chances of living or dying - is no small task. It's terrifying. It's frustrating, especially when you make a mistake and feel cruddy for weeks afterward. But it should also be empowering

Although celiac disease requires us to rely a great deal on others - from restaurant chefs to friends to food companies to the people we love most - to stay healthy, we have the final say. We can influence what we put into our mouths, the people who surround us and society's general understanding of celiac disease. 
casey the college celiac
At one of my favorite places!
We can even do all of this while feeling Halloween-grade terrified by our disease and our role in it. Yet, the more we embrace the two words that have come to define so much of our lives, the less frightening that alter-ego may seem. 

You can trust that I will do my best to advocate for, educate others on and thrive with celiac disease. Can I trust that you will do the same? 

Have you ever thought of the trust needed with Celiac disease? What (celiac or non-celiac) responsibilities do you have to trust yourself with? Tell me in the comments below! 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Superfood Cassava Baked Pancakes (Gluten Free, Vegan)

When you hear someone talking about pancakes, "healthy" probably isn't the first word that comes to mind. Especially when terms like "fluffy," "scrumptious" and "maple syrup" are in the running. Like with my previous batch of mini baked pancakes, though, these offer the best of both (healthy and fluffy) worlds.

casey the college celiac

Why? You have Cassava flour - along with turmeric, banana, cinnamon and millet - to thank! If you haven't had of Cassava flour, you probably haven't been following the paleo or grain free trend in the last few years. Besides being a rich source of carbohydrates and fiber, it boasts high levels of calcium, phosphorous, manganese, iron and potassium. Cassava is also high in saponins, a phytochemical that can help lower unhealthy cholesterol levels. According to Otto's Naturals - which, full disclosure, gave me a free sample of their Cassava flour in return for a review - cassava flour is also a secret weapon for gluten free bakers because it can replace wheat 1:1 in many recipes. 

Besides being free of most allergens and offering an entirely grain free option, these pancakes also offer nutritional benefits from the other ingredients. For instance, bananas provide vitamin B6, C and potassium; millet packs a punch of thiamine, niacin, folate and copper; and turmeric proves its superfood status by improving digestion, inflammation, heart health and a variety of other issues.  All in one hearty (picture pun intended), fluffy, and easy-to-make mini pancake. Sunday brunch won't be the same with these babies on the table

casey the college celiac
Pancakes + Smoothies = Heaven!
If you're ready to join the pancake party, simply gather the ingredients listed below to make roughly 12-15 mini pancakes:

1/2 cup cassava flour
1/2 cup millet flour (could sub with buckwheat or another 1/2 cup of cassava flour)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp turmeric
1 mashed ripe banana
1 cup water plus 2 TBSP of water
Optional: add pumpkin pie spice or nutmeg for a seasonal twist!

Thanks to the baking method of cooking, these pancakes are relatively foolproof to make. First, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, simply combine all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl, adding the mashed banana and water last. You want the texture to be thick, yet pourable. Now the fun part: transferring your batter onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. I like to use a TBSP to keep my pancakes roughly similar in size, but feel free to experiment with size and shape. (You can even make heart-shaped pancakes!) 

casey the college celiac
If you're smoothies don't match your sneakers, you're doing it wrong!
After letting your inner artist go wild, put your trays into the oven for roughly 15-20 minutes. You want the edges to be slightly browned and the pancake to be hardy enough to not fall apart when picked up; however, watch your cakes carefully. They can go from browned to burnt very quickly! They will also harden further as they cool

Now, don't assume that these pancakes will be the light, airy treats you enjoyed as a child. Thanks to the Cassava and millet flour, these pancakes turn out sturdier with a more "whole grain" type of taste. But that doesn't make them any less delicious or versatile!

casey the college celiac
Yes please!

For a pre or post workout snack, top them with nut butter and sliced banana or berries. You can also enjoy them on a top of a parfait or, my personal favorite, with your smoothie bowl or banana ice cream. You could even transform them into "dessert pizzas" with toppings like yogurt, nut butter, fruit, chocolate and trail mix! Your imagination truly is the limit. 

Because, just as these pancakes might not fit the mold of a calorie-laden, breakfast splurge, your version of this recipe doesn't have to follow mine exactly! In my mind, food is meant to be fun and individualized...and, when it comes to these mini baked pancakes, their nutritional benefits are just a (tasty) bonus! 

*I received a sample of Otto's Naturals Cassava flour for free in exchange for a review; however, all opinions stated here are my own.*

*Also found at What's Cookin' Wednesday, RunningwithSpoonsAllergy Free Thursdays, Let's Get Real, SaucySaturdays, Snickerdoodle Sunday and VegetarianMama!*

What's your favorite use for Cassava flour? How would you eat this superfood Cassava baked pancakes? Tell me what you think by commenting below! 

Monday, October 10, 2016

A Celiac's Presidential Debate: 4 Gluten Free Controversies

Whether you wanted to or not, you probably heard plenty about the first and second Presidential Debates of this election. In particular, you've probably heard countless questions like: Who won? Who made the most offensive comments? Who is Twitter really roasting afterward?

In the celiac community, equally important debates are going on - but on community screens instead of TVs, and about other celiacs' health rather than the country's.

casey the college celiac

What are four gluten free debates every celiac should keep an eye on? Continue reading to find out how up-to-date you are on celiac news

1. Cheer or fear for GF Cheerios

Perhaps the most public - and one of the most controversial - debates today is over Cheerios' new gluten free products. You might remember enjoying cheerios for breakfast every day before elementary school...and you may have even rushed to buy yourself a box of edible nostalgia when Cheerios announced that they were going gluten free back in 2015

Since then, however, the celiac community has become divided in their support. Does the phrase "Cheerios recall" sound familiar? It occurred shortly after the gluten free Cheerios were rolled out. In fact, 1.8 million boxes were recalled due to "undisclosed wheat" and the FDA states that at least 125 people reported becoming sick. It was later revealed that:

  1. The oat flour used in one of plants was switched with wheat or, at the very least, cross-contaminated. 
  2. General Mills didn't test the resulting cereals for gluten for two weeks, despite claiming to do so daily.
casey the college celiac
My preferred "O" cereal...
The Cheerios controversy resurfaced earlier this year when the Canadian Celiac Association released a statement that discouraged celiacs from eating gluten free Cheerios because of the cross contamination risks.

Will you dive into a bowl of gluten free Cheerios anytime soon? That's a personal decision every celiac - or parent of a young child with celiac disease - must make for him or herself.

2. Wheatgrass and barley grass - yay or nay for the celiac?

Even though I like to think that I have more experience with superfoods than the average eater, I hadn't heard of "wheatgrass" until recently. First, when I excitedly learned of MammaChia's new Greens line of juices. Then Aloha approached me for a possible review of some of their products (which will be sharing in a few weeks, so my chocoholic readers better be ready to drool!). As I scanned ingredients, as is my usual habit even when a product is marked "gluten free," the word "wheatgrass" sent off a red alarm. These examples aren't meant to shed bad light on these companies; in fact, I love them both! Instead, they're meant to show how common this "superfood" is becoming.

What exactly is wheatgrass - and how can it be "gluten free"...but not? To understand, we need to take a trip back to biology class, particularly the botany section. As explains, wheat and barely grass only contain gluten in the seeds that they produce. Hypothetically, then, barely and wheat grass can be "gluten free" as long as they are pure and aren't cross-contaminated with the seeds during harvest.

casey the college celiac
No wheatgrass needed in this smoothie!

Unless you can be certain of a company's cross-contamination protocol (dietitian Tricia Thompson suggests checking that the company checks for gluten CC using the R5 ELISA test), celiacs should likely steer clear of wheatgrass and barely grass - no matter how many "superfood" properties they might claim. 

3. Gluten intolerant or ignorant?

If you're an (awesome) long-term reader of my blog, you've probably noticed me mention that my mom eats gluten free, but doesn't have celiac disease. Like the other six percent of Americans, my mom identifies as gluten intolerant and has noticed a significant improvement in her health by ditching wheat. As you might expect, then, I personally see gluten intolerance as a legitimate medical condition. 

casey the college celiac
Madre and I!
Not everyone thinks this way, however. Not sure what I'm talking about? Here are just a handful of the scientific studies that have seemingly disproved the existence of gluten intolerance:

  • 2011: A study by Peter Gibson at Monash University in Australia found that diets containing gluten does seem to cause gastrointestinal problems in certain people who do not have celiac disease. The name they gave to these people? Those with "non-celiac gluten sensitivity." 
  • 2014: Peter Gibson revisited the subject of gluten intolerance in a follow-up study and paper. In this case, however, he found "absolutely no specific response to gluten" in the 37 self-identified gluten-sensitive participants. What instead could be causing people to hold their stomachs and blame gluten? The "nocebo" effect - or the idea the patients expected to feel worse on the study diets and, as a result, did - or a sensitivity to fodmaps, instead of only gluten.
  • 2015: Researchers from the University of L'Aquila in Italy threw their hat into the scientific ring as well, observing 392 self-identified gluten intolerants into a trial where they were first tested for celiac disease. Those who tested negative then ate gluten free for six months before reintroducing gluten into their diets and reporting any symptoms. The study eventually found that 93% of those who claim "gluten sensitivity" (and don't have celiac disease or a wheat allergy) can tolerate gluten without any negative results. 

When looking at studies like these, it may seem like gluten intolerance is, in a way, the Bigfoot of the medical community. In 2016, however, researchers at Columbia University Medical Center reported proof of Bigfoot. After examining blood samples and intestinal biopsies of participants with self-reported gluten intolerance, celiac disease and no health problems, they found that non-celiac gluten sensitive people seem to have "leaky gut" and "systemic immune activation." What does that mean in non-biology speak? Basically, bacteria and other microbes from inside the gut "leak" into the bloodstream, leading to chronic inflammation. In other words, gluten can make certain people feel cruddy...and eating gluten free can lower the inflammation in their bodies.

casey the college celiac
No gluten, no problem!
Do you believe in gluten intolerance - or even have it yourself? That's for you, your body, and your doctor to decide. Keeping these studies in mind, though, may make your medical search a little easier. 

4. Bottom's up...or gluten-removed beers down.

After you trudge through these controversial celiac debates, you may feel like you need a drink...but you should be careful what kind of beer you choose. Recently, Gluten Dude has raised awareness of the two types of gluten free beers hitting the market: "gluten-removed" and "gluten free."

For those who haven't hit 21 yet - which I only just did - or haven't explored the gluten free section of your grocery store's alcohol aisle, "gluten removed" beer refers to beer - like Omission Beer - that is made with gluten (like barely) but then removed using enzymes. Rather than entirely "removing" the gluten, though, this process actually just breaks down the grains. While the companies may advertise that the gluten doesn't exceed the 20 PPMs required by the FDA, some people have still reported becoming sick from the products.

casey the college celiac
The only "gluten free beverage" I've partaken in lately...

"Gluten free" beer, on the other hand, never contains gluten; instead, as the people behind Ground Breaker Brewing, Ghostfish Brewing and Glutenberg explain, they start with naturally gluten free ingredients. Like with any other gluten free product, the beers could become cross-contaminated if the company isn't careful with its ingredients' sources. As long as the company pays attention to the vendors it buys from and the ingredients it brings into the brewery, however, their beers cannot only be under the 20 PPM gluten requirement, but they can even boast 0 PPM gluten.

So should celiacs ever reach for a bottle with "gluten removed" on the label? Unless celiacs can know exactly how much gluten has been removed from the beer - which, according, is still unknown thanks to legal red tape - that remains a very blurry question.

Maybe you love debates - whether between Presidential candidates or members of the gluten free community - and see them as opportunities for education, personal growth and increased awareness. Or, maybe you instead see debates as arguments tearing a country, or a community, apart. Whatever your mindset, one fact is certain: the more you know, the better informed your own choices, beliefs and actions become. And I think everyone can see the benefits resulting from that. 

Are you closely following the Presidential debates and election? What other gluten free debates have you noticed? Tell me what you think in the comments! 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Gluten Free WIAW: Breaking - and Making - Food Rules

When was the last time you heard someone say, "I really shouldn't..." when talking about food? Or the last time you read a new "scientifically proven" diet trick to lose 10 pounds in 10 days? Regardless of whether you listen to them or not, food rules seem to be everywhere...

casey the college celiac

So I thought why not spend this What I Ate Wednesday sharing the rules that I break - and the ones I make - during an average day of eats. Warning: drool-worthy, gluten free and vegan or paleo foodporn incoming. 

1. Have breakfast an hour within waking up.

It's often said that there are two kinds of eaters: the people who skip breakfast and the ones who see sleep as a time machine to their favorite part of the day. Plenty of research has also already boasted the benefits of eating breakfast: it kick starts your metabolism, reduces sugar cravings later on in the day and improves concentration and performance.

But sometimes a girl wakes up and just. Isn't. Hungry. (As shocking as that may sound). So I tend to wait till 10 or so to dig into my favorite smoothie bowl, overnight zoats or mini pancakes...and those two or three hours of waiting hasn't killed me yet! 

casey the college celiac
For the morning tea: 1 large glass of warm water, 1/2 squeezed lemon, 1 liberal pour of AC
The rule I follow instead? Have warm lemon water with apple cider vinegar soon after waking up...and eat eventually! Not only does lemon water help detoxify your system, but Apple cider vinegar has also been shown to help with digestive issues, weight maintenance and a variety of other problems

So bottom's up! (Until the bowls of breakfast come out anyway!).

2. Don't combine fruits and veggies.

Speaking of my smoothie bowls, let's talk about another hot (nutrition) topic: food combinations. When I was struggling with bloating, acid reflux and other digestive problems, a lot of my Google searches ended up on the same (web)page: I needed to pay more attention to what foods I was eating together. 

For those who haven't scoured this side of the Internet, food combining particularly frowns upon eating fruit with anything else, including veggies...which would make my zucchini smoothie bowls off limits. As my Instagram followers have noticed, though, that certainly hasn't been the case! 

casey the college celiac
Usual creamy zucchini bread smoothie bowl + berries + granola + sunbutter
Instead of obsessing over which foods to pair together, I've focused on learning what fruits and veggies agree with me on the first place. One dietary "rule" that I do mainly stick to is eating low fodmap; while I don't avoid all ingredients on the "high" list, I am aware of how much I eat in one day. As long as I stick to low fodmap fruits like berries and banana in my smoothies, I have a happy belly; the one time I tried adding mango, "food baby" was a definite understatement

The bottom line? Don't give up the foods you love based on research for what works for some people. Find what works for you - and enjoy eating it!

3. Stop before you're totally full.

Compared to some food rules, this one isn't totally full of BS (you really didn't think I could resist a pun, right?). It makes sense that not every meal should be a feast, and that you want to walk away from the dinner table instead of waddle

However, I've found that this rule comes with plenty of exceptions, such as when: 

- You're not sure that you're eating enough for your energy levels
- You've lost touch with your hunger cues
- You want to gain weight
- You have a history of disordered eating

casey the college celiac
Purple sweet potato stuffed with chickpeas, roasted veggies and avocado + side salad
Now, this rule is likely intended to prevent people from over-eating...but if you're eating too little in the first place, stopping before you're full won't help. Personally, I can also have days where I don't feel a lot of hunger cues, but I force myself to eat anyway. When you're not sure if you're hungry, knowing when you're 90% full is pretty impossible too. 

Whether you follow this rule or not is up to your eating habits, weight goals and personal preferences. Just know that you don't have to follow it; some days, you know you need to carb up for a race the next day or those cookies taste too good to put down. That's OK - and often freakin' delicious.

4. Don't eat after *insert random time of day here*.

I can't count the amount of times either I or someone near me has said, "I'm hungry, but I really shouldn't eat so late." In fact, I used to rarely have a night snack. Now, I rarely go to bed without one. 

It's true that eating a midnight snack might make you less hungry for an early breakfast the next day. It's also true that, if you find that eating late doesn't sit well on your stomach, you shouldn't do it! However, research has shown that, in terms of your weight, the amount of calories you eat overall matters more than when you eat them. Not only that, but carb-heavy snacks like cereal or bananas can also give you a better night's sleep.

casey the college celiac
So Delicious unsweetened vanilla yogurt + fruit + granola + Enjoy Life brownie + cashew butta

Nowadays, I don't cut myself off a particular time; instead, I consider how hungry I am and when my next meal will likely be. And, more nights than not, those questions lead me to a bowl of So Delicious coconut yogurt with plenty of fruit, cereal, nut butter and granola. Going to bed has - literally - never tasted so sweet

In today's society, food rules seem as common as food itself. Sometimes, though, you need to throw out the rule book and just eat - and see what "rules" you find work for you instead. 

Your What I Ate Wednesday's will be much tastier when you do! 

What food rule do you break? What food rule have you made? And what have you been eating lately? Tell me below!