For years now the word gluten has been a daily part of my daily vocabulary. When I first heard it muttered by my doctor six years ago, I imagined it as this long, drawn out and terribly blah-sounding word.


Since I say it so regularly now, I’m a bit immune to the heavy and unappealing sound of it. And now that it’s become a part of our daily vocabulary (pretty much world-wide), the awareness of a gluten allergy and sensitivity has risen, along with the danger of it not being taken seriously, since it’s often perceived as a fad.

Why the fad? Several reasons, really. Celebrities and public figures are claiming it to be a great way to ‘cleanse’ the body, and lose weight. And there’s the  growing popularity of Primal and Paleo diets, which shun gluten for it’s lack of nutritional benefits, and it’s negative effects on the body, regardless of an allergy or sensitivity to it. All of which is true by the way.  And products from soda water to maple syrup labeling themselves as gluten-free. So again, not that I think any of this is bad on it’s own; we’ve created a movement, an awareness of the importance of eating healthy, whole foods and of how key nutrition is to your overall health. But it’s also created a mindset that everyone is going gluten-free because it’s the latest and greatest diet fad. Try it, you’ll lose weight and feel great… which is probably true, but not helpful to those of us who truly suffer from an immune repose when we eat it.

Several years ago, I would talk to a restaurant employee who would take it very seriously, never asking whether it was a personal choice or an allergy. They would usually send the manager over to the table, who would discuss my options with me and educate me on how the kitchen handles food so I was aware of any potential cross-contamination issues. I could then make an educated decision based on what’s best for my health.

Fast forward to today, when ‘gluten-free’ is the rage, and restaurants are handing out gluten-free menus and the staff is often-times unaware of the severity behind the issue. In fact, recently while at a popular local chain here in Austin, I was told they no longer offer a gluten-free menu because they realized that using the same fryer for breaded items, and claiming to be gluten-free, wasn’t OK. If you think about it, some of the breading from the foods fried stays in the fryer, and attaches to the non breaded foods being fried next. So even though the foods they were calling gluten-free weren’t breaded, they were still mingling with plenty of residual breading left behind. Dangerous for those of us who need to only ingest a small amount of gluten to have an allergic reaction.

And by the way, did you know that US law allows for something to be labeled gluten-free if it contains less than 20 parts per million (PPM)? That means there may be slight amounts of gluten in the foods you’re eating, and assuming are OK. I was recently talking to someone who was complaining that she went gluten-free, but she’s still having migraines, fatigue, body aches and brain fog and couldn’t figure out why. When I explained that the replacement foods she’s eating are allowed to have trace amounts of gluten in them she was angry. Can’t say that I blame her.

To be clear, I’m grateful for the USDA’s movement to properly address a very serious health condition, and try to help us avoid foods that we’re allergic to, but I do wish they would realize that even the smallest amount of gluten, for some of us, can cause an allergic reaction. There are so many factors at play here, that I typically recommend someone just starting to eliminate gluten avoid replacement foods all together, so they can allow their body to truly heal. Once healed, they may be better able to handle the little bits of gluten from cross contamination or reduced PPM here and there.

I know there’s some confusion on what gluten actually does to the body, and why it seems like this is such a big thing now. I’ve heard it called a “rich person’s disease” and honesty, I get it. It does seem like its everywhere these days.

There’s a lot of talk online about why the rates of allergies have risen so dramatically since we started manipulating our food supply, and why we can’t handle eating foods we’ve eaten for generations. If you want to learn more, simply follow Robin O’brien for what I deem the most non-biased, grass-roots effort to help stop the contamination of our foods and require labelling of GMOs. She helps us understand why we’re suddenly seeing so many more cases of gluten sensitivities and Celiac disease. And by following her I’ve been able to piece together a few key points in my life.

The first is that I was always sick. I never really felt good, and my mom was taking me to doctors as young as 8 to help figure out what was wrong. I had chronic migraines, fatigue, social anxiety, weight fluctuations and more. I also had terrible gastric issues, which they labelled as IBS when I was 10. I now understand issues that my grandmother and great-grandmother had as well. They’re Italian, and so I grew up eating pasta and bread. With every meal. No wonder I was sick all the time. As I grew up, I realized that my friends and family were directly affected by my poor health and weakened immune system. I struggled through my teens and twenties with relationships that were affected by my fatigue and mood swings. And it’s nearly impossible to imagine explaining to a date why you have to spend 20 minutes in the bathroom after you eat. I went on a lot of first dates that were never followed by a second one. Not like I didn’t understand why, but it was definitely frustrating.

Last year I wrote about Jennifer Esposito being fired from CBS’ Blue Bloods. She collapsed due to health complications from Celiac Disease, and was fired. For those of us who have it, we get it. It’s not a fad, it’s not a trend – it’s a serious, life threatening condition that can lead to some pretty heavy things that we’d rather not think about.

Last year, Rachael Ray who is clearly someone who doesn’t worry much about the healthy aspects of her meals, promoted a recipe in her magazine as being gluten-free. Not only was it potentially not gluten-free (she used corn flakes in the recipe, the largest reseller of which is Kellogs, and their main ingredient is malt-flavoring — not gluten-free), but she used this line to address why she was prepping some gluten-free recipes…


When did we all get so picky, she asks? As if having a gluten allergy is something we choose.

So while it’s great to have so much awareness tied into gluten allergies, we have to be even more diligent with our health thanks to the belief that it’s the latest craze. And while I love that some people are using their public voice to raise awareness to our cause, I cringe when I see it being presented as an opportunity to simply replace all your former gluten-full goodies with gluten-free ones.

Here’s one of the bigger culprits of that – Elizabeth Hasselback on the View, sharing her experience with going gluten-free after a Celiac diagnosis. Watch her broadly sweeping her arm across a table filled with some of the many gluten-free products that are on the market. She smiles and chirps her way through the segment declaring how these gluten-free products have made going gluten-free a tasty breeze.


I’m thrilled that Elizabeth Hasselback might be able to indulge in gluten-free cookies, pretzels, cakes and more without a reaction. But myself, and plenty of gluten-sensitive folks that I know,  aren’t so lucky.

And here’s why.

Cross reactive foods – that’s when your body can’t tell the difference between gluten and the most commonly used items in gluten-free foods such as tapioca, quinoa, millet, sorghum, potato and more. We eat them – we react just as if we ate gluten.

Cross Contamination – since many of these products labeled gluten-free are processed on equipment that processes wheat, the chances of cross-contamination are high, making it potentially just as bad for you to eat if you’re allergic/sensitive as an actual gluten-full food.

And let’s not forget that many of the gluten-free products out there are filled with sugar, and are truly no better for us than their gluten-full processed counterparts.

USDA Labelling laws: by law, a product is allowed to have trace amount s of gluten in it, and still be labelled as gluten-free. 20 parts per million, to be exact.

Beauty products – these guys are often times unsafe, having wheat and/or a by-product of gluten in their ingredients. Remember that most of what you put on your body, goes into your body, so the safest bet is to focus on products that are labelled gluten-free. Remember, double check the ingredients as well and watch for the most common hidden ingredients list. 

So the lesson here is buyer beware. Be cautious of a gluten-free label. Get to know your local restaurants. Check with the local Gluten Intolerance Group in your area and find out which restaurants are certified as gluten-free safe. You can also see a list here, though I haven’t updated in a while so it may be missing some of their latest updates.

Be mindful, be careful and be your own advocate. Don’t assume that just because something is labeled gluten-free, that it is. Eat clean, prep your own food as much as possible and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Only then can you truly protect your health.

Be well!



gluten-free products

Living a gluten-free life can be frustrating. Five years ago we had very little choices at the grocery store, and today it feels like we’re overwhelmed with options. And none of these options are cheap, so how do you avoid blowing your weekly budget on overly sugary, or bad tasting versions of the gluten-full counterparts that you once loved?

Read labels before you buy

Gluten-intolerance or not, it’s important to understand how to read the product labels and ingredient lists on the foods you buy. If you don’t see “gluten-free” clearly written on the item you’re looking to buy, either call the manufacturer’s customer service line to get clarification or avoid the item all together. Knowing how to read the list of ingredients is also very important when you have any type of intolerance. If there’s a specific type of ingredient you’re unsure of, do the research so you know if it’s something that could harm you or not.

Check your pantry

Gluten can hide in some of your favorite food-staples, which is why it’s important to do a sweep of all of the items in your fridge and pantry to make sure you eliminate those you can’t have. Be prepared to have to let go of soy sauce, malt, and anything containing maltodextrin, a food additive which often contains gluten.

Avoid processed foods

Unless otherwise labeled, most processed food products will contain additives with gluten. Processed foods can be harmful to your body given the unnatural ingredients they contain, so if you’re looking out for your health, aside from being gluten-free, eliminating processed foods from your diet can make a huge difference.

Search for gluten-free restaurants

Believe it or not, restaurants have transitioned over well to appease those with a gluten-intolerance, adding multiple menu options as simple as gluten free pasta to as complicated as adding an entire menu section specifically for those eating gluten-free. Surprisingly, there are several mainstream chain restaurants, such as PF Chang’s and Outback Steakhouse that now offer gluten free menu items to help accommodate patrons with food allergies. You can check out our list of gluten-free chains here.

Order online

If your local grocery store doesn’t have the gluten-free items you’re looking for or need, don’t sweat it. Many stores actually stock their online based stores with anything from gluten-free sauces, pasta, cookies, pizzas and snacks to provide those with a gluten-intolerance an easy shopping experience. Another option we love is Vitacost. We buy organic, gluten-free and minimally processed foods here, and with free shipping over $49 it’s a great away to stock up on the essentials. Plus they offer $10 off an order over $30 if you use the link here.

Watch your calories

A big misconception a lot of people have with a gluten-free lifestyle is that it helps you lose weight because there are fewer calories in gluten-free foods. in fact, many of these gluten-free options are higher in sugar and calories, so be careful to read the nutrition labels before you load up on crackers, cookies and other processed gltuen-free foods. Having options are great, but just keep in mind that other than omitting gluten, these guys are still packed with calories, sugar and fat like their gluten-ful counterparts. To truly make this a healthy lifestyle, shun as many pf the processed foods as you can, and stick to a diet of more naturally occurring foods, like fresh fruits and veggies, meats, fish, nuts and seeds.

If you simply can’t do without your favorite products and want to know what foods to eat, check out our product reviews here.

I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. Sometimes I think it’s a fascinating tool that’s made keeping in touch with friends and family members much easier than ever, allowing us to customize the level of contact we have and probably keeping some relationships which would either fade away, or erupt in an explosive fight, alive.  Simply because we can see each others feeds.

Other times I feel like it’s a voyeur’s dream scenario and it bothers me in a Big Brother sort of way.

Today I love it because I caught a post on a ‘friends’ page about the Dr Oz segment on the true signs of a Gluten Sensitivity.

He and Dr. Amy Meyers (also from Austin) debunk many common myths about symptoms of a gluten-sensitivity and help explain why so many of us suffering from signs like fatigue, weight gain, migraine, brain fog and joint pain may just be dealing with inflammation caused by gluten.

Click here to continue reading the post.

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Most of the time being gluten-free is relatively easy for me. I’ve been GF for almost 5 years now, and cut out my gluten cross-reactive foods more than 4 years ago, so I’d say I’m pretty good at navigating a safe gluten-free course every day. But since I’m a girl who likes to eat out, and am raising a gluten-free son who enjoys all the amazing foods Austin has to offer, I find myself eating out quite a bit.

One day while at dinner I was a little taken aback by what the waiter said when I asked about safe gluten-free  options, so I started keeping a mental checklist of the really interesting comments I’ve heard. Since it’s a mental checklist these are a bit paraphrased, but you’ll get the idea. And for the record, I am super grateful for all the options we have when eating out and am not making fun of the effort anyone puts forth in providing us options (just trying to make light of a massive lifestyle change). So there, my disclaimer is out of the way, and on to my fave comments.

Top interesting comments I’ve heard about being gluten-free: 

1. Aren’t you worried that you’re missing out on all the nutrients that pasta and bread give you?

2. Aren’t you tired all the time from not eating carbs?

3. What do you EAT??

4. You know that it’s not normal for your body to be allergic to food right? I mean, it’s nourishment.

5. Yes, we have a gluten-freeish menu, but we’re not a gluten-free kitchen so if you’re going to die from a little crumbs I wouldn’t eat here.

6. No, we can’t help you. We offer nothing gluten-free. This place is packed with gluten.

7. Glutard.


Yep, life is much more interesting when living it gluten-free.

What are some of your favorite stories about being gluten-free?


A big thanks to the team at Healthline for sharing this article with our readers! They share our belief in the dangers of food allergies, and are urging readers to take food allergies and sensitivities seriously. We couldn’t agree more, and appreciate their taking the time to help spread the word so we can live healthier lives with a greater awareness and more tolerance thanks to the benefit of food allergy awareness.

What are Food Allergies?

A reaction in the immune system that occurs after eating a certain food is defined as a food allergy. Ignoring food allergies is not going to make them go away and could be endangering your life. Even a small amount of the food that triggers the allergy can cause symptoms and signs to occur such as:

  • Swollen airways
  • Hives
  • Digestive issues
  • Anaphylaxis    kidswithfoodallergies

Dangers of Food Allergies

As many as eight percent of children below the age of five and up to four percent of adults are thought to be affected by allergies to food; there is no cure but some children outgrow such allergies. It is easy to confuse an allergy to a food with intolerance to a food. Intolerance is not as severe and does not include the immune system.

The most common symptoms of having a food allergy are:

  • Eczema, itching or hives
  • Itching or tingling in the mouth
  • Swelling of body parts including tongue, face, lips and throat
  • Fainting, feeling lightheaded or dizzy
  • Pain in the abdomen, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea
  • Trouble breathing, wheezing or congestion

Food Allergies Have Deadly Potential

There are those that have more severe and life threatening reactions to allergies from food. This reaction is known as anaphylaxis and could be deadly which makes it important that food allergies are not ignored. Symptoms of this life threatening reaction include:

  • Increase in pulse rate
  • Feeling lightheaded, dizzy or losing consciousness
  • Severe drop in blood pressure that accompanies shock
  • Difficulty breathing because of a lump sensation or swelling in the throat
  • Airways tighten or constrict

Coma or even death can result when emergency treatment is not received for anaphylaxis.

Exercise and Food Allergies

There are those who can have a food allergy that exercise triggers. There are certain foods that will cause you to have a reaction shortly after you begin exercising. The reactions can vary:

  • Itching
  • Lightheadedness
  • Hives
  • Anaphylaxis

Pollen-food Allergy Syndrome

An allergic reaction resulting itching or tingling in the mouth can result from some nuts, vegetables and fresh fruits in those that have hay fever. Throat swelling or anaphylaxis can result from the oral allergy syndrome. The protein in the pollens that cause the allergy is similar to the fruit protein, which causes the reaction.

Symptoms that appear shortly after you have eaten means that you should go see an allergist or a doctor. It will be easier to get a diagnosis if you can make the visit during the reaction.

Emergency treatment is necessary if you have any of the symptoms associated with anaphylaxis.

Allergic Reaction Causes:

  • Food or substance mistakenly identified as harmful by the immune system
  • Immunoglobulin E antibodies are released to fight the allergen
  • Histamine and chemicals are released when the food is eaten again

The chemicals will result in the symptoms of the allergy and cause allergic responses. The responses include dry throat, hives, rashes, diarrhea, labored breathing, dripping nose or anaphylactic shock.

This means that it is critical that you do not continue eating foods that result in food allergies. It could save your life if you treat them instead of ignoring them.


About our author: Tammy Mahan has 20 years of experience in the healthcare field. She is also a freelance writer and often shares her knowledge on .





If you’ve been following the news over the last year about the success of crowd funding sites, you know how life changing they have been for so many people. From the school bus monitor (bullied by some obnoxious middle schoolers), who was shocked when the country pitched in to raise more than $750,000 for her to go on vacation, to web developers, coffee shops, filmmakers and more, crowd funding has taken the small business and consumer grant-a-wish world by storm.

So while it might seem like a piece of cake to launch a crowd funding program, I spent a lot of time researching what makes a program successful. Why would someone want to support my cause? Would my message be clear, concise and compelling? Would you even care? Maybe you wouldn’t love it as much as we do?

Insert a bit of anxiety.

But then I realized that was all silly crap I was creating in my mind, and I decided to just go for it. So we set up a Gofundme acct to help grow our little company, Happybelly Box! Our goal is to grow the business so customers all across the country can have access to yummy, allergy-friendly foods. No more food deserts or areas without access to safe allergy-free foods if we can grow this thing.

Here’s where we need your help. We need to cover the cost of packaging design, buying the inventory, paying dedicated staffers to help ship the goods and to spread the word.

You can visit our funding page here and if you’re inclined to help, I’ll love ya forever 🙂

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As someone who is often a victim of gluten cross contamination, or having gluten sneak into something I was told was gluten-free, I can vouch for how miserable that can make the next few days of your life. So read on to learn more about how you can better prepare yourself so that restaurant outings are fun and delicious, rather than leaving you hanging out in the bathroom.

One of the more potentially dangerous places to find gluten lurking is in a restaurant kitchen, which is true primarily for 2 reasons. First, there is a level of ignorance around which products are safe for gluten-sensitive folks, and second, because great care with food handling has to occur to reduce the risk of cross contamination in any kitchen.

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When we first learned that I have a gluten sensitivity and would have to eliminate gluten from my diet, we didn’t quite realize the full impact this would have on our lives. Truthfully, your first thought is that it’s just a few dietary changes. But once you start thinking about the obvious gluten containing foods to cut out, you realize that your life will change dramatically just based on those foods. Then you learn that gluten is also hidden in sauces, condiments, hair and skin products, makeup and more, and reality slowly sinks in that truly being gluten-free means much more than just eliminating pasta, bread and all the other more obvious gluten sources.

By the time we learned our son has inherited the gluten sensitive genes and was also showing signs of a gluten intolerance, we were well on our way to realizing the changes we would have to make to keep our home safe.

From separate utensils to skillets, so long as my husband was still eating gluten-ful items in the kitchen, we needed to keep the items he used to make those foods separate to make sure our son and I weren’t at risk of cross contamination.

Cross contamination is the reason many gluten-sensitive folks also avoid fried foods that are made in a fryer that is also used to fry foods with batter. The batter comes off in the oil, leaving traces of breading in the fryer, which can then attach to your seemingly safe french fries.

Here are some of the precautions we take at restaurants to stay safe:

1. Avoid anything fried in a fryer that also houses breaded (or other gluten-ful items)
2. Ask for a clean prep area so you can avoid cross contamination from breadcrumbs on a cutting board, counter or with utensils used to prep gluten-ful ingredients.
3. Skip the sauces and marinades if the kitchen is unsure about the ingredients
4. As for the grill to be wiped down if possible to avoid cross contamination from gluten remains that are also prepped on the same grill
5. When in doubt, opt for a salad with grilled fish or meat and oil & vinegar (salad dressings often have soy sauce or if it’s a pre mixed marinade it contain wheat or gluten as well)

And some good ideas to keep in mind to stay safe at home are to buy two versions of foods that tend to be used to spread on breads or crackers. This way you can keep one version that only knives used for gluten-free breads and crackers is dipped into. Trust me, as much as you’d like to think you’ll avoid the double dip spread technique, you’re going to double dip the knife every time. So stay safe and get two jars of jelly, peanut butter and anything else that you tend to dip and spread.

For those of you who are living in a mixed household, follow these tips from the Gluten Intolerance Group for living GF in a non-gluten-free (NGF) household.

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Cutting boards (plastic or wood).
Due to cuts and grooves that can develop in these items, it’s best to get new ones to designate for GF use only.

Baking sheets and pans.
Baking sheets and pans often develop cuts and grooves. For baking sheets,
one option is to use parchment paper with existing pans when baking GF cookies. To simplify matters and to ensure safety, consider having separate GF designated baking sheets and pans for all GF baking.

Non-stick pots and pans
If there are any cuts or scratches in the surface of an item, it needs replacing.

Stay clean.
Start by giving the kitchen a thorough cleaning. Pull everything out of the fridge, cupboards, cabinets, and drawers and wash things down with warm soapy water.

In a NGF household, you’ll have to do this regularly.

Organize and Segregate.
Create designated shelves, drawers, and cupboards specifically for GF foods and for NGF foods. If they’re sharing pantry space, place GF foods inside sealable containers and put them above the gluten-containing items.

Dedicate kitchen hardware.
Get duplicates of all kitchen tools that could harbor gluten. Mark all GF items in red.


If you’ve ever toasted gluten-containing products in it, get yourself a new one and mark it clearly. (For toaster ovens, see if you can purchase another rack for it.)

Colanders, strainers, and flour sifters.
Since pastas and gluten often get stuck in the small holes and slits, cleaning them fully is problematic if not impossible. Have separate items for GF foods. Wooden utensils, boards, rolling pins – porous items can harbor gluten.

Here are some resources we like to help keep items clearly labeled:

Gluten-free stickers (you can check out these from for some oven and dishwasher safe tags as well as handy little stickers to use on foods such as peanut butter jars, jellies, etc so you know which ones won’t have a gluten-ful knife dipped in it.

How do you keep your kitchen (and life) gluten-free and safe? I’d love to hear some of your tips in the comments below!

Today I ran across an article on a retailer roundtable site that I follow so I can keep up with the trends on gluten0free labels, products, what consumers are interested in,  etc so that we can be on the lookout for products to stock in our online shop. And while I don’t always agree with what’s trending, this particular article resonated with me. It was called Retailer Roundtable: What standards do you look for in gluten-free products? gluten free logo

Now this definitely piques my interest; I’ve written many times about the dangers of relying on gluten-free labels, and I’m a big advocate for making sure you all know to read every label, regardless of whether it says it’s gluten free. Even to the point of being weary of those stating they are Certified Gluten-free due to the risk of cross contamination if the equipment used is also used for gluten-containing products. Imagine your certified gluten-free crackers running across a conveyor belt that was just processing a stack of Cheezits for example. It’s safe to imagine that some of those buttery, cheesy crackers have flaked off leaving an ever so slight trail of gluten in it’s path. And then your gluten0free crackers come along, making their way down that same belt headed for their own packaging, potentially taking some of those gluten flakes with them.

Get the idea?

I’ve been avoiding products that state they were made on equipment which also processes gluten-ful foods, just in case. The big question will be whether gluten still shows up in my blood work since avoiding cross contamination foods. I’ve been gluten-free for 5 years now, and so diligent about my food choices, yet gluten is still showing up in my lab work which made me wonder about the risk of cords contamination, so I decided to be one of those folks who goes the extra mile to make sure I’m safe.

So I was definitely excited when I saw these comments on a site I follow and realized that there is a growing trend of awareness to the importance of being super diligent about label reading to make sure those of us with a gluten sensitivity or Celiac disease are safe.  It’s quite simple really; we eat gluten, we get sick, we feel like crap for days, hovering near the bathroom, head pounding, foggy brain, missed days of work, school, etc. Or worse, you end up in the hospital. Quite simply, it’s worth making sure you’re safe.

Here are just a few of the quotes from the article I’ve mentioned, and you can read the full post here.

A gluten-free certification is the first thing we look for, but even that isn’t a 100 percent guarantee that a product is gluten free. Now where we’re getting sucker punched are products that have the GF seal but the fine print says ‘made on equipment that processes wheat.’ We encourage our customers with hypersensitivities to be vigilant about reading labels.

-Clint Pederson, co-owner of Jake’s Gluten Free Market in Boise, Idaho

I think too many people are on gluten-free diets because they think they are eating very healthfully, although that isn’t always the case. The term gluten free is stamped on so many products today, and it simply helps brands market products. I stock what my customers ask for, but if I have the choice, I look for natural, raw and low-sugar gluten-free foods.

-Karri Short, owner and manager of Natural Planet in Kingman, Ariz.

We couldn’t agree more with Karri. In fact, if you’re looking for raw, vegan, gluten free, paleo and healthy food options you can head over to our online shop to browse our favorites!



This is a guest post from our Organic Food Insider, Leslie. Here she shares a very touching, real story of what it’s like to have Celiac disease, how she discovered it, and what her journey entails. 


I feel like I tell my story all of the time. I had stomach aches. I couldn’t figure them out. Doctor’s told me I had IBS. I read about gluten in a magazine. I cut it out. My life changed forever. Is it really this simple? No. But this is how simple my story has become when I share it with the masses. I’ve never gotten more personal than I will right now, but let’s begin.

I played soccer growing up. It was my passion, my addiction and all I ever wanted to do was play pro and be Mia Hamm. Yet, my long days of playing were always interrupted by stomach aches. I once ran 2 miles off the soccer field, during a game, just to use the restroom at my own house. I couldn’t breathe, my stomach was so wrecked. This is one of the first instances I remember of my life being interrupted by stomach problems.

Most of my memories are shameful bathroom excursions into the back of my grandmother’s house. We’d eat pasta dinners every Sunday and I’d always feel horrible afterwards. I’d sneak to the far bathroom and rock back in forth, in tears, as I silently tried to use the restroom. 30 minutes later I’d walk out, hoping no one noticed my long absence from the family gatherings. These were so frequent that they became normal. At least three times a week, I had bouts of stomach aches like that one.

The most embarrassing times were in high school, when my first boyfriend didn’t understand why I always spent hours in the bathroom. We’d eat donuts in the morning on the way to school and I’d spend first period crying my eyes out in one of the stalls, unable to function until I emerged. The memories of sitting in the journalism classroom, immediately feeling uncomfortable and having to rush out, are still so vivid. There’s something so alienating about having to quietly leave the room and go to the bathroom. It’s as though your life is being put on hold – you’re disappearing from reality.

The alienation became worse when I entered college. I met some new friends… who happened to be stupid friends… and we’d drink constantly on the weekends. Beer wouldn’t immediately get my stomach in a knot, it was only the aftermath which left me helpless. The morning after a party I’d be unable to move out of my bed. I’d make it to the bathroom only in helpless instances. I was told that it must be a bad case of  a “hang-over”, even going so far as to think I had a bout of alcohol poisoning. Yet, it was worth it at that time to be able to drink and be accepted rather than stop and spend my nights at home in my dorm. After a bad experience one night out with friends, I finally woke up and realized that this wasn’t who I was…. but by this time my stomach issues had gone way beyond the gut.

There are many studies that have come out which point to women with undiagnosed Celiac Disease experiencing bouts of depression and anxiety. After reading these studies, I have no doubt that the constant depression I experienced in my life was a direct result of the high consumption of gluten throughout my entire life. The gut is so permeable that everything we put into it directly affects the rest of our bodies. There were days where I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed just because I didn’t feel life was worth anything. There were also days when I was so overcome by anxiety that I’d just eat anything in sight until I couldn’t fit anything else into my stomach. This continued into my Sophomore year, even after I’d cut back on drinking and junk food. I thought cutting out crap was enough – but it wasn’t! I traveled to Belgium in the summer of 2009 hoping the alone time and European tour would bring me enlightenment. Of course, the Belgian diet of cheese, bread and beer did nothing to help my cause. My anxiety worsened and I remember days where I ate at least 5,000 calories and still didn’t feel satisfied.

When I returned to the US, I transferred schools and immediately sought help. The first doctor I saw put me on a high dose of anti-depressants, which killed my appetite. The combination of every food hurting my stomach and my own anxiety issues made every aspect of my day revolve around food. I was obsessive and succumbed to the eating disorders that so many 20-year-old women can’t escape. This complicated many issues, as the nutritionist I saw who “just wanted me to eat a snickers bar” tried to tell me that eating chips and cookies wasn’t a bad thing, it was me that had the issues all in my head. I told her that everything I ate caused me stomach pain and that there were weeks at a time when I’d become so dehydrated and sick that I couldn’t eat anything at all. I’d vomit at least three times a day during those weeks, which many doctors labeled “Gastroenteritis.”

I finally began to read about the connection between food and the body. I was convinced that my mental issues weren’t caused by some chemical imbalance and that what was going on was not just a correlation between neurotransmitters and the brain. I remember picking up a magazine of my sister’s and reading a 30 word segment in the middle of the page – it described something called gluten-intolerance and how it’s a rare issue that is never diagnosed. That day I cut out gluten. Two weeks later I tried to tell my nutritionist that I hadn’t had a stomach ache all week! She told me that it was just me believing that the gluten had helped and it wasn’t truly an issue, but still wrote down some gluten-free options for me. (As I look back now, this woman was a damn idiot with her suggestions of potato bread and potato chips as options for a gluten-free diet. How the hell does she even have her degree!?!)

A few weeks later, I went and saw a GI doctor. They ran tests and gave me heartburn medication because I’d been off gluten for two weeks and didn’t show positive blood work for Celiac. I let them do an invasive procedure, and it showed what I’d read to be true – my Celiac was so severe and had gone undiagnosed for so long that my stomach lining was in horrible shape.

From that point on, my life didn’t get any easier. I was still struggling with anxiety and depression and had no guidance on how to go about eating gluten-free on a college campus. I didn’t know that gluten hides in certain sauces and foods. It’s in gum! It’s in salad dressings! It’s EVERYWHERE! I went stomach pain-free most of the time, but every so often I’d have an issue where I’d feel horrible. I’d back track to where I had eaten and I’d realized that I could have had cross-contamination or I’d actually eaten gluten without knowing.

Eating gluten-free on a college campus was the worst. I’d pack my lunch as much as possible, but many days I’d go for so long and only have an apple or some hummus or a LaraBar. Those were my staples. Over time, I was able to find other options – like when I walked into my gym one day and there were these really colorful bars sitting at the cafe. I had seen them being promoted around town and so I tried one. It was amazing and I would carry them with me on campus all of the time – eating at least 2 a day. I continued to try other energy bars, but these were the only ones that didn’t leave me with a headache or a stomach ache.

I appreciated the ingredient label and began to look more into all of the claims on the packaging. I didn’t know that soy-free was a good thing and I didn’t even know what agave syrup was! So I began to educate myself.

I discovered that more foods than gluten affected my body. I cut out soy and all dairy and any stomach cramps or slight issues that remained began to cease!! Who knew that you could have so many adverse reactions to foods? The more I read, the more I realized that eating REAL food, that isn’t processed, was the number one choice for me.

I began to cook all of my own meals, using raw food cookbooks for innovative ideas! As I became more of a real foodist, I regretted the times where I’d slip. As the gluten-free movement came under way, more options became available to me and it became easier to slip into a processed-yet-gluten-free-frenzy!

Eventually, I found my into working for a company that stands for everything that I believe in. While there can be a lot of drama over the true meaning of “natural” in the natural foods industry, it is a comforting place to work. Last week, I attended a Natural Products Expo, where companies were overjoyed to tout their labels of “gluten-free” and “dairy-free” and “nothing added.” No one asked me why I needed my food to be that way and every person was more than accommodating. Furthermore, it is blissful to be able to sit around a dinner table in the comfort of your bosses and co-workers and friends and enjoy a gluten-free meal of sweet potatoes and humanely-raised animals and deliciously-cooked veggies. There isn’t a moment in the past two-weeks where I’ve had to ask if any meal prepared for me was going to make me sick, and that’s a comfort that I’ve longed for since my diagnosis almost three years ago. For anyone who is currently struggling with the beginning stages of stomach issues or is in the middle and feels alienated by their choices, please reach out to someone whose been there. It’s not worth going in alone. I myself enjoy the comfort of the natural foods industry, but I believe that you can find understanding people everywhere.


We’re grateful to Leslie for sharing her story, so please share your comments below and let us know of your own journey.  And remember: be cautious, and be your own health advocate. Only you know your body, and what you’re feeling, and it’s truly up to you to help discover the root of poor health. 


Photo: John P. Filo/CBS ©2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc.

This is the headline I read yesterday on Twitter:  Lawyers for Jennifer Esposito are trying to negotiate a deal with CBS to get her back on “Blue Bloods.” She was written off the show after recently collapsing on the set due to celiac disease, an auto-immune disorder caused by a reaction to gluten. The axing prompted her to criticize the network’s “shameful behavior” and accuse the higher ups of “implying I was not truly ill” on Twitter.

On Saturday, CBS released a statement saying the actress, who plays Det. Jackie Curatola on the Friday night Blue Bloods, “informed us that she is only available to work on a very limited part-time schedule. As a result, she’s unable to perform the demands of her role and we regretfully had to put her character on a leave of absence.”

Esposito, who has been very public about her battle with Celiac Disease, quickly shot back on Twitter that “CBS put me on unpaid leave and has blocked me from working anywhere else after my doctor said you needed a reduced schedule due to Celiac. CBS didn’t listen to my doc and I collapsed on set. Which everyone saw! After a week off my doc said I could return to work but CBS implied that I was not truly ill and this was a scheme to get a raise! It’s been almost two months without bringing me back to work + keeping Me from working anywhere else!… Absolutely shameful behavior.”

Why this is personal for me…

When I was in the throes of poor health issues and working with every doctor I could find to try to understand what was wrong, and being tested for everything from Lupus to Cancer, I was thrilled to learn of the diagnosis. I assumed that I could simply cut out the allergic foods, take some thyroid medicine, add in some supplements to address some dangerously low vitamin and hormone levels, and I would be fine. Little did I realize what the true implications of an auto-immune condition would be, nor did I realize that I might not get the support and encouragement from friends that I had expected.

To be honest, I’m still working through what it means to have an auto-immune condition, and how to make sure I make smart health choices to protect myself. And while there’s a lot more to come on this subject, today I raise the issue to plant a seed of thought.

If you’re not familiar with what an auto-immune condition is, or what it means to deal with one, here’s a basic definition pulled from pubmed:

Autoimmune disease: An illness that occurs when the body tissues are attacked by its own immune system. The immune system is a complex organization within the body that is designed normally to “seek and destroy” invaders of the body, including infectious agents. Patients with autoimmune diseases frequently have unusual antibodies circulating in their blood that target their own body tissues. Examples of autoimmune diseases include systemic lupus erythematosus, Sjogren syndrome, Hashimoto thyroiditisrheumatoid arthritis, juvenile (type 1) diabetespolymyositisscleroderma, Addison disease, vitiligopernicious anemia, glomerulonephritis, and pulmonary fibrosis.

I’ve written quote a bit about Celiac disease and my own auto-immune condition (Hashimoto thyroiditis) and what it means to my personal health journey, but one thing I rarely bring up here is what it means in regards to the support of friends and family members. One of the biggest challenges we face is that Auto-immune patients often appear healthy on the outside. Perhaps they are under or overweight slightly, suffer from irritability and/or fatigue, but so do many Americans (more on our typical American grain and dairy-ful diets and how they contribute to poor health to come in later posts). So because we don’t appear to be outwardly ill, it’s common to be met with judgments and criticisms about how our mental state may have more to do with it than an actual physical condition. In other words, I was told I was burnt out, depressed, suffering from PTSD, anxiety, etc. Very few people wanted to get to the root of what was truly wrong with me; including my Docotor who literally threw her hands up in the air after exhausting every test she could think of, telling me “there’s just nothing else I know of to do for you.”

Some of you might know exactly how I felt at that moment; alone, scared, confused and totally unsure of what I was supposed to do next. I mean, if a Doctor couldn’t help me, after a year and a half of running tests, then who could? In fact, the Doctors visits had actually been going on since I was 10, and had progressively grown more frequent with age. And when I could no longer perform my high stress, Executive level job anymore, I was offered a resignation package. That was 2 years ago, and while I wouldn’t trade any of the knowledge, clarity, healing or personal health journey aspects of my life today, it’s still sometimes hurts to know there are some who still think it’s as simple as changing my diet.

In fact, it wasn’t long ago that I was told that a family member still thinks that it’s just as simple as cutting out a certain food, stating that they know plenty of people who are gluten-free and do just fine. That might be true, but it brings up the very reason I’m writing this today, after seeing the Twitter comment about Jennifer Esposito. No matter how healthy we appear on the outside, those of us with an auto-immune condition dance a very fine line between health and sickness. Our fragile immune systems are in a constant state of teetering on an immune attack, and it’s decisions like reducing stress, changing our diet and taking an abundance of natural supplements that help us stay healthy and safe. Yes, I say ‘safe’ because ultimately if you continue living in a state of immune attacks, your body will eventually have destoyed its organs, and you will be weakened to the point of a degenerative disease.

As I often state, I’m not a Doctor. Hell, I’m not a nutritional expert at all. I’m just a girl who got really sick, and healed herself with dietary and lifestyle changes. I created Inspired Eats to help those of you like me out there who can’t get access to the medical help you need to heal. For the millions who suffer from a food allergy, sensitivity and/or auto-immune condition and have more questions than answers. The reality is, this is a project of love because it certainly doesn’t provide an income for us that would even cover one night out to eat. But what it does give is an outlet for me to share my journey in the hopes that it will help you along yours too.

I have a vision for the site that will allow me to connect you with healing providers to help answer your questions, and who can guide you to the right resources to help you start your healing path. To offer help in going gluten-free, grain free, dairy free, etc thanks to an abundance of recipes and meal plans. To offer you product samples to try before you buy them, so you can be sure to know you love them before investing in them. And most importantly, I have a vision that this will become a community where you can all share your thoughts, struggles, successes, recipes, and detail your allergy-free journeys with each other.

So for those of you suffering along your poor health path; feeling like crap and unsure of what to do, I hope it helps to know that I’m here. And I’ve met some pretty amazing people along the way that want to help you too. And for those of you who know someone suffering, please try to love without judgement, and help them to heal by guiding them to the answers they seek. Help them find resources to help with the hundreds of questions they have, and  work through the very real fears they have that they will never feel better. It took my 5 year old son standing  by my bedside, tears in his eyes, asking me when I was going to stop feeling sick for me to drag my sick, exhausted butt out of bed, call a nutritionist and start my healing journey.

I would love to hear from you in the comments section below – it’s the best we’ve got for now as far as a community, so start connecting by sharing your journey with us. I hope you have your moment now and hope I have been of help!

Live inspired, 



Last week I read an article on USA Today that Domino’s has announced they are offering Gluten free pizza in some locations, and I thought that was a pretty big deal. Definitely a step in the right direction for those of us who miss our pizza, right? Perhaps….

The company’s new gluten-free crust is made from rice flour, potato starch, rice starch and olive oil.  Domino’s worked with the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness to bring their standards to the company’s employees and kitchens.

“Offering Domino’s Gluten Free Crust is a big step for us, and we wanted to make sure we were doing it right,” Domino’s CEO J. Patrick Doyle said in a statement.“The prevalence of gluten sensitivity has become a real issue with significant impact on consumer choice, and we want to be a part of the solution,” he said.

Although the crust is gluten-free, the company only recommends that those with a mild gluten allergy enjoy the pizza.  It doesn’t recommend the crust for those with Celiac disease because it can’t fully guarantee the product hasn’t come in contact with gluten. This is an important point that made me take notice as most people I know aren’t just a little sensitive to gluten.  In fact, there is little known as to whether someone with Non Celiac Gluten Sensitivity can tolerate small amounts of gluten. I’ve heard some people claim to be able to, however, I know personally I can’t handle any cross contamination, though I lived a lifetime of the damaging effects (wasn’t diagnosed until I was in my mid 30’s) so perhaps my son (who hasn’t eaten gluten since he was 4) would be ok with a little cross contamination here and there. Or perhaps not. I don’t really know. But it’s certainly something I was surprised to see the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness endorse.  Anyway, just beware that you may not fare so well due to cross contamination issues and be careful before you over indulge. 

The pizza costs $12, about $3 more than a regular pie.  One slice of a 10-inch pepperoni pie has 170 calories, 3.5 grams of saturated fat and 410 milligrams of sodium.


National Gluten-free options:

According to USA Today, there are several other national chains now offering gluten-free options (to be honest, there are many  more, which we will start showcasing soon), but these are the ones which they pointed out: 

•Casual dining. P.F. Chang’s, an industry standout with 25 gluten-free dishes, just added seven more to its menu, including Gluten-Free Caramel Mango Chicken and Gluten-Free Asian Tomato Cucumber Salad. It also uses gluten-free soy sauce , which is the key to making these dishes taste as good as conventional dishes, says Dan Drummond, brand director.

•Chips. At Frito-Lay, the most common request on its consumer affairs line is for gluten-free offerings, spokeswoman Aurora Gonzalez says. Frito-Lay has recently begun labeling packaging on more than a dozen chips that are gluten-free with a special “GF” (gluten-free) icon or statement on the back of the bag.

•Subs. Subway has been testing gluten-free products, including bread and brownies, at some stores in four key markets since early 2011, says Tony Pace, chief marketing officer for the Subway brand. Those markets: Dallas/Fort Worth; Portland, Ore.; Tacoma, Wash.; and Duluth, Minn.

•Beer. Also Monday, Anheusher-Busch will roll out Michelob Ultra Light Cider, which is gluten-free. In 2006, it launched Redbridge, the first nationally available gluten-free beer.


So what does this mean?

Well, it’s a sign that things are moving in the right direction for us! We just need to be careful to note the reality of the impact gluten has on our compromised bodies, and how important it is to manage our health. I urge you not to get too excited about the abundance of gluten-free products available to us now; beware of how you’re feeling and take note if you have an adverse response. It took me a little while to realize that cross contamination is sometimes an issue for me; my symptoms are typically gas, bloating, fatigue and headaches. Other responses you may be having are related to cross- reactive issues which I’ve outlined a bit here. 

Because there isn’t a lot of research done on how gluten sensitivity and other food allergies and sensitivities affect us, we are often left to work through this on our own. So if you’re like me, you talk to anyone who is in a similar situation and see how it affects him or her. I hope one day to have a member base here where we can run polls and compile enough data to make a difference and help others like us. So for now, I post articles and my opinions, and I hope they help 🙂 

So please – share your thoughts, opinions, ideas, etc. too! The more we learn about how we each successfully manage our food allergies and sensitivities, the better lives we lead. 

In good health,