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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John Pinette is an actor and comedian who seems to be on an effort to clean up his diet, and was apparently diagnosed as wheat sensitive. He has some hilarious clips about his journey along this path, poking fun at vegans in a clip about buying 10 pound bags of almonds to make a vegan burger, but the one below cracks me up since I live this life every day.

John makes light of the fact that he was told by Doctors to avoid wheat and gluten, and when he checks out the list of what gluten is found in, he seems to think its nearly impossible to manage.

“Do you eat a lot of gluten? I don’t know what gluten is, but I would say Yes. I’m fairly certain I’m mostly gluten.” He continues on –  “Do you know what has gluten in it? Everything! Check again, maybe it’s just Cancer – how am I going to live?”

John Pinette: Still Hungry “Gluten” Clip

Yes John, it’s a challenging life to live, but thanks to so many amazing efforts by people to produce safe products, raise awareness and help us live safe lives, it’s absolutely manageable. Not only is it manageable, but it’s the only way I would choose to live! We’re happily gluten-free, and raising a healthy, active and loving gluten-free child.

Life is good, even when gluten-free. I might even say it’s good because we’re gluten-free 🙂

Guest writer, Elissa Garr, talks about getting back to basics and healing our society through conscious efforts related to food and lifestyle choices.

I have always considered myself educated.  I have been learning since I was a baby and have never stopped.  I am by trade a teacher and counselor.  I have always been extremely observant to the actions, words, and deeds of others and the motivations behind them.

Like many, I have started to notice a terrifying trend; the vast obesity of Americans.  Not just the obesity of adults but the obesity of children, the children I teach every day.

If you are a member of this blog, you are not a stranger to the dangers of wheat, sugars, processed and man-made foods.  My questions is……..


The information is out there, yet people blatantly ignore it.  I have searched for research that supports the healthy benefits of wheat, I can find very few and it is obvious that the risks out weigh the benefits.  Yet people still continue to gorge themselves with numerous servings of wheat daily. Our own government boasts at the benefits and daily recommendations of whole wheat and in the same breath conduct dangerous genetically modifying experiments and we the people are it’s test subjects. People see the negative effects of these ‘foods’ and yet fail to blame them or accept responsibly for their choices.









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. 


This time of year our fridge is packed with foods for Thanksgiving, and our counters tend to spill over with items we’ll need to have on hand on Thursday. While I prefer my counters to be clutter-free (my husband thinks I take the whole “neat freak” thing to a new level) I make an exception around the holidays to avoid us rummaging though the pantry like maniacs in search of items that always elude you just when you need them.

In fact, this is a picture I took today of our counter; you can see it’s covered with ingredients used for some of our favorite foods for Thanksgiving.

This year our menu will consist of turkey, gluten & dairy free cornbread dressing (aka stuffing), collard greens and a roasted butternut squash soup to start. I’ll be posting the recipes throughout the week, but I wanted to share a new favorite breakfast item: gluten, dairy & egg-free pumpkin pancakes. What a perfect way to start turkey day!

This recipe calls for a flax seed and water mixture in place of the eggs, however, like with most egg substitute recipes you can use chia seeds or any other preferred method.

My favorite pumpkin puree to use is from a company called Farmers Market. Their canned pumpkin comes in a BPA free can and is simply pureed pumpkin, so you can prep this tasty little recipe without worry of hidden ingredients that might taint your turkey day. As someone who has several food allergies to watch out for, and follows a grain, egg, dairy fee diet (naturally found myself Paleo when all the allergens were identified) I’m always reading labels to make sure there are no hidden ingredients that will set off either a food allergy or auto-immune response. Both suck and are not at all what you want to start your Thanksgiving day with!

So, here’s a fun, delish way to start your turkey day. Worry free foods that taste good, and keep my belly happy. A perfect combo!

Gluten, Dairy & Egg-free Pumpkin Pancakes

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

Yield: Makes about 8 small pancakes

Gluten, Dairy & Egg-free Pumpkin Pancakes


  • 2 Tsp Flax oil mixed with 6 Tsp water (or preferred Egg substitute) Or 2 eggs if not following an egg-free diet
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • ¼ Cup pumpkin puree
  • ⅛ Tsp cinnamon (more or less to taste)
  • Ghee, Raw honey or raw maple syrup as desired


  1. Warm a pan over medium high heat (cast iron is always preferred)
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flax seed and water and set aside for a couple minutes until it sets
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk pumpkin puree and cinnamon
  4. Add coconut oil to the hot pan
  5. Whisk egg replacement mixture in with pumpkin puree
  6. Measure approximately 2 Tbsp of batter for each pancake
  7. Cook until golden on the bottom and slightly opaque in the center and around the edges
  8. Flip, brown on the other side, and serve