Friday, April 29, 2016

Celiac Disease Awareness Month 2016

Celiac Disease and Food Allergy advocates-
Keeley McGuire, Kelly Kurzhal, ME, Cindy Gordon and Lauren Kossack
Those of us with Celiac Disease are part of a community, part of a family. When we share our burdens, our passions and our advocacy, we can accomplish so much more.

This is why the Celiac Disease community celebrates a campaign of awareness during the month of May, This is not just a United States thing. Celiac Disease Awareness is happening across the world too. It's no coincidence that May is also when the same month as  Digestive Diseases Awareness. Doctors across the world focus on advances in gastroenterology, including in Celiac Disease.

May also shares the spotlight with Food Allergy Awareness Week occurs, which is traditionally the second full week of May. While Celiac Disease is not an allergy, many also suffer from additional food allergies. This allows all of these awareness groups to be highlighting causes dear their hearts, and allow us to interact as a stronger community.

During Celiac Awareness Month, I'm trying some unique ways to share awareness.

* Test Yourself - I can't tell you the number of random quizzes there are on Facebook and Twitter. Instead of asking you questions to help you decide what state you should be from or which superhero you're most like, I'll let you share with the world how Celiac Aware you are! Share this quiz with your friends and family, and let them see if they're a "Celiac Superstar" or "Barley Boggled."

Gluten-free meals don't have to be hard. It's a the same as before, just with a few tweaks! 
* #CeliacIsNotASalad - Celiac Disease drastically affects how we eat. Way too often I get frustrated by dining choices and the phrase - "At least there's salad." And sometimes, salad really isn't a choice because they've put croutons on it, which cannot just be picked off.
As a support group chair, the question I get asked most is what to cook. When you're newly diagnosed, it can be overwhelming. So I'm asking you to take pictures of the awesome meals that you cook, tag it with the hashtag #CeliacIsNotASalad, and share it on Twitter & Instagram, or on my Facebook page. If sharing on Twitter or Instagram, make sure to tag it with @miglutenfreegal as well so I can share it! Also, if there's a favorite brand you used, feel free to tag them as well.
At the end of each week, and again at the end of the month, I'll compile collages so we can show the world just how delicious gluten-free food can be!

* Giveaways - Let's be honest, we all love free stuff. I'm collaborating with some great bloggers, writers and companies to share tips and tasty treats to make this Celiac Disease journey a little bit easier. Here's a sampling of just SOME of the prizes I'm giving away:

- Cookbooks from Cindy Gordon and Hope Comerford
- Books from Erica Dermer and Beth Hillson
- Subscription boxes from Send Me Gluten Free, Gr8 Box and Love With Food
- Goodies from The GF Bar, Canyon Bakehouse and Enjoy Life

Check my blog each day for the latest giveaway. Each giveaway will run for one week. All winners must live within the continental USA. Winners will be notified via email.

That's a lot of things to follow along with, huh? I've got an easy solution. Sign up for my newsletter, and I'll send an email out each Friday, recapping the week. I'll also attempt to list giveaways from other bloggers and Celiac Awareness campaigns that are going on in May. Plus, I'll be making a few upgrades to my website in May. Signing up for my newsletter will help you stay in the loop!

As always, thanks for reading and thank you for sharing what I do here. When we all work together, we can truly make things better for everyone! 

Friday, April 22, 2016

When Faith and Food Allergies Collide

When you have Celiac Disease or a food allergy, navigating life can be stressful. We're always second guessing, asking questions, and the day to day can feel like a burden. We are grateful when we find a place of refuge.


Sometimes though it is our literal, local sanctuary that feels nothing like a place of rest for those who are weary.  It has been said that food unites us, brings our communities together. But when you have a food allergy or intolerance, more often it makes you feel like an outsider.

Sometimes it makes me feel like an outsider. 

Deep down we know this isn't usually intentional When you don't live with food sensitivities, you don't see the way it can become a stumbling block to someone's faith walk. Below are four key areas that impact my worship and ministry with others. Maybe they impact you as well. Hopefully with a little conversation, we can open the eyes and ears of others and make it possible for all to come to the table.

To this day, I am still moved by a friend's story. She was newly diagnosed with Celiac Disease, learning how to navigate life. Upon going to church, she realized that her disease kept her from communion. She recounted how she sat in the pew and wept deeply. An illness, not of her own doing, kept her from participating with others with whom she identified. It makes me think of the lepers in the Old Testament, separated from their community, unable to worship God with others because of their disease. When communion is no longer available to me or those I care about because of food allergies, I want to stand and shout, "We are not lepers!" Please don't exclude us.

I'm very blessed that my church offers gluten-free and allergen-friendly communion for all believers. When we first started attending our church, I would bring my own cracker and partake it on my own. But I still felt like an outsider, as I wasn't really partaking with everyone else. Once I sat down with my pastor and explained all of my concerns, we were able to create a solution together. There are many ways churches can help others to worship safely through communion. Some may offer allergen-friendly communion stations. While the Catholic Church believe the host must contain wheat, they offer a  low-gluten host, made from pre-gelatinized wheat starch that tests below 20 ppm of gluten. No matter our denomination, we can arrange for food-allergy safe communion practices.

Children's Ministry
"Let the little children come unto me," Jesus says. It is so vital that churches offer a safe place for children with food allergies. If they don't, it harms not just the child, but the whole family.
My friend's son has Celiac Disease and is allergic to nuts. Her family had been active in their church for a long time. She took her child to Vacation Bible School, assured that they would be attentive of his food allergy needs. Imagine the mother's horrific shock to see snack time involved Honey Nut Cheerios, peanut butter M&M's and trail mix. The mother was so shaken, she and her children left the venue immediately. The church didn't handle the follow-up well, and the family didn't attend church for months. If this can happen to someone who has been attending a church for years, my concerns are raised for food-allergy families attending a place of worship for the first time.

FARE, the Food allergy and Research and Education network, states that 8% of children have a food allergy. That breaks down to 1 in 13 children. Peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish and fish are allergens that most commonly cause anaphylaxis, which can cause a person to stop breathing and lead to death. Because of this, it might be wise to simply not serve snacks that contain these allergens. Craft supplies must also be evaluated, especially as very young children tend to put things in their mouth. I've been told by church groups that they'll worry about food allergies when they finally have a food-allergic child come to their class. By then, it may be too late.

Community Outreach
I live in a poverty stricken community. Our congregation has seen this need and started to offer community meals through our after-school program called Intersection. It is such a joy to work with these kids, to feel their joy when an adult cares about them. By offering family meals, we're now connecting with their parents and building relationships.
But sometimes it's hard for me to do that. Most weeks the meal is not safe for someone with Celiac Disease to eat. I again feel like an outsider. Sometimes it's mentioned "At least there's salad." Once I had a community member try to joke with me, asking if the church food wasn't good enough for me, because I brought my own meal. It stung. I should have been able to shrug it off. I know he was only kidding. I'm an adult, but these issues are sometimes still hard to handle.

While it is impossible to anticipate every food allergy, steps can be taken to make things easier. The first is education. Learn about which food allergies are common and learn how to substitute ingredients. Having ingredient lists next to prepared foods alleviates the anxiety of asking someone how something was prepared. Making simple dishes with minimal ingredients may allow more to eat a dish. While simple chicken, potatoes and green beans may not be fancy, it will go a long way towards feeding those who are are hungry.

If you have a food-allergy, going to a potluck can be enough to induce a panic attack. Truth be told, most people I know with allergies avoid them all together. I will usually attend, but I will bring a main dish that I can eat and usually a side as well. We bring our own serving utensils and label our spoons and dishes gluten-free. (Move this spoon under fear of retribution!) My husband is usually great in insisting that I get towards the front of the line, not because I'm "special" but because there is less chance of crumb-dropping or spoon-swapping. I am also blessed with a friend and fellow worshiper who takes my Celiac Disease to heart and makes gluten-free dishes that I can eat. To me, that is the greatest example of what being Christ-like is all about.

Inevitably, there's always a dish that "looks safe" to me, but without knowing for sure I will pass.  A simple solution for this would be to ask all people to bring a copy of their recipe and lay it next to their dish. This allows those with allergies to verify a dish is free of allergens. It can also help to build relationship, as people ask for copies of recipes and cooking practices.

Life is more than food and drink, and there are times when we train ourselves to enjoy those who are present instead of focusing on the food in front of us. For me personally, it can feel like I'm being a bit of a nag if I bring up my food allergies. After all, I'm only one person, and why should others go to the trouble to meet my needs? My anxieties of how others will react also play a role. Maybe they think I'm being to picky or asking to much.

Then my heart breaks to think that other food allergy families feel the same anxiety. I've come to realize that by voicing my concerns, I may be straightening the path for those who are to come. Maybe through bringing about awareness, I'll be safeguarding a child from anaphylaxis or a visitor from feeling alienated. After all, aren't we to be like our Heavenly Father, who defends those without representation, loves the foreigner, and supplies for their needs? With a little intentional planning, we can make our communal table welcoming and open to all with food allergies and intolerances.

**Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disease, and not an allergy, but the food safety practices are the same for those food allergies. To show the universal issues involving us, the word food allergy throughout this article. **

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

This Week in Celiac Disease - April 20, 2016

Top 5 Celiac Disease Stories You May Have Missed This Week

1) Gluten Free Barley? -
Scientists in Australia have used "conventional plant breeding techniques" to produce an "ultra low-gluten" barley. Creators are saying that this new grain contains less than 5 ppm of gluten. Because of labeling standards in Australia, it can not be called "gluten-free" because it does contain gluten. Beer makers in Germany have already made a gluten-free beer with this grain. Kebari is planning to find other uses for this grain. At this time, the United States does not allow products containing any form of barley to be labeled gluten-free.

2) Barley Malt found in Sam Mills/ Emco Granolas and in Melaleuca shakes
Tricia Thompson, founder of Gluten Free Watchdog, has announced products on the market labeled as gluten-free while containing gluten-containing grains. The barley malt in the Sam Mills/ Emco granola is labeled as "gluten-free barley malt."  The Melaleuca Attain Chocolate shake does not claim that the barley within is gluten-free.
Tricia explains on her blog in depth her growing concern about these issues, as more and more products are showing up on the market that are unsafe for consumers with Celiac Disease. We as consumers and advocates need to stand together and demand better. 

3) Auburn Univerity Opens Dedicated Gluten-Free Eatery
Auburn University in Alabama is making headlines by offering a dedicated gluten-free diner on campus. This eatery is certified by GFCO and has taken great lengths to make sure the diner is safe. Auburn University made this move after multiple requests by students. Beyond Celiac is looking for input from college students about their dining experiences while on campus, and are asking them to take this survey.

4) Are airports doing enough to for those with food allergies?
Becca Alkema recently shared on the website "Runway Girl Network" the struggles of flying for those with Celiac Disease and food allergies. She highlighted the lack of safe gluten-free dining options in terminal restaurants, even mentioning that one restaurant turned her away. Alkema also highlighted the highly sensitive issue of peanut allergies and steps that flyers can take to protect themselves.

5) Nanoparticle treatment could help to "turn off" food allergies -
Researchers at Northwestern are working with a nanoparticle that may lead the way in treating food allergies. This biodegradable nanoparticle allows an allergen to be safely buffered from triggering an immune response. It hides the allergen in a "shell" and "consumed by a macrophage" cell. This somehow allows the immune system to no longer see it as threat. Researchers are testing this therapy for autoimmune disease such as Celiac Disease as well as for food allergies.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

This Week in Celiac Disease - April 13, 2016

Top 5 Celiac Disease Stories You May Have Missed This Week

1) Link Between Celiac Disease and Non-Coding RNA
Up until now most genetic research on Celiac Disease has been focused on DNA. Doctors in Spain have made new discoveries when studying RNA, A section of RNA, 1nc13, appears to play a role in the inflammatory response to gluten in those who carry HLA- DQ-2 or 8 genes. Doctors are looking further to see if low levels of this RNA can play a role in earlier diagnosis.

2) The Challenge of Accommodating Celiac Disease in Nursing Homes
Curtiss Ann Matlock shares the difficult process in finding a nursing home to accommodate her mother's Celiac Disease needs. This is a topic that has not received much attention until now, and is thought provoking as older patients start looking for long term care. Tricia Thompson covers your rights and questions to ask staff on her Gluten Free Dietitian website as well.

3) Univ. of Chicago Claims Blood Test & Biopsy Still Best To Diagnose Celiac Disease
The University of Chicago's Celiac Disease Center explained in their latest newsletter the importance of BOTH blood antibody testing and small bowel biopsy int he diagnosis of Celiac Disease. Dr Carol Semrad explained how other diseases may cause similar intestinal damage, therefore requiring blood screening as well. This newsletter edition also covers nutritional deficiencies that affect Celiac patients.

4) Chick -fil- A to offer gluten free bun
Chick-fil-A is testing out gluten-free buns in certain southern states. Buns will be served in their own individually wrapped packages, and will cost an additional $1.15. Individual packaging will help to prevent cross-contact as Chick-fil-A is not a gluten-free environment. This will be similar to how Culver's serve their gluten-free buns for their burgers.

5) Purity Protocol Oats and the Need for Consumer Loyalty
The issue of oats has been a "hot topic" among the Celiac Disease community lately. Ever since Cheerios started optical sorting of non-pure oats, there have been concerns about oat safety. The above linked article explains the issue in detail, and includes a link to the 6 companies in the nation that grow oats under purity protocol. Those of us with Celiac Disease can take a stand on the issue with our buying habits.

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Hudson Cafe

Hudson Cafe's Very Bery French Toast
The Hudson Cafe's gluten-free Very Berry Stuffed French Toast

What's the one dish you miss now that you have Celiac Disease? For me, the hardest part of eating out is ALWAYS breakfast.  I'm sure I could convince a restaurant to cook me a fried egg in a clean pan and give me a some fruit, but as a Celiac I always miss having pancakes and French Toast.

Then someone suggests a place like The Hudson Cafe in downtown Detroit and I feel like I've hit the jackpot. This establishment opened in 2011, named for the famous Hudson store and proudly serving the legendary Hudson salad. They often have the traditional egg salad and pot pies that were once served at the store as well. I love seeing establishments embracing and honoring the past while moving towards the future. The amazing murals inside tie Detroit's past to it's future as well.

mural at The Hudson Cafe in Detroit
All murals inside the restaurant were completed by Antonio Agee,

The Hudson Cafe is open for breakfast and lunch, so we scooted there quickly after scoring a private tour of the Masonic Temple. It was spring break and we were taking a weekday trip to the Big D. We arrived towards the end of their business day (they close at 3 pm) and immediately were shown a table. (Come during the Saturday rush and you'll have a much longer wait.)

Our waiter Caleb was very polite, and I immediately started asking him what on the menu was safe for those with Celiac Disease. There were only two times listed under their gluten-free section, so I wanted to be sure I was dining safely. As he started to answer, a young lady behind him apologetically interrupted. Cortney explained that she was one of the cooks there, and has been there since Hudson Cafe opened. Although she was on her break, she wanted to make sure all of my questions and concerns were accurately answered.

Cortney explained that they had a separate kitchen space where they prepare their gluten-free items, and explained that they started offering gluten-free menu items after customers started asking for them. Owner and head chef Tom Teknos tasked Courtney with not only finding safe gluten-free items, but also researching how to prepare them safely as well. It was through her research that she learned about cross-contact and how to provide a safe dining experience. They have dedicated pans that they use to prepare gluten-free dishes.

Gluten-free Cinnabun pancakes with cream cheese frosting

As this was our first visit to Hudson Cafe, we asked Caleb and Cortney what we should order. We settled on their signature Very Berry French Toast and Cinnabun Pancakes, both available gluten-free. We also ordered a side of their homemade Corned Beef Hash. What a feast! I totally understand why MLive named it among Michigan's Best Breakfast Joints. The Cinnabun pancakes really are as big as your head, with ribbons of sweet cinnamon and topped with cream cheese frosting. Their french toast is a sight to behold. Stuffed with cream cheese and bananas and covered in fresh berries, I think I can honestly say it's the best I've ever had in my life.

Their menu has many more items than just breakfast. They serve salads, burgers and sandwiches, all of which can be prepared gluten-free. These give me more than ample reasons for wanting to return again. Owner Tom Teknos also has another location in Grosse Pointe called The Jagged Fork. I'm sure eating at either location will leave with you a full belly and a smile on your face.

Hudson Cafe
1241 Woodward Avenue
Detroit MI 48226
(313) 237-1000
Hours - Monday-Friday 8 am - 3pm, Saturday & Sunday 8 am - 4 pm

Website / Facebook/ Twitter / Instagram 

* I was not compensated in any way and all of my opinions are my own.
As always, make sure to ask your server at any establishment about your needs. * 

Related posts

Top 10 Restaurants to eat at in Michigan
Detroit based Banza Pasta makes this "chick" happy 
My recipe for great homemade buckwheat pancakes

Monday, April 4, 2016

Michigan Gluten Free Bakeries

Michigan is a great place to live and visit if you have Celiac Disease or need to follow a gluten-free diet. There are a number of Michigan-made companies that can be found on grocery store shelves, and many fantastic restaurants that offer safe gluten-free dining options. But fresh bread is always a comfort and life is never complete without dessert!

Check out the over two dozen gluten-free bakeries we have across the state of Michigan, broken into geographic regions. Each link will go to an individual interview with the owner, which explains why they went into business as well as highlight what other allergens they are "free from" or can accommodate. You will also find their contact information and business hours. If you would like to plan a trip to visit them all, follow this link to my interactive map. (Also seen below.)

Grand Rapids / Muskegon 

Sugar Bowl Bakery
Live Gluten Free Bakery and Cafe
Hall Street Bakery (peanut-free) 
Kind Crumbs (dairy-free, soy-free, nut-free)
Foxglove Cake Creations

Southwestern Michigan (Kalamazoo / Portage) 

Free Love Bakery
Gluten Free Sensations (peanut-free)

Lansing / Jackson

Bake It Best
Gluten Free Rox *  
Sweet Encounter Bakery * (peanut-free)
Break O'Day Farms
Hawk Hollow Simply Free

 Brighton/ Ann Arbor

Gluten Free Goodies By Brown    (peanut-free, soy-free)
No More Belly Aching  
Tasty Bakery

Metro Detroit 

Celiac Specialties 
BFree Gluten Free
Ethel's Edibles   
Rumi's Passion
(Sugar Kisses)    
Little Mustard Cafe and Shoppe (peanut-free, organic)

Flint / Saginaw / Bay City / Thumb Region

Heavenly Cakeballs (peanut-free)
Viola Fe's Bake Shoppe
(By Grace Cakes)

Northern Michigan 

Third Coast Bakery  (dairy-free, soy-free, vegan) 
Daniela's Delectables

Upper Peninsula

(Click the tab in the top left of the map to expand the list of bakers.) 


Are there dedicated Michigan gluten-free bakeries that I have missed? Leave me a comment below and help me add to the list! If you can, please include a means to contact them.

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Friday, April 1, 2016

Top 10 Reasons you'll love the Chicago GFAF Expo 2016

I love spring. The snow (theoretically) stops here in Michigan, I can start leaving my coat at home, and if I'm lucky, I get to break out my flip-flops. The other great reason to love spring is that it's "expo" season. One of the biggest gluten-free expo organizers is the Gluten Free & Allergen Friendly promoters. They hold these events all around the country, and in May they come to the Midwest. 

While it's technically called the "Chicago" location, it's actually held in a quaint suburb called Schaumburg. This is great, because you don't have to deal with Chicago traffic, hotel rates, or parking fees. In fact, there are NO parking fees at the GF&AF Expo, which is something I greatly appreciate. Below are ten other great reasons to go, as well as a direct link to get a discount on your tickets! Read all the way to the bottom to find out how! 

Me with Joel Warady, CMO of Enjoy Life Foods

1. Over 120 vendors
Imagine being in a room of over 100 businesses that are all gluten-free. I can't even find my favorite 50 businesses in my own grocery store! I always discover new businesses here each year, many with whom I've built lasting relationships. Like my pals at Enjoy Life.

2. Meet the people behind the business
When you have food allergies and dietary needs, knowing the person who makes your food takes on a new importance. In an age where businesses are jumping on the gluten-free trend, I place a high value on meeting the creators and learning the "why" behind the product.

3. Peanut-free side
If you or your kiddo has a peanut allergy, the show floor is divided practically in half, with one side designated for businesses that NEVER use peanuts. Have other food allergies? Each vendor is given a table tent to highlight what other allergens their foods are "free from."

Individual 6" Sonoma Flatbread pizzas
4. Pizza
Seriously folks, more gluten-free pizza than you can shake a stick at. My favorite Sonoma Flatbreads will be there again, as well as Smart Flour, Daiya (dairy-free!), Freschetta, Doreen's and more.

5. Bagels, Breads and Pita- Oh my!
If you're new to Celiac Disease or the gluten-free diet, and you wonder if you'll eat bread again, this event will settle your concerns. Make sure to try Canyon Bakehouse's Everything Bagels, Udi's Breads, and My Bread pita bread.

Feel Good Foods egg rolls and frozen meals

6. Egg Rolls & Dumplings
Think that egg rolls and dumplings are out of your life now that you're gluten-free? Not true! Taste the new line of products from Feel Good Foods, including egg rolls, dumplings and frozen Asian meals. They are also dairy-free and void of MSG or GMO's!

7. Bags FULL of samples
I suggest bringing a bag. A big bag. Leave storage space in your trunk, because you're going to need it. Not only does the GFAF Expo give you a bag with free samples, most of the other vendors will too. Bring $$$ too, because there are lots of things you'll want to buy as well.

The Swanson's of Full Flavor Foods
8. Support Michigan-Made businesses
I wouldn't be me unless I made mention of the Michigan businesses that will be at this show. Visit the Swanson's at Full Flavor Foods, Jill at Ethel's Edibles, Avery at Banza pasta, the Spencer's at Gluten Free Delights, and the folks at Meijer.

9. Bloggers, Resources and Support
This event is about more than food. There are support organizations, bloggers, authors and so much more. Even standing in line talking to other attendees can be a huge source of info. Visit Celiac Support Association, Gluten Intolerance Group, GF Mom Certified, and TMGF.

10. Lots of great gluten-free restaurants
You probably think I'm nuts for suggesting more food. Schaumburg is such a great city to enjoy -you'll want to stay! Visit LegoLand, GameWorks, and local parks. Use the Find Me Gluten Free app to find area restaurants like Roti, Sweet Ali's, and Maggiano's.

Want to go? Great! As an official media blogger for the event, they're even letting me offer an GREAT discount on your ticket. If you buy your ticket online with the affiliate link below by the 13th of April, you can save 30% off of your entire ticket order. Order between April 14th and May 13th and you can still save 20%. Added bonus, kids under 12 already get in for a 1/3 of the regular price, AND the discount applies to them as well! Here's how to get your tickets.

1. Follow this link -
2. Select the quantity of tickets that you want to purchase.
3. Enter the promo code to get your discount -

Enter the promo code at the bottom of the order form. 
4. Enter "EARLYBIRD" if ordering by April 13th, "ADVANCE" if ordering after that.
5. You're all set to go! Print out your tickets before the show or just show them on your phone to event staff on the day that you attend. And follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Periscope as I share about the show, live from the event floor!