Weekly Update: January 8 2016

In the News
Autoimmune Diseases linked to Processed Foods

A recent article published in Autoimmunity Reviews suggests that there may be a link between processed foods and autoimmune diseases. Researchers in Israel and Germany hypothesize that certain food additives can damage the mucous membrane lining the intestines and cause gut permeability, also known as leaky gut. It is suggested that "leaky gut" syndrome may increase the likelihood of developing an autoimmune disease. 
There are 7 food additives that the team looked at, and that they suggest lead to gut permeability are- sugars, salt, emulsifiers, organic solvents, gluten, microbial transglutaminase, and nanoparticles. 

These are very interesting findings. It is my understanding that the testing done was in the lab, and not on human subjects or with human tissue. I would be intrigued to see other scientists perform the same research and hear their findings as well.

In the Kitchen

It's the New Year and we're all resolving to pay attention to our health. Even the USDA has new guidelines saying we should eat more vegetables. So I'm doing my part and turning to an old family favorite. RotKohl.

RoKohl is German for "red cabbage." My husband has an old family recipe, which originally included included pickled peach juice. This peach juice was the leftovers from when the women in the family used to make canned peaches. Since I don't can peaches, I just use apple cider vinegar. I could eat this stuff morning, noon and night. I'm seriously considering eating the leftovers for breakfast in the morning!

4 tbsp butter
1/4 - 1/2 cup chopped onion
1 (2 lb) head red cabbage, shredded
5-6 apples, peeled and sliced thin ( I actually never bother to peel them)
1 1/2 c. water
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
1 heaping tsp salt

Melt the butter in a large pot and saute the onions, until mostly soft. (2-3 minutes) While that is cooking, slice your apples, thinly and shred your cabbage. Add shredded cabbage and saute for 3-4 minutes, then add apples and remaining ingredients. Simmer on low until all vegetables are soft, at least 20 minutes.

This dish can be enjoyed hot or cold. For a real Michigan twist on it, you might be able to substitute J.K. Scrumpy's organic hard apple cider. (I haven't tried it yet.)

In the Mail
During the holidays I participated in a Twitter Party organized by the Gluten Intolerance Group. If you're unfamiliar with Twitter parties, a group of people agree to log on at the same time, talk about a specific topic, and use a designated hashtag so that everyone can follow in the conversation.

During the conversation, GIG drew winners for a holiday prize package, and they drew my name! One of the gifts I received was a package of GJ Jules graham cracker mix. This mix can easily be transformed into gingerbread for the holidays. Using her mix I made gluten-free gingerbread for the first time, and they were so delicious!

In My Opinion

Third Party Certification-

One of the difficulties of having Celiac Disease is reading labels and investigating how products are produced. To make things easier, various Celiac Disease related groups have created certification programs. These groups include the Gluten Intolerance Group, Celiac Support Association, and Beyond Celiac (formerly NFCA). The National Sanitation Foundation, an international organization, also has their own certification program. These groups have special certification labels, which are intended to highlight the product as safe for those with Celiac Disease. Based on the label, the product is deemed to contain under 20 ppm, or even lower depending on the organization that is doing the certifying. These different logos and their associated standards can be confusing. A survey was even published this week to gauge the public's understanding of these logos and what they mean. To see a side-by-side comparison of each certification program, click this link.

The timing of this survey is almost uncanny. Tricia Thompson runs a site called Gluten Free Watchdog. It was shared this week, via her Facebook page, that a new assortment of LiveGfree granola bars listed "gluten free malt extract."  Knowing that other grains can be malted, Tricia did further research to see if the malt in question was from barley. IT IS FROM BARLEY. Those of us with Celiac Disease know that barley, and therefore malt extract, is not gluten-free. Tricia has since submitted this issue to the FDA for review. (**Note- The LiveGfree line is exclusive to Aldi stores.)

The rub in this situation is that this product carries the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness certification logo. Through Tricia's investigation, it became known that NFCA (now Beyond Celiac) does NOT do their own independent testing of these products, and allows producers to self-designate their product as gluten-free. This is a problem and reinforces our need to always be vigilant in reading labels.

I have been concerned for sometime with the plethora of gluten-free certification logos. (In conversations with others, I know that I am not alone in my concern.) I think it leads to customer confusion and causes competition between organizations that should be working together. While I don't doubt each groups sincere desire to help the Celiac Disease population, I'm concerned that some of these certification programs are led by a desire for monetary gain. I hope to be proved wrong, and I long for the day when we can all agree on a certification standard and one single logo. In my opinion, it would make it safer and easier for us to choose products wisely.

So what's been going on in your gluten-free world this week? What new products have you discovered? What recipes have you been playing with in the kitchen?

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