Tag Archives: celiac

Beijing Eating

I have to say, I am a little worried about eating in Beijing. Eating gluten-free was part of the reason why I wanted to keep a trip in China rather short. Soy sauce is a staple in Chinese food and between the various ways wheat creeps up in food and the total language barrier we will face, I am nervous.

Also, having done a fair amount of research, I have not found my usual gluten-free guides to certain restaurants. It seems that there are a couple grocery stores we could go to, but eating in restaurants mainly requires relying on allergy food cards. I found the following text from this blog to bring along with me:





Definitely makes me nervous because with the language barrier, you never know what you are really getting. Apparently lots of celiacs get sick in China pretty easily. 🙁

I will definitely be bringing some cereal bars and emergency supply food with me!

Gluten-free Homemade Muesli

As a typical American, I came to Switzerland eating cereal for breakfast. Kay, on the other hand, ate a very Swiss breakfast of freshly sliced bread slathered in butter and jam. For years it went on this way. He had his bread and I had my cereal.

One could argue about the healthiness of either breakfast, but eventually Kay switched over to the dark side so that he could be a little faster in the morning and sleep a little longer. Slicing bread and doing all that buttering and spreading takes a long time! But he didn’t switch to conventional brand cereal like me… no. He started buying ingredients to mix his own muesli so that it would be healthier and less sugary than whatever I was eating.

I called it “Pferd Futter” or “Horse food” because that’s what it looked like to me.

Anyway, I more or less stopped eating cereal in an effort to incorporate more fresh fruit in my diet and then with the celiac diagnosis and Kay’s absence, I didn’t even want to think about cereal and how depressing it is here. We don’t have Chex in Switzerland. You can buy gluten free cornflakes from Migros and Coop, and from Coop you can also buy chocolate crispy rice for kids. From non-specialty stores, that’s it!

L-R: Bio cornflakes: 2.20CHF for 300g ($2.45 for 10.5OZ) / Schär cornflakes: 2.90 for 250g ($3.23 for 8.8OZ) / Schär Flakes Milly Magic 123: 4.95CHF for 250g ($5.51 for 8.8OZ)

You can’t even buy most normal muesli ingredients in the store without them being laced with gluten. I can buy puffed amaranth from Migros, but all the soy flakes are coated with malt flavoring, making them a no-go.

So why don’t I just let Kay buy his normal muesli ingredients and let it go? Crumbs. CRUMBS. Or shall I say, dust. Every time Kay makes muesli in his tupperware and every time he gets some out in the morning, cereal dust flies into the air and all over the counters.

If that cereal dust happened to be wheat-y, barley, malt or otherwise gluten-y… it would be all over our counters. And because we are in a hurry in the morning, that gluten death trap would be there in the evening too. Cleaning up his muesli mess is not one of Kay’s strong suits, but if he did… I would have to worry about him contaminating the dish towel and then forgetting to change it out with a new dish towel. I know… anal. But with celiac, you have to be.

There’s always a question of how much gluten is bad for you, but in my own home, I would rather not doubt what I am eating. I don’t want to worry about wheat particles flying around while I bake, nor do I want to question what the dish towel was last used to clean. Nope. Gluten-free cereal for all is the way forward.

But since oats are a no-no the first year, I wanted to find a way to make oat-free granola to mix with those boring cornflakes. I’ve been lurking on Against All Grain and found this recipe for Spiced Pumpkin Granola, so I had to try it out!

First I soaked the nuts overnight which is supposed to break down the phytic barrier and give the granola a nicer crunch. Kay just thought I was crazy to be soaking them in water and then dehydrating them.

All chopped up and ready to be baked. We have a convection oven, so I used that instead of going out and buying a dehydrator, but after baking 3-4 hours at 75ºC/170ºF, the muesli still came out pretty moist.

I didn’t feel like baking it longer at this point, but I would definitely bake it longer next time. I feel like buying a plastic dehydrator from the store seems like a waste of money when we have an oven with airflow, but maybe I’m wrong.

I threw all the muesli in Kay’s new GF cereal container with GF cornflakes, buckwheat flakes from the health store, puffed amaranth balls, and millet flakes from the health food store. Then I poured it in a bowl to mix before putting it back in the container.

This muesli is delicious! It smelled heavenly and it had a lovely autumn flavor that had me wanting to start eating cereal again too!

See all that mess up there? Haha… homemade muesli is still quite messy, but I don’t have to worry about it being a gluten mess now! And by watering down the expensive health store gluten-free alternative flakes with homemade muesli and cornflakes, I can feel better about the cost of our gluten-free muesli.

Even if you aren’t gluten free, you should go try this muesli out! It is seriously delicious!

De-Glutening the Kitchen

In February, my doctor asked that I keep eating gluten before my biopsy in order to confirm the celiac diagnosis 100%. But they faffed around for most of March faxing appointment requests so I had no idea how long I would have to keep eating gluten before a test would take place. I was annoyed when they called me the day before the appointment to tell me that the biopsy would be the very next day.

During March it seemed like all my symptoms had gotten worse. I was more bloated than ever, extremely anxious and depressed. I felt like I looked legitimately pregnant and my skin was incredibly itchy, waking me up in the night and driving me insane during the day.

I had never felt so uncomfortable in my own body before and I became self-conscious when I looked in the mirror. I felt fat and I felt ugly inside.

Kay happened to be across the world for work during these weeks which made my anxiety and depression worse. Instead of reaching out for friends, I isolated myself in my house and wandered from room to room each night reading ingredients and crying. I cried more than I had in a long, long time.

I kept hoping that this was all a bad dream and that I would wake up soon. Like many celiacs before me, I was focusing on the foods I could no longer eat. It felt like food was the enemy and that my kitchen was a source of grief instead of joy. I resolved that as soon as my biopsy was over, I would switch to gluten free and completely rid gluten from our kitchen.

Kay was totally on board for making our home a gluten-free home and honestly, it was easier to plan and clean while he was gone. Knowing that cleaning would be a very cathartic process for me, I decided to document it  with a stop motion video. I started cleaning on the Friday after my biopsy and Kay came home that Sunday evening while I was finishing up.

Cleaning the kitchen was a very emotional process where I tried to let go and accept my reality. I had researched what I needed to purge and went about removing any food containing gluten as well as all of our plastic and wooden utensils, cutting boards, plastic bowls, almost all of our tupperware, our blenders, bread machine, toaster, waffle iron, mixers, plastic measuring cups, cake pans, silicon baking forms, non-stick pans with scratches and some items too difficult to clean gluten off properly.

In between removing things, I gave literally everything in the kitchen a good scrub, including the new build cabinets which had accumulated a lot of dust and dirt in and behind them from construction settling.

Getting rid of perfectly good, albeit older kitchen items was not so difficult, but reading the ingredient labels on the food and accepting that I will no longer eat all of these things was hard. Cleaning the flour off the recipes in my recipe box was even harder.

I neatly stacked all the food and old kitchen items on the dining room table so that we could dispose, recycle or give them away later. When Kay came home, he looked through the food items with curiosity and was surprised by all the things he found. Foods we never though about gluten being in… random things from spices to soy sauce to bouillon and sprinkles. Gluten shows up seemingly everywhere.

I don’t think I have ever been more happy for him to come home from a trip. I needed him so much.

I’m glad I documented my process, because this photo says it all. It has all my hurt and pain and Kay there, holding me together and loving me all the same. It reminds me how much I love him back.

After the de-glutening I stopped crying every day. I bought fresh, safe food from the grocery to start filling the kitchen again, I explained to everyone at work that I would have some immediate diet changes and I started preparing to replace the glutened kitchenware.

It’s only been seven weeks now since I changed my diet and I’m still adjusting and still working through the mourning, denial and now intermittently the “anger stage”, but I’m happy that I have stopped crying and am trying to focus on the adventure of cooking and trying lots of new foods.

From foodie to celiac

For over half a year I knew I should get tested for celiac disease, but I waited. To be honest, I did not want to find out. I knew enough about the disease to know how life changing it would be and I didn’t want to contemplate what those changes would mean for me, Kay and the  lifestyle we enjoy together.

Maybe all my symptoms were not such a big deal. Maybe they weren’t related. Maybe they would solve themselves somehow if I exercised and ate more fruit and vegetables.

I mean, I love food. Who doesn’t? I was always proud to eat anything, although I’m not the biggest fan of sauerkraut, which ironically is gluten free. I love traveling and trying all the local specialties. Kay and I are always cooking different types of food at home and at work I am known as the “cookie monster”, although I think this is just a nicer term for “garbage disposal”, because if there is any food around, I will eat it.

So when I went in for my blood results, my heart dropped when the doctor told me my gluten antibody levels were through the roof. It wasn’t 100% medical proof, but I knew then that my entire world had just changed.

I slipped into a dark emotional hole. I was supposed to keep eating gluten before my biopsy, but it took several stressful weeks to even schedule the appointment. With all the uncertainty about my health care, each gluten overdose renewed all the symptoms that had started driving me crazy.

At the same time, I felt stupid. I didn’t realize how long I had been putting up with things that I considered normal. Things that I considered passable as they slowly got worse and worse over the years. How I put off visiting the doctor because I was apprehensive about insurance costs and revealing a preexisting condition that will follow me around for the rest of my life. So when I went to the doctor because I couldn’t sleep at night from skin rashes, I was desperate for relief, not more waiting.

I’d been working out for a month and I felt like a whale when I looked down at my belly. I felt ugly inside and out. I was also surprised how much the news depressed me. I’ve known depression before and I know that it can be related to celiac, but I wasn’t prepared for the feelings of hopelessness and anguish that came with the gluten-free sentence.

As I work on my Swiss naturalization, the realization that I cannot eat zopf or aromat anymore came as huge blows to my Swiss pride. We have so many nice bakeries in Switzerland. So much wonderful Italian cuisine. Our go-to meal of fondue and bread is out. No more beloved älplermagronen. No more pub beer or my favourite affordable drink in bars: panache (shandy). But what hurts most is thinking about my mother’s food. Her cookies and breads. Her rolls. It’s enough to make me want to crumple into a pile and dissolve into nothing.

Everybody says it will be OK. I can eat other things. I can still eat the same recipes if I change things, but it’s not true. I will never eat my mother’s cookies from my childhood again. I will never eat fresh baked Zopf from the bakery again. There is a whole lot of “never again” going on right now and it’s too much to take at times.

The fact is, gluten is in a whole lot of things, cross contamination is a real worry and some things just cannot be gluten free. Like samoas from Girl Scouts or Swiss army chocolate that Kay brings home.

The biopsy confirmed everything 100%, My villi are flattened to hell. It’s pretty clear I cannot ignore this anymore without risking serious malnourishment or worse things. And I’m ready to start feeling better and having more energy in the future.

Although I’m still looking forward to traveling, I do dread eating abroad and all the stress and worry I will have wondering whether the food in restaurants is safe for me. No more trying every food possible. I must be extremely cautious.

I know it could be much, much worse, but having lived a very blessed life so far, I can honestly say that this is the worst thing to ever happen to me.

…and donuts! No more donuts!?