Celiac diagnosis in elderly patients should not be overlooked

Posted on February 5th, 2018 by Alison | ADD A COMMENT »

I remember when my parents told me about their elderly friend, a woman in her 80s, who complained of stabbing pains in her stomach that were occurring every day. She had been to doctors, but none helped her. I imagine that they wrote off her complaint due to her age. I imagine this happens a lot… old age is certainly to blame for many health problems. But in this case, my parents were able to help. They were new with knowledge about celiac disease due to my diagnosis (at age 32) and their own improvement in health on a gluten-free diet (which they both started in their early 60s). They suggested to their friend that she go gluten-free. She was willing to try it — she had suggested to them that she didn’t want to go on living if she had to live with that pain. Sure enough, her pain went away, and even in her 80s she was able to change her quality of life dramatically.

This anecdote always reminds me that it is never too late to change your diet, to improve your quality of life. Even my 105-year-old grandmother began eating gluten-free recently because she was having some stomach pains! And yes, they went away.

I worry that many elderly patients who would benefit from a gluten-free diet are being overlooked. The authors of a medical article published in January of 2018, Review article: coeliac disease in later life must not be missed, found that:

Approximately a quarter of all diagnoses are now made at the age of 60 years or more and a fifth at 65 years or over. About 4% are diagnosed at 80 years or above. Around 60% remain undetected, since their symptoms are often subtle: tiredness, indigestion, reduced appetite. Therefore, especially elderly patients may be denied the benefits conferred by gluten free diet which can be dramatically life-changing. Good compliance with gluten free diet, resolution of symptoms and improvement in laboratory indices can be achieved in over 90% of patients.

Once thought to be only a childhood disease, celiac and gluten sensitivity has now been recognized as a disease whose onset can occur at any age. Please share this information with anyone you know who may be suffering, no matter how old they are!

Here is the link to the full article, which contains very good information about symptoms, specifically in elderly patients: Read full article
The PDF version can be found here: Celiac in Elderly Patients

If you are new to gluten-free, read this…

Posted on September 19th, 2017 by Alison | ADD A COMMENT »

15 years ago, I was diagnosed with celiac disease. When I tell people that, their eyes get wide and they say something like, “Wow, you were ahead of the curve!” It’s true — I didn’t know anyone with celiac and foods weren’t yet labeled with allergens (the Food Allergen Labeling law passed in 2006). I spent countless hours reading labels and calling companies to find information in hopes of being able to eat a new product. If I took a chance, I risked becoming ill — within an hour I would be vomiting and have diarrhea, fever, chills and muscle cramping that would only go away with time (usually spent in bed, passed out, as if I had been drugged).

Fast forward to 2017. I figure that by now, if you haven’t heard of gluten, then you truly have your head in the sand. Everyone has heard of gluten-free — that is certain — but there are many people who have not considered that it could be the cause of their own health problems or the health issues of their children. Surprisingly, I have found that there is still a disconnect with doctors, who treat individual symptoms but don’t consider the serious effects of common food intolerance (like gluten) on the whole body. I don’t preach about the negative effects of gluten like I used to (I figure if people want to “hear” it, they will), but sometimes a friend or acquaintance, or someone who contacts me on this blog, reaches out because they need help. And I am so happy to help, because I have been there.

I know what it feels like to be sick — not your regular kind of sick, but a daily sick that just kind of hangs there on your body, causing fatigue, intestinal distress, all kinds of pain, mood swings and so many other symptoms that you don’t even realize are symptoms because you have been living with them for so long. I know what it feels like when you first realize that there may be a reason for it all and I know the hope that follows. I know what it feels like to be devastated when you realize how many foods you can’t eat for the rest of your life. I know what it feels like to be overwhelmed reading labels and trying to figure out what you can eat. I know the frustration of trying to explain your diet to others and the feeling of defensiveness when people don’t quite believe you. And I know the RELIEF and HAPPINESS you experience when you start to feel better and accept that eating the thing that makes you sick is just not worth being sick.

So, for those of you that are new to this, welcome! I hope that I, and others on this site who have been doing this for a while, can offer you support and answers.

(This post inspired by a friend who has been struggling and recently had a “light bulb” go on when learning about the symptoms of celiac/gluten intolerance. Good luck to you, my friend! ❤ )


Use the Epi-Pen and call 911

Posted on August 8th, 2017 by Alison | Read 4 Comments - Add Your Own »

Use the Epi-Pen and call 911 — that is the title of my post. That is what you are supposed to do when your child has an anaphylactic reaction caused by a food allergy. This is what I did 1 week ago.

My almost-13-year-old was hungry and she asked me to make her some food. I decided to make a new pasta that has pea protein in it. There are a lot of gluten-free products with pea protein added as it provides texture that gluten-free products lack. My daughter had avoided pea protein in the past because she suspected that it didn’t make her feel good, but it had been years and we both shrugged it off. She is allergic to peanuts and lentils, and chickpeas make her throat itch (bad sign — needs to get tested for that too). These are all legumes and so are peas, though she ate peas as a child, and she eats pinto beans and black beans with no problem.

That particular day, she ate the pasta with pea protein. After she finished her pasta, she went upstairs to her bedroom, and within 5 minutes, she began to wheeze. I asked her if she was okay. She was trying to be okay, but I could tell that she was having trouble breathing. She took a Benadryl. Then a single hive appeared on her chin, and she began clearing her throat. I knew from an egg challenge she did in the doctor’s office 7 years earlier, that once the throat was affected, it was serious. She still felt pressure in her chest, and the throat clearing was getting worse.

I asked her if she wanted the Epi-Pen. She said yes. “Should I do it myself?” she asked. “I can do it,” I replied. I had actually never given her an Epi-Pen before. The only time she had required the shot outside of the doctor’s office was three years ago but my dad did it (you can read about that experience here). So, there we were — I gave her the shot in her thigh, and held it for 10 seconds as the instructions state.

I waited for her to get better. I expected her to get better. We would go to the hospital, as you are supposed to do after you give the Epi-Pen, but I thought that we were being over-reactive. We were just following the rules, being on the safe side. We got in the car for the approximately 12-minute drive to the hospital, and I realized that I was stressed when I discovered that I forgot to grab my phone on the way out the door. Oh well, we wouldn’t need it, I thought.

Part way through the drive, I looked at my unusually-quiet daughter and asked her if she was ok. She had taken on a very pale-green color in her face. She didn’t want to talk. I suddenly remembered stories about kids in anaphylactic shock who had fallen unconscious in the car on the way to the hospital, and died. “Do you want me to pull the car over and call 911?” I asked her. “Yes,” she replied. We called from her phone since I didn’t have mine (thank goodness this time for phone-addicted teenagers!).

A fire engine and ambulance appeared on the side of the road where I had pulled over. They examined her while she sat in the passenger seat. “You did the right thing,” they said, about giving her the Epi-Pen. And then, one of the men said to me, “I’m so glad you called. Please don’t hesitate to call 911 in the future because with food allergies, when it goes south, it goes south quickly.”

They took her in the ambulance, with me following in my car. They told me that they felt she would be fine but that they would monitor her along the way. They did not turn on the sirens. We arrived at the hospital, and she emerged inhaling albuterol for the wheezing. She was admitted, given an IV of Benadryl and prednisone, and released 3.5 hours later, with instructions to take prednisone tablets for 3 days to prevent recurrence of anaphylactic shock. After 72 hours, the doctor told me, there is no chance if it recurring.

My daughter is fine. I am fine (sort of). This was a reminder to all of us that this S*%# is real.

I write this as a public service announcement to anyone dealing with food allergies. Please remember the following:

  1. Carry an epi-pen with you at all times. Your allergic child should carry an epi-pen everywhere he/she goes.
  2. Know the signs of an anaphylactic reaction — people may experience these symptoms:
    Respiratory: difficulty breathing, rapid breathing, shortness of breath, or wheezing
    Skin: hives, swelling under the skin, blue skin from poor circulation, or rashes
    Gastrointestinal: nausea or vomiting
    Whole body: fainting, lightheadedness, low blood pressure, dizziness, or flushing
    Also common: fast heart rate, feeling of impending doom, itching, tongue swelling, difficulty swallowing, facial swelling, mental confusion, nasal congestion, or impaired voice
  3. If there is a reaction, especially to a known or suspected allergen, use the epi-pen. In young, healthy people, there is very low risk of problems from the epi-pen, and the needle doesn’t really hurt (according to my daughter).
  4. Call 911.

And life goes on for us. Thankfully.

My Favorite Gluten-Free Products

Posted on February 18th, 2017 by Alison | Read 1 Comment - Add Your Own »

I get asked quite often for my recommendations of gluten-free products. Since my celiac diagnosis in 2002, I have tried hundreds (maybe even thousands!) of different brands. Gluten-free food has come a long way since then, but it still can be hit or miss in terms of taste and texture. Of course, the healthiest way to be gluten-free is to eat naturally gluten-free foods (meat, vegetables, fruit, etc), but I still enjoy pasta, breads, cookies, pizza and other normally gluten-filled foods, in moderation.

Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order. While there are many other products I have enjoyed, these are the foods I come back to regularly, the ones I feed my family, the ones I offer to my guests, the ones I bring to a potluck. This is just a start. I will continue to update this list over time, and feel free to leave your opinions/favorites/questions in the comments – I would love to hear what you like and I’m sure others would appreciate the information also.

(Note: this list contains only gluten-free foods – it does not address other food allergies)


Jovial – I love the Capellini. The trick is to not overcook and to rinse the pasta right after draining it.

Tinkyada – Lots of great shapes and good texture. Do not overcook. Rinse pasta.

Packaged Cookies

Pamela’s SimpleBites – Chocolate Chip and Ginger Snapz are my favorite flavors of these mini cookies. Great for lunchbox treats too.

Allergen-Free Cookies:

Baking-MixesCybele’s Free to Eat Cookies – a softer texture

Enjoy Life Crunchy Cookies

HomeFree Mini Cookies – a crunchy texture

Baking Mixes

Pamela’s – you can’t go wrong with these baking mixes for everything

Namaste Foods Blondie Mix – I am a Blondie person more than a Brownie person!

All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour

NamastePerfectFlourBlend2Namaste Foods Organic Perfect Flour Blend

Pamela’s All-Purpose Flour

canyon-bakehouse-everything-bagelsPackaged Bread

Loaves: Canyon Bakehouse – Mountain White and 7 Grain (and they have introduced a new larger loaf called Heritage Style!)

Hamburger Buns: Canyon Bakehouse

Bagels: Canyon Bakehouse Plain Bagels and Everything Bagels


Milton’s – not a rice cracker, more like a wheat cracker

Crunchmaster Multi-Seed Crackers

Whole Foods 365 Sesame Rice Crackers

Simple Mills Almond Flour Crackers

Jilz Crackerz Almond Flour Crackers

Homemade Bread:

Pamela’s Bread Mix

Homemade Pizza:

Pamela’s Pizza Crust Mix

Packaged Pizza:

Amy’s Rice Crust Pizza – I add extra cheese and my own toppings

Against the Grain Three Cheese Pizza and Pesto Pizza – rich tasting, with eggs and cheese in the crust

Asian Food:

Feel Good Foods – I like the Chicken Dumplings and Chicken Egg Rolls more than the veggie ones

Bars (I don’t eat bars with soy flour or soy protein in them):

Edward and Sons Ice Cream ConesKind Bars – I prefer the not-so-sweet ones

Pamela’s Whenever Bars and Oat Up Bars – both made with GF oats

Ice Cream Cones

Edward & Sons Let’s Do Gluten Free Ice Cream Cones

Ice Cream with GF inclusions

So Delicious Cookie Dough

Strauss Cookies & Cream

Coconut Bliss Ginger Cookie Caramel