Gluten-Free Wednesday with Dr. Wangen

Hope y’all had a wonderful, relaxing, healthy Labor Day Weekend! Guess that officially means that the summer is over… Looking at the bright side of things – which we at Custom Choice Cereal always prefer – football season is back on. And that’s always a great thing ;-) But back to the “really” important things in life…

Today is once again the first Wednesday of of the month aka Dr. Wangen Wednesday! This means that our friend and advisor Dr. Stephen Wangen answers any question you might have about celiac disease, gluten intolerance and living gluten-free!

Suffering from celiac disease himself, Stephen understands the challenges of a gluten-free diet from both a personal and professional experience. Most importantly, he is very passionate about helping others like you. This passion was a call that he answered by co-founding The IBS Treatment Center in Seattle, WA, blogging as The Gluten Free Doctor, and serving on the Board of Trustees for the Gluten Intolerance Group of North America. We invite you to read more about Stephen and his books in our introduction to our advisors.

Dr. Wangen is going out of his way to provide this wonderful service, and we appreciate your understanding that out of respect for Dr. Wangen and his time we have to limit each session to 5 questions on a first-come, first-served basis. Please join us at Custom Choice Cereal in thanking Stephen for taking the time off his busy schedule to address your questions.

Asking what YOU want to know is easy and can be done in just 4 simple steps:

  1. Post your question as a comment to this blog entry
  2. We send all questions to Dr. Wangen
  3. Dr. Wangen answers and we publish what he says in reply to your comments
  4. Check back for the answer to your question a few days later or simply subscribe to our blog

Don’t be shy – there are no “dumb questions” except for those you don’t ask :-) Besides, we learn a whole lot from what you want to know every month and are curious to see your questions!

The Gluten Myth On The Dr. Oz Show

Dr. Oz Show
Just a quick heads-up: tonight’s Dr. Oz Show will focus on talk about “The Gluten Myth – Is It Really Making Us Fat?”

We at Custom Choice Cereal are really curious to watch and hear what Dr. Oz and his experts will have to say and to what extend they will talk about gluten, gluten sensitivity and celiac disease. Medical researchers now differentiate between celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, and we are especially curious if Dr. Oz will make the same distinction.

Most of all, it sounds as if Dr. Oz actually will bust the “fad” that a gluten-free diet is a weight-loss diet. We hope however that over all this myth-busting he and his experts won’t forget to stress that there are a lot of people who absolutely need to follow a gluten-free diet! And by far not all gluten-free products available are junk food! Besides, there are plenty of other things that are “making us fat” – we quite honestly think it’s pretty ridiculous to blame the gluten-free diet….

We at Custom Choice Cereal will definitely tune into the Dr. Oz Show tonight, especially after this quick preview on what to expect:

After initial skepticism we thought that yesterday’s Dr. Oz Show on “The Gluten Myth” was actually pretty good. While the title wasn’t very well-chosen, the show stressed that a gluten-free diet is not – we repeat: NOT – a weight-loss or low-carb diet! Dr. Oz stressed that many gluten-free substitute goods are high in fat and sugar. He also said that avoiding gluten may not help you lose weight UNLESS you are actually sensitive or intolerant to gluten.

That’s a statement that we at Custom Choice Cereal do not agree with! Dr. Oz unfortunately uses the term “gluten-free food” synonymously with gluten-free substitute foods. That is an important distinction that we sincerely wish he had made because it is more accurate! You can absolutely be healthy on a naturally gluten-free diet (and by the way also lose weight on it though that’s more of a placebo effect).

The main point Dr. Oz wanted to make is that there is NO reason to follow a gluten-free diet (again, we disagree and would have preferred the term “gluten-free substitute goods”) unless you have celiac disease or are intolerant to gluten. Well, at least he got that part right though it seems that many more people than initially thought have some form of gluten sensitivity – and thus benefit from going gluten-free.

Gluten Sensitivity Covered In The Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal once again published an outstanding article including a video on a topic that concerns us all, this time focusing on non-celiac gluten sensitivity. And guess what? It was the most emailed article on the WSJ’s website yesterday! I think that’s pretty awesome and a great indicator how dear this topic is to many people.
Who Reacts to Gluten
A new study in the journal BMC Medicine shows that gluten can set off a distinct reaction in the intestines and the immune system, even in people who test negative for celiac disease. It concludes that the two gluten-associated disorders, celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, are different clinical entities. As lead author Alessio Fasano from the University of Maryland’s Center for Celiac Research says: “For the first time, we have scientific evidence that indeed, gluten sensitivity not only exists, but is very different from celiac disease. Though the details remain unknown, it is now clear that gluten triggers a quite extreme immune response in some modern humans.

Since gluten-containing grains such as wheat, rye and barley have been a staple of our diet for 10,000 years, it is not clear why both gluten sensitivity and celiac disease are on such a sharp rise. I have shared Joseph A. Murray’s research before, and he says about celiac disease that “people aren’t born with this. Something triggers it and with this dramatic rise in all ages, it must be something pervasive in the environment”. One of the possible answers: agricultural changes to wheat and other gluten containing grains that have boosted their protein content.

Gluten intolerance or gluten sensitivity, however is much less researched and thus much more vague. As our friend Cynthia Kupper, Executive Director at Gluten Intolerance Group of North America, rightly points out: “There’s a lot more that needs to be done for people with gluten sensitivity. But at least we now recognize that it’s real and that these people aren’t crazy.” As of now, a gluten-free diet is the only treatment recommended for both gluten sensitivity and celiac disease.

Have you or your child tested negative for celiac disease but seen significant improvements on a gluten-free diet? What tests did your doctor run on you to determine a gluten sensitivity?

Gluten-Free Dr. Wangen Wednesday

Dr. Stephen WangenIt’s Dr. Wangen Wednesday! As on every first Wednesday of the month, our friend, advisor and celiac disease expert Dr. Stephen Wangen will answer your questions about celiac disease, gluten intolerance, living without wheat, and whatever else want to know!

Stephen has celiac disease and has the exact same concerns that you might have. From both his personal and professional experience, he understands the challenges of a gluten-free diet, and is very passionate about helping you. Similar to us, his passion was a call that he answered by co-founding The IBS Treatment Center in Seattle, WA, blogging as The Gluten Free Doctor, and serving on the Board of Trustees for the Gluten Intolerance Group of North America. We invite you to read more about Stephen and his books in our introduction to our advisors.

Dr. Wangen is going out of his way to provide this wonderful service, and we appreciate your understanding that out of respect for Dr. Wangen and his time we have to limit each session to 5 questions on a first-come, first-served basis. Please join us at Custom Choice Cereal in thanking Stephen for taking the time off his busy schedule to address your concerns.

Asking your question is easy and can be done in just 4 simple steps:

  1. Post your question as a comment to this blog entry
  2. We send all questions to Dr. Wangen
  3. Dr. Wangen’s answers will be published in reply to your comments
  4. To check for the answer to your question you can either subscribe to our blog or simply check back in a few days

Wondering what tests you should have taken? What areas do you have difficulties with? What kind of (unusual) symptoms do you have? Any concerns about the constant “are oats gluten-free” debate? He can help so don’t be shy and ask away!

Google's New Recipe Search

Just last week, Google introduced a new feature that is extremely useful for the gluten-free community: say hello to the recipe search! On the left hand bar, the new “recipe” feature will return only the results that are recipes.

A basic search for the term “gluten-free” previously resulted in an overwhelming 20,800,000 million results. With the new recipe tab, you can specifically target the results. Searching for “gluten-free” narrows the results to 424,000. What’s even better is that the smart people at Google put their heads together and allow you to further specify your search by

  • ingredients you’d like to include or exclude
  • cook times
  • and even calories.

What do you think of this change? How will it help you? And will you use it?

Google recipe search

Gluten-free Dining Beginner's Guide

A couple of days ago I came across a few twitter comments on gluten-free dining. The subject of the discussion was a the allergy friendly menu of a national restaurant chain. And it made me think of my gluten-free dining experiences – which have been both good and bad…

In my humble opinion, it all boils down to how well the manager and staff of the respective restaurant are educated about what celiac disease and gluten intolerance are. While P.F. Chang’s does an outstanding job teaching all its kitchen employees and waiters about their allergy-friendly menu and even goes so far to use separate color codes and plate shapes to distinguish gluten-free from conventional dishes, this is by far not the norm. Our latest poll (see on the right and please take it if you haven’t already) reflects this challenge of going out gluten-free style.

Your Gluten Freedom!Getting mad at servers and managers or raving on blogs after a bad gluten-free dining experience does not help anyone. Instead, I pledge to educate the waiters and managers when corporate pushes down an allergy-friendly menu on them without telling them what it means or who needs it. And it certainly can get maddening when neither of these show the slightest interest. However, we’re on a mission here… So when I saw Amy Leger aka The Savvy Celiac blog about questions to ask when ordering a gluten-free pizza I thought I extrapolate this to gluten-free dining in general. Hopefully this will help you next time you dine out with friends or family!

  • Ask first. You’ll quickly find out if the staff truly understands their gluten-free menu!
  • Understand the “behind the scenes”. Are they using separate utensils, pots & pans for their gluten-free menu items?
  • Double-check. Sounds paranoid but see if special meals come on differently shaped or colored plates/trays!
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for replacements. If there is an obvious mess-up (e.g. breadcrumbs on your salad) ask to have it replaced and do one of two things: (A) take Tiffany’s advice and hold on to your plate until the replacements arrives from the kitchen or (B) be evil, hide a toothpick or piece of your napkin under your salad and double-check when it comes back…
  • Be polite. Let’s be honest. You probably cause the waiter quite some extra work. Showing your appreciation makes it easier for everyone!

These and other tips are also available in Custom Choice Cereal’s section on gluten-free advice, tips & tricks.

Remember, a gluten-free dinner is also safe for people who have to eat wheat-free while wheat-free foods are not necessarily safe for people with celiac disease. Since I heard enough “horror stories” I’d be great to learn where you have made exceptionally good gluten-free dining experiences? Do you have any any advice to share? Do you ask the waiters or go straight to the manager?

Gluten Part Of New Canadian Food Labeling Rules, Brewers Exempt

Here are some news from our dear neighbors to the North! After a decade of negotiations with allergy and celiac organizations including Anaphylaxis Canada and the Canadian Celiac Association, new Canadian food allergy labeling regulations were finally announced on February 14th.

Health CanadaThe new regulations are specifically aimed at strengthening Canada’s labeling of food allergens and gluten sources to allow Canadians with food allergies, sensitivities and celiac disease to make more informed choices about the foods they buy.

The new regulations will require additional labelling and strengthen the labelling requirements to require clearer language and the declaration of otherwise “hidden” allergens, gluten sources, and sulphites. Because of the complexity of the changes and the shelf-life of foods, industry has been given 18 months to implement the new allergen labeling regulations. The new regulations will become effective on August 4, 2012.

While this is a great success for the food allergy and gluten-free community in Canada and shows that persistence pays off, the new law excludes beer companies from the new labeling restrictions. Even an open letter to the Prime Minister of Canada could not prevent this exemption. The Brewers Association of Canada successfully raised concerns about the cost of making labeling changes, especially those whose labels are painted directly on the bottles, as opposed to paper labels. They argued that the label changes will force them to state the obvious – beer contains wheat and barley.

We at Custom Choice Cereal congratulate our Canadian friends on their success (despite the exemption)! So what do you think? Can something similar be reached here in the US? Will it take us another 10 years to get this far? When will the FDA’s proposed voluntary use of the term “gluten-free” from January 2007 become a law?

Celiac Disease Research News

We at Custom Choice Cereal are again amazed by how little is known about celiac disease and why exactly it is on the rise, as research by Dr. Alessio Fasano from the University of Maryland’s Center for Celiac Research indicates. We also like to stress that unlike many other conditions, a strict adherence to a gluten-free diet is an (the only!) effective treatment for the autoimmune disease. While that sounds stressful and can initially be overwhelming we like to look at the bright side of things: absolutely no medication is needed!

Researchers from the University of Chicago’s Celiac Disease Center used mice to identify a biochemical interaction that may trigger an autoimmune reaction in the intestines of genetically susceptible people. Specifically, they found that the compound retinoic acid in combination with high levels of the a pro-inflammatory substance known as interleukin-15 was able to break the body’s tolerance to gluten.
Study author Dr. Bana Jabri and her colleagues examined the records of patients at University of Chicago’s Celiac Disease Center, which showed that many of them had high levels of IL-15 in their intestines. Then they conducted experiments using a new mouse model of the disease developed in Jabri’s lab. When the researchers increased levels of IL-15 in mice, the animals developed all the early symptoms of celiac disease. Adding retinoic acid only worsened the disease. But when the researchers blocked IL-15 in the mice, their symptoms improved and they could tolerate gluten again.

Dr. Bana said that “This is the first time that we actually show how inducing a specific dysregulation in the intestines can lead to losing tolerance to a food antigen, and in particular to gluten.” She continued that this represents a key finding because they now know what to target for a re-introduction of tolerance to gluten.

Dr. Fasano added that he was really intrigued by the new discoveries about the role of retinoic acid, “which we’ve always thought helped to prevent the immune response rather than make it worse. It’s a most provocative finding.”

While these are promising and important research discoveries in the understanding of celiac disease, much more research is needed. It also needs to be noted that promising research done with animals often fails to produce beneficial results for humans.

Custom Choice Cereal Available At Dean & DeLuca

Dean & DeLucaWe are very excited to announce that Custom Choice Cereal has partnered with Dean & DeLuca!

The expansion into the retail channel represents a logical step to give you better access to a great-tasting gluten-free cereal right when you crave it. You know that it is our goal to making living gluten-free a fun and enjoyable experience for everyone, so bringing Custom Choice Cereal even closer to you is what we regard a part of our customer service. Having been able to partner with gourmet retailer Dean & DeLuca is at the same time another great confirmation of the exceptional quality of our products.

If you live in The City, you now have another option to surprise your Valentine with a unique gluten-free gift! As of today, our cereal is now available for you on the shelf at the following Dean & DeLuca stores:

Founded in 1977 by Joel Dean, Giorgio DeLuca and Jack Ceglic with the opening of its flagship store in SoHo New York, Dean & DeLuca quickly grew into a multi-channel retailer of gourmet and specialty foods, premium wines and high-end kitchenware with operations throughout the United States and abroad. Dean & Deluca specialty products are sold through its 14 retail stores and cafes in select U.S. markets (New York, Washington, D.C., Napa Valley, Charlotte, and Kansas City metropolitan area). Today, Dean & DeLuca stores serve as “purveyors of fine food, wine & kitchenware”.

10 Gluten-free Summer Camps 2011

Katie ChalmersEven though February just started I am sure that especially the parents among you are already thinking about the summer. If you have a child with celiac disease you might have ruled out Summer Camps for him or her in the past. No need to do so anymore as camps across the country have realized the need to serve the gluten-free community. Camp Kanata right here in North Carolina is just one of them, and we sponsored last year’s gluten-free week with our cereal – which the campers absolutely loved!

Fortunately for me, the one and only Katie Chalmers, mother to a daughter with celiac disease and author of the book “Mommy, What Is Celiac Disease”, has already done the work and compiled a list of 10 gluten-free summer camps in 2011. She has even be so nice to allow me to copy it here, so THANK YOU, Katie!

Please be aware that the camps fill up quickly and that you should act by the end of the month to reserve a spot for your child! Katie has been so nice to organize the camps chronologically. If both you and your child are interested in seeing a few different gluten-free camps and across the country over the summer, you can (at least in theory) attend 7 of the 10 camps this year :-)