Irreverent solutions to your real life allergy & sensitivity dramas.
A BIT SALTY
If anyone thinks having to completely avoid gluten is an issue, they should also consider how hard it is to avoid salt. I was diagnosed with celiac ten years ago at age 68 and was thrilled to have an answer to why I was so very ill. Doing without gluten has been relatively easy, especially in this day and age, and I’ve always preferred my own cooking to restaurants. However, when my husband nearly died a year ago with congestive heart failure, I also had to figure out how to cook low-sodium (less than 1,500 mg a day). This means no soups, stews, seafood, peanut butter, cheese, eating out even where it is safe for me, and a whole array of other no-nos. I’ve discovered smoked paprika is a good substitute for sodium in chili, which I make with no-salt-added beans and no-salt ketchup and just a little chili sauce plus ground meat. We eat gluten-free/low-sodium pizza, adding our own fresh mushrooms, peppers and onions. The thing we miss most is poultry, which can have a lot of sodium added. We both hope there is a heaven with unlimited Mexican and Italian food.
It sounds like you’re doing great and having some serious success in the kitchen. Good for you! As a fellow celiac, I may not agree that doing without gluten is easy but I will agree that it may be easier than some other food restrictions we could be facing. Thank you for the low-sodium tips.
You’re on the right track and to add to your words, the best way to eat well with low or no sodium is to substitute other spices (smoked paprika is great!) and herbs and skip the salt when cooking. Using citrus juices as marinades and flavors also goes a long way. Just make sure you’re not using a spice blend, which can contain sodium. Yes, when it comes to eating packaged foods, follow the same rules for sodium as you would for gluten—read labels carefully, especially the serving size.
As with gluten, watch out for common sources of sodium—soy sauce, salad dressings, canned soup, pickles and other canned foods that have been preserved. Eat fresh or frozen vegetables to avoid added salt. And as you mentioned, check your poultry, which can be injected with sodium. Again, read those labels! Don’t make the mistake of believing gluten-free breads are low sodium. Anything that’s made outside of your home is suspect. But you know that already.
On a personal note, I also hope I can stuff my face with burritos and calzone once my earthly body has transitioned to a lovely gluten-filled place.
I’m gluten intolerant. I can’t believe this is a thing but a hair salon I frequent recently added some new products. When I was there last I read ‘hydrolyzed wheat protein’ on a hair spray bottle. Help! Am I getting glutened when I get a blow out?
Bad Hair Day
Dear Bad Hair,
Ugh. Can we not escape gluten anywhere?
Many gluten-free cosmetic companies know that this is a problem and they’ve been working hard to keep all parts of us gluten-free and safe. If you want to be 100 percent sure that your shampoo, lipstick, foundation, lotion and anything else you put on your body is gluten-free, I recommend you Google and then shop with those suppliers.
Most of us don’t carry our own gluten-free shampoo and hair gel with us when we get our hair styled. Ask to read the label of any hair products before they’re used on you. Otherwise, your ‘do’ could turn into a ‘don’t.’ Here are a few words to look for: hydrolyzed wheat protein, wheat germ, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, avena sativa and triticum aestivum. There are more gluten-loaded terms than these, of course, so do your research. In the end, you may find it’s simpler to locate the brands that state clearly they are gluten-free—and stick with those.
Consider the contact you have with each product. Experts say the gluten molecule is too large to penetrate the skin. They say the problem is ingesting gluten. So consider that likelihood. Lipstick? Yes, you’re going to get that in your system. Hair gel? Not so much. Hair spray is another story as it can hang in the air and find its way to you. It may not even cause a reaction, but if you’re in the “no-amount-of-gluten-is-okay” camp, you’ll want to steer clear.
Some people clearly react to topical contact with products that contain gluten or wheat. They shampoo and get a head of hives. You know who you are.
Most people with celiac disease tend to avoid personal care products that contain gluten. That keeps it simple. Use common sense and be alert to what you put on your skin. In terms of gluten sensitivity, it’s a spectrum with everyone having a different level of sensitivity. So figure out what’s best for you.
Personally, I don’t want to ingest any gluten but I also don’t want to panic when I get my hair shampooed, cut and styled outside of my own home. So here’s what I do: I keep my mouth closed during the shampoo and skip all the styling products.
Good luck, gorgeous!
April Peveteaux is author of Gluten Is My B*tch: Rants, Recipes and Ridiculousness for the Gluten-Free (Stewart, Tabori & Chang), The Gluten Free Cheat Sheet (Penguin Group) and Bake Sales Are My B*tch (Rodale).