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January 28, 2010 @ 2:52 pm

More Mystery Glutenings Solved, And A New Challenge

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Update October 2016: The link below to Triumph Dining’s Gluten-Free Grocery Guide leads to the current edition, which may be a bit different from the way I described the 3rd edition, but any differences only make it more comprehensive and up-to-date! I don’t know if anything has changed regarding the Publix brand products since the 3rd edition, but I do hope so!

Mystery # 1: What Companies Can You Really Trust?

grocery-guide-lgIn late October or early November, SS ordered a copy of Triumph Dining’s Gluten-Free Grocery Guide, and it has been so very eye-opening. I had considered ordering the book in the past, but always said, “Oh, it’s ok; I have a pretty good handle on label-reading and calling companies from the grocery store aisle.”  Now I’m firmly on the bandwagon to recommend this book.  The amount of research and information in it is impressive.  I’m equal parts enlightened, very impressed with some companies, and very disappointed in others.

In the book, there are five icons used to indicate special information about product manufacturers and the information they provide about their ingredients and policies and procedures to avoid cross contamination in production.

  1. There is one that indicates that the company has gluten free lines or is a gluten free facility, with no chance of cross-contamination.
  2. There is one that indicates that gluten testing is performed.
  3. There is one that indicates that no gluten free list was provided by the company but that, based on the ingredient label, the item appears to be gluten free.  (If an item has this symbol and is manufactured by a company that has adopted exemplary labeling practices*, you can feel safe.  For instance, A-1 Steak Sauce has that symbol in the book and it is made by Kraft Foods.  Kraft Foods is one of those companies that has a special place in my heart, due to their labeling policy, I must say.)
  4. There is a symbol that says that procedures are in place, to avoid cross-contamination, but that there are shared facilities or equipment.
  5. And there is a symbol that says that cross-contamination is possible, or that the item is made with gluten free ingredients but that the company would not provide information on whether the manufacturing process is gluten free.  Sometimes the company’s legal departments are the ones who want disclaimers or refuse to say a product is safe for gluten intolerant people because they don’t want to be sued.  This could mean that the product may, in fact, be safe, but there is really no way to know, and it could also mean it is not safe.  I avoid anything with this symbol.

*The reason that these labeling policies are so important is that current FDA rules require disclosing ingredients that contain any of the eight main allergens: cow’s milk, soy, egg, peanut, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish, and wheat.  Not barley, or rye, or oats.  Not “gluten”, which includes wheat, barley, rye, and oats.  Only wheat.  Barley can potentially show up on a label as anything from malt to caramel color (though not all caramel color is made from barley), and lots in-between.  A label may state that the product was made in a facility that is also used to produce products containing wheat, and this is information that someone with Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance needs to know, but a label that warns about only, say, soy and milk, isn’t necessarily safe, as the company may produce something containing barley (or rye, or oats) on the same lines.  This is why companies like Kraft and Unilever and Con-Agra (and others) are so helpful.  They will disclose other gluten ingredients as well, either within their ingredient statement or as a separate warning.

When SS received the book and began reading it, she mentioned to me in an email that V8 juice is listed with the 4th symbol.  I had been drinking V-8 almost every day for quite a while, and having gluten reactions I couldn’t explain for a long time.  The V-8 could be fine, or maybe not.  I chose to stop drinking it, just to be safe.

Update, 8/25/10: See this post for some great news about updated information on V-8!

Then, she discovered that every Publix brand product listed (Publix is a grocery store chain in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee) has the 5th symbol next to it.  I was surprised, because Publix presents themselves as being very knowledgeable about gluten, with information on their web site, but there you go.  Right there in the book, in black and white.  And red.  (The 5th symbol is red.)

I went through my kitchen and gave away everything that was the Publix brand and replaced it with brands that were listed as safe in the book.  The majority of my mystery glutenings stopped, after that, and that could be due to a combination of factors, which is what this post is about, but I feel certain that avoiding Publix products has had a significant positive effect.

A month or two before SS found this information, I had become concerned that the Publix brand acidophilus I had bought may not be gluten free, even though none of the ingredients listed on the label should have raised any red flags.  It has always bothered me that there is no telephone number listed on the Publix brand products, to call and ask, but because they have all the information about gluten on their web site, I trusted them.  (A funny and totally unrelated aside: when I mentioned the acidophilus in my email reply to SS, gmail flagged the word “acidophilus” as being misspelled.  I right-clicked it to see what suggestions the spell checker might have.  It suggested “pedophile”. Really?)

I gave away the unopened box I had at home and went back to the brand I used prior, that I knew was gluten free. I wrote a post in March where I recommended Publix because of their gluten free products list and all the information about gluten on their web site.  If, in a future edition of the Grocery Guide, they receive a more favorable symbol next to their listings, I will post about the change and consider recommending them again, but for now, because there is such unsettling uncertainty about them in my mind, I can’t.

I will still, however, continue to recommend Walmart brand products that are marked gluten free.  If you have been using their gluten free products for a while, though, please be careful to note that since they changed their labeling in the last six months or so, many items that used to include the words “gluten free” on the labels don’t, anymore.  I’m not sure if this is because they have changed their manufacturing process on those items or if they are simply being more careful, but it’s something to be aware of and to remember to check, when shopping.  And I will repeat my warning, here, to be careful when looking for items on the Walmart website’s gluten free products list, as I have found definite non-gluten-free items on the list.  It may simply be an error in how the items are coded in their data base, but always use caution.  Carrying the Grocery Guide into the store helps, as well.  It has become my grocery shopping Bible.  (SS brought the book when she came to visit in December, and she left it with me.  I keep it in the car all the time, so that I have it with me any time I go shopping.)

I hope that future editions will include membership-type stores like Sam’s Club, BJ’s and Costco, as well as more stores from the Northeast.  I am sure they probably expand on their information with each edition.

There is also another grocery guide available, published by someone else, that SS purchased as well.  It includes some over-the-counter medications and toiletry items in addition to food items, which is nice.  I will probably blog about that book at another time, as I have a chance to read more and learn more about it.  They don’t have the symbols that warn of potential cross-contamination, though, and I did find items listed that I know are not to be considered gluten free, either from having spoken with the manufacturers already or from seeing them listed with the red symbol in the Triumph guide.  This other book’s authors list updates on their web site, though, so that users can add or cross out information in the book as it is clarified, or if it changes.  They also ask for readers to let them know of items that are listed that are not gluten free.  Because I haven’t read all the updates, I don’t want to say who publishes the book yet, because I don’t want to be blogging negatively about them without having all my facts straight first.  More on that in a future post . . .

Mystery # 2: The Cat Food Conundrum

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This is Emily. She looks so innocent, doesn’t she?  Oh, she is; this isn’t her fault.  I just wanted to share this picture. But her food is another story.

As I’ve mentioned here before, gluten intolerant people must also ensure that the food their pets eat is gluten free.  Not only might you touch their food and their bowls, but little crumbs manage to get tracked around your house when they stick to your or your pet’s feet.  Your pet lies on the carpet and you touch your pet.  The more direct route, of course, is if your pet eats and then kisses you, especially in that enthusiastic kiss-on-the-mouth way that so many dogs can’t resist.  And with cats, they eat, then bathe right after eating, depositing gluteny saliva all over their fur, and then their people kiss and pet them and pick it up.

In this post, I am concentrating on dry cat food only; I’ll write about canned food in the future, after a little more research.

I had been under the impression, for quite some time, that Science Diet was gluten free.  I don’t remember anymore whether I called the company or read online that it was gluten free, but since it’s the food her vet recommends as well, and I thought it was gluten free, Emily was eating it for a long time.

SS began researching pet foods at around the same time I got rid of all the Publix brand foods in my kitchen.  She has a cat, who I will refer to as Mr. Man Cat in my blog, and she wanted to start converting his food and treats, as well as her own food and grooming products and, well, her whole house, because I’ll be visiting in a couple weeks and we’ll be taking turns visiting each other through this year as we work toward our eventual plan for me to move up there.  She called several companies, looking not only for gluten free cat food, but also a specific type that Mr. Man Cat needs.  When she spoke with the people at Science Diet, they said that none of their food is gluten free, except for one of the prescription formulas.

In talking with several cat food companies, SS discovered what I had suspected after looking at several companies’ web sites: most cat food manufacturers interpret the question, “Is this food gluten free?” to mean “Is this food wheat-gluten free?”  Many of them don’t seem to know that barley is a gluten ingredient or realize that a pet owner may call with this question not because their pet can’t eat wheat gluten, but because the owner(s) can’t have gluten in their home. She spoke with representatives of several companies.  Some of them checked into their ingredients further and called her back, and some were able to answer her questions right then, once they understood that she was asking about more than just wheat gluten.  One person she spoke with has a relative with Celiac Disease and understood better than most.  And sadly, some gave answers that turned out to be only partly correct.

Here are some of the results of those phone conversations and some internet research, in case this information will help any other gluten free cat-owners out there:

  • Iams said that all their dry cat foods were gluten free.  (Be careful, though, the Iams Healthy Naturals lists barley in the ingredients!  We discovered it when we read the labels in the pet store!)
  • Iams owns Eukanuba, and said that all their dry cat foods were gluten free.  (Be careful, though, the Eukanuba Wholesome Naturals contains barley, too!  We also discovered that when we read the labels in the pet store!)
  • Authority said their dry cat foods are gluten free.
  • Many of Royal Canin’s dry cat foods contain gluten, but the Oral Sensitive 30 (good for dental health, and is in larger kibbles, which both of our cats like) is one that is gluten free.  Be careful, though; the veterinary formula Dental DD is not gluten free.
  • Emily likes Evo Wild Cravings Herring & Salmon Formula cat treats, but Mr. Man Cat wasn’t crazy about them.  I like the philosophy behind Evo’s food and why they make it grain-free.  I purchased a small package of another brand of grain-free cat food as well (I can’t seem to find it online, to include a link), and Emily likes, it, but because the grain-free foods are much more expensive and my budget is limited, I’m using them as treats for her.

So, as far as we know (fingers crossed!), both of our cats are gluten free now.  We’ll eventually have them both eating the same food and the same treats, so that if they eat out of one another’s dishes they won’t have stomach upset from too much variety.  Emily currently eats Iams ProActive Health Active Maturity Hairball Care as her main food, and her treat jar consists of a mixture of everything else we tried, until it’s used up, and eventually I think she’ll mostly have the Oral Sensitive 30 as her treats.

Mystery # 3: Stirring Up Old Junk

My big decluttering project has done so much more for me than simply opening up my living space and making my home environment feel more “normal”.  It has also allowed me to clean and vacuum in areas I couldn’t reach, before, where there were likely still crumbs hanging around from my pre-gluten-free days.  Even though I hadn’t been able to walk around in areas piled with old stuff, Emily has, and she has been able to carry potential leftover gluten crumbs and residue on her feet.

I spent months moving things around and getting rid of junk, and as I made more room, then cleaning the areas.  In the weeks just prior to SS’s first visit in December, I was rewashing old towels and blankets and stirring up a whole lot more stuff in the apartment.  This very well could have added to some of the mystery gluten reactions I was having at the time.

*   *   *

So, of course, I don’t know what percentage of my gluten reactions was due to the Publix brand products, or to the V-8, or to Emily’s food, or to the process of decluttering and cleaning the apartment, but I have had far fewer reactions since mid-December, thanks mostly to SS and her hard work and research, and also to the folks at Triumph.

And I now have a whole new challenge before me.

It seems as though Ritalin gives me gas.  Since going gluten free, gas has been a very rare thing for me, unless I was glutened.  In fact, this was always my first indication of a glutening, gas and abdominal pain, within hours.  Now, I can’t tell whether I’ve been glutened unless I wait for the other gluten symptoms to arrive.  By the second day, there is a worsening of my ADD and PMDD symptoms, along with constipation and increased fatigue, and those symptoms last for several days.  By about the third day, there is bleeding.

If I am glutened now, however, with the gas reaction I have almost every day to (apparently) the Ritalin, I won’t know for sure until the second day, when I know how I feel, and I won’t be absolutely certain until the third day, when I don’t bleed, since other things can also cause worsening of the ADD and the PMDD and increased fatigue.  By the third day, I’ve forgotten a good deal of the small details of what I’ve eaten or been in contact with.

I’ll ask my doctor what alternatives I have, medication wise.  We’ll see what happens . . .

4 Comments

  1. Comment by kate1975:

    How great that you two are working towards living together. This is huge. It was almost lost in the post, but huge. I’m happy for you both. Good and healing thoughts to you.

    Kate

  2. Comment by davidrochester:

    Wow — what a lot of amazing information!

    Incidentally … I feed my cats grain-free food, either Evo or Wellness, and once they get used to it, it costs very little to feed them although the food is more expensive, because it keeps their blood sugar far more even, and they eat much less than they do when you feed them carb-rich foods. I buy a $40 bag of dry food once every five weeks. For three cats. That works out to about thirty-five cents a day per cat. They get an occasional can of wet food, and occasional treats in those five weeks, but their main staple diet is the “expensive” food. I’ve heard the same thing from many other cat owners who transition their cats to grain-free low-carb dry foods … the cats are much healthier, and eat less.

    • Comment by lifeischange:

      It makes a lot of sense. I always used to wonder why there were so many cereal-type ingredients in most cat foods. Cats in the wild are carnivores. They might eat grass sometimes, but not grains.

      Emily does love vegetables, though. It’s kind of weird. Broccoli, green beans, peas and carrots. It’s comical, actually.

      We both had our cats going through food changes, more than once in a fairly short period of time, and neither of them is a young cat. They both had some adjustment issues, so for now, I think we’re going to stay with what we’re doing. I’m still thinking, though, that it might be a very good idea to consider switching to a grain free food at some point in the future, with a slow transition time to make it easier, just because it does sound like such a much healthier way for them to eat. Of course, it would depend on how well Mr. Man Cat would be able to get used to it. He had much more trouble than Emily did with the recent changes, poor guy.

Thoughts?

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