bloggingchronic style

Welcome Back To A New Kind of Normal!

A New Kind of Normal Relaunch

Words cannot describe how excited I am to say, “Welcome back to A New Kind of Normal!!!”

It has been way, way too long since I have had a chance to really sit down and write and – excuse my French – damn it feels good! 2017 has a hell of a year all the way around and I am so glad that it is OV-ER and a new year is upon us! I have so, so much to tell you and so, so many things that I want to see accomplished this year but I am learning to embrace moderation to avoid burnout.

I am sorry that this post is so short but so far I have been working on this blog for 8 hours straight! You will be seeing a lot of sawdust as the site is still under construction! I know you saw the Maintenance sign up but what can I say, I am a girl that changes her mind and I just have so many ideas that I want to put into action and I just didn’t want to wait any longer!

Reconnecting

A New Kind of Normal has always been focused on changing the lives of those with chronic illness and encouraging the to choose hope and joy despite chronic illness and to live boldly in spite of it. This will continue to be the driving force behind it but this year the focus will narrow in on reconnecting to our bodies in a positive way and reclaiming our confidence. When you have chronic illness, it can be difficult to maintain a positive view of your body when you feel like it has betrayed you. If I had a dollar for every time I ever said “My body hates me,” I would be living on a tropical island. I hate feeling this way and I know that I am not alone that is why I am hoping to change my way of thinking. Scratch that – that is what I am hoping to change our way of thinking.

Reclaiming

Along with reconnecting, let’s talk about the reclaiming. My family makes statements all the time about my love of makeup as an attempt to feel beautiful when it couldn’t be farther from the truth. I don’t need makeup to be beautiful. God stitched me together piece by piece and He called me beautiful so I can feel beautiful in a glamorous wedding gown or a hospital gown or in full glam makeup with false eyelashes, the whole nine yards or not a stitch of makeup. Now that we have laid that to rest, let’s get to the real reason why I love makeup so much.

The second half of this goal focuses on reclaiming our confidence. Makeup doesn’t make me feel beautiful, it makes me feel confident. It gives me an avenue through which I can express my creativity. I can feel feminine. I can feel edgy. I can feel both. I want for each of one of us to find an avenue through which we can all reclaim this confidence. I want us to feel good about our bodies and feel spunky, sassy, sexy, fierce, creative, bold, audacious, unique, and on and on. I want that for all of us. Each and every one of us deserve to feel like the most rockin’ chick on the planet.

This is what I want for A New Kind of Normal. This new mission statements reads:

to create a community of rebel hearts living boldly to smash through the limitations that chronic illness has tried to build around them with a fierce beauty and confidence all their own.

The five things that I want a reader to feel while she is reading my blog is connected, empowered, inspired, creative, and confident.

Reading these five words get me so excited that my husband is honestly giving me weird looks.

This is just a small taste of what is to come! I cannot wait to finish telling out everything that I have planned for A New Kind of Normal but that will have to wait until tomorrow!

chronic illness

avoiding cross-contamination when you have celiac disease

May is Celiac Awareness Month so it is perfect time to build on to my post with 5 insider tips when you are newly diagnosed with celiac disease. There is so much to learn when you change over to a gluten-free lifestyle and are living with celiac disease and it can be totally overwhelming at times. Today’s round up of tips for living with celiac disease focus on some little things that are often overlooked that can lean to some painful gluten cross contamination.

Here are 5 tips that you may want to know when you are living with celiac disease:

1- Purchase a second toaster specifically for gluten-free use.

I am so glad I had met with that dietician or I would have never thought of this! Putting gluten-free bread in the same toaster as regular bread is just asking for trouble. Think about all the crumbs that hang out in the bottom of a toaster. You do not what your GF bread hanging out in there.

In my house, I have a separate area in the kitchen that is kind of like “gluten-free corner.” I have my own toaster and keep all of my breads, snacks, etc in that area. My toaster is also red as a visual reminder. Some other items you want to be weary of sharing with non-gluten free foods include a deep fryer, bread machines, wooden utensils and tools (such as cutting board, rolling pin, etc), and even microwaves. You don’t need to have completely separate microwaves but you need to be mindful of how you are using it with both gluten-free and gluten-containing foods.

For more advice on how to set up your kitchen, check out this post about 10 ways you may be getting glutened by your kitchen.

2- Prepare and/or serve gluten-free foods first.

Obviously others are not worried about being contaminated with gluten-free foods (except when it comes to eating a gluten-free biscuit – I think my husband almost died from trying to choke down a dry-as-the-sahara biscuit I attempted to make in my early years of GF baking) but some issues can rise when the kitchen gets busy and both gluten-free and gluten-full foods are served on the same countertop. Some people with Celiac do not have a strong reaction to cross contamination but for others, it can take the smallest amount of gluten to induce a major reaction which depending on the situation can be slightly embarrassing.

The reason I mention serving gluten-free foods first  (or allowing the person with Celiac to fix their plate first) is that naturally as a family is gathered around the table, serving spoons don’t always stay where they should or people can grab something with their hands and without noticing, contamination can become a problem. This is especially true if you have a larger family meal, a dinner party, or a pot luck type situation so instead of having to worry about it throughout the meal, allow the person with celiac to go first or just automatically dish out a certain amount of foods to be put aside away from the rest of the dinner to keep your gluten-free foods safe. No one wants to spend time worrying when they could be fully enjoying the fun and their guests.

3- Educate family and friends.

It may seem uncomfortable but it helps so much in the long run to educate family or close friends that you enjoy sharing meals with frequently. You don’t need to give them the full rundown of Celiac and its affects on the body but just letting them know what kinds of foods contain gluten – BROW – barley, rye, oats, and wheat. My parents do SO much baking at Christmas (I cannot even begin to guess how many dozens of cookies get cranked out of that kitchen every December) so my mom really wanted to learn about how she can adapt some of my Christmas faves to be gluten-free. My dad is so amazing and he always goes out of his way to research my illnesses. If we are planning a trip, he always finds the gluten-free dining options ahead of time which always makes me feel special. Obviously I am adult and always do the same thing but it makes me feel special that he pays attention the way that he does. I have amazing parents, people.

As far as friends go, the easiest thing would be to host the meal so you know everything that is going on in the kitchen or to prepare yourself a gluten-free meal and bring it with you so no one else has to worry about it. I like to do this as it is easier all the way around but I do have friends that want to know more about my diet needs so they can prepare gluten-free meals when they wish to. Even if you are the one that does all the cooking, it is just a good idea to give your family and friends the cliff notes version of celiac just to be sure.

4- Adopt the phrase “If I don’t know, it don’t go.”

As I mentioned in my post on things to know when you are newly diagnosed with celiac, reading labels is of great importance as is knowing restaurant menus. Eating at pot lucks and buffets are pretty much impossible if you have Celiac because you either don’t know fully what is gluten-free and what isn’t but the chances of cross contamination are huge. Just to be cautious and as someone who has a violent reaction to the slightest bit of gluten, if I don’t know 100% that the food is gluten-free, then I don’t eat it. Something that can be noticed on some food labels is the phrase “made on the same equipment with products containing wheat/nuts/etc.” This is really important to take notice of. The food itself may be gluten-free but it is processed on the same equipment as gluten-filled products which heightens the risk of cross-contamination. For examples, Rice Krispies themselves are gluten-free but because they are processed on the same machines as other cereals, they become contaminated. When you are reading labels, make sure to read the whole label versus just the ingredients so that you know all the facts.

5- Keep Gluten Cutter (or a similar product) on hand in case you get contaminated.

Gluten Cutter does not allow you to indulge in gluten-filled foods but it helps your body process the gluten and remove it from your system quicker. It doesn’t work the came way Lactaid does for those that are lactose intolerant.  You will still feed all the funky side effects but it will help your body process it out of your system quicker which in turn should help those side effects fade quicker as well. Supposedly they are working on a type of medication for those with Celiac that allows you to eat gluten-filled foods. We’ll have to wait and see what happens there!

Tips for living with celiac disease

In the meantime, as persons with Celiac, we just need to be diligent to avoid gluten-filled foods and situations where cross contamination could be an issue. Hopefully these posts have been helpful! Coming up with be a post with 3 of my favorite super-easy and super-yummy gluten-free recipes!

What tips for living with celiac disease would you give someone about cross-contamination and maintaining a gluten-free lifestyle?

chronic illness

5 Insider Tips To Know When Newly Diagnosed With Celiac Disease

 

So you’ve had the EGD, completed the blood work, and your results are in. Your gastroenterologist tells you that you have Celiac disease.

You may fall into one of three categories:

  1. You know all about celiac disease as you have other family members that have the disease as well.
  2. You know a little bit that includes some of the lingo and catch phrases as somehow being “gluten free” was trendy.
  3. You know absolutely nothing.

I fell into the third category. Like all of my other illnesses, I am the only one in my family know to have the disease. When we first suspected that there were gastrointestinal issues going on in addition to the endometriosis, I saw the local gastroenterologist first. At that particular office, when screening for Celiac, they perform the blood work first which tests for the presence of Tissue Transglutaminas Antiboties (or tT-IgA). The second step to confirm diagnosis is by taking a biopsy of the small intestines via an EGD. While 98% of individuals with Celiac disease will test positive for iT-IgA when eating a gluten-filled diet. However, there is a small chance of a false negative antibody test so the only way to truly confirm the diagnosis is by doing the biopsy.

Remember that small, roughly 2% chance I was talking about when it comes to a false negative? I am that 2%.  The bad part was that my first gastroenterologist did not do the follow through with the biopsy so he didn’t catch the Celiac disease and for 5 years, he just kept telling me to “eat more yogurt.” Finally fed up I got another opinion who did the biopsy first followed by the blood work and finally the light came on. I have Celiac disease. The benefit of being in the 98% means that your Celiac can be monitored via blood work but because I am in the miraculous 2%, I have to have an EGD in order to monitor the healing/progression of the disease. All I can say is that at least its only an EGD, not a colonoscopy. Not eating or drinking after midnight is infinitely better than having to survive a bowel prep.

Once the diagnosis was official, I said goodbye to my beloved creme filled Krispy Kreme donuts and Wendy’s Spicy Chicken sandwiches and set to work on figuring out this whole gluten-free lifestyle thing. While there is a part of me that gets annoyed with the gluten-free “trend” as I think it can take away from the real damage that can be done to the body by Celiac disease, the one good thing is that it has helped gluten-free foods, specifically gluten-free convenience foods, more readily available. They may cost an arm and a leg but at least there are options. I’m still waiting on the creme filled donuts and spicy chicken sandwiches.

However, I have picked up 5 insider insider tips for newly diagnosed with Celiac disease.

1) Get thyself to a dietician pronto.

If you can find one that specializes in Celiac disease and/or gluten-free diets, even better. I am so, so glad that my gastroenterologist knew someone to refer me to once I was diagnosed. Not only was she a registered dietician, she also had a daughter with Celiac disease which added great perspective. She could lay out how to balance my nutritional needs and give specific product recommendations. There was some trial-and-error already built in as she could tell me what products to absolutely avoid so I didn’t spend $6 on a box of crackers that tasted like drywall. She could also tell me what gluten-free cheesecake was absolutely worth every penny when I came across it. All the perks of taste-testing without having to do the taste-testing.

2) Create a gluten-free kitchen.

Your whole kitchen doesn’t have to be gluten-free but you at least need a little corner of it to be designated gluten-free. This specific post is just going to cover the kitchen in a broad sense and not include all the details of keeping your kitchen gluten-free while baking, preparing full meals, etc. That post will go up next week!

This is another area where my dietician was able to help me get set up because were so many things I never thought of. For example, you need to have separate toasters for gluten-free and non gluten-free bread. Some people become very sensitive to getting into gluten once fully gluten-free and it doesn’t take much for cross contamination. How often do you dump your toaster upside down to get out all the bread crumbs? If you don’t have separate toasters, all of that gluten would be transferred to you. Another appliance to be wary of in the kitchen would be a countertop deep fryer. You cannot deep fry both gluten-full and gluten-free products in the same fryer. That oil obviously holds on to everything. This is why you can eat french fries out at certain restaurants but not others (for example, Chick Fil A cooks their delicious waffle fries in designated friers so they are not sharing oil with breaded chicken that obviously is laden with gluten. God bless you Chick Fil A!

Another important area of the kitchen to pay attention to that is so easily overlooked relates to condiments or any type of products that you dish out with a knife or spoon. For example, when you open a fresh jar of peanut butter, the moment you take out a spoonful to spread on your regular (non-GF) bread and stick your spoon back into the jar for more, that jar is now contaminated with gluten. The same goes for butter, jelly, mustard, mayo, etc.

There are three easy ways to handle this:

  1. Establish a one knife/spoon rule in the house: You can only stick the utensil in the jar once. If you need more, you need to use a clean one.
  2. Have completely separate jars/tubs of products that are marked gluten-free.For example, you buy a two pack of the small tubs of butter and immediately label one with a sharpie or sticker to be gluten-free. For added precaution, you put the items marked to be gluten-free go in the door of the fridge while the others go on the shelf. This may cut down on the chances of cross contamination but it means you have to buy duplicates of everything.
  3. Lastly is a sort of combination of the two – use squeeze bottle products whenever possible. It prevents cross contamination without having to buy duplicates of everything. While not everything can be purchased this way, many things can and it is a great way to not have to constantly remind yourself every time you reach for something, “Grab the gluten-free. Grab the gluten-free. Grab the gluten-free.”

As I said before, I will go into the specific details of maintaining a gluten-free kitchen while baking next week but these are some more general tips for the kitchen that we may not think of.

3) Spend time reading labels at the supermarket.

The first few times you go shopping gluten-free, build in some extra time to go at a slower pace and read labels. Some supermarkets deserve a big high-five for adding gluten-free markers on the shelves or grouping all gluten-free products together but that isn’t always the case. Also, some items don’t say gluten-free specifically on the box/label but they actually are gluten-free and you could be missing out on something delicious.

Obviously when reading labels, the first thing to look for is the bold print. The top eight most common food allergens are required to be shown in bold print when present. These allergens include milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (such as walnuts or almonds), fish (such as cod or bass), shellfish (such as shrimp or crab), soy, and wheat. Seeing wheat in bold sends up an easy red flag that the item is not gluten-free.

Another crucial item to look for on the ingredients label is the phrase modified food starch. The problem with this phrase is that its too generic. It is very possible that an item labeled as containing modified food starch could be gluten-free and perfectly safe to eat but there is no way to know for certain with just that amount of information. Modified food starch could refer to corn starch or it could refer to wheat starch. You could give it a shot and pray it doesn’t make your gut explode or you could adopt my motto, “If I don’t know, it don’t go.” Brands are finally starting to pay more attention with the rise of both the occurrence and awareness of Celiac disease and are starting to specifically say modified corn starch, etc.

Last thing you want to look for on a label is a little warning that may say “manufactured in a factory that also processes wheat.” That kind of warning indicates that while that particular product does not contain gluten, it is process on the same equipment or in the same area as products that do. It may pass over the same conveyor belts or get packaged in the same area. While there is a small chance of cross contamination, it is important to recognize that there is still a chance. If you are particularly sensitive, that may be enough for you to stay away. The Mayo Clinic provides a great resource on understanding reading food labels if you would like more information.

4) Plan ahead when eating out.

Thank goodness for the power of the interwebs in helping to make eating gluten-free easier when dining out. A lot of big name restaurants provide a gluten-free or allergen-friendly menu on their website so you can be sure that they do in fact serve gluten-free options before sitting down to order. Two of my favorite places to eat out gluten-free is Outback Steakhouse and Longhorn Steakhouse as they both make sure that great allergen information if available for their guests. Some restaurants are taking it one step further and making notations on the full menu on which items are gluten-free or can be altered to make gluten-free.In my experience, restaurants that take the time to add that information in their menus also take the time to make sure that their servers know what it means (my favorites are Fatz and Red Robins). However, if you are talking to your server about your gluten-free meal and it feels like they may not be understanding it (either what gluten-free means or the importance it being gluten-free), ask to speak to the manager. This is one area where you don’t want wires to get crossed. Nothing will break up a dinner faster than getting contaminated and having to sprint to the potty.

5) Check your medicine cabinets and vanities.

When I learned about how many off the wall things that gluten can be found in when I was first diagnosed, I was floored! Common items that can contain hidden gluten are supplements, vitamins, and medications. Again I think more brands are moving towards eliminating gluten but they are not all there yet so definitely double check. A few years ago, I started taking Vitamin B to help with my energy and I remember being so frustrated because I was feeling so crummy. I knew I was taking it exactly as directed. Then on day as I looked further down on the label under the directions, I got my answers. Whoops.

There is a lot of back and forth on whether or not beauty products that contain gluten can have a detrimental effect on individuals with Celiac disease. Some say the amount of gluten would be so, so low that it wouldn’t have any affect plus the fact that gluten cannot be absorbed through the skin. Others say why take the chance. If you know the item has gluten-containing ingredients, just avoid it. Or you can fall somewhere in the middle (which is where I happen to hang out at). Obviously when you have Celiac disease, you worry about ingesting gluten. If it is a products that has the possibility of being ingested such as dental products, lip products, etc, I go the extra step to know for certain it is gluten-free. One other product that I always look to be sure that it is gluten-free makes me look/sound a little crazy but I always check my hair spray. A lot of hair sprays use wheat proteins to help increase the hold and I know it makes me totally nuts but I know I’m not the only one who has had a major coughing fit after choking on some hairspray. Hello, my name is Jamee and I have OCD – Obsessive Celiac Disorder . . . 

 

Tips for living with celiac disease

There are 5 of my best insider tips for those that are newly diagnosed with Celiac disease, have a friend or loved one with Celiac disease, or are considering going gluten-free for other health reasons! What are some of your favorite or most important tips for living Celiac disease or any major illness that requires a major lifestyle change?