In the last Grocery Guru article, I kicked off a series called Shopping for Multiple Food Intolerances. I wrote a bit about the challenges of being gluten-free while having additional food sensitivities to consider. Unfortunately, having multiple food sensitivities is not uncommon and it can be challenging to find products that are safe for you and your loved ones. We?ve already covered products that are safe for a gluten- and dairy-free diet, and this time we?re going to explore being gluten-free as well as nut-free.
But before we get into some of the delicious products that can be enjoyed on a gluten- and nut-free diet, I want to take a minute to discuss food sensitivities.
Recently, I found myself not feeling very well. I?ll spare you the details, but I had a hunch that I was eating something my body was not liking. I talked it over with my amazing Integrative MD and she ordered me a series of tests through Cyrex Laboratories. Cyrex is a clinical immunology laboratory specializing in functional immunology and autoimmunity. Come to find out, I really needed to take a vacation from sesame and coffee. Going through this testing myself, I became really interested in food sensitivities. Dr. Larson, an advisor and consultant to Cyrex Laboratories, was kind enough to answer some of my questions about food sensitivities and the variety of tests they offer. If you are someone who continues to suffer with issues around food, digestion, or immunity, I hope this information is helpful for you.
Dr. Larson began by educating me on the body?s immune response to food. He explained that most of the foods we consume will trigger an immune response in a mild way and at a level that is normal and protective. Basically, the immune system is checking to make sure the substance that just entered the body is a friend, not an enemy. Problems arise when the body loses tolerance for a specific food and begins to create higher levels of antibodies against it. If the antibody levels rise high enough above the normal range, physical symptoms begin and that food becomes a problem every time it?s consumed.
Immune response to food is an incredibly complex phenomenon, but basically something along the way caused the body to begin to reject certain foods. This could be due to a leaky gut (where food particles or undigested proteins enter the blood stream from the digestive system), or an immune system crash due to a powerful virus. Regardless of the reason for onset, once the body begins reacting to a certain food, that food needs to be identified and eliminated – either for a trial period or permanently, depending on the circumstance.
The test kits run at Cyrex are called Arrays. Dr. Larson reviewed some of the Arrays related to celiac and food sensitivities with me. The three that I found most interesting are Arrays 3, 4 and 10.
Array 3 is the most comprehensive gluten sensitivity test available. It?s appropriate and recommended for anyone with any chronic symptom that consumes gluten on a regular basis. For those that are exploring celiac and gluten-sensitivity testing, Dr. Larson recommends running standard tests with your doctor first. If they are positive, you need to cut out all gluten. If they are negative however, there is a need to run a more comprehensive Array test to continue to rule out any gluten-sensitivity that may not be showing up in standard testing.
Array 4 is a test used to explore gluten-associated cross-reactive foods. A gluten-associated cross-reactive food is a food that triggers gluten-antibodies because the immune system has confused it for gluten. If a person does the Array 3 and is positive for celiac or gluten-sensitivity and is on a gluten-free diet, and yet continues to have symptoms, they should do an Array 4. Dairy, yeast, oats, millet, corn and rice are the known cross-reactive foods and they could still be triggering the gluten antibody pathways. If one of these foods tests positive, it needs to be eliminated for life because the body has identified it as gluten.
Finally, the Array 10 tests 180 food antigens that reflect the typical diet of the average person to check for sensitivities. Dr. Larson explained that with a leaky gut in non-autoimmune patients, there might be some flexibility to reintroduce foods after about 3 months of elimination. Patients may be able to reintroduce the foods and see how they feel for a few months and then retest Array 4 to see if the antibodies show up again. He noted that the complexity of the treatment protocol needs to match the complexity of the patient?s condition and is case by case.
I found the information from Dr. Larson to be incredibly informative. If you?re interested in learning more about what additional testing Cyrex Laboratories offers, speak with your doctor and visit www.joincyrex.com.
>> Gluten- and Nut-Free
One challenge that comes with being gluten and nut-free is that many gluten-free baked goods and packaged products are made using almond flour. Nuts in their original form are fairly easy to avoid, but you have to be more careful when purchasing items like crackers, cereals, cookies, breads, and dairy-free substitutes like nut milks and cheeses. There are always safe options though, you just have to seek them out!
>> Nut Butter Substitutes
It?s pretty hard to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with no peanut butter. I wouldn?t be able to stand it! Good thing there is Sunbutter. Sunbutter is a delicious tree nut and peanut-free spread made from sunflower seeds. Available in creamy, crunchy and organic, this spread can be used just as you would use regular peanut butter.
Enjoy Life Foods is a wonderful brand because all of their products are free from the eight most common food allergens and produced in an allergy-friendly facility. This means you can feel safe eating any product with their label. They offer three flavors of breakfast cereals including Crunchy Rice, Crunchy Flax, and Crunchy Flax with Chia. They also offer a Chewy Bar line with flavors like Mixed Berry, Caramel Apple, Sun Seed Crunch and Coco Loco ? great for grab and go breakfasts.
>> Crackers and Snacks
If you?re looking for a gluten- and nut-free cracker to serve alongside dips and cheeses, try Doctor in the Kitchen?s line of Flackers. Made with flax seeds and natural herbs and spices, Flackers are a healthy and delicious snack. Flavors like Sun Ripened Tomato & Basil, Dill, and Rosemary will keep you coming back for more.
To replace the crunch and satisfying protein of trail mix, try Enjoy Life Foods Seed and Fruit mixes. Throw some Beach Bash or Mountain Mambo in your backpack for a day of outdoor activities to keep you full and energized.
Another protein and fiber rich snack I love are roasted chickpeas. The Good Bean has a line of roasted chickpeas in a variety of flavors like Cracked Pepper, Smokey Chili & Lime, Thai Coconut, and Mesquite BBQ. They are made in a dedicated nut-free facility and are truly addicting!
>> Cookies and Baking Mixes
If you?re looking to bake something gluten- and nut-free, Enjoy Life Foods offers several baking mixes including a brownie mix, pancake and waffle mix, an all-purpose baking flour, a pizza crust mix, and a muffin mix. If you?d rather save time in the kitchen, they also offer pre-packaged cookies like Chocolate Chip and Sugar Crisp.
Dr. Lucy?s is another great brand that offers a line of gluten- and nut-free cookies in a variety of delicious flavors like Oatmeal, Lemon Goodness, Ginger Snap, and Cinnamon Thins. If you need a mix for a special cake, Cherrybrook Kitchen offers a line of safe baking mixes including Yellow Cake and Chocolate Cake.
By Emily Freedner