10 Things Parents Want You Know; How to Keep Their Allergy, Food Sensitive / Intolerant Kids Safe

With the rise of food allergies, food intolerance’s, and food related diseases I think it is safe to say you know a child affected by one of more of these things. Behind every one of these children is a neurotic parent or parents (yes, I will claim that title and wear it proudly) you likely would be too. Having three kids with varying degrees of food related issues I thought I would share this post-“10 Things Allergy, Food Sensitive, Intolerant Parents Want You to Know; How To Keep Their Kids Safe”
Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Nighshade Free, No Gluten, Nuts, Eggs, Peanuts, Wheat, Dye Free

We are blessed with many people who have made accommodations for our family over the years just to see that things are ‘safe‘ for my kids. From loved ones who have dedicated ‘special safe‘ cupboards in their kitchen to those who have made special gluten-free bakery runs just so my kids can have a treat at the party too. I am truly grateful and appreciative of all of these efforts. Over the years we have had friend’s, family, and neighbors create ‘special‘ goodie bags, pass out ‘special‘ candy, and change entire holiday traditions just so we can join and have some ‘normalcy‘ to a life that often times doesn’t feel so normal.

I remember some years back when life was-well, simpler. There was my husband and I, and then one baby with no food issues. We came we went and did as we pleased. I remember attending these parties, holiday gatherings, and hearing ‘these parents‘ talk of their children’s food issues, but that was them. I was not living it- and, to be honest I likely thought “seriously, it’s just a little ____. What’s the big deal” I’m all about honesty, and truth be told I likely thought “chill out, your kid is going to be fine“. It’s easy to think these things when we aren’t the ones affected by it, right?

Here’s the thing- it is not that individuals not affected by such circumstances care any less ‘they simply just don’t know‘. Just as I don’t know what it is like to raise a special needs child or have a child with cancer–we lack a sense of full understanding when we are not the ones dealing with it. The only way to ‘see‘ or get a feel for what it is like is by raising awareness, educating, and sharing your story.

So, that said- I can not speak on behalf of all parents with kids who suffer from food related allergies, sensitivities, or intolerance’s. However, I have met my share over the years who share similar feelings or experiences- and, if nothing else you can walk away ‘knowing‘ a little more about how you can help accommodate those families affected by similar situations as I.

The smallest amount of gluten, nuts, eggs, wheat, dye, milk, or other food can cause a serious sometimes life threatening reactions to some children.

For some kids the smallest amount of something on their hands can cause hives or swelling. When those tiny hands move to their eyes or mouth guess where else those reactions can take place- face swelling and trouble breathing from a little spilled milk, really? Yes, this happens. Yes, this is dramatic. Yes, this is real. This is not our story, but this is just one example of the level of seriousness that some individuals are dealing with.

Point blank; this is serious and important stuff.

10 Things Parents Want You To Know; How to Keep Their Allergy, Food Sensitive / Intolerant Kids Safe

 1) It only takes a little. Often times we things of a reaction to something being caused by a “a lot” of something, but this is not always the case– yes, something as innocent as grilling your hot dog bun on a grill with the meat can cause a huge cross contamination issue. Yes, individuals with Celiac Disease can be ‘that’ sensitive. The tiniest crumb can cause the worst adverse reactions.

Some other potential hidden problematic sources for the food allergy sensitive crowd;
– Peanut shells on the bottoms of shoes and then tracked on the carpet.
– Sensory tables of play-doh at preschool.
– Were you baking today? Do you have flour on your shirt?
– Did you just butter that regular piece of toast- then, be sure to wash the knife thoroughly (or get a new one) and use a different stick of butter before buttering the gluten-free toast as there are likely crumb remains on the first stick. 
– Is your kid walking around with a sippy cup of milk? Spilled milk can cause big problems.

2) Food should have rules. The US is a culture-less food nation- there are snacks in the car, snacks at church, snacks in school, kids walk around with snacks. It’s no wonder 1 in 3 American children are over weight or obese. I highly recommend the book “French Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy Healthy Eaters

If our food had rules then there wouldn’t be crumbs on toys, carpet, on grocery carts, and lodged in car seats. Food should be in the dining room or on a picnic blanket and not eaten all day long. Now, I say this but know darn well that we are just as guilty in our home-on any given day you can find my kids scrounging my cupboards. Just be mindful of such habits when there is an allergy sensitive child around – under “normal” circumstances your harmless toddler walking around with a snack trap of cheese-its can cause big problems for the little boy that can’t be around dairy, wheat, or gluten. Bottom line- it’s not a bad thing to enforce eating only at the table.

3) Cleaning 101; you’re having a play date with a child with extreme food allergies and sensitivities and you want to make your home as safe as possible-
·   Fill a bucket with warm water and a mild dish soap- wipe down large surface area where food particles could remain (counters, table, chairs, and large toys)
·   Run the vacuum around to suck up any crumbs on the carpet and rugs
·   A quick sweep of the kitchen and other eating spaces
·   Put away and do not offer allergy foods away
·   Lastly, wash everyone’s hands and if there are remains of breakfast on their tiny shirt (you might want to change that too)

And…. if you go to this extent just to make things “safe” we crazy parents might just have to give you a big hug and bring you a coffee for your A+ efforts.

I know this sounds extreme but remember it is a ‘real’ problem – if your feeling overwhelmed with a day of it and slightly neurotic. I get it- try being the crumb police 24/7 (trust me I do feel crazy sometimes) and I have been known to grab guests non-safe lunches while they are eating just to wipe their crumby filled space at my table during lunch.

4) Party’s , holidays, and special events (weddings/showers/etc.) are great fun- but, please do not be offended if we decline. I love people and having a good time- as do my children. However, there are some circumstances that just bring great anxiety to me these days- everything from the cake, ice cream, pizza, to the goodie bags. Taking an allergy food sensitive kid to a party takes a good deal of preparation mentally and physically- and, we make this effort whenever possible. However, some circumstances are just harder and trickier. From little food residue hands to the general crazy chaos parties and celebrations bring- it is guaranteed a heightened sense of alertness- and, at times a down right panic attack or mini-hear attack for myself.

So, please don’t be offended if we decline. We love being invited and feeling like part of these celebration and events- however, we may prefer to see you with less chaos in a more controlled environment. The party is for your child, you, a spouse, or loved one after all- and, I prefer to keep it that way (not about my kids food issues). We don’t love you any less- all we ask is you respect our decision.

5) Please don’t feed the ‘animals’- yes, I would love to make my kids wear a shirt that say’s this. This is really hard for some people to understand- we have gone from a nation that it was acceptable to give the neighbor kid a cookie to one that can’t even have crumbs on their floor. Call it what you want, it’s a fact. Thank you for your kind offer of snacks and drinks- and, please don’t be offended when we decline. More importantly, please don’t feed my monkeys without my knowing.

6) Playgrounds and parks are often over looked potential hazards. We love eating outside. The crumbs blow away in the wind and the tiny animals eat the remains. However, just as walking around with food indoors is problematic so is eating at the playground. Food should have rules- eat first, clean hands, then play.

7) Classroom’s, church’s, and camp’s are becoming increasingly aware of the potential risks that food can carry for some children. Due to the increased awareness and demand for such accommodations these facilities have in recent years really been at the cutting edge as far as I’m concerned in going above and beyond what they need to do to keep our kids safe. My hat goes off to them for being proactive, flexible, and accommodating whenever possible.

8) When in doubt skip it or show me the label. Label reading, web searches, and 1(800) numbers are my best friend. If an allergy sensitive child will be eating at your home- when in doubt always ask their parent. They will thank you. It is best to let the parent make the “mistake” of giving their child something that they shouldn’t have had verses you carrying the guilt that they had a reaction.

I know that probably sounds like a no brainer but you would be amazed at the number of people and businesses that offer things to my kids without consulting me first. My kids are aware of what they can and cannot eat but just like any normal human being the temptation of a chocolate glutinous cookie sometimes is too hard to resist- a 5 year old doesn’t have the logic to know just how that “1 cookie” will send them into a fiery mess of symptoms.

9) Colds and other illnesses although not problematic for your average adult or child can be quite troublesome for the food sensitive immune compromised population. What many people do not know is the reactions these children often suffer affect their entire body, weakening their immune systems, and therefore making them more susceptible to illness. Be courteous and mindful of such – if your kid has a full blown green and boogery nose or your feeling a bit “off” it maybe best to change the locations (maybe outdoors) or reschedule altogether.

10) Hugs, kisses, and handshakes – what has this world come to? I know, we are constantly in a state of ‘alert‘ these days from watching what we say in the work place to not hugging kids at school. However, I’m afraid it has just become a sad but true reality- hugs are great as long as you don’t have the remains of food and flour dust on your clothing. Kisses are sweet but maybe save them for the tops of heads and high fives are perfect as long as your hands are clean.

So, now that I have probably completely stressed you out and you will never invite us over (I’m kidding…) – I hope that I have help put a ‘real‘ sense of what it is that parents of food allergy, food sensitive, food intolerant kids go through. We do feel crazy and neurotic. We do have to ask a lot of questions. We do make mistakes too. We have to advocate and keep our kids safe regardless of who we might offend in the process.

Gluten Free Label Reading 101

 What is gluten anyways? How to Read a Gluten Free Label - Join Us as we walk you through label reading 101

 How to Read a Gluten Free Nutrition Label

Gluten-free and label reading-are like “peas and carrots” they just go together. The word “gluten” is not a labeled ingredient on food labels so it requires a bit of consumer knowledge. It is “where” and “in what” listed ingredients gluten hides that a gluten-free consumer must educate themselves. Label reading truly becomes second nature as manufacturers are constantly changing ingredients, the source of these ingredients, and their manufacturing practices. Just because your favorite cookies were gluten free 6 months ago does not mean that these same cookies are still free of wheat, rye, barley, oats and all their known derivatives today. Always read the label and when in doubt call the company with any specific questions you might have. I have called more 1(800) numbers from the grocery store in the past 3 years than ever before. Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed to ask a question – it’s your health / family’s health that is on the line.

Since the passing of the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act in 2004, identifying wheat has become significantly easier. The top 8 allergens that are required by law to be labeled in the US are – milk, eggs, fish, peanuts, wheat, tree nuts, shellfish and soybeans. Wheat and its derivatives are among the most heavily eliminated in the celiac diet. The food allergen consumer protection act has worked in our favor since there are presently no labeling requirements for gluten free products. Although, this will be changing as of August 2014 when all manufactures and food handling businesses offering gluten free options will be required to abide by the 20 PPM (parts per million) allowed. This amount is deemed safe for most celiac persons to consume – it is also among the smallest accurately measured unit as there is no such thing as a 0 PPM.

It is safe to say that most processedfoods with a flour base likely contain wheat flour or one of its derivatives as its base. Some of the more common and obvious products containing such bases are – cakes, cookies, breads, cereals and pastas. Many of these glutinous flours and starches also serve as good thickeners in many of our everyday foods – soy sauces, canned soups, cornbread, muffin mixes, lunch meat, yogurt, sour cream, hot dogs, sausages, broths and condiments.
Remember, just because a product is labeled “wheat free” does not necessarily make it gluten-freesince labeling of rye, oat, and barley are not required.

Learn it – “BROW” Barley, Rye, Oat, and Wheat – DON’T Eat

Barely is typically used as a flavor enhancer or thickener in soups, broths, cereals and protein bars (malt being the most common). Barley is not typically used in baking but many items containing “malt flavoring” such as syrups, cereals, beers and malt vinegars do contain it – always question the source by which “malt” is referring to. 

Rye fortunately is not often used in many items other than breads and crackers.

Oats themselves are not problematic for most celiac and gluten sensitive individuals. Oats are not in the same gluten containing family as rye, wheat, and barley. However, they are often cross-contaminated near-by wheat fields and/or during the manufacturing process – therefore, purchase oats that have been processed in a gluten free manufacturing facility. I have found Bob Redmill makes a safe alternative.

Potential Sources of Gluten – This is a generalized list of foods that may contain gluten. Frequently manufactures will lump a bunch of ingredients under one word not specifying its source unless necessary.

The following are gluten containing sources;

·        Bulgar (a form of wheat)
·        Couscous (a form of wheat)
·        Hordeum vulgare (barley)
·        Malt (sometimes made for barley-also see below)
·        Secale Cereale (rye)
·        Triticum Spelt (spelt, which is a form of wheat)
·        Triticum vulgare (wheat)
·        Wheat Protein / hydrolyzed wheat protein
·        Wheat Starch

Always try to find the exact make up or source of the following

Food “starch”– typically this means corn however, there is no guarantee unless specified. Although corn is gluten free and therefore gluten safe – if it were ‘potato‘ starch it would be problematic for someone with a nightshade intolerance.

Carmel color –“gluten containing ingredients are no longer used in North America and in Europe. Although the glucose syrup used is a gluten derivative, but it is highly processed containing no gluten in its final form.” (2 )My word of caution is always know the source, as each country has different processing regulations – in general caramel color should be 100% safe. (1)  

Dextrin – this can be made from wheat- although, then it would be required to be listed on the food label as being so based on the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act

Maltodextrin – this typically means corn, potato or rice in the US. Again, although gluten free, this does not necessarily mean nightshadefree.Foreign food manufactures may sometimes use wheat based ingredients.

Vinegar – Most vinegars are safe (apple cider, rice wine and balsamic) just to name a few. Be aware that malt vinegar is often derived from barely and therefore, not gluten safe. Distilled white vinegar can be from a variety of sources ranging from corn and grapes to wheat. If you are uncertain of the source call the manufacturing company to confirm.

(1) CanadianCeliac Association
(2) CSACeliacs.info

Photo Credit; Nicholas Raymond-stockvault.net

10 Gluten-Free Facts

gluten free, no gluten, celiac disease 10 Gluten-Free Facts

You have probably consumed a few gluten-free products and if not you have certainly seen a label or two in this day in age. For some like myself and my family it is a way of life. There is no “maybe I will try this” or “hmmmm, this doesn’t taste so great“-gluten-free is the only option.

Find out why-and, who is affected. 

Did you know?

1) 1 in every 133 Americans has Celiac Disease. That is approximately 1% of the population, with an expected 50-60% to be diagnosed by the year 2019*.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune digestive disorder in which the villi of the small intestine have been damaged, causing a direct interference with the proper absorption of the nutrients.

2) Celiac can affect men and women of all ages and races.

3) It is estimated that as much as 95% of the population is not yet diagnosed as having a gluten intolerance/sensitivity, Celiac, or other potential gluten related disorder. So if you think you are “not affected” by gluten, yeah, sorry to be the bearer of bad news but you just don’t know it yet.

4) A 100% Gluten free diet is the only existing treatment. (I know bad news for the poor pharmaceutical companies).

5) Other gluten linked or related issues (including but limited to); Infertility, Thyroid disease, Diabetes, Intestinal Cancer, Alzheimer’s, Osteoporosis, Anxiety, Depression, ADD/ADHD, Liver Disease, Migraines and other Neuropathic conditions.

Why you ask? Because gluten has destroyed the interior wall of the small intestine, allowing toxins to leak into the blood stream, and be carried throughout your body to reside in places it never should have been (your brain, thyroid, reproductive glands, etc.) So, what once was thought to be solely an intestinal issue is in fact so much more; it’s an inflammation issue too.

6) As of August 2014 new FDA Gluten-Free food labeling regulations will take place. “Gluten free is a voluntary claim manufacturers may elect to use when labeling their food.” However, as of August 2014 manufacturers will be required to meet the minimum 20 PPM (parts per million) for all foods labeled “gluten free“, “without gluten“, “no gluten“, and “free of gluten“. Most people with Celiac or gluten sensitivity can in fact safely consume and tolerate food containing this tiny amount. *

**This “INCLUDES” restaurants and other food serves. Did you know  96% of gluten-free individuals are brand loyal.

7) Gluten-free does not necessarily mean “better for you“.

8) Gluten-free sales reached $4.2 billion in 2012 and are expected to increase to $6.6 billion by 2017*. Gluten-free food production is a booming business and since it’s the only known “cure” for Celiac those statistics are not going to be changing anytime soon.

9) 50% of ones’ success is taking action; the other 50% is our attitude.

10) Antibiotics, pain killers, and preservatives which all affect the natural gut flora have also been to blame for the increased number of gluten sensitive people.

Without a sufficient amount of good bacteria in our body we become unable to produce enough enzymes to aid in the break-down of the gluten protein. Our increased/overuse of pain killers over the years has also aided in the loss of good bacteria. According to Dr.Brogan, use of these drugs “increases intestinal permeability allowing for [food particles] to access the immune system; setting off autoimmune and inflammatory processes.” [A.k.a. a gluten sensitive/celiac type response]



Datamonitor Group, 2009

Packaged Facts “Gluten-Free Foods and Beverages in the US”