Friday, February 27, 2009

Is "considered" gluten free good enough?

"Fruit of the Gods" watercolor, copyright Erin Rogers Pickering

I became very frustrated in the first few months as I attempted to remove all gluten from my diet. Seemed no matter how hard I tried I was still ingesting gluten – and delaying the healing process. I was afraid of any prepared or manufactured foods so went to the basics… fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, rice and potatoes. The produce department was my favorite place to visit and the only aisle in the grocery store that didn’t scare me. I continued to investigate everything else I considered eating.

During that time I found out I needed foods produced in dedicated facilities… no matter how safe the handling practices. I learned that many manufacturers dust their conveyor belts with wheat so the food doesn’t stick. Also learning some foods are ‘considered’ gluten free because they contain less than 20 ppm.
But, what if it is something you consume daily or in quantity? How much is really safe? I believe zero is safe.

I drink rice milk daily and the two brands I was buying both contain traces of gluten. Even though they can legally be labeled as gluten free since it is below the 20 ppm. Last summer I switched to Pacific Brand Rice Milk and finally turned the corner. I saw a difference within two weeks and was finally able to begin healing.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Great Friends

                                                                                            "Ladies Night" copyright Erin Rogers Pickering

This past Saturday we got together with 2 friends I used to work with, and their families. It had been a long, long time since the 3 of us were together. We were missing #4, but she lives in FL now so we were hoping she was warm, and having as much fun as we were.

It was one of those events that I was awaiting all week with excitement. But, since going gf I always have a bit of trepidation before eating at anyone's home (all except my brother's since my sister-in-law cooks only gf). I would never want to insult any of my family or friends but I need to protect myself and eat safely, so I often bring my own food.

I always offer to bring appetizers since I can bring a variety of things I can eat... and can always fill up on gf snacks so I can eat light at dinner if need be. My go-to choices... cheese, gf rice crackers, Green Mountain Gringo salsa, fruit, hummus, carrot sticks, and gf tortilla chips.

Well, my wonderful, amazing friend who hosted the dinner went out of her way to prepare a safe meal - and told me everything that went into it so I could rest at ease. She even made a portion of her special appetizer just for me that no one was allowed to touch.

My other dear sweet friend was bringing dessert so she went looking for gf cookies. They were mini bites with raisins and yummy!

So we ate, we drank, we talked, we laughed... all while the kids became instant best friends and got along beautifully. I was able to relax and partake in all the delicious food knowing I was loved and protected.

My cup runneth over.
  • Erin Go Paint Etsy Store
  • Thursday, February 19, 2009

    Happy Feet

    Spring Shoe Parade, copyright Erin Rogers Pickering

    A funny thing happened on the way to gluten free… My feet got better.

    My feet had gotten so tender I couldn’t even stand being barefoot. My shoes had all become torture. Day after day I wore the same soft flat slip-on shoes. Putting them on as soon as I got out of bed in the morning, and taking them off right before getting into bed at night.

    It happened so gradually I didn’t really notice until they were quite bad.  My foot problems were overshadowed by the headaches, bone pain and digestive problems. Dozens of high-heels lay forgotten in my closet, I didn't even want to look at them – and this from a high-heeled wearing shoe addict.

    Happily, I am back in heels on most days and have even been kicking around the house barefoot... loving every minute of it.

  • Erin Go Paint Etsy Store
  • Wednesday, February 18, 2009

    My Migraine Story – A Gluten Free Miracle

    My first visual aura occurred when I was 12. My first migraine struck about 6 months later. It was like being hit by a truck. At that time they came every few months, lasted less than a day, but they leveled me. By 16 they were more frequent and we now knew what they were. The pain was excruciating, the auras made me vomit, so when I found food trigger lists I tried to give up everything on the lists.

    Unfortunately gluten didn't make it to those trigger lists 30 yrs ago. Damn shame. But chocolate and red wine were there and by my early 20s I had vowed never to touch them again (I stayed true to that vow for over 20 yrs). It wasn't worth 4, 5, 6 days in bed in the dark in agony... Thinking I would never see the other side of that pain.

    I have tried everything from radical and experimental drug treatments, heavy-duty painkillers, acupuncture, biofeedback, meditation, tai chi, ice packs, caffeine, hot compresses, sleep, and a severely restricted diet, but still never a mention of gluten.
    And still averaged 3-4 migraines a month. Lasting an average of 2 days.

    I do remember in my late 20's while speaking with a renowned NYC Migraine Neurologist that he recommended avoiding beer since that seemed to be a huge migraine trigger with most of his patients.

    In 2000 I found out I had celiac disease accidentally. Through an elimination diet in order to control my fluctuating thyroid levels, I removed gluten among other things. When I reintroduce gluten I got a migraine - Every. Single. Time. 
    I ate mostly gluten free for the next 5 years and felt a little better but not great, but did not have a full understanding.

    In April 2009 I made the decision to get super strict and super vigilant.  No matter what it took I was going to get all the gluten out  - I could no longer live with the constant bone pain, profound exhaustion and what had become daily headaches.

    It took a lot longer than I thought to really feel a difference but the headaches started to lessen within weeks. After a few months it was clear the migraines were leaving. And they only occurred when I accidently ate gluten.
    It took some time, and a huge effort, to identify and remove all the gluten traces in my diet.  ALL the traces!

    This coming April I will hit my 5 year mark of super clean. I have lost track of the last time I had a migraine... After 30+ years I never really thought I would ever see this day! I never thought this could be possible!  
    And the joy and gratefulness that I feel brings tears to my eyes. I do know that it is well worth the trouble to be gluten free and that I have to maintain zero tolerance.

    This is not a diet to ever cheat on. You only cheat yourself.

    Important note: Since going gluten free, chocolate and red wine are no longer migraine triggers... and I savor them every chance I get!

    Friday, February 13, 2009

    "Mommy's Baking!"

    "Artisan Baker gluten-free"
    handpainted flour sack towel, copyright Erin Rogers Pickering

    My daughter goes running joyfully through the house to notify her Daddy... "Mommy's baking!" I bake every week now but she is no less excited. It's all gluten free, and she, and my husband, gobble up the muffins and bread I bake, barely waiting for them to cool.

    I was never a baker - probably made 5 cakes in my entire life. Especially from scratch. Any recipe with more than 8 ingredients intimidates me. So I use mixes, and I experiment... adding to the batter to make them as healthy and interesting as possible... canned pumpkin, bananas, berries, yogurt, nuts, etc. Some have been more successful than others, but all have been tasty.

    Truthfully, I don't experiment with the bread too much - took me too long to get it right, so I am afraid to deviate. Tweaking the time and oven temperature, how warm the kitchen needed to be for the rise, which rack gave the best results kept me occupied. But, we ate all the trials along the way because this bread is damn tasty and goes fast in our house.

    I use Whole Foods 365 Brand Corn Muffin Mix, Muffin Mix, and Sandwich Bread Mix. I recommend these mixes for ease of use and for the excellent taste and texture. Eating these is not missing out.

    And, it is very satisfying to have safe, healthy fresh baked goods in the house.

  • Erin Go Paint Etsy Store
  • Friday, February 6, 2009


    " Midnight in the Garden", acrylic, 20x24 copyright Erin Rogers Pickering

    I created this blog back in April 08 with the intent to chronicle my transition to be fully gluten free, as I lived it. I didn't realize how ill I was until I took on the task of healing.

    Planning, preparing, baking, researching... stretched my already jammed schedule nearly to the breaking point. I had no time or energy for writing/illustrating when I was so busy just getting through each day, ever watchful of any lurking gluten.

    I didn't know when I began that it would take months to uncover all the gluten I was consuming. I didn't know the exhaustion would take so very long to fade. I was certainly unprepared for the withdrawal and the force at which it hit - especially since I was already on a very low gluten diet. (My husband was amazingly supportive through this very rough phase).

    It took months of being rigidly watchful, suspicious of all foods, ignoring the naysayers who told me "it wasn't worth it" or "that it must be something else or you would feel better by now" or "why was I sick again?" It meant giving up the convenience of take-out, the enjoyment of dining out, bringing my own food everywhere or sometimes just being hungry. It meant staying positive, getting scoped in case the situation had gotten more serious, and believing that if it took a lifetime to get this bad, that it would take time to heal.

    I did it because I believed it was the answer. And it was.