The Gluten-Free Manifesto

Okay, folks, I don’t rant very often and today I’ll try to keep the ranting to a minimum, but I want to get this off my chest. I didn’t start out as a member of the whole foods movement but I am rapidly becoming one because there is just so much junk in the manufactured food we eat. (Trust me, I like Oreos as much as the next guy, but once you read the ingredients list, they become a whole lot less appetizing). What I have found, though, is that opposed to a hundred years ago (at least where I grew up and we mostly grew our own food and stored it for the winter), eating fresh whole foods is actually kind of hard because our food distribution system is aligned towards feeding us what I like to call ‘crap in a box.’

So, today, in the spirit of Karl Marx and Martin Luther, I’m writing the Gluten Free Manifesto, or more accurately, the bill of rights for people with food intolerances.

1) The four most common food intolerances are: Gluten, corn, dairy, and fructose. When making products to avoid one, you will not substitute the others. Most people who have one food intolerance are also sensitive to at least one of the others. (Source: American Gastroenterological Association)

2) You will not create products that are labelled wheat free but actually contain malt flavoring (derived from barley) or other chemicals made from wheat or related grains containing gluten. Ditto corn, dairy, etc. People with experience in their food intolerances know the difference and seriously, that’s not fair to those who don’t or to those who are new and still trying to figure this stuff out.

3) You will not make products that are the gluten-free equivalent of  ‘crap in a box.’

4) Vitamin supplements will not contain extensive lists of ingredients, leaving out the most basic – cornstarch used as filler. (Yes, this happened recently. I’m still annoyed. My daughter will be the beneficiary of a large bottle of Vitamin D that listed every small ingredient including the flavorings but left off the cornstarch. Ditto the $35 probiotic that contains dairy and will be needing a new home).

5) You will not add wheat or cornstarch to spices. (Seriously? Spices? Yes, sadly it’s true as they use it to avoid clumping. I went to add seasoned salt to something the other night only to find it is full of cornstarch).

6) Your baking products should not taste like beans. We know that bean flour is a good substitute in many baked goods but seriously, the last cookies I bought have this lovely raw bean aftertaste. Ugh.

7) The ingredients list on your food product should not require a chemistry degree to decipher.

8)  Don’t make me write to you to find out what is really in your product. Several times I’ve done this, and it’s always been an unpleasant surprise when you responded.

9) If you run a natural grocery store, you will train your employees about cross-contamination. Keep the gluten-y stuff away from the not gluten-y stuff. I now have a $9 bag of coffee I can’t use because it makes me sick – it is labeled 100% coffee so I have to assume it’s cross-contamination from the other bulk coffee bins. (Perhaps someone cut corners and reused a bulk bin without washing it? Ugh.)

So, I try never to end this blog on an unhappy note. There is some light at the end of this tunnel. By now, we’ve figured out that I can’t have gluten, corn or dairy. We also think I may have some histamine intolerance so I limit how much I eat of high histamine foods like strawberries and tomatoes. Almonds are still on the naughty list but may come back on a trial basis. I’m feeling better than I have in a year, and I’ve even lost some weight.

We’re also doing some things I’ve always loved to do – I’m growing fresh herbs in my kitchen and we are applying to the HOA for permission to install a garden in the backyard. We’re eating lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, lean meats and home-baked goods.

I’m trying to keep this in perspective, too, and this time around I think I’m doing a much better job. A decade ago, I had a major health crisis that ended me up at the Mayo Clinic for three weeks. While Mayo was able to get me back on the right track, health-wise, it was a major change in lifestyle and I struggled with that for a couple of years. This time around, I’m seeing it as a minor annoyance and every good day I have as a blessing.

The further blessing is that I’m having more good days than bad now. Finally. And, I’m a bit more philosophical about all of it, too, I guess. With aging comes wisdom, and with aging comes, well…aging. So there you go.

Greetings from Denver, where it was 70 degrees yesterday and today we are getting a foot of snow. Perhaps a little of the unpredictable in life is a good thing. It keeps us on our toes.

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2 thoughts on “The Gluten-Free Manifesto

  1. caityrosey says:

    The starch as filler thing surprises me. I did not realize that they were allowed to leave off things that are used as filler. At least, anything that’s not water…And water is usually listed.

    • Mardee says:

      Yeah, I was too but they are vitamin supplements which aren’t apparently required to list all the ingredients. The company was very kind in their response when I wrote to ask if there was something in it but it’s still the case that I would never have bought it if I’d know there was corn in it. I seem to be even more sensitive to corn than to gluten.

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