Tag Archives: celiac disease

Gluten and brain fog

Similar to my recent post on gluten and memory loss, gluten is also linked closely to mental “brain fog”. A feeling of confusion, reduced ability to think clearly, or make quick connections. Because we can’t feel the tissue in our brains like we can feel the tissue in our guts, we don’t necessarily identify the effects of a glutening on our cognitive function. But it’s there. In fact, unexplained brain dysfunction is seen in 6 to 10 percent of patients diagnosed with celiac disease.

Sadly, I find my brain is often in a fog. Case and point: I opened my kitchen cupboard yesterday morning to get out a coffee cup and I find this scene.

Yep. That’s the half & half that I used in my coffee the morning before. I put it in the cupboard instead of the refrigerator.

This happens all the time. Not just with the half & half, but I’ve found peanut butter in the freezer. I’ve inexplicably lost one flip flop somewhere in my apartment. I’ve looked for 30 minutes for my phone before remembering that I plugged it into the charger.

It’s like I’m 90 years old – my brain just misfires and it will just do things that make no sense while caught up in the fog.

So, what causes this annoying lack of mental clarity? Gluten, of course. Among other things.

The top three gluten related causes of brain fog are:

  1. Nutrient deficiencies – especially B vitamins and zinc. Due to malabsorption of these and other vitamins/minerals, the body and brain can start not functioning properly.
  2. Milk and dairy. Studies have shown that for many celiacs, eliminating gluten isn’t enough to completely lift mental side effects from the disease. Only when dairy and gluten were eliminated did their condition improve noticeably.
  3. Sinus congestion/pressure. Gluten can cause inflammation of the sinuses, which places pressure on parts of the brain and increases histamine levels.

With the elimination of every trace of gluten, and in some cases dairy, conditions in people with brain fog have been shown to improve, especially in children. In one study, a group of children who eliminated gluten from their diet raised their grade point averages from 2.5 to 3.9!

Of course, this is just more evidence that I really need to give up dairy in my diet. It’s something I’ve tried and something I dread actually having to do, but maybe it will help me stop putting my half & half in the cupboard :)

Gluten and memory loss

Last weekend I bought some flowers for myself. I brought them home, carefully cut them, arranged them in vases, put plant food in the vases, and put them around my apartment. Anything fishy about that course of events?

I looked at them two days later and they were looking pretty droopy, when I realized that…yeah, I forgot to put the water in.

Sometimes I feel like I’m losing my mind. My short term memory is almost non-existent – and it can be so frustrating.

I’ve been reading up a bit on Celiac disease and memory loss, and it’s pretty fascinating (slash terrifying).  It serves as a reminder that Celiac disease isn’t an upset tummy – it’s an autoimmune disorder and can cause some major damage to the body and brain.

The Gluten Effect has a whole chapter on gluten and memory loss that describes two studies finding correlations between gluten intolerance and memory loss (along with other related symptoms like trouble with calculations).

Gluten can affect the memory in two main ways:

  1. The same antibodies that your body makes that attack your intestines when gluten is in your system can also attack brain tissue.
  2. Decreased levels of Vitamin B-12 due to malabsorption can also affect the memory.

File this under “learn something new every day” – for every one patient with celiac disease who presents with gastrointestinal complaints, there are seven patients with celiac disease who have no GI symptoms.

Yowza. The most common symptoms that people associate with Celiacs disease are definitely the GI ones – poor nutrient absorption, diarrhea, bloating. But there is also a whole slew of neurological damage that can be caused by the disease that, to me, is way scarier than the GI damage. It’s been linked to bipolar disorder, ADD, and even schizophrenia.

Moral of the story is that this disease has the power to affect more than our bellies. It’s also a reminder to me that I need to be all the more careful about cross contamination and what I eat to make sure that I’m taking care of my brilliant, brilliant brain ;)

NYC gluten free recap

Seeing as I ate my way through New York City the last time I was there – I still had a hodge podge of photos left on my iPhone expensive state-of-the-art special blog camera. So, besides my reviews of Rubirosa, Rice to Riches, and Gramercy Tavern, below are some of the other gluten free yummies I found when I was there.

“Orios” and eclairs at Risotteria in the East Village. Yes. I said gluten free eclairs. I also picked up a “Winkie” for my friend – which I tried a bite of and tastes nearly identical to what I remember a Twinkie to taste like.

The ultimate bar snack – roasted peanuts and garlic with rosemary at the John Dory Oyster Bar

Gluten free cupcakes at Terri

Macaroons at some place I can’t remember. But was happy to see them marked definitively gluten free.

Banana bread with chocolate chips from Babycakes

It always hurts my heart when Celiacs tell me they haven’t been to NYC. It’s a bonafide gluten free playground and every time I go things seem to get more and more delicious.

For more of my favorite places to eat in NYC – check out my NYC GFREE EATS page. All restaurants have the highly-coveted Anna stamp of approval ;)

Gramercy Tavern: peanut butter semifreddo

Gramercy Tavern. Sure it’s the sixth highest rated restaurant in the Zagat ratings – but do they have chops when it comes to gluten free dishes?

Absofreakinlutely.

Any restaurant who’s chef if nominated for  a James Beard award had better be able to whip up some pretty tasty dishes. But the real winner here was dessert. Yes, I’m going out of narrative order here just so I can bring you the dessert first. After *suffering through* six other courses, I was presented with the best dessert ever. Period.

Nancy Olsen, I bow down to your pastry goddessness and I kiss the ground you walk on.

Peanut butter semifreddo, sandwiched between two chocolate macaroons (like a thin chewy brownie), a giant glob of thick caramel sauce, all on top of a pool of fudge and these amazing roasted peanuts.

It was everything a dessert should be – a total mixture of textures, sweet but not too sweet, a bit of saltiness, fun to play with, doesn’t melt. It was perfection.

I ate some other things too… like:

Squash salad with pumpkin seeds

Warm broccoli soup (Actually one of my favorite dishes. I loved the vibrant color and the intense broccoli flavor).

Shrimp and white beans with brussel sprout leaves. (best cooked shrimp I’ve ever had. I kept going “how did they DO this?”)

I also got a second dessert compliments of the chef (probably because I made a loud “mmm” noise when the waiter told me that one of my options was butterscotch and pumpkin pudding). It had that same caramel sauce that was on the semifreddo – and I would take a bath in it if I could.

So, there ya have it. If you have some cash to blow I highly recommend going for dinner. Or do the smart thing and just go for dessert and order three semifreddos with a side of the caramel sauce. Like a boss.

One last note: I loved Gramercy Tavern because it wasn’t stuffy or formal, even though it’s one of the best restaurants in the city. It feels really homey, warm, and inviting. The waitstaff was great and really went out of their way to make the meal spectacular (and gluten free, of course).

Gramercy Tavern
42 East 20th Street
New York, NY

Should you tip more if you’re a gluten free diner?

Dining out on a gluten free diet usually goes one of two ways – either the waitstaff and kitchen are awesome and accommodating… or they have no clue what they’re doing and treat you like you’re a total pain in their collective butts. So, if the waitstaff and restaurant treat you well, don’t gluten you, and are helpful – should you show them the money?

The obvious first answer that comes to mind is a resounding YES! Of course you should show your appreciation to your server by giving them a larger-than-average tip.Usually I tip a standard 20%, unless the service is amazing (ie: they made something special just for me, gave a bunch of helpful suggestions, or just didn’t make me feel like I was a bother). Then I’ll go up to 25%.

However, sometimes I wonder if I’m actually being a pain, or if it’s all in my head. I’ve seen “regular” patrons at restaurants treat their servers like total crap, or make requests that seem to be more or equally as bothersome as asking about gluten free options.

So, should accommodating gluten free diners be considered “above and beyond”? Or just part of the job description for servers?

In general, I think if the server is average, you should tip them average. I consider average service to include: knowing what items on the menu are gluten free (or be willing to check with the chef), and then making sure the kitchen knows that your dish needs to be gluten free.

Anything more than that is a call for celebration – those servers know what they’re doing.

These are the type of things I tip 25% for:

  1. Making suggestions to make the meal great (“The dressing that comes on the salad isn’t gluten free, but this other one is. We can also add some nuts to replace the croutons.”)
  2. Offering equivalent substitutions (“The french fries aren’t gluten free, but we can substitute a baked potato, side salad, roasted vegetables, or chips.”)
  3. Being nice (“No problem, I’ll make sure the chef knows you’re gluten free.”)
  4. Getting into it (“My sister is gluten free! She loves the milkshakes here. Have you read this cookbook?”)

What do you think? Should we tip waiters more for “dealing with” gluten free diners?

My four favorite “secret” gluten free bloggers

I follow a lot of blogs – some gluten free, some healthy living, some fashion/lifestyle, and some that are a mix of all of them. I’ve found that some of the blogs that I get the most out of, or like the best, are ones that aren’t explicitly focused on gluten free living/recipes, but are “secretly” gluten free. By “secretly” I mean that they often have recipes that are gluten free or give easy substitutions to make them gluten free.

I think what I like so much about these blogs is that, while I love reading about Celiac Disease and the gluten free community, sometimes it can get to be too much (or too depressing). These blogs are just fun, plus they all have easy and healthy recipes to boot!

These are four of my favorites!

1. Clean Eating Chelsea
Not only is Chelsea totally hilarious, but she’s gluten free! I’m always getting ideas from her on new ways to make my morning oatmeal, and totally appreciate that her recipes are made with whole foods and are heavy on the veggies!

Must make recipe = the perfect bowl of oatmeal. This is basically exactly how I make my oats in the morning, except I let them soak overnight and then microwave them in the morning. Chelsea gave me the idea to put jam in my oats, which revolutionized my breakfast – a spoonful of sugar-free raspberry jam in oatmeal makes the whole thing burst with raspberry flavor!

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2. Chocolate Covered Katie
Katie somehow is always coming up with ingenious recipes and healthy twists on classic desserts. While most of her recipes are very close to being gluten free from the start, if they aren’t then she always makes sure to put in instructions on how to substitute ingredients to make them gluten free. Awesome!

Must make recipe = chocolate chip cookie dough dip! I use gluten free oats in mine and it’s one of my favorite healthy indulgences.

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3. The Wannabe Chef
I love this guy. He has tons of simple recipes for quinoa, tempeh (one of my staples), and is notorious for delicious brownies.

Must make recipe = banana pancakes! With only five ingredients these are as simple as can be (because I don’t know about you, but early in the morning the last thing I want to do is measure out 7 different kinds of flour).

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4. Dashing Dish
Katie’s blog has a ton of creative recipes. While they aren’t all gluten free, she’s great about putting substitutes in – not to mention pumping up her recipes with protein and keeping them low in sugar! Any girl who can actually come up with a recipe for “chocolate protein frosting” is a miracle-worker in my book!

Must make recipe = rich chocolate cake with chocolate protein frosting. (You should also check out her strawberry protein pancake roll ups)

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Thanks to Chelsea, Katie, Katie, and Evan for all of your great recipes!

Rubirosa NYC: Second best gluten free pizza in the city

I’ve had my share of gluten free pizza. And I still honestly think that I make the best crust right in my own kitchen using Namaste Foods mix! And I do think that Pala Pizza’s crust is the best in the city.

But, I have to admit that Rubirosa in SoHo has Pala and me beat on the sauce. Their vodka sauce is so delicious it basically makes you forget that the crust and cheese exist and want to get a straw and put it directly into a vat of sauce for your meal. That said – the crust and cheese were workin’ for me too.

See that saucy goodness?

Let’s back up for a second here though – Rubirosa has more than just gluten free pizza on their menu. They also have gluten free calamari, mozzarella sticks, and rice balls. Which I consider to be gfree delicacies – rare finds that kind of make you stare in shock at any menu that has them. They also have gluten free meatballs for you carnivores.


We tried to not go overboard though, so we started with a simple salad. (This was the same afternoon as Rice to Riches, so I was trying not to be a complete gluten free glutton).

Perfect salad – with fennel, radishes, and big slices of pecorino romano.

But let’s be real – it’s just a way to reduce the guilt before you inhale half of a pizza.


Gee, New York City really does know how to do pizza.

And just be awesome in general.


Any other favorite pizza places in NYC? I’ve heard that Keste is a favorite.

Rubirosa
235 Mulberry Street
New York, NY

Rice to Riches NYC

I haven’t posted in far too long, I know. But I have an excuse! First, I was here:

Then, I was here:

I’ve been traveling and had TONS of great meals to share. We’ll start with something sweet.

I finally made it to Rich to Riches in SoHo. I’ve walked by a few times and heard great things (not to mention it was on Sex and the City), but had never pulled the trigger and gone in. I actually have never considered myself to be a huge rice pudding lover – it always seems like, why have rice pudding when you can have ice cream instead?

But this place made me a convert. I would take this rice pudding over ice cream any day.

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They have over 20 flavors of rice pudding – all but two are gluten free (I know cookies and cream, and I think the honey graham).

Yep, that’s Rocky Road.

I tried a sample of the Hazelnut Chocolate Bear Hug and it was like eating nutella pudding. Delicious for a bite, but I think it would be too rich for a whole bowl.

I landed on the Pecan Pie.

It was creamy. So creamy. And had big chunks of pecans in it.

If I had one regret it was not adding whipped cream to the top to really give it the full pie experience.

This pretty much sums it up.

Also of interest – Rice to Riches has been wrapped up in a controversy lately about some racist wall signage that they put up. What a PR nightmare. Hopefully people will forgive them once they’re stunned into submission by the deliciousness of the pudding.

Rice to Riches
37 Spring Street
New York, NY

Chocolate chip “cookie dough” stuffed rice krispy treats

Because it’s just a ridiculous concept, I had to try to make these chocolate chip cookie dough stuffed rice krispy treats that I saw on Pinterest from Love Veggies and Yoga. I combined that recipe with this recipe from Chocolate Covered Katie for healthy chocolate chip “cookie dough” made from chickpeas.

I had made the chocolate chip cookie dough dip recipe before and eaten it plain, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to amp it up a bit.

For the cookie dough dip (inspired by this recipe):

  • 1 1/2 cups chickpeas (1 can, drained) (250g)
  • 3 pinches salt
  • tiny bit over 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup almond butter
  • 2-3 T. almond milk
  • 2 T. brown sugar (I used Splenda blend)
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips
  • 2 to 3 T gluten free oats

Directions: Add all ingredients (including just half of the chocolate chips) in a food processor, and blend until very smooth. Then mix in the rest of the chocolate chips. Chill in the refrigerator.

For the rice krispy bars (inspired by this recipe):

I made a half recipe of the normal rice krispy recipe on the back of the box, but if you were using a full 9 x 13 pan I would recommend using the whole recipe.

2 cups mini marshmallows (I use Campfire) plus an additional 1/2-3/4 cup

4 cups gluten free rice krispies (note: don’t use the puffed rice, not even close to the same. They’ll turn out soggy/overly chewy, I’ve made that mistake before.)

3 T. butter

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions: Take the marshmallows (reserving about 1 c of marshmallows) and melt them in a pan over a low heat with the butter. Add vanilla. Remove from heat and add in the Rice Krispies cereal. Stir to combine.

Put them together:

  1. Spray a brownie pan and press half of the rice krispy mixture into it (I also spray my hands to press it down without it sticking).
  2. Press clumps of the cookie dough onto the top of that layer so it’s fairly equally spread. Then sprinkle the extra mini marshmallows on.
  3. Quickly spread the rest of the rice krispy mixture on top and press down to seal the middle layer in.
  4. Allow to chill in the fridge while you melt some chocolate chips in the microwave.
  5. Spread chocolate over top and put back in the fridge to set up.

I’m trying to forget that these are in my fridge right now, but it’s not working very well.

Thanks to Pinterest for another brilliant find!

Youtube videos about Celiac disease that are actually good

I don’t think it’s quite a bandwagon yet, but I’m jumping on board with the Gluten Dude and Erin from Gluten Free Fun in commenting on the “Sh*t gluten-free people say” video that Cappello’s made (which they have since removed from Youtube).

I’m not going to spend too much time belaboring how lame the video was. But I will say I was not happy to see my gluten free people depicted as bitchy, needy, and frivolous. There’s a lot of work to be done in raising awareness that Celiac disease is a serious autoimmune disorder. You don’t see anyone making a “Sh*t people with Lupus say” video, now do you?

So, here are a few videos on Celiac disease that made me laugh. Ones that were created by people actually living with Celiacs, not a company trying to increase sales.

1. The Quinoa Song:

These guys are great, and this song is actually really catchy/informative! “If you have Celiac Disease, allergy to wheat, the Inca Gold will save you – it’ll get you off your feet!”

2. Royal Empire Celiac Awareness

Gluten Dude shared this video and I loved it so I’m sharing it to give these guys some more views!

3. The Rap on Celiac Disease:

And this one had me cracking up. “Celiac disease, all the way!”

4. Celiac Disease: What kids have to say

This one didn’t make me laugh, but I love these kids. They aren’t following any fad and eating gluten free is hard for them, but they can always find the good in things.

Hopefully more funny, silly, heartfelt, and *hilariously awful* videos will start coming out soon!