Healthy Obsessions

The Adventures of a Mild Obsessive Compulsive

Tag Archives: Celiac Disease

15 Percent Chance of Cancer

Which isn’t actually all that high. Although that number is probably not accurate for me.

So. Here’s the latest. The nodule on the left lobe of my thyroid was benign. The nodule on the right side was… we don’t know. The cells they found are present in both benign and malignant nodules. There’s apparently no way to know until they’ve cut that puppy out of me and dissected it in pathology.

My doctor recommends getting it out. Removing the right lobe of my thyroid. She would also be in support of removing the whole thyroid, so that they won’t have to go back in later to remove the left if the right proves cancerous.

If I keep the left, that means I have some thyroid function left. It might even be enough that I wouldn’t need supplementation, or could go with a lower dose. I… rather like the idea of keeping as many of my body parts as I can. I don’t like the idea of needing to completely depend on thyroid supplementation. Not because I mind taking medicine; that’s never been a problem. But because when I imagine surviving the apocalypse and being without recourse to medicine or advanced technology… it seems having some thyroid function left would be a good idea. This is why I’m also very interested in laser eye surgery. Contacts may not be easily come by after Armageddon. And no, I’m not saying I actually *believe* there’s an apocalypse coming. I do, however, think civilization is far more fragile than we might like to believe.

But back to that 15% statistic. That number applies to the population at large. It does not apply to celiac patients in specific. In the general population, we get averaged out by other people. However, celiac patients are apparently 10 times more likely to get thyroid nodules than non-celiac patients. We’re more susceptible to certain cancers (thyroid being one, non-Hodgkins lymphoma being another). I don’t actually know my odds on that one. I’ve done some study and not found much. I’ll probably find more if I dig deeper. But. Current data.

My father was asking me if keeping the lobe was an option. Not because he’s recommending it, because he doesn’t know and was wondering what my options were. So far, the literature I’ve read is saying to get the lobe removed. If I have thyroid cancer, I will not know it from thyroid function. The thyroid can keep chugging along and producing normal amounts of hormone even while home to cancer.

My doctor says it’s not a rush. I do have some time to think about it and do more research. I’m leaning towards removal of the right lobe. If I did get the whole thing taken out and then learned it wasn’t cancerous, I’d be really upset. Reminds me of my grandma cutting mold off a slice of bread, “Why throw that away? It’s a perfectly good slice of bread!”

The doctor’s concern is the risk of anesthesia, plus the risk of nicking either the parathyroid or the vocal chords. I don’t judge any of these risks sufficient reason to remove the whole thyroid. If I need to go in for surgery twice, I’ll do it.

Accidental Brownies — Gluten Free!

I accidentally made brownies the other day… My ex had just brought all my stuff over, so I was feeling like  being a bit self indulgent and decided to make frosting… and failed. Which is ridiculous, because making frosting is easy. But between using a new cocoa powder and overwhipping the butter… the frosting looked more like brownie mix than frosting. And I figured, well, why not?

So I added a few things… and the brownies were awesome. They had a chewy top and corners, but a very soft and rich center. Reminded me of the Ghirardelli mix I used to make in the days of gluten.

 

Accidental Brownies

2 ¼ sticks butter
6 — 8 tbsp cocoa powder
less than a box of powdered sugar*
two eggs
1 cup gf flour
chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla extract

  • Mix butter, cocoa powder, powdered sugar, and vanilla together in food processor or stand mixer.
  • Taste for sweetness (this makes a more bittersweet brownie, if you want it sweeter, add more powdered sugar)
  • Mix in eggs
  • Mix in flour
  • Pour into greased & sugared 9 x 9 pan (I use granulated sugar instead of flour to get a crunchier crust)
  • Bake at 350 for 30 — 40 minutes

 

*”Less than a box of powdered sugar” is my favorite instruction ever from my mom. It usually translates to 3/4 of a box.

How Celiac Became the Disease Du Jour

This is my theory. I make no claims of scientific thoroughness, just some logical extrapolations.

Baby boomers.

Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964, so we’re talking about an age range of 48 to 66. The baby boomers are getting older and beginning to hit senior citizenship. Understandably, they’re getting most of the focus of the medical industry at the moment. Things don’t work quite as well as they used to, but they still work well enough that care is optimistic instead of palliative, and people in that age range, on average, are already established. They have health insurance.  They probably have more money than, say, a 22 year old would. So that explains the focus on their generation.

Part 2 of the puzzle has to do with what happened when the baby boomers were kids.

At that time, celiac disease was considered a childhood illness that one could grow out of. Sprue was a more common name then (and that’s what my Grandma still calls it). A fair number of baby boomers were diagnosed with celiac disease; makes sense, the disease hadn’t really been diagnosed before the 1940s. Those children were put on gluten free diets.

After you’ve been on a gluten free diet long enough, your body recovers. It regrows the villi in your intestine. You regain the ability to process other foods (like dairy, which is the first to go when your villi start taking damage).

When the baby boomers were kids, that recovery was considered permanent. So, after a long enough time, the kids were told they no longer had celiac disease and could go back to eating gluten. Because the damage from celiac disease tends to accrue over time, the kids didn’t show immediate severe symptoms.

Not all the symptoms of celiac disease are obvious, hence the appropriately titled Celiac Disease: A Hidden Epidemic. Basically any condition that can be caused by either vitamin deficiency or inflammation can be a result of celiac disease. Doesn’t guarantee that it’s a result of celiac disease, just means that there’s a huge number of potential symptoms. This makes it harder to diagnose.

So we have these kids who have been told they’ve outgrown celiac disease who go back to eating gluten. They develop symptoms that are unpleasant, but not life threatening. What’s more, the symptoms aren’t always the obvious intestinal ones. And because the American medical institution believed for a very long time that celiac disease was ONLY a childhood disease, that means these now-adults weren’t diagnosed with it. It likely didn’t even occur to them or their doctors.

Nifty diagram of Secondary Celiac Symptoms from http://allergiesandceliac.blogspot.com

Instead, the doctors diagnosed them with the secondary conditions that were just symptoms, not the source of the problem. Heart burn? We have medication for that. Hormonal irregularities? We can treat that. Frequent respiratory infections? Happens. And we can treat that, too. Infertility? Well, it’s hard to know what causes that.

But the baby boomers are getting older, and this is when the damage from celiac disease takes a huge toll. Arthritis, osteoperosis, anemia, vitamin deficiencies, depression, neuropathy, fatigue… The body doesn’t have the benefits of youth to offset those symptoms. So the baby boomers go in to their doctors and they demand something be done. So it is.

So, yes. Celiac disease is the latest fad. That doesn’t mean, however, that it isn’t real.

Five Gluten Free Cookbooks (that will make your life a lot easier if you’re a celiac)

A few folks have been asking me which gluten free cookbooks they should get (either for themselves or as gifts for someone else). Here are some of the best gluten free cookbooks I’ve found:

  1. Healthy Gluten-Free Cooking: 150 Recipes for Food Lovers - This one is from the Ballymaloe Cooking School in Ireland, and I stumbled across it when I was searching for an Irish Soda Bread recipe. Every recipe I’ve tried from this book has been a success. The Irish Soda Bread recipe is wonderful.
  2. Gluten-Free Baking Classics - The title says it. This book gives you a great and simple overview of how gluten free flours work, where to find them, and what other things (like, say, xanthan gum) you’ll want to have on hand.
  3. The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook - Tons of great recipes in here that work not only for celiacs, but also for anyone on a low carb diet. If you sub honey in place of agave nectar, you can adapt many of these recipes for SCD, too. It would also probably work well for paleo diet folks. (The author has recently gone paleo, and she has a website with tons of additional recipes).
  4. The Cake Mix Doctor Bakes Gluten-Free - Confession, I don’t own this one. I own the original gluten-full version, but lordy do I lust after this one. It has great ratings on Amazon (4.5 stars from over 50 reviews). The original was wonderful and it looks like this one will be, too.
  5. Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Intestinal Health Through Diet - This book is the bible of SCD, and it’s a good one. It’s not aimed specifically at celiacs (although the diet was originally developed to treat celiac disease) but it has great recipes. The pizza crust in this one remains my absolute favorite of the various recipes and mixes I’ve tried.
Five great books, and there are dozens more waiting to be discovered or written. But this is a good place to start.

Gluten Free Blondies

Blondies are kinda a cross between a chocolate chip cookie and a brownie. Some recipes call for coconut (no thanks) or dried fruit (why?) but the best (in my opinion) is just plain chocolate chip. Chocolate chip cookie + brownie = awesome.

So I made some:

gluten free blondies

I snagged the recipe from Gluten Free Betty (highly recommend you check out her site). The main difference is that I baked the blondies by about 10 minutes less than she did. I find that with gluten free stuff, I really want to encourage the gooey elements since gluten free baked goods tend to dry out and go stale rather quickly.

The recipe:

1/2 cup butter, melted
2 cups packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tablespoons vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon xanthum gum
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups gluten free flour mix*
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

  • Mix melted butter and sugar together
  • Add eggs & vanilla, mix
  • Add dry ingredients, mix
  • Add chocolate chips (as many as you like)
  • Grease 9 x 13 baking pan
  • Pour (or scoop) batter into baking pan
  • Bake at 360 degrees F for 24 – 30 minutes
  • Cool & then serve

*You can use whichever gluten free flour mix you prefer, just be careful if there’s already xanthan gum or baking soda/powder in your mix and adjust accordingly. The original recipe calls for the mix from Gluten Free Baking Classics by Analise Roberts, which is excellent. I’ve also used this mix from Gluten Free Gobsmacked. Both work well, but I find I can’t handle the corn starch in the latter anymore.

Be careful to get a finely ground rice flour for whichever mix you make. The first time round I used too gritty a grind (Arrowhead Mills, while often wonderful, has too coarse a grind of white rice flour for my preference. Left me feeling like I had a mouthful of sand. Tasty sand, but sand nonetheless.) Second time around, I used Bob’s Red Mill Brown Rice Flour, which was finer ground and much better.

Going SCD

I’m sure my father will be thrilled with this one. I’ve decided to go SCD.

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet was initially designed to treat celiac disease, lo these many years ago. It’s very restrictive, and therefore hard to convince patients to stick to. Unless they have extremely good reason to do so – like, say, Crohn’s Disease, or Ulcerative Colitis, or Celiac Disease that is non-responsive to a gluten free diet. Luckily, I have none of these particular conditions (oh, isn’t that just asking for the god of digestive disorders to come down and smite me).

I’ve had friends who benefited from it. In many ways it’s pretty similar to the elimination diet I was on back in 2008. And I remember feeling good then. Having fewer skin irritations, fewer breakouts, a more settled stomach. This is not to say those are currently big problems, they aren’t. But the idea that I could feel *even* better if I just restricted my diet a *little* more… Well. I’ve never been great at moderation. And… I guess eating gluten free has just gotten… easy. And I get bored with easy.

I’ve figured out how to cook the way I want to while being gluten free. I’m curious to see how I handle this particular challenge; it’s a lot harder. Tonight, I made what I’m going to call Halva Cookies, since they remind me just faintly of the Halva I grew up with. They’re not quite what I’d like them to be, but I expect I’ll get them there. The flavor is just too mild at the moment. I’ve also got my first batch of soon-to-be-yogurt cooling on the stove. I need to add the yogurt starter, put it in mason jars, and get the dehydrator going.

If you’re interested in SCD, here’s a link to the book:

Gluten Free is Such a Fad

I’m standing at the checkout at WholePaycheck with my usual basket of gluten free items, and the checker looks at my basket and then smirks and says, “That’s such a fad right now.”

Anyone else ever get this kind of reaction?

On a very personal level, I find it frustrating. Not the fad itself, not precisely. But… Celiac disease is a pain in the butt. Particularly when I was first adapting to the lifestyle, I resented it. No cookies, no kitkats, no pasta, no flour tortillas, no easy shopping anymore. And getting that kind of smirk and snark just made it worse. Like ladling a cup full of condescension sauce over schadenfreude pie. No one likes being the on the receiving end of schadenfreude.

Read more →

23 and Me Sale! (and another health tracking related sale)

OMG. They’re back down to $99 until 11/29. That’s the deal I took advantage of in April. For full genetic testing – health and ancestry. That’s how we learned that both of my parents carry the same marker for celiac disease. And that my mother’s Italian Catholic family can be traced back to Yemeni Jews. And that my father’s family can be traced back to one particular Jewish woman 2000 years ago.

You know how obsessed I am with health and data. This is exciting! I need to ask my Mom if she wants one for my brother, or her brother. Or if Grandma wants one…


Edited to add – The glucose testing meter I bought the other day (impulse buy at the pharmacy) is also on sale at Amazon. For those, like me, who want to obsessively check everything. Or are at risk for diabetes. Or who have diabetes. You get the gist. Bayer Contour USB Blood Glucose Monitoring System. Has a USB interface that allows you to upload data to your computer and track that way. I’ve tried the meter today, haven’t played with the USB interface yet. Amazon has it for $29 + $5.48 shipping. Walgreens has it for $30, in store (sold out online).

I bought mine in store; it’s normally around $80.

Black Friday Deals For Those of Us Who Have to Bake at Home

Good Amazon deals going on for those of us who need to bake at home. Most of these should be going on Fri-Monday (you know, the whole Black Friday – Cyber Monday thing).

  • KitchenAid Professional 600 Series 6-Quart Stand Mixer – $499 down to $299 plus a $50 rebate = $249. If you’re thinking of getting one, this is a good deal. Just remember to mail in the rebate forms.
  • Breadman TR875 2-Pound Breadmaker – $129 down to $99. I’m seriously tempted. I’ve seen a bunch of gluten free bread machine bread recipes lately…
  • KitchenAid Artisan Series 5-Quart Mixer, White or Black – $349 down to $233 plus a $30 rebate = $203. This is the same model I have in my kitchen, just a different color. Except I got mine at $249 a year ago. This is a very good deal. All of the colors are on sale, but only Black and White are this low. Again, you need to mail in rebate forms. Always mail in your rebate forms.
  • Pamela’s Amazing Bread Mix, 25-Pound Bag – $48 on Amazon Warehouse. Down from $55 earlier in the week. Going for $69 on the regular Amazon site. If you’re a Pamela fan, this is a great deal. That’s less than $2 a pound. Rare in gluten free mixes.

Six Gifts for the Recently Diagnosed Celiac in Your Life

Friends and coworkers seem to be coming out of the woodwork lately asking me what they can feed/give a recently diagnosed celiac relative (amazing how many of us there seem to be wandering around). And seeing as the holidays are fast approaching, I decided to write up a  list of several things that can be incredibly helpful gifts for a celiac just starting out on a gluten free diet.

  1. Celiac Disease: A Hidden Epidemic – Did you know that Sweden had an epidemic of celiac disease among children born in the 1980s and 90s? This book tells you how and why it happened. Did you know that celiac patients are at higher risk for Lupus and Diabetes? This book goes over the research. This book was first on the list of resources my celiac doc gave me (and first in this list I’m making) because it gives a superb big picture overview of Celiac Disease.
  2. Gluten Free Living Subscription – I recommend this one because I know how much I want it :) It’s a quarterly magazine covering the gluten free lifestyle, the latest medical developments, recipes, events…
  3. Read more →