Hidden gluten, cross-contamination, and celiac disease, oh my!

It’s been two weeks since I started this.

Two weeks since I realized that I was generally feeling ill and had a host of problems over my life that the doctors could not figure out the cause, and oh yeah!, maybe cutting out more than just bread and pasta versions of wheat might help, aka finding and eliminating hidden gluten (not that any doctor suggested this. Ever >.<). Some of the problems I’ve had/been diagnosed with that I’ve recently discovered can be

attributed to gluten (even minute amounts of hidden gluten):

  • Hair loss (this was in college)
  • Urticaria (this also started in college. You can literally write on my skin, and it hurts to carry heavy things or open tight jars or even crush potato chips – anything that puts pressure on my hands) (this is also related to auto-immune disorders. They gave me steroids to treat the hair loss and offered more for the urticaria – steroids depress immune function!)
  • Poor immune system function, aka getting sick all the time – for me it was especially with respiratory illness
  • Migraines
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (aka you are tired all the time and we don’t know why)
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Inability to lose weight
  • Brain fog
  • Depression
  • Irritable Bowl Syndrome
  • Lactose intolerance that comes and goes (long term exposure to gluten can destroy the lining of the intestine, which makes it hard to digest difficult things, like dairy. I thought I was ok with digesting dairy when I gave up meat, but now that I think about it that was also around the time I gave up wheat)
  • Adrenal Fatigue
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Sensitivity to not just wheat but other grains that contain gluten, like amaranth, spelt, teff, sorghum, barley, corn, etc.

(There are a gazillion more ways gluten sensitivity can manifest, these are just some of mine. If you are having unexplained problems, or even other illnesses like fibromyalgia, autism, or ADD, you might want to check out if you have gluten sensitivity.)

I have also found that gluten can hide in the sneakiest of places. Some examples of hidden gluten:

  • Toothpaste, mouthwash, lipstick, sunscreen, shampoo, etc.
  • Gums, like envelope or stamp glue
  • “Natural flavorings”, “food starch”, “vegetable protein”, or even “tomato paste” – it doesn’t say what is in it and it could have wheat
  • Vit E (usually derived from wheat)
  • Vitamins or other supplements that do not explicitly say they are gluten/wheat free
  • Anything in the bulk foods section (because of the gluten containing items there, and how it can get in the air)
  • Grated cheese (and other food that needs an anti-caking agent)
  • Paper cups (they often use a food grade powder to prevent the cups from sticking to each other)
  • Gum, or chocolate or anything that they want to have not stick during the manufacturing process (currently manufacturers are not required to label anything that is used as “packaging”)
  • Malt – its made from barley. HVP (hydrogenated vegetable protein), HPP (hydrolyzed plant protein), TVP (textured vegetable protein), MSG (monosodium glutamate could contain wheat if made outside of the US), and phrases like modified food starch (supposedly safe if made in the US). Also maltodextrin, stabilizers, binders, fillers, “enriched” food, and mono & diglycerides, to name just a few.
  • French fries, or anything that is made in the same frier as things with gluten (like onion rings, chicken strips, etc)
  • Anything made in a kitchen that has made something with flour in the last 24 hours – flour can hang in the air for at least that long and settle on any surface.
  • Anything made in a kitchen where they have use the cutting board, toaster, cookie sheet, knives, etc on something with gluten and they did not thuroughly scrub them between. Wood can get it embedded, so even if you scrub its still there.
  • Latex gloves (for dishes, or at the dentist, etc)
  • Any other food that is made, packaged, or re-packaged where they made, packaged, or re-packaged something made with gluten! Aka, it could be in ANYTHING that doesn’t specifically state they protect against cross-contamination.

This insane list of possible hidden gluten is why I am trying to make everything from scratch.

And yet, I’m not feeling that much better.

Paper cups @ f/1.2

Image by Ernst Vikne via Flickr

Writing this entry has helped. Its reminded me of some things I probably wasn’t careful enough about. A paper cup at work. Yogurt with pectin (it could have been cross contaminated in manufacturing).

And then, as if all of this wasn’t enough, I discovered last night that many other grains have gluten as well. In all probability, it isn’t that I have sensitivities to wheat, corn, amaranth, teff, and sorghum. Its likely that I have one sensitivity, to gluten, and gluten is present in EVERY GRAIN. It is there to varying degrees, the highest of which is wheat (and lowest is rice). Ignore all the ads and attempts to get you to buy a membership, but this video was very educational about the difference between celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, the glutens found in all grains and the levels of gluten, and the body’s reactions.

I have noticed that I don’t feel that hot after having things with millet, oat, or potato. Not super bad, but just kinda tired and lethargic. I thought it was just carb overload that happens to everybody. But maybe its much more dangerous to my health.

So, I am going to try to take it to the next level. I am going to try to cut out all grains (except rice, sob! I am Japanese, don’t take away my rice!!! But I might have to do that too, if this doesn’t work).

Wish me luck.


Do you ever have unexplained lethargy or other medical problems they can’t explain? Have you ever tried to cut out grains in a healthy way (not relying on cheese and bacon :)? If so, do you have any recipes to share?

2 thoughts on “Hidden gluten, cross-contamination, and celiac disease, oh my!

  1. Hang in there buddy with this commitment to your health you are sure to feel better eventually. It is great to read your blog I wish I had something to contribute!!

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