We've Got Issues: August/September 2018
Irreverent solutions to your real life allergy & sensitivity dramas.
Man's Best Friend
I have a few food allergies and I was just diagnosed with celiac disease. Now it looks like my dog has food issues. Is this possible? She’s been eating the same dog food for years. Am I projecting my problems onto her? Should I buy gluten-free dog food?
A Dog Bowl Too Far?
Dear Dog Bowl,
As food allergy rates climb in humans, we’ve become more aware of food allergies in our furry friends. About 20 percent of dogs have some type of allergy and of those, approximately 10 percent are food allergic. After inhalant allergy (a reaction to airborne stuff like pollen, molds, mildew and dust) and allergy to fleas, food allergy is the third most common allergic condition in dogs.
Canine allergy symptoms, which can start at any age, range from excessive scratching—leading to hair loss, hot spots and skin infections—to recurrent ear infections, vomiting and diarrhea. Itchy skin is usually the vet’s first clue.
Diagnosing a canine food allergy is sometimes tricky as symptoms can mimic other conditions, especially an inhalant allergy. The gold standard for diagnosing and treating food allergy in dogs is discovering and then avoiding the allergen. Veterinarians will change the diet and then you watch the symptoms. The allergen is often a protein in the food—usually beef, chicken, fish, egg, milk or wheat. Vets will put the dog on a “novel” protein/carb combo, stuff that the dog hasn’t eaten before—like duck and peas, rabbit and sweet potatoes, venison and rice, that sort of thing.
The fact that your pet may have eaten a particular food for a while without symptoms shouldn’t throw you off. A dog can develop a food allergy at any time, even to food he’s eaten without problems for years.
That being said, most dogs don’t need a restricted diet—unless there are telltale allergic symptoms. I mean, I used to have a cocker spaniel who ate two entire boxes of Whitman’s samplers, a roll of cough drops and a bag lunch left too close to the edge of the counter and lived to tell the tale.
Does your dog absolutely, positively need gluten-free dog food? I can’t say—but I will say that gluten-free dog food is the best thing for you. You can be sure that every bit of dog food in my house is gluten-free. The reason? I just don’t want the extra exposure.
For more about dogs and food allergies, go to GlutenFreeAndMore.com/allergicdog.
I have celiac disease and work hard to maintain a gluten-free diet. I guesstimate that I accidentally ingest gluten maybe about three or four times a year—and yet, I feel like I’m constantly sick. I had a gluten-free pizza three weeks ago from a restaurant but I suspect it came into contact with gluten since I was sick a few hours later. Even though I’ve been trying to eat mosttly at home and I eat carefully, I’m still having severe pain and everything I eat goes straight through me. I’m exhausted and cannot figure out how to get well again. If I could never eat outside my house ever again, I would. But I travel a lot for work and it’s just not realistic. What can I do to feel better?
Dear Angry Belly,
I feel your pain. Most of us who are dealing with celiac battle illness much more than we’d like to admit. One day of severe intestinal distress, brain fog, exhaustion and joint pain is enough. When you can’t quite get over it, it is crazy-making. First, to help with the crazy part, understand that it is possible to have a reaction to gluten that lasts for weeks. Some people have an evening, some people have a day or two and some of us lucky people are down for one, two, three or four weeks in a row. It sucks but it’s not unusual.
Here’s how you can help yourself when you’re feeling horrible. I swear it’s worth it, even if you’re too exhausted to pull out your rice cooker.
Restrict Your Diet. Whether you remove inflammatory foods such as dairy and sugar or go full Whole30, keeping your diet simple so your stomach doesn’t get any more irritated will go a long way in your healing. Your stomach needs down time (just like you do), so don’t feed it hard-to-digest foods that can cause more irritation.
Vitamins + Water = Health. Whether you’re in the middle of a gluten episode or not, those of us with autoimmune issues need to make sure we’re receiving the proper amount of vitamins since we’re at risk for deficiencies. When your food is going straight through you, you need to make sure you’re adding in vitamins and minerals in other ways. Make sure to drink lots of water, too. Work with a celiac-savvy dietitian to figure out your best way forward.
Stay Close to Home. Not just to stay close to the bathroom (although that’s a great idea) but also to keep control over your food and to be able to rest comfortably when you need to. If your body isn’t getting the proper nutrients, you’re going to be exhausted and need to curtail any unnecessary activity. Sometimes we push through our illness but our bodies do need to rest. Give in to the nap, early bedtime or just a long sit on the couch. Your body needs to heal.
Double-Check Your Diagnosis. Most importantly, talk to your GI doctor to make sure there’s not something else going on, like colitis, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) or maybe another food issue. If nothing else, your doctor needs to know how you’re doing in order to care for your sensitive belly. For more about potential culprits, go to GlutenFreeAndMore.com/gassy.
Once you’re back in the real world where you must eat food prepared by others, don’t forget to have the cross-contact conversation. Even if you’re dining at what you think is a “safe” restaurant, procedures and recipes do change. Always double-check so you don’t wind up back on the couch.
Good luck and know you’re not alone.
April Peveteaux is author of Gluten Is My B*tch: Rants, Recipes and Ridiculousness for the Gluten-Free (Stewart, Tabori & Chang), The Gluten Free Cheat Sheet (Penguin Group) and Bake Sales Are My B*tch (Rodale).