Saturday, February 15, 2014

Gluten-Free Diets, Milk Allergy and Arsenic: Should You Be Concerned?

Today, I face the unknown with excitement, because it can only go up from here. Within the past two years I've discovered I have to be completely gluten-free or else suffer with severe fibromyalgia symptoms and stomach problems. I also discovered by accident that I have seizures on a regular basis without even knowing it. And in the past two weeks, I cut out dairy and tested myself for a suspected allergy and lo and behold, ding ding ding! Guess who's allergic to milk, now, too?!

Of course, this is just after perfecting my cheesecake recipe. After teaching myself what lemon zest was, utilizing it and using Enjoy Life Vanilla Graham cookies for the ultimate crust. Go figure.

I already had my eulogy on Twitter for all dairy food last week. Its probably the food group I will miss the most. I practically lived on yogurt, pudding and recipes I discovered on Pinterest. I used it in almost all of my best recipes and the past week has been filled with trying to find edible alternatives for certain dairy products that can replace the actual items almost without noticing.

Goodbye, you beautiful producers of perfection.

My first try was a soy-free dairy-free mozzarella cheese which I used on my homemade pizza which was an epic fail. I don't like to give bad reviews, so if you ever decide to see if an alternative mozzarella is out there that tastes good...just step away from the dairy aisle. You've been warned.

Well, if you are not allergic to peas and pea protein like I am, you can try Daiya which I've heard very good things about from other dairy-free aficionados. Unfortunately pea protein gives me severe rashes and hives just like soy.

My second self-experiment was with Nutritious Yeast Flakes.

Nutritious Yeast Wha--? Yes, you heard it right, when sprinkled on food or mixed with ground sunflower seeds or walnuts (if you're not allergic) it is an excellent alternative to parmesan cheese.
I was a bit more trusting of the taste factor since I found this on Chowhound's message boards (filled with tons of info for chefs). I wondered whether eating yeast is good or bad for you, since I know a bit about alkaline vs. acidic and anti-candida diets. It turns out, Bragg's brand uses inactive yeast, so it has no fermenting power and will not grow in the body. There is no candida albicans in this product so it is completely safe for those on anti-candida diets. For those of us with food allergies, its also good to know they grow their yeast on beet and cane molasses, so if you are allergic to mold or fungus, you could be allergic to it. Plus, it is fortified with B vitamins, hence the 'nutritious' part.

So off to Whole Foods I went, where I bought two bottles of the Bragg's brand Nutritious Yeast Flakes (a company I trust since their apple cider vinegar is the best)

I added it to my gluten-free Quinoa Kale patties....score! It adds an almost cheesy more umami flavor to whatever its combined with. For those of you who don't know, umami is a taste like sweet, bitter, salty that was discovered in the past few years and describes that succulent, juicy taste experience when you bite into a rare or medium marinated steak or eat Asian dishes with mushrooms. It is a taste of decadence and a mark of, in my opinion, culinary excellence.

 (UPDATE: At first post I thought I had a reaction, but it turns out I am NOT allergic to this product! Turns out it was a false alarm and probably a delayed reaction from something else.)

As for milk alternatives, I cannot stomach hemp milk, (too herbal/grassy) so I am relying on my unsweetened USDA Organic Original Rice Dream. They also have the USDA Organic Original but I try to avoid any extra sugar. Almond milk I've found tastes best in smoothies so that's where she stays.

I also eat a lot of jasmine rice. Ever since I was a child, the rice cooker was a permanent fixture in our Filipino kitchen and I was taught how to use it to perfection. In the olden days, we trekked to the Asian grocery and bought the giant bags of jasmine rice that weighed more than me; today, Costco sells them.

How Much Rice Is Too Much?

I am realizing that being strictly gluten-free, soy-free and now dairy-free, I consume a lot of rice products. About two years ago, Consumer Reports shed some light on the high levels of arsenic in popular rice products on the market.

The alarming findings show that practically nothing out there is safe; whether you're consuming brown rice pasta or baby rice cereal.

How Did Arsenic End Up In The Rice?

Since 1910, the United States used 1.6 tons of it for agricultural and industrial uses, with half of it most commonly used since the 1960s. Much US soil still contains lead-arsenate insecticide residues even though in the 1980s, use of these products became banned. Ingredients containing arsenic are still used today in chicken feed and the waste of those chickens used to fertilize certain crops ends up in the crop, too.

Inorganic arsenic is the most toxic of all the arsenic compounds. The alarming findings show that practically nothing out there is 100% free of inorganic arsenic. Since most of the arsenic tends to reside in the outer layers of the grain, brown rice may pose higher levels of arsenic simply because the outer layers are not polished off to make white rice and the arsenic remains.

Although the FDA claims there is no short-term health risk, research shows there are many long term ones, including cancer and renal failure.

Arsenic builds up in the skin and fat stores, especially if you never break a sweat. Rice products may be especially dangerous over time for people who don't exercise.

The many symptoms of acute arsenic poisoning include:

  • garlic odour - usually present in breath and skin

  • Skin rashes

  • Strange white pigmentation on fingernails (leukonychia aka Mees' lines)

  • seizures

Chronic arsenic poisoning can present the following symptoms:

  • Skin lesions that typically include keratosis on the palms and soles of feet.

  • peripheral neuropathy

  • hyperpigmentation and raindrop hypopigmentation (darker areas not exposed to light)

  • pancytopaenia

Cadmium poisoning is also a problem, especially with rice coming from China. Eighty-nine percent of rice transported from china is contaminated with cadmium which is prevalent in their rivers.

Since I cannot really avoid eating rice since its such a staple in my diet, I figured the best thing to do is to take extra precautions and continue to detox in any way I could. I rinse any rice I use thoroughly before cooking. As for detox, there are several natural ways to chelate the body:

1. Exercise

Exercise removes toxic metals from the fat stores through sweating. Having good circulation also helps aid the liver and kidneys during the detoxification process. I try to get in an hour of cardio at least three times per week, although it really should be four or five.

2. Cilantro

Cilantro is a powerful natural heavy metal detoxifier; you can throw it in smoothies or into many various recipes. Tip: Add 1 whole bunch to a cup of USDA Organic pineapple chunks along with one cup of frozen organic mango chunks, then add coconut water.

3. Alpha Lipoic Acid - Known to be a potent antioxidant and heavy metal binder in the natural community, don't go above 600 mg per day unless directed by a doctor or naturopath.

4. Modified Citrus Pectin - This is extracted from the white part of the rinds of oranges, hence this is not good for those with citrus allergy. However, if you are not allergic to citrus, this is a powerful detoxifier that binds to heavy metals and is actually used as part of alternative cancer treatments.

5. Chlorella - A 'smart' green algae that binds to heavy metals and chemicals, helping to remove them from your system without removing essential vitamins and minerals.

6. Flaxseed oil - Not only will this oil help with detoxifying metals and chemicals but it also helps with allergies and depression! Take 2-4 TBS per day. I use refrigerated Barleans brand with lignans (lignans are fiber compounds that helps remove toxins and chemicals from the body). Stay away from bottled flaxseed capsules, which are usually rancid or mostly ineffective.

Although I would like to say I'm using all six of these strategies to rid myself of arsenic, I'm only using three. These things can get expensive so I will be adding some on to my regimen at a later date.

Hopefully this post makes you more aware of your daily food choices and gets you on that elliptical machine. By detoxifying with every chance we get, we can keep chemicals and heavy metals from accumulating in our bodies and affecting us.



  1. Have you tried so delicious coconut milk for recipes?
    I have a milk allergy and when I make homemade pizza I just forget about the cheese, I use to love dairy products too :( .
    I try to make sure i have a really good soy free dairy free "garlic butter" that i make from Mccormick butter imitation flavoring, coconut oil, salt, garlic. and I just add a ton of toppings, so i dont miss the cheese.

  2. Faith,

    Unfortunately, I'm allergic to guar gum which is in I think most if not all So Delicious products. That "garlic butter" is a very good idea, though! I'm going to look into it! That's very close to my topping whenever I make popcorn and its sooooo good! Thank you for your thoughts and for stopping by!

  3. ALSO, Something I had come across online recently that I was shocked to find was that condoms have milk protein/casein and are lubricated with glycerin that you already know comes from soy :s BUT there is a brand called "sir richards" that doesn't have any of that. :)

  4. Wow, interesting! And here I thought all these years I was just allergic to latex! lol well, now I know, although that doesn't help since I've switched teams (lesbian). I'm sure that will be helpful for the readers so thank you, Faith!