Nourishing Your Body for Better Health

Archive: December, 2011

FDA Comment Period on Gluten in Medications!

Gluten in Medications:

We know that most packaged foods on the grocery shelf in the U.S. will follow FDA labeling, at least for ingredients containing wheat. However, this is not the case for medications, and finding accurate and timely information is much more challenging.

Standard prescription labels include only the active ingredients. So if your doctor writes you a prescription for penicillin, the bottle would say x mg of penicillin. It won’t say what anything about any fillers, binders, coatings, excipients, etc. although these substances are a part of most medications. These can, of course, include wheat and barley.

The PDR (Physician’s Desk Reference) often has a list of ingredients but these are tremendously hard to decipher, and most don’t give a source for ingredients. This information requires calling the manufacturer, and waiting an answer from companies. Ideally, get support from a doctor’s office or pharmacist. Many drug companies will not answer consumer inquiries directly. Generally name-brand drugs do have a consistent list of ingredients, but with generics, different fillers are used at different times, depending on cost at a particular moment in time. So one batch may have cornstarch, the next may have wheat starch, and so on. And, of course, a the name-brand may be gluten-free, but that does not necessarily mean anything about the generic drug.

As a dietitian and someone who has had to make those calls for myself and others, I feel like this is a potentially dangerous and unfair system. People who need medications immediately often do not have the time, energy or mental clarity to make a variety of phone calls and wait for answers. It’s important that steps be taken for longer term changes in policy to ensure the safety of people who need to strictly avoid gluten.

For the meanwhile,

  • Check into all of the medications and supplements you take.
  • When possible have a knowledgeable doctor or pharmacist call and make inquiries, as this may be a faster route to get information.
  • As with any inquiries, do probe further because even health professionals vary in their knowledge and understanding of Celiac Disease and gluten. (I have had pharmacists say to me that they don’t see “gluten” listed as an ingredient, so it must be safe).
  • It may also be necessary for your doctor to specifically order name-brand drugs in certain cases to ensure they are safe for people with Celiac Disease.
  • If you have other food sensitivities/allergies and cannot get answers or safe medications, a compounding pharmacy may be a great option, as they make medications from scratch. In the DC metro area, that includes the Alexandria Medical Arts Pharmacy in VA and Village Green in DC.

There are a few free resources out there that can help, like www.glutenfreedrugs.com and a list from a support group.  However, ingredients in medications can always change, so these lists can best be seen as a starting point. Here’s a flyer from the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists on gluten in medications and a nice article from Dec 2011 in Living Without, too. Here’s a list for contact information for various supplement companies.

Also, NFCA is dong a survey on gluten in medications through Feb 28, 2012 http://www.celiaccentral.org/Survey/

Harris Whole Health offers individual sessions, family sessions and group classes to help people eat healthier and feel better! Cheryl works with people to feel and look their best with a range of specialties, including Celiac Disease, food allergies, pregnancy, breastfeeding, vegetarian and vegan diets, preventing diseases and “whole foods” eating. Let’s get you on your way to achieving your goals. For an appointment with Cheryl Harris, Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist, please click here, email or call 571-271-8742.

A Happy G-Free Holiday

Holiday Tips

Recipes

Fun Stuff

Holiday Tips:

Let’s face it. We’re smack in the middle of eating (and shopping) season. Here are some of my favorite ways to enjoy the spirit of the season and favorite holiday foods, while staying reasonably healthy, too.

Get Prepared: It’s not fun to sit in a room full of people eating delicious (off-limits) foods while you sit quietly drinking your water and nibbling a carrot stick. It’s also a recipe for a rebound binge at home. Have a 2 pack of gluten-free cookies, Clementines, or your favorite chocolate stashed away work, or bring an apple crisp, chocolate covered strawberries, meringues or “secret chocolate cake” along with you to a party. Check out this list of naturally gluten-free and seriously delicious options. Make sure your children have treats at school so they don’t feel left out, either.

Savor: Bottom line, you’re going to eat some treats this holiday season, so you might as well truly enjoy them. Be choice-ful and target things you enjoy most (i.e. no filling up on chips or every day foods unless those are the only options) When you eat, really eat! Take time to fill your senses and really enjoy. When we are really tasting our food (rather than inhaling something while talking and multitasking) food tastes much better, we’re more satisfied and full quicker.

Balance: if you are going to a holiday party in the evening, make an extra effort to eat well on other days. Add in more vegetables, fruits, beans, gluten-free whole grains, etc. and move more, too! A piece of chocolate cake one day won’t make or break a diet, but treats every day will add up.

Move the goodies out of sight: One of the biggest challenges of the season is a see-food diet, otherwise known as “if I see it, I eat it”. Studies show that when people keep food out of sight, they eat less. Avoid the constant temptation. Instead, put fruits on the counter or in your refrigerator where they are easy to grab. Seasonal fruits in the winter months include Clementines, oranges, pineapples, grapefruits, grapes, pomegranates, persimmons, mangos, and more.

Fill your table with fruit and veggie dishes: Have your holiday meals feature seasonal vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, collards or other greens. Make roasted chestnuts as a snack. Have a fruit inspired dessert, like baked apples, poached pears, sautéed bananas, etc.

Soups: as long as they’re not cream based, most soups are a healthy snack or part of a filling meal. Chicken and turkey soup with brown or wild rice, butternut squash soup, lentil soups and other beans soups are a great way to stay warm and enjoy seasonal flavors.

Get moving! Exercise is a great way to improve mood, reduce stress levels, and burn calories, too. Head out at lunchtime for a short walk, start a new family tradition and do something active at family events, dance at party functions, or make a habit of hitting the gym. You don’t have to wait until January for healthy resolutions.

More recipes from around the web:

A gargantuan Home for the Holidays from GFE and others with gobs of giveaways!

Gluten Free Girl and the Chef is doing a daily cookie posting

Simply Sugar and Gluten Free & schedule for 2011 Holiday Season

25 days of Christmas from Gluten Free Easily 2010

Gluten Free Merry Christmas from the Whole Gang

Gluten and Dairy free Holiday tips from Gluten Free Goddess

Christmas Cookie Roundup (from my cookie exchange)

Christmas cookie roundup from Ginger Lemon Girl & I’d also recommend her GF 101 Cooking e-book!

Fun Stuff:

  • Washington Post did a great article on gluten and who benefits from a gluten-free diet, which features some of my thoughts and comments.
  • I’ve been nominated as Emerging RD Leader for VA by the Northern VA Dietetics Association!  I’m quite flattered.
  • Are you a baker?  Jules Shepherd is hosting a GF Cookie Swap Contest, and I’m sure that will be a great place for inspiration & to share your specialties.

Harris Whole Health offers individual sessions, family sessions and group classes to help people eat healthier and feel better! Cheryl works with people to feel and look their best with a range of specialties, including Celiac Disease, food allergies, pregnancy, breastfeeding, vegetarian and vegan diets, preventing diseases and “whole foods” eating. Let’s get you on your way to achieving your goals. For an appointment with Cheryl Harris, Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist, please click here, email or call 571-271-8742.