The universe seems to want to bludgeon the snarkiness out of me by leveling a cosmic smackdown when I spew foolish, flip, or ignorant off-the-cuff remarks. This has happened more than once! I am not saying that Grace’s celiac was caused by such a remark, but I am a bit humbled, and slightly ashamed, by a remark made not long before her diagnosis.
Before the big admission, please bear in mind that I am a sensible person. I’m not a big trend follower or one for the latest gimmick. My kids never had light-up or wheeled tennis shoes, no cake pops. I didn’t follow the Atkins, South Beach or Zone diets, and while a vegetable lover, we’ve not dabbled in the raw food or vegan diet rages. I am leery of trends and always have been. You could say that I am skeptical, particularly of diet trends, and especially those that are impossible to maintain.
Grace and I were happily shopping for treasures at TJ Maxx. We were in the beauty section when it happened. Digging through the array of shampoos and body washes, I picked up a bottle and read its claims. I turned to Grace who at the time was mere weeks from diagnosis, gave my snide little scoffing laugh and actually voiced: “Look Grace, this soap is gluten-free!. . . Like I am going to EAT my soap!” Oh ignorance, thy name is Meghan!
A few months later we were back in the store. This time actively seeking out the claims I previously mocked.
From what I have learned, some people with celiac do not have skin manifestations. This was not the case for Grace. The doctor theorized that, given her test results, she has had celiac for quite some time but, as is the case with many, it went undiagnosed.
With hindsight being crisply 20/20, I look back on her life and wonder. Grace had skin issues from infancy. Through the years she was slathered from head to toe in Eucerin, Aquaphor, CeraVe and more. As she aged, her elbows and knees were often irritated. Eczema-like and sometimes blistery, as she grew, we blamed it on the drying effects of chlorine. Such is the life of a swimmer!
Speaking of swimmers and skin, as a teen, she had a small victory over her dry skin when she started using Clinique’s moisture surge hydrator. It was a miracle! Until her face started peeling off. About a month before diagnosis, Grace came to me and said “Mom, I think Clinique changed their formula…” Now I wonder if it was the celiac all along.
If skin could talk, Grace’s was screaming at a zillion decibels, begging for relief by the time she was diagnosed. Angry rashes of differing appearances flared, her scalp was blistered and her hair was falling out at an alarming rate. Once her lips swelled to the point that it looked like she had collagen lip injections.
Upon diagnosis, I learned that gluten was found not only in food but also in the personal care products we used every day. I went back to the internet where I confirmed that gluten was a common ingredient in many products, masqueraded in ingredients including hydrolyzed wheat protein, triticum vulgare, hordeum vulgare, avena sativa, and secale cereal.
Time for another purge! Once again armed with my trusty clipboard and sharpie, I took to the bathroom to face the next wave of purging. A ton of education and research went into this phase.
I scoured the products in our bathrooms, including the all natural ones, because after all, what is more natural than wheat? Grace’s shampoo contained hydrolyzed wheat protein. No wonder her hair was falling out. Every time over the past decade and a half when Grace asked “Mom, can I have some lippy?” I passed her the lip balm. Little did I realize that I may as well have passed her a tube of poison. And she gratefully slathered it on her lips. Yes! There was gluten in our lip balm! The lips are the entry point of the digestive journey. Our trusted lip balm did double duty of both contact when applied and ingestion assault.
Not all products make it easy to identify gluten. First, there is the fine print challenging my aging eyes. The gluten-free scanner app helped a bit, but many products were not recognized. I went back to contacting manufacturers and received some clarity. In the end, I sorted our products into 3 groups: gluten-free, glutenous, and those unknown.
There was gluten in our shampoo, conditioner, dry shampoo, body lotion, hand cream, leave-in hair treatment (conditioner), lip balm, face wash, and facial moisturizer.
QUICK TIP if you are short on time: Follow the wisdom originally voiced by poison control: “When in doubt, throw it out.”
Hair & Skin Care Products: So many products, so many brands, so confusing! We found gluten in shampoo (liquid and dry), body wash, hand cream, body lotion and more. For anyone who is demonstrating external gluten sensitivity, it is necessary to research and purge!
Always double check: Even your most trusted brands may have safe and unsafe products in their line. Our dermatologist recommended CeraVe’s daily moisturizing lotion and we slather ourselves liberally with it from head to toe. Though we trust our doctors, we checked with the company and alas, it too contains gluten!