A Guide on Starting a Gluten Free Diet

fruit rainbow

When you realize that you need to make the change to Gluten Free it can be very overwhelming.  My patients start to search the internet and they get bombarded with info.  I always try to reassure them and say just start slowly and keep it simple.  I recommend starting by giving them a few reliable sources, such as the Gluten Free Diet Guide for Families provided by CDHNF and NASPGHAN. Look for the key words- wheat, barley or rye in the ingredient list of your packaged foods and in the beginning just stick to whole, unprocessed foods.  This means keep the diet simple initially – eat fruits, vegetables, dairy and protein.

Also a good starting point is to look for the labels on food that state Gluten Free.  There are many quality gluten free options that you can find  in most grocery stores. That being said, realize you may not like the gluten free food the first time you eat it.

More importantly, if you are changing to a gluten free diet due to an illness such as celiac disease, you may feel awful from being sick for a long time. Many people don’t have much of an appetite and have lost weight prior to their diagnosis. They may be suffering from stomach pain and no food tastes really good at this point.  Gluten free food is different. It takes time for your taste buds to change. I still remember the first time I ate gluten free pasta. My kids did not like the taste of it, it is a bit heavier than white pasta.  Start with some of the simple tested and true good gluten free unprocessed food and give yourself time to feel better and time for your taste buds to adjust.

For the first few weeks when you are learning, try some of these easy Gluten Free options.

Breakfast Ideas:

  • Yogurt, Smoothies and Parfaits – Chobani and Stonyfield yogurts are certified GF by the Gluten Intolerant Group. Top with fresh fruit for a great start to your day.
  • Eggs – scrambled, fried, or hard boiled
  • Gluten free cereal – there are several GF cereals.  General Mills and Van’s Cereals have a few Gluten free options.
  • Pocono Cream of Buckwheat – Buckwheat is good for you and naturally sweet.  Top with milk, sugar and cinnamon!
  • Certified Gluten Free Oats – only consume certified GF oats such as Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Oats.

Lunch and Dinner Ideas:

  • Any natural unprocessed meat
  • Baked potato
  • A sandwich on Udi Bread – you can go gluten free and still eat your favorite GF sandwich toppings on Udi bread.
  • Lunchmeat – Boar’s Head cold cuts and Hormel Natural Choice lunchmeats. For an easy lunch, roll some lunchmeat and cheese together and stick a toothpick in it.
  • Brown rice and risotto.
  • Nachos – Tostitos tortilla chips with melted cheese on top. Click on the Tostitos link to see a list of Frito Lay products that are gluten free!
  • Peanut butter on some toasted Gluten Free bread or with some Snyder’s of Hanover GF Pretzels.


  • Fruit and vegetables. Do not underestimate the value of fruit and veggies. We eat more of these than anything else.
  • Cheese is a great option for anyone on a gluten free diet. Gluten is not included in the standard ingredients in cheese that include milk, enzymes and sometimes salt. Most processed cheese is also likely though not guaranteed to be gluten free. You might find wheat in the seasoning  and noncaking ingredients used for some shredded cheeses, but anytime wheat is used it must be clearly labeled. I recommend shredding your own cheese if that is how you prefer to eat it.  Also blue cheese is also considered safe for those on a gluten free diet.
  • Chips are not necessarily healthy but many are gluten free. Click this link for Frito Lay Gluten Free List. Eat them with hummus, GF salsa or GF guacamole.
  • Real popcorn. Most microwave popcorn is gluten free but save yourself the worry and time and make your own popcorn.
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Kozy Shack pudding
  • Nuts
  • Kind bars.  My kids favorite GF snack bar!
  • Make your own fresh fruit smoothies as a great snack. (and you can sneak veggies in the smoothies and your kids won’t even notice, I always try to sneak in either carrots or kale to ours at home)


Ice Cream itself is gluten free but may contain products which are made from gluten so avoid ice cream sandwiches, cone products, cookie and ice cream flavors such as Oreo, and flavors which contain brownie pieces, cookie dough and cheese cake etc.


Stay Healthy and Be Well. Please share your thoughts and comments.

#GlutenFree #KidsTummyTroubles #Celiac #Glutenfreeliving #GlutenFreeGuide

Stress and Allergies – Forget about Perfection


Many of the complaints that my patients come to see me for are often precipitated by stress.  It is amazing what stress and anxiety can do to one’s health.  From a GI perspective it can cause severe stomach pains leading to gastritis, ulcers, and gastroesophageal reflux, to name a few.  I have to often be a detective with my patients, especially the teenagers, to find what the cause of their pain is. Many times it is brought on by too much stress either academically or with extracurricular activities.  Sometimes their schedules are so busy that this continued rigorous agenda will of course lead to physical manifestations of true disease processes.

I often work hand in hand with my colleagues in Allergy/Immunology.  We share patients and come up with a management plan based on both of our findings.   Living and working in the NYC Tri State area the incidence of asthma and other allergen induced diseases is extremely high.  We recommend to our patients to take the common precautions of air purifiers, mattress covers, pillow covers, and no curtains or stuffed animals in their bedrooms that can attract dust and trigger their symptoms.  However until recently I had never thought about the impact of the type of plants they have in and around their homes and how its is affecting their conditions.  I recently had the pleasure of reading the work of Thomas Leo Ogren in his new book  “The Allergy Fighting Garden”.  This book made me aware of some of the problems occurring with the types of trees and plants we may be putting around our homes that can be worsening our children’s asthma and allergies.   Thomas is my Guest Blogger of the day and has graciously shared with my readers a wonderful piece of work about Stress and Allergies. I hope you all enjoy it.

Forget about Perfection

Stress and Allergies

© Thomas Leo Ogren

Wisdom from the Vet

When I was in college I took a class in veterinary science that was given by the head veterinarian of the university, Dr. Dale Smith. Our university, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, was known for its school of Agriculture and had a reputation as being a “hands on” college. As a result we had large herds of cattle, flocks of sheep, pigs, horses, foul and so forth. Our vet believed in a holistic approach to animal health.

Dr. Smith had been the university vet for almost thirty years, and his own father had been a vet before him. The first day he told our class, “The most important thing of all for you to be concerned with in animal health is reducing stress. Virtually all the diseases of livestock you will encounter are caused by stress. “

He further explained that most genetic diseases had long ago been eliminated with livestock through selective breeding. What you saw instead were animals that were sick because the farmer or rancher wasn’t taking care of them properly. They were left outside with no shade in the heat, left with no protection to get out of the wind, stuck in an over-crowded corral, fed a diet too low in nutrients, something that would cause stress.

“The stress causes a breakdown,” said the vet, “and then disease of some kind shows up. It could be pneumonia, cancer, allergies, any number of things, but stress always sets the stage for this disease.”

I have long wondered how it was that a veterinarian understood this so clearly and our own doctors didn’t seem to pay much attention to it at all. We are animals after all. Stress must affect us just as it does all the other species of animals. I think most of us who have lived with allergies understand that stress can aggravate the allergies. We’ll never be able to eliminate all stress from our lives. But we can learn ways to reduce it, and we can learn ways to deal with it. Whenever possible it is healthy to try to see some of this stress as a challenge. If we live active lives, we can expect plenty of stress, and that’s all right as long as we don’t let it get the best of us. 

In Allergy-Free Gardening, later in Safe Sex in the Garden, and most recently in The Allergy Fighting Garden, I explored how plant sex influences human wellness. If we have female rather than male plants, we won’t be inhaling all that male pollen and we won’t suffer from it. Allergy-friendly yards and gardens are stress busters.

In addition to decreasing the number of allergens, pollen grains, molds, and fungal spores, there are other things we can do to reduce stress in our lives, in our gardens.

Are allergies just a head-trip?

There is a reoccurring problem with stress and allergies. The problem is one of perception. It is well known that stress aggravates allergies. If you did a computer search using the terms “stress, illness, disease,” you might well be amazed at the hundreds of thousands of entries you’d find. For example, on the website healthdoc.com there’s an article, “Stress, the number one cause of disease and Illness.”

Even if the role of stress and illness is not as generally well understood, as it ought to be, it is certainly well documented. Stress contributes to heart disease in certain individuals. Stress also contributes to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other cardiac risk factors, and many other negative things as well. 

Someone with allergies who is under stress will almost certainly experience worse allergies. The problem here is that too many people mix up cause and effect. Allergies are caused by an allergic response to allergens, to perfectly real substances, pollens, molds, dust, dander, allergic plant saps and so forth.

All too often ignorant people will imply that someone has allergies simply because they don’t know how to deal with stress. The implication is that you have allergies (or asthma) because you don’t really have your head screwed on straight. This isn’t true at all, and actually it is rather insulting. The next step in this illogical progression is that you deserve to have allergies since you’re bringing it on yourself. The people making these assumptions are, of course, people who don’t have allergies themselves. They don’t know how lucky they are, nor do they realize how arrogant their views are. Having persistent allergies can become pretty depressing and frustrating and critics are often insensitive to this as well.

Yes, allergies can be aggravated by stress, but then too, so can any other illness be complicated by stress. Allergies are completely for real. A few examples of this: Years ago when I gave my students different flowers to sniff, we quickly found out that a third of the class reacted strongly to bottlebrush pollen. Later, in blind tests with different types of pollen, the same students all again reacted strongly to the bottlebrush pollen. Another example: I have seen people who were very allergic to shrimp. I have seen what happened to them when they ate some food that they’d been told did not have shrimp in it, but that actually did. They immediately became very ill. 

When an allergist skin tests someone, often this is done on their back. They can’t see the pricks nor do they know which allergen is being tested with each prick of the skin. Their skin will then react with a welt to the ones they are allergic to. If they are re-tested soon afterwards, the results will be the same. Allergic responses are totally for real and this simple fact needs to be respected.

Back to stress. Here are some things we can do to reduce stress in our gardens.

Forget about perfection

We don’t need perfect gardens, not at all. Our gardens do not need to conform to some ideal. We should have gardens that please us, and that is what’s really important. Think of your garden as your place to feel relaxed, to kick back in, to unwind. Good gardens can be great stress reducers.

Also, forget about perfection for yourself. None of us is really perfect; we’ve all got our flaws. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t always try to improve ourselves, of course we should. But we need to learn to cut ourselves some slack, to give ourselves a break now and then. We need to forget about perfection and enjoy who we are and what we already have.

My father used to like to say, “The best is the enemy of the good.” There is great value in this concept. Trying to be perfect, expecting ourselves to be perfect, assuming other people actually are perfect (when of course, they are not)…all of this is counterproductive and it adds to stress. Accept yourself, love yourself, enjoy being you.

Garden Design

When you first set up your gardens think about how they will be used. Borrow liberally from good feng shui concepts of energy and harmony. Consider first the function and design gardens that are a pleasure to be in. If you can possibly afford it, get professional advice from a landscape designer or a landscape architect. These people are experts on how to create comfortable, attractive, stress-free gardens. Their advice might in the long run, turn out to be quite a bargain. With some things you do get what you pay for. With a good designer you get a quality design, one that will long keep you pleased.

While you’re thinking about how your landscape might look, buy some of the magazines on landscape design and look them over. See what attracts you. There are many excellent books on landscape design and these too can help you set up a relaxing, enjoyable garden. I recommend you go down to the bookstore, take some time, and look over all the books on garden design. Even if your yards are already landscaped, these books and magazines are still valuable, because you can always make changes. You can always try to improve your garden.

Wild Birds

Wild birds in a garden make it more fun and it is stress reducing just to watch them. All bird feeders add to your pleasure. I especially love those long, porous mesh bags that you can fill with Niger thistle seed. You hang these over a high branch, and the goldfinches will go crazy for it. Quickly the little goldfinches become almost tame. Just watching them feed is relaxing. The larger, more aggressive sparrows tire quickly of trying to feed from these mesh bags, and this conserves the niger seed, which as bird seed goes, is a bit pricey.

Humming bird feeders are great additions to a garden and who doesn’t like to watch humming birds? If you can’t appreciate humming birds, almost certainly your life has far too much stress in it right now. Hang up a hummingbird feeder, relax, and enjoy the show.

A birdbath can be handsome in the garden, and the birds will enjoy it too. Watching robins splash in a birdbath is good karma. Be sure to keep the water clean. A dirty birdbath can spread diseases among the birds, so hosing it out daily is a great idea.

Wind Chimes

I especially like those bamboo wind chimes but actually, almost any wind chimes add a nice, mellow touch in the garden. I will admit though that there are a few chimes that are pitched too high for my taste. The most important thing is that the chimes sound pleasant to you. Hang your chimes in a spot free of obstructions, where they will catch the breeze. When the wind blows, the chimes sing to you.


Little ponds, tiny waterfalls, water fountains, all of these are proven stress reducers. Certain sounds irritate the human psyche, car alarms blasting in the night, dogs barking on and on. But other sounds soothe the soul like the sound of splashing water or water tumbling over stones.  Placed in the right spot in a garden all these wet additions can do much for the ambiance of the landscape.  Fish in a pond can add quite a bit too. More than one new parent has discovered the calming effect that watching fish swim in an aquarium has on their babies. A few goldfish in a pond is attractive too. A little pond also expands the kinds of plants you can grow in your garden. With a pond you can have water lilies.

Today there are many water fountains available and some are not too expensive either. Considering their value for reducing stress, they seem like a bargain.

Lawn furniture

This needn’t be anything fancy, but every garden ought to have a nice spot or two to sit and relax. A few garden chairs can make a big difference. A little table is good too. Lounge chairs are by design stress-busters. When I was young we had something called a chaise lounge that rocked and was just plain fun to sit in. More stress reduction. If you have an overhanging branch that looks perfect for it, hang a swing from it. Swinging reduces stress too. There has been considerable research into the importance of rocking babies back and forth. Any mother understands how well this works. Perhaps swinging works the same way?

A comfortable garden bench is a worthy addition to any landscape. Place it where two lovers, young or old, can sit and enjoy the view and each other.

Read a book

Seriously, sit in an easy chair in your comfortable garden and read a book. Turn off the TV and go outside. Commune with Nature. Read a book on how to reduce stress in your life if you think it might help. Read something on how to maintain a positive, cheery attitude. I find these always give me a boost. But just sitting in the garden and reading a good book is stress reducing. The natural light is good for your eyes and good for all of you. Read a novel if you like. Do sit out in your garden and read. The results are all positive.

Fruit trees

Why not use some fruit trees in the landscape? There is something so basic, so fundamentally satisfying to go outside on a warm summer morning and pick a ripe apricot, peach, apple, or plum. Actually, just watching the fruit develop on the tree is satisfying too. If you’re inclined and you turn some of that fruit into jams, jellies, pies, or preserves, that’s also fantastic. And fruit trees can be perfectly ornamental in the landscape. Few trees look half as good to me as a fruit laden apricot tree.


If you have the space consider some kind of a vegetable garden too. There is something about growing tomatoes and string beans that is good for the soul. You certainly don’t need a large spot for growing vegetables although it would be great if you had the room. Working in a vegetable garden is relaxing, something very basic. If you have a spot that gets good sunlight most of the day, consider having some sort of a vegetable garden. Even if it is just a little area where you can grow a few tomato plants each year, the pleasure and stress reduction from this can be incredible.


A compost pile doesn’t need to be big or fancy or complicated. You can build a simple wooden box with no bottom and throw all your old banana peels, apple cores, carrot tops, grass clippings, leaves and so on into it. Get some red worms and add them to the compost. They’ll multiply like mad and turn all the garbage into wonderful compost. Now and then you can remove some of the finished compost and use it in you garden. Composting is easy, fun, is earth-friendly, and it makes you feel good.

A Barbecue

It doesn’t need to be elaborate but if you still enjoy a hamburger or steak or grilled piece of chicken, why not have some kind of a barbecue? Even if you’re vegetarian, you can still cook outside on a grill. Bell peppers, chilies, and corn taste great right off a grill. Anyhow, you can get creative. Sometimes this provides a good excuse to sit out in the yard while the food cooks. A barbecue can turn an ordinary meal into a little outdoor adventure.

Moveable Pots

I like to have some large pots of flowers that I move around. When they are looking great, I move them up front where everyone can see them. When they are looking ratty, I stick them off on the side of the house to recuperate. I use enough moveable pots with enough different kinds of flowers planted in them, so that I can almost always have something colorful to brighten up any day.

A Lawn

Lawns are a lot of trouble, supposedly, but really, they are great places for kids to play on. Far too many people get hung up on having a “perfect lawn” and with this attitude a lawn can quickly become a big chore. A perfect lawn ought to be a lawn that you like. If it has three different kinds of grasses in it and a dandelion or two—and that doesn’t bother you, then that’s a great lawn. Lawns don’t need to be huge; in fact excessively large lawns are not worth the effort. But a small nice piece of lawn is a people-friendly addition to a garden. Use lawn grasses that are low-pollen or pollen-free.

Another note here about lawns: have yourself a small bit of nice lawn if possible. If for no other reason, a lawn is a fine place to do Yoga. For anyone who has yet to try yoga, I highly recommend it. It will make you more limber, stronger, improve your balance, and yoga (and the yoga meditation) is an excellent stress buster. Do it on your lawn.


If you like to sunbathe in the nude or just feel like walking out back in your underwear in the morning, you ought to be able to do it without some neighbor looking at you. Front yards can be wide open perhaps, but a back yard needs to provide some privacy. Screens of shrubs or trees can provide this as can a simple 6-foot tall cedar board fence. Having privacy in your garden makes it feel like more of a retreat, a spot to get away from the troubles of the world, somewhere to step right out of the rat race.

The author, Thomas Leo Ogren, is an internationally recognized expert on plant sexuality as it relates to human health. He is author of Allergy-Free Gardening, of Safe Sex in the Garden, and most recently, The Allergy Fighting Garden. His work has been reviewed in many publications including Alternative Medicine, Garden Design, Women’s Day, Earth Island Journal, Wild One’s Journal, New Scientist, Landscape Design, Pacific Horticulture, the London Times, and Garden Gate. He has made numerous appearances on HGTV and was the focus of a recent Discovery Channel episode. He does consulting work for county asthma coalitions, the USDA, and the American Lung Association. www.safegardening.org


Let me know your thoughts and comments about today’s post and visit Thomas Ogrens site at safegardening.org for more info on his work. Stay well!

When Should I Call and When Can It Wait??

Answers to Your Questions About Your Child’s Tummy Aches


It’s been a busy week for everyone.  My Facebook feed is flooded with back to school pics of their kids holding the cute back to school signs.  So of course I posted my pic also.  My oldest daughter went back last Thursday.  Here she is holding up her sign.  She started the 2nd Grade this year. She was looking forward to seeing all her friends again.  The summer was great but after multiple trips to the pool, swim lessons, music lessons, vacations and staycations I think we were all ready to start this school year.  It is a bittersweet time.  I loved spending those lazy summer days with my girls, but they DEFINITELY need to get back to school for everyone’s sake.  The amount of fights I have broken up between these 2 sweet little girls is now in the DOZENS!!  So the school grind will do them both some good.
Back to School

This is her second year in this school, she knows the principal, all her teachers from last year, this year should be a stroll in the park for her.  Yet not even one week in and I have already had 2 phone calls from the school nurse and 5 visits to the nurse’s office. Living in the Northeast, this has been a brutal week hitting temps of 90s every day, no AC in the school (except the nurses office…..hmmmm I maybe onto something here).  The classrooms are very hot, but when should I be worried??  It is way too early in the school year to start a precedent of running to pick her up with every phone call and visit to the nurse.  But my inner mommy doesn’t want to neglect her pain and leave my baby in school if she is sick.

In my practice the start of school year is a busy time, especially for kids complaining of “tummy aches.”   As a “Kids Tummy Doc” I am going to share with you when to be alarmed with your child’s complaint and when it’s ok to wait and watch before calling your doctor. 

When should I call and when can it wait??

A Guide to your Kids Tummy Aches

  • Is it only after she eats? If so I would keep a careful eye on frequency and try to keep a record of what foods cause her to have the belly ache (fatty foods, spicy foods, dairy, etc)
  • Is it when she wakes in the morning prior to school? Make note if it only occurs weekdays, if she is symptom free on weekends this may be school related and due to stress or anxiety. I recommend talking to your child about her classmates, reach out to the teacher if this occurs excessively and always ask your child about bullying.
  • Is it after physical activity? Make note of when last meal was prior to onset of pain.  Send your child to school with water daily to avoid dehydration.
  • Does the pain wake your child from a sound sleep?  If this occurs there may be some organic etiology occurring.  Call for an appointment immediately with your child’s Pediatrician or Pediatric GI
  • Is it occurring more than 2-3 times a week?  Call for an appointment with your child’s Pediatrician or Pediatric GI
  • Where is the location of your child’s pain?  Think of the stomach as having 4 sections with the belly button at the center.  Each area helps the doctor narrow down the source of your child’s pain.  An example is that most commonly pain in the Left Lower Quadrant indicates issues with stooling or bowel movements and this patient may be suffering from constipation. Make sure to ask your child where the pain is and report this to your doctor.Quadrants
  • Does the pain radiate or spread to any other areas?  Many times it may start right around or above the belly button or in the Left Upper Quadrant and can radiate up to their chest.  This indicates gastroesophageal reflux and occasionally occurs with gastritis, and YES even kids can get stomach ulcers.  This child needs medication and a strict reflux diet to be followed.  Call for an appointment with your child’s Pediatrician or Pediatric GI.
  • Does the pain improve with eating? This may indicate gastritis or possibly a gastric ulcer, contact your child’s Pediatrician or Pediatric GI.
  • Has your child lost weight since the onset of these symptoms?  Unintentional weight loss should always indicate an immediate appointment with your child’s Pediatrician or Pediatric GI. 

Children are commonly not able to completely explain their pain to us.  I usually feel like a detective trying to get info from my patients regardless if its a 4 yo or a 16 yo (but it’s way easier to get info out of the little ones than the teenagers, believe me…. the teenagers require me to go into interrogation mode).  However, if you keep a watchful eye on their symptoms and think about these questions you will definitely know when to call for that appointment.

Now that school is back and I am trying to schedule all my kids after school activities, I think to myself that I don’t want to overload their schedules. I want them to have time to focus on school work and still have playdates with friends.   As parents we all want to offer our kids the world, but what we forget sometimes is that too many activities for children can lead to stress about their school work, their inability to keep up academically and the first way they may exhibit this, before even telling mom and dad, is by having GI complaints.  Be mindful when putting together their schedules and even with your high school kids look over how many times the teams and groups they want to join meet for practices and games each week.

Please let me know your thoughts regarding today’s post.  Did I miss any questions that your kids always complain of?  Is there something you would like me to add to this list?  Leave it below. Stay Healthy & Be!

For Dr Simons all natural line of baby and mommy products check out Dr Simons Remedy at http://www.drsimonsremedy.com

#KidsTummyTroubles #bellyaches #whenshouldicall #abdominalpain