is it possible to be gluten-free-sensitive!?
August 25, 2018 11:03 AM   Subscribe

At a potluck a week ago, I ate one single cookie, and had a bad reaction...

I have a few mild food allergies - at worst, they make my throat itchy for an hour, and then achy for a few hours afterwards. A few minutes after eating this cookie my throat ached and surrounding muscles were tense for about four days!

I think it was probably a commercially-manufactured gluten free cookie, though I'm not totally sure. It was dry and powdery and tasted strongly of coconut. Even if I'd thought to ask at the time it probably wouldn't have been possible to identify the cookie at a potluck where dozens of people contributed goodies.

Is sensitivity to coconut flour - or other ingredients used in gluten-free baking - a known thing? What kinds of things are used in manufactured cookies that I should watch out for? I've never otherwise had any bad reactions to coconut or to factory-made cookies.

I want to solve this mostly because I want to try the Impossible Burger, which is also made from industrially-processed plant ingredients, and I don't want to have a bad time.
posted by moonmilk to Food & Drink (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Gluten free baking does use a lot of more unusual grains - coconut (which may have been the flour, but may also have just been the flavor) is only one of them. Tapioca, arrowroot, amaranth, teff, and plenty of other alternative grains are commonly used. Maybe if you shared your other food allergies, people might be able to identify common gluten-free ingredients in the same families?

Ultimately there are enough possible ingredients that a scratch test or an allergist may be a better bet. You’re not allergic to “gluten-free” or to “industrially-processes plants” (the latter is an enormous part of the standard western diet after all - all flour and sugar and whatever else is just as processed anyways) - but you could easily have been experiencing a new allergy to a more unusual ingredient.
posted by mosst at 11:13 AM on August 25, 2018 [6 favorites]

Thanks, mosst! Yeah, I guess trying to think of unusual ingredients that might have zapped me is the goal here.

My allergies are to apples, peaches, almonds and various things in related families (pears, plums, etc). They are mild enough that I rarely get more than a slight tingle from any of them.
posted by moonmilk at 11:20 AM on August 25, 2018

Oh, and Spring hay fever, though the symptoms are different: itchy eyes rather than throat.
posted by moonmilk at 11:21 AM on August 25, 2018

Binders like guar gum and xanthan gum are also pretty frequently used to replace the stretchy/sticky qualities of gluten. They're a frequent part of the gluten-free baking arsenal, but people are pretty loud on the internet about avoiding them for allergy reasons. Your mileage may vary (and maybe they're already hiding in commercial foods you're completely fine with) but they're some of the obvious targets.
posted by fountainofdoubt at 11:23 AM on August 25, 2018 [3 favorites]

Almond/hazelnut flour? Although I have the same allergy as you, and I find almonds are normally OK as long as they don’t have the skins on, and things baked with ground almonds are fine. And generally I find most things are OK if they’re cooked.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 11:25 AM on August 25, 2018 [8 favorites]

That sounds like Oral Allergy Syndrome, which is more a cross-reactivity issue than a food sensitivity. From that list, I would guess that the problem cookie may have included almond flour?

Here's the ingredient list for the Impossible Burger. If you're okay with soy, coconut, and yeast extract, you're likely to be okay with it. The process by which they make the 'heme' is proprietary, so that's possibly an issue, but it's soy-derived.
posted by halation at 11:26 AM on August 25, 2018 [7 favorites]

Oh, also xanthan gum! Which, as fountainofdoubt says, could also be an issue.
posted by halation at 11:28 AM on August 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Applesauce is sometimes used as an egg substitute in baked goods.
posted by muddgirl at 12:02 PM on August 25, 2018 [5 favorites]

The achy throat and sore muscles x several days doesn’t really sound like an allergic reaction, more like a regular old sore throat. Could that be possible ?
posted by pintapicasso at 12:09 PM on August 25, 2018 [2 favorites]

Almond flour is in most sweet baked gluten free goods in large quantities, I'd be that was it given that you are allergic to almonds.
posted by fshgrl at 12:33 PM on August 25, 2018 [4 favorites]

My husband is allergic to tree nuts and "gluten free"is a big warning label that we need to check the ingredients. Almond flour is super common in gluten free baked goods, and people with almond/other tree nut allergies are also often allergic to coconuts, so it could have been coconut related too.
posted by brainmouse at 1:01 PM on August 25, 2018 [3 favorites]

It could have just been a regular old sore throat. I probably will never know.

Almond flour seems like a good bet, though! I don't get in trouble eating regular almonds, or even marzipan, but I don't know if I'd ever encountered almond flour before.
posted by moonmilk at 1:05 PM on August 25, 2018

Concentrated fructose/fruit sweeteners are often used in commercial vegan/gf cookies and that could be setting you off if you already have reaction to e.g. apples.
posted by SaltySalticid at 1:26 PM on August 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

That's an interesting suggestion, but I eat jams, jellies, and preserves by the fistful so it's probably not fruit sweeteners in my case.
posted by moonmilk at 4:05 PM on August 25, 2018

If not the almond flour, psyllium husk may also be used in some gluten free (and low carb) recipes; it's a known allergen, too.
posted by skye.dancer at 5:08 PM on August 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have a nut and legume allergy (peanuts are legumes) and I get a severe reaction to pea protein, which I’ve found has started to be used in a lot of ‘free from’ baking?
posted by atlantica at 5:11 AM on August 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yeah this checks all of the boxes for oral allergy syndrome. Oftentimes cooking the problem food denatures the relevant proteins so thankfully jams and pies aren't a problem, just fresh stuff. It took me a while to realize that cucumbers also made me itch because I don't like salads and never had them raw until well into my twenties.

Are the almonds you eat usually roasted? Is it possible that the cookie was some sort of raw food preparation ('dry and powdery' sounds potentially like a no-bake recipe), in addition to being gluten-free?
posted by yeahlikethat at 8:49 AM on August 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

Brainmouse's answer is what I was thinking. Almond flour and coconut flour and it might have had apple sauce in it too. The problem wasn't that it was gluten free, but that gluten free stuff can be full of other allergens.
posted by purple_bird at 11:24 AM on August 27, 2018

« Older Better by design?   |   Convincing baby to eat during the day instead of... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.