Barley-free living

Last month I shared with you my journey to discover I was allergic to barley. I also explained what it looks like to be married to a beer loving ex-bartender (See Barley-free means no beer right?)

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            When I shared about my allergy to my family, my grandmother told me her father is allergic to barley-Wow!  I didn’t know allergies went that far back genetically.

See the barley-allergy was probably always there, but latent until I was exposed to a large amount. On my trip to the Philippines in ’07 (see Part One) we drank something called Milo every morning instead of coffee. One of the main ingredients=barely. And while I was on prednisone and starting the new job (see The Conclusion) I was eating Cliff Bars every morning; their main grain=barley.

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My first step towards living barley-free was reading labels at the store for “barley”. I have grown up reading labels and asking questions because of my tree-nut allergy (that is a different story). But in addition to this, I also had to look  for “malt” or “malt flavoring”. This obviously includes malt based items like: beer, whoppers candy, malt shakes, or malt vinegar. But malt flavoring is common also in: soups,  protein/candy bars, cookies, brownies, and most cereals. Unlike my allergy to tree-nuts, I soon also learned my reaction to barley does not occur immediately. Three days after eating barley I will get a rash and/or itchy skin.

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If you remember Why I am barley free: The Conclusion the PA at the dermatologists said to me “Well fortunately barley is not in too many foods, so you should be ok” .  Boy was that misleading!

Because barley is in more foods than you know. The real shocker came a few months into barley-free living.

I went with Luke to the store to buy flour for homemade pizza (see Pizza a la Greene). Out of curiosity, I looked at the back of the all-purpose flour we picked up. Guess what?  Barley is a secondary ingredient to all-purpose flour! I proceeded to check every brand of flour in the store and even most of the organic flours contained organic barley!

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That is when I realized this allergy would change my diet for life.  I began to eat gluten-free at all restaurants. And I now often fix gluten-free meals at home (as you know from some of my recipe posts).  So this means when I go out to eat I cannot have: hamburger/hot dog buns, pizza, sandwiches, croutons, or any other form of bread, (most) cookies, dough-nuts, anything breaded or fried, flour tortillas or pita bread, pies, or sauces or soups thicken with flour.

For all of my at-home baking I use Gold Medal Organic all-purpose flour or their whole wheat flour. As I left the grocery store that day with Luke I thought back to every Christmas season in which I felt sick to my stomach and got a headache. I now realize it wasn’t because I ate too many pieces of coffee cake or had too much sugar (although I probably did sometimes) but more so because of what I ate.

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What is  difficult about a barley-allergy is it not common.  I can have wheat and many other grains but it is a gamble to determine whether flour is safe or not.  If I am lucky ,when I read labels at the grocery store, the ingredients will say what the flour is enriched with. If it is enriched with chemicals and vitamins I’m fine, but often it is enriched with barley or it is not specifically labeled.

Still I have also found some wonderful exceptions.  Most pasta places use pure semolina, and cake flour doesn’t contain barley. So I was blessed at my wedding to be able to eat the same cake as everyone else.

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My wedding cake: bottom and top layer were chocolate with raspberries in a french creme and the middle layer was spice cake with a cream cheese filling

In the end, barley-free living has helped my skin cleared up. I’m not irritated, frustrated, distracted, or itchy (most of the time) and I can wear tank tops without a care. Healing from this has required time, prayer, sacrifice, and support from family and friends. You know who you are and thank you.

Have you been on a similar journey?
How have you learned to live with restrictions?
How have your family or friends helped you along the way?

3 thoughts on “Barley-free living

  1. Janet Morse says:

    I can relate to some of this. Being on a gluten free diet has been difficult. It’s been also most 6 years since I found out that I had Celica. It has effected all aspects of my life. You are doing such a good job and I’m using some of your receipes for my self

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