Restaurant Review: ZPIZZA – Gluten-free, vegan options

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I have not had a ‘real’ pizza in so long. It has been SO long that when I took a bit out of this pizza, I actually had tears in my eyes. Serving in US, Vietnam, South Korea and UAE, this pizza joint has stolen my heart (and my stomach). Thin gluten-free crust that tastes delicious, fresh tomato sauce, topped with delicious zucchini and olives – ah, pizza pizza pizza! Guys, you have definitely got to give this gluten-free pizza a try! The crust was so delicious. I wouldn’t even mind eating it plain! It was that good! They even give you the option of having vegan cheese, which I have yet to try. They were out of it the last two times I visited. Here are the pizzas I tried:

  • California Veggie Pizza: My favourite out of the three. Topped with zucchini, tomatoes, and olives.
  • Tuscan Mushroom Pizza: Had it without mushrooms since I’m not so fond of them. The caramelized onions and garlic sauce was fantastic! Tasted so good! A little too garlic-y and onion-y for me but still pretty damn good.
  • Napoli Pizza: I’m guessing it would’ve tasted much much better with the cheese but since they were out of vegan cheese, it was basically garlic sauce, and tomatoes so I didn’t enjoy it all that much.

Located in Dubai Marina. Gluten-free crusts available in Regular size only. Ingredients and prices listed on the website here.

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Hello!

Wow, it’s been a LONG time since my last post! I’ve been so insanely busy these past couple of months!

I’ve been to a new doctor here, after hearing lots of recommendations. The doctor did this test called NLS-Oberon Screening and the test showed that I have a parasitic infection. *Eek*

Before all of these stomach troubles began, I had experienced food poisoning and caught a stomach virus. This happened 3 times, and after the third time, I started feeling unwell a lot. The doctor believed this may be what caused it. Further reading led me to believe that bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and intestinal parasites/worms can cause a lot of these symptoms that I experience, which the doctor referred to as IBS-like symptoms. She said that my stomach is inflamed and all of this is what has caused several food intolerances.

Right now, I am undergoing treatment – lots of herbal medicines coupled with homeopathic treatment. It’s hard to tell whether I am feeling better, because of the side effects of the herbal medicines, but the tests show improvement. I am no longer vegan. The doctor has advised introducing eggs and camel milk to my diet. My body has been having such a tough time digesting food. Apparently, camel milk works wonders and is suitable for lactose intolerant people as well. I am off sugar and starch (it feeds bacteria) and I really wish I could go grain-free but I don’t know what I’d eat :S I’m already terribly underweight! The good news is that since starting treatment and making these dietary changes, I’ve gained 2 kilos.

There is a hypo-allergenic digestive enzyme that the doctor recommended which has been really helpful. I take a pill after each meal three times a day. I used to have this heavy feeling in my upper stomach right after eating but after having started these pills, I don’t feel that anymore.

Click on image to buy from Amazon

Click on image to buy from Amazon

I also learned that raw garlic is a natural cure for both SIBO and intestinal parasites. I’ve been consuming a lot of it. However, be warned, it is a diuretic. No fun if you have to be outdoors! It would be worth reading into this – it could help you feel better!

Review: “Superfine Eyeliner,” “BB Cream” and “Stay Natural Concealer” from Essence

essenceAfter checking the ingredients of several eyeliners, I found out that a few select Barry M and Essence eyeliners contain no tocopheryl acetate. If I can’t confirm the source of the tocopheryl acetate, I avoid using the product. It could be where gluten is hidden!

I usually wear liquid eyeliner – never use eye pencils. I find liquid eyeliners have a more defined, precise and neat look. I checked out the Barry M Wink eyeliner. The nib was too thick for me, and the tip was far too flimsy to be able to draw a proper defined line. It cost 30 AED here in Boots.

My next option was to try out Essence. They have an online booklet where all product ingredients are mentioned. After poring over the ingredients for days, I made a list of all the items that would be safe for me. Since they haven’t replied to my email yet, the ingredients I was on lookout for were: tocopherol, tocopheryl acetate, denatured alcohol, and of course gluten, soy and corn.

eyelinerThey have quite a few makeup products that are safe from these ingredients. I chose Superfine Eyeliner because the name fit what I was looking for. I wore the eyeliner today and I don’t know why, but for the first minute or so, it tingled and I felt a slight burning sensation. It went away after that. I hope this eyeliner is okay for me – I don’t want to go hunting for another gluten free eyeliner again!

Anyway, so the eyeliner is pretty nice. It creates a nice, dark line and it’s very easy to use. The nib is also pretty sturdy, unlike the flimsy Barry M one. The nib is very thin so you can create a well-defined line. It cost 17 AED. If I have no adverse reactions to this product, I’m going to stick to it. I quite like it! I also like how I don’t have to keep dipping my eyeliner brush into a bottle. This just makes life so much easier. Also, it dries up pretty fast. No need to wait a few minutes before using eyelash curlers! Give it a few seconds and it’s set!

Since I contacted MaxFactor and P&G replied, asking me to look at their website for information about the source of tocopheryl acetate, which I haven’t been able to find AT ALL, I have decided against using my MaxFactor foundation. Gluten free foundation and concealer is rather hard to find. Almost all of them contain wheat. I accidentally even tried on some Essence foundation that had gluten! Thank goodness I had only tested it on my hand! I was terrified though.

I tried on their BB cream in shade 02 Natural. It was quite nice. It minimized my pores, and kind of created this dewy look. Gave a little glow. It only cost 25 AED, so that was a bargain. The good thing was that their BB cream was fragrance free. The downside was that the BB cream had a funky smell. The smell wore off after a few minutes but it was still a bit odd. Moreover, later I noticed that my skin was a tiny bit itchy. However, that could be due to how hot and humid the weather was. I was about to buy this product but upon looking at the ingredients list, I noticed that it contained sorbitol. Sorbitol can be derived from corn and I’m sensitive to corn. I figured it would be better if I stayed away from it, as I have reacted to corn in my makeup before. Better safe than sorry! Really wish I could have bought it though! Seemed to give decent coverage. It wasn’t perfect, but workable. Better than no foundation!

concealerSo I ditched the BB cream. Now what the heck was I going to use on my face? I figured I’d just buy the “Stay Natural Concealer” and use that to cover up. It worked quite well actually! Again, the coverage isn’t that great. It doesn’t make my blemishes disappear, and when I tried it on in the store, along with the BB cream, coverage was quite good. On its own, it’s okay. Just kind of reduces redness and makes blemishes a little less prominent. It comes in a nice little pen-type tube. You have to twist the bottom quite a bit before the concealer comes out. You can apply it directly using the brush tip or apply a little on your hand and then use your finger to dab it onto your face. Cost 16 AED. Pretty good for the price! It will make do for now – until I find some actual gluten free cosmetics with non-threatening ingredients.

Essence is supposedly “hypoallergenic” and it’s aimed at young teens. I find it odd though that their products contain parabens (just like so many other brands out there). Even so, apparently no one has had any complaints about Essence products with regards to allergies, accordingly to what the sales lady told me. Hope that’s true! I wish I could confirm if these products were manufactured in a gluten free facility, and if there was no risk for cross contamination. I figured I’d just check the ingredients carefully since almost all cosmetics companies cannot guarantee being gluten free. Essence products are very affordable and they do the job. Not as well as I would’ve liked but fair enough – it’ll do for now.

Sorghum Flour and Amaranth Flour from Al Adil Trading – Is it gluten free?

Al Adil is a nifty little store that’s been around for ages. I’ve been buying my gluten free flours and Indian specialty foods from there for a long, long time. Only recently did it occur to me, after a few mild reactions from the gluten free flours, that they might have been cross contaminated. I called them up today and spoke to Customer Care. I asked to speak to a supervisor or manager who would know about the allergen status of the products. I was transferred several times and finally reached someone who was very, very helpful.

The person I spoke to said that if the flours are milled on the spot in the store, they are milled on the same machine as wheat. However, the prepackaged flours come from the warehouse where they are milled separately, on dedicated machines, but they are milled in the same facility as wheat. So there might be a chance of gluten in the atmosphere. The rep said that the chances of this type of cross-contamination happening was very slim as the area is a very large area but he could not guarantee it. He suggested buying whole Sorghum and whole Amaranth and milling them at home as that would be the safest option.

I really wish they’d have separate facilities for gluten free products. It would make life so much easier! But this is still a pretty good alternative compared to a lot of other companies out there.

Just so you know, Al Adil also has gluten-free flour. I’ve tried it before and had a reaction, but that’s probably because I have multiple food allergies. But you could try it out and see if it works for you. Ain’t this gluten free life of trial and error just grand? Meh.

But oh well, I was really pleased with how helpful Al Adil was. To be honest, I’ve been so fed up with companies! They just don’t bother to take the time to reply back, or they don’t answer well enough. It all just makes it so hard. But the Al Adil rep was really patient and helpful and I was expecting a response somewhere along the lines of “if you think your food is contaminated with wheat flying in the air, you must be crazy” but he actually agreed with me! That surprised me the most! He actually said, “Yes, you’re right. Wheat in the air could be a problem for you if you’re very sensitive.”

By the way, if you do happen to visit Al Adil, just TRUST ME and buy this soft drink called Limca. It’s lemony and fresh and SO SO GOOD! It’s very popular in India but hasn’t had it’s time to shine here. It’s best served chilled!

Limca

 

AL ADIL TRADING COMPANY INFORMATION

Website: http://www.adildubai.com/ad/index.php

Number: 043973318

Location: Al Nahda, Karama (somewhere around Al Reef Lebanese Bakery), Bur Dubai (again, somewhere around Musalla Post Office), Deira (in Al Mateena around 4-Point Sheraton Hotel and Marco Polo Hotel)

Obviously, as you might have noticed, I have amazing skills when it comes to giving directions. Those are just a few locations. There are many more stores but I don’t know their locations as well as the ones listed above.

Cosmetics Companies on their Gluten Free Status

I’ve been emailing cosmetics companies to find out about how allergy friendly they are. I am on a mad hunt for safe, gluten free cosmetics. I just can’t find any in Dubai! So far, I have received responses from Annabelle/Marcelle, Avon, Beiersdorf, Boots, Ecco Bella, MaxFactor (P&G), Prestige, and Sephora.

  • ANNABELLE/MARCELLE COSMETICS
  • [22-07-2013]

“We acknowledge receipt of your email and would like to thank you again for your interest in Marcelle®and Annabelle®Cosmetics.

Further to your last email, we are pleased to inform you that the vast majority of Marcelle® products and Annabelle®Cosmetics do not contain any gluten or gluten-derived ingredients.  This should make your next purchases easier.

The products which do contain gluten and/or gluten derivatives and those you should avoid are as follows: (correction from the first email)

Gene Youth Regenerating Eye Care, Gene Youth Regenerating Day Care, Gene Youth Regenerating Night Care, Gene Youth Generating Serum Concentrate,  New.Age Comforting Foaming Cleanser, First Wrinkle Eye Contour Cream, Revival Intense Anti-Aging Eye Contour Care, Revival Intense Anti-Aging Day Care, Revival Intense Anti-Aging Night Care, Roll-On Deodorant and our I-Bronze Self Tanning Cloths.

**Regarding the tocopherol/tocopheryl acetate information ; we received confirmation that are not derived from wheat.

One issue remains: because we do manufacture products which contain gluten and its derivatives, we are unable to claim our facility a gluten-free plant.

For anyone with a known allergy or with sensitive skin, we strongly recommend always performing a patch test before using any new skin care product of any brand.

The patch test is helps determine if one may have allergic sensitivity to a product.  It is best performed by first applying the product on the inside of the wrist or elbow and wait 24 hours to observe any skin reactions or irritations.  If the skin does not present any abnormalities following the first application on the inside of the elbow, then the product may be applied on the neck.   Once again, it is best to keep the product on the skin for a minimum of 24 hours and evaluate how the skin reacts to it.  If there are no reactions on the neck, it is highly unlikely that the product would cause a reaction on facial skin.

All Content within this email is provided for informational purposes only; is not a substitute for professional medical advice, care, diagnosis or treatment. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, you should contact your professional healthcare provider through appropriate means.

We take your inquiry very seriously and hope that everything is to your satisfaction. Please do not hesitate to contact us again if we can be of further assistance to you or should you require additional information.”

UPDATED TO ADD:  “Regarding the tocopherol/tocopheryl acetate information ; we can also say that it’s  dairy, soy and corn free.”

  • AVON
  • [23-07-2013]

“We have been looking at your enquiry and unfortunately we could not find any official report about Gluten. Although Avon sells very high quality products, there is always possibility of contamination during manufacturing or changes/substitutions of ingredients. As with everything related to Celiac Disease, Dermatitis Herpetiformis and Gluten Intolerance, products, ingredients and preparation may change over time; your reactions to a specific product, ingredient may be different from the reactions of others. Like eating at a restaurant, you have to make a choice whether to consume/use a product. This means that I cannot guarantee that a product is 100% free of gluten as I have not any official report.”

  • BEIERSDORF [Labello, Nivea]
  • [18-07-2013]

“Please be informed that Tocopherol (Vitamin E) and tocopheryl acetate are widely used as antioxidants in personal care products as well as in foodstuff and in pharmaceuticals. Tocopheryl Acetate we use in our products is derived from chemical synthesis. It is therefore an inorganic ingredient and shouldn’t bear any risk for the consumer.

Moreover, The Lipcare Angel Star does not contain any ingredients derived from wheat, rye, corn, oat (containing gluten) or soy. However, it can never be excluded that small traces may be found for production reasons as our raw materials are not investigated for traces of gluten or soy.

Beiersdorf cosmetics are not specially developed for people with celiac disease. The consumer should consult a physician which cosmetics are suited. In cases of severe allergies, new cosmetic products should be tested at the treating dermatologist.”

  • BOOTS NO7 COSMETICS
  • [02-08-2013]

“Further to my colleague Kirsty’s earlier email, please find below the answers you require.

No7 Stay Precise Liquid Eyeliner – Gluten free
No7 Beautifully Matte Foundation ? contains tocopheryl acetate
No7 Lift and Luminate Foundation ? This product contains oats and soy and tocopheryl acetate
No7 Stay Perfect Blemish Cover – contains tocopheryl acetate
No7 Natural Blush Tint Powder ? contains tocopheryl acetate
No7 Intense Volume Waterproof Mascara ? Gluten free
No7 Perfect Light Loose Powder – contains tocopheryl acetate
No7 Sheer Temptation Lipstick Cuckoo Coral – Gluten free

Can you please confirm if these products are free from gluten, wheat, corn, rye, barley, oat, soy and dairy?
Are they manufactured in a gluten free facility? We cannot guarantee that our manufacturing facilities are gluten free

Do you have a list of gluten free, soy free, corn free cosmetics products available in Boots? ? No This is an ongoing piece of work we are building, however this means contacting and reviewing every raw material from every supplier which will take some time

Also, a lot of your products contain tocopheryl acetate/tocopherol/vitamin E. Where is this derived from? Can you please confirm whether the source is from gluten, soy, or corn? Yes almost all of our mascara?s and foundations contain tocopheryl acetate as it has wide spread benefits. The source that we use is synthetic”

  • ECCO BELLA
  • [19-07-2013]

“Regarding your product questions, all Ecco Bella products are 100% gluten-free, wheat, rye and barley-free and dairy-free. We do use organic extract of oat in the leave-on invisible exfoliant/blemish remedy. There is organic grain alcohol used in the parfums is derived from corn. Our vitamin e tocopherol is derived from soy and the vitamin e tocotrienol is from palm.”

  • MAXFACTOR (P&G)
  • [04-08-2013]

“Hello and thanks for taking the time to write to us.

If we add gluten, wheat or wheat extract to a product, it will be listed in the ingredients on the label. The only exception in which it won’t be listed in the ingredients on the label is if wheat or wheat extract is added to the perfume at a very low level.
If you are concerned about using a product with a perfume, we recommend you use fragrance-free products, not unscented products. Unscented products may contain a fragrance to mask the smell of the ingredients.
As our products are used on the hair and skin, it would be very unlikely that a person with a wheat intolerance or celiac disease would have a reaction from trace amounts of gluten.

If you are not sure, speak to your doctor.

Thank you again for contacting us.”

I wrote back to P&G asking if they could confirm the source of tocopherol/tocopheryl acetate in their products. This was the reply I received:

“Hello and thanks for taking the time to write to us.

All the information regarding the ingredients of our products are available at http://www.P&G.com

Thank you again for contacting us.”

  • PRESTIGE COSMETICS
  • [30-07-2013]

“We apologize for the delay in answering your request as we only just received your e-mail due to a ‘computer’ glitch.

Gluten free products are not necessarily produced in a Gluten free factory.

However, all equipment prior to manufacturing is cleaned and sterilized to prevent cross contamination.

Tocopheryl Acetate and Tocopherol used in our formulas are synthetically produced.”

  • SEPHORA
  • [31-07-2013]

“Thank you for contacting Sephora.com regarding our gluten free products.

To view a list of brands that we carry that are gluten free, please visit this Sephora Advice page:

http://community.sephora.com/t5/Products/Gluten-Free-Products/td-p/142507”

My Glutenscapades – Going gluten free

2 AM.

Late night munchies. Cookies? Gluten intolerant. Chocolate? Lactose intolerant. Air? Sounds delicious… meh.

Ripe banana with spots

Ripe banana with spots

So here I am, snacking on a banana, ready to tell you about why I am gluten free.

By the way, did you know that the black spots on bananas are a good thing? That’s when the bananas are ripe and sweet and less starchy – perfect to eat. Also, eat them in between meals – at least an hour before and an hour after.

In 2011, a few months after I graduated from University, I started experiencing anxiety, brain fog, and gastrointestinal symptoms which included stomach cramps and bloating. I also suffered from horrible back aches. Imagine being 21 years old and groaning every time you sit down or get up because of a swelling ache in your back. Or not being able to hang out with a couple friends because your tummy wasn’t feeling too good.

Oh yeah, and imagine things like that happening almost every single day.

I had no idea what was going on. I was feeling so sick all the time, wouldn’t go out, and I was feeling so out of it.

I lost a LOT of weight. I used to weigh around 50-51 kgs on average. I was down to 46 kgs. I went to see a nutritionist, gained all the weight back, but I was still feeling sick.

A friend suggested I take a closer look at my diet. 3451 google searches later, I began to wonder if I was lactose intolerant.

Farewell, dear dairy, since I must needs be gone. 

That’s what Shakespeare would have said if he were talking to dairy.

Symptoms got better but I still wasn’t feeling that great. It’s like when you’re running a temperature of 103 and it comes down to 102.

I kept a food diary recording everything I ate, the times I ate them, and the symptoms that followed. 2065 more google searches and I found a post by someone who was experiencing similar symptoms say it had reduced by going gluten free.

Exit gluten stage left.

It was so hard. But it was worth it. It was then that I realized…

Gluten is my nemesis.

Barely 2-3 days had passed since having cut out the obvious gluten from my diet and my symptoms were starting to go away. I thought what if I was just gluten intolerant but able to have lactose? I brought the lactose back in. Bad move. Symptoms returned but they weren’t as bad as the symptoms gluten brought on.

A few gluten/lactose free months passed and I wasn’t feeling perfect, but I definitely was feeling better. Then I thought let me try having some gluten and dairy again. I re-introduced the foods. Felt okay for the first couple days. I thought maybe it was all in my head. Maybe I’m not intolerant to these foods. Fast forward 2-3 weeks and I was cancelling plans again, staying home all the time because I was feeling sick, and the anxiety returned. It all happened in such subtle ways that I didn’t even realize I was slowly getting sicker and sicker day by day. By the end of the month, I decided I just didn’t want to eat gluten and dairy anymore. I just couldn’t deal with how sick it was making me feel.

I didn’t know back then that I should have gotten tested for Celiac Disease first to get that ruled out. So I’d encourage you to get tested before you decide to eliminate gluten completely.

I’m still not feeling completely better. Does that happen to the rest of you who are gluten intolerant? I don’t feel as good as I used to before I ever started experiencing these symptoms. I definitely feel better off gluten/dairy but is it normal to not feel as good as I did maybe 5 years ago?  I still feel sick and also suffer from brain fog from time to time. The FODMAPs diet has been really helping me out with minimizing that. Look into that if you’re dealing with any tummy troubles. It’s worth a shot!

I met a doctor here in Dubai who didn’t seem convinced that my problems were food related. I told him I’m pretty certain it has something to do with gluten and dairy but he didn’t seem to believe me. He just prescribed some Fybogel. That was pretty helpful actually, but I don’t know why it was so hard for him to believe it was a food issue. On a holiday to India earlier this year, a family friend recommended an allergist in Mumbai. After the intraderm testing process, where they basically inject you to test your sensitivity to food items, I discovered that I was sensitive to the following:

  • Bengal gram
  • Black pepper
  • Cabbage
  • Red lentils/Masoor dal
  • Garlic
  • Green Peas
  • Mushrooms
  • Okra
  • Dairy
  • Gluten

FINALLY I HAD A DOCTOR’S REPORT SAYING I WAS SENSITIVE TO GLUTEN! For the longest time, no one believed me! Everyone kept saying it was in my head, and to slowly eat a little gluten/wheat every day and build up tolerance and I was just all NOOOOOOOOOOO!

The test results made so much sense. I realized that I had already eliminated almost all the foods on the list because I always had stomach aches after eating them. To be on the safe side, I have also eliminated corn and soy from my diet.

So what do I eat, you ask? Every day is a challenge really. On days I’m feeling off, I tend to stick to eating ‘safe’ foods. Yes I get bored doing that. But it’s just not worth risking the possibility of feeling sick. I eat rice, potatoes, rice pasta, quinoa, beans, vegetables, lentils and fruit. You’d be surprised at how versatile some of these items are!

Anyway, that’s about it for my glutenscapades. Cutting out gluten and dairy has been difficult, especially considering the fact that im a vegetarian. It’s been worth it though. As parting advice, I’d say just listen to your body. It always pays. If you’ve been feeling ill and can’t figure out why, it’s worth looking at your diet and changing things around a bit. If you suspect you might have some food sensitivities, it’s worth going spending some time trying to figure it out. You’ll just be so glad that you did!