The Top Three Things I Learned at the Gluten-Free Expo

Be Your Own Advocate

No matter where we are, we have to be our own advocate with food and food choices. So choose wisely!

This past September, Portland hosted the Gluten-Free Food Allergy Fest (GFFAFest). For those of you gluten-free foodies who did not attend, I thought I would give a quick synopsis of what the whole experience was like. This event was eye-opening for me not only as a naturopathic doctor but also as a gluten-sensitive food snob. The GFFAFest was a two-day expo with everything gluten-free you can imagine, and a wide variety of seminars focused on gluten-free cooking and living with food allergies. It was quite an experience, so much so that I had to share with you the top three things I learned.

  1. It was more of a food allergy expo

Going gluten-free is just not enough. As I walked into the conference room, there was a huge sign warning that every product displayed was gluten-free, but those with other allergies should ask the vendor before trying their products. What I saw really astounded me: the majority of the hundreds of attendees had more than one food allergy or intolerance. Picture dozens of people with every food allergy known to man trying to sample food items at an expo. It’s like a friend with food allergies trying to order a meal at a restaurant but multiplied by a hundred.

  1. To make it in the era of food allergies, your products must pass the test

Don’t get me wrong: there were some great vendors, local gluten-free bakeries, and mom-and-pop home businesses that had AMAZING food to sample. One item that stood out was Kember’s Pumpkin Bread Mix. Another local Portland company, Scratch and Grain Baking Company, recently made it onto Shark Tank selling easy-to-make cookie kits. The vendors that seemed to be the most successful at this event were the ones who offered more than just gluten-free; they also offered vegan products. I saw people walk up to tables and ask “What ingredients do you use in the products?” If the vendor used eggs or dairy, that person would move along to the next booth. This may seem pretty weird to the rest of the population who still think food allergies are a trend or made up. But case in point, one company in particular advertised that their cake mix was gluten-free and vegan, yet they put eggs in their samples at the table. Why? Good question! Perhaps they wanted to make the samples taste extra good so unsuspecting customers would buy more boxes. I asked the woman passing out the samples why they would advertise their products as being one thing, yet offer a sample that could potentially cause someone like me with severe egg allergies to react—especially at a food allergy expo. Let’s just say they did not pass the test.

  1. People still have health issues after going gluten-free

One of the main things I tell my celiac patients is that going gluten-free is not enough. There is the additional issue of correcting any underlying deficiencies from malabsorption that may be going on as well as identifying any other food allergies or sensitivities. Many people have multiple food allergies in addition to being gluten intolerant. Another observation was that the majority of attendees were overweight; some were even obese. For those who consider gluten-free baked goods just as unhealthy as regular baked goods if consumed on a regular basis, I have to agree. Going gluten-free does not make up for a whole foods diet by any means, and that aspect was kind of lost at the expo. Yes, it was an expo to showcase the new gluten-free products that are available today and to celebrate how far we have come in that gluten-free products now taste delicious and sometimes even better than “normal” baked goods. That is something to celebrate, but as with anything else, moderation is key.


I have lived with food allergies for almost 10 years, and I have perfected the ins and outs of food allergy living into my routine: how to cook, how to grocery shop, and how to survive eating out. It was not until I was in a room full of hundreds of other people like me that I realized the underlying theme. We still like food and we like to experiment with new and improved gluten-free goodies, but at the end of the day, no matter where we are, we have to be our own advocate with food and food choices. So choose wisely!


Give me a call today (425) 686-4498 to learn more about how acupuncture can help you get your health back on track!

Dr. Ellie Heintze, ND, LAc, is a naturopathic doctor and acupuncturist specializing in IBS, migraine relief, and digestive health. For more information about the clinic, visit:

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Tagged In: GFFAFest, gluten-free, vegan

Call or Schedule Now!

(425) 686-4498

Dr. Ellie Heintze, ND, LAc

  • Master’s Degree in Acupuncture
    Bastyr University
  • Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine
    Bastyr University
  • Master’s Degree in Chemistry
    Northern Arizona University
Dr. Heintze Acupuncturist and Naturopathic Doctor

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